Talking With Leroy Van Dyke – January 13, 2015

FotoFlexer_Photo Leroy Van Dyke

This week, Ira spoke with Leroy Van Dyke. To listen to the interview click below.

Leroy Van Dyke, of “Auctioneer” and “Walk On By” fame, and star of the movie, “What Am I Bid?” is known around the world as an entertainer, recording artist, radio and television star, actor, auctioneer and veteran of the Nevada circuit. He has recorded more than 500 songs, and probably holds the record for most repeat-performance bookings of any working, name country music entertainer. He has worked 40 to 70 fairs and livestock events per year for more than five decades, in addition to a great variety of other engagements. In 2016, Van Dyke will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of his hit, “Auctioneer.”

Van Dyke is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a dual major: Animal Husbandry and Journalism, with a minor in Speech. He received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, did one semester of graduate work, and was a member of both the junior and senior University of Missouri intercollegiate livestock judging teams.

After serving as a special agent, U. S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, in Korea, Van Dyke was catapulted into show business while working as a journalist, when his self-penned “Auctioneer” recording went a million-plus, just weeks after its release. He then joined Red Foley’s ABC-TV Network “Ozark Jubilee” in Springfield, Missouri, as a regular member, and continued in that position for three years until the show left the air.

He again had a multi-million seller with “Walk On By,” a record that stayed in the charts an incredible 42 weeks, nineteen in the number one position, and was later named by Billboard Magazine as the biggest country music record in history! Van Dyke then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and became a regular member of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry.

Music industry experts named Van Dyke as the Country Music Entertainer of the Decade for the 1960s. He had the starring role in the 1967 movie “What Am I Bid?”

He was a founding co-host of “Country Crossroads,” the most widely syndicated show in radio history; hosted his own syndicated television series, “The Leroy Van Dyke Show”; hosted the 1965 Country Music Association Awards Show at which Ernest Tubb was inducted into the Hall of Fame; was the first entertainer to receive the prestigious Country Music Association Founding President’s Award for contributing to the advancement and improved image of country music; served on the board of directors of the Country Music Association, and also served on the board of the International Entertainment Buyers Association.

Van Dyke is considered by industry moguls and by his peers to be the entertainer who put professionalism in country music. He was the first to blaze a trail and take a staged, produced, choreographed, self-contained country music show to the Las Vegas Strip. He was the first to take country music to Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter. He was the only country music performer ever to open a show for Marilyn Monroe.

He is a 2001 inductee into the North American Country Music Association, International, Hall of Fame.

After more than four decades as an entertainer, Leroy still travels in excess of a hundred thousand performing miles yearly around the world . . . he performs in all facets of show business including fairs, festivals, concerts, rodeos, supper clubs, conventions, radio, television, recordings, the Nevada circuit, livestock events, agricultural shows and private functions.

He has not missed a performance in more than five decades as an entertainer.


Talking With Ronnie Spector – December 17, 2015

FotoFlexer_Photo Ronnie Spector 12-17-15

This week, Ira spoke with Ronnie Spector. To listen to the interview click below.

Ronnie Spector, the former lead singer of the Ronettes, who will bring her Christmas-themed show to The Orleans Showroom Dec. 19-20, was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. She formed the Ronettes while in her teens and released her first records in 1961 on the Colpix label.

The Ronettes were also professional singers and dancers at New York’s Peppermint Lounge. There they were discovered by legendary disc jockey “Murray the K” (Murray Kaufman), who promptly hired them as dancers for his Brooklyn Fox Theater rock and roll revues.

Beginning in 1963, Spector—as lead singer of the ultimate girl group, The Ronettes—recorded a long string of classic pop hits: powerful, poignant teen anthems like the Grammy Award-winning “Walking in the Rain,” “Do I Love You,” “Baby I Love You,” “The Best Part of Breaking Up,” “I Can Hear Music,” and the international Number One smash “Be My Baby.”

As the Number One pop group in England, Spector and the Ronettes headlined over acts like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds. The Beatles personally requested that the Ronettes join their final U.S. tour in August 1966; later that year, at Basin Street East, a talented young comedian named Richard Pryor was the opening act for the Ronettes’ final live performance.

In 1989, Spector took time off to write the story of her life and music. “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness (Crown, 1990)” was an international bestseller; a revised and updated mass-market paperback was published in June 2004.

In June 2000, after a 15-year legal battle, she won a landmark decision in the New York State courts. The ruling eased the way for veteran artists of the Fifties and Sixties to collect past-due royalties on their old recordings.

