L.A. Radio Guest Columnist – I’m it today.

Anita Garner

Our esteemed host, Don Barrett, invited me to tell the story about one more media person’s memoir – mine.  It’s been in the works for a while and now it’s in the “Coming Soon” category.  Here’s the cover.

Turning the tables on Don, I should let you know that he’s been part of this project from way back.  We met when he was writing his first book, “Los Angeles Radio People” in the 90s.  Thousands of people from around the world visit his site, laradio.com, every day.  Click his artwork above to join them.

Don was conducting one of his thorough interviews about my time on the air and we bonded over the fact that both of our mothers had ALS and we were caring for them.

I showed him a short story, material planned for a someday book about my gospel-singing family and our life in the Deep South during the 1950s.  He sent the story to a friend in the movie industry whose wife was an agent. She liked the material and asked if I’d adapt it for the stage. I did and we had play readings in Los Angeles, so though I haven’t been steadily working on this book since the 90’s when I met Don, pieces of it did exist back then.

I knew I needed to finish telling the stories I’d begun, so I set myself the task of finishing a book manuscript by a certain date in 2017, pulling out reams of stories and rough chapter outlines and notes on scraps of paper and putting in long days and nights until it was ready.

I submitted to a university press in the Deep South. The Glory Road:A Gospel Gypsy Life, is a first-person memoir, but it’s more like a novel about some colorful characters I’m related to, singers and songwriters and musicians, with American music history woven through.  It takes place during times of enormous change in music and religion, when Saturday night came to Sunday mornings, when my family’s gospel music merged with rockabilly and church became entertainment.

My brother and I sang harmony with the family and lived much of our lives on Route 66 moving from tent revivals to radio stations to All Day Singings to churches and just about any place a microphone and amplifier and speakers were set up. I wanted this material and the music the family made to become part of Southern history. I learned that many university presses keep their books in circulation and keep printing for years into the future. That matters to me.

What does this have to do with radio?  Just about everything.  Without radio, my parents’ music wouldn’t have been heard by people who eventually recorded it, and who later offered Mother her own recording contract. We appeared on radio stations where the studio was in the antenna shack outside of town and other stations located in fancy hotels. My first radio appearance was on WDAK, Columbus, Georgia, at age three.  No adjustable booms.  Stand the little girl on a chair stacked with stuff until she can reach the mic and she’ll sing her part.

After my parents passed, a record label re-issued their music and it appears everywhere these days – movies, TV shows, downloads, wherever there’s music. I’ll post a couple of links that’ll take you to a current Netflix show soundtrack where my mother, Sister Fern Jones is singing and a wayback link to Johnny Cash singing a song she wrote.

My book releases April 21, 2021.  Here’s the publisher.

And here’s a nice thing someone said about them.

“University presses have long been key in the literary ecosystem when it comes to issuing original, risky work, and ’Bama’s is one of the most innovative.”

Just this week, the contract arrived from my audio book publisher. Media people, especially voiceovers, tend to record their own manuscripts. I’m not doing that. I want to sit back and listen to someone else tell these stories.

I write a new blog about once a week here at this site Dave Williams (KLIF/Dallas) and I share.  I write often about The Glory Road and sometimes I include excerpts from those days.

Here’s a song from Sister Fern.  You can find others on You Tube.

And here’s a song she wrote, recorded by Johnny Cash with the Tennessee Two

Johnny Cash - I Was There When It Happened

 

Thanks, Don, for the invitation.  It’s good to visit laradio.com.  I do it every day.

******

 

 

The Last of KFWB’s Seven Swinging Gentlemen has something else to say.

By Anita Garner

Elliot Field onstage – 1950’s

It’s Hollywood in the 1950’s.  It’s the high school cruise.  We’re up and down Hollywood Boulevard then looping over to Sunset and back.   We’re listening to the radio and sticking our heads out car windows, greeting students from other towns whose radios are also blasting KFWB.

KFWB’s disc jockeys, the Seven Swinging Gentlemen, are celebrities.  We know where the studios are and we know we aren’t allowed up there on the second floor at 6419 Hollywood Blvd., but we like being close to the stardust, so we honk each time we pass  the building.

Decades later, I met Elliot Field, the last of the Gentlemen, through Don Barrett, Los Angeles radio guru, and we were immediately friends and collaborators on two books.

Conversations with Elliot are adventures. He’s multi-talented.  He’s brilliant.  He’s feisty.  And who gets to have hair like this in his 90’s?

Now he’s talking about a new book.  He’s written a few pages and do I want to hear?  What he read to me a few days ago is visceral and beautiful.  Do I think we should do this one more time?  He has things he’d like to say.  About being one of the early polio cases during the gruesome era of iron lungs and leg braces.

As told in his first book, getting the job at KFWB presented challenges none of us listeners knew about.  The fact that the Hollywood Boulevard studios were on the second floor meant planning ahead to navigate steps in heavy metal braces to get to the microphone in time to do his show.

