Buddy Deane and 21223

Written by Bob Mathers

IN THE 1950’S AND EARLY 60’S, BALTIMOREANS TENDED TO EMBRACE LOCAL ICONS MORE SO THAN NATIONAL STARS. A NUMBER OF THESE IMPORTANT FIGURES REMAINED IN THE PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS LONG AFTER THEY LEFT THE SCENE.

IN SPORTS, BROOKS ROBINSON, JOHNNY UNITAS, LENNY MOORE AND JIM GENTILE WERE COUNTED IN THAT GROUP. THIS WAS NO LESS SO IN LOCAL RADIO AND TV. CHUCK THOMPSON, JACK WELLS, HOT ROD, JACK GALE, JOHNNY DARK AND JERRY TURNER BECAME BIG STARS.  ONE PERSON THOUGH, STOOD OUT AS THE BIGGEST ONE OF ALL.

HIS NAME WAS BUDDY DEANE.

FROM THE TIME I ARRIVED ON BRUNSWICK STREET IN DECEMBER 1957 UNTIL A MONTH PAST MY 6TH BIRTHDAY, BUDDY’S DAILY TELEVISION SHOW ON CHANNEL 13 FEATURED THE TOP HITS AND DANCES OF EARLY ROCK N’ ROLL. DEANE WOULD ALSO TAKE THE SHOW TO PLACES AROUND THE CITY LIKE MILFORD MILL SWIM CLUB AND MONDAWMIN MALL. BUT POOR LITTLE NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE 21223 WERE NOT GRACED WITH THESE EVENTS. EVEN SO, A GENERATION OF WESTSIDE TEENAGERS IDENTIFIED WITH BUDDY AND THE KIDS WHO DANCED ON HIS SHOW. THEY WERE POPULARLY KNOWN AS ‘THE COMMITTEE’. YOU DIDN’T NEED A LOT OF MONEY OR CONNECTIONS. HE WAS AS CLOSE AS YOUR BLACK AND WHITE TV.

IN THE MID 90’S I WAS INVOLVED WITH MANAGING A RADIO STATION IN BALTIMORE CALLED W-I-T-H. IT IS THE ONE WHERE BUDDY DID A MORNING SHOW FOR MORE THAN 6 YEARS BEFORE MOVING OVER TO TELEVISION IN SEPTEMBER OF ’57.

IN 1995, THE STATION WAS NOT DOING WELL. THEN SOMEONE TOLD ME DEANE WOULD BE IN THE AREA SO IN AN EFFORT TO GET SOME ATTENTION FOR THE STATION, I CAME UP WITH THE IDEA TO INTERVIEW BUDDY WHEN HE CAME TO TOWN TO DJ A FUNDRAISER SOCK HOP. WE MET, SPENT ABOUT 25 MINUTES RECORDING HIS COMMENTS, AND I LEFT.  

HE CALLED ME THE FOLLOWING WEEK THANKING ME FOR THE CHANCE TO INTERVIEW AND COULD I SEND HIM A COPY. I DID SO…AND AT THAT POINT…A GREAT FRIENDSHIP WAS BORN.

ONE YEAR LATER, WE CAME UP WITH A BIG PROMOTION THAT BROUGHT ALL THE OLD GUYS BACK AND DREW MORE THAN 3,000 PEOPLE DOWN TO EASTPOINT MALL. RONNIE DOVE SANG, JACK EDWARDS SPUN RECORDS, THE COMMITTEE DID THE MADISON, AND ALL FOUR TV STATIONS PLUS MICHAEL OLESKER GAVE US HUGE PUBLICITY. IT WAS SO SUCCESSFUL THAT I WAS ABLE TO CONVINCE THE OWNER TO LET US CHANGE THE FORMAT TO OLDIES. AND THEN, WE HIRED BUDDY DEANE AND BROUGHT HIM BACK TO DO A WEEKEND SHOW ON W-I-T-H FROM 1996 TO 1997 WHEN THE STATION WAS SOLD.

