“Listen: We are here on earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different!” –Kurt Vonnegut in Time Quake.
Soon after my move to Hollywood in 1968 I was introduced to Martoni Restaurant at 1538 N. Cahuenga Blvd. between Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd. and just west of Vine Street. At six in the evening customers were two and three deep around the bar tended by Sal Marino who at times was bartender on Frank Sinatra’s yacht. The restaurant name was coined from the first names of owners Mario Marino (Sal’s relative) and Tony Riccio.
Sitting at Martoni’s bar for a few evenings one would see a Who’s Who of the Hollywood music business, as well as other famous people. Powerful radio programmer Bill Drake’s frequent presence attracted record company executives, especially radio promotion people. A friend suggested Sal be tipped well, since being in his good favor amid the confusion of the very busy bar could have a material impact on one’s tab.
After Sal’s move to Italy in the mid-1970s, the new bartender was a friendly young man by the name Lee. One evening after I ordered a beer, my good friend Randy Brown who was a radio promotion guy for Columbia Records said, “Lee, give me a beer and put it on Reeves’ tab.” Lee looked for approval and I nodded yes. I sat at the bar to Randy’s left waiting for my dinner appointment to arrive but we didn’t speak due to the engrossing conversation he was having with the person sitting to his right. But when I ordered another beer, Randy freed himself just enough to direct, “Give me another one and put it on Reeves’ tab.” Again, I nodded approval.
After dinner I returned to the bar where Randy remained engaged in deep conversation. I quietly sat on the barstool next to him where I remained unnoticed as he leaned heavily toward his conversation partner in that oft-seen inebriated bar-conversation posture. Finally noticing my presence Randy exclaimed, “Hey, Reeves, buy me another beer.” Lee served us both and charged my tab. Randy had paid his own bar tab with a Columbia Record Company credit card, which still lay on the bar in front of him, and as he continued leaning toward his conversation partner, I placed his credit card in my pocket.
“Randy, you’re so free with my bar tab tonight, why don’t you buy a round on me for everyone at the bar?”
“Great idea Reeves. Hey, Lee, give everyone a drink on Reeves.” The 10 or 12 people sitting at the bar cheered and offered joyous toasts.
Later, my benevolence continued. “Randy, before I leave would you like for me to buy another round for everyone?” Lee served up another round and I asked for my tab. I used Randy’s company credit card for payment and because Lee knew me so well he paid no attention to the card particulars. I signed Randy’s name to an $80 charge (nearly $500 in 2014) and took the receipt.
“Randy, I’m having such a good time tonight I don’t even want the receipt for my expense account. You can have it for yours.” I handed the receipt to Randy, which he strained to read in the dimly lit bar.
“I can’t use a receipt that doesn’t say ‘Randy Brown.’ Hey, wait a minute. What’s going on here?”
“Randy, you’re so liberal with my tab tonight I thought the least you could do was buy a couple of rounds for the bar.”
“How’d you get my credit card? Where is my credit card anyway?” He drunkenly began searching my coat pockets and our physical interaction caused us to fall off the barstools to the floor. We laughed and wrestled as my inebriated friend attempted to recover his credit card.
After Sal moved to Italy, Martoni’s went downhill—a decline most likely due to the absence of the loveable bartender, but possibly exacerbated by a cultural change in the drug of preference. By the mid-1970s the excessive consumption of alcohol was becoming less socially acceptable and other “drugs of choice” were rapidly gaining popularity. After leaving a dying Martoni’s one evening I wrote the first verse of a song that lyricist Joe Henry helped complete.
Joe Henry & Eddie Reeves
Used to be a place where I could go and waste some time
and drink a little wine, ease my weary mind.
Smilin’ on the face of friends, erasing all the bitter ends
Of empty lights, burned out city nights.
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal,
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal.
Used to have a friend and we could spend an afternoon
just throwing words away, passing time of day.
Talk about the world we knew and what we’d do
if we could live our wildest dreams, now they’re memories.
Time is not an easy thing to joke and tag along with
Empty bottles one by one we’ve come and gone with
Life’s a smoky room, just an echo tune.
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal,
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal.
Used to be a place where I could go and waste some time
and drink a little wine, ease my weary mind.
Think about the closed-up days and all the ways I’d try
to make ‘em hurry by, now just watch ‘em fly.
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal,
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal.
©1972 ABC Dunhill Music / Universal Music Publishing Group
Eventually there were three different recordings of “Without Sal” but none of noteworthy merit even though some of Sal’s friends and Martoni patrons praised the song as one evoking fond memories of Sal and the “good ol’ days.” Eventually, Sal returned to Hollywood as owner of Martoni’s, but the vitality of earlier times did not follow. During a 1984 business trip to Los Angeles I visited my old watering hole late one afternoon, where only two or three customers sat at the bar and the dining room was empty. The special place that spawned the emotion expressed in my song—“Smilin’ on the face of friends, erasing all the bitter ends of empty lights, burned out city nights”—seemed more like a crumbling Mayan ruin soon to be inundated by rainforest flora where only ghosts would dwell. The high-voltage Hollywood creativity that once charged Martoni’s no longer flowed and the frail last breath of the once-thriving Italian eatery seemed imminent.
Still bartender, Lee traded stories with me about our lives and about the people I’d not seen in years. “I don’t guess you remember me,” interjected a young man at the far end of the bar. Straining in the dimly lit barroom I could only offer, “Sorry, I don’t remember.” “I’m Bob Mockler. Do you remember ‘The Lingo Song’?” Of course I remembered it—the last song I’d written in my 18-year songwriting career and Bob Mockler had been the recording engineer for the song’s demo.
After co-writer Errol Sober and I finished writing “The Lingo Song” sometime in 1974, I called Hollywood Sound Recorders on Selma Blvd. to book an hour of studio time to record a demo. Studio owner Jesse Hodges said, “Come on over. The studio’s available right now.” Jesse greeted our arrival with his apology for not realizing a recording engineer was not available.
“Who’s the young man in the studio?”
“He’s the set-up man—handles the microphones and cables. He sets them up and puts them away after sessions.”
“Can he turn on the tape recorder and open a mic?”
“I’ll ask him.” On return Jesse said, “He thinks he can help you but if you’re not satisfied I won’t charge you anything.”
I attempted to calm the nervous neophyte by describing the simple tasks at hand. “We need to record on five or six tracks of the 16-track recorder—rhythm guitar, lead vocal, and vocal harmonies.” The young man said he’d been closely observing the recording engineers and thought he could fulfill our needs. An electric piano used at the previous session was still in the studio and I began with an electric piano riff, then added rhythm guitar, followed by a beat tapped out on the back of my Martin D-18 acoustic guitar along with Errol’s rhythmical accents with a güiro (a notched gourd played with a metal stick), and then my lead vocal with Errol adding vocal harmonies. We were happy with our quirky result that fit well with the nonsensical lyric.
“The Lingo Song”
Errol Sober & Eddie Reeves
Tango, tango; tango to the moon
Mumbo jumbo jet me back to you
It’s the lingo of the singo song
Bango bingo bango all night long
I don’t know what it means
But it’s all right with me
If it’s good enough for you
You know it’s good enough for me.
Pango, pango drinking up the sun
By fandango I know you’re the one
If the song goes on too long you’ll see
You be jingo jango just like me
I don’t know what it means
Just come along and dream
If it’s good enough for you
You know it’s good enough for me
Well I don’t know how it happens
But it happens everyday
I don’t know why I do it
But I do it anyway
I try to understand it
But the man-go in the way
So bingo bango backstroke
In the lingo lango way
©1974 Warner Chappell Music
And there we sat—10 years later in 1984—at Martoni’s bar where Bob Mockler explained that I could never imagine what “The Lingo Song” had meant to him. As he left Jesse’s studio after our recording session, he felt he “floated out the front door—feet not touching the sidewalk” from the high he experienced of having engineered his first recording session, albeit a simple demo recording. Our song was an important milestone in his life. Our song became an important milestone in his professional career when for the first time he jumped into the recording waters and didn’t drown. And too, he learned he could actually swim fairly well. Soon Jesse assigned Bob minor recording projects—mostly demo recordings and sessions from customers who dropped in off the street. Five years after Bob engineered “The Lingo Song” an unknown artist wanting to remix his album stopped by Hollywood Sound Studios.
“He was like you, Eddie. He played all the instruments and did all the vocals, but with two big differences. This guy was a great singer and a great musician.”
I appreciated Bob’s jabbing humor since I am keenly aware of my limitations as both musician and vocalist. “So, who was this guy?”
Bob helped engineer three of Prince’s albums. First as the remix engineer on Prince, the artist’s second album released in 1979, and on Dirty Mind, the third album released in 1980, after which Bob served as one of three recording engineers on Prince’s fourth album, Controversy, released in 1981. Bob also recorded albums with Olivia Newton-John, Minnie Ripperton, and other artists before being employed as a recording engineer by a movie studio where he worked at the time of our conversation.
Here’s more from various people regarding the famous Martoni’s Restaurant.
The Beginning of A&M Records
In the early 1960s, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss kept running into each other at Martoni’s, a restaurant frequented by the music industry, and what began as a social acquaintance quickly turned into a partnership.
Sonny & Cher
“Laugh At Me” (Single Version) 2:56
(Writer: Sonny Bono) © September 22, 1965
Atco 45-6369 released July 1965
Entered Billboard’s chart August 14, 1965, peaked at #10 on chart.
The story: Tony (Riccio) ejected and banned the wildly attired Sonny & Cher from Martoni's restaurant, inspiring Sonny to write “Laugh At Me,” which became the flip side of “I Got You Babe”—the duos only #1 pop single, their second single, their second hit record, one of six Top 10 pop singles, and their only single selling over one million copies.
The 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”
Bones Howe now had an opus coming in at 4:49—a lifetime in the era of AM pop radio singles. But input would come from a serendipitous source: Wally Heider's studio on Cahuenga was across the street from Martoni's restaurant, the counterpart L.A. hangout. Stopping in there for a bite, Howe bumped into Bill Drake, the programming director for the Drake-Chennault radio chain, which included tastemaker stations KHJ and KFRC, and who was the archetype for the modern radio playlist arbiter. Drake had heard the “white label” of the record—the pre-released version sent by the label to stir interest at radio—and liked it. But, as he pointed out to Howe, it was a DJ's nightmare. “He said if I did a shorter version, it would be a bigger hit, since DJs could fit it in, and that ending would be great to take them into the end of an hour,” Howe recalls. “I was gonna eat, but instead I turned right around and went back to the studio and made some cuts. I cut a half verse out and one of the choruses. I got it down to 2:59. Perfect.”
The Death of Sam Cooke
It’s around 9:00 p.m., December 10, 1964 when at a Hollywood restaurant called Martoni’s, pop star Sam Cooke joins record producer and engineer Al Schmitt and Schmitt’s wife, Joan, for an Italian dinner. While waiting in the bar for their table, the three order drinks. Sam is enjoying a martini when a record company public relations man enters the bar with a 22-year-old Eurasian woman, Elisa Boyer, on his arm. When it’s announced that a table is ready for Sam and the Schmitts, Sam pays for the drinks, flashing a wad of cash that, according to others, is noticed by Boyer. Joan Schmitt later recalls seeing “several thousand dollars” in Sam’s hand. (Earlier that day, Sam had withdrawn $5,000 in cash from a safety deposit box at his bank.)
The threesome takes their table. Sam has an appetizer and then excuses himself. When he fails to reappear, Al Schmitt goes looking for him and spots Sam at the bar, talking to a woman. Sam never rejoins the Schmitts for dinner. When the couple prepares to leave Martoni’s at about 10:45 p.m., they see Sam and Boyer seated side-by-side at a booth in the bar. Sam promises to meet Al at PJ’s, a nightspot on Sunset Boulevard, at around 1 a.m.
This was the beginning of a bizarre chain of events that led to the shooting death of Sam Cooke in the early morning hours of December 11, 1964 at the Hacienda Motel located at 9131 Figueroa Street in Watts, a section of Los Angeles.
Steve McQueen’s Bullitt chase scene
San Francisco Chronicle
CUT TO THE CHASE: Classic scene in McQueen's Bullitt unreal as ever
Peter Hartlaub, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Before 1968, most car chases were filmed at slower speeds, then sped up at the studio to give the illusion of danger. Fraker said the Bullitt car chase was conceived during an Italian meal with Yates at a small Hollywood restaurant called Martoni's.
I was born into this [the job of public relations], having received my initial training at the venerable firm of Rogers & Cowan. [Note: Client list included Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Danny Kaye, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Elton John, and others.] The “Cowan” is my uncle—Warren—and he is still alive [Note: Warren Cowan died May 14, 2008 at age 87]. He is, in fact, running a quite successful firm, Warren Cowan & Associates, where I was re-employed for 2 years. He started Rogers & Cowan with the late Henry Rogers (who wrote many books on the subject of public relations), and from these folks, and my Dad, Stanley, who was also a Hollywood publicist, I learned the ropes of this much misunderstood and maligned profession.
We visited all the radio stations on promotion days, just like all the guys, hyping our records. We went to Martoni's restaurant and bought drinks for program directors and deejays, dinner for visiting writers and journalists. Those jocks & writers left us with enormous bar bills, but we got the airplay, and we got the stories in print.
Sonny Side of the Street
From the upcoming audio-biography book by radio personality Sonny Melendrez:
A major part of Chuck’s charm and disarming style is his inimitable sense of humor. I can remember one night at Martoni’s Restaurant in Hollywood (a popular industry hangout at the time), Chuck [Blore] was standing at the bar next to one of his best friends, the late Roger Miller. People had always commented that Chuck and Roger looked so much alike. A beautiful girl spotted Chuck and adoringly asked, “Excuse me, but aren’t you Roger Miller?” Chuck nonchalantly replied, “Nah. Try the next guy.” Classic.
Campania Ristorante Di Napoli at Piper Glen [now closed]
6414 Rea Rd. Suite C5-C6
Charlotte NC 28277
"He used to walk around in a hockey uniform," we overhear a man say, who turns out to be a friend of the chef-owner Ciro Marino, recalling visits to Marino's old place in Los Angeles. His father, Salvatre, began as a bartender at Martoni's in Hollywood, and ended up with ownership and a 32-year tenure. "I learned everything from him: tending bar, doing inventory and cooking," says Ciro.
6001 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038
Born in Naples, Italy on October 26, 1932 Ciro Marino is the son of a merchant marine and a housewife. He moved to Los Angeles in 1952, first working at the famous Chianti restaurant then at Villa Capri, the Sinatra rat pack hangout, the place James Dean liked to practice his Italian in the kitchen with Ciro, and where a young Howard Hughes dined with beautiful women. The original waiter staff laid claim to the string of most popular Los Angeles Italian restaurants in the 60s, including Dan Tana, La Scala, La Dolce Vita, Matteo’s and Ciro’s future venture Martoni’s opened with co-worker Toni Riccio.
Ciro’s first place was Via Veneto on Sunset Plaza opened in 1957 and Martoni’s followed in 1960 in Hollywood on Cahuenga Blvd. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to members of the Beatles, Jackson 5, Nat King Cole, Phil Specter and more hung out at Martoni’s bar each night full three rows deep. Musicians wanting to be discovered and agents wanting to get in the door took jobs as busboys and waiters. Major record contracts were signed and napkins used for scribbling major movie plots. Sonny Bono hastily penned the song “Look at Me” after being refused service for his wild attire—a song made famous by its flip side, “I’ve Got You Babe.”
A famous Hollywood movie star known for giving large tips to parking lot attendants asked one young attendant, “What’s the biggest tip you ever received?”
The movie star tipped two $100 bills and before driving away asked, “Who gave you the $100 tip?”
“Why, you did, sir—just last week!”
In the late 1960s, Jimmy Bowen, successful record producer and owner of the unsuccessful start-up record label Amos Records, staged the Amos Open—an annual music business golf tournament requiring each golfer to consume an alcoholic beverage every other hole and by the 18th green there were some very drunk golfers. In some quarters during those days it was considered “cool” to drink excessively as exemplified by the stage persona of popular singer and movie actor Dean Martin, whom Bowen produced. It seemed the drunken Amos Open was but an opportunity for grown men to relinquish, for a while, some dimensions of personal responsibility.
A drawing for various prizes was held at each tournament and one year I won Bowen’s Yamaha 125 motorcycle, which he claimed was the only material possession retained by him in a divorce settlement with jazz singer Keely Smith. At one Amos Open event, a very large, very drunk golfer passed out on the 18th green and when all the remaining golfers proved too drunk to move him, they all simply putted around him.
Often some high-stakes golf bets took place at the Amos Open between Jimmy Bowen and Al Bennett, owner of Liberty Records. Hearing about the sizable wager made on the last hole at one tournament, a crowd gathered to witness the drama of these two inebriated golfers. I was aware Bowen’s golf gambling so prior to the tournament one year I purchased a “trick” golf ball that when hit would explode into small, almost invisible fragments. I positioned myself on the 18th fairway where both tee shots would likely land and before the golfers arrived to take their second shots I replaced Bennett’s ball with the “trick” ball. With a bet of $5,000 (over $32,000 in 2016) hanging in the balance, each drunken golfer was serious in the extreme about winning the bet. When Bennett’s ball disappeared, he shouted, “Where did it go? Where did it go?” Someone in the crowd yelled, “It exploded, Al,” to which he retorted, “Find me a piece of it. I’ll hit a piece of it.” Bowen claimed victory until my hoax was disclosed.
On an approach shot to the 18th green, my golf ball stuck in a chain link fence about 150 yards from the clubhouse. With photographer in tow, two drunken golfers claiming to be the rules committee ran to the location of my unusual shot declaring my ball more “in bounds” than “out of bounds.” They claimed that application of Amos Open rules required I play my next shot from where the ball lay, or more accurately stated “where the ball stuck”. I walked about 50 yards to the end of the fence and then back to where my ball was lodged and in the manner one would swing a baseball bat took a big swing with a three-wood. Unfortunately, I missed the ball and hit the fence, which caused the ball to pop out on the “out-of-bounds” side of the fence where I stood. The “rules committee” promptly, loudly, and very drunkenly assessed a two-stroke out-of-bounds penalty. The Amos Open was a unique event.
A well-known music business figure who had wound his way down to the bottom of the ladder of success was hired by an independent record producer—a job many deemed his final opportunity of meaningful music-business employment. Within months he was fired for what was rumored to be “misallocation of funds” after which he gained employment as a limo driver. After transporting a well-known music business executive, the executive commented, “In the music business it’s a very short distance from the back seat of a limo to the front seat.”
When frat brother David Caldwell visited Los Angeles on Thursday, August 27, 1970 with Geraud, his English buddy with a French name, he invited me to join them for a drink at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge. The rich history of the Polo Lounge abounds with famous patrons including Will Rogers, Darryl F. Zanuck, Rudolph Valentino, and one-time hotel resident Howard Hughes. Prior to their marriage Clark Gable and Carole Lombard rendezvoused there, and Elizabeth Taylor spent six of her eight honeymoons at the hotel. Amazingly, the other two marriages were to men who maintained suites there.
During my years in Los Angeles from 1968 to 1980, I occasionally had business breakfast or lunch at the Polo Longue where I spotted a few movie stars and movie producers. After a few drinks with David and Giraud I headed to the men’s room, which was located at the end of a long, narrow hallway leading from the hotel lobby. Upon entering the hallway I observed a large man exiting the men’s room at the other end of the hall and it was soon obvious that passing one another in such a narrow hallway would require we each turn sideways at the moment of passage. As our cordial maneuvers unfolded, I realized my own politeness was directed toward John Wayne, a large man who seemed even larger in person. As we began our belly-to-belly passage I looked up that great American icon and imparted, “Got to put the wagons in a circle, John.” The untoward things famous people are called upon to tolerate must be awful, and at that particular moment the “Duke” was caused to tolerate me. Soon, however, it was apparent this wasn’t his first “smart-ass rodeo” when looking down at me he retorted in that deep, rich, confident, slow-paced, ever so familiar voice, “Well you’re feeling pretty good tonight, aren’t you sonny boy?”
Another evening at the Polo Lounge I noticed Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder of Atlantic Records, at a table with three companions. Beginning in the late 1950s I bought many Atlantic records—The Clovers, Ruth Brown, Clyde McPhatter, The Drifters, LaVern Baker, Chuck Willis, The Coasters, Ray Charles, and Bobby Darin. I became familiar with songwriter credits listed on these records and one name appearing often was A. Nugetre—a songwriter alias Ahmet created by spelling his last name backwards.
I wrote a note—“To Ahmet, from an A. Nugetre fan”—and asked a waiter to deliver it. After inquiring who sent the note, Ahmet motioned me to his table, where I explained my knowledge of his songwriter’s alias and my love of early Atlantic releases. Ahmet was gracious, asked where I worked, and invited me to call him anytime, although I never did. But when driving by the Beverly Hills Hotel I sometimes think of Ahmet—and of “The Duke” and “sonny boy.”
Jacob (not his real name), a radio promotion man employed by United Artists Music was a habitual liar. He lied even when truth could produce an outcome more beneficial to his own interest. During my time as head of Chappell Music in Hollywood, Jacob was hired by a British-owned independent record company that had a music publishing partnership with Chappell. Karl, the U.S. head of this British record company, invited me to a party at his Hollywood Hills home situated high on a hilltop with a stunning 360-degree view. Some said he was connected to the English mafia and later, after his disappearance, it was rumored he was on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean wearing “concrete shoes.” I don’t know the truth of this matter but Karl did disappear—at least from the Hollywood music scene.
Along with a few partygoers, Karl, Jacob and I were hanging out by the pool enjoying the expansive view as the sun sank low in the sky. Someone announced dinner was served, and as guests headed toward the house Karl, Jacob and I lingered to finish our conversation, which ended with Karl asking Jacob if he could swim. Jacob replied in the affirmative and as I turned toward the house the sound of a large splash was generated by Karl having pushed Jacob into the pool. As we approached the sliding glass door of his home, Karl and I were laughing, but looking back toward the pool there was no sign of Jacob—not in the pool, getting out of the pool or standing dripping wet on the pool deck. Karl cursed loudly as with great haste he ran back toward the pool with me closely following. Karl dove in, grabbed Jacob’s motionless body and brought him to the surface where Jacob frantically grasped for breath while coughing and sputtering much water. He was red-faced and very pissed off.
“Why did you push me in?”
“Jacob, you can survive lying on your expense account or lying about whether or not a radio station is actually playing one of our records. But you might not survive lying about whether or not you can swim.”
Lesson learned?—probably not. Jacob was mostly concerned about the large amount of cash he was carrying. In a bedroom he covered the king-size bed with many wet bills—mostly hundreds. And he wouldn’t leave the bedroom until with the help of a hair dryer his money had dried and was back in his pocket.
In 1979, I received a Sony Walkman as a gift that a friend had brought back from Japan prior its appearance in the United States. I was about to leave for England with a rock band I managed, and even though the record company repeatedly had committed to pay part of the band’s touring costs, the funds were not forthcoming. Occasionally I played golf with David, the record company’s west coast business affairs manager, who was responsible for payment of the funds prior to the band’s departure.
At our next golf outing I made sure David and I rode in the same cart and that he drove. After teeing off at the 1st hole I put on the Walkman earphones and began listening to music. David hadn’t seen a Walkman so he was curious and wanted to know all about it. After a preview my query about the tour support funds was met with yet another excuse from David. I put on the Walkman earphones and left them on.
David was an emotionally volatile guy and not much of a golfer, even worse than me. As he attempted to engage in conversation during the 2nd and 3rd holes, I ignored him and continued listening to the Walkman. The more I listened, the worse he played until finally lashing out, “I guess you’re going to listen to that damn thing all 18 holes aren’t you?” I continued listening to the Walkman.
After the 3rd hole, David drove our cart back to the clubhouse, put his golf clubs in his car and drove away as I sat in the golf cart still listening to the Walkman. The tour support funds finally arrived a day or two before our departure and David eventually, although not entirely, forgave my Walkman prank.
“Kentucky come out and play?” This silly, comedic comment made after landing on Kentucky Avenue while playing Monopoly hints of the creative genius of songwriter/record producer Kenny Young. Had his creativity been slanted toward acting he likely would have landed near the Peter Sellers, Larry David, Woody Allen spectrum of the art. Kenny’s entertaining facial expressions are limitless as are his spontaneous, comical renderings.
In 1964, at the age of 16, Kenny had his first songwriting success with the well-known hit “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters. When the group was searching for a follow-up song, Kenny’s publisher, Irwin Schuster of Bobby Darin’s T.M. Music, suggested Kenny take one of his new songs to the Drifters’ producer and reminded Kenny, “Don’t forget to tell them about your string of hit.” Funny line—“String of hit” in the singular—but “singular” wasn’t a word that properly described Kenny’s success for long, as evidenced by “Just a Little Bit Better” and “Don’t Go Out Into the Rain” by Herman’s Hermits, “Arizona” and “Silver Bird” by Mark Lindsay, the Grammy award-winner “Ai No Corrida” by Quincy Jones, “One Kiss For Old Times’ Sake” and “When Liking Turns To Loving” by Ronnie Dove, and a string of hits produced and written for English artists: “Come Back and Shake Me” and “Goodnight Midnight” by Clodagh Rodgers, “Only You Can” by Fox, “The Captain of Your Ship” by Reparata and the Delrons, and “The Bug” by Face On Mars.
Kenny and I first met in 1966 when he was signed as an exclusive songwriter to United Artists Music where I was employed. We quickly became friends, often having lunch together, and engaging in a serious, but fun-filled rivalry of shooting pool in mid-town Manhattan. One evening during a visit to my home on Fitchett Street in Rego Park in Queens, Kenny was introduced to marijuana. I rarely smoked weed, but like many of my Manhattan music-scene peers during the 1960s, I was open to experimentation. Kenny was a riot. I would light up, pass it to him, and be rewarded by an hour or two of continuous laughter. Some mornings my abdominal muscles ached from the prolonged, strenuous laughter from Kenny’s hysterically funny and uniquely clever antics.
Early in 1968 I moved from New York to Hollywood, and later that same year Kenny moved to England where he still resides as of 2016. We stayed in touch by his occasional visits to Los Angeles and mine to London. During one of his visits we traveled to South Lake Tahoe, Nevada to see my friend, songwriter Larry Collins, perform at Harrah’s. As the turboprop plane made its landing approach there was a freefall lasting at least 10 seconds, a much longer free fall than I’d ever experienced. The lady seated across the aisle regurgitated and some passengers screamed with fright. Then the turbojet plane rapidly ascended and once again quickly lost altitude for a few seconds, causing me to experience a strange feeling—an eerie, serene calm accompanied by total, absolute silence. I thought, “This must be what one experiences when an airplane hits a mountain—boom, lights out, end of story, no conscious awareness of what happened.” I wasn’t certain this storyline was valid but I knew there was a history of turboprop airplanes crashing into mountains. And these were the thoughts flashing through my brain during this event and I’ve never had another experience like it.
We landed in a blinding snowstorm with strong winds, and as we exited the plane I complimented the captain on “a great ride.” “We hit a couple of pretty good sinkers coming in over the lake,” he replied matter-of-factly.
Weeing Larry’s performance and hanging out with him was great fun. Due to the heavy snowfall the airport was closed the following morning but we weren’t interested in spending more time in South Lake Tahoe. Also, the thought of a “real jet” for our return trip to L.A. was so inviting that we rented a car to drive to Reno. We’d had enough flying turboprops.
With a few hours to kill in Reno before our flight departed for L.A. we headed for Hurrah’s casino. Kenny wasn’t a gambler and I’ve never been attracted to odds so heavily stacked in the casino’s favor so to while away some time we wandered about Harrah’s placing a few minor bets here and there. I lost about $50 and Kenny lost even less. On the way to retrieve our car we passed the keno betting area where I asked one of the cashiers to stamp our parking ticket.
“Have you been playing keno?”
“No, but I lost $50 so please stamp the ticket.”
“I can’t stamp it unless you’ve been playing keno.”
From the keno area I could see the valet parking sign—“Parking $2”—and asked, “What’s the least I can spend to play keno?”
We still had time to spare before our flight and it was evident I could play a game of keno and save $1.40 on parking. While I was marking 10 numbers on a keno card Kenny asked what I was doing.
“I’m playing a game of keno to save $1.40 on parking the car.”
“How do you play?”
“Several different ways, but I’m marking 10 numbers.”
Kenny also marked 10 numbers and dumped all the change from his pocket onto the cashier’s counter where it was counted to the largest increment possible for a keno game, which was $3.20 (nearly $20.00 in 2016).
I had the first number and said out loud, “I’ve got that one.”
“Me too,” echoed Kenny.
I also had the second number so I repeated, “I’ve got that one.”
“Me too,” said Kenny.
“Get outa here, Kenny—I’ve got the first two numbers. I could have a winner here.” I moved away from him but hit no more numbers. “How many numbers did you get, Kenny?”
“Six, I think.”
“Six? Kenny, you’ve won some money.” I asked a cashier, “Did he get six numbers?”
The cashier placed the answer card over Kenny’s card and replied, “No.”
“Kenny, you didn’t get six numbers.” “Did he get five?”
“How many did he get?”
“What, eight numbers? How much did he win?”
“$1,980.” (Over $12,000 in 2016.)
Kenny won big on a $3.20 keno game because I wanted to save $1.40 on parking. It was a game he had never played, and I’ll wager he’s not played since.
After Kenny returned to England I received the following letter.
I couldn’t wait to get home so I could extend my gratitude for all you’ve done for me during my stay in L.A.
Thank you Eddie, for a great time, for taking me everywhere, the finest restaurants and sights, for introducing me to the loveliest girls in L.A. and tho the sun didn’t always shine, it didn’t really matter because I had so much fun and besides your warmth was more than enough for me.
Now please read the above one more time. Right…. Now if you believe any of that cow dung you ought to have your head examined. Let me just tell you that if I hadn’t hit those 8 numbers in Keno I probably would have slapped a nuisance suit on you which would have made the $1,980 mere peanuts. Take a hint Eddie, go back to Amarillo and watch haircuts or something.
Here’s another letter from Kenny written with colored pens.
Do you think you could get a hold of a copy of the old Syndicate of Sound record “Hey little girl” it’s vital for my work.
Your colorful friend
Here’s another letter from Kenny.
Once again I must take time out from one of my busy days to respond to you about my trip to Los Angeles.
You did it again. This one was a complete and utter failure – not only was the weather lousy, but the food, the beach and the girls were as enjoyable as a growth. I hope this doesn’t sound like sour grapes but let’s face it, you sure do make a shitty host.
Please don’t take all this personal.
Your faithful friend,
P.S. The black-eyed peas were o.k.
In 1978 I was personal manager of the original punk rock group Slow Children. After unsuccessfully shopping their demos to U.S. record companies, I began contacting companies in the U.K. where I connected with Jet Records, a company owned by concert promoter Don Arden who is father of Sharon Osbourne. Jet Records offered Slow Children a recording contract, and because I lived in Hollywood the recording agreement negotiation was handled by Stephen, a young attorney representing the label from his Century City law office.
During our negotiations Stephen learned my hometown was Amarillo, Texas where he had dined at the Big Texan Steak Ranch—a restaurant advertising the meal is free if a customer consumes a 72-ounce steak, a salad, and a baked potato within one hour while sitting at a table on a raised platform in full view of the restaurant diners and management. In addition to a free meal, each winner receives a Big Texan certificate suitable for framing. Stephen had earned the free meal but failed to receive his certificate, and asked if I would try to obtain one during my next visit to Amarillo.
A few months after moving back to Amarillo in 1980, I received a call from friend Bob Hamilton who had a flight layover in Amarillo en route from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles. He asked me to join him and a friend for dinner at the Big Texan located near the airport. After dinner the waiter was happy to fulfill the request for Stephen’s certificate but when he asked what name should be on it I replied, “Kenny Young.” Now I don’t know why I replied in such manner, other than to pay homage to Kenny’s and my inclination for silliness. I sent the certificate to Kenny with an explanatory letter with a copy to Stephen.
In the summer of 1981 Kenny and I, along with our wives, traveled from London to Venice on the Orient Express. After crossing the English Channel and boarding the French train, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner in the dining car followed by late night drinks in the club car where a piano was located. We sang songs while I played piano until all passengers had called it a night with the exception of a young couple at the opposite end of the club car. Eventually, it seemed they too would retire as they began walking toward us en route to their own private compartment. At a distance of a few yards I recognized the young man and blurted out, “Stephen, this is Kenny Young. He has your certificate.” It was the young Century City attorney and his bride honeymooning on the Orient Express where there was absolutely no chance of a free meal. Surely the odds of seeing Stephen and his bride on the Orient Express were even more remarkable than those at play for Kenny’s keno win.
Here are two congratulatory telegrams Kenny sent on November 23, 1971 when Sonny & Cher’s recording of “All I Ever Need Is You” reached Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard pop chart.
NOV 23 71 [dated November 23, 1971]
WUHD016 LM INTL VIA ITT GONDONLB TF 23 1245
EDDIE REEVES CHEZ UNITED ARTISTS MUSIC
6430 SUNSET BLVD HOLLYWOOD CALIF
FANTASTIC CONGRATULATIONS YOUR TOP TEN RECORD SEE YOU LATER
Second telegram that arrived just less than 3 hours after the first one:
NOV 23 71 [dated November 23, 1971]
WU HD LSA
WUHD021 LM PD INTL LONDONLB 23 1539
EDDIE REEVES UNITED ARTISTS MUSIC
SUNSET BLVD HOLLYWOOD CALIF
DISREGARD FIRST CABLE YOUSEGOMANIAC
The TV Guide listing for the ABC variety show “This Is Tom Jones” on November 6, 1969 at 9:00 p.m. noted the Moody Blues would perform “It’s a Hangup Baby.” I’d written a song entitled, “It’s a Hang Up Baby,” recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis but since his record received little airplay I assumed the Moody Blues would be performing a different song. But to my great surprise Tom Jones performed my song with musical backing from the Moody Blues. I assumed Jones or one of his associates had discovered “The Killer’s” record released in July 1967.
A meeting is listed for 5 p.m. on Monday, March 3rd in my 1969 appointment book and a recording session noted for Friday, March 7th—both with a young, unknown singer/songwriter and member of the Hour Glass, a rock band under contract to Liberty Records. Having achieved no success the band was released from contract by Liberty with the proviso the lead singer record four more songs to complete an album—a condition that had been fulfilled and which provided Liberty a final opportunity to recoup some of its financial investment.
At the time, Transamerica Corp. owned both Liberty Records and United Artists Music Company and the two companies cooperated in various ways. One strong-arm tactic was a contract stipulation requiring Liberty artists to assign all music-publishing rights to United Artists Music for any song written by the artist at any time during the term of the recording contract. With the exception of the lead singer who Liberty Records had provided living costs of his extended stay in Hollywood, the other band members had returned home to Florida. Having depleted his funds, the lead singer was unable to purchase airfare to join his brother in the process of forming a new band.
After learning about the music-publishing clause in his recording contract the young singer called me to explain his financial situation and to convey that he’d written three new songs. He offered to record guitar and vocal demos of these songs but only in exchange for a royalty advance of $300 from United Artists Music. He understood United Artists Music contractually owned the songs but he also knew the company could not claim or copyright songs of which they had no recordings or other determinate knowledge. It was a smart ploy and not unfair given the overbearing demand contained in his recording agreement. I invited him to perform the songs for me at my office.
The young man accompanied his vocal with guitar on one song and piano on the other two. This good-looking, 21-one-year old, blond-headed, baby-faced kid with a voice straight from the black man’s blues was a great singer and fine musician. Given the circumstance and the nature of the songs I believed the $300 advance royalty was reasonable, but such an unusual situation would require the approval of my New York boss, Murray Deutch.
Murray cried foul and was adamant the company would not pay for something the company already owned. He directed me to send the titles of the songs and any lyrics I could remember so the company could “claim” these songs, which meant United Artists Music would register the songs with the performing societies (ASCAP or BMI) as songs owned by United Artists Music so that no airplay royalties would be paid until such disputed ownership was resolved. I appealed to Murray’s reason and explained I didn’t remember the song titles or much of the lyrics. I also appealed to his sense of caring regarding a young man in need. With great reluctance he agreed to a royalty advance payment, but only $200 and not the $300 requested.
After explaining the situation to the young singer, I offered him $100 to sing lead vocal on two demo tracks I’d recorded. He agreed and the Sound Factory studio on Selma Blvd. in Hollywood was booked for Friday, March 7, 1969. He recorded his three songs and sang lead vocal on an R&B version of “The Painter (I Need Someone)” and on another long-forgotten song, both written by Paul Leka & Shelly Pinz. One, possibly two, of the young man’s songs appeared on either the first or the second album recorded by the new band formed with his brother. The lyrics of one song may have been “follow me down through those blue-eyed dreams” or something similar.
Early the following week I received two checks from our New York office, one for $200 as an advance against future royalties for the singer’s three songs and another check for $100 for his lead vocals on two demo recordings. When he picked up the checks it was the end of my very brief involvement with this young singer, and soon-to-be rock icon, Gregg Allman.
Later in 1969 the Allman Bros. Band’s self-titled debut album was released on Atco/Capricorn Records, a subsidiary label of Atlantic Records. Shortly after the Sound Factory recording session the demo tapes of Gregg Allman’s three songs and of the other two demos disappeared from United Artists Music’s Hollywood office. Copies of his three songs had been sent to the New York copyright department for copyright purposes, but the other two demos with Gregg’s lead vocals were not sent since these two songs had previously been copyrighted. Everyone in my office searched everywhere, but the tape recordings (the only existing copies) were never located. Later on, I met an unsavory fellow living in Laurel Canyon who was associated with some of the people connected with the Allman Bros. Band. Eventually, I came to believe he paid someone in my office to steal these tapes. Possibly Gregg Allman and his new management company didn’t want these particular recordings floating around the music business and I understand any such concern. Even though the Leka/Pinz songs weren’t the type of songs Gregg would have recorded, these recordings would make a unique collector’s item.
“When Sin Stops” by the Nighthawks was released in the fall of 1958 when Bob Venable and I were freshmen at the University of Texas and Mike Hinton was a high school senior at NMMI (New Mexico Military Institute) in Roswell, NM. Reaction to airplay on Amarillo radio station KLYN prompted disc jockey Tom Thacker to promote a Christmas holiday show at the Texas National Guard Armory and paid our band $50 (just over $400 in 2016), Years later Tom claimed he’d made a profit of over $1,000 (over $8,000 in 2016), and this was my introduction to the concert promotion business.
December 9, 1958
Radio Station KLYN
Thank you very much for your call the other night. We were very happy to hear that our record had been picked by KLYN as the number one recording of the week. We are very grateful for the help you have been giving us, and we hope you will continue to do so.
We are anxiously waiting to hear from you about the proposed stage show planned for December 20 in Amarillo. Thanks again for the help you are giving us.
Sometime in 1959 the Nighthawks were booked as opening act for a show at the downtown auditorium in Austin, Texas. Ray Peterson was the second act on the bill and the Teddy Bears were the headliner, a group high on the charts with their first hit record. This was the second, and final, auditorium concert performance by the Nighthawks with all other performances having been floorshows or dances at Amarillo High School, the YMCA, the YWCA, and one at the National Guard Armory. In Austin we unloaded our instruments and did a sound check late that afternoon, and as I stood on stage looking out over the many seats filling the large auditorium I felt a mixture of intimidation and excitement.
I noticed a young, short, skinny guy wearing khaki trousers and a white t-shirt walking around backstage and assumed he was a stagehand, but just after our performance I saw him playing an unplugged Telecaster slung over his shoulder. When the headliner took the stage, I realized the little guy was lead guitarist and background singer for the Teddy Bears and later on learned he had written their hit song “To Know Him Is To Love Him” and produced the record—his first hit as a songwriter and as a record producer, albeit the group’s only hit. This talented young man had formed the Teddy Bears with musician Marshall Leib and lead vocalist Annette Kleinbard. Years later when I met Marshall we enjoyed discussing our 1959 Austin concert-in-common as well as the many interesting dimensions of the volatile, multi-talented Phil Spector.
In late 1973 I was hired by Chappell Music Company, and early the following year signed Kim Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson as exclusive songwriters. The first song they wrote for Chappell was “You’re a Part of Me” and its demo recording was magical—simple, great vocal by Kim, and felt like a hit. I played the demo for Ron, my girlfriend’s older brother, who had recently left Warner Bros. Records as head of national promotion to head up Phil Spector’s record company, Philles Records distributed by Warner Bros. Ron played the recording for Spector, who immediately offered Kim a recording contract with himself as her producer. Kim was flattered but she was aware of the stories about Spector’s unusual behavior, which negated any interest in Spector as her producer. I assumed the rejection would kill the deal, but surprisingly it didn’t. Spector wanted to sign Kim to Philles Records, find her the “right” producer, and requested that we meet with him at his Hollywood Hills home.
Spector’s mansion-like structure with grand European water fountain centered in a large circular, stone driveway had a chain-link fence with gate and padlock vulgarly closing off the front porch entry area that easily could have caused one to consider such blight as a home owner’s overreaction “to threat of home burglary” or possibly “to paranoia.” But we’d heard rumors of Spector imprisoning someone in his home, so for us the fence spoke more to prohibition of exit, than of entry.
We were greeted by a household employee who led us to a billiards room where a small, inexpensive record player with detachable speakers was situated at the center of a pool table. Two large Altec 604 E sound speakers, commonly found in recording studios during the 1950s and 1960s, hung on the wall above some high-tech audio equipment stowed on a cadenza below. To the left of the audio equipment was a wall-hung, full-length mirror and on the opposite side there was a large window, two small chairs, and many pillows of various sizes where we were invited to sit.
Some 15 to 20 minutes later Spector finally made his appearance and after Ron’s introductions, Spector, who recently had dyed his hair blond, looked at himself in the full-length mirror and alternately combed his hair back with the fingers of one hand and then the other. “Now I’ll find out if blonds really do have more fun,” Spector proffered.
Phil Spector had just recorded a basic music track of “Born To Be With You” with lead vocal by well-known singer Dion (originally of Dion and the Belmonts fame). Spector placed an acetate (a disc similar to a record that is created by using a cutting lathe instead of being manufactured in a record pressing plant) on the small turntable at the center of the pool table and played the cool groove and very soulful Dion vocal of a song written by Don Robertson, which was a 1956 hit by the Chordettes on Cadence Records. The trademark Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” was clearly stamped on the recording and we all thought it was great—especially Dion’s vocal. Unfortunately, Spector later added horns that diminished the earthy, hypnotic spell the rhythm section and Dion’s vocal had delivered that afternoon at the chain-link-fenced-entry mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
After giving him our most sincere compliments regarding Dion’s recording, Spector played Kim’s demo on the same small record player while he alternated between standing still with his eyes closed, looking at himself in the full-length mirror, and pacing back and forth while intermittently executing forceful karate kicks in mid-air. Spector made positive comments about Kim’s demo, delivered more karate kicks, and looked in the mirror while repeating his “do blonds really have more fun?” mantra of the moment. Then Dion’s recording was played again.
Spector continued his bizarre, repetitive routine until interrupting to offer something to drink. There were few choices and ours was anisette liqueur. While enjoying the anisette, either Dave or I whispered a wisecrack and both chuckled very quietly—sort of under-our-breath. Stopping dead in his tracks, Spector wanted to immediately know the object of our laughter. We claimed it was nothing, but Spector was adamant about knowing what we thought was funny. If my own paranoia had been more obsessive I might have quickly associated Spector’s behavior with his chain-link fence to resolve that Phil Spector was indeed a very paranoid fellow. He demanded we divulge the words spoken and continued pressing the issue with such insistence that I felt compelled to lie that our remarks were about our afternoon buzz from the anisette. He reluctantly accepted my story while conveying an expression soaked serious with doubt—evoking expressions of Judge Chamberlain Haller (played by Fred Gwynne of The Munsters fame) in reaction to the foolhardy antics of attorney Vinny Gambini (played by Joe Pesci) in the movie My Cousin Vinny.
Never during the two-hour meeting did Spector play either recording on the high-tech audio equipment connected to the large Altec speakers. A horror-movie screenplay could be harvested from Spector’s repetitive comments and actions of playing Dion’s recording, playing Kim’s recording, assertions regarding “blonds and having more fun”—a horror movie in which the victim is doomed to repeat the same five-minute segment of life over and over and over. Spector was weird—weird even for Hollyweird.
After rejecting Spector’s offer Kim signed with A&M Records where she recorded two albums attaining only minor success before moving to EMI America Records where in 1981 she hit with “Bette Davis Eyes,” a song co-written by Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss. Spector’s continued success included producing both John Lennon and the Ramones. On May 29, 2009 Spector was formally sentenced to 19 years to life for the second degree murder of Lana Clarkson at his home on February 3, 2003. As of 2009, he is serving his sentence at the California Health Care Facility, California State Prison (Stockton, California) and is not eligible for parole until 2028 at age 88. In September 2014, it was reported that Spector had lost his ability to speak due to recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a rare medical condition.
Phil Spector timeline:
1939: Born Phillip Harvey Spector on December 26, 1939.
1958: Inspired by the epitaph on father’s tombstone he writes “To Know Him Is To Love Him” and produces it with The Teddy Bears, a group formed with high school friends. Released on Era Records’ subsidiary label Dore Records, it’s a #1 hit selling over a million copies.
1959: Works as apprentice in Arizona studio for Lester Sill and Lee Hazlewood.
1960: Works for songwriters/producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in NYC.
At age 20 returns to Los Angeles to form his own record label, Philles Records, with Lester Sill.
Begins producing an unprecedented string of hits with musicians known as The Wrecking Crew (Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye) and future stars such as Mac Rebennack (aka “Dr. John”), Cher, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Jack Nitzsche, and Sonny Bono.
Creates the “Wall of Sound” production technique that later influenced the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, and others.
1966: Announces self-described "retirement" at age 26.
1968: Marries Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, lead singer of the Ronettes.
1969: Cameo role as a drug dealer in the film Easy Rider.
1970: Surreptitious alteration of “The Long and Winding Road” infuriates Paul McCartney, the last straw leading to the Beatles’ break-up.
1974: Phil and Ronnie Spector divorce.
1975: Creates Phil Spector International.
Works with artists Dion, Harry Nilsson, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, and Darlene Love.
Stories circulate of discharging a firearm while in the studio with John Lennon during the recording of Lennon’s Rock N’ Roll cover album.
1977: Story circulates of placing a loaded pistol at Leonard Cohen’s head during the sessions for Death of a Ladies’ Man.
1980: Dee Dee Ramone reports that Spector threatened his band mates during their recording sessions with his group, The Ramones.
1989: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer.
1997: Inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
2000: Ronnie Spector successfully sues for over $2 million for breach of contract over unpaid royalties to the Ronettes.
2003: Indicted for the February 3rd murder of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra, California home.
Defense attorney Robert Shapiro represents Spector at his arraignment and early pretrial hearings and achieves his release on $1 million bail.
2007: Burns through at least three sets of attorneys during first trial, which ends in a hung jury.
2008: Found guilty of second degree murder at second trial.
2009: Receives sentence of 19 years to life in California state prison system.
2011: Conviction affirmed by California Court of Appeal and request for a rehearing of the appeal shortly thereafter is denied.
The California Supreme Court refuses to review Court of Appeal’s decision. Spector is first eligible for parole in 2028 at age 88.
Spector Top 10 hit singles produced
1958: “To Know Him Is To Love Him” – The Teddy Bears #1
1961: “Corrina, Corrina” – Ray Peterson #9
“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Curtis Lee #7
“I Love How You Love Me” – The Paris Sisters #5
1962: “Second Hand Love” – Connie Francis #7
“He’s a Rebel” – The Crystals #1
1963: “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” – Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans #8
“Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” – The Crystals #3
“Then He Kissed Me” – The Crystals #6
“Be My Baby” – The Ronettes #2
1965: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” – The Righteous Brothers #1
“Just Once In My Life” – The Righteous Brothers #9
“Unchained Melody” – The Righteous Brothers #4
1966: “Ebb Tide” – The Righteous Brothers #5
“River Deep - Mountain High” – Ike and Tina Turner #3 (U.K. only)
1970: “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” – John Lennon #3
“The Long and Winding Road” & “For You Blue” – The Beatles #1
“My Sweet Lord” – George Harrison #1
1971: “What Is Life?” – George Harrison #10
“Imagine” – John Lennon #3
1980: “Baby, I Love You” – Ramones #8 (U.K. only)
1987: “To Know Him Is To Love Him” – Trio: Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris #1 (U.S. country chart only)
2003: “Silence Is Easy” – Starsailor #8 (U.K. only)
Spector albums produced
1959: The Teddy Bears Sing – The Teddy Bears
1963: A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records – Various Artists
Twist Uptown – The Crystals
He’s a Rebel – The Crystals
1964: Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica – The Ronettes
1965: Ronettes – The Ronettes
1966: River Deep-Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner
1970: Let It Be – The Beatles
All Things Must Pass (co-producer) – George Harrison
Plastic Ono Band (co-producer) – John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
1971: Imagine (co-producer) – John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band with the Flux Fiddlers
The Concert for Bangladesh (co-producer) – George Harrison and friends
1972: Some Time in New York City (co-producer) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Elephant’s Memory plus Invisible Strings
1975: Rock N’ Roll (co-producer) – John Lennon
Born To Be With You – Dion
1977: Death of a Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
1980: End of the Century – Ramones
1981: Season of Glass (co-producer) – Yoko Ono
1986: Menlove Ave. (co-producer) – John Lennon
2003: Silence Is Easy – Starsailor
After “River Deep-Mountain High” was a hit in England but failed in the U.S., Spector ran a full-page ad in Billboard Magazine in which most of the page was empty space.
Ike and Tina Turner
“River Deep-Mountain High”
#3 in England
(about 90% of the page left blank)
“Three cheers for Benedict Arnold.”
Van Morrison recorded “Don’t Change On Me” and although never released by Warner Bros. it was available on the Italian bootleg album Van Morrison Gets His Chance To Wail, Volume 2 on Gold Standard Records. I finally obtained a copy, and although this rendition leaves much to be desired, it’s a treat to hear this iconic artist sing my song.
In the mid-1970s I met Van at Hollywood’s Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset Blvd. next to the Roxy Theater.
“Thanks for recording my song ‘Don’t Change On Me’.”
“Are you still writing songs?”
“No, I’m a music publisher now.”
“Oh…if you can’t lick ‘em…join ‘em!”
Kenny Rogers owned the publishing rights for some songs he wanted to exploit by obtaining recordings by other recording artists. I’d become acquainted with Kenny on the golf course and from him having recorded two Alex Harvey songs—“Reuben James” #26 pop in 1969 and “Tell It All Brother” #17 pop in 1970. By happenstance Kenny and I met on August 25, 1970 at the Jolly Roger Restaurant located in the United California Bank building at 6255 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood where Kenny urged me to promote his songs. He suggested I call his attorney to initiate a contract covering the various business aspects of the partnership he suggested.
“Kenny, I don’t like dealing with attorneys. Here’s a contract I prefer.” I opened a cocktail napkin to its full dimensions and at the top wrote the date “8/25/70” followed by the words, “We promise.” I passed it to Kenny and at the bottom he wrote, “Me too” and signed “Kenny Rogers Jr.” We never entered into an agreement regarding the songs, but 10 years later in 1980 Kenny’s album Gideon sold over two million copies and my publishing company was co-publisher of all songs in the album. I sent Kenny a copy of our “napkin contract” with a note attached: “Thanks for Gideon. You’ve lived up to our agreement.”
Musicians Craig Doerge, Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, and Danny Kortchmar were known as the Section, a band that toured and recorded with James Taylor and other artists. I was fortunate to record several sessions with these talented musicians, at times as a recording artist and sometimes as a record producer, although I always substituted guitarist Larry Carlton for the Section guitarist Danny Kortchmar. I thought Danny was a great guitarist, but having previously worked with Larry on several sessions before meeting the Section, I wanted the continued benefit of Larry’s creativity.
A few days prior to a recording session I had a pre-production meeting with both the artist and Craig Doerge, the musical arranger and keyboard player for the session. We made final decisions regarding which songs to record, the proper key for each song, the tempos, etc. and I confirmed the studio time I’d reserved and gave Craig song work tapes he’d use to write chord charts for the musicians. We agreed to speak again a day or two before the session.
“Craig, the recording artist is prepared and I’ve confirmed Larry Carlton.”
“Great, Eddie. I’ve confirmed Leon Russell.”
“Craig, I thought you were playing keyboards.”
“Why will there be two keyboards on the session?”
“There won’t be.”
“Then what will Leon Russell play?”
“Bass and drums.”
It was as though reality had shattered conjuring up Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First” routine.
“Don’t we have Lee Sklar on bass and Russ Kunkel on drums?”
“Craig, help me deal with this madness. Why will Leon Russell be at our session?”
“As far as I know, Leon Russell won’t be at our session.”
When Craig said, “Leon Russell,” it finally occurred to me that what I’d initially heard as “Leon Russell” was actually Craig’s reference to “Lee and Russell” as in “Lee Sklar and Russell Kunkel.” It was an entertaining instance of phonetic befuddlement.
CRAFT & CRAFTINESS
“Creativity is allowing [one’s self] to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” –Scott Adams
Jimmy Holiday claimed he was born in an area of Africa whose people have the world’s second fastest dialect, a pronouncement believable from his unusual vocalizations when excited, frustrated or angry. As a seven-year-old, dark-skinned African youngster who spoke no English, he became embroiled in many fights from the teasing of his peers soon after his family landed in Waterloo, Iowa. However, Wikipedia lists his birthplace as Sallis, Mississippi, a small town located about 60 miles north of Jackson. Jimmy was born on July 24, 1934 and died of heart failure on February 15, 1987 at the age of 52 in Iowa City, Iowa. A lean, muscular man about six feet tall, he was, by his own account, a street fighter, professional boxer, karate practitioner and fast draw expert, as in drawing a single action revolver cowboy-style from a holster—a sport that claimed the missing part of one finger.
We met in 1968 after Metric Music, Liberty Records’ music-publishing company where Jimmy was an exclusive songwriter, merged with United Artists Music. As head of the Hollywood office for United Artists Music, I added Jimmy and the other Metric Music songwriters to my management portfolio. At our first meeting Jimmy was still frail while recovering from open-heart surgery—a man mellowed by both the trauma of surgery and cessation of alcohol consumption. Ray Charles had recorded some of Jimmy’s songs, including “Understanding” that in 1968 reached #13 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #46 on its pop chart, so Jimmy deserved my most sincere professional attention.
Mac Davis told a story about a recording engineer who Jimmy thought was working too slowly, which was increasing the cost of a recording session personally financed by Jimmy. He urged the engineer who was seated at the sound console to work more quickly, but to no avail. A couch was located between the console and the window separating the control room from the studio recording room, and after other warnings went unheeded, Jimmy, who was standing near the couch in his beloved cowboy boots, stepped onto the couch with one boot and in a very long, very high second-step, planted his other boot in the middle of the sound console and then with his other boot delivered a severe karate kick to the engineer’s solar plexus. Doubled over and gasping for breath while holding his abdomen with one hand, the engineer quickly and earnestly began turning knobs and pushing levers of the sound console with the other.
In the Metric Music merger I also inherited singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon and we developed a cordial business relationship. Early on Jackie confided she felt directionless, frustrated, and unproductive and asked what suggestions I could offer. I played songs from Jimmy Holiday’s most recent demo session and although the songs weren’t great, the musicians Jimmy used were killer. I suggested Jimmy needed stronger lyrics and Jackie responded by leaving with copies of his demo recordings.
When we first met Jackie’s only major success as a recording artist had been the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song, “What the World Needs Now,” which reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in July 1965. Her husband Bud Dain was head of A&R (artist and repertoire) for Liberty Records, where he was responsible for discovering new artists, finding hit songs, hiring talented producers, determining which songs would be released as singles for radio airplay, and releasing from contract any artist who no longer warranted investment of the company’s resources. After playing Jimmy’s recordings for Bud, Jackie asked that I suggest to Jimmy that they write together and to claim it was my idea, not Jackie’s.
Without hesitation Jimmy replied, “Hell no, I ain’t writing with her.” An earlier attempt to collaborate had left Jimmy feeling negative about co-writing with Jackie, but Jimmy’s interest was heightened by my suggestion that co-writing with her might foster an opportunity to produce an artist who had a Top 10 pop hit to her credit and whose husband could greatly influence decisions at Liberty Records. As we discussed the issue I could almost hear the sound of a cash register ringing in Jimmy’s discourse.
“She’s a great singer, her husband is head of A&R at Liberty and you’ve got a cookin’ band. All you need is a hit song.” He promised to call, but a week later nothing had happened.
“Did you call Jackie?”
“Yeah, but there was no answer.”
“Did you call again?”
“Let’s make sure you have the right number.” I urged Jimmy to continue calling.
They finally connected and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” was the second or third song completed. I thought “hit record” was written all over their demo recording and according to Jackie, so did her husband. We all believed strings should be added and Liberty should release it as Jackie’s next single.
Bud called to say he loved the demo and agreed strings should be added, but the following day he called again.
“I’ve been listening and it needs to be re-recorded.”
“Bud, it’s a hit as is. Just add strings and release it.”
That same day Jackie call Jimmy to say she’d forgotten to inform him that her brother, Randy Myers, had written the bridge of the song and would have to be included as a third writer. Jimmy’s share of writers’ royalties was reduced from one-half to one-third and his prospects of producing Jackie were diminishing. I didn’t know if Randy Myers did, in fact, write the bridge of this great song, but I did know my cynicism was increasing in direct proportion to Jimmy’s decreasing share of potential income.
Bud asked for the names of the musicians who performed on the demo recording and had I known what would transpire, I would not have answered his question. Bud hired new producers to re-record the song with Jackie, and the producers hired Jimmy’s band for the session. According to Jimmy’s musicians, the new producers (two guys the musicians claimed knew nothing about producing a record) played the original recording and asked, “Do you remember recording this song? Well, play exactly what you played then.” An arranger was hired to add strings and horns to complete the recording—a conclusion coinciding with the consummation of Jimmy’s royal Hollyweird screwing. Some believed the two new producers were fronting a production company actually owned by Bud but I don’t know if this was true. Bud is listed as “Executive Producer” on the album credits and my ensuing observations served only to increase my suspicions.
After “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” was released Bud asked what I thought of the record. “It’s a hit and it’s exactly like Jimmy’s production with strings and horns added. But I don’t like the horns.” The record reached #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in August 1968 and it would be Jackie DeShannon’s second, and last, Top 10 hit as a recording artist. It sold well over a million records and today is a lucrative copyright heard worldwide in television ads, movies, television shows, and recordings by many other artists. At the peak of the record’s initial success, I happened to see Bud one night at Martoni’s Restaurant.
“Eddie, how do you like the horns now?”
“Without the lame horns we would’ve sold over two million records by now.”
Jimmy Holiday worked diligently on his songs. He’d sit for hours and hours at home while thinking about an idea or writing a lyric. His wife, Betty, was completely dedicated to him and on my many visits to their home I observed Jimmy’s many commands—Betty, get me a pencil; Betty, get me my slippers; Betty, get me some paper; Betty, bring me the phone. When Jimmy spoke his wife’s name, he spoke it sharply and so quickly that the two syllables became but one. Promptly, and without any complaint ever heard by me, Betty satisfied his every command.
Jimmy and I had planned to write one evening at his home and I’d agreed to bring Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner. It was a cold winter evening—cold at least for the fairly mild winters of Los Angeles. When I arrived no one answered the doorbell so I rang again, but still no answer. Both the chicken and I were getting cold and I was wondering if Jimmy had forgotten about our appointment. Finally, through the closed door came Betty’s voice, “Jimmy’s not home.”
“We’re supposed to write tonight.”
“Well, he’s not home right now.”
“I’ve got chicken dinners and they’re getting cold.”
“I’m not allowed to open the door when Jimmy’s not home.”
I understood the many prudent reasons for such a rule, but I was Jimmy’s music publisher and songwriting partner. “Does not opening the door apply to me?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t open the door when Jimmy’s not home.”
“What do you want me to do with the chicken?”
“I don’t know.”
I waited about 15 minutes in the warmth of my car, but when Jimmy didn’t show I went back to their front door.
“Betty, just open the door so I can hand you the chicken dinners.”
“I can’t do that.”
I went home with four chicken dinners and when I arrived at my office the next morning Jimmy was waiting to offer his most sincere apology for missing our writing appointment and for the chicken dinners. It was fairly Hollyweird.
During one of our writing sessions I suggested a lyric with an imperfect rhyme—like “time” and “mine.” “We can’t use that,” Jimmy declared. “It’s an imperfect rhyme.”
“A lot of pop songs have imperfect rhymes, Jimmy.”
“None of my songs.”
“I’m sure some of your songs do.”
“I’m not sure I can name one right this second, but I’m sure you have some.”
“You won’t find one—not in my songs.”
My mind raced, attempting to conjure up something until finally remembering a song from his last demo session. “How about ‘The River’s Wide’?”
Jimmy thought for a few seconds. “Nope, perfect rhymes—all perfect rhymes.”
“What about the second verse?”
“Nope. Perfect rhymes.”
“Well Jimmy, what’s the second verse?”
“The river’s wide, I just can’t step it. I love you so much, I just can’t hep it.” Case closed. Jimmy won the point by the black-slang pronunciation of “help” as “hep.”
Many mornings when I arrived at my office my assistant would say, “Jimmy’s on the phone.” His conversation would range from “I just woke up,” to “I’m feeling good today,” or possibly, “I think I’ll write today” or some other miscellaneous rendering. It came to believe I was his “home base”—his “security blanket”—and this may have been an essential element of our relationship. Sometimes in these morning conversations there would be long pauses of silence, and my efforts to politely end the call were often ignored. In one entertaining conversation Jimmy was filled with such excitement that I couldn’t decipher the meaning of his rapid-fire words. Eventually he calmed enough that I understood, “I gotta get me some of that pubishin’”—pronounced “pub-ish-in” and almost as one syllable. Jimmy had learned some successful songwriters were receiving partial ownership of the publishing rights, which increased the songwriter’s portion of income. He was uniquely communicating his same desire.
Jimmy claimed he played chess with Ray Charles, and it’s well-known that Willie Nelson and Ray have played chess. Willie said Ray won but that Willie would insist on different rules next time they played. “We’ll play with the lights on.” Jimmy said Ray had an excellent memory and would feel the tops of the chess pieces to remind him where each piece was positioned on the chessboard.
I wrote a melody for a new song but had lyrics only for the chorus. I invited Jimmy to write three verses, but his initial attempt was misdirected. “Jimmy, think church”—and he did. Jimmy wrote two verses that we refined, and then together we wrote a third verse. Jimmy played our song for Ray Charles who recorded it for his next album. Just after the album was released I received a call from a radio promotion man working for Ray’s company. “Your song has a chance to be the next single, but the decision will be influenced by what I tell Ray is happening at radio.” He suggested that I do something “nice” for him.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, do something nice. Take care of me.”
My mind raced to understand what the promotion man was suggesting, and in Hollyweird one could never underestimate the possibility of moral anomaly. “I still don’t understand what you’re suggesting.”
“Well, one songwriter bought me a nice pair of alligator shoes.” He supplied the name of the store, his shoe size and what I should expect to pay. I was dumbfounded and a little pissed off. I completely ignored his request and to my great relief “Don’t Change On Me” was released as Ray’s next single. It reached #13 on the R&B chart, #36 on the pop chart, sold 300,000 singles and reached the Top 10 on several major-market pop radio stations, including KHJ in L.A.
Ray also recorded two other songs Jimmy and I wrote—“All I Ever Need Is You” and “If You Wouldn’t Be My Lady.” Sometime during this activity Ray suggested a music publishing deal be structured between his company and United Artists Music, stipulating he would record more songs written by Jimmy and me if United Artists assigned 50% publishing ownership to Ray’s company of every other song he recorded. My boss at United Artists Music agreed in general with the concept, so Jimmy set an appointment for me to negotiate the agreement with Ray at his Washington Blvd. Office.
After Jimmy’s introductions, the three of us visited for a while and then Jimmy left. For over two hours amid Ray’s many telephone calls and visits from personal manager Joe Adams and other company personnel, Ray and I talked. He would say, “I – I – I’m a simple man. I – I – I – I just want a-a simple one-page contract, just a one-page letter. Now – now – now don’t give me one of those long company contracts. Just give me something very simple ‘cause I just wanna keep things real simple.” He repeated his preferred contract criteria a few times in his entertaining, mildly stuttering way of speaking. I savored the privilege of being Ray Charles’ audience for part of an afternoon and it was obvious he loved an audience. But more meaningfully, I found him to be a polite, kind man with a sweet disposition. United Artists Music drafted a one-page letter agreement that I delivered to Ray’s office the following week conveying to Ray’s company 50% copyright ownership of “All I Ever Need Is You,” a few months prior to the release of the Sonny & Cher hit. Ray was a savvy businessman with good luck in timing.
On two other occasions I saw Ray—both at his recording studio on Washington Blvd. in Culver City. As he mixed the sound elements of one of his recordings, his hands moved quickly over the knobs and levers of the recording console to seek the desired results. On another visit I observed Ray recording with a full rhythm section, horn section, and three background singers. For over half an hour he had the horn section laboriously repeat the same four bars over and over while obsessively focusing on the exact rhythmical syncopation he demanded. Interspersed with the rigorous horn section rehearsals were several concerted efforts of the entire group of about 15 musicians and singers. I could feel the creative impetus dwindle as the spontaneity and emotional spirit of participants eroded. It was surprising what the great Ray Charles fostered on that afternoon.
Although Ray attained only marginal commercial success with the three songs written by Jimmy and me, the long reach of Charles’ musical influence generated significant collateral success—“All I Ever Need Is You” was a hit by Sonny & Cher; “If You Wouldn’t Be My Lady” was included on the quadruple-platinum album Behind Closed Doors by Charlie Rich after he and producer Billy Sherrill discovered the song on Charles’ 1972 album Through the Eyes of Love; and 35 years after Charles’ moderate success with “Don’t Change On Me,” recording artist/record producer Alison Krauss recorded our song with country artist Alan Jackson for his 2006 hit album Like Red On a Rose (# 1 country, #4 pop). It was as if Jimmy Holiday and I had fortuitously acquired the prodigious talents of Ray Charles to create demonstration recordings of our songs.
During 1970 and 1971 I was a recording artist for Kapp Records (MCA Records affiliate label), and one evening I happened to encounter Johnny Musso, head executive of Kapp, at Martoni’s Restaurant just after I’d concluded a rehearsal session in preparation for my next Kapp recording session.
“Which songs will you be recording, Eddie?” When my reply did not include “All I Ever Need Is You,” Johnny asked, “How about that little love song?”
“All I Ever Need Is You?”
“Yes, that one.”
“We rehearsed it, but there wasn’t much excitement about it. It just sort of lay there. But I’ll record it if you want.”
“No, no—you decide which songs to record.”
Sonny & Cher were also Kapp Records recording artists and Johnny knew my “little love song” was included on the Ray Charles album, which had just been released. Johnny called the next morning. “Is Ray Charles going to release your song as a single?”
“Ray’s manager, Joe Adams, says it will be the next single, but not for a few weeks since the first single from the album was just released. Joe says my song will be the second single and with the drum break edited out.” Ray had inserted a drum solo just prior to the instrumental interlude to allow him time to move from piano to saxophone for his soulful, jazz-flavored sax solo.
“Do you have a copy of the album?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Please send it over by messenger.”
Johnny sent the album to Sonny & Cher’s producer, Snuff Garrett who recorded it with the duo for immediate release just as their weekly television show The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour exploded onto the national scene in August 1971. Sonny and Cher were hot and their next single as a duo was bound to attract significant national attention.
About a week later Johnny called. “Eddie, come out to my office. I need to have a meeting with you.” As the Sonny & Cher recording of “All I Ever Need Is You” played in Johnny’s office, my reaction was completely negative. I could only think, “They’ve ruined our song.” The opening lyric, “Sometimes when I’m down and all alone,” seems to beg for an introspective emotional vocal like I’d sung on my original guitar and vocal demo recording. But the Sonny & Cher version was upbeat and happy—a grand opening or closing number for a Las Vegas show accompanied by bright lights, bright colors and many dancers twirling all about the stage. Musically, I had envisioned the song as a mournful Kenny Rogers love ballad, and, in fact, he was the first artist I played it for, although he rejected it. Ironically, Kenny eventually recorded the song in 1979 as a duet with Dottie West—a #1 country hit from their Classics album. This recording has been included on three other Kenny Rogers compilation albums and in total the Kenny Rogers/Dottie West version of the song has sold over three million copies. On occasion I’ve wondered if Kenny remembers rejecting the song in 1971.
No matter my thoughts and feelings about Sonny & Cher’s particular rendition, I was pumped regarding the potential success their record would likely generate, and I greatly appreciated Johnny Musso having taken such an interest in, and initiative with, “that little love song.”
The single shipped 990,000 copies and there were some returns, so the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has not certified it as a gold single (a single selling more than one million copies) even though Kapp Records presented a gold record to Sonny & Cher during an episode of their television show. Jimmy and I didn’t receive gold records, but “bigger fish were being fried” than are cooked up by a glittering award hanging on one’s living room wall. The initial thrust of the Sonny & Cher recording was strong enough to launch a long-lasting, income-producing musical copyright leading to worldwide sales (including all recorded versions of the song) of over seven million copies by 2016. The many recordings include a #1 record in Holland by Andre Hazes in 1984. The Sonny & Cher album All I Ever Need Is You was certified gold for sales of over 500,000 copies and was #14 on the pop albums chart, while the single reached #7 on the pop singles charts. It also remained #1 for five consecutive weeks on the Billboard Adult Contemporary singles radio airplay chart. The single was Top 10 in the U.K. and in Canada, and by 2016 worldwide publisher and songwriter earnings were about $2,000,000 with most earnings occurring when the amount paid per recording sold was only 20% of the rate paid for new recordings in 2016.
When I left United Artists Music as a songwriter and company employee in early 1972, my association with Jimmy ended. We attempted to write another time or two, but something had changed—differing wavelengths. The last time I called, Betty said Jimmy wouldn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t know whether he only wouldn’t talk to me or if he actually wouldn’t talk to anyone, but I understood when Betty added, “He just sits in his chair all day staring at the wall. I think he’s had a nervous breakdown.” Eventually Jimmy and Betty divorced and he moved near relatives living in Iowa.
The next time I saw Jimmy was in 1980 or 1981 when he drove through Amarillo en route from Iowa to Hollywood with his new wife and their baby daughter, Harmony. I invited them to my home, but Jimmy insisted we meet at a restaurant parking lot on Interstate 40. It was a brief visit of only 10 minutes or so, but I met his wife and baby Harmony. Jimmy was distant and that distance seemed strange after spending hours and hours together as songwriter and music publisher, and as successful co-writers. But our lives had grown far apart during the eight years since we had worked together. Sometimes Jimmy was difficult but he persistently worked hard on his songs, had lots of feeling, rhythm, and soul, and was a good singer. Only a few years after our parking lot meeting, Jimmy’s heart problem ended his life—a life of music that put a little love in many hearts.
In addition to the duties of songwriter and song plugger at United Artists Music in New York, it was also my responsibility to call music directors at Top 40 radio stations in the southern and southwestern states to promote recordings of songs published by the company that had been recently released. Even though I had never been a record promoter and knew none of the music directors, my boss directed me to make these promotion calls. Having had no previous experience and no clear idea how to proceed or even what to say, my effort began with a series of “cold calls.” Anyone who’s made such calls knows how difficult and depressing it can be, but with great enthusiasm I charged ahead with calls to stations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Cincinnati and others.
In the mid-1960s radio promotion was less sophisticated than years later when programming consultants were the norm, which created much analytical pondering. But in those earlier days a music director’s decision was primarily based on name value of the recording artist, national chart activity, the music director’s own personal opinion, any friendship between the record promoter and the music director, and any favor a promoter might offer, such as cash, dining out, gifts, and possibly “ladies of the night.”
Payola was headline news during the Alan Freed fiasco when on November 26, 1959 disc jockey Freed was served with a subpoena. The scandal lingered for months and months until his guilty plea in 1962 on two counts of commercial bribery for which his punishment was a $300 fine and a suspended sentence of six months in jail. The event sent payola underground, although it was still very much alive in the mid-1960s. A creative ploy of one successful record company was a weekly financial payment to any important music director who lost his job. For an unemployed music director who had no current affiliation with a radio station, these payments did not legally constitute payola and such unemployment insurance built considerable power and goodwill for the company as word spread regarding who would “butter one’s bread” in the event of job loss.
I had great difficulty communicating with Danny, the music director at WKY in Oklahoma City. He seldom took my calls, and when he did I was always cut short. Alan Clark, a polite gentleman who was station general manager, suggested I contact Bob Hamilton, a young disc jockey who filled in when Danny was ill or on vacation. Bob happily accepted my calls, but it was soon evident that our relationship would be one of “a promoter promoting a promoter.” Bob was a comedian wannabe who worked with a young singer of little talent, and in his effort of striving for success he visited Manhattan in the hope I could introduce him to someone in the comedy business. While attending the University of Texas in Austin I’d spent time with comedian Jackie Vernon who had recently released a new album on United Artists Records. Obtaining his phone number from a fellow U. A. employee, I called Vernon and reminded him of our Austin acquaintance. Not only did he not remember me, he was mad as hell I’d called his home telephone number. In his explosion of anger the only subject at hand was how I had obtained his home number.
Bob’s show business bug was so zealous he moved from Oklahoma City to Manhattan and arrived the day prior to my move from New York to Hollywood. We only briefly connected and soon I learned that Bob’s gumption had landed him a radio promotion job with the famous Morris Levy at Roulette Records. A year or so later we renewed our friendship when Bob moved to Hollywood to launch his own business enterprise, a “music tip sheet” that provided music directors at Top 40 radio stations with developing information and helpful advice regarding which current records most deserved airplay. Since three other “tip sheet” consultants had fairly thriving businesses, Bob was entering an already crowded small-niche business. But his fiery determination soon led to meaningful credibility although little consequential financial stability.
Bob’s office was located in the same building as United Artists Music at 1525 North La Brea, just north of Sunset Blvd. and across the street from the La Brea Inn. I allowed Bob access to our coffee, office supplies, copy machine, and often treated him to lunch. All of the Hollywood record promoters visited his office to promote their new releases and left copies for his review. Sometimes I visited his office to hear new releases and met many of these record promoters—some the most colorful of the many incomparable Hollywood music-business characters. On one visit I observed a telephone repairman standing by while Bob spoke on the phone. After finishing the call Bob begged, “Just one more call?”
“Okay, but this is absolutely the last one.”
When the call ended, Bob busily began writing on a legal pad while the telephone man disconnected and removed the phone.
“What are you writing?” I asked.
“I couldn’t pay my phone bill so I’m writing a letter to the next person I was going to call.”
It was a seamless, unemotional, pragmatic transition from essential telephone calls to essential handwritten letters. I was much impressed by his stoic tenacity.
Something went wrong with Bob’s car, leaving him dependent on friends for all transportation needs. At Jimmy Bowen’s Amos Open golf tournament I’d won a Honda 125 motorcycle that Jimmy claimed was the only property conveyed to him in his recent divorce from singer Keely Smith. Bob asked to borrow the Honda—a prospect that caused me great anxiety, fear, and uncomfortable contemplation regarding severe injury or even the death of my friend. After my most serious delivery of pointed advice, I loaned Bob the motorcycle with his promise that prior to flirting with death on the traffic-crammed, big-city streets of L.A. he would ride for one entire week only on the quiet street by his apartment building in order to indelibly stamp upon his brain the emergency reactions and reflexes required for any reasonable chance of survival.
Prominent New York attorney Walter Hofer, who represented the Beatles in their early U.S. career, had agreed to finance Bob’s company on the condition Bob move to Hofer’s New York offices. Eventually the “Bob Hamilton Radio Report” took root in both influence and financial stability, after which Bob and his wife Chris moved back to Los Angeles where he immediately purchased a motorcycle. He invited me to borrow his new large, powerful bike—possibly in a gesture of appreciation regarding the Honda 125.
Hometown friend Terri Mike Johnson had recently moved to the Ocean Front Walk area near my beachfront house in Venice Beach, and as a welcoming gesture to introduce her to the beach area I invited her for a motorcycle ride. Having never been on a motorcycle, Terry Mike was understandably nervous and extracted my solemn promise to be extremely careful. I stopped the bike on the sidewalk in front of her house, Terry Mike climbed on, and we proceeded along the sidewalk at the slowest possible speed. The curb along this street was about a foot high and I realized that transitioning too slowly from the sidewalk to the street would cause the motorcycle to high center, which most likely would result in a nasty fall. With my best intentions aimed at honoring my promise to Terry Mike, I quickly opened the throttle to gain enough speed to clear the high curb. The Honda 125, the last motorcycle I’d spent time riding, was far less powerful than Bob’s new bike and the power delivered by quickly turning the throttle was markedly different—something that did not occur to me at that particular moment. We shot straight up toward the sky and flew out onto the street while precariously balancing on only the rear wheel—the very first, and last, “wheelie” I ever performed. I expected our considerable momentum to produce a half-flip resulting in our unprotected heads being slammed hard onto the pavement—a frightful prospect that most likely would be punctuated by the heavy motorcycle landing on top of us. Things were not good.
In purely a reflex reaction, I reduced the throttle to nil and hung on to that roaring beast as Terri Mike’s death grip locked ever more tightly around my waist in her attempt to remain aboard our private carnival ride. Finally our upward momentum was spent and in what seemed a real-life, slow-motion movie scene we gently floated back down to earth with both my adrenaline rush and emotional relief in full bloom. Terri Mike excitedly yelled, “Man, you sure know how to ride this thing” to which I smartly replied, “Oh yeah!”
After the merger of United Artists Music and Metric Music I met with each songwriter under contract to Metric, which in addition to Jimmy Holiday and Jackie DeShannon, included Delaney Bramlett of the recording duo Delaney & Bonnie; Bob Lind, writer of “Elusive Butterfly of Love”; and Sharon Sheeley, writer “Poor Little Fool,” #1 pop hit by Ricky Nelson. In April 1960, Sharon was accompanying her fiancé Eddie Cochran (“Summertime Blues”) and rock star Gene Vincent (“Be-Bob-a-lu-la”) on their British tour when the taxi they rode in blew a tire and hit a lamp post causing Cochran’s death at age 21.
I spent much time becoming acquainted with each songwriter and their songs. Although songwriter Mac Davis was still under contract to Metric, he had agreed to sign with Nancy Sinatra’s music publishing company when his Metric contract expired. I pledged my strongest support to Mac if he remained at Metric but he had already committed to the new contract. We establish a cordial friendship that primarily consisted of Mac using me as a sounding board for his new songs and on occasion having a beer together at the La Brea Inn restaurant and bar.
Jimmy Holiday and I recorded the demo of “Don’t Change On Me” at the Sound Factory recording studio owned by my friend Dave Hassinger, producer of “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” a #11 pop hit by the Electric Prunes. It was a state-of-the-art studio where many hits were recorded including some by the Rolling Stones that Dave engineered. He allowed a reduced rate for any studio time I used that had not been booked by his major clients, which fit well in the minimal demo-recording budget of United Artists Music. Jimmy sang on an R&B version of our song that he later played for Ray Charles and I sang on a more pop-oriented version. I was surprised when Mac visited our session since he had never previously attended one of my many sessions. I always discouraged visitors who too easily could distract from the focus required, and in the recording studio I was all business. Mac arrived during the recording of my vocal and joked that our song could be a hit in China—an obvious reference to the unintentional oriental sound created by my rhythmic repetition of the title line, “Don’t change on me, don’t change on me, don’t change on me.”
Two years later in February 1972, Mac went to Memphis for a recording session with hit producer Chips Moman at American Recording Studio. Chips had a reputation of rejecting any song he didn’t earnestly believe could be a hit, even if written by the artist he was producing. His negative opinion of Neil Diamond songs caused the singer/songwriter to return to his hotel room and write “Sweet Caroline.” A similar experience for Mac produced “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” after Chips urged him to “write a song with a hook.” It was Mac’s only #1 pop hit, and the first of only two Top-10 singles during his recording career.
Mac invited me to his Studio City home to hear the results of his latest recording session. We’d been music business friends, not personal friends, and our only social connection had been drinking a beer now and then at the La Brea Inn, and Mac seeking my opinion about his new songs, which always happened at my office. He respected my opinions and I respected his creative talent, so it wasn’t unexpected for Mac to seek my opinion. But I was surprised to be invited to his home.
Mac led me to a small office where he played “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me,” and as it played I was acutely aware of the focused intensity with which Mac observed me—to such extent my attention was partially distracted. Although Mac was generally an intense person, his demeanor at our meeting was something I’d not previously experience from him—something I even found a bit strange. When the music ended, Mac asked what I thought. I replied the chorus was infectious and that his chance for Top 40 radio airplay was very good. While leaning toward me so that our faces were inordinately close, he looked directly into my eyes and asked if I had any other thoughts about his new recording. All I could think was, “Why is Mac acting so weird?” Then the front doorbell rang and Mac returned to say his evening dinner guests had arrived. As he led me to a side door for my departure I could feel the heavy, thick air that separated me from his guests—and from Mac. During the drive home I casually ruminated about making sense of our meeting. Maybe it was nothing more than another piece of Hollyweird being served up, but whatever the case it seemed no more important than having tossed aside the bottle cap of a Lone Star beer.
Several years passed before my “eureka moment” occurred. My biocomputer file of Mac’s visit to the Sound Factory during the demo session of “Don’t Change On Me” finally “hooked up” with my biocomputer file of “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” to shed light on stark similarities of the two songs—the titles, the rhythmical content of the “hook” chorus lines, and even some musical kinship. The cross-pollination of these two song files, along with Mac’s odd behavior, finally created a new paradigm that morphed inquisitiveness into potential understanding. I thought, “On that evening long ago, Mac needed to know whether or not I would recognize the commonality of our songs and if so, what claim I would make, if any.” I’m not sure what my reaction would have been if I’d been observant enough on the fly to recognize what I now understand. Would I have demanded songwriter credit for Jimmy Holiday and me, which would have involved United Artists Music, the copyright owner of “Don’t Change On Me”? What portion, if any, of the songwriter credit would Mac or his publishing company have been willing to concede? What role would my responsibility as an executive of United Artists Music have played? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know there is finally a credible (at least to me), although not definitive, explanation for what happened at Mac’s home one evening many years ago.
Maybe someday Mac will read this story and if so, he need not be concerned. He owes me nothing and even if I thought he did, it would not be possible to successfully bring a legal claim all these years later. And Mac knows, as most songwriters know, that many songs have striking similarities. Compare the verse melodies of “My Guy” and “Walking My Baby Back Home” and the bridge melodies of “Every Breath You Take” by the Police and “More Than I Can Say” by Leo Sayer. These are but two melodic examples of song similarities and there are many lyrical examples as well. I’ve known successful songwriters who sing or play hit songs to capture a mood, a rhythm, a feel, or even a chord structure to jump-start their own creativity. Sometimes such harvesting is deliberate, but often it’s subconscious with no real intent to cop the creativity of others. And too, all is fair in love and war…and in songwriting. As Broadway lyricist Howard Dietz stated, “Composers shouldn’t think too much—it interferes with their plagiarism.”
So, Mac, if my “eureka moment” has, in fact, revealed a truth from long ago and “Don’t Change On Me” helped inspire your only #1 hit as a recording artist, then I’m flattered. But if truth still hides somewhere else, then please know that at the very least I have enjoyed teasing my own senses with one possibility that may explain that evening long ago.
“I like you just the way you are” is the recurring lyrical theme in Billy Joel’s hit song “Just the Way You Are,” and those exact words appear in the first chorus line of “Don’t Change On Me”—“I like you just the way you are, don’t change on me.” Billy Joel’s song was released in 1977 and the song Jimmy Holiday and I wrote was released by Ray Charles in 1970. Now I’m not accusing the greatly talented Billy Joel of consciously, or even subconsciously, borrowing from, or being influenced by, our song, but I do know that as an avid Ray Charles fan Billy Joel would have been familiar with “Don’t Change On Me.”
Mac usually played his songs for me, but on one occasion I played one of my songs for Mac—“Something To Believe In.”
“Eddie, that’s a hit.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I sure do. But I wrote a song that’s very similar.”
“Really? When did you write it, Mac?”
“Tomorrow morning.” Mac was quick-witted and a very talented songwriter.
United Artists songwriter Alex Harvey moved from Nashville to Hollywood after his song “Reuben James” was a hit for Kenny Rogers. Smartly, Alex wanted to be where the action was. I lived at Venice Beach on Ocean Front Walk at Driftwood near the Washington Street pier in a beach house sub-let from Bob Hamilton when Bob and his girlfriend Chris temporarily moved to New York City. About a year later they planned their wedding ceremony for 6:00 a.m. in front of the beach house where they’d fallen in love. Mac Davis and Alex who both knew Bob agreed to join with me in writing a wedding song for the couple.
Due to other obligations Mac Davis canceled on the day of our writing appointment, but Alex and I got together anyway. I described my lyrical idea of using various connotations of the word “rings”—“wedding rings” and “church bells ring”—along with the fact-based storyline of Bob and Chris hanging out at Martoni’s restaurant owned by Mario Marino and Tony Riccio (Tony and Mario), breaking up and reuniting during a time that “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor was their favorite song.
While Alex heated frozen TV dinners, I was playing his old upright piano and singing “Jody’s Face,” one of Alex’s songs. From the kitchen Alex hollered, “Keep playing what you’re playing” and I continued the simple C, F, and G chord progression. Soon Alex entered the living room singing the first verse of “Rings” and when he returned to the kitchen I wrote most of the second verse. After eating the TV dinners we alternated writing lines for the third and last verse with Alex coming up with “Ring, ring, golden rings, around the sun, around your pretty finger” and my addition of “Ring, ring, voices ring, with a happy tune anybody can be a singer.” Together we wrote the final lines of the third verse and our wedding song was completed. We were happy with our work, but with the lyrics having such specific reference to Bob and Chris we thought widespread appeal would be unlikely, if not impossible.
The wedding occurred as scheduled on the beach at 6 a.m. with about 30 guests in attendance. The specifics of our lyrics purposely echoed the wedding ceremony and the couple’s relationship. I had injected “The sun comes up across the city,” knowing that during the early morning wedding ceremony the sun would indeed be rising over the city of Los Angeles located east of Venice Beach. “Hand in hand we’ll stand upon the sand with the preacher man, let the wedding bells ring” did occur that morning, although wedding bells rang only in our collective imaginations. As the Pacific Ocean softly lapped the shore about a hundred yards from the beach house, a young man wearing only old faded jeans and no shirt or shoes suddenly appeared. He slowly walked from the ocean’s edge toward the wedding ceremony singing a mournful song full-throated with his arms raised toward the heavens. Our wedding party stood silently—mesmerized as he continued until standing with us at the conclusion of his performance. It was a spiritual moment—a surreal, magical uplifting experience.
At the Marina del Rey Hotel wedding reception Alex and I performed our wedding song—he played acoustic guitar and sang lead vocal while I supplied the harmony. We were showered with praise and love as well as requests for repeated performances, which we happily honored. Later at the beach house we sang our wedding song several more times for Bob, Chris, and their guests.
Alex and I agreed to record a demo of “Rings” at the end of his next demo recording session if time allowed in order to give Bob and Chris a special wedding day keepsake. The session took place at Quantum Sound in Torrance, California with Alex’s friend, and later famous musician, Al Perkins playing steel guitar and Dennis St. John on drums. With only 15 minutes of session time remaining we recorded only two or three takes and added our vocals. We played the recording for a few music business friends and sent a copy to Bob and Chris in New York, causing Bob to respond with the following note.
I’m the worst letter writer that ever lived…I always get my chick to do the number…but, for just one second I have to relate a thought to you. We got a lot of wedding presents from friends, relatives, and groovy record cats…but, none that even begins to measure what you and Alex did…by writing Rings. Music is not only my life but Chris’s as well. I’m overwhelmed by the whole trip…not only by the song but more important by your friendship. There is none I value more. We both love you very much.
Bob and Chris
After hearing our recording, songwriter Mike Settle played it for Dick Burns at Jimmy Bowen’s Amos Records. Dick thought it was a hit song and recorded it with Mike and me doing vocals, and suggested we come up with a name more striking than “Mike & Eddie” for our duo. Given that Mike is half native-American, we chose the goofy, but attention-getting moniker Running Bear and Goldstein. Mike claimed the role of Goldstein for himself expecting Goldstein would be the keeper of the money. I accepted his ploy but countered I wanted a monetary advance until we earned our first royalties. We were having fun, but we weren’t excited by our recording. Alex was invited to join our group as lead singer and soon “Rings” by Running Bear and Goldstein was released on Amos Records—a company that had never had a hit single, and eventually never did.
While the Running Bear and Goldstein activity was ongoing, Russ Miller, a producer working for Elektra Records, visited United Artists Music in search of songs to record with guitarist Lonnie Mack, an artist known for his hit guitar instrumental of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” although Russ planned to record Lonnie as both a guitarist and a vocalist. By now some colleagues had convinced me even with lyrics so specifically tailored to the love story of Bob and Chris that our song’s colorful, catchy lyrics, its unique storyline and upbeat melody would likely engender universal appeal. Russ liked “Rings” and asked what was happening with the song. I explained the Running Bear and Goldstein scenario but due to Amos’ dismal track record Russ wasn’t concerned with the Amos situation and recorded our song with Lonnie. It was a cool version featuring an emotionally vibrant, vulnerable vocal. Had events developed a bit differently, Lonnie may have had a Top-10 hit as a singer.
Meanwhile, Bob Hamilton played the acetate of “Rings” for Marty Lacker, a former member of Elvis’ so-called “Memphis Mafia” entourage. Marty was employed by Chips Moman, a Memphis record producer with many hits to his credit, who for months had been searching for a hit song to record with Cymarron, a vocal backing group working at his American Recording Studio. Chips quickly recorded the song and rush-released it on his own Entrance Records distributed by CBS Records and promoted by their Epic Records promotion team.
Our wedding song received immediate airplay on several major market radio stations. Due to Bob’s importance as a music consultant a few of the music directors of these stations had attended Bob and Chris’ wedding where they heard Alex and me perform the song. And Bob did not shy from touting the attributes of a song written for, and performed at, his recent wedding ceremony. During the first week of heavy airplay on KHJ, the #1 Top 40 radio station in Los Angeles, Mac Davis dropped by United Artists Music as he often did to pick up lead sheets of songs he’d written while under contract to Metric Music—songs he sometimes used in his Las Vegas appearances and eventually on his national television variety show on NBC from 1974 to 1976. As usual, we talked shop while lead sheets were gathered.
“Man, I heard a great song on the way over here—something about rings. It’s unbelievable.” Mac and I hadn’t seen each other since we’d planned the writing appointment, so I’d not had an opportunity to tell him about “Rings.”
“Mac, that’s the wedding song Alex and I wrote for Bob and Chris.” Mac’s gifted, creative mind most often was in high output mode where the propensity to talk outweighs a propensity to listen, and on this occasion he was talking right past what I’d said.
“That song has such clever lyrics. I wanna hear it again and find out who the artist is.”
“It’s the wedding song you were supposed to write with Alex and me.”
He continued commenting about “the song he’d just heard” until suddenly he stopped, looked inquisitively at me with wrinkled brow, and asked, “What are you saying?” After hearing the story, Mac was completely flabbergasted. I’d never known him to be at such a loss for words—so totally speechless.
Had Mac participated the evening Alex and I wrote “Rings,” I’m certain the song as it exists would not have materialized. But who knows. Maybe a better song would have been written. As it was, Cymarron’s recording of our 1971 wedding song reached #17 on the pop charts and #6 on the AC charts; a version by Tompall & the Glaser Brothers reached #7 on the country charts; and in 1974 a recording by Lobo was #43 on the pop charts and #8 on the AC charts. In 1984 Alex and I received BMI’s “Special Citation of Achievement” for “Rings” having accumulated over one million radio and television broadcast performances in the U.S. In addition, our wedding song was also recorded by Twiggy (the famous English model), the Bill Black Combo (Elvis’ original bass player), Charlene (of “I’ve Never Been To Me” success), Reuben Howell (my favorite version of the song), Dr. Hook, and Leo Kottke (a talented guitarist who’s made “Rings” a vocal performance staple).
Ordinarily, Alex and I were not songwriting collaborators since my primary responsibility as a representative of United Artists Music was to support his creative efforts by fostering the success of his songs. But we did write one other song, “Tear Down the Wall,” and recorded what we thought was a magical piano/vocal demo that led to recordings by several artists, although none captured the essence of our assertive, but simple, demo recording. We began a third song, which never took root.
Prior to the success of “Rings” Alex and I were driving back to my office after having lunch. “Eddie, let’s go to Las Vegas,” Alex suggested.
“When do you wanna go?”
“Right now,” Alex stated in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Alex, I can’t go right now. I have to take care of business at the office this afternoon.”
“Aw Eddie, you’re gonna live your whole life like that, aren’t you?”
“Like what? You mean like…be responsible?”
“No, I mean you’re gonna plan everything out. You’re never gonna be a free spirit.”
“Alex, I have responsibilities to United Artists and to our songwriters. I can’t just leave on a whim—on some impulsive urge.”
“Well, it’s sad that you’ll never know what it’s like to be a free spirit and just run with the wind.”
As our conversation continued I took a freeway onramp that headed us away from my office and toward Las Vegas. After driving far enough that L.A.’s urban sprawl began to dwindle, Alex asked, “Are you really going to Vegas?”
“Damn right I am.”
Finally convinced my intentions were true Alex said, “Pull into this strip center and stop at the drug store.”
Alex returned carrying a brown paper bag, and as we continued toward Las Vegas I asked, “What’s in the bag?”
“Ever-thang we need—a toothbrush for you, a toothbrush for me; some toothpaste we can share; clean underwear for you, clean underwear for me. Las Vegas here we come.”
And go there we did.
Somewhere during our ramblings, Alex and I met two girls, one who commented about how much she liked Alex’s accent. His was a fairly heavy southern accent acquired in his hometown of Brownsville, Tennessee and it was something of a novelty for a young lady from the West Coast.
“I love those southern sayings. Can you teach some of them to us?”
“Have you ever heard of ‘stump broke’?” asked Alex.
“No, what’s that?’
“Well, it’s like when you’re “flat broke”—like when you don’t have any money.”
“The next time you see a southern boy ask him, ‘Would you buy me a drink? I’m stump broke.’”
I could hardly contain my laughter. “Stump broke” is the outrageous southern term for having taught one’s mule to back up to a tree stump on which someone is standing to be at the necessary height to engage in sex with the animal. Yes, I know you’re thinking this is just too repugnant for inclusion herein and I surely find such opinion to be both reasonable and righteous. But I’ll absorb the deserved castigation for the sake of propelling one’s imagination to an occasion when this young lady asks some good ol’ southern boy to buy her a drink because she’s “stump broke.”
On most weekends, competitive two-man beach volleyball was played just north of my Ocean Front Walk beach house. Alex often gawked at, and opined about, the many shapely young ladies clad in skimpy bikinis who flocked around the guys who regularly played beach volleyball there—just over three miles south of Santa Monica beach where beach volleyball originated in the 1920s.
“Eddie, I’ll tell ‘em we’ll play the winners.”
“Alex, it’s not like that. These guys have been playing here for years and it’s their game, not a public game.”
“The only way we’re gonna meet these women is to play volleyball.”
Alex walked over to the game and announced that we’d play the winners. They just laughed and waved him off. He returned to the beach house with head down while nursing a bruised male ego.
I stopped by Alex’s apartment a few days later where I was greeted by a most unusual scene—a labyrinth of thin nylon cord strung back and forth many times across the entire length of his living room and dining room.
“What the hell’s going on, Alex?”
“Can’t you tell?”
“Well, it’s a volleyball net. Now we’re gonna get the beach girls.” Alex planned to affix his artistic contrivance on two unused poles adjacent to where the weekend beach volleyball was played. Alex’s father had left his family when Alex was young and Alex’s mother was often sick, forcing him, the oldest of several children, to cook, sew, and take care of himself and his younger siblings. With great skill and creativity, he sometimes hand-made his own stage clothing.
When Alex showed up at the beach a few days later, we hung out on the patio until he sensed the opportune moment for the unveiling. With great pride he attached one end of the net to a vacant pole and then holding the other end headed toward the other pole. By now the volleyball players and onlookers, including those beautiful young things in skimpy bikinis, were quizzically observing Alex maneuvering a most unusual-looking volleyball net, and en route to the second pole a serious problem was revealed—a problem of length. Alex had drawn deeply on his domestic talent, creativity, and single-mindedness to carve out an ingenious opportunity to vividly assert his male ego right there on Venice Beach, but instead he confronted the most frightful nightmare possible for the male ego—coming up short, even if only metaphorically, while many bikini-clad young women scrutinize his display.
Like a singer on national television who forgets the words to the national anthem, Alex was caused to absorb the intolerable humiliation of walking back to the first pole, untying the net, folding it up, and transporting it back to the beach house where that nylon web of embarrassment was dismissively dumped in a corner of the patio. Later I moved this creative consequence of Alex’s dreams and desires to somewhere inside the beach house, where it remained even after I moved away from the beach. As Alex walked back toward the beach house with home-made volleyball net cradled in his arms, the beach crowd’s laughter surfed the rippling waves of his bikini-beach fantasy before crashing upon reality’s shore and evaporating in the warm, moist salty-sea air.
After moving to Nashville in 1984, I attended the annual BMI award dinners honoring the year’s most successful songwriters and music publishers. At the first BMI dinner I met Ava, Alex’s beautiful wife, who claimed to have heard so much about me she felt as though she already knew me.
“I hope you’ll come visit us sometime at our home, Eddie.”
“I’ll look forward to that, Ava, and right now I’m having a premonition about your home.” With eyes closed I raised my extended arms much as a preacher would when blessing the congregation. “I see a volleyball court in your backyard.”
“How did you know that, Eddie?”
“Well, it’s not really a premonition, but there is an entertaining story I’ll share with you sometime.”
Here are the most notable recordings of my songs:
“All I Ever Need Is You” co-written with Jimmy Holiday and recorded by Sonny & