The Cruisin' Years|
New Label: Increase,
age custom of driving
around, primarily to listen
to pop music stations on the
car radio, while observing
other kids and cars doing
the same thing; popular all
over the United States be-
ginning in the mid-Fifties.
Each album is not just a collection of the top pop music of a particular year, but a total recreation by a top disk jockey (of that year) doing his original program over a major pop music station. That means actual commercials, promotional jingles, sound effects, newscast simulations and even record hop announcements in addition to the original records themselves.
The series was produced with unprecedented attention to detail. One disk jockey, Dick Biondi of Chicago, called his old home town, Buffalo, New York, just to get an accurate ten-year-old weather report. Another, Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg of Boston, showed up in the studio carrying a suitcase full of chrome kazoos, cowbells, oogah horns and other noisemakers he'd used on the air in 1961. Then, after laying them out on a towel by the mike, much like a brain surgeon preparing to operate, "Woo Woo" wailed.
CRUISIN' producer Ron Jacobs monitored thousands of feet of tape, travelled over 10,000 miles and rooted through forgotten files and cluttered basements for old commercials, station promos and jingles. He also managed to get clearances for 84 different records, of which 42 are certified million-sellers, and all are from the Top 30 of their respective years.
The disk jockeys who appear on the series were picked after a month of carefully researching a decade's issues of BILLBOARD, including tabulating all disk jockey mentions. The names were then cross checked with audience rating services and longtime radio expert Bill Gavin--all this just to determine with jocks on which stations represented each year most accurately.
Once all the material had been collected, weeks were spent in the studio carefully integrating almost 1,000 seperate cues, and timing each year's "radio program" so it could be mastered for tape in four exactly equal parts. This was done to eliminate any dead space on CRUISIN' cassettes and cartridges, making each "rebroadcast" as realistic as possible and similar to the "tracking" effects of records. CRUISIN' was, in fact, originally conceived as a tape project: the first major one in the industry. After all, cruisin' meant cars, and listening to rock stations on the car radio; not until the enormous growth of in-car tape equipment was anyone able to recreate not only the sound of yesterday but the environment where the sound was first heard. Says Jacobs: "The full impact of such originally American social, technological, artistic and economic influences as rock and roll and Top 40 radio may not be fully realized in this century. But regardless of what time will ultimately be required to allow full historic perspective, there is the obligation to preserve the material so the media itself, not just written reviews and descriptions, will exist for future analysis.
"This isn't just nostalgia. It's history!"
Increase Records' CRUISIN' series is available on records and tape cassettes and cartridges, and is distributed by Chess Records (disc) and by the GRT Corporation (tape).
7 of The All-Time Top 20 Rock Jox
The seven disc jockeys in the CRUISIN' series were selected as the best living representatives of Fifties and Sixties radio from seven top American radio cities.
The Man and The Company
CRUISIN' is a year-by-year recreation of Top 40 radio from 1956 to 1962; not only was Jacobs active in pop radio during this period, he was also the producer of the highly acclaimed THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL. Watermark, a corporation he serves as an officer, is an entertainment and media organization that has no equal or precedent.
Jacobs recently concluded a four-year career as program director of KHJ in Los Angeles, a station he brought from its near-the-basement position to the top in just five months, where it remained so long as he was in charge. It was while in this position he produced the 48-hour long "rockumentary," a program which has been syndicated over much of the world and has been included in many museums and libraries, including the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Julliard School of Music.
Jacobs was a 12-year veteran of radio when he came to KHJ in 1965. In Hawaii he had been the island's top disk jockey and later was a programming and production executive responsible for launching a number of top-rated stations in Hawaii and on "the mainland."
Then, believing there should be a healthy environment for people who'd been successful on traditional terms, an organization where such people could create freely, Jacobs left radio in 1969 to help found one--Watermark. Today this company has interests in concert and festival promotion (Arena Associates), radio programming (AMERICAN TOP 40), records (Increase), tape production (THE CASETTE GAZETTE), audio commercials (such as EASY RIDER) and program consultation (National General).
Peg & Eddie
To have a cover concept as unique as the content of the CRUISIN' series, it was decided to take a young couple and age them (in comic strip frames) through each year, noting carefully the changes in dress and hair styles, as well as social attitudes.
Thus, Peg graduates from a Fifties pony tail to a Sixties Jackie Kennedy bouffant/flip... while Eddie lets his flat top grow out. There's an Edsel on one cover (1957) and Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO is on a marquee of the drive-in on another (1960). On a third cover, regular gasoline is priced at under twenty cents (Eddie was pumping gas that year, 1958) and Eddie's friend is wearing a WE SHALL OVERCOME button on a fourth (1962).
Peg and Eddie and their world--our world-- were created by Jere Alan Brian, Increase Records vice president, and Paul Gruwell, Increase art director.
"Peg and Eddie became real characters to us," says Gruwell. "We know even more about them than the artwork indicates."
Gruwell was an animation layout man at Hanna-Barbera working on the HUCK FINN, SCOOBY DOO, THE THREE MUSKETEERS and FANTASTIC FOUR TV shows before joining Increase. Mike Royer, who did the cover art, is one of the men behind the TARZAN comic strip.
THE CRUISIN' SERIES
1. CRUISIN' 1956 (INCM-2001) Robin Seymour, WKMH, Detroit (3:29)
2. CRUISIN' 1957 (INCM-2002) Joe Niagara, WIBG, Philadelphia (7:01)
3. CRUISIN' 1958 (INCM-2003) Jack Carney, WIL, St. Louis (7:29)
4. CRUISIN' 1959 (INCM-2004) Hunter Hancock, KGFJ, Los Angeles (5:46)
5. CRUISIN' 1960 (INCM-2005) Dick Biondi, WKBW, Buffalo (7:27)
6. CRUISIN' 1961 (INCM-2006) Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg, WMEX, Boston (7:40)
7. CRUISIN' 1962 (INCM-2007) Russ "Weird Beard" Knight, KLIF, Dallas (7:30)
The CRUISIN' Series, A History of Rock 'n Roll Radio was conceived, created and produced by RON JACOBS, and originally issued on INCREASE RECORDS, a division of WATERMARK, INC. as well as on GRT Tapes.