My good friend Obie Yadgar is returning to Milwaukee radio!

For many years Obie Yadgar was the voice of classical music on Milwaukee radio. Great news! Obie returns to the airwaves as he begins a weekly one-hour program this Sunday at 8:00 am on WMSE, 91.7 FM. The title of the show is “Obie’s Opus,” named after one of Obie’s books.

Obie tells me missed being on air, but one of the main reasons he’s elated to be back is his dear wife Judy, who passed away a few months ago, wanted him to return because she enjoyed it and knew how Obie yearned to be in front of a microphone again.

In my life I’ve been blessed to know a countless number of marvelous folks. Obie just might be the nicest gentleman I’ve ever met.

Obie, of course, is best known for being a classical music announcer. Although if you asked Obie what he does for a living, even dating back then, he’d tell you without hesitation, “I’m a writer.”

In the 1980’s when I was hosting the morning drive all-news magazine at WUWM, Obie would follow me at 9:00 and we’d segue into his program with what we called our “chat.” It was an attempt to remain seamless and keep listeners listening by teasing them as Obie and I promoted his show.

That’s the way the management drew it up.

Fine, Obie and I said to that directive. No problem. However…

Before we started this programming twist I went to Obie and said something to the effect that he would come in and tell me all about the music he was going to play between 9:00 and 1:00.

Simple, right?

Not so simple.

Obie would pick his opening selection and then go from there, spontaneously choosing each piece as the show progressed.  Thus, it didn’t take long for Obie to respond to my question, “What are you going to start with this morning?”

We basically had about two and a half minutes to fill. So we’d chat. Sometimes about the NPR arts/entertainment segment that aired just before what we called our “shtick.” But usually the topic was whatever we happened to come up with, always unscripted, unrehearsed, never planned ahead of time.

I recall when we talked about the movie “Amadeus” and the film’s ending where Mozart’s body in a bag was unceremoniously dumped from a casket into an open grave filled with others on a gloomy, rainy day.

I’ll never forget Obie was audibly and visually upset at how one of his favorite composers was depicted.

“That’s Mozart!” Obie said sorrowfully on air.

Lighter moments came when he’d proclaim he was “Assyrian, emphasis on the ass.”

And Obie and I will never forget that morning when out of the blue, and I don’t recall what prompted Obie, he brought up a dream where he was floating “in a room full of boobs.”

I wasn’t one prone to silence on the radio. That day may have been an exception since my laughter kept me from speaking. Listeners told me they drop dead stopped what they were doing so as not to miss the “shtick.”

No, Obie was not your typical classic announcer. You know the type. “This is Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Opus 60.” Pause. One-thousand one, one-thousand two, one thousand three. Start record.

Listen to Obie and you’ll hear he just doesn’t do it that way.

According to his beautiful daughter Sonja (Can’t believe she once sat on my lap as a child) Obie’s radio career took him from San Diego, to New York, St. Louis to Milwaukee, to Virginia, Chicago, and back to Milwaukee.

Congratulations, Obie, and good luck. We missed you, dear friend. After a 20 year absence, you’re back where you belong!

Newspapers don’t know how to prevent impending doom

The newspaper industry may still be alive, but it’s slowly dying.

First, some background. Here’s a blog I posted in 2010:

Will people pay to get their newspaper online?

“I think it’s a very short term strategy and it will die with its readers.”
Jeff Jarvis, CUNY journalism professor

Jarvis appeared today with former newspaper editor Alan Mutter on NPR’s Radio Times, a one-hour discussion program produced by WHYY in Philadelphia.

It’s a fascinating and yes, quite grim discussion about the current status and future of newspapers. Here are, and I’m paraphrasing, some of the comments made by Jarvis and Mutter:

Hoping consumers will pay for online news and expecting it to work is a pretty tough call after the product has been free for years.

Despite the fact that the Internet and web browsers aren’t new, newspapers continue to struggle trying to adapt.

The change is too great, the cost is too great and the pain is too great. The future of news is more entrepreneurial as opposed to institutional. Newspapers are too high-bound by an old cost structure of doing things the old way.

The newspaper industry got too fat and too happy for too long in a monopoly-type scenario.

They don’t know how to innovate.

Newspaper revenues have just collapsed, losing almost half of their total revenue since 2005. That’s a major crisis that takes their eye off the ball of doing anything innovative. They are not capable of thinking differently because they’re in a state of abject panic.

Reality is harsh. One editor of a highly respected paper told one of the guests she thought it would be best if the institutions just died so they could be replaced and get on with doing journalism again.
—This Just In…March 2, 2010

Unfortunately the podcast of that fascinating program is no longer available.

