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Archive for August, 2018

Now that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has edged out Gov. Jeff Colyer for the Republican nomination for governor, I am becoming increasingly convinced that Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly is going to be the next governor.

As loathsome as Kobach is, it’s important for those of us who ache for a resounding shake-up in Kansas government to take the longer view. Kelly, a state senator the last 13 years, strikes me as a latter-day Kathleen Sebelius, that is, a moderate Democrat who understands government and makes sense.

Laura Kelly

Kelly, 68, has a much better chance of defeating Kobach than she did Colyer, who is more moderate than Kobach but does not strike me as willing or able to lift Kansas out of the quicksand.

Keep in mind it was Colyer — not former Gov. Sam Brownback — who led the effort to privatize Medicaid, birthing the certifiable disaster known as KanCare.

Of course, even if she wins, Kelly would be stuck with a Republican-dominated Legislature, but at least she would project a much more professional image for Kansas nationally, and she would be able to make some improvements through regulatory changes.

Kelly has a wealth of life and political experience. She was born in New York City and comes from a Republican military family. She studied at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology. She went on to get a master’s of science degree in therapeutic recreation at Indiana University.

She moved to Salina in the mid-1980s and is married to a physician, Ted Daughety. They have two grown daughters and live in Topeka.

From 1988 to 2004, Kelly served as executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association, a non-profit that represents myriad agencies with the aim of “improving the quality of life in Kansas by providing high quality park and recreation services.”

In her 2004 state Senate race, Kelly prevailed by just 98 votes. She credited her victory to campaigning throughout her district in Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties, including rural areas.

As a senator, her successes include advocating for the establishment and funding of Early Childhood Development Block Grants, which she says have prepared thousands of Kansas children for kindergarten. Last fall, her prodding contributed to the revelation that more than 70 children were missing from the state’s foster care system. That bombshell led to the ouster of Phyllis Gilmore as leader of the woebegone Department for Children and Families (DCF).

In a July 15 profile of Kelly, Wichita Eagle reporter Jonathan Shorman said Kelly has become one of the most prominent Democratic lawmakers in Topeka, serving as the highest-ranking Democrat on two budget committees and a health and welfare committee. Her status, Shorman wrote, “puts her squarely in the middle of discussions over spending and social services, such as Medicaid.”

Kelly is hoping to become the third woman to serve as Kansas governor, after Joan Finney and, of course, Sebelius.

Kelly and Sebelius are good friends, having met after Kelly moved to Topeka. They were neighbors for years, and Sebelius encouraged Kelly to enter the governor’s race and has endorsed her.

**

From arm’s length, Kelly looks like a substantive, no-nonsense politician who doesn’t shrink from hard work and has Kansans’ best interests at heart.

I’m certainly no expert on Kansas politics, but I would expect Kelly to win handily in Johnson, Shawnee (Topeka), Sedgwick (Wichita) and Douglas (Lawrence) counties and do well enough in the rural areas to prevail.

I know Kobach has deep support in the reddest, most regressive, parts of the state, but I can’t believe — just can’t believe — a majority of Kansas voters will make Kris Kobach the state’s next governor.

Show Me, Kansans, you aren’t that dumb.

**

Here’s a link to Kelly’s campaign website.

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It’s always fun to get away for a couple of days, and over the weekend I headed over to St. Louis for the 100th annual PGA Golf Championship.

The PGA Championship is one of the four major tournaments on the tour, with the others being the Masters Golf Tournament, the U.S. Open and the British Open. (The Brits call theirs simply The Open, implying it’s the one, true open.)

The Masters, of course, is always played at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, GA. The British Open moves from course to course in the U.K., and the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship move around from place to place in the states.

Having one of the latter two tournaments come to a golf course in the Midwest is unusual.

The tournament was played at Bellerive Country Club, which was carved out of prime farm land in the late 1950s and opened in 1960. This was the third major championship the club has hosted. Previously, it hosted the 1965 U.S. Open and the 1992 PGA Championship.

