WE WANT THE AIRWAVES!
As of Friday, December 7, longtime Houston morning radio duo Walton and Johnson were no longer airing on 93.7 The Arrow. The Houston-based, regionally syndicated talk show's page on the Arrow's Web site has also been scrubbed.
Additionally, Houston media blogger Mike McGuff reported that Clear Channel Communications, which owns 93.7 and several other Houston stations, including alternative-rocker KTBZ-FM ("94.5 The Buzz"), let a number of employees go that week.
Rocks Off reached out to W&J about the reasons for their dismissal from Houston radio by e-mail, and the duo responded with this statement:
"We think we might be left-wing political attack victims... ratings were excellent on the show... income very good... suddenly one month after the election, management removes the show without explanation... we smell powerful Feds... show is still on everywhere else... we have to find somebody in Houston with the grit to put us back on."
When a fan asked about the duo on The Arrow's Facebook page that morning, the reply was, "Walton and Johnson are no longer on The Arrow, we wish them the best and you can find them at www.waltonandjohnson.com. We have the Classic Rock Music Fixx in the mornings. More classic rock, all the time."
To which a few fans understandably vowed to find a new morning radio station.
Though the duo and its cast of voices are no longer on the air in Houston, Walton and Johnson's show is still on morning radio all over the South, 11 markets in six states including Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth. The show also continues streaming online.
Due to Walton and Johnson's conservative tone, they were obviously not everyone in Houston's morning favorites, but they did have a dedicated following. For others, the "racist hillbilly show" needed to be cut long ago.
At one point they were on Houston's 103.7 KIOL, before that station turned into a Jack FM in 2007. Now using the call letters KHJK, that station was bought and reformatted to contemporary Christian rock earlier this year.
Walton and Johnson's departure could be a fresh beginning for the classic-rock station, a format that is getting harder and harder to define as the years pass. We could get into having some more locally sourced morning folks on The Arrow.
"Can we at least have some good songs in the mornings? I don't want to hear the same Rush, Journey and Beatles crap songs over and over," said a discerning classic-rock fan with cultured ears on the Arrow's Facebook page."Put some Van Halen, ZZ Top and Led Zep on the air. Going to miss WJ!!"
Later that evening, the duo talked to the Houston Chronicle's David Barron and announced that they could be back on the air in the Bayou City within 30 days. They were a little more subdued with Barron than when they e-mailed Rocks Off, us being a fun alt-weekly and all.
Walton and Johnson also made a brief statement on their own site, echoing what they told us earlier Friday and urging Houston fans to keep listening through the sites of other stations still carrying the show.
The Whole Wide World
RIP RAVI SHANKAR
Sitar master, Beatles buddy and Norah Jones's father was 92.
One of the greatest musicians of all time has died. Ravi Shankar, sitar legend and easily one of India's most revered cultural ambassadors, passed away the afternoon of December 11 in San Diego at age 92.
According to Zee News, Shankar had been having trouble breathing and had been admitted into a La Jolla hospital, where he died during heart-valve replacement surgery.
He is survived by his wife, Sukanya, and two daughters, sitar player Anoushka Shankar and Dallas-bred singer-songwriter Norah Jones. Yes, that Norah Jones.
In the '60s, Shankar become a star in part for his connections to the Beatles, mainly George Harrison, whom he befriended and attempted to make into a sitar great in his own right. Harrison joked to reporters that he could never match Shankar's skill, though he was proficient enough to record "Norwegian Wood" and, of course, the sitar-heavy "Within You Without You" for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
The pair remained good friends until Harrison's 2001 death.
After the Beatles' endorsement, Shankar sold plenty of records in the U.S., opening American ears to the strange, sweet sounds of the sitar. You can no doubt find his album The Sounds of India or one of his intricate raga LPs in most baby-boomer record collections.
Never before had Hindustani been made so palatable for Western ears. Shankar was one of the first big world-music success stories, and Harrison deemed him the "godfather of world music."
In 1999, Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, which is no small feat. Phillip Glass has said he has been highly influenced by Shankar, whose music affected both rockers and classical artists.
Not too bad for a guy who didn't really pick up the instrument he would pioneer until he was 18 years of age.
Interestingly enough, Shankar's daughter Anushka is a famous sitar player in her own right, and both Shankars were nominated for Grammys this year in the same category, Best World Music Album. The Grammys are scheduled for February 10.
Shankar's official site, www.ravishankar.org, is a gold mine of facts and tidbits about his legacy. He was a true artist and his influence is immense.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS
Our writers' biggest musical disappointments of 2012.
Corey Deiterman: My biggest disappointment in music this year is the career trajectory of Odd Future. Look, I was one of their biggest adherents when they first came out, and I even stuck with them when they alienated their hipster fanbase around the middle of 2011. But there's only so much even I could take. Goblin was the last great release from these guys, in my opinion.
Everything since, and there's been lots, has been boring and shown how much thin ice they were treading even in the beginning. The cracks have not only shown themselves on recent albums, they've blown wide open as the rap crew has played itself out completely. Even their collective OF Tape Vol. 2 and the much-hyped return of Earl Sweatshirt simply raised my hopes to promptly kill them as brutally as possible.
I'm pretty much ready to call it a day on these guys ever making anything worth paying attention to again, but I admit I'm still waiting to hear Wolf before really giving up.
