Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Excerpt: Profile - Todd Storz

(From the unpublished novel Copyright 2010, Donald Riggio)

...By 1954, there were over two thousand AM radio stations in America. They ranged from small 250-watt local operators to the major 50,000-watt stations. When the weather was right, those signals could bounce along the ozone layer in much the same way a flat rock could be scaled across the surface of a quiet pond.
But the golden age of radio was over and the medium was in big trouble. Revenue had fallen from $215 million in 1950 to $40 million in 1953. Almost overnight, television had stolen radio’s crown. The number of TV stations more than doubled from 125 to 349 in 1953 alone. It became apparent that for radio to survive, it needed to re-invent itself. Popular music provided the answer.
In Kansas City, Missouri, Robert Todd Storz, a radio maverick sought to increase the ratings for a group of radio stations his family owned throughout the Midwest. He conducted a survey of local restaurants, taverns and other locations to determine how often the most popular records were played on jukeboxes.
The results surprised him. In almost every instance, patrons chose the same titles over and over. Storz believed the same thing could work in radio. He applied the concept at his station, WTIX in New Orleans, and saw ratings improve. When rival stations initiated a top twenty play list, Storz doubled his station’s list to forty songs. He also fine-tuned the shows, insisting his on-air personalities speak in a quick, rapid-fire style. They broadcast short, sensationalized headline news reports and jingles. Listeners were encouraged to call the station and request specific songs they wanted to hear. Storz debuted the first, forty-song, reverse order countdown survey of the hit songs of the week. Soon, stations all across the country were doing the same thing with shamefully little or no differences.
Ratings soared and Top 40 radio was born. Teenagers everywhere listened to the sound of the big beat.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Walk on through the wind...walk on through the rain...may your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on...walk on...with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone." From: You'll Never Walk Alone -The Brooklyn Bridge (R.I.P. Johnny Maestro (1939-2010).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Exerpt: Chapter Five: Cleveland

(From the unpublished novel copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

The Cavelli house on West 226 Street in Cleveland, Ohio looked just the way Danny described it, a working man’s home in a neighborhood of working men’s homes, a two- story, wood framed dwelling with nothing much to distinguish it from the house next door or the one across the street.
It was hot and muggy when Joseph Rabinowitz arrived in front of the house. He’d walked from the bus stop on the corner. He paused to gather himself before continuing through the gate of a picket fence. Joseph walked up the steps to the porch that ran the entire length of the house. The long bus ride up from Louisville, Kentucky jostled and jolted him. The heavy duffle bag he carried made his injured back ache.
Days earlier, he’d telephoned Danny’s father, Vince Cavelli to ask if he could stop by on his way home to New York. A sense of unfinished business haunted him. He wanted to visit Danny’s grave and say a final farewell to his friend. After Vince granted his request, Joseph telephoned his parents and told them of his plans.
He signed the papers severing him from the U.S. Army and collected a hefty sum of back pay. Chanticleer drove him to the bus station in Louisville where their parting was an emotional one. They shared a friendly embrace, which raised some eyebrows in the segregated atmosphere of the public bus terminal.
There were knots in Joseph’s stomach as he rang the doorbell. The knots rose to become lumps his throat as the door opened and Janet Cavelli stood before him, smiling.
“Janet?” He managed to choke out passed the lumps. “I’m Joseph Rabinowitz.”
None of her pictures did her justice. She wore a short sleeve, red and white plaid blouse draped out over a pair of loose fitting blue shorts. Her slender face accented by her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“Hi, Joseph, come on in.” Janet shifted backward. He entered the small foyer and she closed the door behind them. “Why don’t you put your things in the corner there? We can go into the parlor and sit down.”
She pointed to a spot beneath a mirrored coat rack hanging on the wall. He put his duffle bag down and followed her through an archway into a large living room, neatly kept and nicely furnished. Joseph sat on a sofa in the middle of the room.
“I made lemonade. Would you like some?” She asked.
“That would be great, thanks.”
Janet bounced from the room through a doorway that Joseph guessed led to the kitchen. He studied his surroundings. He noticed a lot of family photographs on tables and shelves around the room. He stood up to have a closer look. Many were photos of Janet’s parents. Others depicted Danny, Janet or both at various times in their childhood. But the wedding picture of Mr. and Mrs. Cavelli caught his attention the most. He picked up the metal-framed picture to study it more carefully. The photographer captured the image of two people so much in love that it transcended the boundaries of time more than any spoken word could ever hope to do.
Joseph noticed the strong physical resemblance between mother and daughter. He believed Janet was well on her way to equal or perhaps even surpass her mom’s beauty.
“My mom was really pretty wasn’t she?” Janet asked. She carried a metal tray containing two tall glasses of lemonade. She put it down on a coffee table in front of the couch.
“Yes she was.” Joseph replied, keeping his speculations to himself. He put the photograph back in its place and returned to the couch. He picked up a glass of lemonade. “Danny told me she got sick?”
“Tuberculosis. She’s gone two years now. I still miss her.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you do.”
Janet crossed the room and picked up another framed photograph.
“This is one of my favorites.” She handed the picture to Joseph and plopped down cross-legged on the opposite end of the couch.
The photograph, smaller and more recent was of Danny and Joseph in their dress uniforms. Joseph couldn’t remember where or when it had been taken.
“I’m sorry I never got to see Danny in person in his uniform. He looks so handsome. You do too.”
Her compliment embarrassed him somewhat. Drops of perspiration inched down his face. He reached into his pants pocket, took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. Janet sat bolt upright when she noticed his discomfort.
“Look at you, you’re sweating bullets!” She took two quick butt hops across the cushions getting close enough to take the handkerchief away from his grip and help him.
“I can go get a fan,” she said.
“No, I’m okay, honest. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. I mean, I know we just met and all but I feel like we’ve known each other for a long time, it’s almost like - ”
“Like being on a blind date?” Janet interrupted. They both laughed and Joseph nodded. She’d hit upon it exactly. “I know, I took two showers before you got here. I was afraid my skin was gonna’ get all pruney.”
The nervous tension between them was now broken. They relaxed and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about a great many things.
Janet spoke of the letters she’d received from Danny with all sorts of silly basic training stories about something stupid they’d done, some of which still made Joseph embarrassed to hear. She giggled and smiled a lot which proved infectious allowing Joseph to enjoy himself more than he had in a long time.
The conversation took on a more serious tone when Janet asked him about the accident and the painful aftermath. On her part she spoke of the sadness that prevailed around their lives in the days after Danny’s body came home in a closed casket. His wake was attended by many family and friends and the funeral on a dreary day not long ago. Tears came to her blue eyes. She turned away so as not to let Joseph see them flow down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” was all she managed to say when she faced him again. “Would you want to go to the cemetery…visit Danny’s grave?” She asked after composing herself.
“Well, that’s one of the reasons why I came to Cleveland. But we don’t have to go right now if you’re not up to it.”
“Actually I go every day at about this time.”
“Alright then.”
“It’s not very far. We can walk. Just let me go run a brush through this mop.” She hurried off again this time up a long flight of stairs...

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Good golly Miss Molly, sure likes to ball. You got me rockin and a rollin' till you hear your mama call." From: Good Golly Miss Molly" By - Little Richard

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl: Character Profile - Janet Cavelli

Janet is sixteen years old when we meet her. She is the sister of Danny Cavelli, Joseph Rabinowitz' best army buddy. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She is described as "...a pretty girl with long, straight blonde hair that fell down her back between her shoulder blades. She appeared slim with the beginning of a good figure." In her frequent letters to her brother in Kentucky she includes snippets of fanciful poems she's written. Danny shows those poems and her pictures to Joseph. In time he develops a crush on the young girl.

Danny is killed in a car crash and Joseph goes into a coma. When he awakens, Janet writes to him in the hospital. Upon his discharge, Joseph goes to Cleveland and meets Janet. They begin a romance and fall in love just as Disc Jockey Alan Freed fills the Cleveland airwaves with Rock and Roll music.

Despite her alcoholic father's protests, Janet leaves home with Joseph and return to his home in New York where they are married a year later.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "You can dance, go and carry on till the night is gone and it's time to go. If he asks if you're all alone can he take you home you must tell him, no." From: Save the Last Dance For Me, By- The Drifters.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl? / What's it mean?

I suppose sometimes an author's ego makes him assume "everyone knows" what the title of his book means. Guilty as charged here. So, for those who don't know what the title represents, here it is:

"Seven-Inch-Vinyl" refers to the diameter of a 45-RPM vinyl record. Prior to 1930 all phonograph records were made of shellac, a brittle material which broke easily. In 1930 RCA VICTOR started producing vinyl records that were 12 inches in diameter and played back at 33 1/3 RPM (revolutions per minute). Vinyl records produced better sound quality and less noise than shellac. However, since this was during The Great Depression and playback equipment was very expensive, vinyl records never caught on.

