Vuolo Commentary: April 2014 Archives

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

VuoloAs I sit here at my computer with a large box of Kleenex at my side, feeling far less than 100% with a form of "pink-eye" and a very sore throat, I know why my later in life mantra is "Golden Years...my ass!" Then I reflect on the news I got today about the untimely passing of two people I knew, one from radio and one from music and high school, and it puts all things in perspective.

My hope is that, by looking at my picture, it's hard for you to believe that in July, God-willing, I'll be attending my 50th Class Reunion of Ann Arbor High School (now known as Pioneer). Bob Seger was in my gym class ... but another AAHS graduate who had a national pop-single was Deon Jackson.

Deon JacksonDeon sat in front of me in English class in 1964. He was on the bus with me to Detroit's historic Fort Wayne facility for our US Military Draft Physical and was managed by the same man who discovered Del Shannon, Ollie McLaughlin of "Ollie's Caravan" on local station WHRV 1600, now WAAM, in Ann Arbor.

He was best known for the pop hit, "Love Makes The World Go Round," on the Carla label in 1966. The song reached #3 on the R&B charts and #11 on Billboard's Hot 100! Three more singles, however, failed to crack the top 60, but Deon kept performing-- a fact that he kept secret from his students at a Wheaton, Illinois school where he later served as a counselor. They finally discovered him in 2008 on YouTube.

He died in his sleep at his home in suburban Chicago April 19. He was 68. That 50th Class Reunion of AAHS is coming up in 90 days. Deon almost made it. Damn shame. I was really looking forward to seeing him again.

 

 

Lee MarshallNow, I just got word that Tony the Tiger has also lost his voice with the shocking news that Lee Marshall has died of (ironically) esophageal cancer. He was only 67. You probably didn't know that Lee was the most recent voice of the famed Kellogg's Frosted Flakes mascot, but he was, following in the footsteps of the original voice of Tony, Thurl Ravenscroft! You might remember Lee best, if you are of a certain age, as one of the big-voiced sensational sounding news hounds at The Big 8-CKLW. He was one of over twenty news guys under the leadership of another local radio great, who died far too early in life at only 46, and that was the unforgettable Byron MacGregor. You hear his wife Jo-Jo Shutty MacGregor on WWJ doing traffic reports. Lee was also featured in the sensational documentary "The Rise and Fall of The Big 8-CKLW" which aired several times on Detroit Public Television.

 

 

In my last column about the new broadcasters for Michigan Football, I indicated that prior to the upcoming team of Jim Brandstatter and Dan Dierdorf, there had only been two other announcers who covered nearly seventy years of calling the Maize and Blue action; Bob Ufer and Frank Beckmann. It's true that Ufer was THE original, and longest running (37 years), voice of Meeechigan Football from 1945 until midway in the 1981 season when he died on October 26th.. It's also true that Beckmann began calling the games at the start of the 1981 schedule, but Bob Ufer's last game was on a bleak and rainy mid-October day versus Iowa, and U of M lost! So, from 1945 through last year only two men had the job on what was once called The Michigan Football Network starting on WPAG (now WTKA) in Ann Arbor, then shifting over to WJR from 1976 through 2005 and since 2006 on WWJ.

Back in the early days, in the old press box along Main Street, the top floor had as many as a half dozen, or more, radio booths as a number of stations were able to broadcast the games. Michigan's own public/NPR station WUOM-FM (91.7) featured Tom Hemmingway for nearly 25 years. WAAM in Ann Arbor did the games, as did WTRX in Flint and many others. Slowly, over the years, it went down to just two; WJR with Ufer/Beckmann and WWJ with Don Kramer and later, Larry Henry. After 1996 the NCAA decided only one station could have the rights and WJR won out for the 1997 season. Interestingly that didn't last even ten years, as in mid-October 2005, WJR stunned Wolverine fans by dropping UM for the MSU Spartans! If you go to my web site: www.vuolovideo.com and click on UM Football, at the end of the page is a story about how all that happened entitled "Why WJR repainted the Blue Room with Green Paint." My hope is that this clarifies the purists who reminded me that there were more than just two who sang the praises of the Yellow and Blue.

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

This is Holy Week, today is Good Friday and Holy Cow, what a week it has been for one of the most decent guys in sports broadcasting, Jim Brandstatter! Those of us who are Michigan Football fans should be delighted that the man who Frank Beckmann affectionately called "Brando," has received the nod to succeed him as the new voice of the Wolverines' football team. Add to this exciting news the fact that he will be joined by his former teammate and longtime friend Dan Dierdorf and you have instant chemistry in the radio booth!

