Joe Santangelo: Six Decades Of Rock, R&B And All That Jazz

Jul 19, 2017

For six decades, the Santangelos have brought us the greatest names in R&B, rock and jazz – the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, the Grateful Dead and ZZ Top.

Joe Santangelo helped older brother Dino with the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival here in the 1960s and '70s, which morphed into the annual R&B weekend concerts at Riverfront Stadium and Paul Brown Stadium. They also helped accommodate rock and comedy stars performing at Cincinnati Gardens, Music Hall and the Taft Theatre.  Since Dino's death in 1986, Joe has produced and promoted the annual summer R&B concerts.

Oh, the stories Joe Santangelo can tell!

And you'll hear them in my one-hour interview called "Joe Santangelo: Six Decades of Rock, R&B And All That Jazz." It airs 11 p.m. Saturday, July 22, and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 23, on WVXU-FM and WMUB-FM.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Rock band demands at Cincinnati Gardens:  "We were the talent 'handlers' for Belcan Productions' rock concerts at Cincinnati Gardens. Did I take all the brown M&Ms out of the bag? Yes… Sometimes I'd spend a whole day ahead out shopping. The Grateful Dead came here the day after Thanksgiving one year in the 1970s, and wanted a complete turkey dinner for 75 people with all the trimmings." And then they tried to cancel the order the day of the show!

Driving jazz pianist Dave Brubeck to the airport: "He had a little carry-on that looked like a lady's large handbag, and he was going for a month. He said, "Oh, I've got it all figured out. I do my own wash, and I get my suit pressed once in a while.' The bigger container he had held all of his music."

Blind entertainer Ray Charles:  "I fumbled into the dressing room at Music Hall in the dark and I said, 'Oh, I'll get the lights on for you in a second.' And he laughed."

New Kids On The Block:  In early 1990, Santangelo got a call from New York promoters planning a national arena tour for New Kids On The Block. They wanted to test a stadium setting, and asked Santangelo to book Riverfront Stadium.

"On March 17, we put the tickets on sale for $25 each. They were very nervous… We sold 38,000 tickets that morning and they immediately switched over the entire tour to stadiums. We ended up having 52,000 people here."

ZZ Top: The rockers' contract "rider" required 10 bottles of very expensive vintage wine. Santangelo could only find eight. When he asked which bottle they wanted open before the concert, "they pulled out a big case and put the bottles in it. They said, 'We're just stocking our cellars back home. We don't drink this stuff now!' They put the bottles away, and drank Coke all night."

Gallagher, the comedian who smashed watermelons on stage: "My son had to go to Kroger and buy three shopping carts of fruits and vegetables."

Usher, Cincinnati Music Festival headliner July 29: "I've never had an artist of this stature before, and it's definitely paying off…. This year already surpasses last year. We could have 40,000 people each night."  (The Cincinnati Music Festival  line-up includes Mary J. Blige, KEM, SWV, En Vogue and Bell Biv Devoe on Friday, July 28; and Usher, Fantasia, Anthony Hamilton, Confunkshun and Ro James on Saturday July 29.  About 80 percent of the audience comes from out of town, with half coming from the Chicago area, he says.)

You'll also hear stories about Linda Ronstadt, Luther Vandross, Richard Pryor, Joe Cocker, Miles Davis, Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, George Carlin, Charlie Wilson and Mandy Patinkin on the special produced by Lee Hay, with technical assistance from Elaine Spears.

"Joe Santangelo: Six Decades of Rock, R&B And All That Jazz" airs 11 p.m. Saturday, July 22, and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 23, on WVXU-FM and WMUB-FM.