Not many questions get a vibrant dialogue going quite like “What kind of music do you like?”So says comedic performer and longtime radio personality Rick Dees. He’s one of eight inductees who will be honored Oct. 17 in Kannapolis, as the N.C. Music Hall of Fame enshrines a new set of music legends with roots in or connections to North Carolina.“It’s a great question, because almost everyone likes music,” said Dees, whose No. 1 internationally syndicated radio show, The Rick Dees Weekly Top 40, has attracted more than 70 million listeners in virtually every city in the U.S. and 125 other countries. “It could be country, pop, R&B, hip-hop, punk, but no matter what it is, that question always starts a very fruitful conversation.”The fifth annual semiformal event will be at Restaurant Forty Six and The Gem Theatre in Kannapolis. Limited VIP tickets include a cocktail reception and inductee meet-and-greetbefore guests and inductees walk the red carpet from the restaurant to the theater. Event organizers expect hundreds to attend. The event will include live music by some of this year’s inductees, all of whom were either born or raised in North Carolina. Aside from Dees, Tony Brown, The Catalinas and Willie Weeks are expected to attend; others have not been confirmed, according to organizers. Since the 1980s, Dees has broadcast more than 2,000 countdowns. Raised in Greensboro, the 63-year-old has been named Billboard’s Radio Personality of the Year 10 years in a row. He has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame, according to his background information.Dees entered the international entertainment arena in the late 1970s, when he wrote and recorded “Disco Duck,” which sold 6 million copies, earned a People’s Choice Award and the BMI Award for record sales in one year. Cabarrus News caught up with Dees Oct. 7, shortly after he finished broadcasting his four-hour Daily Dees show (the one-hour version and more are at Rick.com). He answered some questions in honor of the upcoming induction ceremony. Q: Why did you get involved in the music business? A: When I was 8 years old, I fell in love with music, listening to songs on the radio. At age 10, I entered a talent contest at Sternberger Elementary in Greensboro … and I sang a song and did comedy. It was an old song by The Coasters, called ‘Along Came Jones.’ I sang in front of the entire student body, about 800 students … and performed a sax solo on my tiny silver saxophone. I was a fat little kid in the fourth grade, and they laughed and they laughed. But I actually came in first in the talent contest by doing comedy and music, so I figured if I could stay with comedy and music, maybe there’s a place for me somewhere. Q: What’s your earliest music memory?A song one of my sisters played for me called ‘Witch Doctor’,’ by a guy named David Seville. I think it went to No. 1, but I didn’t hear it until the 1960s. It had the greatest hook of all time ... and as a kid, you were the star of the class if you memorized that and sang it to everybody. Probably that and ‘Hound Dog’ by Elvis Presley. Q: Why do you think pop music evolved from the more subtle sexual innuendos of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” to the more blatant themes in pop songs today, and how do you feel about it? A: I think it’s mirrored the culture, and you can see certain times when it changed. I’m not saying we gave ourselves permission, but I think MTV was the biggest sea change of all.… Madonna was a massive change. When she started breaking the rules, then it gave the next generation a chance to break the rules, and whether it’s good or bad, that’s up to each person’s own judgment. I’m not here to judge. I’m just here to play the hits. Q: If you were to take readers on a voyage through North Carolina music history, who would you visit first, and what other stops would you make along the way? A: I would start with the oldest, most incredible mountain range in the world. I’d take them to the Blue Ridge Parkway – the longest continuously running park in America – and say, ‘There’s only one kind of music that you should start out listening to as we travel this park: It’s bluegrass music, done in the original form, with that perfect family harmony.’Then I would move to the amazing R&B performers … guys like Jerry “The Iceman” Butler and even groups like (Doug Clark and) the Hot Nuts.… It was wonderful R&B that had a flavor of beach to it.… Then I would say, ‘Now let’s go over to Charlotte and watch for the first time as Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner perform ‘Martha White Self-Rising Flour,’ as part of ‘The Arthur Smith Show’ and ‘The Grand Old Opry.’ All the flavors of bluegrass and country and R&B really make North Carolina one of those rare states where we get to experience all kinds of music from all kinds of wonderfully gifted performers. Q: What’s been the favorite moment of your career? A: The first favorite moment was when I became an Eagle Scout in Greensboro.… The second was in 1975, when I wrote songs and submitted them to Stax Records. In 1976 I recorded ‘Disco Duck’ and it sold 6 million copies. (Record label co-founder) Estelle Axton paid for half, and I paid for half, and it cost $800 to record the entire song with strings and horns and everything. That was my favorite because … I was able to perform it in L.A. and Hollywood, and through those shows I was able to get some contacts going and eventually end up where I am today. Q: Is there anything you never told anyone in an interview? A: Let me think. Yes: I love to bake desserts, and I use lard in my pie crust recipe along with real butter, and I’ve never told anybody because they’re all health freaks around here. That’s why we have perfected the best Chef Boyardee’s pie crust. Use lard; that’s the secret.
Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
New N.C. Music Hall of Fame inductee Rick Dees discusses his career
Want to go? What: The N.C. Music Hall of Fame’s 2013 Induction Ceremony will include a VIP cocktail reception and inductee meet-and-greet at Restaurant Forty Six. Guests and inductees will walk the red carpet from the restaurant to the Gem Theatre after the reception. When: 6 p.m. Oct. 17; ceremony to begin at 7:15 p.m. Where: Restaurant Forty Six, 101 West Ave., Kannapolis; The GEM Theatre, 111 West 1st St., Kannapolis. Cost: $25 general admission; $65 for VIP reception and ceremony. Details: 704-934-2320 or northcarolinamusichalloffame.org.
Meet the inductees The 2013 N.C. Music Hall of Fame inductees: • Grady Tate, jazz drummer on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” was born in Durham. • Rick Dees, a longtime radio personality known for the novelty song “Disco Duck,” was raised in Greensboro. • Willie Weeks, bass guitarist for Eric Clapton and others, was born in Salemburg. • Tony Brown, a musician and country record producer who worked with George Strait, Reba McIntyre, Vince Gill and Jimmy Buffet, was born in Greensboro but grew up in Walkertown. • John P. Kee, a gospel recording artist and pastor of New Life Community Church in Charlotte, was born in Durham. • Alicia Bridges, known for her hit “I Love the Nightlife,” was born Charlotte but grew up in Lawndale. • The Catalinas, R&B/beach recording artists known for the songs “Summertime’s Calling Me” and “Your Haven’t the Right,” have original members from Charlotte and Statesville. • Country recording artist Del Reeves, known for the song “Girl on the Billboard,” was born in Sparta. He died in 2007. Inductees Brown, Dees, The Catalinas and Willie Weeks are scheduled to attend the induction ceremony Oct. 17; others haven’t been confirmed.
Rick Dees Rick Dees lives in Toluca Lake, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. His wife, Julie, is an accomplished comedienne with numerous credits, including voicing several Smurfs and Casper, the Friendly Ghost. Julie has performed her stand-up comedy for audiences around the world, and she’s a regular on Rick’s radio shows. Their son, Kevin, is president of creative development for Dees Entertainment Inc. and is himself a radio and TV host.
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