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Category Archives: Chuck’s thoughts…

God Bless intermittent lucidity…

From “Benny 11-letters” to Benjamin Orr…

Grasshoppers
Benjamin Orzechowski was born in Lakewood, Ohio in 1947 to parents who supported his musical endeavors. His family moved to Parma and he attended Valley Forge High School – the same school attended by local TV singer Andrea Carroll. He joined a band called the Grasshoppers in 1964 and was the lead singer and guitarist. In 1965, his group released two singles on the Cleveland based Sunburst label which received quite a bit of airplay on local radio stations. Back then, he was known at “Benny 11-letters” due to the complication of pronouncing his very ethnic last name. The first effort, “Mod Socks” was a take off on the old hit “Short Shorts”, but the second, “Pink Champagne” was actually written by Ben. I remember it vividly and have been playing it for years on TUNEDEX MEMORIES.

donwebsterbig5-1965The Grasshoppers were a great local success, and became the house band on the Big 5 Show, a musical variety TV show produced by WEWS-TV in Cleveland, hosted by Don Webster. The band disbanded in 1966 when two original members were drafted, and Ben drifted with other local bands Milkwooduntil he too was drafted. A young Rick Ocasek whose family had moved to Cleveland when he turned 16, met Ben after watching him on TV. A few years later, after Ben returned from his Army stint, the two would reconnect in Columbus and book bands for gigs in an around the Ohio State campus. They soon formed a band of their own and played in Columbus and Ann Arbor. The two precocious young musicians moved to Boston in the early 70’s and formed a folk-rock band named Milkwood, which had a CS&N type sound. They released an album in 1973 on the ABC-Paramount label entitled “How’s The Weather”, but it failed to chart. During this time, the pair performed as an acoustic duo and sang many songs that would ultimately be identified with the wildly successful group The Cars. They formed a group called Richard and the Rabbits, with future Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes. They also started a band with future Cars guitarist Elliot Easton named Cap’n Swing and once again, several of the songs they performed would find their way into a Cars arrangement in the future.  As a member of the Cars, Orr sang lead vocal on some of the band’s best known songs, including their first top 40 hit “Just What I Needed“, “Let’s Go,” and on “Drive“, their highest-charting U.S. single. Orr released his only solo album, The Lace, in 1986, and the album had one top 40 hit, “Stay the Night“. The Cars disbanded in 1988, Ben continued to record and perform until he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April, 2000. A mere five months later, he passed away at just 53. A true Rock superstar and a Cleveland legend, he is truly missed.

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Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

Meet “Debby Endings”

It’s 1961 and 16-year-old California native Debby Sharron is about to realize her dream.  Blessed with a wonderful voice, she will soon be entering a recording studio to sing two songs that will comprise her very first 45 rpm record. Debby’s father, a Rabbi, is not as enthused about the upcoming event.  When he discovers the date falls on a religious holiday, he forbids Debby from attending the recording session.

Enter Shari Lesser, a high school friend who drives Debby to Conway Studios in Hollywood. Crying all the way and visibly upset by the time she arrives, Debby has to fight back the tears, compose herself and sing her songs.  The producer for this session is Shel Talmy, a young man who had worked at the studio for just three days prior to this session.  The “A” side was “Falling Star” and the “B” side was “Cruel Way To Be” which was actually written by the young Mr. Talmy.  Within six months, Shel Talmy would go to England and try his luck producing British artists. Debby is pleased with the songs and hopes that when her parents hear how well she can sing, they will allow her to pursue her dream of being a singing star.

As often happened back then, religious beliefs and traditional family values triumphed over dreams.  Debby’s father forbade her from being a singing star.  His plan was for her to marry young and start a family.  Her songs could be found on Bamboo records #516.  It was her first and last recording session.  Per her family’s plan, she was married shortly after graduating from High School and in six short years was the mother of four.  She stopped singing and lost that precious 45 on the Bamboo label.  Ironically, while on her honeymoon, she heard “Falling Star” on a jukebox.  She discovered that sheet music had been released and the song was doing very well in Philadelphia.  There are simply not enough adjectives to describe Debby’s despair.