Now it’s 2022 and the question may have gone from “Will people pay to get their newspaper online?” to “Will consumers have no choice?”

In 2018 the CEO of the NY Times said his paper’s print life expectancy is about 10 years.

Fast forward. Earlier this month Charles Lipson, the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago wrote:

A few years ago, you would have unfolded your newspaper and read opinion and analysis like this. Those days are gone. Today, most of us get our news and commentary online, perhaps supplemented by network or cable television.

Buried is the public’s confidence in news from all sources. How dramatic is this change in the way we get our news? What’s driving it? What have we gained and lost? And how do these changes affect our deeply divided nation?

The most important point is the most obvious: The changes are huge – and irreversible. The decline is relentless. Print papers are losing one out of eight subscribers every year. Their daily circulation, over 63 million at its peak in the 1980s, is now about one-third that size.

What is driving this tectonic shift, away from print and toward online news? In a word, technology. Cheap, ubiquitous computing is killing print papers by introducing competition and choice. This new, competitive environment has destroyed papers’ profitable monopolies for local advertising dollars.

AND FINALLY, to localize this negative trend, veteran journalist Bruce Murphy writes:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel may face yet another round of staff layoffs.

This comes after news that its parent company, Gannett, which owns more than 100 daily newspapers and nearly 1,000 weekly papers nationally, reported a dismal second quarter financially, with key revenue sources down, costs up and a loss of $54 million on revenues of $749 million. The company’s stock is down nearly 55% for the year and has dropped even further, from $6.28 in late February, to $2.51 today.

Goodnight everyone, and have a real deal weekend!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.

Knowing that I’m a huge Elvis fan a friend of mine several weeks ago asked if I was going to see the Elvis biopic starring Austin Butler that premiered today. I honestly couldn’t give a definitive answer.

I’m no fan of Elvis impersonators. With the exception of Kurt Russell who I believe gave a credible performance in a late 1970’s TV movie and the late Tom Green of Milwaukee I harbor a great distaste for impostors of the King. To me they only give, even unintentionally, a tremendous disservice to Elvis’ image and legacy. Not to mention they just simply aren’t all that good.

If I would see the biopic (I passed it on it today) I’d undoubtedly sit there and criticize over and over.

‘That’s not right.’

‘That didn’t happen.’

‘Elvis wouldn’t say or do that.’

‘The vocals are awful.’

And I could be wrong. The movie might be terrific.

Even so, there will be never be anything like the real deal, and that’s my focus this week.

A rap on Elvis is that he couldn’t act. Those critics probably never saw 1958’s “King Creole,” considered by fans and critics as his very best film.

Having flunked graduation for a second time and needing cash to support his unemployed father, Danny Fisher (played by Elvis) takes a job as a busboy in New Orleans nightclub, run by mobster Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau). There he encounters Fields’ kept mistress – fading singer Ronnie (Carolyn Jones).

“He [Elvis] was an instinctive actor,” said Matthau. “He was quite bright…he was very intelligent…He was not a punk. He was very elegant, sedate, and refined, and sophisticated.”

“As the lad himself might say, cut my legs off and call me Shorty! Elvis Presley can act…Acting is his assignment in this shrewdly upholstered showcase, and he does it.” 
Howard Thompson, Review of “King Creole,” New York Times, 1958 

“A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.” 
Hal Wallis, Producer of nine of Elvis’ films

When Elvis came out of the Army one of his subsequent films was the immensely popular “Blue Hawaii.” The soundtrack album was on the Billboard Pop Albums chart for 79 weeks, where it spent 20 weeks at #1. It has been certified by the RIAA for sales of three million copies in the U.S.

“Blue Hawaii” and the previously released “G.I. Blues” were so big that they set the stage for a formula for future Elvis films with familiar elements:

A fight scene, usually ending with Elvis winning and fleeing the scene

Elvis singing in a car or while riding a motorcycle

“Silly” plots or insignificant plots that usually involve Elvis in romancing a female with songs

Beautiful young women

Elvis as a man trying to succeed on his own talents and merits

A soundtrack that sold a ton of records


The Viva Las Vegas choreographer, David Winters, followed the co-stars into Ann-Margret’s dressing room one day to discuss the song (“Cheek to Cheek” sung by The Jubilee Four). But when he put on the music, all they could see was each other.

“He put on the tape,” Ann-Margret remembered. “We listened to it once, watching each other from across the room, staring into each other’s eyes and thinking. We didn’t say a word. We didn’t have to.”