VuoloPerhaps the reason I am personally so excited to see this happen is due, in part, to the fact that it was my pleasure to help out via my extensive archive of U of M games. In 2003, when back surgery prevented Frank Beckmann from making the trip to Evanston, IL for the UM-Northwestern game, Jim was pressed into service calling the game, with Steve Courtney doing the color commentary. Brandy called me and asked if I had that game? I said I have just about all of them. After checking, that game was still on the original video cassette (a Beta tape none the less!) So, I copied it, with Jim on the audio, onto a DVD and watched it at the same time. I thought "wow he's damn good at actually calling a game!" When he came over to pick up the disc he was truly amazed at the library of Michigan video I've accumulated over the past 35+ years. A copy of that DVD was given to Michigan Athletic Director, Dave Brandon and the rest...is now history.

In an e-mail I received from Jim Brandstatter on Thursday he said, "Thank the Lord you still had a copy of that Northwestern game when my copy didn't work so well...that was big...I had no idea at the time, but it turned out large." My pleasure Brando.

In an e-mail that I sent to Dave Brandon, I said that the most popular buzz-word in media these days is BRAND. Branding is what stations all strive for and the Michigan brand is iconic. Brandon starts with brand, and Brandstatter starts with brand, and together they'll build a brand that M-fan's will love! Michiguide founder and webmaster Mike Austerman pointed out a unique alignment of Jim's and Dan's in local radio booths. The Lions have Dan Miller and Jim Brandstatter, the Tigers have Dan Dickerson and Jim Price and now we will have, at The Big House, Dan Dierdorf joining Jim Brandstatter covering the Maize and Blue. We believe this has never happened in any other region of the country.

There was a lot of speculation as to who would get the job up on the fifth floor of the press box in Ann Arbor. Other than Brandy, some of the names mentioned were: Doug Karsch, Matt Shepard, Dan Miller, Mark Champion and Larry Henry. Some wondered if age would become a factor. Jim and Dan are not youngsters, they played for Bump Elliott and Bo Schembechler in 1968-1971, that was a few years ago. Sports broadcasters get better with age. Names like Harry Carry, Ernie Harwell lasted into their 80's. Vin Scully (LA Dodgers) and Marty Brennaman (Cincinnati Reds) are still going strong with Scully pushing 90 years old! With age comes extensive knowledge of the game and its history. Bob Ufer's total recall of past Michigan games was encyclopedic. Imagine if he had lived beyond his 62 years? God bless his cotton-pickin' maize 'n blue heart. Between Ufer and Beckmann only two announcers covered Michigan football from 1945 through 2013, which is almost 70 years. Unheard of.

Jim Brandstatter hosted the long-running "Michigan Replay" TV show for many years and still does "Inside Michigan Football." He worked at WILX-TV 10 in Jackson/Lansing where he met local news anchor Robbie Timmons, who he married in August of 1980 and they live in Commerce Township. When I first met Jim he was at WDIV-TV Channel 4 and yet Local 4 had no coverage of Thursday's breaking news. Fox 2, WJBK-TV had nothing on their 5, 6 or 10 pm news, and Only WXYZ-TV Channel 7 made mention of the announcement. Why is local TV so afraid to report stories about local radio?

Dan Dierdorf's radio days began at one of America's most legendary stations, KMOX-AM (1120) in St. Louis where he has lived for many years, but he has a place in northern Michigan and said an opportunity like this to work with his friend of 40 years will probably keep him in Michigan during the most beautiful time of the year. Both Jim and Dan were interviewed simultaneously on WJR by Mitch Albom on Thursday, and that station is the voice of the Michigan State Spartans! Maybe we CAN all get along after all.

With Dan Dierdorf's extensive work with college and pro football, nationally on both ABC and CBS, he will be great this fall. Yes, we remember that Frank worked with former assistant coach Jerry Hanlon and former player Bob Thornbladh, but his many years with Jim Brandstatter were magical. We can expect many great broadcasts for Season 135 as a new era begins with a couple of great Michigan men. Now coach Hoke, let's just win the games!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

 

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Vuolo Commentary category from April 2014.

Vuolo Commentary: March 2014 is the previous archive.

Vuolo Commentary: June 2014 is the next archive.

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