DEAR JERRY: I'll always remember the night I saw Jimi Hendrix blow the fuses on “The Tonight Show.”
I can't recall the year, but just when Jimi began to play, everything went dead. Carson then made some witty comment.
Since you find no evidence of Jimi being on that program, except for the show when Flip Wilson hosted in place of Carson, my first thought was that my mind must be playing tricks on me. After all, I am getting older.
Then I read the follow-up letter you got from Larry Sabine, whose memory of it is so much like mine.
Maybe I'm not crazy after all. How could two people from different ends of the country have the same memory of a show, if it didn't take place?
I'd love to know how many other readers share this same memory.
Kathy Ferree, Jacobus, Pa.
DEAR KATHY: Agreed. We'll give it one last shot, since what is merely a possibility inches more toward a probability with each additional similar recollection.
In view of this new evidence, we shall continue our investigation. Perhaps we'll find someone with a connection to the Hendrix family, or to NBC-TV circa-'69, with first hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the event.
We will also be on the lookout for a 1969 “TV Guide,” or similar publication, which may list “Tonight Show” guests.
Stand by …
DEAR JERRY: In a recent column you wrote about a jazz record being released in 1917 and broadcasters being slow to warm up to the new sound. For good reason, as commercial broadcasting as we know it didn't really begin until the early 1920s, and even then playing records was not their mainstay.
In fact, I'd be surprised if the record was even played on radio stations because it was an acoustic recording which the stations didn't play because they sounded horrible on the air. Acoustics didn't get displaced by electrical recordings until the '20s, further casting doubt that a 1917 record would have been played by a commercial radio station.
A dear friend of mine, now deceased, worked in Racine, Wisc. at WRRS 930 in 1926 when they began on the air. They were one of the Badger state's first stations. He and I often talked about 78s and on several occasions he said records really didn't get played much until the 1930s, for quality reasons as well as that most stations had their own in-house bands for whatever local music shows they aired.
News and public affairs were the bulk of their air time until the networks came along.
Dr. Dave Dzurick, Tucson, Ariz.
DEAR DR. DZURICK: You are absolutely right, and the statement has since been changed to “the public” rather than broadcasters.
No doubt my own radio and TV history, along with decades of writing about the symbiotic existence of radio and records, influenced my choice of words.
Surprisingly, only one other reader, John Fishel (Dallastown, Pa.), wrote regarding this point. I thank you both.
Bet this wouldn't have gotten past your deceased friend.
IZ ZAT SO? In 1954, Todd Storz and his WHB (Kansas City, Mo.) introduced Americans to what would later be known as Top 40 radio.
The powerful WHB signal reached many Midwest markets, including Dallas-Ft. Worth, home of Gordon McLendon, owner of KLIF.
Soon after hearing WHB, McLendon switched KLIF to a Top 40 format.
Following these two pioneers in 1954, stations in every corner of the country jumped on the Top 40 music bandwagon.
As for our neighbors to the north, the First Top 40 station in Canada is Toronto's CHUM.
With the playing of Elvis' “All Shook Up” on May 27, 1957, CHUM kicked off their new format.
Nearly 44 years later (May 7, 2001), they switched from music to sports programming. Coming full circle, the last song played would again be “All Shook Up.”
CHUM also has the distinction of publishing the longest-running weekly music survey in North America. From May 27, 1957 through June 14, 1986, they produced 1,538 consecutive Chum Charts!