Mr. Pop – Clay – The past year, you’ve had an incredible ride, touring on the strength of your book: “Sh-Boom.” Tell us about it.
Clay Cole – It has been amazing. I must say, I first went out there with trepidation thinking, would anyone remember me? Remember, I was out of the spotlight for 40-something years, but people did remember and they came at me with stories and praise. What a pleasure it was meeting fans; those who remembered. One of the greatest days of my life was being interviewed by DJ Norm N. Nite – in what was supposed to be a two-minute interview for his Sirius radio show. Norm turned it into a whole three hours, lining-up old friends such as Connie Francis, Dion and Lou Christie. I haven’t spoken to them for years – and there they were. It was a marvelous time.
Mr. Pop – Clay, meeting your fans now, what became obvious to you?
Clay Cole – With the release of the book, that they were starving for information about those early years of rock ‘n roll.
Mr. Pop – And the book has plenty of great stories. It doesn’t surprise me that people remembered you well. You had one of the top pop music shows during the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, in the nation’s largest market – New York City. Do you plan on staying in the spotlight?
Clay Cole – No, not really. I’m sort of winding down the book tour now – about one appearance a month.
Mr. Pop – Clay, as you know – I grew up in the New York area, and the last we saw of you, before the book and subsequent tours, was January /1968. As your book says, you walked away from it all. But really, the times were a changing – the music was changing – wasn’t it?
Clay Cole – Yes, groups began to appear on my WPIX-TV show that I couldn’t relate too. I was a black-tie guy and they were stoners, or so it seemed. It was time to walk away.
Mr. Pop – Yes – and it had nothing to do with ratings – which were still tops. Interestingly – other hosts tried, but it all disappeared about a year later. When you left, so did the ratings.
Clay Cole – That’s correct and they included Peter Martin from Canada and Frankie Crocker – a very popular New York City DJ.
Mr. Pop – They offered the show to a DJ named Gary Stevens out of WMCA – but he had his own plans and was leaving New York to market TV in Switzerland.
Clay, you were a DJ for a short time in New York. You don’t talk about it in your book, but I’m fascinated by it. Can you tell us more?
Clay Cole – Oh my – only you! I knew the WINS (radio) general manager at the time – Ted Steele. He also had a music show on channel 13 – the same time I was there.
Mr. Pop – This would have been during your (WNTA) channel 13 days – when you first came to New York. I always thought you should have titled that chapter “Concrete and Clay” – with your move to New York City.
Clay Cole – That’s funny! Ted Steele was a good friend of mine. When I was out of work and between the two TV stations, he called and offered me the overnight show on Saturdays and Sundays on 1010WINS – then – a very popular music station.
Mr. Pop – Yes, that was early summer 1963, according to my website.
Clay Cole – Yes. I must tell you – I’ve always been a TV host and actor – but never a DJ. I must tell you, I learned that disc jockeys must have a great deal of talent. You have to have a sense of timing, read live copy and have a sense going into and out of records.
Mr. Pop – Did it take you a while to get into it?
Clay Cole – Oh yes. In television – at least you have a crew. On radio – it’s you, even though WINS had an engineer – but you had to create the atmosphere.
Mr. Pop – Clay, you knew another fascinating, legendary NY DJ – Murray the K of 1010WINS. Any memories?
Clay Cole – I remember going to his apartment and so much was covered in plastic. Mostly the furniture.
Mr. Pop – That was an interesting trend. Plastic was used to keep the dust and dirt away, although I’m not sure when that trend went away.
Mr. Pop Continues – Clay – you’ve said that the great Bobby Darin and Jackie Wilson were your two all-time favorite artists. Any others?
Clay Cole – Frankie Valli was terrific; his records were wonderfully produced. Another favorite was Dionne Warwick. And, she was always good to me. And, there are more.
Mr. Pop – Clay – it’s been a pleasure and thanks for the update.