"Promotion Man" Chapter 1, Cont.
The 1960's was a turbulent period in American history, the bloody Vietnam War had split the country into two radically divided camps, the media described the two camps as the "Peacenicks" and the "Hawks". The conservative Hawks, who claim they are true patriots, the same people who think making war is great, if they don't have to fight and they usually send young people fight it for them.. And the young draft age anti-war Peacenicks who objected to being used as cannon-fodder in America's murderous misadventure in Vietnam. The latter often marched in protest of the war and then found themselves under FBI surveillance, many Peacenicks were beaten or arrested on trumped up charges due to overly aggressive government agents. This often made radical and violent people out of what had been peaceful protesters excersizing their constitutional rights to assemble and protest an illegal war. In many cities authorities routinely enforced a strict curfew, arresting violators and some cities even declared martial law to discourage Peacenicks and Hippies from marching. To many, America lost it's way and had become a Police State.

In 1968 Atlantic Records moved Dick back to his hometown of Atlanta Georgia and from where Dick could better service the booming Southeastern radio market. During this time, Atlanta's centrally located Piedmont Park had become a gathering spot for young people, on weekends local bands routinely played for the young crowds and the momentum from the exposure propelled many new bands into the national spotlight, groups like Hydra, the Hampton Grease Band and the Allman Brothers Band.

Sometimes the bands jacked their equipment into the city parks power supply for amplification and police had been warning them to stop. Dick witnessed how out of control authorities became during this period when one Sunday afternoon a peaceful "Happenings" in the park turned into a police riot. A local band was playing to the young crowd and the faint aroma of burning hemp began to waft into the air. Suddenly on alert, the Atlanta police waded through the crowd of young spectators slashing at them with nightsticks and leaving a trail of bloody longhaired teens in their wake. Not satisfied with their vicious show of force, the police continued to beat on the helpless teens and rough them up as they drug them across the softball field and into police vans.

Local TV news crews filmed the police riot and even showed one burly cop smashing his nightstick across the face of a helpless handcuffed teen. The evening news claimed that dirty hippies were invading the city's public parks and that heroic police officers had been forced to remove them from the family orientated park. No action, legal or otherwise ever mitigated the damage done to these peaceful teens in the brutal attack by the redneck thugs wearing Atlanta police uniforms. "I never watched the local news again", said Dick.

The military industrial complex and the majority party of war-lovers were solidly in power at the time and the disenfranchised anti-war community was largely unorganized and powerless. Students, artists and musicians seemed to feel the frustration more than anyone about the country's inability to end the draft, the war or bring our troops home. The frustration and rage spawned a generation of counterculture artists who fashioned profound changes in our society's conscience and produced the most socially relevant music of the century.

This turbulent period was making entertainment history too and Atlantic Records was very proud to offer peaceful solutions through music and signed many of the anti-war movement's leading voices to the label. After the senseless police riot and bloody attacks on counterculture students at Chicago's Democratic convention and the reprehensible Kent State massacre of several students by the Ohio National Guard, the outrage against the American government's illegal war was brought to a head and became the foremost issue on everyone's mind.

The average person in America had been cowed into silence because the uber-wealthy military industrial financed conservatives ruling the country also ruled the media and propagandized "my country right or wrong". Regular, hard working folks were afraid to speak out against the government... which we had once naively called our government. America is very slow to awaken to the destruction of our culture by the military industrial conspiracy.

One example of government distrust Dick recounted was when he called on radio stations around the country promoting Atlantic's socially active artists, he found most of the big radio programmers were paranoid about attracting FCC attention, afraid of government retaliation if they played the counterculture inspired music. This made for tough times in promoting records, "our jobs depended on getting airplay for new artists and every week we went into the stations to do battle with radio programmers and get our socially progressive records added onto their station playlists".

At the time, AM stations dominated all markets and they all chose to play it safe by programming mindless songs we called "bubblegum music". But after the radical social phenomenon of Woodstock, the pent-up demand by the "Woodstock generation" to hear more progressive music on the radio could no longer be denied, no one can stop an idea when its time has come.

Another sad example of the "Big Brother" atmosphere hovering over America began one day for Dick when he was
in Miami promoting records to the local stations. Atlantic's legendary record producer Tom Dowd who was across town in the studio producing a new album with Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle, to be later known as "Derek and the Dominos." Tom called to invite Dick to come over and sit in on the session at Criteria Studios.

Ahmet Ertegun, the owner of  Atlantic Records was at the session when Dick arrived and as he recalls, "the music being made in that north Miami studio can only be described as incendiary blues-magic." Some months later, when Atlantic scheduled the release of the "Derek and the Dominos" album, Ahmet's expectations naturally were high for the promotion team to get it national airplay, but once again the dominant AM stations refused to play the album or the first single "Layla". They cited the same old excuses they always used... it's too progressive for their audience (code for "we're afraid to play it because the FCC might screw with us). Dick said, "This was the last straw for me, these timid programmers falsely proclaimed to the world that they were Rock and Roll stations! "Rock and Roll is about new music and Layla was the best new music in a decade. I wondered how long these milquetoast programmers could hold back against the rising tide of change from their young listeners. "I held my tongue so as not to embarrass Atlantic, but I was mad as Hell because I knew there had to be a better way to expose these great new artists without groveling before these cowardly AM programmers."

In hindsight those timid radio programmers must feel remorse or guilt, because they now know they missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help shape music's future and maybe our country's history. I wonder how different things could have been if big AM radio had been onboard the music revolution early, giving airplay to the iconic social voices of artists like: "Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton" and so many others. "Many of these AM programmers, and by the way, us record guys know who they are, have written books claiming they were in on the 60's music revolution from the very beginning... not".

Late in 1971 a freak motorcycle accident sidelined Dick for a while, but it provided quiet time to think about where music was going, what was lacking in record promotion and what he wanted to achieve. Just grateful to be alive, he took the opportunity to reflect and made a life changing decision. Dick said, "I'd been working  non-stop at Atlantic for some time and the accident provided the perfect excuse, and an opportunity to get away without feeling guilty about letting down his Atlantic Records family. It was time to get away, travel and to make family life a priority. Dick told Atlantic he was taking a hiatus... a very long one."





Editors Note: (a) After Dick left Atlantic Records, to explain how entrenched AM radio was in playing mindless songs like "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, the great promotion staff at Atlantic that now included Phillip Rauls and Mario Medious worked a whole year to get "Layla" on major AM radio playlists. Per Atlantic's VP Dickey Kline, WIXY in Cleveland was the first major station to play Layla. By the way, recently Layla was recently voted the "Number one Rock song in History"... Duh... (b) Atlantic Album Discography 


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