The case of a popular radio DJ who was thought to have committed suicide in 1958 gets a second look when new evidence shows someone was in the recording booth with him as the time of his death. Meanwhile, Scotty learns his brother has been having troubles since Scotty asked him about an old coach of theirs weeks earlier.
August 29, 1958
An ad jingle for Happy Beer can be heard as John "The Hawk" Hawkins walks through the hallway of the radio. Two girls rush up to him and ask him to play "Summertime Blues" for them. One of the girls, Gloria, flirts with him as he signs an autograph for them.
As Hawk enters the radio booth, he tells his assistant Tim "Bones" Hamlin, that the microphone is starting to pick up the creaking door. Bones apologizes and says he's called maintenance fifty times about it. Bones shows him him the newest Roy Hamilton single that "sounds like it's in 3-D". Hawk says he's heard about "that new thing called stereo" but he'll only play it if he likes it. Bones says someday he'll buy a Gibson guitar just like the one in the song. "Hold on, Elvis." Hawk says with a chuckle. The show is about to start.
In a wild, booming voice, Hawk greets his Philly listeners and tells them to "turn up that rock 'n roll music." With a howl, he introduces the first track "Say, Mama" by Gene Vincent.
All across Philly, kids dance, play, and party to to the music. Sometime later, Hawk comes back on. "Let's slow it down for a sec for a little ballad called 'Scarlet Rose'." The song plays for a bit until kids notice the song is skipping, with the line "Scarlet Rose" repeating over and over.
In the recording booth, the record playing is covered in blood, as Hawk's lifeless body lies slumped over the desk. There's a gun in his hand, and a bullet hole in his head...
Sometime later, a coroner finishes his report, marking the Hawk's death a suicide.
John Stillman tells Lilly Rush that a filmmaker is making a documentary on the Hawk. Lilly's heard of him. Her mother used to go to his sock hops and said he was pretty wild. She asks if Stillman was a rocker. "I had a radio." He says, evenly.
Stillman introduces Lilly to Tom Bergin, the filmmaker being watched over by Nick Vera. Bergin, who seems more interested in his computer than anything else, has been listening to a recording made in the booth second after Hawk died. Lilly thought Hawk killed himself on the air, but maybe not. Stillman explains that when Hawk slumped over, his hand hit a control starting an in-studio tape recorder, since Hawk taped his shows for reruns.
Bergin says people heard the tape years ago "but no one's heard what I've heard." No one had the audio equipment he does. After giving an technical explanation that goes completely over their heads, Bergin starts the recording. He then filters out the sound of the record, leaving only the ambience in the booth.
After a few seconds, footsteps can be heard, then a creaking door. They realize Hawk wasn't alone. Bergin tells them it's quiet again for thirty minutes until the janitor ran in.
"So either Hawkins woke from the dead and walked out of there..." Stillman says.
"Or his murderer did." Lilly finishes.
Looking over programming from old concerts that Hawk MC'ed, Scotty Valens is surprised that Hawk got top billing over the musicians. Stillman explains that back then, radio DJ's were as big as the rock stars; there was Alan Freed in New York, Wolfman Jack in L.A., and the Hawk in Philly. Scotty says you can't even name a DJ on the air today. Stillman says back then, they were the taste-makers. They picked the songs and made or broke careers.
Scotty suggests Hawk could have been the target of a wannabe rock star. "Or some record company suit", adds Will Jeffries. It was the time of "payola", when record companies bribed radio DJ's to play their song. As far as they know, however, Hawk never took a bribe. He was a big fan of the music and wasn't afraid to play black artists to white teens. Scotty asks Jeffries if he was a fan. To their surprsise, Jeffries tells them he prefers country music. He even DJ'ed in college! "This is Will Jeffries comin' at you live. Here's Hank Williams with 'My Son Calls Another Man Daddy'."
Hawk's death look self-inflicted but they didn't have the same forensics back then. Hawk divorced at 24 and his ex inherited his money. "Good motive," says Jeffries, "except he was broke." Stillman suggests she found out after the fact. Either way "first wives know all the dirt." As Stillman talks, Scotty notices his sister-in-law, Alergria Valens walks in.
Scotty asks her if everything is all right. She tells him his brother Mike stopped going to work and hasn't gotten out of bed for three days straight. He's not sick according to the doctor, but he hasn't been the same since Scotty stopped by. Scotty promises he'll stop by later that day to look in on Mike.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- Danny Pino as Scotty Valens
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
- Tracie Thoms as Kat Miller
- Nestor Carbonell as Mike Valens
- Julie Adams as Dottie Mills (2006)
- Rutanya Alda as Jenny Monaghan (2006)
- Sarah Drew as Jenny Hawkins (1958)
- Charles Esten as John "The Hawk" Hawkins
- Eric Jungmann as Tim "Bones" Hamlin (1958)
- Camillia Sanes as Alegria Valens
- Cari Shayne as Dottie Mills (1958)
- Chad Brannon as Scott "Skiz" Stenkovic (1958)
- James Henrie as Mike Valens (1983)
- Richard Roat as Tim "Bones" Hamlin (2006)
- Allen Alvarado as Scotty Valens (1983)
- Adam Chambers as Tom Bergin
- Kandis Erickson as Gloria ("Teen Girl #1")
- Ken Elliott as Little Richard
- Christopher May as Lloyd Chester (1958)
- Paul Perri as Benson Ockley
- Unknown actress as Gigi
- Unknown actress as Lulu
- Jeffries mentions he likes country music and was a DJ in college; Thom Barry is, in fact, a real-life country music fan and was once a country-western DJ.
- Stillman mentions two real-life DJ's who were supposedly contemporaries of Hawkins; Alan Freed in New York and Wolfman Jack in Los Angeles, though Wolfman Jack's DJ career didn't begin until the 1960's.
- 1958 is also mentioned as "the time of payola"; "Payola" is a slang in the music industry for record companies bribing radio stations or DJ's to play their songs, which is illegal in the U.S. Alan Freed's reputation and career were destroyed because of a payola scandal.
- This is the second episode to end with original music written and recorded specifically for the show. The first was the song "300 Flowers" from the episode Beautiful Little Fool. In both episodes, the song is an element in the plot and is discovered to have written by the victim.
- Hawkins and Bones talk about "that new thing called stereo"; The first sterophonic discs were made available to the public in the summer of 1958, though stereo recording had already been widespread in the music business since the fall of 1957. An insider like Hawkins probably would have heard of it before most people.
- This episode was Robert Symonds's final on-screen appearance.
- This episode does not begin with the show's usual disclaimer "The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event", because it does in fact depict a real person briefly, namely a young Little Richard.
- Little Richard would not have been playing rock n roll at a dance in 1958, as he had quit rock n roll music the previous year, become a born-again Christian, and would focus on gospel music until 1962.
- The tune that Scotty hums for Mike to guess is that of the song "Our House" by Madness.
- Gene Vincent "Say Mama"
- Danny & the Juniors "Dottie"
- Jimmy Cavallo & the Houserockers "Rock, Rock, Rock"
- Gene Vincent "Be-Bop-A-Lula"
- Little Richard "Ready Teddy"
- The Everly Brothers "Problems"
- Closing Song: "Scarlet Rose", sung by Alexa, composed by Gary Haase