Looking for Magic in America, Or, How I met The Dalai Lama of Tibet
Copyright 1997-2016"Magic Mike Berger " (Unpublished)
The Birth of FM Radio
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Until the late 1960's FM radio was either classical music, elevator music,
or a rebroadcast of the AM station.
I changed that.
When I was 11 years old we moved to the Bustleton area of Philadelphia at the northeastern edge of the city. At that age my friends and I began to become aware of the music scene. I had never really enjoyed the sad, dreary sounds of the 50's that were lingering on into the 60's. Or the Sha-dupie-do choruses, the original Sha Na Na type of rock 'n roll, or even most of Elvis's hits. Many of those songs originated in Philadelphia, the home of American Bandstand. And in fact on Friday afternoons after school many students would be down at the studio to be on the show. It was a dreary, the big station in Philadelphia was WIBG-AM, which I insisted to my friends stood for "We Intentionally Broadcast Garbage". This was the era of Top 10 Radio and you heard the same top 10 songs over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Top songs of 1960
1. Cathy's Clown, Everly Brothers (this song always made me nauseous)
| 13. Greenfields, Brothers Four (this song always made me nauseous)
14. What In The World's Come Over You, Jack Scott
15. El Paso, Marty Robbins
16. Weld One, Bobby Rydell
17. My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own, Connie Francis
18. Sweet Nothin's, Brenda Lee
19. Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison (this song always made me nauseous)
20. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini, Brian Hyland
21. Where Or When, Dion and The Belmonts
22. Sixteen Reasons, Connie Stevens
23. Puppy Love, Paul Anka (this song always made me nauseous)
We could not wait until nighttime, because that was the right time, to be with the one you loved to listen to. AM-Radio is broadcast in low-frequency kilocycles. Its wave signal is miles long and hugs the ground at the speed of light. But at night when the atmosphere cooled off and got a little thicker. You could get a wave bounce off the atmosphere and hear radio stations from 1000 or more miles away. I would eagerly tune to 77AM WABC in New York listened to Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie, fast talking squawking AM DJs, who were playing Top 20, and Dick Summers at WBZ-AM1030 in Boston, along with Joey Reynolds in Buffalo at WBFL-AM1450.
With highest marks in my class in Geometry, Chemistry, and Physics, I thought science was a place for my career. It was a hard choice between MIT, Penn State, Princeton, and Drexel Institute of Technology. I drove over to Princeton after I got my driver license on my sixteenth birthday to check out Einstein's old office, thinking that I might possibly study theoretical physics there. It was small and unassuming. Two months later, in the middle of my junior year in high school, we moved to the countryside of Northeastern Pennsylvania, in February 1964. It was all farms and fields for miles around. My dad had sold cemetery lots in Philadelphia and he bought a small memorial park. We had no sooner moved in when we got 50 inches of snow in three days. I learned to drive that week plowing roads in the cemetery.
Then The Beatles came out!! It was happy and upbeat, in stark contrast to dreary Gene Pitney’s "Town without Pity", Brenda Lewis's "I'm Sorry" and "Cathy's Clown" by The Everly Brothers.
The Beatles had eight in the top 100 best songs of 1964 and FIVE in the top 20 best.
#1. "I Want To Hold Your Hand", The Beatles
#2. "She Loves You", The Beatles
#13. "A Hard Day's Night", The Beatles
#14. "Love Me Do", The Beatles
#20. "Please Please Me", The Beatles
#40. "Twist And Shout", The Beatles
#52. "Can't Buy Me Love", The Beatles
#99. "I Saw Her Standing There", The Beatles
I would listen at night to those same Northeast stations and now I could also get a western wave bounce from Big 10-WCFL (Chicago Federation of Labor) and 89-WLS (World's Largest Station) in Chicago, and CKLW in Detroit - but whose transmitter was in Windsor, Ontario so it had the Canadian designation of the letter C.. These had become Top 40. Wow! Forty! Now you are beginning to sense my boredom. How long can you listen to the same 10, 20, or even 40 songs without starting to scream? The cemetery had an old Wallensac tape recorder and my dad asked me to transcribe some sales training records he had onto tape. Both the postmaster, who my dad had become friends with, and my dad's partner had large collections of Broadway show albums. Whenever I could I would take the tape recorder to their houses and tape as many as I had time for such as South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady and Pal Joey etc. In the summer I mowed the lawns on a Gravely tractor-mower, helped dig graves, set markers, and clear woods. There was a two foot wide spring running thru the woods of birch and alder. I found a quiet spot where I could listen to the water to my left and right. After Philly, it was a place of no mechanical sounds. We had deer at night.