During World War II, the supply of shellac became scarce and COLUMBIA RECORDS entered the game and manufactured vinyl records for our troops abroad. These records were also 12 inches in diameter and contained only six minutes of music.

Between 1948 and 1950, a so-called "war of the speeds" ensued. Columbia proved to be the victor (pardon the pun) when they developed the 45-RPM record. By 1951, the 45 became the dominant form for single records and the 12-inch record at 33 1/3 RPM's the standard for full albums.

The 45's were smaller, less expensive and quite durable. Just the sort of thing teenagers would need to launch their very own brand of music called, "Rock and Roll."

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "My darlin' I need you. To have and hold and never do wrong. To hold in mine, your little hand. I know, too soon, that love is so grand." From: Little Darlin' BY: The Diamonds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl: Character Profiles: Teddy Boyette/ Cap Stewart

(From the unpublished novel. Copyright 2010, Donald Riggio):

A ruggedly handsome and talented young man from Hardin, Kentucky, Teddy is sixteen when we meet him, the son of farmers George and Jean Boyette. Teddy learned to play guitar from Chanticleer, but has recently developed a unique new style all his own. After he wins a school talent contest and plays at Hardin's Fourth of July celebration, he decides he wants to make music his livelihood. He strikes out for the music Mecca of Memphis, Tennessee. There he runs afoul of a record company executive of great influence. Teddy also meets and is seduced by an older woman, a waitress named Dee,who stakes him to new clothes and a place to stay in exchange for sexual favors.

Teddy soon comes to the attention of Cap Stewart, a carney man, turned music promoter who runs "Cap Stewart's Caravan," a traveling troupe that showcases new, musical talent. He proves highly successful, and after one short tour on the circuit, Teddy is headlining the shows. Seeing his great potential, Cap Stewart signs him to an exclusive management contract.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "I could root for the Yankees from the bleachers...and not have to worry about teachers..." From: School is Out, By: Gary U.S. Bonds

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl: Character Profile: Chanticleer

Chanticleer's true age is never made clear. He's described as a: "...grizzled old negro," with a true talent for playing the guitar. Joseph meets him at the filling station while Danny's car is being repaired. We learn that as a young man, he made recordings for a man named John Lomax, who came south to document black music for The Library of Congress in 1933. Chantey, as he is known, deserted his family and hopped a freight train north to play in the jazz clubs of Chicago and St. Louis. He worked his way to New York where he appeared with Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington at The Cotton Club. After years on the circuit, he returned to Kentucky and opened a filling station, though most people are unaware he is more than just a worker.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Tonight with words unspoken, you tell me I'm the only one. But will my heart be broken, when the night meets the morning sun?" From: Will You Love Me, Tomorrow." By: The Shirelles.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Exerpt: Chapter Thirteen: "King of the Wild Frontier"

(From the unpublished novel Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

At seven-thirty, the ABC television network broadcast another weekly installment of Walt Disney’s Disneyland, a popular show that premiered in October.
The current king of animation and creator of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, made a move into television production as a way of financing his pet project, Disneyland, a huge amusement park he planned to open in southern California
On this night viewers watched the image of Disney behind his desk. In the background, a bouncy tune began to play. Disney’s image faded into a series of hand drawn sketches resembling the panels of a comic book. The lyrics of the song described the illustrations. They told the tale of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. Crockett was a simple backwoodsman from Tennessee. He fought Indians, served in Congress and would go to his death in a desperate battle at a place called The Alamo. Disney told his viewers that this would be the first of three installments, entitled “Davy Crockett: Indian Fighter”.
Leo hardly took notice but Marlena was transfixed. So were thousands of other viewers.
By the time the second and third episodes of the Davy Crockett saga aired in February of 1955, the entire country was caught up in a “Davy Crockett” marketing frenzy. Consumers spent millions of dollars on toys, books, clothing; anything that could be linked to the television hero.
“We’re selling fur coats now?” Leo asked Joseph when he arrived at the store to find him unpacking one of five large cardboard boxes, which contained dozens of furry looking items. He picked one up and examined it. “Or rats, maybe? They have tails. They could be rats.”
Joseph took the item and placed it on his boss’s head.
“They’re coonskin caps, Davy Crockett caps. All the kids want one.”
Boys and girls everywhere played frontiersman games in backyards, vacant lots and city streets. They all wanted to look like their favorite hero. The demand for raccoon fur had jumped from 25 cents a pound to $8.00 a pound.
“So we sell hats instead of records?” Leo asked, unaware of how silly he looked.
“No. We sell records, too.” Joseph reached down and handed Leo a 45 record in a paper sleeve. “This one is headed up the charts like a rocket.”
Leo read the sleeve. The record was called, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” sung by Bill Hays.
Walt Disney realized that since Crockett’s story unfolded over three separate segments airing nearly a month apart, he needed some way to tie them together so they would flow easily from one episode to the next. What better way than to have a catchy little tune, with several verses, to remind viewers of what transpired before?
“Coonskin caps?” Leo complained. “I beg of you, Joseph, really?”
Leo missed the attention he was getting from a small child, browsing through the store with his mother. When the boy of about seven saw the hat on Leo’s head, he wandered away from his mother’s side. He stood next to Leo, staring up at him.
“Mister,” the wild-eyed youngster asked him, “Is that a Davy Crockett hat?”
Leo looked at him. “Why, yes it is, sonny.”
“Mommy! Mommy!” The boy hurried off yelling to his mother. “Look, they sell Davy Crockett hats here! Can I get one, Mommy, please?”
Leo took the hat off his head. “We can get more of these, right?”
Joseph had a big smile on his face. “Yes, Leo we can get all we could possibly need.”