After their silent bond was forged, Elvis asked the choreographer to play “Cheek to Cheek” again. Their connection came alive and developed into a full-on dance, right there in Ann-Margret’s dressing room.

“The moment the music started, Elvis and I just started to move,” Ann-Margret wrote in Ann-Margret: My Story. “Nothing had been rehearsed, but to watch you wouldn’t have known that. We covered the entire room, bumping into the furniture, shoving it aside, circling each other like a couple of caged animals.”

It was in that “spontaneous burst of creativity,” Ann-Margret revealed, that most of the choreography for “Cheek to Cheek” was set. A stunned Winters simply told them, “Great. Just do that.”

In Ann-Margret’s memoir, she wrote, “Once the music started, neither of us could stand still. We experienced music in the same visceral way. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me…We look at each other move and saw virtual mirror images.”

As Elvis gradually lost popularity to other entertainers during the 60’s he gained it backed thanks to a monumental 1968 NBC-TV special.

Rolling Stone wrote:

“The King reclaimed his crown with one of the greatest performances of all time. The hour-long broadcast, then dubbed Elvis and now known as the “’68 Comeback Special,” proved that the then–33-year-old still had swagger. For years, he’d been exiled in Hollywood – making movies instead of touring, as the Beatles blew up and rock got bigger than ever – so the show was a long-overdue return to pure performing for the singer. 
Although Presley began work on his next movie, a Western called Charro, a week after shooting, the special transformed his career. When it aired on December 3rd, it was seen by 42 percent of the viewing audience, making it the number-one show of the season. Moreover, the show’s soundtrack album made it into the Top 10 and was later certified platinum, and the single, “If I Can Dream,” made it up to Number 12 and went gold; both were his highest-charting releases since 1965. 

Elvis’ movie contracts ended, removing the chains that prevented him from doing live concerts. He hit Las Vegas, and eventually all of America. No, the movies of the 50’s and 60’s never won any awards, but his documentary chronicling his shows on the road captured a Golden Globe.

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

This week the LA Times ran a column wondering if Elvis mattered anymore. Here’s a portion.

Chris Isaak, a singer who has kept the fire of early rock ’n’ roll alive throughout his career and who appears on the “Elvis” soundtrack as well as providing the vocals for country star Hank Snow in the movie, has seen how Presley’s peers are being forgotten.

“I was talking to a young girl, and she’s a successful singer, so she knows music,” Isaak recounted. “I said, ‘Are you putting harmonies like the Everly Brothers on this?’ And there was a blank look in her eye. I said, ‘Are you acquainted with the Everly Brothers?’ She had no clue. That was kind of shocking to me. I think a new generation will see this movie and go, ‘Wow. I love this music. Who is this guy?’”

Elvis’ amazing special, “Aloha from Hawaii,” aired on January 14, 1973, and it was the first entertainment special by a solo artist to be broadcast live around the world.

There was no set ticket price for the concert; instead, donations were given. The more the donation, the better the seat. Elvis actually purchased a ticket for himself and his entourage at $100 each (which, with inflation, would be over $575 in today’s money).

He asked that donations and merchandise sales go to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund, which had been established following the songwriter’s death in 1966. Lee wrote “I’ll Remember You,” which Elvis covered in many of his concerts, including in the “Aloha” special. The goal was to raise $25,000. A total of $75,000 was raised for the fund.

Elvis’ “Aloha from Hawaii” aired in more than 40 countries across Asia and Europe. The special didn’t air in the United States on January 14, though. There was another major TV moment happening on U.S. televisions on January 14 – Super Bowl VII – so “Aloha from Hawaii” aired on April 4. It is estimated, though, that between 1 and 1.5 billion viewers watched the king’s special.

Kyla, yes we’re celebrating our wedding anniversary with you, and it’s just fine

Today our lovely daughter Kyla competed in her 126th feis.

What in the world is a feis?

 “FEIS” (pronounced FESH) is a Gaelic word that means festival. Many years ago in Ireland, the local towns would hold a Feis where the community would gather–Many entered contests to show their baking, music, dance and art skills.  

We keep these traditions alive today!  At a feis, registrants can compete in a variety of Irish cultural activities. In addition to the dancing competitions, we encourage our dancers and their families to enter the other competitions available: music, baking, singing and art!  Even our parents have entered (and won!) baking competition! Yum! 

Kyla danced today at a feis in New Berlin hosted by the Kinsella Irish dance of Milwaukee. These competitions are held for dancers to attempt to rise all the way to the World Irish Dance Championships, and then who knows where else.

These feis events are a big deal.

Today my lovely wife Jennifer and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary.