I was now a senior in the fall of 1964. I had only been there since the end of my junior. There was a new gym teacher and he put together their first football team. I wanted to play but he wasn't taking seniors. So he made me his manager and assistant trainer as I had been that at George Washington High in Bustleton and the track coach's manager at Woodrow Wilson Junior High. We beat the top teams in Scranton and went undefeated our first year. My brother Mark went both ways as star fullback and defensive halfback. The heat from the basketball team slackened. As school started the principal cancelled the school dance because two students were caught smoking cigarettes in the parking lot, on a friday night after a football game. Whoa.
So when my best friend and chess opponent, who was loved by everyone, won senior class president, I figured if I asked him to be my partner in putting together our own senior dance we wouldn't get suspended. A new girl moved in and sat behind me in class because her name came after mine. When I'd answer a question with a comic twist to get a laugh she'd poke me from behind. I figured I'd ask her to help us decorate the firehouse. She was the daughter of Scranton's famous TV weatherman. With her and another friend being from radio and TV families, I was developing a strong awareness of media by now, along with the possibility I could do it too. We each bought $25 of 45rpm records and convinced the Springfield Township fire station to rent us the station house for a Friday night. Everyone came, had a great time, we broke even. But the school pressured the firehouse to not let us do it again.
In January 1965 of my senior year Penn State's Chemical Engineering and Physics rocket propulsion program offered me early notice of acceptance. I chose them because they were the only one in the group that had a radio station, and I knew I wanted to be a DJ and program better music than I had been listening to the last number of years. As soon as I got there I volunteered to work at the student run station, WDFM-FM. My dad had bought a new tape recorder and the old one came to college with me. I would practice news copy and public service announcements in my dorm room. I would tape it, then play it back and listen in pain to the sound of my voice. then I would do it again until I liked the way it sounded.You are your own worst critic and most people hate to hear what they sound like on tape. I would practice pacing and breathing and correct enunciating. I had the NBC pronunciation handbook which showed the perfect sample of a non-regional accents pronunciation. I passed the announcers test and began to get news announcer slots and production board slots assigned to me. By the following year I would be giving the announcers tests as I was made chief announcer.
The station did not have a production room so we had to use the main studio that, so the station did not sign on the air until four o'clock in the afternoon. The first two hours were set aside for classical music, then one hour of news, followed by four hours of popular music, folk music, or some other specialty programming. It went off the air at midnight. Rock 'n roll was only allowed Friday and Saturdays in some parts of Sunday. As a freshman I cannot hope to get a rock 'n roll radio show of my own so I volunteered to read the production board.
Being that I was fresh meat, I got my initiation into announcer hazing at my second time on the air. It was our prime 7PM three-man news team. After the intro stories, the anchor threw it back to me, sitting, at a microphone at the back table. As I started to read my stories the anchor set the top of my news copy on fire and I had to start reading quickly, faster than the fire worked its way down the page. I got through my bit without breaking pace or laughing. Then I threw it back to him when I was done. After he started I walked behind him and eased his chair out from under him so he had to stand up. He did that without breaking. But then I undid his belt and let his pants fall down. People were watching from the other room through the glass and were laughing on the floor crying. Because they couldn't make me laugh they plan to notch it up the next time I was there. The production director had a tough reputation. He gave the production board exams to run the equipment during shows. In every a nasty way to make you screw up in queuing up the right record in commercial or anything they could think of that a board-op might have to go through for any type of show. It had literally sent some out of the test crying. Some people took six before passing. I did on my second try. So the next time I read the news, He and two others dropped trousers in the production room, pushed their cheeks up against the glass, and gave me three pressed hams, or should I say six.as funny as I was distilled in make me break in fact they kept trying but they never did.
At the end of my freshman year I decided I didn't like math or the thought of working for DuPont or Dow making antiwar chemicals, so I transferred into Broadcasting.