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Chapter one says to love her, you love her with all your heart. In chapter two you tell her you're never,never never,never,ever gonna' part. In chapter three remember, the meaning of romance. In chapter four you break up, but you give it just one more chance." From" Book of Love" By: The Monotones

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Excerpt: Chapter Three: "...Then There was Music"

(From the unpublished novel, Copyright: 2010 Donald Riggio.)

...The road opened up onto a long straightaway. The two vehicles were neck and neck, when both drivers made the same tragic mistake. Danny yanked his steering wheel to the left while the driver of the pick up turned his hard to the right.
The vehicles collided with a loud crash, both of them careened out of control. The convertible spun around once. In a flash, a last glance of terror passed between Joseph and Danny as the car went off the road, lurched into a culvert and began to roll.
Joseph was thrown clear of the car, hurtling through the air like a rag doll. He came to earth with a bone-crunching thud and tumbled over rocks and grass. Dirt got into his eyes, his nose and his mouth until he finally stopped rolling. Unbearable sounds followed, horrible crashing noises very close by. An explosion, perhaps the gas tank rupturing, then nothing.
He felt dazed and in great pain, his movements were severely hampered. He lay flat on his back, fighting to raise his head but to no avail. He Managed to turn his head to the right. Through badly blurred vision, he caught sight of the smashed, overturned Ford. Its wheels, pointed skyward, were still turning, but it wasn’t on fire. The explosion must have come from the pick up truck.
“Danny?” Joseph called out weakly. No answer. Blood flowed into his eyes from somewhere on his head. The pain grew worse. For a moment silence folded in around him. Then, there was music, a piano at first, distant and soft, Chanticleer’s guitar followed, slow and bluesy. Was it real or imagined? He looked to find the source but couldn’t. He felt his consciousness slip away. Joseph decided to just listen to the music and close his eyes.
When Joseph woke again, he was moving. He lay flat on something with wheels being hurried along a corridor. He could make out the large figure of a man walking alongside him. Not a doctor, but a sheriff or deputy of some kind. The man peered down at him with a look of great concern. Joseph felt the need to make some sort of report.
“The pick up…” he struggled with his words.
“Take it easy boy. You’re banged up pretty bad,” the lawman said.
“Black pick up truck ran us off the road.”
“We know all that, son. Family owns a spread out that way saw the whole thing. After the crash the pick up slammed into a tree and blew sky high. Both occupants were killed instantly.”
“Danny?” Joseph asked.
“You’re friend? I’m afraid he didn’t make it either. You lay quiet now, the doctors are gonna’ do all they can for you.”
Joseph became frightened. Danny and those other boys were dead. What possible chance did he have? The parts of his body that didn’t hurt, he couldn’t feel. Maybe he’d be paralyzed, lose limbs. But before any real panic could set in, the music returned; soothing and calming like a lullaby that ushered him off to sleep.