Even though I had been thinking about going to the PGA tournament for two or three months, I didn’t take any action toward getting tickets until last week. Then, when I went to the tournament website, I discovered it was sold out.

That sent me to Craigslist, where I connected with a young man from Liberty whose plans to attend the tournament had been disrupted by his sister’s decision — after he had purchased several tickets — to get married on Saturday, the third day of the tournament. (The Liberty guy told me he was still planning to fly over to St. Louis for Sunday’s finale.) I paid him $125 each for a Saturday and Sunday ticket — slightly above the face price of $100 each plus tax.

It was a good thing I got those tickets in advance, because if I had gambled on getting tickets outside the gates, like I often do at the Kentucky Derby and other sporting events, I probably wouldn’t have gotten in. In two days, I never saw a ticket being offered for sale.

The event was an economic bonanza for St. Louis. Out-of-town visitors and local residents alike went crazy over the tournament, with tens of thousands of people attending each of the four rounds. Among the biggest beneficiaries of the economic windfall were Uber and Lyft drivers, some of whom made dozens of runs a day to and from a special rideshare lot about three miles from the golf course. (I was skeptical about how that was going to work, but good planning and preparation made it go very smoothly, for the most part.)

Here’s a picture (not mine) of part of one day’s crowd…

A major reason for the throngs of people was the fact that Tiger Woods, the best golfer of his generation, had been playing well leading up to the tournament. Although I have not been a hard-core Tiger Woods fan, it was impossible not to get drawn into the drama and excitement on Sunday, when he moved to within a shot of leader and eventual winner Brooks Koepka with just a few holes to play.

When Woods made his big move, I was sitting on my wobbly, three-legged golf chair, just outside the rope line on the 15th hole. It was a good vantage point because it offered not only a good view of the competitors but also of a large, manually operated leader board on the other side of the fairway. As play progressed, scoreboard attendants would climb a stepladder and change the names and numbers associated with the leaders.

Brooks Koepka, waiting to hit a drive. (JimmyCSays photo.)

When I first got to that location, Woods was 11 under par, three shots behind Koepka, who was at 14 under. A few minutes later, the “11” came down and a red “12” went up (red indicates strokes under par), triggering a huge cheer. That was followed several minutes later by a wild eruption when the “12” came down and the number 13 went up…The “14” beside Koepka’s name, meanwhile, had not changed.

When Woods got to the 15th hole, we who were lining the ropes watched him hit a breathtaking iron shot that soared over two sand bunkers guarding the elevated green, landed softly and rolled to within a few inches of the cup. Another wild eruption — and yet a third when he tapped in the putt.

But Brooks Koepka, a firm-jawed, straight-faced sort who had already won the U.S. Open this year, apparently wasn’t intimidated.

When he got to No. 15 a few minutes later, he got a nice round of applause when he put his approach shot 10 feet from the cup. He got a bigger cheer — but nothing like what Woods had received — when he holed that putt to take a two-shot lead.

He also birdied the next hole, No. 16, effectively sealing the victory, which became official after he parred No. 18.

**

Now, here’s a sidelight to the main action

Earlier in the day, I was sitting under a line of trees bordering a fairway when I noticed a man and a woman come up behind me. As I turned, I noticed that the woman was exceptionally attractive and was wearing a short orange-print dress. A few minutes later, I turned around again, hoping to catch another look at her, but she was gone.

About two hours later, after Koepka holed out on No. 18, I saw from about 100 yards away the woman in the orange dress come running out of the crowd and into Koepka’s arms. Lifting her slightly, he kissed her, and she proceeded to greet members of Koepka’s family and others who were celebrating on the green. Later, as I was leaving the course, I saw her and Koepka on an overhead walkway as they went from the scorer’s area back to the 18th green for the trophy presentation.

The lady in the orange dress was Jena Sims. She’s 29 and is an actress, model and former beauty pageant winner. She and Koepka have been dating more than a year.

…Here’s the prelude to that kiss. (Again, not my photo.)

