Barry Scott and his “Lost 45s” Set Standard for Dedication, Longevity and Historical Pop Fundamentalism
By Mike Kinosian
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief
Universally attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius, there is marvelous credence to the adage, “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
Highly engaging, tireless, self-described radio “geek” Barry Scott is among the fortunate attaining such blissful satisfaction.
Boasting an encyclopedia-like mind of classic hits-oldies trivia, Scott has been the one-man band brains behind the weekly, three-hour “Lost 45s” and its daily short-form feature companion.
Some might equal the level of passion he or she has for their job, but it is inconceivable the zeal for their professional endeavors would exceed that of this fiercely loyal graduate of Boston’s Emerson College.
Being an on-air personality is the lone career aspiration Scott had ever since he was five years old. In a highly familiar backdrop for those who would later attain their ambition of gaining employment in the medium, the Hartford native tucked a transistor radio under his pillow, as he gleefully dialed in AM stations from such locales as New York City (WABC and WNBC), Chicago (WLS), Windsor-Detroit (CKLW), and Louisville (WHAS). “I would write down the stations I heard and how far away they were,” recounts Scott, who followed the national top 40 list, as well as the Dick McDonough-hosted Friday countdown on Hartford’s WDRC-AM. “I memorized them and I guess I was grooming myself to be what I am today.”
Renowned for its broadcasting department, Emerson College was the perfect fit for Scott. “I have run into many people who have graduated from Emerson with degrees in radio or television and I am almost positive that relationships I made there have gotten me jobs and opportunities,” he remarks.
Landing his first radio experience at campus facility WERS, Scott’s debut shift was Sunday mornings from 4:00 am – 8:00 am and by formulating what would become “The Lost 45s,” he garnered national press. By the time he graduated in 1986, he had an impressive portfolio for doing something unique.
Music from the 1970s had all but disappeared from radio, Scott contends, by the mid-1980s. “Several songs – such as Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’ – never went away, but virtually the entire decade of music was gone.”
That was what he turned his attention to and – by and large – it remains the focus. “Where it used it be 1965 – 1984, it is now one mid-1960s song an hour right through the 1980s,” explains Scott, who plays songs he never imagined he would by artists such as New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, and Michael Penn.
Upon graduation from college, Scott was hired (in March 1986) by Boston’s WZLX, where he worked in the marketing/promotions department. “The idea was to make WZLX a heritage station in Boston,” he points out. “I worked on the show a little bit and program director Gary Guthrie put it on the air for two hours on Sunday nights. The response was just tremendous.”
After a seven-year WZLX run, Scott was hired by the then-program director of Boston hot AC WBMX “Mix 98.5,” Greg Strassell. “I have worked with many good people and Greg is one of my favorites,” Scott enthuses of the Clear Channel programming executive. “He paid me enough as a specialty person to work just that one show, as well as to do a club night. That got me away from promotions and marketing where you can [easily suffer from] job burnout. Bless anyone who has been in radio promotions/marketing for more than a decade.”
Carly and Cat
Syndication of “The Lost 45s” in that general timeframe was done by Cold Spring, New York-based Small Planet Radio, which evolved into American View. “They hired Ollie North for too much money and went down the tubes,” Scott muses. “I went to WODS ‘Oldies 103.3′ — also working with Greg — and I was there for 11 years.”
Doing the show “by myself forever” through his Get Lost Productions, Scott has attempted syndication “quite a few times” and he comments, “We had some pretty good success in the 1990s.”
Immediately following WODS’ June 2012 format flip from “Oldies 103.3″ to CHR as “Amp Radio,” Scott was contacted by cross-town WROR and then moved himself to WPLM-AM/FM and WXEX-AM/FM, covering the entire East Coast from Providence to Portland, Maine.
It remains appointment listening for a fervently devoted fan base on approximately two-dozen other affiliates including classic hits KJCM near Oklahoma City; adult contemporary WORG close to Columbia, South Carolina; and WPNC near the Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville, North Carolina market.