He’d like to share some thoughts on what life is like now, about how polio affects aging and vice versa.  I urged him to do it because when Elliot tells a story, it’s worth listening to.  His goal this time is to write brief essays about different aspects of his life in Palm Springs today and he’s offering to share his experiences with individuals and organizations that can use the information.

One worry he has  about putting together a new book is losing the word he’s reaching for.  He said when we started this phone conversation he had a word in mind and now it was gone.  Did I think we could put together a book, even if he loses a word now and then?  Yes I do. I’ll try to help fetch lost words.  One idea – I can be his thesaurus, suggesting words until one comes close. Another device that might work – changing the subject, stop grasping for the missing word and see if it’ll drift back in.  We agreed to get started and were about to say goodbye when he said,

“Dinosaur.”

“Pardon?”

“Dinosaur.  That’s the word I was looking for.  That’s what I am,” he said. “Not complaining.  Just stating a fact.”

Timeless.  Wise.  Witty.  Those are words I’d suggest.

In his first book, Elliot wanted to end with his greatest hope, staying vertical, so here’s where we left off.  Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Vertical

It’s the last leaf in the plant pot.
It stands up straight and tall and proud.
I so admire its presence and strength.
The other leaves are bent, bowed, and almost horizontal.
One is vertical.
I’ve always admired vertical.
I think vertical is worth the effort.
It’s not an easy way.
It’s not uncomplicated.
But, I’ve always felt it’s worth the effort.
I water and feed Mister Vertical.
He responds with strength.
The other leaves also get water and food.
I’m always hoping they’ll stand up.
One of them is really making an effort.
We know the time will come when all of the leaves will lie down,
Will rest forever.
Meanwhile, I’m feeding all of them,
And cheering on the survivors.

******

 

The Glory Road – Let’s put on a show!

Here’s how The Glory Road book became a play first. I began writing the book years ago, put it aside and turned to short stories. A Los Angeles broadcast buddy, Don Barrett, introduced me to estimable literary agent, Carol Schild, who suggested I make the stories into a play.  Entertaining friends got together and we put on a show.

Multiple talents made up the casts, offering suggestions all along. There were revisions and more revisions, all valuable lessons for a first-time playwright.  I was new to it.  They weren’t.

Both directors, David Atkinson and Greg (North) Zerkle, (accomplished actors and directors – and boy can they sing!) are friends I met at church in Los Angeles.  The casts for each show started in our congregation and kept extending out to performing friends of friends.   The church we had in common was Little Brown Church in Studio City which grew into Church Of The Valley, Van Nuys.  These two congregations were (and still are) populated with singers and musicians and dancers and writers and actors and radio and television and movie and Broadway babies.

I keep rewrite notes attached to each of these script versions in the picture above. Once the new book is launched, I hope to see The Glory  Road onstage again, full throttle, lots of music and our show’s Southern Gospel quartet in matching jackets, beautiful harmony, Ray and Fern and their big love story and big conflicts.

Here’s a version of the song we opened with onstage. Our quartets rocked! Written in the 1950’s by Lee Roy Abernathy, this version of “He’s A Personal Savior” is performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

https://youtu.be/rxm5T4glGPg

Bonus – another Lee Roy Abernathy song he’s most famous for.  Performed here by The Blackwood Brothers. Originally titled “A Wonderful Time Up There,” it quickly became known as “Gospel Boogie.” This one’s made for a bass singer.  This version is by Brian Free & Assurance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb0PDbCT3TY

 

 

 

 

Fifteen Minute Nostalgia Rule

By Anita Garner

Listen to blog with music here.

Those were the days, weren’t they?  In memory, they’re golden. We also want to know about a colleague’s passing, comfort each other about health issues, but that can also occupy every conversation.

A  friend and colleague, Don Barrett, is Los Angeles radio’s teller of tales, and often our prophet, at www.laradio.com. He’s had several careers with contacts ranging far and wide, and he’s in touch with multitudes of people he knows in movies and broadcasting. Don’s our resource when we need to find someone.

But Don has a fifteen minute nostalgia rule and then he wants to know about today. Are you still on the beach? (In radio talk, being out of work is being “on the beach.” I don’t know why.) Do you have plans? He’d rather hear about right now.  What are you doing?  Where?  How do you feel about it?

Radio and television and newspaper and all manner of media ruled our careers for decades, creating exciting relationships, and then when that part of life moves on, there’s a desire to remember when, with groups we once worked with. I like Facebook for that.  And emails. But I also respect Don’s approach to staying in touch with what’s happening now.

Music this week is “Moon River.” Chris Whiteman on guitar.


Version 2

 

Chris plays “Moon River” on his 1959 Gibson ES-125T

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjBXNTW5hb4

And more mighty fine listening from Chris here.

Subscribe to Chris’ You Tube channel here.