Life seems to have turned out pretty well for The Pitch's first editor, though readers who remember 1980 will recall the man's name not as Don Mayberger but as Warren Stylus — Mayberger's pen-name nod to the paper's record-store beginnings.
A Shawnee Mission East High School grad who discovered Lawrence in the late 1960s, Mayberger lives there still, in a two-story, 100-year-old brick foursquare across Tennessee Street from Watson Park. Below the glass surface of his coffee table are the nine Regional Emmy Awards that he won for his work with Randy Mason and Mike Murphy on KCPT Channel 19's Rare Visions & Roadside Revelations — long after his days with the Pitch, he rose to fame as "Don the Camera Guy." A greater treasure than the Emmys, though, may be the folk art that Mayberger has collected over his 15 years on the road with the show. Paintings and sculptures by self-taught artists and mementos from offbeat attractions cover every wall and surface of his home. Upstairs, he estimates, are as many as 5,000 records — vinyl records.
"I still like to spin the vinyl in the cold, cold winter months," Mayberger says. Right now, though, it's summer, and he's nursing a highball glass filled with something the color of bourbon. That would be iced tea, not the harder stuff that one imagines might have sustained the record-store employees who started an alternative newspaper 30 years ago.
The Pitch: How did you end up starting The Pitch?
Mayberger: I'd met Chuck [Haddix] waiting tables. We worked at Washington Street Station, which was sort of a Spaghetti Factory at Ninth and Washington with a vague "trolley" theme. You could eat like a pig for $2. The all-you-can-eat salad bar with the spaghetti dinner — including spumoni — started at $1.95. I first became aware of Chuck while scooping rock-hard spumoni. I lived in his backyard in my van.
In 1978, I was living in Chicago with my lovely wife, who got a real job so I could be a representative for a record distributor. I'd drive around Illinois, and basically I was paid in records. I called myself a promosexual.
My first task for PennyLane was selling bluegrass records at Winfield [Kansas, for the annual Walnut Valley Festival]. Chuck was managing PennyLane, and they were going down to Winfield, and he knew I had the van. He wanted to go down there and sell some bluegrass records.
Hal Brody, who owned PennyLane, was a distributor for a couple hundred small record labels, and the records were down in the dreary limestone caves off 31st Street. I moved back here in 1979 and worked in the record cave.
They had a new-release list, which was hundreds of records. Hal was worried that nobody was bothering to read this list because it was a list — it was boring. The way I remember the Pitch happening was, "Let's make a fake newspaper! Maybe we'll make it readable, and we can give it out free and sell records that way." There really wasn't much of a free paper or any I can recall, back in '80 in Kansas City.
So, I don't know, Penny Pitch came up just for the derivation of PennyLane and that old game we used to play in the boys' room in junior high. That was it. It was kind of like the classic, "Hey, let's put on a play! My uncle has a barn!"
And so, OK, we'll get LeRoi [Johnson, see interview this issue] to write record reviews, or Chuck'll write about jazz because he knows jazz. Dave Conn wrote about classical records and reggae. "Ragin'" Rick Henderson, headbanging music. Lane Turner, new wave and punk. Teddy Dibble wrote features, and Phil Minkin wrote the food column, "Chow Lines." Dwight [Frizzell] can write about the solar system. And I'll cut and paste.