We would have new record meetings every week to decide what we would play. We got hundreds of promotional advance copies. Some were junk. After Buddy Holly high school bands blossomed. But after The Beatles came out new start-up bands became a flood. Sometimes they were rejected because of just the name. If they got to out meeting the program director would play a few SECONDS looking for a good intro and "hook". The classic phase from American Bandstand was "It has a beat. And, you can dance to it". I remember us deciding on playing "White Rabbit" by The Jefferson Airplane.
I loved working in radio, so that fall of my junior I decided not to go home for Thanksgiving and stayed at Penn State to keep WDFM on the air, being that everyone else had gone home. I probably did a bit of drinking until 2:00 AM the night before, but at 7:00 AM the next morning I went into the station flipped on the transmitter and began to play music.
I figured I would keep the station on as long as I could stay awake. A three to four hour shift is stressful enough and I planned to do 14 hours or more non-stop. About 8:00AM I noticed that on the table was a package of records that had come in and had not been opened. One record stood out as being kind of weird, which is right up my alley. It was about some restaurant owned by somebody named Alice, a guy singing in a weird humorous way strumming a solo guitar. He sang about being arrested on Thanksgiving for throwing garbage off a cliff and having to go to jail and later having to go to the army induction center where he tried to become unacceptable and he was put on the Group W bench with the other criminals. For being a litterbug. And creating a nuisance! It was 18 minutes long and I don't know if I stopped laughing the entire time.
The phone started ringing saying play that again so I did. And then someone else called and said they heard about it so please play it again. I must play it 10 times that afternoon. Pretty soon everyone around State College had heard about Arlo Guthrie and "Alice's Restaurant". We had a direct line to WMAJ for Penn State sports feeds. We found out they were getting an advanced promo copy of The Beatles "White Album". I went down there that Friday night and piped it up the line to WDFM and the DJ on-air taped it and played it on FM for the 1st time anywhere. Based on that experience and the fact that our programming was beating out the top AM radio station WMAJ-AM I decided that when I went home for the winter break, I go all around town trying to get station owners to let me program alternative music on their FM. Our engineers installed one of the first stereo transmitters in the country. Non of the played anything but classical, elevator music, or repeat of their AM station. I couldn't get any takers.
I went back and kept doing what I was doing. In 1968, I was selected for a Group W internship scholarship to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. Four days after I arrived there in the news department, Martin Luther King was shot. I was picked to drive CBS Dick Threlkeld to interview angry crowds day and night for a week. After that, I breezed thru the other nine departments in one week and told them I wanted the last eight weeks in the promotion department. Because I was at the internship in Pittsburgh for spring term I needed to go summer term at Penn State. Hardly anybody was at the radio station, and I was asked to make about 100 cassette cases by spooling audiotape blanks.
I noticed that the program director had left record locker open and I browsed through the albums. I said to myself, "What are these two groups?" They were the first albums for The Grateful Dead, and Pink Floyd. I also played the Velvet Underground, produced by Andy Warhol featuring Lou Reed. I also played Ultimate Spinach, Dr. John, and the eyes of The Beacon Street Union.
I began to play them in between the Beatles, the Dave Clark five, the Association, the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Four Tops. I was told to not play those things by stations student advisor. I figured I was a volunteer and he couldn't fire me anyway. I believed I had an ear for talent. Three months later everybody was playing them.
At the beginning of senior year "The Berger Special, heavy on the music" became zany and innovative. I would throw sound effects of machine guns, loud noises, and screaming under the public service announcements I had to read live for the Army, Navy and Air Force. We would play sound effects under music and all kinds of things no one ever heard of like Lord Buckley. Frank Zappa. Anything that sounded good to me I put it on the air. My show became a showcase for new nonstandard programming.
Senior year I became production director, and wrote and produced a ten week, farce, cliff-hanger, mystery, and comedy series called "The Adventures of Super Stater" (re-mastered and available on this site). I combined all of the radio industry theme songs mixed with sound effects to create our opening theme. Then an announcer would describe the beginning of the action and we would move into live dialogue. As tension mounted the announcer would break in and say we'll be right back after an important message and we would do a fake commercial that I had written followed by the Secret Decoder Club. We got 150 requests the first week for the secret message decoder. I turned in one episode the first week of my senior radio production class, taught by the department head, a tough, feared, red haired, Hermione Gingold look-a-like named Lillian "Doc" Preston. She played it for the class and told me to get out, and not bother coming to class for the next nine weeks, she was giving me a grade of A for the term! Ha hah ha ha ha. A friend who had been to California said to me that my shows sounded like a group in called The Firesign Theater. We did 10 episodes based on news headlines of campus events during January through April of 1969. It's like a nostalgia archive of Penn State at the end of the 60s.
