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.