I have a degree in broadcasting and journalism. In 1998, I decided to put my skills to the test and produce a radio program featuring Frankie Laine and his music. At that time, I was about a year into my career in state government at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.
The following story was taken from the book Reaching for a Star, which I published in 2005 about my Laine friendship and associations:
The Laine Project
I thought seriously about producing my own radio program featuring Frankie and his music. After all, I have a broadcasting degree. I’d mentioned my idea to Frankie in a previous letter. He wrote back letting me know he’d be glad to have me interview him for my radio program, and he granted me permission to call him anytime.
My idea was to showcase some of the recordings he’d made that were unfamiliar—fabulous tunes that never became as popular as some of his more frequently heard songs. My program would highlight Frankie at his best. I began writing a script, generating interest among various Iowa radio stations, and—most important—looking for a radio studio to produce the program. My friend Dan Boddicker helped me find a radio station—KROS in Clinton, Iowa. I contacted the station’s general manager, Don Schneider. Dan knew Don quite well and gave an excellent recommendation on my behalf.
I pitched the idea to Don in a letter. I explained that the recent death of Frank Sinatra was a warning that our “golden age” musical entertainers were rapidly becoming extinct. In my opinion, it was monumentally important to preserve an artist’s musical legacy—while the entertainer was still living. With so few of these special people still alive, we had to treasure the ones still here.
Don telephoned me, and I told him about my plans for a program regarding Frankie. He was overjoyed and figured the program would go over well with his listening audience.
As I started my script, I briefly explained Frankie’s history and updated listeners on his current career. I then thought about the songs I’d feature. I wanted to focus on the great music Frankie had recorded that was unfamiliar to most listeners. In order to come up with a list of songs to use, I considered Frankie’s array of feelings. I used song categories based upon certain feelings was the key I needed to tie the script together. I developed seven categories: rhythmical, emotional, dramatic, romantic, exciting, inspirational, and spiritual. These categories captured the essence of Frankie Laine.
I can’t think of any other singer who could be categorized in as many areas of passion. Most singers usually perform in one style. If they stray into other genres, for example cowboy songs, they still maintain the same sound and style. Frankie’s unique talent allowed for changes in style. He skillfully transformed himself into the type of singer listeners imagined should be singing a particular song. If he sang a cowboy tune, Frankie portrayed his voice on the canvas of the mind as a rugged or range-weary cowpoke. He made listeners believe he was the real thing. When he sang jazz, the cowboy disappeared altogether, and a jazz or blues singer emerged with as much truth and believability. It takes an amazing talent to accomplish such a feat. What a musical genius Frankie Laine is! The goal of my project was to convey this to the listening audience. “Project” seemed to be a marvelous description for the labor of love I was creating. I named the program The Laine Project.
I didn’t have all the Frankie Laine songs I wanted to use available on CD, so I also used both records and tapes from my collection. I arranged everything on audiocassette tape in the order I’d feature the material. I also compiled a list of Frankie’s gold records and, in chronological order, recorded snippets of each. I reasoned presenting Frankie’s familiar songs early in the program would help each listener develop an appreciation for the obscure Frankie Laine songs that would follow. Finally, I had a complete script.
I set up a date with the KROS radio station in October of 1998 to tape my program. When I arrived, Don brought me into a broadcast room. I went to work setting up my material and finalizing my script. “You do the announcing, and I’ll run the controls on the board,” Don instructed.
I’d called Frankie to set up an interview for that day. We’d record me interviewing him for insertion into the program. All was ready. I had arranged for two newspaper photographers from two area newspapers to arrive at the studio to take photographs of me talking into the radio microphone. (Reporters from both newspapers already had interviewed me.) It was my hope that this publicity would spur interest in listening to the program.
We were assembling my entire program on tape. I wanted it produced that way. I began by speaking over the intro to Frankie’s Columbia recording of “Wonderful, Wasn’t It?”:
Welcome to The Laine Project. I’m your host, Craig Cronbaugh. During this program, we’re featuring the wonderful music and vocal “stylings” of the wonderful Frankie Laine.
