Cashbox Magazine U.S. Rolls A Lucky Seven

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

There was a time in the early days of my career in radio, we lived for the mags and charts to arrive to see what was getting played on the airwaves at other stations.  In Canada, RPM ruled, and it was a truly Canadian magazine, arriving with stories and charts to guide us. Stan Klees and Walt Grealis were the first to see the value of our own chart system.

As Music Directors, we watched for Billboard, Radio & Records, and Cash Box (as it was known as two names back then) to publish their charts, and that decided what American music we played. In AM, Rosalie Tremblay at CKLW was the guru of hits, and then if you could land CKGM, CHED, CKLG, CFUN, CFTR, etc. you had a hit. But it all started with the US Charts as the main influence, and thanks to Stan and Walt at RPM, then Record Week, Joey Cee’s baby followed, then Farrell and The Record would follow suit.

I would have no way of knowing back then that one day I would be an owner of the Canadian version of Cashbox and a shareholder in the U.S. ‘mother ship’. (Yes for the record, no pun intended, Cashbox Canada is owned and operated by Canadians. We recently celebrated four years of surviving in this ever changing business.)

Bruce ElrodBruce ElrodBut none of this would have been possible without the resurrection of Cashbox Magazine in the U.S. by one Bruce Elrod. Elrod, like many of us old school folks, has had many hats to wear in his five decade career, from record producer, manager, label owner, and then the guy that breathed life back into the name Cashbox.

In 2006, Cashbox Magazine was revived as an Internet-only magazine with the consent and cooperation of the family of George Albert, the late president and publisher of the original 1950’s edition. With the earmark of ‘lucky 7’ years (the US started back in 2006) we had a chance to talk to Bruce and get his take on what it means to him to see Cashbox shining once again, and how he views the ever changing music industry as it is today. 

How did the idea come about to bring Cashbox Magazine back?

“It started out as a joke in 2003 when Hank Williams Jr., Merle Kilgore (Epic) found out the name Cashbox Magazine was available and we drew straws. I won and for $ 6 I got the domain name. Then I just let it sit there for another 3 years. When Merle (Kilgore) found out he was dying, he said ‘it sure would be nice to see Cashbox back again before I go.’ Merle died in 2005 and sadly our first issue online was July 16 2006. We had only four categories and # 1 song listed.  After that we put a group together interested in bringing it back; there were a few of us at the time, Brendan Bailey, Chris Ballard did the inputting, then Randy Price did the archives. The first six months it just took off. Mike Peace came in a bit later  and did graphics and covers, celebrity interviews. Michael stayed on until illness gave him no choice but to retire. Aaron Everitt did the Charts when we started. Then he had a car accident and my son, Chris, took over the Charts. Then Chris had a bad accident and while he was recuperating, Aaron came back and did the Charts. Chris returned after much healing, and then we added Dustin McFadden to the team. We had Dave Lane doing all the archives, and then when he passed away, we were blessed to find Lee Vyborny, who has been a stable force ever since. Randy and Lee are still the backbones when it comes to keeping the history of Cashbox, and my son, Chris is the stable force behind the charts and new music.”

Where were you originally born and what were your early influences in music?

“I was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. My Dad was a butcher; I had two brothers, one is in Germany the other in Virginia.  We actually found out we had a half brother in our 40’s, so now there are three of us. When I was around 4 or 5 years old, my uncle, Charlie Walker, caught me throwing his 78’s in the air and shooting ‘em with a BB gun. After some ‘discussion’, I learned the respect of music and started listening to those 78’s instead. I went on to be an avid collector; the first 45 single I bought was ‘The Ballad of Davey Crockett’ (Fess Parker) for 39 cents. My Grandmother used to sing all those great old songs like ‘If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Have Baked a Cake’ (Eileen Barton) and Mockingbird Hill (Patti Page). I am a music fan through and through.”

Chris Elrod Brian O'Neil Terry and Garth Brooks 1990Chris Elrod Brian O'Neil Terry and Garth Brooks 1990

What was the first job you had?

I did a lot of different jobs. I was a social worker and after 12 years of listening to very sad cases, I was getting emotionally burned out. I dabbled in recording but then in 1986 we bought Darlington Record Shop for $ 5000 and called it Your Hit Parade Golden Oldies. We specialized in rare records, but then we realized stock would eventually get scarce. That was the beginning of Lost Gold Records. (and the end of the store.)

July 28 2006 Cashbox CoverJuly 28 2006 Cashbox CoverHow did you end up with a label and how did that help you with what you are doing today?
“In 1989, we had a singer on the label, Tony Sands who had charttoppers in Billboard and Cashbox. John O. Ehrenclou, who had a New York Yankee for a Dad and a Momma from Camden, South Carolina. John was my partner, and we went to New York City and bought up the Ernest Tubbs masters. It was pretty funny, I had never been to New York, we took the subway and ended up in Harlem. We also started a Mint Company (2001-2002). John passed away three years ago from a massive heart attack; you couldn’t have asked for a nicer guy to have as a partner. I still own a ton of masters from many artists. I am working on re-releasing or leasing them.”

Tell me about the current incarnation of Record World Magazine about a year ago and how you see Cashbox and Record World working together to promote indie artists?

“Just like Cashbox Magazine, we found out that the name Record World Magazine was up for grabs. We started a new website and it just took off. Cashbox and Record world are not competition for each other; they will actually work side by side to promote artists. Cashbox Magazine will still do the mainstream; charts and major artists. Record World Magazine will be focused on the indie artists and labels; this way the smaller artists will have a fighting chance. We are looking forward to getting involved in promoting indie music. We will be starting a Spotlight Series on both sites to give them a chance. We want to get the word out to artists that there is a place to promote themselves. Flat out – don’t give up.”

Roy Acuff and Bruce Elrod 1989Roy Acuff and Bruce Elrod 1989How important is radio and charts in today’s market ?

YouTube has changed the way we listen to music. Radio is still important – we still have reporting stations and are currently working with Digital Radio Tracker out of Houston, Texas to post valid charts. The key now is to do live performances, sell merchandise, and build your fan base. Get radio to notice you through all of that and your social media.”

What does the future hold for Cashbox Magazine?

We would like to offer an alternative way to promote yourself. We are similar but different than Billboard. The only difference is we went away for awhile. The dream is to bring it back to its original glory with a modern side to it. We would like eventually have a North American Award Show and a Cashbox Hall of Fame. It is time to honor the ones who paved the road in the first place.  It’s still all about the music – all about the song. There’s still real estate in the name Cashbox and I want the future generation to know the value of that.”

Cash Box Original Vintage LogoCash Box Original Vintage LogoThe music industry is like rolling the dice in Vegas; you think you are going to win, it feels right but you just never know. Cashbox Magazine U.S. rolled the dice and got a 7. So Happy Birthday Cashbox Magazine – and here’s to  many more years of making music history. After all, it has always been just about the music.