Normally, I have no patience for vinyl records that are divorced from their album jackets, but I once took a chance on three loose LPs – a transcription of a syndicated radio show from 1977 – and was richly rewarded. But only because I spent my first 28 years in Cincinnati and am intimately familiar with the city’s streetscape. It was almost as if my finding this particular item in a Berkeley Springs, West Virginia charity shop was divinely orchestrated as some sort of cosmic contest for this music-obsessed former Cincinnatian, for I had to wade through several hours of a broadcast of Ralph Emery‘s weekly radio show from January 24, 1977 to find this moment. And what a moment it is. But, again – only if you know the street layout of Cincinnati’s core business district.
Nine Songs About Her — Plus One About Cincinnati
On this particular episode of The Ralph Emery Show, Ralph’s special guest is Joe Stampley, who is promoting his latest album, Ten Songs About Her. At one point in the broadcast, Ralph wants to talk about the story behind the title of the song, “Apartment #4, Sixth Street & Cincinnati” with Stampley, who is completely unprepared for the ambush that awaits him. As it turns out, Ralph (and I, too) know that “Apartment #4, Sixth Street & Cincinnati” is a non-existent street address – mainly since there is no street by the name of Cincinnati anywhere within the city limits. But Stampley doesn’t know that.
Joe, who is from Springhill, Louisiana, innocently insists that the song title is the actual location of the girlfriend of a person connected to Norro Wilson, one of the tune’s main songwriters (so says Stampley – although according to this source, Bobby Braddock is the sole tunesmith). But, Ralph Emery doesn’t come right out and bust Joe. Nor does he exactly help Joe save face either. Instead, Emery slyly inquires, “You mean this would be, ‘Apartment #4, Sixth Street in Cincinnati’?” Stampley, however, pretends not to understand what Ralph is getting at and simply answers, “Right,” but you can tell that by now he is getting wind that the host is pricking his balloon with all the nitpicking over the song’s title. You can actually hear the air escaping. So much so that by the time you can hear him declare, “It’s kind of a clever idea, I think” over the opening strains of the song, Joe is audibly deflated – and sadly unconvincing. It’s a fascinating moment, and one that illustrates why radio is a rare medium when it’s well done.
[Click on the triangle above to hear Ralph Emery grill Joe Stampley about the song title, “Apartment #4, Sixth Street & Cincinnati“]