Cousin Brucie has a Book out


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THERE'S A PHOTO of legendary radio disc jockey "Cousin Brucie" Morrow from way back in the day, emceeing a show at the now-defunct Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County.

The photo is circa the early '60s, circa you hadda be there.

That is, you hadda be one of the hundreds of kids in attendance to see a grown man dressed in a leopard-skin tuxedo seemingly from the Fred Flintstone Collection for Men.

Unlike Fred, Cousin Brucie is wearing shoes. The shoes, too, have leopard spots.

All these years later, here are two questions for the Cuz: Where did you get the tux? What were you thinking?

"I always wanted to be different, even as a child," he says in a recent phone interview. "When I started emceeing shows at the Palisades, I found a seamstress in the Bronx. I told her I'd like to have something different in a tuxedo. I didn't want to wear what everybody else wore. So I had all kinds of different tuxes made, different colors, in order to get the public's eye."

He's still trying to get the public's eye with that leopard-skin tux. The photo is included in his latest book, "Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era" (Sterling; $24.95).

Morrow will embark on a book-signing tour that brings him to New Jersey for three dates: Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at Bookends in Ridgewood; Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at Mendham Books in Mendham; and Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Ocean County Library in Toms River.

Written with Rich Maloof, "Doo Wop" is a coffee-table-sized, 350-page sha-la-la-palooza of close-order, street-corner harmony; nonsense syllables you could dance to; hair Brylcreemed or Aqua-Netted into topiary statues; saddle shoes, bobby socks and blue jeans.

More than 100 groups are represented with photos and profiles. There's also a "Doo Wop Dictionary"; a foreword by onetime teen idol Neil Sedaka; and interviews with Dion DiMucci, Brenda Lee, Ben E. King and others.

What's more, Morrow and Maloof put doo wop into proper context. They explore popular culture, history, politics and social forces not only during the music's heyday in the '50s and early '60s, but in the years before and after.

For Morrow, the years before can mean four centuries' worth.

"All the basic elements of music as we enjoy it today were there in African music over 400 years ago," he writes in the book.

Over the phone, he adds, "I'm not a scholar, but you cannot do an entertaining book without showing the development of music, the development of culture over time. Every musical genre depends on a generation or two before it."

Let's stop here for a question.

Doo wop, most often performed by vocal groups comprising three, four or five members, came from the same neighborhood as R&B and early rock 'n' roll, but it also co-opted and juked up standards from the Great American Songbook.

Consider these vocal group classics: The Platters' "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"; the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You"; the Duprees' "You Belong to Me"; the Marcels' "Blue Moon"; Dion and the Belmonts' "Where or When."

Which is the only song written after World War II?

"You Belong to Me."

Back to the Cuz. He sees doo wop as an endangered species increasingly ignored by too many "oldies" radio stations.

"I've spent my life promoting and exhibiting the music of the '50s and '60s, and I am extremely fearful that this part of our culture is going to disappear," he says. "It is deserving of this book, this tome, as someone called it; yes, it is. (Doo wop) is so much a part of our daily lives, the fabric of our lives. This music is being dissed by many, many radio stations because it's quote 'too old.' They don't know what they're talking about."

One of the big mack daddies of New York pop music radio, a member of the Radio Hall of Fame, he's been talking and talking seemingly since the transistor was invented.

Born Bruce Meyerowitz in Brooklyn a little more than 70 years ago, he joined WINS in the late '50s. Later, he moved to WABC, where he emerged as a larger-than-life personality, one who had the honor of introducing the Beatles at the group's era-defining 1965 concert at Shea Stadium.

In 1974, he wound up at WNBC. Several years later, he became a partner in the Sillerman Morrow group of radio stations, which included WRAN in Randolph.

In 1982, he joined WCBS-FM, where he stayed until 2005, when the station changed formats from oldies to more contemporary music. Morrow rebounded by signing with Sirius satellite radio, where he spins oldies and has a talk show with a nationwide reach.

Recently, he got a phone call on-air from a guy in North Dakota.

"He said, 'Holy (bleep), you're still alive,'" recalls Morrow. "This guy had left Hackensack, N.J., 25 years ago and mine had been the last voice (from New York) he heard when he left."