 

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No Justice from Jack

The most amazing aspects of the “Jack Justice” story, to me, are 1) that this guy was able to get through an entire election cycle without either the news media or his opponents exposing him as a bigot and 2) that his brand of bigotry is openly espoused on the radio.

Here’s a sample of what he’s said on the air…

“Jews control the media…Jews control the legal system…The Jews who are involved in Republican politics are grooming America, just as a pedophile grooms his victim and grooms his victim’s family as they are preparing the way for them to violate those children.”

And this…

“The Jews have recruited surrogates through the universities. They have recruited surrogates through their political donations. They have recruited others outside of Judaism to carry out their treachery.”

Steve West

Jack Justice, as most of you know by now, is the alter ego of Steve West, the Republican who on Tuesday won the nomination for a seat in the Missouri House by nearly 25 points.

Nothing about his radical background or his antics on a Liberty radio station — KCXL, 1140 AM and 102.9 FM — came out during the primary.

It wasn’t until Wednesday evening that West was exposed by an email that the incumbent in the 15th House District in Clay County sent to members of the media.

Jon Carpenter

The Democratic incumbent, Jon Carpenter, said in that email, “It is my hope that folks who voted for Steve West in the republican primary weren’t aware of any of this stuff.”

The only good news here is West appears to be a long shot to win in November. Carpenter already is a two-term winner and is now going for what would be his last term, before term limits would knock him out. (The District includes Gladstone and major sections of N. Oak Trafficway and N.E. Antioch Road.)

But it’s very troubling to realize that Steve West/Jack Justice — and what they stand for — got by the media and his three primary opponents.

I don’t think this would have happened back in the days when The Star was at full force and covered virtually every contested race in the metro area. Locally, we had bureaus in the Northland, Southland, eastern Jackson County, Wyandotte County and Johnson County. The bureaus took the lead in covering races in their areas, and every candidate and every issue got a good look-over by at least one set of journalistic eyes.

Of course, it’s all changed now, and there’s no use wringing hands over what was. It’s the new-media reality; it just isn’t very good.

The result is that Steve West and other charlatans can present a friendly, you-can-trust me face to voters without anyone bothering to check out their backgrounds.

**

Now, to the second part of the equation — this screwball having a radio show.

We all know there are a lot of terrible radio stations up and down the dial on AM and FM. The only AM-FM stations I ever listen to are KCUR-FM; Kansas Public Radio; Soren Petro’s show on Sports Radio 810 WHB; and Kansas City Royals’ games on 610 AM Sports Radio.

Out in the country, you can find a lot of religious radio stations and a lot of stations giving the soy bean and livestock reports. But you find very few, absolute dirt-ball stations that traffic in bigotry.

KCXL offices on S. La Frenz Road, in or near Liberty

There’s one in Belleville, IL — KQQZ-AM — where a shock jock named Bob Romanik has openly used the N-word as recently as last year. And then there’s KCXL, which is based in Liberty.

Prominently displayed on its website are the words “Daring to be different everyday.”

And then there’s a paragraph that, I guess, could be called its mission statement. It goes like this…

“America is a very different country than it used to be. We used to be a country of freedom, job, opportunity, and equality. Now, we are a country that looks down upon traditional values. We are a country that puts its citizens second to citizens of other countries. But most importantly, we are a country that, rather than speaking the truth, we hide it, in fear of being ‘offensive.’ At KCXL 102.9 FM and 1140 AM, we bring you the truth. We tell you the things that the liberal media wont (sic) tell you. We make it our goal to inform our listeners on the issues that matter. We are your information station!”

Besides Jack Justice, another looney-tune whose show is carried on KCXL is Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who asserted that “no one died” at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the 2012 and that the 20 child victims were “child actors.”

A Google check indicates KCXL’s owner appears to be a man named Pete Schartel of Grain Valley.

…Now, I know it’s not illegal to use the N-word on the radio or to assert that Jews control the media, but it’s hard for me to conceive of such tripe coming through the radio. I guess the First Amendment is alive and, uh, well, and I’m sure thankful for SiriusXM radio.