Spector’s CD, “The Last of the Rock Stars,” released 2009, marked the first time she was ever in full control of her material, arrangements, and production. The supporting cast included Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), members of The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, Patti Smith, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

In the summer of 2012, Spector debuted her biographical one-woman multi–media show “Beyond the Beehive” in New York City. Following several more sold-out shows, she took “Beyond the Beehive” to London for its premier UK performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall on March 9, 2014. “Ronnie Spector’s Beyond The Beehive shines like a polished diamond!” declared The Independent (UK) in their five-star review.


Talking With James Gavin – December 10, 2015

FotoFlexer_Photo James Gavin resized

This week, Ira spoke with James Gavin. To listen to the interview click below.

Author and journalist James Gavin , whose latest book, “Is That All There Is-The Strange Life of Peggy Lee,”, is Manhattan-born and a graduate of Fordham University.

Aside from his dozens of features in the New York Times, he has written for Vanity Fair, Time Out New York, the Daily Beast, and the Huffington Post. His subjects have included Annie Lennox, Elizabeth Taylor, Nina Simone, John Legend, Peggy Lee, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Miriam Makeba, Marilyn Monroe, Gal Costa, Mae West, Ned Rorem, Edith Piaf, Karen Carpenter, and Jacques Brel.

Gavin has contributed liner notes to more than 400 CDs, including many reissues he produced himself for Verve, Blue Note, and Koch Jazz. His essay for the GRP box set “Ella Fitzgerald – The Legendary Decca Recordings” earned a 1996 Grammy nomination.

He also lectures, and has appeared in several documentaries, including the E! True Hollywood Story on Doris Day and Anita O’Day: The Life and Times of a Jazz Singer.

Gavin’s third book, “Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 2009) was the impetus behind his touring with Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project, a concert that starred former Supreme Mary Wilson, the Larry Dunlap Trio, and Gavin as narrator/host.

His biography of Peggy Lee is published by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster.


Talking With Tom Ryan – December 3, 2015

FotoFlexer_Photo Tom Ryan resized

This week, Ira spoke with Tom Ryan. To listen to the interview click below.

Tom Ryan, who opened Toms Urban on the Las Vegas Strip at New York-New York Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas in December 2014, is not your typical restaurateur. He is not a chef and didn’t study restaurant management. In fact, he never expected to find himself in the restaurant arena.

Ryan is a food scientist, earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry from Michigan State University. During his Doctoral studies, he became intrigued with Marketing and Consumer Research, which set him on the career path of a lifetime.

Taking development positions at Proctor and Gamble and Pillsbury, Ryan recognized the power of combining strong technical knowledge with great consumer insights. He spent hours chasing and evaluating restaurant trends, searching for the next “big idea” to bring to grocery shelves. Along the way, he fell in love with restaurants, menu innovations, and the plethora of creativity he saw in the emerging restaurant landscape. It didn’t take him long to get into the game.

Ryan joined Pizza Hut in the late 1980s and quickly brought his first round of iconic products to the marketplace. The Lover’s Line, Breadsticks and Chicken Wings, Sicilian Pizza, and Stuffed Crust Pizza all came from Ryan and the teams he led.

Ryan joined McDonalds in the late 90’s and held Menu Development, CMO, and Worldwide Chief Concept Officer titles. Over his seven years at McDonalds, he brought McFlurries, The Dollar Menu, and McGriddles to the marketplace, here and around the world.

In 2003, Ryan partnered with Rick Schaden in Denver Colorado to focus on new concepts. He joined the Quiznos team as Chief Branding Officer and brought record-setting new sandwiches to the marketplace, like Steakhouse Beef Dip and the Prime Rib Sub.

In 2006, Ryan and Schaden set out to build new, disruptive concepts focused on the next generation of consumers. In 2007, Smashburger was born and has become an industry icon for quality, growth, and business acumen. Smashburger has been named twice by Forbes as “Americas Most Promising Company,” has won countless local awards for best burgers, and earned him a spot on Gourmet Magazine’s ” 25 Top Food Entrepreneurs of the Last 25 Years” list.

In 2012, Ryan and Schaden opened Tom’s Urban in downtown Denver, a full service, urban concept designed to provide multi-ethnic food, craft beers and cocktails, specifically focused on how modern consumers eat, drink, and socialize. This namesake concept opened its second site at LA Live, in the heart of resurgent LA. The third is now on the Las Vegas Strip

In 2013, Tom’s Live Basil Pizza, featuring organic/natural /authentic Neapolitan Pizza, served in fast casual style, debuted in Denver. This modern, cooked to order, 150-second bake pizza concept is focused on pizza for the next generation of pizza lovers.

Ryan lives with his wife Jody in Denver and Minneapolis, has three children spread across three continents, and thoroughly enjoys his empty nest status, spending time cooking, tasting wine, visiting restaurants, and thinking about his next concept.