Upon graduation in 1969, I wrote letters to the three TV stations in the Scranton area. They said, "Dear Mr. (the station manager's name), I in the person you are looking for. Signed, Mike Berger". The next day I sent another with a second line. On the third day I sent another but added a small paragraph. On the fourth day the NBC-TV station called me up and said, "what's going on?". Their promotion director of 17 years was leaving for a job in Hartford Connecticut and they hired me to take his place on the day. I was just 22 years old and became promotion director at NBC affiliate WBRE-TV (first color TV station).I was the youngest television promotion director in the country, the second youngest for 35 years old. But they paid little so I left to join my father's company, where I seemed to excel in cemetery sales to veterans and was making $500 a week for 20 hours a week instead of $115 a week I was making in television..
I was interested in mind yoga and ESP. I found "Be Here Now” and "The Tibetan Book of The Dead", which referenced the Dalai Lama. I felt I would have a future connection with The Dalai Lama of Tibet in the general vicinity of the Pacific Northwest United States. I had also found Tom Robbins book "Another Roadside Attraction." After three years off the air, I missed being creative. One day while driving around in the countryside of Pennsylvania, fumbling with the radio to find something worth listening to, I said to everybody in the car, "If nobody is going to do good radio, I'LL do good radio."
I decided it was time to leave Pennsylvania, and in the last week of March 1974, and I drove across the country with $400, my friend Mike Cook, a cat, and what fit in my car. I told him I was going to be a FM disc jockey magician and meet The Dalai Lama, Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), Tom Robbins (author of Another Roadside Attraction), The Grateful Dead, and The Firesign Theatre, and other well-known people, sometime in the near future based on my meditative insight.
I arrived in Colorado on April Fools Day 1974 and got a job three days later in the emerging FM radio market. I helped start KIIX-FM, a new FM station in Fort Collins, owned by Alf Landon, the conservative Republican who ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt during the new deal. They let us bring in our own records and it I message him quickly became the most listened to station in Northern Colorado. We began to order promotional records from all the major labels. Ray Huffman, Rick Lofgren, Deni La Rue and I pioneered a mix of rock, blues, fusion, country swing, jazz, acoustic, bluegrass, and Firesign Theater. I'd play The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart, then John Lee Hooker, followed by J. J. Cale, Tim Hardin, John Hartford and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Often people would call me with a request that I had just decided to play. Sometimes they would call up and say, "I'd like to make a request but you're playing such good music I just want to tell you I have nothing I think you should do except what you're doing." Frank Herbert, the writer of Dune, was in town for a science fiction convention. I tracked down where he was staying and invited him to come on my show for an interview. He told me to meet him for breakfast the next morning at IHOP and then we went over to the studio around 10 o'clock and taped an interview about the sequel to Children of Dune that he was writing and his study of sand cultures. His book came out the following year.
A couple months later Dr. John was in town and I invited him to come on the show. He showed up in Cajun leather and had a bag of Gris-Gris dust, which he showed me. I used to play his first album at WDFM FM five years earlier. JJ Cale came into town and I did magic for him and I also met Sonny Terry and in Brownie McGhee. I played Dan Folgelberg's first record so much, two years after it had come out and done nothing, that he sold 10,000 records in Fort Collins and we got a call from the record distributor informing us that and they renewed his contract. And we did the same thing for the Eagles 1972 release. This was 1974 and these were out for two years!
After a few months KIIX-FM was the number one station in northern Colorado beating our sister AM station so badly that they let us go on the air full-time instead of signing on at 4 PM in the production room. and, they build us a new FM full-time studio. I was getting phone calls from Denver to the Continental divide and North to Cheyenne. At this point they changed call letters to KTCL-FM. When the transmitter was hit by lightning when I played a Martin Mull song named "Marilyn", my ex-wife's name who I left to come West, they thought I screwed up the transmitter. They were off for a month and I was fired.
(Magic Mike - 2009) I was thinking about my good old days starting a radio station in Fort Collins Colorado and I was wondering if anybody ever commented on it so I did a search for a review and the year 1975 and some guy who lauded it right out.
Cadillac Man - 5-1-2005 at 06:32 PM
I wish they'd do a real KTCL retrospective going back to maybe 1975-1980.
