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The Buffalo News' Jeff Simon:Radio journey comes full circle

Friday, September 28, 2012

Read Jeff Simon in today's Buffalo News.

Jeff Simon: Radio journey comes full circle

A 20th century fairy tale:

Once upon a time - OK, it was the same time period as the one that provided a setting for that cinematic fairy tale "Grease" - there was a pubescent boy who had a radio.

This would prove, in just a few more years, to be a potent combination. Add the opposite sex, multiply it several million times, add television, and put it into homes all over America, and it would transform American culture completely and forever.

Not right now, though. We're just talking about a pubescent white kid with a radio who's supposed to be asleep. He's not, though. He's fiddling with his radio knobs. He finds the big, giant, 50,000-watt WKBW (no one calls it "KB" yet).

Amazing music pours out of the speakers - funky, glorious music from another part of town entirely from the one he's sleeping in.

Sure, he has bought a few 45 rpm records. Elvis was a big discovery, but Little Richard was a revelation. The music he was listening to on his radio bypassed Elvis' blues-drenched Memphis rockabilly and came from Little Richard's side of the street. They could all have been friends of Bill Doggett, the man whose 45 rpm disc of "Honky Tonk" was a prized possession.

The deejay in charge of this auditory sojourn was like no one else the boy had heard. He was called "The Hound." (It would be decades before the boy knew that the man's real name was George Lorenz.) He was being brought into the boy's home by such commercial sponsors as Mother Goldstein's wine and Moskin's Clothes, which promised "four fine floors of clothes for the whole family" and whose jingle the boy still remembers the opening bars of more than half a century later.

The boy had no idea he was listening to the sound of world culture changing utterly. He certainly didn't know that what he was doing was an archetypal part of what would become part of a popular exhibit at a local art museum. (Art museum? What was that, he'd have wondered. He was a couple of months away from stepping for the first time into the Albright Art Gallery - which hadn't yet acquired the name "Knox.")

But the happily ever after conclusion of this fairy tale happens from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Burchfield Penney Art Center when, as part of the Burchfield's Manny "Spain" Rodriguez exhibit, it celebrates Spain's comic "Cruisin' With the Hound" with a showing of the film "Don't Touch That Dial," narrated by local jazz radio impresario and TV and radio historian Al Wallack.

But that's nothing. The piece de resistance is what happens afterward - a panel of Buffalo radio voices commenting on the Hound and the film along with Wallack that includes Danny Neaverth (once known as "Daffy Dan" on WBNY), Kevin O'Connell and, yes, the legendary radio troublemaker and wild man Joey Reynolds.

The Burchfield's current director is my old Buffalo News colleague Anthony Bannon, whose eloquent remembrance of the Hound packed the joint when he read it for an audience at another of our truly distinguished museums on "Museum Row," the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society. Bannon repeated it Thursday at the Burchfield, before showing an audience "Rebel Without a Cause."

The moral of the story? You never know anymore what's going to follow the words "Once upon a time." It could be just about anything.