Chicago native Shel Talmy on the other hand, achieved his production goals “across the pond” beyond his wildest dreams.  You may think you’ve never heard of Shel, but you probably purchased MANY of the records he produced while in England.  Here are some classics he produced for the Kinks and the Who:

  • You Really Got Me
  • All Day And All Of The Night
  • Tired Of Waiting For You
  • Set Me Free
  • Sunny Afternoon
  • Dedicated Follower Of Fashion
  • I Can’t Explain
  • My Generation
  • The Kids Are Alright

Shel also worked with the Bachelors, Chad & Jeremy, Manfred Mann, the Fortunes and Davy Jones & the Mannish boys, whose lead singer pursued a solo career using the name David Bowie.   In 2003 a tribute to Shel Talmy was aired on the radio program Little Steven’s Underground Garage.  Shel currently resides in the Los Angeles area and still does production work.  You can find him at http://www.sheltalmy.com/

Debby eventually forgave her father and went on to become a very successful business woman.  Her teenage marriage ended in divorce, but she is now remarried to Ken Bitticks with the added bonus of three additional children.  Debby doesn’t remember exactly when she lost her 45, but that loss would come back to haunt her.  In 2001, Debby’s father became ill and she decided to provide care for him at her home.  It was during the care giving years that followed  with the help of one her daughters, Lynn Benson, Debby created “the BioBinder” which would lead to her life’s work. The intent was to capture the memories of her father’s life so future generations could know him.  She learned about his teenage years in Germany and escaping from the Nazi’s and coming to America.  She began to understand his decision to become a Rabbi and his deep beliefs.  In turn, her father (who was also blessed with an excellent singing voice) came to realize the importance of Debby’s music.  He passed away in 2005 at the age of 89 in her home with his entire family around him.  Life had now come full circle except for one thing.  Her husband, children grandchildren and even her younger sister had never heard her songs.  She had wanted desperately for her father to hear those songs before he died, but at the time, the songs were nowhere to be found.

We now flash forward to 2011 and how I got involved in this unique quest. Debby looked up Shel on the Internet and contacted him.  He said it was the longest time between clients he had ever experienced.  She had hoped he could supply her with her songs, but Shel doesn’t own the 45 either, and the only tape he had from the session had key instrumentation missing.  A unique bond must have been formed 50 years ago, as Shel became a man on a mission to help her find her lost songs.  He enlisted the support of good friend Mike Todd, perhaps as computer knowledgeable as anyone Shel had ever met.  He charged Mike with finding the elusive missing 45.

Mike Todd is the founder of the Internet Society, Los Angeles Chapter.  His background includes projects with industry giants Bill Gates and Peter Norton.  Mike must have been amazed when his search was met with an immediate hit.  It took him to a database of songs we have played on our “specialty shows” at songsyoushouldhaveheard.com.  My good friend and co-host on TUNEDEX MEMORIES, Frank Kramer played BOTH SIDES of the 45 on two different shows back in 2006.  After I got the email from Mike, I called him and explained that Frank had sold the record, but we could send .mp3’s immediately and I would make CD’s for both Debby and Shel.  Within 10 minutes, Shel called me to thank me for helping and how important it would be to Debby just to hear her songs again. I was very impressed with the compassion I felt from this highly successful man for the crushed young girl whose project he produced back in 1961.

I sent the .mp3’s to Debby and Mike (who forwarded them to Shel). I soon got a call from Ken Bitticks who confirmed that they had received them.  A very emotional Debby then got on the line and thanked me profusely and I began to understood how important it was for her to hear these songs again.  Ironically, Debby had no idea that Shel Talmy had written “Cruel Way To Be”.  Ah technology! who could have believed that an email with .mp3 files could produce such joy! I promised her (as I had told Shel) that we would look for the record and get back to her if we found one.  As luck would have it, the same day, Frank found a copy of the record from a  dealer located within 15 minutes of my house.  It was advertised as not in the best of shape, but Frank bought it and waited patiently.    While Shel would love to have a copy also, it was unanimously decided that Debby would benefit the most from owning her long lost record.  I assured Shel that Frank and I would continue to look for a copy for him also.

I prepared a package of CD’s for Debby (which included extra copies for her kids so they could listen to their mom singing whenever they were near a CD player.  I made a CD for Shel and the very next day, Frank sent the long lost 45 to Debby.

Debby called Frank to thank him for the record and he could sense in her
voice how important it was to have this record once again in her possession.  Debby’s daughters are thrilled and her grandchildren think it’s awesome that their “Grandma Debby” was a really cool teenager with a rockin’ voice.  Two of her grandsons already have loaded the songs on their IPODS and sing the songs on the way to school.  The joy is spreading throughout her family and  friends because everyone loves the songs.  You can hear Debby’s songs on TUNEDEX MEMORIES at http://songsyoushouldhaveheard.com

Debby’s grandchildren always tease her because she likes movies with happy
endings – so they call them “Debby Endings”.  This is the PERFECT
DEBBY ENDING!