Those were the glory days for KTCL, not the 90s.
I'm talking John Hartford, Jamie Brockett, Jonathan Edwards, Al Di Meola, Gil Scott-Heron, John Prine, ads for Avagadro's, Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes and Mishawaka.
If not TCL, maybe KBCO could pick up the missing years.
Well pass it to me baby, pass it to me slow
we'll take time out to smile a little before we let it go
cuz we gonna lay around the shanty mama-- and put a good buzz on.
I went to work at KADE-AM in Boulder, the only AM I ever worked for. I was fired for playing Bob Dylan's new hit "Jack of Hearts" from Blood On The Tracks because it was too long for AM Radio. As always happens in life when one door closes another opens.
I was about to get my name. It was hand delivered to me, I didn't do it myself. I read somewhere once where somebody fantasized that perhaps we should be given names the people pick for us. That's what happened to me. At Penn State, being that my last name was Berger, I went by the "Berger Special, heavy on the music". What about the Colorado didn't want to use that and my mood was fairly mellow selectors used "Michael". I drove around Colorado looking for work. The station in Colorado Springs was kind of dry. Were no openings in Denver at the good stations. And a friend said that I should drive out the Steamboat Springs. They are my friend Steve, from Scranton, introduced me to the guy that was running the station in Steamboat Springs. But there was no opening there. But he owned the station in Alaska and wanted to make me the program director of sales manager, because he loved by magic and we had great rap sessions about music and radio. He flew home to tell his dad died of a heart attack at the age of 32 years old. So I drove back to Denver, having no place to stay, but a chess friend named Michael from Scranton had moved out and followed he was dating a woman in Denver they shared a house. He begged me to go to the hospital where she was lying in pain after being hit by a bus. A beautiful Louisiana Bell long brown hair very slender body and a broken femur. She loved by magic and demanded a stay at the house. Her other roommate had a boyfriend named Mike, Patti's boyfriend named Mike I was named Mike, they had another friend named Mike, and another friend of mine from Scranton, Mike Cook appeared after having gone back to Scranton the previous year. So one day I was in her back yard playing with her little boy, she's lying on the couch recuperating, talking to one of her girlfriends. I hear her discussing something I had done, and the other girl said, "which Mike?" From length of the backyard, through the kitchen door 50 feet away, and into the living room to the couch she was lying on another 30 feet, I heard her say, "Magic Mike". I decided right then and there that from that point on, doing magic on the street or doing magic on the air, I would call myself the name they chose for me, Magic Mike.
In July 1975 I left for 100,000 watt KZEL-FM in Eugene, Oregon. Scranton Michael number two and I bought a 1947 Silver streak trailer. It was 8 foot wide and 15 feet long, and aluminum bubble on wheels. A guy up the mountain was in Nederland was using it to store or dry hay for his horses to eat the winter. Michael and I bought it for $300. It was totally gutted. We built two beds with storage underneath and an overhead cupboard with a lock to keep things in what we were driving. Inspiration to me in 1972 before I left Pennsylvania was, Tom Robbins book, Another Roadside Attraction. I bought some letters and stuck them to the back reading, The Non-Vibrating Astrological Do-do Dome spectacular.