Most clients clear the three-hour weekend show, as well as the weekday feature, which might be teased thusly: Coming up next, Carly Simon talks about a song inspired by one of her boyfriends — and it is not James Taylor. After a commercial break, the singer relates the story of how she was waiting for Cat Stevens for a date and he was late. “She was worried about how her hair looked and she began writing ‘Anticipation,’” Scott states. “I had heard the ‘You’re So Vain’ story a trillion times, but not that one.”
Having already completed more than 1,000 interviews — which have yielded in excess of 100,000 audio snippets — Scott has tried to talk with virtually anyone whose top 40 hit he would play. “Stories told by the artists themselves are exciting,” he asserts. “I learn things from the artists every single time I interview them. Even after all these years — that is still exciting for me.”
Serendipitously, someone possessing special personal significance accounted for Scott’s very first “Lost 45s” interview. “I woke up on my 11th birthday and there was a snow jacket, a goldfish tank, and a 45 of Terry Jacks’ ‘Seasons in the Sun,’” he fondly remembers. “I thought that song was pure poetry. When I hear the first few notes, it brings me back to when I was 11.”
Conversely, he has heard “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles just about every year since the song was released (it peaked at #2 in 1975) yet Scott maintains, “It does not have one memory — it has many. What makes this show special is that it flashes you right back to something like an aquarium.”
On the back of a Poppy Family album was a fan club address for Terry Jacks, and the member forwarded Scott’s note to the singer; Terry Jacks and his then-wife Susan Jacks were lead singers of the early-1970s group. “Not only did I get a call from Terry and interview him, I brought him into Boston where he did a show for 1,000 listeners,” Scott declares. “You could have heard a pin drop when he sang ‘Seasons in the Sun’.”
Ever persistent, it took an astounding 10 years for Scott to arrange interviews with Art Garfunkel and Carole King. The latter does not do much media interplay, but as a supporter of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid, the esteemed singer-songwriter — forever linked to “Tapestry” — was in Scott’s backyard and consented to a chat.
Regarding Paul Simon’s singing partner, the difficulty in arranging an interview was — according to Scott — “simply with his management.”
Halfway through their conversation, Garfunkel questioned Scott about why it took so long for the two of them to hook up. “He said what we were talking about was interesting,” Scott proudly reflects. “He had to leave but asked to re-schedule a second part. Garfunkel’s solo, ‘All I Know’ is one of my favorite songs of all time.”
Once he is able to track down an artist and arrange an interview, Scott does investigative work to unearth something enlightening and not common knowledge. Case in point: Garfunkel has a comet named after him. “It has a red tail and someone thought of him with his red hair. I mentioned it to him and even he did not know it. From that moment on, he was ‘mine.’”
Just as Scott was exiting from the shower one day, his phone rang. There was a bad connection and as he fumbled to both dry himself off and to find a pen, he asked who was calling. The female voice on the other end said, “Why, this is Ms. Aretha Franklin.” Even years later, Scott is still dumbfounded by it. “She picked up the phone and called me herself. When I asked why she did that, she responded with the immortal words ‘When you want something done correctly, you do it yourself.’”
Notwithstanding Debby Boone’s “You Light up My Life” was one of the 1970s’ biggest songs, program directors universally tend to abhor it. “Debby did not know that Kacey Cisyk’s original movie version of the song peaked at #96,” Scott notes. “She asked me how I knew something like that and when I said I look at the charts, she called me a geek. I told her that I was proud to be called that by Debby Boone.”
Studying Oprah Winfrey’s interviewing style and technique, Scott discovered the daytime TV icon would typically begin with an unusual tidbit. “The guest would realize that she did some research,” he remarks. “Other times, it is making them feel at ease right away. I am a kid when I speak to some of these artists and I smile from ear to ear.”