If you have a relative who is in extended care and would like to know more about the “BioBinder” you can read about it at Debby Sharron Bittick’s website http://www.delphihealthproducts.com/

If you have a spare copy of Bamboo 516, you can make Shel Talmy a happy man.  Send me an email to chuck@songsyoushouldhaveheard.com

Chuck Benjamin

P.S.  I’m happy to report that Debby and Shel got together for dinner recently and spent some time reminiscing about the recording session, the lost 45 and catching up after FIFTY years!

 

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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The Little Song That Could

I’ve been a music lover for well over fifty years. I grew up collecting 45’s and falling asleep each night with my earplug and transistor radio. I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam conflict and then enjoyed a thirty-year career working in the computer industry. During this time, I continued listening to and collecting music. I used my hobby to make some extra money playing weddings and reunions. I needed that money because my wife and I raised four children and I’m happy to say they are all college graduates.

When I turned 50, I decided to give radio a try. I worked as a volunteer on a local high school station that played oldies all day each Sunday. I developed my show “the Innocent Age” and met a lot of very nice people locally and online. After a couple years, I got a chance to be on a small AM station in Cleveland. My good friend Frank Kramer was on Monday nights, and I did my show on Tuesday nights. The station had a weak signal at night but streaming on the Internet provided us with ample audiences. Frank and I both got to play songs that had been long missing from station play lists and in many cases never made them in the first place.

One Monday night, Frank played a song called “Don’t Say He’s Gone” by the

Mary-Ellen & Margy Keegan - The Short Cuts

Short Cuts. Frank had the Carlton 45 and liked both sides but had no idea who the group was. The next day before I came in for my shift, Frank told me a great story. We didn’t know it, but the Short Cuts were two sisters from the Cleveland area, Mary-Ellen and Margy Keegan. Margy had moved away, but several neighbors and friends of Mary-Ellen called her to say they had heard their song the night before. She called the station and Frank called her back. Frank didn’t do interviews on his show, but I did, so he had her call me. It took a few weeks, but Margy flew up from Georgia and I interviewed both sisters for a show that I did that also had interviews with the Secrets and Poni-Tails, both successful groups with members who grew up in Cleveland.

My friend Steve Petryszyn held two record conventions per year in Parma, Ohio for over twenty years. The last fourteen of those years, I played the music and made announcements. His last show was in 2002 and both the Short Cuts and the three local members of the Secrets performed on stage. By this time that small AM station changed formats and both Frank and I were off the air entirely, but I kept in touch with Mary-Ellen and Margy.

A few years later, I had found my way back to Internet on a small station near me. I produced my shows and uploaded my files to a server and while it wasn’t live, my old listeners eventually found me and despite the extra work, it was a lot of fun. I produced a show and played the flip side of their Carlton 45 entitled “I’ll Hide My Love”. I called Mary-Ellen to let her know The Shortcuts were once again being heard on the World Wide Web.

About a year later, Mary-Ellen called me to say that “Don’t Say He’s Gone” showed up on a bootleg CD on the Internet. I don’t think she ever understood why people would want to listen to this song that had not been heard all that much when it was released back in 1959. I assured her that it was a great record and to take the bootleg effort as a compliment. I tracked down the source of the CD and had them send Mary-Ellen free copies (they used both songs on two different CD’s).

A couple more years went by and I put my own station on the air. I called it TUNEDEX MEMORIES in honor of my favorite station growing up in Cleveland, “Color Channel 14 WHK”. The station runs 24/7 from the comfort of my office. I added both the Short Cuts tunes to the play list and called Mary-Ellen once again to let her know that listeners all over the world would be enjoying her songs.

Last year I added TUNEDEX MEMORIES to Facebook. One of my new

The Doo Langs

friends is Ash Wells, who operates Rare Rockin’ Records in Australia. He let me know that a group in Spain who sings under the name of the Doo Langs recorded “Don’t Say He’s Gone” as a promotional tool to get a recording contract. I contacted the group’s founder Eddie Peregrin and they soon posted “I’ll Hide My Love” as well. You can listen for yourself at myspace.com/thedoolangs.  Eddie is joined by Anna Gascon , Ana Guerri , and Nerea Gas.  As the Doo Langs they perform locally in Spain and hope to secure a recording contract. What song did they use to attract attention to themselves? Our little song that could… “Don’t Say He’s Gone” of course. Eddie must have bought a copy of the 45 because he credits the Short Cuts on his MySpace player. The group’s name has another un-intentional link to my hometown of Cleveland. Our own Andrea Carroll released a song called “The Doo Lang” back in the 60’s, which was very popular on Cleveland radio.

