(Let the) Good Times Roll

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Ric Ocasek: The Cars
I suppose the deaths of long-time rock n' roll icons Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek of The Cars have me feeling a bit melancholy. Maybe even a bit scared. I suppose it makes me think of my own mortality. I was a young man and very much a fan during the heyday music stardom of both music-making stars and now that they're gone, I have this story to share.

I must warn you before you invest too much time into this that I have nothing earth-shaking or dramatic to reveal. You won't learn anything new other than a few musings about a time long-ago and perhaps a bit of bad behavior on my part. I never met Mr. Ocasek or Mr. Money, and this blog post is really nothing more than a long post you might find on a social media page like Facebook.

Beyer High School: Modesto, CA
It's just the memory of one man from a time and place long ago that no longer exists except in my memory.

I am a 1981 graduate of Fred C. Beyer High School in Modesto and a later (much later) graduate of CSU-Fresno in Fresno. This story covers both cities and a time that becomes more special as it ages into obscurity.

My sister Mary Bird had blazed a trail the size of an Interstate by the time I first entered the hallowed halls at Beyer in 1977. Mary had since taken her act and fame to the University of Southern California, but not before instructing her younger brother on the ways of high school life and the path that she insisted I must follow.

That path would lead me to the classroom of legendary Forensics instructor Ron Underwood, a high school radio station called KBHI (Beyer High School), an up and coming Program Director by the name of Lane Clark and the super cool and devastatingly pretty DJ chick: Cindy Webb.

Ron, who has since retired to Fresno, was a fan of radio. He left that radio imprint wherever he went. He was one the founders of CSU-Fresno's KFSR (Fresno State Radio), put KDHS (Downey High School) on the air during his first stop as a high school forensics instructor in Modesto and later took that act to the newly minted halls of Beyer High School in 1972. One of his earliest moves was to put KBHI on the air, a massive ten-watt flamethrower at 88.9 on the FM dial that had a listening raidus of about one block around the high school campus. We didn't have many fans, but we had our fair share.

This is where Bill Bird got his training to be a not-a-very-good Disc Jockey. But, most importantly, this is where he would discover and up-and-coming band out of Boston called The Cars and a very special first album effort. In 1978 Program Director (PD) Lane Clark received an advance copy of the debut album The Cars from Elektra Records. It featured the charting singles of "Just What I Needed," "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Good Times Roll." The album was electric to say the least. Nobody had ever heard anything like it before. The Cars would help lay the foundation for the 1980's New Wave style still to come.

The Cars Debut Album
The debut album, featuring the obscure Russian model Natalya Georgievna Medvedeva on the album cover, would spend the next 139 weeks on the charts which is probably due to the fact that I wouldn't stop playing it. KBHI followed a "free form" type of format. This meant you might hear me saying (screaming) something not too terribly witty or good into the station microphone along the lines of: "if you liked that Cars song, you'll love this one" before allowing the album to move right into the next song on the disc. Which probably drove PD Lane Clark crazy, provided he was listening. He lived more than a block away from the Beyer High campus. On Sunday nights, as I recall, KBHI would play an entire album from start to finish with no commericial or DJ interruptions. My memory isn't that great, but I would swear that the album choice during 1978 was almost always The Cars during those Sunday night shows.

That poor promotional album Lane received was positively abused. But, just when you might think we played that album until the grooves wore off (we did), Ric Ocasek and his band-mates rewarded us in 1979 with their followup album: Candy-O. It featured the followup hits "Let's Go," "It's All I Can Do" and the now famous cover art by the legendary pin-up artist Alberto Vargas.

Cynthia Ann Webb
It was about this time when the super cool and devastatingly pretty DJ chick Cindy (Cynthia Ann) Webb used to hang out with me at the KBHI studios (which was essentially a closet located next door to Ron Underwood's office). To this day I cannot tell you why any super cool or devastatingly pretty chick was hanging out with me, especially the likes of Cindy Webb. But I don't recall being bothered by her presence one bit. It was during this time where I flipped the now famous Candy-O cover art around for her and inquired when she had the time to pose for the album pictured below. Super cool and devastatingly pretty DJ chick Cindy Webb proceeded to turn three shades of devastatingly pretty pink.

It has since been revealed that Candy Moore, an actress from Maplewood, New Jersey, was the inspiration for Vargas' most famous work. But, to this day, I'm still convinced that  the super cool DJ chick Cindy Webb may have also been on Alberto's mind.

The Cars: Candy-O
Cindy, as it turned out, was just as enthralled as I was when it came to The Cars. Our association would eventually morph into a tandem DJ act where I would say (scream) not something too terribly witty or smart into the station microphone such as: "And Now, Cindy Webb!" And she would proceed to inform me that I was not too terribly witty or smart, to shut the Hell up and play the damn record.

I wonder if Lane was listening?

All good things, unfortunately, do come to an end. Changes in rules by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would put an end to many high school radio station efforts, including KBHI. The station signed off the air in 1980, the year before I graduated and moved onto CSU Fresno, where I brought my talents to KFSR and other commercial stations such as KYNO AM-FM, KJFX FM, KMPH FOX 26, KMPH NewsRadio and NewsTalk 1530 KFBK to name a few.

Lane Clark
Lane and Cindy moved onto commercial radio station efforts themselves after graduation. Lane spent time at KDJK in Modesto before becoming a successful small business owner in the Sacramento, CA area. Cindy also moved into commercial radio. I never saw her after our high school days together. Sadly, she passed in 2010 at the age of 48. I will never forget her.

Rick Ocasek and The Cars, of course, would go on to churn out many more top-selling albums and become one of the biggest bands in the world. But they will always be so much more than that to me.

They are, as A.V. Club writer Erik Adams once described them, "the type of band that put out a perfect debut record, and then had the audacity to not pack it in after that." The debut album, as he put it, left "little wonder that the members of The Cars have jokingly referred to it as The Cars Greatest Hits.”

1978 Stars and Stripes Yearbook
Ric Ocasek and The Cars are a reminder of a time in my life that is bits and pieces of a misty memory now. It's a time of my life where I was growing up and discovering the person I would become. It was the gentle and wonderful tutleage of legendary forensics instructor Ron Underwood, the never-ending patience of Lane Clark and the sharp wit of the super cool and devastingly pretty DJ chick Cindy Webb.

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