In 1971, I'm back to square one - broke. I caught a break, sort of, when my Editor of Pop Music Survey, Harv Moore, got the Program Director's job at 50,000 watt radio station WPGC. Harv, who remains one of my best friends and is shown here in a recent picture, had to resign as my Editor because it was a conflict of interest, so I saved having to pay his salary. Now I was the Publisher as well as the Editor of Pop Music Survey. The magazine struggled along barely making it. The only way I could keep the Survey alive was with the help of my wife Ora Mae, who had to continue working full time to keep me publishing.
In 1973, I decided I had to do something high profile, take a gamble and roll the dice for all or nothing. Again it was Lelan Rogers to the rescue. Lelan was in D.C. with his brother, Kenny Rogers (shown here), who at that time had a big hit group Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. Lelan said he wanted me and Kenny to meet, so I met them at the Mayflower Hotel for breakfast. I told them that Pop Music Survey was dying on the vine. But I had an idea to make the Survey a major player in the Radio/Record business. I wanted to throw a Seminar like the Country Music Seminar in Nashville that had turned into a monstrous success. I explained to Kenny how I had been forced to give up that Seminar because I didn't have the income from Soul Music Survey to keep it going. I said I wanted to have a Pop Music Convention and Seminar, including a celebrity golf tournament. Kenny said he thought that it was a great idea and then asked what was stopping me. I said I needed $1,000 to buy a full-page add in Billboard, the top industry trade magazine.
I knew I could reach the music industry nationally. My gamble was if the industry came to the Convention and golf tournament, I had a home run...if not, I would be a laughingstock and go out of business. Kenny Rogers said go for it and wrote me a check for $1,000 on the spot. Kenny also told me to put him and the First Edition in the golf tournament. I advertised the Pop Music Convention and, to my joyful surprise, the industry responded. Neil Bogart of Buddah Records called me and asked if I needed a Master of Ceremonies. I said I did. He told me he had a new comedy album coming out by Robert Klein (pictured here). I said, "You got it!" Danny Sims, Johnny Nash's manager, told me to put him and Johnny in the golf tournament. At that time, Johnny Nash's recording of "I Can See Clearly Now" was the #1 record in the country. Needless to say, with Kenny Rogers and Johnny Nash and Robert Klein involved, the Convention and golf tournament took off like a rocket.
After my 1973 Pop Music Convention, I went on to have twenty-four more successful Conventions, until I retired in 1996. The picture of me shown here is from my final Convention. During those years "The Poe Convention" was considered a "do not miss" affair. Unfortunately also during those years, cocaine and a wide variety of other drugs were running rampant not only in the music industry, but in society in general. That's basically the era where the phrase, "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll" was coined. Back in my performing days, doctors would hand out amphetamines like candy and that was the extent of my drug use.
My son Bobby Poe, Jr. joined me as my partner in 1979. The Convention was slowly petering out and had grown predictable. To add some pizazz to the Conventions we decided to start a "Ms. Pop Music" Beauty Contest. We had Tramps - the legendary club in Georgetown owned by my good friend Michael O'Harro - enter 15 beauties as contestants and we had five heavyweight radio programmers choose the winner. We also invited ladies from a local singles club to our giant cocktail parties. When you mix beautiful women and male radio and record executives together, you have a very exciting but combustible situation.
My biggest worry, with drugs and women in the mix, was that one of our Convention registrants would get busted. If this were to happen it would put us out of the Convention business, as well as cripple our Pop Music Survey, not to mention mess up some lives. Sex and drugs had become the currency of the music business, especially among record promoters. However, for the most part, everyone involved was a responsible adult. There was also an industry code where people would watch out for one another and try to keep them from falling over the edge. Looking back, it seems hard to believe how blatant the drug use was. But the bottom line was that if you couldn't perform your job, you were history.
As the Conventions progressed, they were like a class reunion each year. We also had to become more professional as the record labels became more "corporate". Last, but not least, extremely talented and high level women record executives such as Polly Anthony and Andrea Ganis began to support us, so we wanted to make the the Conventions less "Good Ol' Boy" oriented. My son and I took great pains to come up with interesting Keynote Speakers, such as Howard Cosell and Larry King. Even so, the atmosphere at The Poe Conventions was still more relaxed than at the other Conventions. And we liked to think that ALL attendees could voice their opinions amongst their peers and actually be listened to.
When I look back, there are many Convention highlights that stand out in my mind. In 1973 it was Robert Klein's monologue; in 1976 it was Carol Channing's monologue; 1977 it was Jimmy Buffett's live performance; in 1983 it was a monologue by Eddie Murphy (shown here); in 1989 it was a live performance by The Moody Blues; in 1990 it was Howard Cosell's Keynote Address; in 1991 it was a solo piano performance by Bruce Hornsby; in 1992 it was Larry King's Keynote Address; in 1993 it was John Mellencamp's live performance; and in 1995 it was Crowded House performing live.
My most vivid memory, however, is of our 1985 convention with Don Imus as Master of Ceremonies. I specifically asked him not to do any ethnic jokes, as we had a variety of ethnic groups in our audience. If you knew Imus this was a huge mistake on my part. Imus took the stage and proceeded to roast all nationalities. The waiters and waitresses were in the process of serving our meals, but they took offense to Imus' jokes and they all walked out refusing to serve. It was not that big a deal to our audience of radio and record executives since they all understood that this was just Imus' schtick. However, the waiters and waitresses had no understanding at all of what had just transpired. It cost me $15,000 for the meals anyway, and I still never got anything to eat.
I must say that I have had one tremendous ride in my fifty years of show business. I'm grateful I was able to retire and leave the business on my own terms. I have met, known, dined with, and/or received one of my 103 Gold Records from some of the greatest celebrities in the world, including Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John (pictured top right), Oprah Winfrey, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Howard Cosell, Larry King, David Geffen, Clive Davis, Doug Morris, Don Ienner, Charles Koppelman, Richard Palmese, Frank Dileo, Ron Alexenburg, Jim Schwartz, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard (pictured bottom right), Roosevelt Grier, Jim Brown, James Brown (pictured top left), Celine Dion, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Rogers, Carol Channing, Johnny Cash, Ricky Nelson, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, Patrick Swayze (pictured bottom left with RCA's Lisa Velasquez and my executive assistant Bonnie Rollison), and Jimmy Connors, to drop a few names. It truly was "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll"!
Here is the front cover of the final issue of Pop Music Survey, issue #1,323. It shows Dolly Parton and myself from an early Convention.
Here is the back cover of the final issue of Pop Music Survey. The "Heads" of Mercury Records' Promotion Staff at the time, (left to right: David Leach, Steve Ellis and Tony Smith) got creative and had their heads superimposed on the heads of The Poe Kats.
One of my favorite pictures from a Poe Convention is from 1976. It shows me, Shelby Singleton (Owner of Sun Records) and our Mistress of Ceremonies that year Carol Channing.
Another of my favorite pictures from a Poe Convention is with Cyndi Lauper, my wife Ora Mae and my son Bobby, Jr.