Smooth As Silk
During a mid-1980s “Reg Strikes Back” listening party, Elton John posed for a picture with Scott, who mentioned his “Lost 45s” program. “Elton said he loves that kind of stuff,” Scott recounts. “He asked which songs of his I played and I said ‘Nobody Wins,’ Sartorial Eloquence,’ ‘Ego,’ and several others. He has collected every record that has made the chart in England. We talked about a bunch of songs and his eyes lit up. I asked if he would be on the show so we could talk about songs other than ‘Crocodile Rock.’ He agreed, but his management refused. They said he did not have the time. Neil Diamond is a similar example where the management company has said there is not enough time in his schedule for an interview.”
Many artists who Scott does manage to secure though, such as Toto’s David Paich, are keenly aware of the program and are appreciative that the music historian is keeping their music alive. “Listeners can hear ‘Africa’ and ‘Rosanna’ to death, but Toto had a boatload of songs – such as ’99′ – that you do not hear anymore,”
Scott explains. “When David Paich heard that I concentrate on things like that, he was very excited. The same is true for songs he wrote for or with other artists.”
Not long ago, Scott played Boz Scaggs’ “It’s Over,” the first top 40 hit (#38 in 1976) from the monumental “Silk Degrees” album. “It is a great R&B-tinged tune. There is no room for anyone else to play it — but there should be. Someone has to play ‘Breakdown Dead Ahead,’ a very cool top 15 Boz Scaggs tune. ‘Lido Shuffle’ is undoubtedly a cool song too, but when ‘Breakdown Dead Ahead’ came on the radio, I would crank it. ‘Lowdown’ [#1 in 1976] is not the Boz Scaggs song I play.”
Flabbergasted at the ardent manner in which his audience listens to his show, Scott admits that they will catch a minor mistake here and there. “I will sometimes get a chart position or a year wrong but audience loyalty is probably the most you can ask for in a specialty show,” he opines. “Unlike that of most other shows, my audience is inter-generational — it includes parents and kids. I constantly get emails from parents who are stuck in the car. They will hear a song we play that brings a smile to their face; kids in the backseat think it is a cool song, too. There are many examples of how parents bond with their kids with these songs. Parents have an intimacy for these songs and they like sharing the experience with their children.”
What constitutes a “Lost 45″ does change but original staples were “bubblegum” artists, one-hit wonders, and 1970s acts who had numerous chart success such as Cher, Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John, Helen Reddy, and Tony Orlando & Dawn. “Fleetwood Mac has them and Elton John has a bunch of them,” Scott stresses. “It is virtually anything that made the top 40 that other stations do not play. There is only one mid-1960s song an hour and it tends to make people smile. That is what it was guaranteed to do back then, as well. This show is designed to make people happy.”
Featured annually is Scott’s “Top 100 Lost 45s.” In one of the first years of that list, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA was on top. “No one else was playing it,” he proclaims. “Another year, it was ‘Escape – The Pina Colada Song’ [Rupert Holmes].”
Thus, certain tunes can come in and out. Blue Swede’s version of “Hooked on a Feeling” (B.J. Thomas took it to #5 in 1969) was a core song but was lowered in rotation a bit after it was used on a commercial. Nevertheless, Scott rationalizes, “It sure does ‘sound’ like a ‘lost 45,’ so I definitely would not avoid playing it.
Some songs are not the original single versions — they are vastly different. ‘Thinking of You’ by Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina was a top 20 hit in 1973, but the mix on the ‘greatest hits’ album is totally different from the single, and it might even be a re-recording.”
Quintessential “Lost 45″ Is a Delight
Pertaining to the show, there are no personal favorites for Scott, who emphasizes that “The Lost 45s” is not about what he likes.