They were getting 50 resumes and tapes a week a KZEL, which they were just erasing and using for commercials. I decided they needed to be stunned. I drove there and listened to the station for a week and study what they were doing. I asked when the program director got off the air. I walked in 15 minutes before the program director, Stan Garrett, "Harry Til Three" got off the air and asked for a tour so I knew he wouldn't be in a meeting or making commercials. When I went into his booth I said can I watch and he said sure. Then I asked if they could use some help and he said what do you do? I said well I'm a magician. He said we have a magician on our softball team, show me a trick. I showed him a trick that blew him away and he started stammering while he was on mic. Then when he was out in the hallway putting his records way he called the station owner, the business manager and the sales manager over to see my incredible sleight-of-hand. I did a few more and then purposely let a pause in and they said you have anymore? I said sure for my next magic trick... I pulled out a 7 inch reel of tape in a 10 page resume. They said this guy has gotten us! We have to hear this tape. They were totally blown away and it just so happened their prime time night disc jockey was leaving for Portland station in 30 days and they said I could take over from 8 PM to 1 AM ahead of all the other people that were in line for the job, in the name of Magic Mike magically appeared out of nowhere to to get the plum job at the best radio station in the world. Billboard Magazine voted the county's best progressive rock station while I was there. I began including a lot of blues mixed with rock. I'd play Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson Lake and Palmer followed by Saint Saen's Symphony #3 for Organ and Orchestra. I'd play Rolling Stones, Leadbelly, Howling Wolf, and Lightning Hopkins. I'd play Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, and Sippie Wallace. I'd play Dan Hicks, Steely Dan, and The Crusaders. The phone rang constantly. I also did theme sets. One night I would play all drinking songs, one night traveling songs, one night flying songs, one night outer space songs. People would call me, and ESP the song I was about to play next, that I had my finger on ready to start in 5 seconds. One night some guy called up as I was going into my commercial break and then he hung up. After the commercial break I started with a long set of the Grateful Dead. I played "The Music Never Stopped", on the new Blues for Allah album followed by the 22 minute "Dark Star" cut from the Live Dead album. No radio station would play a song that long. As I started the Live Dead album the phone rang and he said, "Man something strange happened and I figured I had to call you." I said, "I bet you're the guy that called at my break". He said, "Yeah. I was going to suggest you play The Music Never Stopped followed by Dark Star. I went back to my sci-fi book when you didn't answer the phone and then I realized you were playing what I was going to ask for when I didn't get through." Years later I went to their concert in Seattle in my tux, saying at the backstage door, "I have a magic telegram for Jerry Garcia". They really dug it, asked me to come backstage at the break, and to hang with them in their hotel room. Years later in Hartford I did the same and we hung out until 10am the next morning.
In 1974, on the anniversary of Jim Morrison's death I played sets from The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. As I was wrapping up the show one o'clock in the morning I asked the all-night disc jockey, John Cutlets "Sleepy John", "have you ever heard of a guy named Redbone?” He said, "You mean Leon Redbone?" I said, "Yeah I heard he was kind of a strange guy playing with Dylan and other people in upstate New York but he never had a record." A few minutes later we went into the other room and saw on the desk a box of records that command had never been opened as it was Friday everybody had gone home early. We decided to open it, something we would never usually do. The second record down with the new Leon Redbone album with the big Warner Brothers frog on it. One of the tunes was Without My Walking Stick. I had been going around for a couple years with a walking stick made out of petrified cactus root.
The next week flyers appeared announcing a concert with Leo Kotke with Leon Redbone opening the show. After the show I asked the stage manager give him an Ace of Diamonds. Then next year I was in Boulder and so was Leon Redbone. I sent another ace. In 1981 in Madison, Wisconsin I was taking one of the highest initiations the Dalai Lama gives, called Kalachakra andLeon Redbone was also. I sent a third ace. In Seattle, the fourth ace and I went backstage and showed him magic. He asked me to join him on the road. I had to decline since I had been studying with the Dalai Lama's brother-in-law at the Sakya Monastery in Seattle since 1979 and that was more important to me.
One night in December 1975 I played an album on KZEL FM in Eugene, that had just come in on a weird independent label, "Magic Mushroom Records", by a group named Heart. I played the whole album. A few minutes later the buyer for Everybody's Records called me up and asked about it because he had never seen or heard of it. The song was "Magic Man", a natural for me. and, "Steamboat Annie". The rest is history.
I'd get off at 1:00AM and rush over to a local pub to listen to Robert Cray Band (when they were just a local group) and perform magic for the band and closing stragglers. Some of the other disc jockeys said I turned them on to stuff in the library they didn't know was there. I was little for his people anywhere to be playing these kind of songs. The Marshall Tucker band came into town, and after the show I showed them some magic and they invited me to go on the road with them but I declined because I enjoyed my radio show so much. Little Feat came to town, I showed them magic when they came to the station for an interview. That year Billboard Magazine voted KZEL best progressive rock station in a non-metro market.
After about six months I found out that Ken Kesey's brother Chuck and his wife Sue ran the Springfield creamery. I had been shopping at the Springfield Co-op six months! I drove over there and it just so happened the this guy is walking in front of my car as I parked and I got out and said, "Are YOU...??" And he said, "No I'm his brother." I went into the creamery with him and did magic for him and Sue Kesey. They loved my magic and said Ken used to do magic.