While doing research on the Doo Langs, I was amazed to discover that a group called the Pussywillows had recorded “Don’t Say He’s Gone” in 1988. It took awhile, but I was able to contact the group members. April March, Lisa Jenio and Lisa Dembling released an EP with 7 great girl group songs. April told me that they loved “Don’t Say He’s Gone” as soon as they heard it. A “friend of a friend” of the group was a record collector. He produced a mix tape for the girls of obscure collectable songs. Once again, our “little song that could” had caught the appreciative ears of other singers that liked it so much they simply had to record it themselves.

Mary-Ellen Keegan wrote “Don’t Say He’s Gone” in 1959. It’s no secret that it was not the commercial success that she and Margy had hoped it would be. It’s also no secret that they were victims of the times. Rock was exploding on radio and airplay time was precious. The Short Cuts certainly weren’t the only performers that didn’t get enough exposure on radio stations around the country. But as they say, quality endures, and the proof is that “Don’t Say He’s Gone” continues to enthrall performers and entertain listeners long after it was written.

UPDATE!!!  It’s now TWO YEARS LATER, February, 2012, and “the little song that could” keeps chugging on. There is a brand new release in the world of Doo Wop by Susanna & the Roomates entitled “Sixteen Reasons and More”.  The amazing group harmony sounds of the British Doo Wop group the Roomates meet a lovely female leading voice in Susanna Pichin.  The CD is available from rarerockinrecords.com and will soon be at amazon.com.  And what song just happens to be cut #2?  You got it, the little song that could, “Don’t Say He’s Gone”.  Mary Ellen got to hear the new version of her song with the help of a friend of mine, DJ Brad, who hosts a great Doo Wop show on Tuesday nights at http://www.doowopcafe.net.  Once again, Mary Ellen is just thrilled that her song keeps finding new homes.  Be sure to check out this latest version – it’s a keeper!

If you’d like to hear the original version by the Short Cuts, both sides of their Carlton 45 remains “in rotation” for the fourth consecutive year on TUNEDEX MEMORIES at http://songsyoushouldhaveheard.com.  If you have any questions or comments for any of the groups, please feel free to send them to innocentage@yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to pass them on.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2010 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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A humble welcome to 2010….

My New Years Day meal was hot dogs and beans. Not glazed ham or pork with sauerkraut… just a simple meal to remind me of the simpler times when I was growing up.

While I pray for an economic recovery this year, I have to be realistic. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there about creating jobs, but as I am older now, and a bit wiser, I realize that job creation comes from creative risk-takers. I don’t think we have as many as we’ve had in the past, and many of the ones we do have cannot secure financing.

All levels of government around our country are going broke. Tax revenues are down and the quickest way to save money is to let people go.

As service quality declines, voters will rebel, but until we eliminate political cronies and corruption, we’ll have problems no matter where we live.

The banks got a bail-out and thanked us by charging 30% interest on credit cards. And they’re borrowing money for practically NOTHING. I don’t encourage credit except for emergencies, but this policy still smacks of corruption. Of course anything is justified these days as long as it’s in the name of profit.

I believe in smaller government. I don’t particularly care for the proposed health care reform, but I abhor the abuse we ALL take from the insurance companies who left unchecked will rape and pillage until we all go bankrupt or die because we can’t afford to see a doctor.

Here’s my New Year’s resolution suggestion for EVERYONE: Be nice to someone… every day of the coming year…

We can’t go back to the innocence of the 50’s and 60’s, but there is NOTHING standing in the way of us being more civil to one another.

May your year be healthy, happy and tragedy free….

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2010 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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So you think you want to run an Internet radio station?

Ten years of show planning and production work prepared me for creating TUNEDEX MEMORIES. Even so, I was still reluctant because of the learning curves I knew I would encounter and mentally was NOT prepared to deal with. If that’s not enough to scare you off, keep in mind that I spent 35 years in the computer industry. I almost knew what I was doing at one time.

I faced my fears however, and moved forward. Slowly, to be sure, but forward. Each day was a new struggle with terminology and challenges, both hardware and software. But things didn’t have to be so difficult. My quest would have been a LOT easier if I could have transported back in time about 30 years or so. That’s about how long it’s been since we’ve had any kind of decent customer service in the United States.

I lost an entire day yesterday, dealing with a nuisance problem that almost

If you start a station.... you're crazy!

If you start a station.... you're crazy!

turned into a catastrophe. Good thing I’m still a good troubleshooter. By this morning, the problem was identified and resolved, with little or no help from the support organizations that are supposed to help me.

My blood pressure shot to heights I haven’t seen or felt since before my middle son left home (for the third time). I spent most of today relaxing and recovering from my encounter with the NEW American commerce. I grew up in a time when the customer was always right. Today, the customer is not only always wrong we’re also treated like idiots.