Long live the 60s on 6!

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I was glad to see that the $5.75 million judgment against David Jungerman in last year’s civil case was upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

That loss, of course, planted the seeds for the murder of Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert, who represented the plaintiff in the civil case.

Like everyone else, I sure wish the Jungerman-Pickert standoff would have ended with the resolution of that case. Jungerman, a landowner and businessman who’s worth as much as $33 million, could easily have afforded the monetary loss, and everybody could have gone on about their business.

But that judgment seemed to permanently flip the toggle switch Jungerman had been fooling with for decades — switching between legal and illegal, between unpredictable and outright crazy behavior.

So now we’re gearing up for one or two felony trials — one for the murder of Pickert, the other for unlawfully brandishing a handgun at a man who had stolen some pipe from Jungerman’s business in northeast Kansas City.

As I’ve said, the murder case looks solid, but the handgun case has been taking on a lot of water.

Recently, I gained additional insight into that case when I went to the courthouse and checked case filings. Here’s the scoop…

The main victim in the stolen-pipe case is a convicted felon who also has had two tampering-with-a-motor-vehicle charges (felonies) pending against him for several years.

Danny E. Scott, 47, is a small-time crook with a propensity for stealing cars. He was convicted of property damage, a low-level felony, in 2002, as well as a misdemeanor assault charge, and for those crimes he was sentenced to concurrent terms of a year in prison and a year in the county jail.

In 2013, he was charged with tampering with a motor vehicle after breaking the steering column of a 1995 blue Jeep Cherokee, hot-wiring it and taking off with it.

Less than a year later, before that case was resolved and while out on bond or his own recognizance, he was charged with another count of tampering after stealing a 1989 Crown Vic. He was also charged with a misdemeanor of resisting arrest — fleeing from officers after they closed in on him.

Those two cases have bounced around in Jackson County Circuit Court the last four years, without resolution and with Scott free on $5,000 bond.

And that’s why Danny Scott was free on Thursday, March 8, when he headed to a metal recycling center with pipe he apparently had stolen from Jungerman.

If he had known who he was dealing with he probably would have passed on the pipe, but, you know, opportunity presented itself and he acted.

Jungerman chased Scott and a woman he was with and confronted them at the recycling center, gun in hand.

During the encounter, Jungerman was on the phone with the 9-1-1- police call center. The incident was recorded. Here’s an excerpt…

Jungerman: “Now, buddy, hold it right where you’re at, motherfucker.”

A gunshot is heard.

Scott: “Motherfucker, what’s your problem?”

Jungerman: “You stole my fucking pipe.”

Scott: “I didn’t. Get that thing away from me. I didn’t steal shit from you, buddy…Get away from me with that fucking thing…What are you going to do, shoot me?”

Jungerman: “You’re fucking A I’m going to shoot you.”

…Well, Scott was luckier than Thomas Pickert and four other men Jungerman shot in recent years (none of the other four died), because Jungerman told police the round he discharged was just a warning shot.

Initially, prosecutors charged Jungerman (who had not been charged with Pickert’s murder yet) with two felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon, a felony count of armed criminal action and a misdemeanor assault charge.

On paper, the case looked clean and clear. But it wasn’t. Lauren Whiston, the assistant prosecutor who also has the murder case, offered Scott immunity from theft charges (regarding the pipe), if Scott would agree to testify against Jungerman.

Scott said that wasn’t good enough. What he wanted was favorable consideration on the two outstanding tampering charges that had been hanging over him the last four years. With his previous felony conviction, a second felony conviction could put him behind bars for a long time.

Whiston wouldn’t go for that, and the two sides were at a standoff.

Stuck with an uncooperative witness, Whiston dismissed the two most serious charges against Jungerman — armed criminal action and the more serious of the two unlawful-use-of-weapon charges. That left a weapons charge for which Jungerman could be sentenced to two to four years in prison and a misdemeanor assault charge.

…It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen with this case. I suppose Whiston could get a conviction just with the 9-1-1- recording and video from the recycling center, but it seems problematic. In addition to the problem with Scott, I understand that Scott’s female companion has not been certified as a witness. I don’t know why. But in any event, without testimony from either of the two victims, a conviction could be out of reach.

Meanwhile, the tampering cases against Danny Scott continue to grow moss. Last week, a pre-trial conference was held, and a trial date was set for next May.

That’s just a little more than nine months out, so be sure to get your tickets well in advance, and, oh, be ready for a continuance. I wouldn’t bet a dollar the case will go to trial then.

Let’s hope the murder case is as strong as it appears.

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In the comments section to yesterday’s post, Mike Rice, a friend and former co-worker at The Star posed three important and timely questions:

“Has The Star made any endorsements in state legislature races? What about the Jackson County contests? And why did it wait until the 11th hour to make endorsements in the key races?”

He went on to say, “If the answers to my first two questions are no, then The Star has done a terrible disservice to its readers.”

His questions, particularly the first two, prompted me to do some quick searches of The Star’s website. What I found — or what I didn’t find — was troubling.

Not only could I not find any endorsements in state or county races, I couldn’t even find specific pre-election news stories about any of several contested state representative and county legislative races.

The biggest and most unforgivable void was in the race for the Democratic nomination for Jackson County executive, featuring incumbent Frank White and challenger Matthew Merryman.

No pre-election story; no endorsement.

It goes without saying that this is an important race. (A third candidate, Jeremy Raines, is on the ballot, but he has not campaigned.) I don’t know if Merryman has had enough money to send out mailers, but he does have a significant number of yard signs, which, to me, is a baseline indicator of a “live” campaign.

Where White has dithered on the all-important jail issue, Merryman, a lawyer and former assistant public defender, has been agitating for a two-building solution to the crisis.

In a guest column in The Star last week, he proposed building a relatively small facility in downtown Kansas City and another in Independence to serve the two separate Jackson County courthouses, effectively halving the number of inmates currently held at the disintegrating Jackson County Detention Center downtown.

If The Star cared enough to publish an “As I See It” guest column by Merryman, it should have gone to the trouble to interview White and Merryman and endorse one of the two candidates.

Now, I understand that White, with his near-universal name identity, is going to win the race. But nevertheless, today’s election is the race. With no one seeking the Republican nomination, today is the only time voters will have a choice in deciding whether Frank White should be replaced.

**

Until several years ago, The Star acquitted itself very well in the lead-up to primary and general elections. For many years, it published a tabloid insert into the paper that was billed a “Voter’s Guide.” It contained brief bios of the candidates and overviews of key issues. And it covered city, county, state and national races.

On the editorial side, the editorial staff would mail questionnaires to candidates, then summon them to 18th and Grand for interviews, and then endorse.

It was a great system and a tremendous service to readers.

Things are, of course, a lot different now. And I understand that with the number of news and editorial staff members severely reduced, the former level of coverage is no longer realistic.

But, Godfrey Daniel! Can’t we at least expect to see a pre-election story and endorsement in the Jackson County executive’s race? Can’t we, huh?

Sadly, we must conclude that Mike Rice was right, and we must close with his stark assessment: “The Star has done a terrible disservice to its readers.”

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The Star had three outstanding “enterprise” stories on its front page Sunday.

By enterprise, I mean stories that, while news based, are not in the category of “breaking-news” stories that must be written and published as soon as possible.

Each was a “must read,” if you are interested in keeping up with what’s going on in an around KC and Missouri government.

One story was the most comprehensive assessment in decades regarding the Country Club Plaza. It was reported and written by Joyce Smith, who has been covering retail for many years.

The story was accompanied by an excellent, color-coded map that differentiated between national and local retailers.

Under new ownership as of 2016 (from Highwoods Properties to Taubmann Centers and the Macerich Co.), the Plaza is undergoing its biggest change in years.

One thing we can expect to see is even more restaurants than are currently there. A restaurant many people are looking forward to — including me — is the Shake Shack, which is under construction on south side of 47th Street, west of J.C. Nichols Parkway. Shake Shack, founded in New York City, bills itself as “a modern day ‘roadside’ burger stand serving a classic American menu of premium burgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, shakes, frozen custard, beer and wine.”

(I’ve never known a roadside burger stand to sell wine, but I guess that’s the “modern-day” element.)

Another story was about Toby Dorr, formerly Toby Young, who, in 2006, helped murderer John Manard escape from the Kansas state prison at Lansing by hiding him in a dog crate and driving out the gate. They were captured several days later after being discovered in a love-nest cabin in Tennessee.

Toby Young, before she helped murdered John Manard escape from the Kansas state penitentiary in 2006

Frankly, I never thought we’d hear from Toby Young ever again. But damned if she hasn’t redeemed and transformed herself in the 10 years she’s been out of prison. She’s remarried (her first marriage was broken before she helped Manard escape), and she and her new husband visited Manard in prison two years ago.

That story was reported and written by Lauren Fox, a relatively new staff member. Fox did a very good job on it, starting out with some previously unreported details about the escape and then segueing to the lead-up to the escape and Young’s personal transition during the 10 years since she got out of prison after serving a little more than two years.

The third story was the closest of the three to breaking news. Reported and written by Jason Hancock, The Star’s Jefferson City correspondent, the story is about the state’s rushed awarding of four consulting contracts worth a total of about $4 million. One of the elements that raises red flags about these contracts is that officials who were appointed by the disgraced former governor, Eric Greitens, orchestrated them.

The biggest contract was one for $2.7 million that went to a company that Drew Erdmann, a top state official, formerly worked for. The amount of the contract, the goal of which is to identify fraud and abuse of Missouri’s Medicaid program, was more than the combined total of three other bids.

Hancock quoted a Democratic state representative from St. Louis as saying the contracts gave “an appearance of corruption.”

Hancock, who has many years experience covering state government, was smart to use that quote high in the story, high enough that it was on the front-page part of the story, before it “jumped” to an inside page.

**

So those were the highlights, in my view, of Sunday’s paper.

On the flip side of the coin, I was disappointed that the editorial page did not carry a complete list of The Star’s recommendations on voting in tomorrow’s primary election.

In the past, The Star has usually listed its recommendations in the Sunday paper preceding elections. It makes a lot of sense because Sunday’s paper is, by far, the biggest-selling paper of the week, and people spend more time reading the Sunday paper than any other day’s edition. Also, on the weekend before any election, people are talking about the issues and candidates and exchanging viewpoints and looking for guidance in many cases.

As a side note, I have hewed to The Star’s endorsements almost issue by issue and candidate by candidate since I arrived in KC in 1969 because I know that, with rare exceptions, The Star is motivated by what’s best for the citizens, not how to make more money, win over more readers or curry favor with one group or another.

…Today, however, I realized why the Sunday editorial page didn’t list the endorsements: They were not complete. In today’s paper, The Star recommended a “no” vote on Proposition A — the “right to work” issue — and endorsed Josh Hawley for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

That’s not a good excuse, however. The Star has had plenty of time to make its endorsements and shouldn’t be weighing in on something as important as Prop A two days before the election. The full list of endorsements should have been in yesterday’s paper.

…Come on, Colleen, you gotta plan better next time…And make sure you’ve got those endorsements prominently placed on the website tomorrow!

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Riding in the car the other day, I heard an oldie in which the organ played a prominent role. I made a mental note to remember the song, thinking I might do an “Oldies with Organ” post.

I should have jotted down the name of the song — I had pen and paper with me, as usual — but I didn’t, and the song promptly slipped away.

Then this morning, I head another organ oldie, Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” which reinforced my inkling to blog about songs featuring the organ.