The Outlaws came into town. I had played the hell out of their first record. I did magic for them for about an hour after the show. Years later, in Scranton they invited me the dressing room at the concert and to dinner after the show. I played a lot of Capt. Beefheart, "Big-Eyed Beans from Venus". In 1981 my friend Norman Durkee and I surprised him on his birthday, in Seattle, in his dressing room in Seattle's Showbox Theater after his show.And Arlo Guthrie came into town and my roommate's boyfriend was Arlo's roommate in college. We ambushed Arlo in the parking lot of the radio station as he came out. He was very surprised to see his old roomie and we all met up for a beer at his hotel. I showed him magic and told him about playing Alice's Restaurant while in college. In February 1976 I got the flu for two weeks. While I was at home convalescing I heard another disc jockey to the commercial for Bi-Mart, which I always did. I said, "They're going to fire me". One minute later later the phone rang and they fired me. they had been everybody with rubber checks and we have to wait a over a month to cash them. They had been spending the money on drugs. The Jerry Garcia band came into town and I had seats in the third row on the left aisle. At one point I looked to my left and standing next to me was Ken Kesey and his mother. During a break people drift back to the popcorn machine and I saw Ken there and introduced myself. and he told me listen to my show every night and really enjoyed it. I said his brother told me that Ken used to do magic. So I asked him to show me a trick and he showed me a coin trick. It really blew me away how good it was. Then I started to show Ken a card trick and after Ken put the card back in the deck somebody grabbed the cards before I could do a thing with them. And then somebody else came up another magician and did another trip with the cards. You can send me a going to find that card now after all that?! Well, I did, and Ken was very impressed. Ken told me he listen to my show every night. I told him that they fired me he said I'm going to give that owner, who was there in the crowd, a piece of my mind! later that summer he invited me out to his farm for a Brou-ha-ha that he was throwing for artists and poets. Allen Ginsberg was there.
We ran into each other a number of times at the Oregon Country Fair over the years between 1978 and 1991. More on the country fair later.
I left that summer and camped for months with my cat in Washington, Utah, and Colorado's Rocky Mountains. I went back to visit my family in Scranton, in December of 1976, and I accepted anoffer to sell for WEZX-FM, another start-up album rock station. They couldn't believe how much I sold, the top station in town for 25 years, WARM-AM tried to hire me away when I took a day off with the flu. I told them, "Sorry, I ONLY do FM. The next year I was made sales manager because I was the 2nd highest salesman in their four larger stations and I outsold all three top 20 year sales veterans of our AM station WEJL. In the summer of 1978 I again felt that I needed to be in the Northwest to meet the Dalai Lama when he came, so I took a job as sales manager of KIDO AM/FM in Boise. After I got there in a found out that the entire town was boycotting the station and they never told me. I left when the owner killed it for a tax write off, and I decided to move back to Eugene and wait. While I was in Scranton, John Belushi came to Eugene to film "Animal House". He had met the Robert Cray Band, gotten into blues, and stole my look which was dark suit, dark hat and black sunglasses. This is me, not Belushi! I went to a KZEL-FM summer party in July 1978 when I got back into town. Everyone thought I was Belushi.
I was offered an interview to be the program director of KROQ in Los Angeles. When I saw the smog there I bagged the interview and went to Las Vegas to gamble because I had never been there, and then came back to Eugene.
I only knew card tricks so I learned more magic, learned to make balloon animals, and began to perform magic for a living. I saw the total solar eclipse in the Spring of 1979 at the replica of Stonehenge, along the Washington Columbia River. The eclipse's totality was at 7:50am, and it was supposed to be a cloudy morning, but I deduced that it might be clear on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range if most of the clouds would be held back by the cold of the morning peaks, so I left for the two hour drive and got there at 7:30am. The stone monuments were in a field on a western plateau overlooking the Columbia River.
There was one big cloud covering the sun. I tried to start mentally burning a hole in the cloud and saw that a small break might drift over in time to see totality. I started to smile as a man saw the "I Believe In Magic" button I had, with stars and a comet, and said, "If you believe in magic, get rid of that cloud!" I said, "I'm working on the problem!", and just 15 seconds later that hole broke, just as totality totaled! The valley below began to ripple and shimmer as rarefied light, sparse rays escaping between the mountain peaks of the moon, played with the land and our minds. I remembered stories of the past, as the pale yellow glimmer rekindled old tales and genetic memories. I felt Antiquity! And I knew it signaled a big change about to happen.
