Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Al Capp Radio Show Tapes: Issue #2

We continue with another historic installment of The Al Capp Radio Show, a satiric spot feature from the turn of the 1970s. Be sure to check out our other posts here at MangMade regarding this venture into controversial talk radio by the creator of Li'l Abner, Al Capp.

THE AL CAPP RADIO SHOW: Tape 1, Episode 2
"Mr. Capp, Julie and David Eisenhower have been criticized for not joining moratoriums. What do you have to say about that?"
The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was actually a series of protest events which topped its highest peaks of success in raising awareness for opposition to the war on October 15 and November 16, 1969. Anti-war activists mobilized millions of participants engaging in huge peace protests spread throughout the country. A crowd estimated to be 100,000 strong rallied in Capp's own Greater Boston area while 500,000 marched on Washington DC in November.

Popular figures of past and present joined in. Singers Joan Baez, Eartha Kitt, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the writer of our nation's baby owner's manual and frequent target of Capp's ridicule, George McGovern (ditto), and Ted Kennedy (mm-hmm) all took part, with the senators calling for the troops to be withdrawn by '72. While at Oxford, a young Bill Clinton helped to organize the simultaneous Moratorium demonstrations in England. This act became an issue years later in his 1992 presidential campaign.

The events included
the era's now iconic forms of splashy organized protest: marches, school walkouts, even closing campuses in some cases to allow students to discuss the war. The manner of tactics employed were increasingly the inspirations for Capp's plots and gags in Li'l Abner and targets of his withering contempt elsewhere. During this time many fans felt the strip's tone had become shrill. It's apparent Capp would think, "likewise." Abner fans, while fondly remembering the strips of short years prior, hold these sequences as the strip's nadir. As to how fondly the radio show is remembered... well, people still remember the Li'l Abner "comical strip."

In this episode, the woman
posing the question uses the word "moratoriums" (yes, you heard right, not the proper, more uplifting moratoria). These demonstrations and others would be filled with rock music, a hearty mix of celebrities and the likes of the profanely romantic S.W.I.N.E. (Capp's Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything). But they were certainly not attended by squares like Julie and David Eisenhower, whom Capp believed actually represented 98% of the day's youth that would eventually have to clean up the mess left by the strident 2% receiving sympathetic coverage by the press and pandering from politicians like George McGovern.

Richard Nixon's 20-year old daughter Julie had married Dwight Eisenhower's 20-year old grandson David in December 1968. Their year-long engagement had been part of the Nixon presidential campaign story. "I always campaign better with an Eisenhower," Nixon would capably wink on the trail.

Young Julie and David were celebrities by virtue of being the progeny of the political administration that had led America through the relatively graceful, stable 1950s. Observing the couple, each attending Smith and Amherst, the establishment would regard them as what was right about collegiate America: sensible, good, Republican youth. To his peers, David's opinion that it would be unfair to abolish the draft (as Nixon had proposed) and leave the nation's defense to a volunteer army left most campus baby boomers cold. Capp would indeed find it strange that today it is these same baby boomer liberals suggesting to reinstate the draft in the same name of fairness.

Capp's sarcastic response to the question is simply that these kids can't get anything right. Their traditional courtship and (SHUDDER) marriage had become passe by apparent standards in 1968. The couple's core values were anathema to the counter-culture crowd. Much of the vocal idealism of the day's youth was simply to embrace contrariety of whatever the previous generation may have held dear because that's a drag, man. So, Capp rattles off a litany of David and Julie's actions and inactions as though they were obviously misguided innocents clueless of their being so very square. "What else can you expect from kids with fathers like theirs?" Capp closes by postulating what would have happened had Julie and David's fathers and grandfathers supported moritoriums and American surrender in their youth and what it would have meant for 1960s moritorium leaders.

Related Links:

Julie and David Eisenhower TIME article
The Vietnam Moratorium by Jeremy Brecher (1969)
BBC On This Day: Millions march in US Vietnam Moratorium
Moratorium - Vanderbilt Television News Archive
Great Al Capp articles from Animation Archive
"Joanie Phoney" Li'l Abner episode strips at Mark Kausler's CatBlog
Art from Capp's Hardhat's Bedtime Story Book

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do I Sound like That?

Here I am recording vocals at MangMade Studios (click to enlarge). In fact, this is a pretty fair illustration of the whole recording process, with steps 2 and 3 repeated until the point of exasperation.

Google Book Search now has scanned magazines going way back, such as this Popular Science issue from 1920.

via Popular Science - Google Book Search

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Al Capp Radio Show Tapes: Issue #1

Al Capp was a 20th century humorist who ruled newspaper comic pages for decades with his satiric hillbilly adventure strip, Li'l Abner. Starting with the strip's 1930s introduction, he became celebrated and recognized over the years for his popular culture contributions: the Schmoo, the Double-Whammy, Sadie Hawkin's Day, and the Miniskirt (his assertion) among many others. But by the end of the 1960s, the "Old Left" Capp had come to be viewed as a conservative polemicist. An adversary of the "New Left" and, generally, the youth of the day, Capp is the cranky old establishment figure that exchanged views and insults with the Lennons at the famed Montreal "Bed-In for Peace" in May 1969.

The man held many opinions and offered them, well, not necessarily freely. Capp surely commanded a nice payday for the frequent work he performed as a wit on radio and television panel discussions. That is not to mention the scratch he was making with his public speaking engagements (notably, his confrontational college campus appearances), or from his newspaper and magazine opinion pieces. He felt it fair to say he loved to share his opinions and was popular enough to earn money doing it; he delivered them repeatedly in nearly every flow of popular media available throughout his career. This series of articles will tune the dial to one of these channels, his eponymous radio show. From the turn of the 1970s: this is The Al Capp Radio Show.

While there are currently some wonderful sites with great information on Capp, his art and his controversial history, there is very little to be found regarding his radio show. These articles will cover this particular vessel of Capp's opinions and attempt to place it within some historical context. We also hope to hear from anyone with more information regarding the show itself. As we move the story along to "the grid," we will share what we have determined and any information you the reader may have to contribute, whether it be fact or reasoned speculation.

In this first issue, we introduce The Al Capp Radio Show with (HAW!) an introductory presentation reel intended for prospective buyers of the show:

THE AL CAPP RADIO SHOW: The Presentation Reel

For more than seven minutes Capp and Pepper-Tanner staff hype each other and the show. Capp describes his fee for his question and answer sessions at the nation's universities as a bargain for his hosts because they get "two David Brinkleys, an Art Buchwald and a half, and four Ann Landers' for the price of one Al Capp." The implication is this bargain works in a similar fashion for your radio station as well.

Pepper-Tanner pitches the production will provide "with the music of Li'l Abner...fifteen new shows a week, a 90-second feature" with Capp providing a custom opening for the station or client. Here, it seems the show may have actually been called Al Capp On the Spot, as Capp runs through some sample openings combining this title and various sponsers.

Then, it's on to excerpts of his show, including his take on welfare mothers with "Mrs. Fruitful" of Detroit, pornography, as well as popular singers Joan Baez (more on her later) and Johnny Cash. But of course, Capp lets the listener know that these selected bits were merely the mildest of the bunch. Only if Capp joins your team will you get the "really good stuff."

"Oh, we're tricky, Pepper and Tanner and Capp," Capp trails off chuckling and leaving it for Pepper-Tanner to slam it home:

"Right, AL!"

THE AL CAPP RADIO SHOW: Tape 1, Episode 1
"Mr. Capp, why don't we see you on talk shows any more?"

The episodes generally begin with the voice of an unnamed "man/woman-on-the-street-type" posing a question to Capp. This, we will find, was a common device for Capp: introduce a topic through a question a typical person would ask, framed properly for a typically thoughtful Capp response. His response would be slick, no doubt honed to its finest edge from campus engagements.

Here, Capp describes a tour of Asia he took with fellow writers Art Buchwald and George Plimpton ("a rising young novelist"), visiting wounded troops in Vietnam. For the young men, the simple pleasure of seeing famous faces from home, faces they knew from television talk shows, was a treat.

He suspects the reason he isn't on those shows anymore may have something to do with a question he wants to ask these hosts -- the much more popular Johnny Carsons, Merv Griffins, and Mike Douglases.

(By the way, that isn't a self-portrait of Capp with Carson depicted here, but rather a Capp drawing of Senator George McGrovel sounding off on Tommy Wholesome.)

THIS SERIES IS SOMETHING NEW to MangMade. Stick around for the "really good stuff."

"Right, AL!"

Related Links:
Great Al Capp articles from Animation Archive
"Joanie Phoney" Li'l Abner episode strips at Mark Kausler's CatBlog
Art from Capp's Hardhat's Bedtime Story Book

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You can't Fight in Here, This is the War Room.

Checkout the control panel for a 1960 Atlas missile launch.  The one in the back seems as if it's still in shrink wrap.  This looks like it could have been from a 1970s sci-fi movie set.  Sharp and clean with great lights.  Today, I imagine it would be a large flat screen touch surface LCD display.

"Don't mess."

via LIFE: Technicians working in the Launch Contro... - Hosted by Google