When the man who helped introduce Elvis to America was asked where he wanted to promote his new rock 'n' roll book, "Cousin Brucie" Morrow told his publishers: "China." And then, after the legendary radio man who guided us through the '50s, '60s and '70s was done joshing (he's always joshing — a regular Rickles this guy), he added: "Tampa Bay." Why the Gulf Coast, coz? "Because all of my people are down there." • On Saturday, at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading, the jabberjawing Cousin Brucie will discuss his new coffee-table book, Rock & Roll . . . And the Beat Goes On, a glossy 300-page compendium of the pop culture milestones the Brooklyn native lived, breathed and broadcast as a voice for such New York stations as WABC, WNBC and WCBS. (He also famously introduced the Beatles at their '66 Shea Stadium gig.) • At 72, Cousin Brucie now hosts vintage-rock shows on Sirius XM. Since I'll have the very cool honor of introducing the legendary chatmeister at the reading festival, I gave him a call to pick his brain about music's rich past. How did he greet me? "Hello, Cousin Sean!"
Elvis Presley credited you for spinning his songs and helping him conquer America. What fascinated you most about the King?
Elvis was the American Dream come true. He was a poor boy born in a poor home, and he got himself up and out. He stimulated our collective imagination. And let me say, if it wasn't for guys like Elvis and the Beatles and the Stones, we wouldn't be talking today.
Elvis wasn't the only rock god influenced by the radio star. In an epilogue of the new book, Billy Joel writes: "Music was the language of the land, and Cousin Brucie was the man with the mike — giving us the good news day after day for a teenage eternity. And it seemed to last forever."
A lot of modern pop is fluff, not meant to last longer than a hot, hazy summer. Why are many of today's young music fans more enamored with older music?
Listen, the '60s were all about real music. There wasn't a lot of technology. The music was about poetry, and poetry is life, right? Audiences are very sophisticated today. They want to hear something creative, something that refers to life, and the '60s were a turbulent, crazy, busy, scary decade. If we knew they were coming, we would have left!
(When asked to explain the popularity of Britney Spears, the midriffed queen of modern pop, Brucie says: "I think every little girl wants to be her. And every little boy wants to grab her. Including me!")
At the end of your new book, you list "Cousin Brucie's 250 Most Influential Artists," but you do it alphabetically. You chickened out! Time to take a stand: Give me your three top acts of all time.
You have to go with the Beatles as No. 1. Then Elvis Presley. Then the Rolling Stones. Is that too obvious? (He thinks for a second.) You know, if it wasn't for Buddy Holly, we wouldn't have rock 'n' roll.
(Once you get Cousin Brucie's mind cranking, it's tough to slow that sucker down. About this last question, he continues: "That's the thing about saying 'influential'! Who influenced the Beatles? I'm talking about James Brown, Chuck Berry! I could have listed 2,000 influences!")