Creating, hosting, and producing the show — as well as conceptualizing themes — are the easy components of his daily/weekly routine. “Talking with program directors to try to get this show on their radio station” is the hardest aspect, fumes Scott. “I will be on hold and can hear a liner that says the station plays ‘the greatest hits of the 1970s and 1980s,’ followed by something like ‘Black Water’ by the Doobie Brothers. The flipside to that record was ‘Another Park, Another Sunday,’ and I would much rather hear that.”
To ask a program director in that scenario if the station plays “Another Park, Another Sunday” will almost surely lead to a negative response, leading Scott to launch into many other songs that are part of his program. “They may wrinkle their nose at a title like ‘Chevy Van’ by Sammy Johns,” he jokes. “In addition, many classic hits stations have turned their backs on R&B. I grew up listening to rock stations in the 1970s when Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, and Earth, Wind & Fire were all part of that format. Classic hits stations with the slogan ‘The Greatest Hits of the 1970s and 1980s’ are doing their audience a total disservice by only playing 5% of those hits.”
Rules do exist on his program, so it is not exactly an anything-goes arrangement. Most records aired in the three-hour weekend feature had to have made the top 40. “I kind of draw the line at that,” Scott points out, although just about every “Lost 45s” program highlights a “they should have been hits” category, which isgauged by the number of requests he has received over the last 28 years. “That ranges from Angel’s ‘The Winter Song’ — which you either know or you do not — to Barry Manilow’s ‘You’re Looking Hot Tonight,’ a thumping disco tune.”
Listener requests — which can be made on the program’s website — are, in fact, the only form of research Scott utilizes. “I get a ton of them and I save all of them,” he comments. “Listeners can write about their favorite songs, favorite artists, and I include all of that into a spreadsheet. I know some songs – including ‘The Night Chicago Died’ by Paper Lace, ‘Life is a Rock but the Radio Rolled Me’ by Reunion, and ‘Run Joey Run’ by David Geddes — are not going away on my show. I have watched research tests and I have seen research song lists. Some songs that I have seen work have not tested well for one reason or another. ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ by Queen supposedly did not test well, yet when I hear it come on in clubs, people raise their fists to it as if it is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ There has to be some room for gut; knowledge of your audience; and not total reliance on the 300 best-testing records.”
Founder of the band Boston, Tom Scholz, is a “Lost 45s” partisan and Scott wondered if Scholz has any “lost” tunes that he likes. “He said a few and I asked him about ‘Afternoon Delight.’ After taking a pause, he said he hates that song. The reason is that Boston lost the ‘Best New Artist’ Grammy award that year to Starland Vocal Band. It is a classic moment for me to play the leader of Boston saying how much he hates ‘Afternoon Delight’ into that song. To me, that is having fun with the song for the audience. ‘Afternoon Delight’ might not test well, but it has been in ‘Anchorman’ and ‘Anchorman2.’ It has become ubiquitous even if people do make fun of it. That song though is not going to go away because it is unique, interesting, and unusual — it is the quintessential ‘Lost 45.’”
High-Profile Name That Tune
For at least part of the time Scott worked at WZLX, Cook Inlet Radio Partners owned the property; Dan Mason was Cook Inlet’s president and, of course, is now president/chief executive officer of the station’s current parent company — CBS Radio. “When he breezed into town, he would go into the studio with me and guess songs such as the DeFranco Family’s ‘Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat’ [#3 in 1973] within three seconds,” Scott remembers. “Dan Mason was an on-air talent in the 1970s and he loved those songs. That was fun for me.”
Marginal records that managed to crack the top 40 — or as Scott labels them “crappy” ones — don’t get much attention on the show. “I will play them only once simply because they made the top 40. I want to expose listeners to the fact it was a top 40 hit.”
Higher rotation songs — such as “I Think I Love You” — #1 for the Partridge Family in 1970 — come up several times a year. “Some people forget that the Osmond Brothers wrote three songs in particular that rock — ‘Hold Her Tight,’ ‘Down by the Lazy River,’ and ‘Crazy Horses,’” Scott emphasizes. “I almost find it to be my job to remind listeners that the Osmond Brothers rocked. ‘Crazy Horses’ has not been heard since 1972 when it peaked at #14. Part of the show is an education process.”