Lester the mechanic finished talking with the owner of a Blue Buick, a regular customer who stopped in for gas. After the Buick drove off, he walked to the office and stood in the doorway. Chanticleer sat behind a desk going over his invoices. He looked up. Lester had news.
“That wreck we heard about yesterday over near the Collins place?” Lester said.
“It was the McVie brothers.”
Lester nodded, “Both of em…they was up to their usual shenanigans on the highway.” Lester paused before relaying more bad news. “That Ford convertible from the army base was involved.”
The old man winced before asking, “They killed too?”
“One of em’, can’t say which.”
Chanticleer was determined to find out which.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "That little chip of diamond on your hand ain't a fortune baby but you know it stands for our love." From- "Lets Hang on" By: The Four Seasons.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Character Profile: Danny Cavelli

(From Seven-Inch-Vinyl, an unpublished novel Copyright: Donald Riggio 2010):

Danny is nineteen when we meet him. He is a street-wise Italian kid from Cleveland, Ohio. He found his way into the army after being arrested for stealing a car and joyriding. He chose the Army over jail. He has a younger sister, Janet, back home in Cleveland. In letters,Danny has told her all about his best army buddy, Joseph Rabinowitz. Danny is killed in a highway mishap in Kentucky after a run-in with two local trouble makers. Joseph, his passenger, is seriously injured and lapses into a coma.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "He gets up each morning and he goes downtown, where everyone's his boss and he's lost in an angry land. He's a little man." From: "Uptown" By: The Crystals.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl: Character Profile: Joseph Rabinowitz

Joseph is the main character of the novel. When we first meet him he is in the army, stationed in Kentucky training for combat in the Korean War. He is eighteen years old, a Jewish kid from New York City. He is the only son of Solomon and Myra Rabinowitz. His father was a pianist with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. He and Myra fled Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933.

As a young boy Joseph learned piano from his father, but the tragic horrors of the halocaust caused his mother to have a nervous breakdown turning Solomon into a harsh task master. Joseph abandoned the piano. After he graduated from High School, Joseph enlisted into the army to fight his country's new enemies.

"I'll make you happy baby, just wait and see. For every kiss you give me, I'll give you three." From: "Be My Baby." By: The Ronettes

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Exerpt: Chapter One: Kentucky

Joseph took his folded garrison cap from his belt and placed it on his head. As he walked toward the white building he heard the sound of a guitar playing. It was a simple chord progression in three quarter time sounding jazzy in parts, quite unlike the hillbilly music played on local radio stations or the popular styles of Jazz he remembered from New York. The music came from the inside a mechanic’s bay that adjoined the office. In his curiosity to hear more, Joseph got sidetracked and changed direction. When he got to the open bay door, he peered inside.
There, the hulking figure of an old colored man sat in a wooden rocking chair. He played a six-string acoustic instrument with a fervor and intensity that was, oddly enough, familiar to Joseph. Still undetected, Joseph moved to get a better look at the musician.
The guitar player had a full head of white hair. His face appeared unshaven for several days, the bristles of his white beard showed prominently against his dark complexion. Based on his weather worn and wrinkled features, Joseph put his age to be somewhere in his sixties.
He worked the fret board with his left hand to form harmonious bar chords. Joseph took note that at times he bent the strings against the frets to produce a moaning sound. He plucked the strings with the fingers of his right hand without the use of a pick to create a bass and rhythm pattern at the same time.
The results were rich in tone owing to the high quality of the guitar, the deftness of the musician and the echo effect created by the high ceiling of the hollow garage bay. When the old man saw Joseph, he stopped playing and smiled at his visitor.
“Howdy,” He said from behind a wall of white teeth...

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "I knew when you saw him you wouldn't ignore him and he'd be the one you'd choose." From "He's in Town." By: The Tokens

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Truth in Music

In March of 2007, I was asked by my friend, Jon "Bowzer" Bauman of Sha Na Na, to testify before the Nevada State Legislature as a fan, for the passage of the "Truth in Music Bill." This law makes it an unlawful practice for musical groups with no original members to use the name and perform as the original group. Alongside Jon, Maxine Porter (the wife of the late orginal member of the Drifter's, Bill Pinckney), Sonny Turner (former lead singer of the Platters), and Mary Wilson (one of the original Supremes), we presented a strong case for the Senate Committee. The Truth in Music Law was passed in May, 2007.

Nevada is now one of over 30 states that have this law on the books. I am proud and honored for having some small part in passing this important Legislation which protects the rights of those pioneering performers of Rock and Roll.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "At Erasmus Hall High School we used to harmonize, me and Benny and Aaron and two Italian guys." From "Looking for an Echo" - By Kenny Vance and the Planotones

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This is the first post of my blog. I recently had the opportunity to communicate one on one with an agent from a very prestigious New York agency. While she maintains that it is extremely difficult for a new fiction author to get signed and published these days, she did give me a piece of advice that has become my new favorite quote: "Break out of the pack."

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "See that girl with the diamond ring? She knows how to shake that thing." - From "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles.