Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer

That_Was_The_Year_That_WasDr. Demento called him, “the best musical satirist of the twentieth century. Randy Newman and “Weird Al” Yankovic are huge fans. His 1965 LP with music from the NBC TV series “That Was the Week That Was” is a prized possession for many Keener fans who were discovering their social consciousness.

Tom Lehrer was born on March 10, 1928. He was a mathematician and political scientist, teaching during his long career at MIT and UC Santa Clara. But he could also play the piano, had a love for show tunes and a razor sharp wit.

During his brief musical career, he was one of the foremost satirists of the time, writing sharp, topical tunes about everything from racism and the atomic bomb to religion and pornography. He wrote for the American version of the BBC series, “That Was the Week That Was” during it’s brief prime, from January of 1964 through May of 1965.

It’s unclear if any of his stuff ever made it to the WKNR airwaves, but if you came of age in the mid-60s, it’s likely you not only heard Tom Lehrer’s stuff, but you might also still have at least one of his albums among your LP collection.

Here’s Tom’s take on “The New Math”.

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Apr 9th, 2016 | Filed under Keener

Opening Day!

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Tiger Stadium at Night

Did you know: That the Detroit Tigers flagship station was once WKNR’s predecessor, WKMH? Station owner, Fred Knorr was also part owner of the Tigers and during the last years of his life Keener was the Motor City home for Tiger Baseball.

Who among us who grew up in Detroit in the Keener era can forget Tiger Stadium? For many, it’s etched into the screenplay of our youth, the sun beating down on our bleacher seats, the smell of Hygrade Ballpark Franks and Stroh’s Beer, the green grass mixed with the rich brown infield earth, and the pitcher’s mound, only 10 inches above grade but seeming to tower over the proceedings as the batter at home plate stared down the men whose rocket arms and ice water nerves could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

The 1968 Detroit Tigers

The 1968 Detroit Tigers

That Hemingway sentence only scratches the surface of what comes to mind when we think about baseball in The Motor City. Depending on the decade, our heroes had names like Kaline, Cash, Freehan, Lolich, Horton, Brown, McLain, Trammel, Gibson, Morris, Fidrych, Smith and Anderson. And of course, there was always Ernie. He was the voice of Spring, a unique, comforting presence that could be heard in the air on warm summer evenings, painting word pictures that flowed out of transistor radios on pontoon boats coursing across Houghton Lake, describing the highs and lows as we watched the ebb and flow of a baseball team that was as much a part of who we were then as was the radio stations that provided the soundtrack of our lives.

The Tiger’s hall of fame play-by-play announcer may have cut his teeth in Atlanta and New York, but Ernie Harwell will forever be remembered as the voice of Detroit. In fact, it wouldn’t be opening day without a recitation of the poem Ernie intoned at the start of every season. Our Tigers play, today in the friendly confines of the beautiful Comerica Park. Tiger Stadium was razed nearly ten years to the day after the last out was called in September of 1999. But for the Keener generation, the edifice at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull lives on in our memories. And wherever you may be on opening day, you can be certain that “the voice of the turtle” will be heard again, wherever the Tigers call home.

And here’s an additional treat, the final inning of Game 7 of the 1968 World Series, followed by Ernie’s post game locker room interviews. Where were you when the Tigers earned the World Championship?

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Apr 8th, 2016 | Filed under Keener

Petula Clark’s historic television moment

On this date in 1968, “Petula”, airs on NBC. Petula Clark’s one and only TV special features guest star Harry Belafonte performing a duet of the British pop sensation’s antiwar song, “On The Path Of Glory.” During taping, Clark spontaneously reached and touched Belafonte’s arm. This brought a protest from the show’s sponsor, Chrysler Corporation, who feared that the act would upset southern viewers.

To ensure that the gesture would air, Petula and her executive producer husband, Claude Wolff, destroy all other takes of the duet. It becomes the first interracial contact to be broadcast on American television.