NOW I WANT TO BE THE FIRST TO SAY I AM NO BUDDY DEANE, BUT HE AND I WERE VERY MUCH ALIKE PERSONALITY WISE AND ONE THING THAT BOUND US TOGETHER WAS OUR INTEREST IN CURRENT EVENTS, HISTORY, POLITICS, AND OF COURSE…RADIO AND RECORDS. WHEN HE CAME TO TOWN FOR ANY OF THE MORE THAN 40 DANCES (PROBABLY MORE LIKE 50 DANCES) WE WORKED ON TOGETHER, THOSE WEEKENDS WOULD INVOLVE LONG CONVERSATIONS ABOUT LIFE IN GENERAL. MANY TIMES UNTIL 3 OR 4 IN THE MORNING.

THIS MAN HAD MORE ENERGY THAN ANYONE I HAVE EVER KNOWN. KEEP IN MIND HE WAS IN HIS 70’S DURING THIS TIME. IF I COULD HAVE STAYED UP LONGER, WE WOULD HAVE KEPT IT GOING. NEEDLESS TO SAY, I LEARNED A LOT AND ENJOYED THEM ALL.

ONE SUCH GET TOGETHER HAPPENED IN 21223. BACK IN THE FALL OF 2001. BUDDY HAD COME TO TOWN TO HOST A SOCK HOP. I WAS LIVING BY MYSELF AT THE FAMILY HOME AT 506 BRUNSWICK STREET. I OFFERED TO GET HIM TO A HOLIDAY INN BUT HE ASKED TO STAY AT BRUNSWICK STREET BECAUSE HIS MEDICINE WAS RUNNING LOW AND HE DIDN’T WANT TO INCONVENIENCE ME BY RUNNING TO TIMONIUM WHERE HE NORMALLY RESIDED WHILE IN TOWN. HE DEPENDED ON ME FOR A FEW THINGS. IN MANY RESPECTS, HE WAS LIKE A FATHER AND WE MADE SURE HE WAS TAKEN CARE OF WHEN IN TOWN. I PROMISED HIS WIFE HELEN THAT WE WOULD DO SO.

I GAVE HIM THE BACK UPSTAIRS ROOMAT 506. HAD NO AIR CONDITIONING IN THAT HOUSE, JUST A FAN, BUT HE STAYED IN LATE FALL SO HUMIDITY WAS NOT AN ISSUE. HAD THIS BEEN SUMMER, HE WOULD HAVE DEALT WITH STIFLING HEAT, AN INEFFECTIVE FAN, AND THE FRAGRANT SMELL OF GWYNNS FALLS WAFTING IN THE BACK WINDOW.

THE FIRST NIGHT HE WAS THERE, WE WERE JOINED BY TWO FRIENDS OF OURS, WBAL RADIO NEWSMAN JOHN PATTI AND BROADCAST COLLECTOR AND DISC JOCKEY JOE EVELIUS. THE FOUR OF US SAT IN THE LIVING ROOM FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS HEARING BUDDY TELL STORIES AND THEN WE WATCHED ABOUT 25 MINUTES OF COLOR FILM FROM A 1958 BUDDY DEANE SHOW THAT ONE OF THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS FILMED BEHIND THE SCENES. BUDDY’S COMMENTS ADDED MUCH. HE HAD A RAZOR SHARP MEMORY.

BUDDY DEANE RATHER LIKED BRUNSWICK STREET AND FOUND WESTSIDE TO BE IN HIS WORDS ,’A LOT LIKE THE OLD BALTIMORE I KNEW WHEN I CAME HERE’. I DROVE HIM AROUND ALL OF THE STREETS OF 21223 AND POINTED OUT LANDMARKS AND SUCH. EVEN THEN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WAS IN THE DESCENDING THROES OF BLIGHT AND DETERIORATION, BUT REMEMBER, BUDDY LOOKED AT THINGS WITH A HISTORICAL EYE. HE UNDERSTOOD.

I THINK BACK TO THAT NIGHT ON BRUNSWICK STREET. WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I WOULD SIT IN THAT SAME UPSTAIRS BACK BEDROOM PLAYING SISTER LYNDA’S SCRATCHY 45’S ON A LITTLE RECORD PLAYER AND ANNOUNCE THEM USING A PENCIL AS A MICROPHONE. I EMULATED BUDDY, BUT NEVER THOUGHT I’D EVER GET TO MEET HIM. I MEAN, C’MON, I WAS JUST A KID.

HOW COOL WAS IT THAT 40 YEARS LATER, THE MAN HIMSELF CAME TO STAY IN THAT VERY SAME HOUSE AND BUNK UP IN THAT BACK BEDROOM.  IT WAS SURREAL…AND I LOVED IT.