So here, in no particular order, are four great organ oldies, minus, unfortunately, the song I heard the other day and have not been able to retrieve from memory:

“Magic Carpet Ride”

This song was released in 1968 and went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Steppenwolf was a Canadian-American band formed in 1967 in Los Angeles by lead singer John Kay, keyboardist Goldy McJohn (who is on the organ in “Magic Carpet Ride”) and drummer Jerry Edmonton.

(Interesting footnote: Wikipedia says guitarist Michael Monarch and bass guitarist Rushton Moreve were recruited by notices placed in Los-Angeles-area record and musical instrument stores.)

Steppenwolf sold over 25 million records worldwide, had eight gold albums and 12 Billboard Hot 100 singles, including three Top 10 hits: “Born to Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” and “Rock Me.” According to Wikipedia, “Steppenwolf enjoyed worldwide success from 1968 to 1972, but clashing personalities led to the end of the core lineup.”

Here it is, “Magic Carpet Ride”

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harem

The group Procol Harem released this song in 1968, and it went to No. 1 on the United Kingdom singles chart and No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Wikipedia says it is one of the best-selling singles in history, with sales of more than 10 million worldwide. In 2004,Rolling Stone magazine ranked “A Whiter Shade of Pale” 57th on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

As well as for its commanding organ lead, the song stands out for its inscrutable yet compelling lyrics, including…

And so it was that later, oh
As the miller told his tale
That her face at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale…

The website Clocktower says organist Matthew Fisher began his musical career on bass guitar and later fell in love with the bluesy style of bands like The Animals, which inspired his move to the organ.

Here, then, is, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”

**

“Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”

I have a particular, nostalgic fondness for this song because it was by The Casinos, a group that came out of Cincinnati, where I lived when I held my first newspaper job as a cub reporter for The Kentucky Post in late 1968 and early 1969.

This song was released in 1967 and was The Casinos’ only Top 40 hit, rising to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Wikipedia relates an interesting story about the band and the song…

“The Casinos were playing in a Cincinnati club where WSAI disc jockey Tom Dooley liked to visit. Dooley had a song he wanted to record but needed a band to provide the music. The Casinos had been getting great reaction to “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” at the club and wanted to record it. Dooley offered to pay for studio time at Cincinnati’s King Records Studio for the group to record their song if they would back up Dooley on his song. While Dooley’s song didn’t see success beyond WSAI, the Casinos’ tune quickly became a national hit.”

Another fascinating sidelight is that the organist, Bob Armstrong, went on to a career as a bridge-lighting designer and technician. Among the bridges for which he provided lights included the John A. Roebling suspension bridge in Cincinnati, a forerunner of the Brooklyn Bridge, which Roebling also designed.

Wikipedia says Armstrong also worked as business manager for a Catholic church in Amelia, Ohio, about 20 miles east of Cincinnati. He died of cancer, at age 67, in December 2011.

Here’s a great droopy-drawers song, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.” (Note the swoony organ solo in mid-song.)

**

“The Happy Organ”

Who could forget this feel-good, get-a-move-on song by Dave “Baby” Cortez (provided you were alive in the 1960s)?

It was released on the Clock Record label in 1959 and soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list. It was co-composed by Cortez and James J. Kriegsmann, who, in addition to being a song writer, was a noted celebrity and theatrical photographer.

It was the first instrumental song to reach No. 1 on the pop charts.

As with “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” this song strikes a strong personal chord with me.

One day when I was in high school back in Louisville, I was playing golf at the Seneca Park Golf Course. The green on Hole No. 8 — a Par 3 at the time — borders Park Boundary Road, which carries a lot of traffic. Our group was either on the green or approaching it when a long, wide convertible — maybe an Olds or Pontiac — came cruising around the corner, top down. The song “The Happy Organ” was blaring from the car radio. The members of our group stopped, watched and listened for several seconds as the car rounded the Park Boundary Road curve and went up a hill toward the clubhouse.

…Oh, my. What a day. And what a time to be young, in the 60s, with songs like “The Happy Organ” propelling us from one carefree day to the next.

Let’s hear it, then…“The Happy Organ.”

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