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Apr 8th, 2016 | Filed under Keener

Another danger of decadent capitalism: The Twist

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.21.33 AMOn this date in 1963, Russia’s official newspaper, Pravda, warns Soviet teens of the decadent dangers of the new “twist” dance craze. Chubby Checker’s biggest chart success was a worldwide sensation and was regularly heard behind the Iron Curtain on Radio Free Europe. Like most things your parents tell tell you not to do, the twist was most certainly practiced all across the Soviet bloc, further amplified by Checker’s follow up, “Let’s Twist Again, Like We Did Last Summer”. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand program, featured the former Ernest Evans performing his signature song. Here’s video of that special moment.

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Apr 7th, 2016 | Filed under Keener

Look Homeward Angel – The Monarchs

This week in 1964, “Look Homeward Angel” by the Monarchs was at Number 1 on the WKNR Music Guide. The Monarchs formed in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1961. Their one national hit reached number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100, but as was so often the case back in the day when radio stations were locally programmed, their single caught on with Detroit audiences, supplanting the Beatles in the top spot on the survey. With a number of changes in personnel over the years, the band still performs today in the Louisville area.

Our Youtube link is notable for another feature, “Diane Sargent’s” custom record sticker, popular during the WKNR era as a way of making sure that the records you may have taken to a local sock hop came home with you.

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Apr 6th, 2016 | Filed under Keener

Keenerland Updates

635899388598819506-beatles082The Freep is reporting that a new Beatles exhibition is headed to Keenerland. “”The Magical History Tour: A Beatles Memorabilia Exhibition,” will run April 30-Sept. 18 at the Henry Ford Museum, “featuring artifacts and galleries tracing the Beatles’ trajectory from the band’s Liverpool origins up through the post-breakup days… Visitors can tour a mock-up of Liverpool’s Cavern Club and make custom mixes of tracks recorded at Abbey Road Studios.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.37.15 AMSpeaking of the Fab Four, it was April 4th, 1964 that the band held down the top 4 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. In order from number one, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Twist and Shout”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.” Keener was ahead of the Beatle curve that week. The Top 5 on the WKNR Music Guide included were:

1. Look Homeward Angel – The Monarchs
2. Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles
3. New Girl in School/Dead Man’s Curve – Jan & Dean
4. Do You Want to Know a Secret – The Beatles
5. Shangri La – Vic Dana / Robert Maxwell

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.42.13 AMHappy 81st birthday to Herb Alpert. The erstwhile trumpeter and record executive was co-founder of A&M records, discovering the West Coast band We Five, Chris Montez, The Carpenters, Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 and others. His band, The Tijuana Brass, had hits with “The Lonely Bull”, “A Taste of Honey”, “What Now My Love”, “Spanish Flea” and the theme from the film “Casino Royale”, plus a solo turn with “This Guy’s In Love With You” in 1968. Alpert had five No. 1 albums and earned nine Grammy Awards.  Fourteen of his LPs went platinum, fifteen earned gold record status.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.58.13 AMAnd speaking of birthdays, it’s either “Happy 92nd,” or “Happy 94th” birthday to singer / actress, Doris Day. Depending on who reports it, she was born on April 3rd, 1922 or 1924. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, she began her career as a big band singer, hitting with “Sentimental Journey” in 1945. She was soon signed to Columbia Records, turning out over 650 recordings between 1947 and 1967. Wikipedia records her first film appearance in 1948 co-starring in “Romance on the High Seas”, launching a Hollywood career that continued well into the 1960s. She was paired with the industry’s most bankable leading men. Here are just a few: Clark Gable in Teacher’s Pet (1958), Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964), Cary Grant in That Touch of Mink (1962), and James Garner in The Thrill of It All and Move Over, Darling (1963). Day was ranked the biggest box-office star, the only woman appearing on that list in the era, for four years (1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964). She was married four times. Her only son, Terry Melcher had a hit on Keener when he partnered with future Beach Boy, Bruce Johnston to record “Hey Little Cobra” as The Rip Chords. Melcher was best known as a producer for The Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Beach Boys before his death from melanoma at the age of 62.

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Apr 5th, 2016 | Filed under Keener

Happy Birthday to the Jukebox

jukeboxBy Bob Berry

November 23, 1899, the world’s first jukebox was installed at San Francisco’s’ Palais Royal Hotel.

My favorite jukebox, at the original Mr. Joe’s on Northwestern Highway in Southfield, was loaded with rock, pop, country, and American Songbook classics. And for a number of years in the early 70’s, and especially during the holidays, we would inevitably gather at Mr. Joe’s, for stories, both true and false, cold beers, burgers and laughs.

Equally inevitable was one of us deciding it was time for our favorite song.

I think it was #116. Based on the amount of quarters we fed Mr. Joe’s jukebox, it should have been Number One!




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Nov 23rd, 2015 | Filed under Bob Berry, Keener

Sunday Brunch With Ray Charles

Ray Charles receives standing ovation from the Georgia Assembly, March 7, 1979.

Ray Charles receives standing ovation from the Georgia state assembly for his performance of “Georgia On My Mind”, March 7, 1979.

By Bob Berry

This weekend marks a major anniversary for one of the most beautiful songs in the Great American Songbook.

It was November 14th, 1960 when Ray Charles’ version of Hoagy Carmichael (music) and Stuart Gorrell’s (lyrics) “Georgia On My Mind” hit Number One.

Written in 1930, the song had long since become a standard, but it took the genius-and the soul, of a native son, the son of a sharecropper, to reveal the wistful beauty of an American classic.

There was another big day associated with Ray Charles and “Georgia On My Mind”, March 7, 1979.

That was the day that same son of a sharecropper, a blind black man who had walked with kings, was invited to sing a song he had made his own on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly.

It was the day “Georgia My My Mind” became the official state song of the state of Georgia.

Enjoy Sunday Brunch on Keener.


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Nov 15th, 2015 | Filed under Bob Berry, Keener

A Friday Song Double Shot

Doble shotBy Bob Berry

I’m “..not too proud to shout it, tell the world about it..”, “This Old Heart of Mine” is one of the Motown copyrights I truly love.

Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, with Sylvia Moy ( co-writer of Uptight, I Was Made To Love Her, It Takes Two and others), there’s just something about that song.

The original version, by The Isley Brothers, had me cranking up Keener while driving down 13 Mile Road. Two and a half decades later, driving around West Michigan, the car radio was just as loud for Rod Stewart’s “This Old Heart”!

But for the life of me, I can’t tell you which is my favorite. Thus a Keener Friday Song “Double Shot”.

Released in the January of 1966, “This Old Heart Of Mine” gave The Isleys their only major hit for Motown, going straight to the Top Ten. Give another listen to a stellar lead vocal by Ronnie Isley, backed by one of the classic tracks of The Funk Brothers (and the DSO strings!)

Some 23 years later, Rod Stewart released his second version (a previous single in ’75 got minor airplay) of “This Old Heart”, and this time he brought in the big gun, Ronnie Isley! The R&R duet, produced by Bernard Edwards of Chic and Trevor Horn (Yes, The Buggles), went Top Ten in the summer of 1989, and proved that Ronnie Isley had lost nothing ‘off his fastball”.

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Nov 13th, 2015 | Filed under Bob Berry, Keener

#TBT With Donna Summer

Donna_Summer_1977By Bob Berry

It’s an astounding song, really.

Lyrics, “…someone left a cake out out in the rain…” that are at once allusive and elusive. A song-poetry, really, built in 4 sections, or movements, much like a classical composition. And, it was 7 minutes long in it’s original form.

And yet, Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park”, for all it’s contrarian Top 40 radio characteristics, has twice been a smash.

The original, the debut recording for Irish actor Richard Harris was Top 5 in the summer of ’68. And, again ten years later, for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, Donna Summer.

At the height of her success, her 4 minute single was Number One for the week of November 12, 1978, on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance charts. And, at the same time, she was #1 on the albums charts, with her album Live and More, featuring the eighteen minute “MacArthur Park Suite“.

Enjoy Throwback Thursday on Keener!


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Nov 12th, 2015 | Filed under Bob Berry, Keener