Press-Republican

September 1, 2013

Studio secrets shared

By GORDIE LITTLE, Small Talk
Press-Republican

---- — Music has magic to soothe the savage breast. I wasn’t the first to say that, but for me and many others, it’s as right as rain. 

Having listened to and performed music in various venues before moving to Plattsburgh in 1961, it became part and parcel of my body and soul. And being on the radio until 1997, I got to share live and recorded music with many of you and your friends. 

When I worked at both Plattsburgh radio stations, some bands came right to the studios to do their thing. In those days, a few listeners still believed all music was live. I suppose that harks back to the time when you could flick on your Philco radio and listen to the Glen Miller Band live from the Glen Island Casino. For many years, I had to make announcements to let my audience know that “Portions of this program have been prerecorded.” Can you believe it?

Some of the musicians whom I was privileged to introduce are still alive, but most have put away their fiddles, mandolins, guitars and juice harps. I cherish those days when there was a musical group in every neighborhood bar and club. 

It was my great pleasure to stand or sit before a microphone and invite radio listeners to hear live rock ‘n’ roll bands at a wonderful place called Rollerland in Plattsburgh. I’m certain we broke all fire codes when we jam-packed the place for the likes of Tommy Roe, Brian Highland and Linda Scott, along with all the local and regional groups. I’ve managed to remain in touch with many of them over the past 50 years or so.

I was delighted when various unknown artists or their representatives would come to the radio station and ask my opinion of their music. I was fortunate to have been the first DJ on the planet to spin records by some who went on to fame and fortune. Tom and Harry Chapin are perfect examples. I cherish letters from several others who remembered my modest contribution and thanked me for helping. Many fine musicians came to us via the U.S. Air Force and the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. 

One fine day, a young airman stopped by the radio station carrying a large reel-to-reel tape. We chatted, and he said it came from a cousin or friend on the West Coast. It was a “studio master” recording of a female singer. He wanted my opinion. He must have thought I had lost my mind when I listened and was wild about the singer and the song. 

I broke several rules and laws by offering to play it on my show then and there. The telephone lines lit up like a Christmas tree, and the audience raved. I don’t recall the title, but I played it over and over, and in retrospect, I wish I had made an illegal copy for my personal collection. Why? That female singer, barely out of her teens, later released an album with the Stone Poneys and went ballistic as a solo artist a couple years later. 

Her given name is Linda Susan Marie Ronstadt. She has no idea who I am, and that’s fine. But I can never forget that day and that early recording. I mention it now, because I recently learned that Linda is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and tragically cannot sing a note. Almost a dozen Grammy Awards and millions of albums, and this amazing woman can no longer do what she did for me on that tape recording from the ‘60s. 

We say prayers for her and will continue to enjoy listening to our treasured records with such giant hits as “You’re No Good” and “When Will I Be Loved.”

I wish I could recall the name of the airman who handed me that marvelous treasure, but, if he’s out there somewhere, I offer him my undying thanks. And, to Linda Ronstadt, who has pleased me with her renditions of everything from country to Broadway hits: “Thanks for the memories, and keep singing in your heart.”

Have a great day and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the “Our Little Corner” television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at gordandk@aol.com.