That September I heard on the radio that The Fourteenth Dalai Lama had arrived in the country for the first time (there have been fourteen reincarnations of the Ocean of Wisdom and Compassion Lama, found and reinstalled as the greatest teacher of Tibet). I followed the news for two weeks until I tracked the closest city on the tour. I didn't still think it would happen, and I was having an ad agency trying to sell some ideas for TV commercials to a bank.
Should I leave, and will I get through to him, and do I really want to go now, if it's just a situation of seeing him from afar, IS IT WORTH IT? I decide to throw the I Ching, which I do rarely, so its meaning isn't diluted. I got a hexagram that was also the same hexagram of that week of the Taoist calendar, beginning his first day in Seattle, AND had the explanation "Cosmic Grace Incarnate", which I took to mean His Holiness, so I said to a friend, I'm going to meet the Dalai Lama, and do you want to come along? And I knew ONE person in Seattle, that I hadn't seen for two years since going East, who gave me his address in our chance encounter at The Oregon Country Fair, and lived blocks from Seattle's Sakya Dharma Center.
We drove to the first scheduled event, got out of the car, and met Tibetan lamas coming out of a building where The Dalai Lama was holding a press conference. The lawn and hill in front of the building was the one I had seen in his mind's eye for seven years. They asked, "Would you use our camera to take our picture with The Dalai Lama? He's just coming out now." I said knowingly, "That's what we're here for". This photo was taken just after an hour after the girl in white pants and I (top right corner of this photo) met the Dalai Lama, and the two Lamas to his right, Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche, and his brother Trinley Rinpoche. We were the only ones around.
We got out of the car, walked to a door I'm was getting a strong feeling for, just as the door opens, the two Lamas come out, hand us their camera, and ask us to take their picture with The Dalai Lama. We were the only ones around. We got out of the car, walked to a door I'm was getting a strong feeling for, just as the door opens, the two Lamas come out, hand us their camera, and ask us to take their picture with The Dalai Lama. This picture was taken by a Seattle Buddhist photographer a few hours later.
I am in the top right corner with a white hat, beard, and purple shirt, behind the girl in white pants. He gave me a copy of this photo when we became friends after I moved to Seattle the following week, when I learned that the Dalai Lama's brother-in-law, another high Lama lived in Seattle. the current mop the game to Portland and I took the black hat the ceremony with him in highest yoga. A few months later to join ricochet came, the emanation of the guy that wrote the Tibetan book of the dead, and my root lama here Dagchen Rinpoche, head of the Sakya sect. And the following year the Dalai Lama went to Vancouver to give initiations and I went and again got to check shake his hand, say hello, and give him a blessing scarf. So in the course of one year I met and took highest yoga initiations with the heads of the four sects: Galugpa; Sakya; Nyingma; and Kagyu. And in that period of time I also met Kalu Rinpoche, and Dezhung Rinpoche. I've taken initiations with them. I've have done magic for all of them. Except for the Dalai Lama because I don't want to put myself in a situation where I'm trying to confuse him.
I went to Wisconsin and took the Kalachakra initiation with the Dalai Lama and got to meet him and shake his hand there. Leon Redbone was playing that weekend, so I went and had an ace delivered. I went to Los Angeles to another initiation with him a few years later and met him again, went to San Jose for another one and met him again, another one in Los Angeles, another one in Seattle, and each time I was invited with a small group to be in a receiving line where we got to give her a scarf and shake his hand and say hello for a few seconds. I decided that performing for people was a good energy thing to do for people and hoped to support myself by performing in public with my hat out.
(More stories are being added about others I met.) The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore), Buckminster Fuller, Ken Kesey, Frank Herbert, Tom Robbins, The Firesign Theatre The Grateful Dead, Little Feat, The Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Arlo Guthrie, Heart, Leon Redbone, Tom Waits, The Robert Cray Band, Chuck Mangione, Freddy Hubbard, The Outlaws, Dr. John, Captain Beefheart, Commander Cody, Flying Karamazovs, Norman Durkee, The Amazing Avner, and the cast of Northern Exposure, at the world premiers of "The Four Seasons," performing backstage for Alan Alda, and at "The Stuntman", performing for Steve Railsback and Barbara Hershey. I met The Dalai Lama of Tibet at secret mind yoga teachings given in Seattle, Vancouver, Madison, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and San Jose.
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