After the spoken introduction, the song played in its entirety. I telephoned Frankie at his home at the appointed time. He answered all my questions as Don recorded our conversation for the program. One of the most personal and touching moments for me was when I asked Frankie whether he’d dedicate one of his old recorded songs, “My Little One,” to my daughter, Latisha, from me. He was glad to oblige.
Others later criticized me for that move. Those cynics thought this manner of introducing a song was too personal and used for my own benefit. I did it as a sentimental dedication to my daughter. The dedication proved that Frankie was an approachable, caring man. What’s wrong with demonstrating love? After all, this was my time, talent, and money at work. It was my project. I’d written, produced, directed, and hosted it. I’d accomplished everything in order to highlight the career of the great entertainer Frankie Laine. “Love” is the key word. I love both the entertainer and his music. My utmost priority was to share this love with others. I never wanted nor received a dime for the production.
In my collection, I have two unreleased songs Frankie had recorded many years ago. One of the songs, “Brandy Dreams,” is one of my favorite Frankie Laine recordings. Since my production was to feature great Frankie Laine tunes seldom heard over the airwaves, I decided to include this particular song. I figured it would add even more value to my program. During my phone interview with Frankie, I asked his permission to include “Brandy Dreams.” He gladly gave his consent. He also answered a question regarding the song during the interview. I wanted to know why “Brandy Dreams” hadn’t been released, and he told me the record company that produced the song had folded.
Like any major project, something’s bound to go wrong, and my program was no exception. Frankie’s end of the telephone interview had recorded well. However, Don had recorded the volume on my voice too low. Unfortunately, since Don discovered it after my interview with Frankie had ended, it seemed nothing could remedy the situation. Our one alternative was to rerecord my questions and to attempt to make them sound the same as when I had been speaking directly to Frankie. It was difficult to do, not to mention an extremely time-consuming task, but somehow we made it work. The outcome was a clean studio question segment and a telephone reply by Frankie.
Don recorded The Laine Project on four reels of audiotape. After an exhausting day of recording the program, I drove home in a thunderstorm—tired but happy. A couple of days later, Don called and informed me that one of the reels of tape used for the program had been defective, and we would have to rerecord it. This news crushed me! There was no alternative. I had to reschedule studio time. I arranged with Don to redo that portion of the program.
Upon returning to KROS, I listened to some of the songs on the other tapes and decided to boost the audio by recording them again. In addition to performing the material on the one reel again, I also revamped the rest of the audio. Later, to my chagrin, I discovered one of the other reels had been used to capacity, thereby losing its ability to reproduce sound with full fidelity, and shouldn’t have been used for the program. Damn! This is becoming a nightmare! We should have used virgin tape!
The resulting audio on that particular reel of tape wasn’t as high quality as the other reels. In addition, there was a rather awkward volume drop within the program when that particular reel played. Small radio stations don’t have large budgets and therefore reuse their audiotapes.
Looking back, I should have bought new reels of tape for my program. Taking for granted that the station would assume responsibility for both the electronics and mechanics was a mistake.
The finished program ran approximately two hours. Don dubbed the entire project onto two cassette tape masters. I transported the tapes to a recording studio in Des Moines and paid to have the audio painstakingly edited and equalized through an elaborate computer system. The studio engineer burned the finished product onto two CDs. The Laine Project was complete.
The program aired three times on KROS and another time on KMAQ in Maquoketa, Iowa. I’d previously spoken with KMAQ station manager Leighton Hepker, and he’d agreed to air the program. Dan Boddicker also had informed KMAQ about my program. It was through Dan’s efforts that The Laine Project became a reality and entered the radio airwaves. The radio stations that aired my special program were small, but many people heard and enjoyed my production. I’d achieved my goal.
I mailed Frankie the front page of my script for The Laine Project to autograph for me. I also sent him copies of the CDs. When I called him after he’d had a chance to listen, Frankie was pleased and very appreciative. The program now belongs to the ages and occupies a special place within my Frankie Laine collection.