Lenny "Tone" Goldberg grew up in 1950s Brooklyn harmonizing doo-wop and soul music on street corners, just like in the movies — and now, on KSKQ, he's revived the genres for his old show "Cruisin," which he started 35 years ago in Berkeley.
The owner of Ashland's CD or Not CD record shop, now in its 25th year, Goldberg has collected a huge library of LPs and 45 rpm records of doo-wop, soul, "girl groups" and other genres of the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, which he's digitizing for broadcast on his show.
Goldberg started "Cruisin" in 1971 on KPFA radio in Berkeley and also ran a record shop there, but after a rash of burglaries, chose life in Oregon and did the show in Eugene for a decade. He and his wife, Diana, eventually got tired of the cloudy skies of the Willamette Valley and moved to Ashland in 1986, opening the record shop as "Diana's." Goldberg's passion for indigenous, mid-20th century American music has taken him to every aspect of the business, including being lead singer in an a capella doo-wop group and recording the group's CDs. He's now forming a new group.
"I grew up singing in a doo-wop group on the streets — even would drive to other neighborhoods and join in with (African-American) guys singing blues and soul," says Goldberg. "I loved doing that, going down and hanging around with a bunch of guys. Back then, people automatically knew what to do. Today, definitely, it's a lot more work."
Goldberg, 62, knows that most of his radio audience will be older than 50 — and that, because rhythm-and-blues wasn't mainstream music in its heyday, many older folks will not have even heard much of what he plays.
His favorite genre? Doo-wop (the genre is synonymous with R&B to many), with some of his favorite groups being The Spaniels, The Moonglows and The Flamingos. The music blossomed in the pre-rock years of the 1940s in the big cities of the northeast, but you had to know which radio stations to go to — and his parents did, says Goldberg, so he was raised on it.
Another big influence, he says, was disc jockey Alan Freed, who broke R&B out of its niche and turned white youths onto both R&B and "rock-and-roll," a term he coined, with his New York radio show.
The demographic that remembers this revolutionary music is getting older, he notes, but it's all highly danceable and always has done well at fundraising for noncommercial radio stations such as KSKQ.
The show originally was called "Cruisin' with Lenny and Carl" — and Carl Stolz still is in Eugene, hosting the blues show. Goldberg, while in Eugene, also started "Modern Mono," featuring the then-new punk and New Wave music.
The revival of "Cruisin" in Ashland marks the return of Goldberg to the airwaves for the first time in 25 years.