Other rare rule exceptions can surface, especially if an artist has a unique story. “Most people are not aware that the original version of ‘Saving All My Love for You’ was done by Marilyn McCoo [of The Fifth Dimension fame and not by Whitney Houston],” Scott notes. “Hearing McCoo talk about it makes that song kind of special to me. That part of history needs to be shared. People sometimes forget there is a coolness factor to the past. It is how you sell and present it that makes it work — or not work.”
Specific era groupings for “The Lost 45s” are 1970 – 1974; 1975 – 1979; 1980 – 1984; and 1985 – 1989. Played once per hour is the aforementioned mid-1960s category, which includes titles such as The Cowsills’ “The Rain, The Park, & Other Things” (#2 in 1967) but as Scott observes, “The 1960s music is definitely shrinking. There are three songs an hour from 1970 – 1974, four from 1975 – 1979, three from 1980 – 1984, and two from 1985 – 1989.”
There is an interview clip in every segment and after Scott enters each one in a spreadsheet, he does not play it again for a while. “With so many interviews and so many songs, you do not have to repeat,” he reasons. “I can actually thank classic hits and oldies stations for having such limited playlists because it allows me to play so much.”
Although it could probably be argued that the entire three-hour program is comprised of a series of “oh-wows,” each specific show has one such scheduled song, with Ringo Starr’s 1972 “Back off Boogaloo” being an example from a recent airing. “It supposedly is Ringo intervening between Paul McCartney and John Lennon to have them cool their fighting,” Scott explains.
Another is “The Other Woman” by Ray Parker Jr., which was preceded by a sound bite from an SNL “Weekend Update” segment. Instead of complaining about losing a “Ghostbusters”-related lawsuit, the “WU” punch line was that Parker should just write another song; however, as Scott points out, “Ray Parker Jr. had many other hits. I played that audio into ‘The Other Woman’ and that is what makes it special.”
From the time Scott debuted “The Lost 45s” 40 years ago this month, it is his contention that the era of specialty shows such as his has decreased dramatically. “They were created for really one reason — to be ‘special.’ It lets your station play something that is fun, and different. Perhaps, you can have a new audience sample your station. You probably could not produce a show like this locally because you do not have the content. I do not know anyone else who has an interview or a production library as large as this one. I have approximately 27,000 clips.”
Albeit that other syndicated long-form programming of this genre is available, Scott is nonetheless confident that he is without true competitors because, “No one else does what I do. No one talked with Alan O’Day and then played part of the interview before going into the late singer’s 1977 #1 hit ‘Undercover Angel.’ He was a great friend and he told me that some ‘Bible-belt’ stations banned that song because they thought it was dirty. He truly wrote it as a sweet, innocent song about dreaming of someone you could love. No one else plays a song like ‘Break My Stride’ by Matthew Wilder very often.”
Further differentiation is that Scott makes Rick Springfield and Leo Sayer — rather than the Eagles — core artists. “I love the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ and have read every note about it, but I probably bought Leo Sayer’s ‘Endless Flight’ album on the same day,” he theorizes. “It is not about repetition, it is more about songs that are missing. This show allows any station that says it plays the greatest hits of that era to have a place once a week for artists such as Laura Branigan. My biggest competition is the lack of open-minded program directors who are afraid of losing their jobs. They are so timid that they just want to play the same songs over and over.”
Similar to the instance involving “The Other Woman,” another way in which Scott meticulously incorporates audio involves the mid-1970s CBS-TV show “Rhoda” starring Valerie Harper who continued her role from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The MTM spinoff was supposedly set in New York City. In one “Rhoda” episode, Scott heard “Carlton the Doorman” (Lorenzo Music) talking about the fact it was raining and that Rhoda’s mother (Nancy Walker as Ida Morgenstern) was creating puddles. As a result, Scott saved the audio and used it to lead into “Another Rainy Day in New York City” by Chicago. “I can access the clips by color, weather, a name, or whatever,” he reveals. “There are so many cultural references in today’s shows.”
Under his breath, Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan on Showtime’s “Dexter” made a Bananarama reference (“This is going to be a ‘Cruel Summer’”) and Scott underscores, “Clips like that are so cool to play before certain songs. That is why this show is different.”
A myriad of memorable moments linger for Scott, with a 1990s AIDS benefit concert being especially noteworthy. Among the headliners for the event were The Captain & Tennille. “Howard Greenfield was a co-writer of their hit ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ and he died of AIDS,” Scott states. Others appearing on that fundraiser were Mark Lindsay, Tony DeFranco, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, the Cowsills, and Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods.
Whereas some in the industry invoke the word “stable” to describe its condition, Scott does not equate that to being “healthy.” Since his adulation for the medium extends to when he was five years old, his desire is that it should be better than stable. “Part of that healthiness will come from kicking it,” he suggests.
“Hopefully, the future is bright for radio — but — those in charge must wake up a bit. They have to realize that there are so many other methods to hear product. Even my mom streams online. She knows how to type in the Righteous Brothers and create her own station. Even under the context of a specialty show, you cannot just continue to play it safe. You must start to have fun and provide listeners with an experience that will occasionally keep them away from other entertainment platforms. I do not know why some program directors are so scared to play certifiably huge number one records. When people hear Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Let’s Get Physical,’ they smile and remember the video. I do not know of one person who has a negative opinion of the artist. She is beautiful, her songs were cool, and there are tons of them. Still though, I do not know of one classic hits or oldies station that plays ‘Let’s Get Physical.’ That part is a shame.”
Nearly signed by a major syndicator a while back, Scott’s practically done-deal for “The Lost 45s” hit an unexpected snag. “They seemed excited and they knew there was a hole in the market,” he acknowledges. “We were just about to sign when I got a call from someone at the company who asked if it would be a problem if I didn’t play any Barry Manilow songs. That was my big chance, but I immediately said it would be a concern because Manilow had about 40 top 40 hits from the 1970s/1980s. If I agreed to that, I wondered where they would go next. I thought about groups such as ABBA, Air Supply, and The Captain & Tennille.”
Consequently, the deal was over because Scott would not cave. “Some might think that I am inflexible, but that’s not it,” he maintains. “I know the product and there has to be room for these artists. I might be able to get past the PD, but then there is a brand manager or a consultant. The program director will sheepishly come back and say he or she has been over-ruled. It makes me angry at radio. It makes me realize that programmers are either not getting it, or they are too scared at losing their jobs. I don’t know what can be done to wake them up, but that is what needs to go away. It has to be about the fun — and this show is fun.”
Straightforward, Simple Request
“The Lost 45s” is produced by Barry’s production company, Get Lost! — everything comes directly from Scott, who summarizes the 40-year (and counting) experience as a labor of love.
Through it, he has published a book (“We Had Joy, We Had Fun” – an obvious homage to Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun”); released two CDs (“Barry Scott Presents the Lost 45s of the 70s and 80s”); and filmed a TV pilot about the show. “As we progress, get more stations, create more revenue as we have been doing, Compass and Benztown might help with affiliation work. I create, host, produce, distribute the audio for the daily and weekly show myself. I cannot say that I have ever become ‘rich’ but this is the music I grew up listening to and I enjoy doing the show. If this were to stop tomorrow, I would be thankful I got so many years out of it. I would like to think that all the time I put into it, all the interviews I have done, and the clips I have edited have been worthwhile. The only negative has been chatting with close-minded programmers, who do not realize they can have fun on their stations for three hours a week. That really is all we ask.”