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"Cousin Brucie" Morrow's musings on music — then and now

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!")

Rock & Roll . . .

And the Beat Goes On

By "Cousin Brucie" Morrow

Imagine Publishing, 320 pages, $35

Festival author

Morrow will be a featured author at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading on Saturday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He will speak at 3:15 p.m. in the Campus Activities Center. For more on the Festival of Reading, see today's Latitudes section or go to

The Halloween Playlist: Part III

Pennies, stickers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, anything promoting positive dental care — none of this is acceptable to hand out on Halloween. Same goes for uncandied apples, Play-Doh, boxes of raisins and anti-pagan tchotchkes doled out by women who remind you of Carrie's mom. (Dirty pillows!) Here's the deal, spoilsports: Kids will consume pounds of choco goodness whether you like it or not. Truth is, you're actually being harmful by trying to be healthy on Halloween. Why? Because (1) the "Stay in School" pencil toppers you insisted on giving out as treats are destined for a nearby landfill and (2) so is the toilet paper that will be wrapped around your house because everyone hates you. I'm giving out Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats and Take 5s. Cliche? Maybe. Delicious? Yep. Have a Baby Ruth and enjoy the Halloween Playlist, Nos. 20-11.

20 Bark at the Moon,

Ozzy Osbourne

19 Pet Sematary,

the Ramones

18 Mr. Sandman,

the Chordettes

17 (You're the) Devil in Disguise,

Elvis Presley

16 Witchcraft,

Frank Sinatra

15 Grim Grinning Ghosts,

from Disney's

Haunted Mansion ride

14 The Munsters Theme,

Los Straitjackets

13 Psycho Killer,

Talking Heads

12 Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper

11 I Want Candy,

Bow Wow Wow

A 'stache of perfect pop

For a great chunk of the '70s and '80s, blue-eyed-soulsters Daryl Hall and John Oates worked in pop perfection. Peerless in the art of pristine hooks, the Philly boys were downright Beatles-esque — and I mean that. Everything this musical Mutt & Jeff touched was destined to get stuck in your brain pan. Their short, sweet songs may not have been deep, and Oates' mustache might have been distracting, but it made for blissful radio.

To promote their new four-CD box set, the must-have Do What You Want, Be What You Are, the super duo appears in the latest ish of Entertainment Weekly. Hall provides his "greatest songs": She's Gone, Sara Smile, Every Time You Go Away, You Make My Dreams and One on One. That's a fine list, but I can't let this stuff rest. Here are Hall & Oates' best songs — according to Pop Life.

Wait for Me (1979) The brilliance of H&O can be found in small, crucial touches. Here it's the bittersweetly escalating la la's that add candy-coated heartache.

Private Eyes (1981) Best use of synthetic hand claps ever!

Did It in a Minute (1981) Pure stoopid sing-along bliss.

I Can't Go for That (No Can Do) (1981) Most of the song is just average, but that harmonized bridge is their greatest moment as a duo. "I'll do anything that you want me toooooo . . ."

• Out of Touch (1984) There's a small, twisted cult of us who understand the genius of the Big Bam Boom album. Join us, won't you?

"Cousin Brucie" Morrow's musings on music — then and now 10/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 4:31am]
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