Cory Garcia: It may not have made it to TMZ, but it was sad watching Ween go out in a blaze of unnecessary drama. While I fully expect for them to reunite at some point in the future, it's never fun to watch a group you like have a very public falling-out, especially when it comes out of left field the way this one did.
John Seaborn Gray: Probably the new Gaslight Anthem album, Handwritten. I wanted to like it, but it just didn't do anything for me.
Craig Hlavaty: David Lee Roth and the Van Halen Family Band? Yes, it could be said with some exaggeration, and tongue firmly glued in cheek, that openers/funk legends Kool & the Gang were the main act June 24 at Toyota Center and that Van Halen played their afterparty.
I thought that jokingly during the Gang's set, but as each Halen song reeled out, it was like a hellish Nostradorkus prediction. The Van Halen Family Band — Eddie, uncle Alex and son/nephew Wolfgang — was playing with menacing precision. For his age, Wolfie was in the pocket.
Sure, we all miss Michael Anthony, but with Wolf you at least know that it's in reverent hands. His backing vocals weren't terrible, either — in fact, they were the saving grace of the night, which isn't how it should be.
His vocals were the only way you could even sing along, if you wanted to attempt to. It disrupted the "groove," so to speak. Roth, meanwhile, was either ahead of the band, behind the band, or adding new lyrics and embellishments to nearly every cut, save for maybe "You Really Got Me" and "I'll Wait."
I wish Roth had been at the show the Van Halens were, because it would have sounded great. Instead, he was in an alternate Vegas dimension in front of a million-piece orchestra where he had to fill up two hours of dead air.
Marco Torres: My biggest disappointment of 2012 was Chapter 30 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances, which deals with noise and sound regulation. Late last year, in response to an alleged increase in noise complaints, Houston City Council passed amendments to the noise ordinance that allowed police officers to write tickets and arrest individuals without the aid of a decibel reader.
This caused thousands of dollars worth of fines, unnecessary jail time and the waste of city resources.
Although a few clubs such as Fitzgerald's and Boondocks have taken measures to insulate and regulate their sound pollution, the ordinance caused a temporary deterioration in the city's music scene. All of the court cases were eventually dismissed.
Sonidos y Mas
JENNI AND MARIAH
What "Diva of Banda" Jenni Rivera's death taught me.
I almost dismissed the death of 43-year-old Jenni Rivera, the "Diva of Banda," who died in a plane crash in northern Mexico early December 9, as another headline not applicable to me.
A Facebook post in my timeline changed that.
"R.I.P. Jenni Rivera," it read. "Her music got me through some tough times."
Those words made me look back at a few tough times of my own when music had its place, like my parents' divorce. It was a life event caused by recurrences of abuse and infidelity — themes interwoven in Rivera's catalogue and her life.
It feels comedic today and a bit embarrassing to admit, but I remembered Mariah Carey's 1990 self-titled album blaring out of our car speakers as my mother and I left everything we knew to start fresh. Mariah's songs of heartache served as a soundtrack to what was happening in real life.
I'll be honest: Her songs got us through some tough times.
Despite her being Mexican-American like me, I wasn't a follower of Jenni Rivera. Her death is what alerted me, like many Americans, not only to her countless musical accomplishments but to her influence on people — the many Latinas who found her songs to be anthems of the times and therapeutic outlets for the tough realities that life can deal out.
Ironically, in April 1995, I was a Tejano-music-loving high school sophomore in a town southwest of Houston trying to explain to my non-Hispanic schoolmates who Selena was and why I was so affected by her untimely death at the hands of her fan-club president.
I was one of the lucky ones who can say they saw Selena debut her English tracks to a record-setting crowd in the Astrodome while draped in the purple sequins that Jennifer Lopez made famous. Like Jenni Rivera, Selena was only a star in her corner of the musical universe, someone whose death brought her overnight mainstream notoriety.
However, both women were already on the brink of crossover success and could have earned it themselves. The media's calls for remembrance happened before many people, including me, really got to know Jenni Rivera.
Her penning English tracks and developing an ABC comedy starring herself will go down as her unfulfilled potential and wrenching what-ifs among her fan base. But those aren't the reasons I want to remember Jenni Rivera, anyway.
I'd like to think, however far-fetched it may be, that Jenni Rivera's legacy will live as a memory for some young boy who saw his mother through heartache and the other side of hell through song. Maybe Jenni Rivera's music played the same role for him that Mariah Carey's did for me.
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Then again, maybe you're not me, but you should still know this: Jenni's music and her unforgiving transparency about her own struggles struck at the hearts of her female fans, those who may have dealt with infidelity and abuse, and those who balance their progress and evolution as women with the competing cultural roles and expectations of their heritage.
That's profound, because Jenni Rivera sent those empowering, ballsy messages from a stage where she wasn't supposed to stand. She transcended gender by bulldozing her way to the forefront of a male-dominated genre in a community thick with machismo, delivering lyrical firebolts about her frustrations with living in a male-dominated world.
That's a beautiful story I think anyone can appreciate, because it's bold and daring and it defied the odds. That's enough to remember Jenni Rivera, even if you didn't know her.
Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) is nominated for a Best World Music Album Grammy this year.