Who Is Don Val?
Updated: Nov 23, 2019
“Who is Don Val?” is a question I have been asking myself (and anyone who will listen) for the past 30 years. The problem is, I am only of two people in the world (more on that later) who even knows he exists. But as you will soon find out, Don Val may not even exist and could possibly someone by the name of Eddie Murray. Which then begs the question, “Who Is Eddie Murray?”. You may want to take a listen to this podcast before reading on...
By now I am sure you are thoroughly confused. Join the club and welcome to an obsession I have had for three decades. It's a confusing story because there are so little known facts. However there is one significant clue and that is a cassette tape that I have held on to over the years and cherished as much as any other material possession I have owned.
Everything you are about to read and hear is absolutely true. This is not a joke. It is important that you understand this to fully appreciate “Who Is Don Val?” in a way that movie lovers have appreciated Ed Wood films for the past 50 years. In fact, after you listen to this show, you will agree that Don Val (Eddie Murray?) is the Ed Wood of music and the Neil Armstrong of podcasting.
The Back Story
It was 1981 and I was living in Brooklyn. As you can imagine, New York is an incredible radio market. There are numerous stations that cover every genre of music that's imaginable. One of those stations was WHBI 105.9 which broadcast out of Newark NJ. Being a first generation Italian, one of my earliest memories was listening to the Italian music that my parents would tune into on Sunday mornings. The show catered to the large Italian immigrant community in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It was all Italian (music, news and commercials). It never dawned on me as a child that this wasn't another hot radio format like top 40 or easy listening. I had no idea till years later that we were in fact listening to a leased access radio show. WHBI's signal wasn't as strong as the other stations in New York which made it a perfect station to lease it's time. For a few hundred dollars, just about anyone could buy their way on the air. Due to the fact that most of the leased shows were in a foreign language, it was difficult to appreciate the DIY amateur feel of these home grown shows. It was only until that fateful summer night in 1981 did I hit the jackpot in the “so bad it's incredible” entertainment sweepstakes. For I not only encountered a “home made” radio broadcast that was incredibly bad, it also consisted of some of the worse music that has even been committed to tape. Now keep in mind, I know that my little podcast (and many other ones clogging the internet) are not exactly high end radio productions. But the spirit of these podcasts is all about avid music fans sharing their favorite music with the world while imparting some background information on the artists and the songs. When you hear the Don Val Show, you will be hearing something that transcended amateur and it transcended bad. It truly is the best radio show, podcast and finest piece of unintentional entertainment that I have ever heard.
It’s an absolute miracle that a tape even exists for the Don Val show. It was 3am and I was driving home to Brooklyn from Manhattan when I stumbled onto WHBI. I would often stop by there in the late hours because there were several leased access specialty shows that I found interesting. There was a Do Wop radio show hosted by a concert promoter and a great reggae show (that was actually sampled on the Clash’s “Sandinista” album). The first thing I heard when I settled on the station was some weird kind of old style country music with an older sounding announcer speaking in an accent that sounded like it was from another planet. I was immediately intrigued and for the next half hour was completely transfixed by this radio show which was hosted by someone by the name of Don Val. He was playing (and constantly talking over) the music of someone by the name of Eddie Murray. The odd thing is that it was pretty obvious that Don and Eddie were one in the same. I’m thinking, this guy is a genius! He’s playing his own music but he’s pretending he’s a DJ playing all of these great songs. The fact that the music was some of the absolute worst music I have ever heard only made the show even more fascinating. The music was so unique (and uniquely bad) that I would have to put it in a class by itself. It sounded like swing country with some calypso. Eddie would have a hard time keeping up with the music and Don would be shouting out things like “watch it now” as if he was encouraging Eddie along. All the while, a trumpet from hell was blaring in the background as if were playing an entirely different song…sometimes it sounded like the trumpet was tuning up while the songs were playing. Even the times when Don broke the “all Eddie Murray” format on the show, the results were surreal. He did this incredible little dialogue while Diana Ross was singing “God Bless The Child”, he offered sage advice to Shirley Bassey at the end of “What I Did For Love” and plays what is absolutely the worst singing performance of all time by someone named Yvonne Corderoy “singing” a song called “Montreal Canada Blues”. Meanwhile, every two minutes, there’s another Eddie Murray song even worse than the one before. He’s playing/singing a new dance craze song “Stepping High Dance”…he’s doing what he thinks is rock with a song called “Rock And Roll Baby” and even manages to work in a salute to New York (“My New York”)….and all of this is taking place within a half hour. Then just as fast as it came on it was off the air. I sat at a traffic light under the El on 86th street in Brooklyn stunned and incredibly sad that I had just “ear-witnessed” the most incredible 30 minutes of entertainment and had nothing to show for it. How could I ever recreate what I had just heard and share it with people without having the actual show? Any description of it, no matter how detailed could ever do it justice. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 4am. I knew what I had to do. The fact that the show was obviously a leased access show gave me some hope that Don/Eddie would buy some more time on the station. I also figured (hoped!) that even Eddie Murray couldn’t be that prolific and that maybe the same show would air again. For as much as I wanted to hear new music from Eddie, I needed that lightning in a bottle. So for the next seven nights, I sat up all night listening to WHBI with my tape recorder at hand waiting and praying that the strange cadence of Don Val’s voice would crackle through my radio so that I could recapture the magic….and then on the 7th day (no kidding) it happened. There it was! The opening notes of the dance craze that was sweeping the Favale was blasting over my radio…the “Stepping High Dance” in all of it’s trumpet glory was coming in loud and clear!!! I stared at that cassette for the whole half hour to make sure the little round white sprockets were spinning. It was a miracle and now I had tangible proof of what was the worse music ever committed to tape. Now when I say “worst” I honestly don’t mean it in a pejorative way. If the Beatles and Sinatra are the gold standard for popular music, than Don Val/Eddie Murray was (are/is?) a gold standard of a different kind.
The cassette of the Don Val Show has survived three moves and over twenty years of an ever expanding music collection. After several years, I didn’t think much of Don with the exception of the times I would blurt out to my wife during a minor spat “rock and roll baby don’t be that way” (which was a lyric from one of Eddie Murray's songs). Don briefly came back into my life in 1988 when I was reading Goldmine, one of my favorite music magazines. There was an article on something called “incorrect music” by Irwin Chusid. Irwin has hosted a radio show on the best radio station in the world, WFMU. Irwin is a true musical scholar and coined the phrase “incorrect music” to describe what he felt was music that was so bad that it was good. He would feature “incorrect music”on his weekly show (which he still hosts after all these years). You can imagine my surprise when one of the records he was reviewing in the article was a recent discovery of his called “Montreal Canada Blues” written by none other than Eddie Murray! Irwin did his usual excellent description of how bad the song was. I was stunned! Someone else (someone I even admired) knew and appreciated the existence of Eddie Murray. I quickly called Irwin with the bombshell that I had the “holy grail” of “atrocious music”. After I sent him a cassette of the Don Val show, Irwin put many of the songs on his eclectic playlist and has featured them on his show throughout the years. I’ve since lost touch with Irwin (but still listen to his great show). Thanks to the internet, I decided to Google “Don Val” and “Eddie Murray” thinking I would find something about this legend but the only results were links to various playlists that featured the songs I had sent to Irwin almost 20 years ago. How ironic was that? I am hoping that by publishing this story and releasing the cassette to the world through this podcast, someone out there will be six degrees removed form Eddie Murray or Don Val (or even Yvonne Corderoy). Send us and email if you have any information on any of these people. So in honor of Don Val, the pioneer of what we now called podcasting, here is the legendary broadcast of the Don Val show that was captured in 1981 on WHBI. I'll be coming in and out of the songs just to give you a breather...there is so much good stuff here you will need me to help pace yourself. By the way, the music bed that you will be hearing is made up of excerpts from some of the Eddie Murray songs that Don Val thankfully stayed quiet long enough for me to sample...fasten your seatbelts or as Don Val would say...”watch it now”.