Trust me, we made no big deal about that. Instead we prepared for what we hoped would be an exciting day for our daughter.

We arrived on-site quite early at 7:30, and we danced, sorry, and Kyla danced and danced over and over again, eight times to be exact.

At one point late in the day, out of nowhere Kyla approached Daddy, slumped in a folding chair and surprised him with, “Are you okay with spending your wedding anniversary with me here?”

I had to assure her twice before she was satisfied (good girl).

In less than two minutes Jennifer turned up from nowhere in tears. The results were in. In the reel Kyla came in 1st, moving her up in the next class on Irish dancers to PRIZE WINNER.

For the day, Kyla earned one 4th (Treble Jig) two 3rd’s (Hornpipe) one 2nd (Slip Jig) and a FIRST PLACE in Reel which moved her up a level to Prizewinner! Oh so very close to four 1st place finishes.

Was her Irish grandmother Audrey Fischer looking down on her today? What do you think?

Happy Anniversary Mommy and Daddy!

We’ll take it!

Maybe I didn’t see the longest HR in baseball ever, but then…

Decades ago when my father worked for the US Postal Service he’d come home and quickly change from one uniform to another: usher for the Milwaukee Braves at the old County Stadium.

In 1965, the final season for the Braves in Milwaukee before moving to Atlanta, Dad would take me to the ballpark and slip me under the turnstile so I could roam the stands and take in a game. No one in authority batted an eye. Everyone knew the Braves were history, so the seats were mostly empty.

I’ve blogged in the past that my father was not the overly emotional type. But on one September 1965 car ride to County Stadium I’ll never forget how dad, without crying, still couldn’t hide his sadness from this young sharp kid. When I asked dad what was wrong as we approached the stadium parking lot, he answered succinctly that the team wasn’t coming back next season. My questioning stopped. Once Hank Aaron left the Atlanta Braves I stopped following and liking that team for life.

Baseball wasn’t totally dead for County Stadium. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2018:

If you can’t get a team, rent one. 

That was the idea in 1968, when Milwaukee, still smarting from the loss of the Braves to Atlanta in 1966, lured the Chicago White Sox to play at County Stadium.

After the 1967 season, White Sox owner Arthur Allyn announced that the team would play 10 games in 1968 — one game against each A.L. team, and a preseason exhibition game against the crosstown Cubs — at County Stadium. The games were “sponsored” by the Brewers, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported on Oct. 31, 1967. The White Sox did play at County Stadium again in 1969 — 11 games, one against each team in the league, which had expanded to 12 teams for the season.

So when the White Sox came calling, Dad’s phone rang, asking if he could usher once more, and he did. And yours truly got to sneak into more games, even if it meant being subjected to, as Dad called them, the “banjo hitting” White Sox.

I checked the online stats, and the old Washington Senators played the White Sox at County Stadium on August 2, 1968, and again on August 6, 1969. In BOTH games, huge powerful slugger for Washington Frank Howard (who later became a coach for the Milwaukee Brewers) blasted a homer in each of those games.

I don’t know which game I attended. Maybe it was both. Just don’t know. But this I do remember, vividly. Watching from the stands with a perfect view from behind home plate I was soon awestruck when the Senator’s imposing first baseman Howard launched an atomic bomb to straightaway center field.

Gone for sure. Just a matter of how far. As the ball soared, kids my age in the outfield bleachers immediately were in retreat, quickly running upwards, one row after another until they ran out of rows. No longer facing the field they now looked over the back wall to the parking lot. No chalet housing Bernie Brewer back then to obstruct Homer’s missile. The ball landed, who knows where, smashing a windshield or any other part of some innocent vehicle.

If there was technology at the time measuring hits over the fences I’m unaware. How far did Howard’s onslaught travel? You got me.

This is all a long prelude to what happened 35 years ago today. That would be reportedly baseball’s longest home run 35 years ago today. And it was belted by a guy who later played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988 and 1989.

Read about it here.

Meyer gets credit while he was in the minors. Howard got this wide-eyed kid excited when he was in the big leagues. When I walk down Memory Lane Howard will be there. Meyer will not.

FLASHBACK: A very meaningful graduation speech

It’s cap and gown time. Heading to a graduation soon? You’re bound to hear the same themes main speakers have spewed for decades.

Set goals for success.

Take responsibility for your own actions.

Learn from your mistakes.

This is just the beginning of a lifetime trial.

Have integrity.

Be determined.

Let your expectations be high.

All well and good of course. But not very original, or memorable for that matter.

Here’s an old blog of mine about a speech that’s quite impressive, but unfortunately few graduates will hear anything like it.