We are kept at bay by automated phone systems and a pervasive attempt to wear us down so we’ll simply give up and go away. If we do get to talk to someone, you either can’t understand a word they’re saying, or they’re so ill prepared for their job they don’t know what you’re saying. This approach of course is due to greed and the quest for profit above everything.

Yesterday, I spent 7+ hours on the phone with at least 5 different people and sent 8 emails to the company that won’t  publish a phone number. I went from being a happy customer of over three years to asking for a refund and facing the task of finding a new vendor.  I was told what I wanted to hear. I was told outright lies. I was treated like a babbling fool. But at the end of the day, my problem was still unsolved. Being the stubborn person I’ve always been, I wouldn’t give up. I called the company who was apparently the source of the problem. I did so knowing I was neither a customer, nor was I entitled to any customer support. But I called anyway because my instincts told me I would find the answer if I just kept looking.

The good news is, I did solve the problem. I don’t have to change vendors and could help avoid someone else going through what I just did. Of course, that won’t happen. Why you ask? Because in our country, we now value ARROGANCE and POLITICS higher than integrity and knowledge. The very people who did as little as possible to help me say I lack credibility. After all, I’m just a customer. I’m a dime a dozen and don’t deserve respect.

The moral to my story is that everyone wants money, they simply don’t want to work for it. If you ever have a problem you want solved, simply break it down in terms of profit.  When you convince the right person that they’re losing money because of your problem, mark my words, your problem WILL be solved. Not to satisfy you as a customer, but so that “special someone” doesn’t lose any more many than they have to. Welcome to the United States of a-ME-rica.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2009 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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Like those “Bubbled Under” tunes we play? Frank has many of the 45’s for Sale!

Frank found a private collector who had over 80% of the “Bubbled Under” tunes and MANY of the ones we play on TUNEDEX MEMORIES. If want the original 45’s – be sure to regularly check Frank’s EBay store.   Have a “Bubbled” want list? Contact Frank at fortyfivesfrank@aol.com.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2009 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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The ROOTS of TUNEDEX MEMORIES

I have produced “specialty” shows dedicated to the passion and innocence of the 50’s and 60’s since 1998. However, I’m not a radio veteran. I’m just a guy who has loved music as far back as I can remember, and enjoys sharing that music with others.

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio I was never far from a radio, and stations like WHK, WERE, and KYW provided the musical backdrop to my formative years. When I want to go back to grade school, junior high or high school memories, there’s always hundreds of songs to take me there.

After I turned 21, and left the Air Force and the Vietnam conflict behind me, I chose a career in the Computer industry, and for the next 40 years or so, collecting music was used as the psychological release I needed from the tension of my job and raising four children. My qualifications as a “collector” include having EVERY song to hit the Billboard Hot 100 since 1955. In 1998 I developed and hosted my first radio show, “the Innocent Age” with the intention of sharing as many of those songs as possible. While I developed a good base of local listeners, I quickly discovered the power of the Internet and soon had listeners all over the country and world-wide.

Two years later, I expanded my show production to twice a week, as my show was added to a Cleveland AM oldies station. I also began to realize the tremendous sense of accomplishment I enjoyed from the producers chair. I developed a weekly Computer show and programmed a 24/7 Country Internet station. Then the music industry flexed it’s muscles, and intimidated many webcasters into abandoning their stations. My station dropped streaming and a few months later changed formats and before I knew what had happened, my show and creativity was darkened.

I stayed involved with production projects like “Dedications from Home” which was a website I developed that allowed U.S. Servicemen deployed around the world to hear messages and song requests from loved ones during the Holidays. I observed from the sidelines as Web radio began to explode once again. The music industry continues to cast shadows on everyone’s efforts, but I decided in 2005 it was time to try again. Cornelius Gould, a local streamer, generously offered a time slot, and I was back on the air, playing what I wanted to play and loving every minute.

I soon enlisted the help of two very good friends who just happened to also be extraordinary music collectors. With our mutual accomplishments, wealth of knowledge and accessibility to music, we offer a musical excursion like no other. The love and passion for the music we play is something Frank Kramer and Steve Petryszyn share with me. We then had the good fortune to meet Kenny Schreiber, who agreed to allow us to re-broadcast shows from his 12 year run of “Echoes of the Past” a marvelous Doo Wop show based in his home town of Baltimore. There are songs we play that are SO GOOD, you can almost hear us singing along. That’s our goal, to get you happy and carefree once again. If you give us a chance, we’ll take you back to a time when you didn’t have a care in the world.

Chuck Benjamin

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2008 in Chuck's thoughts...

 

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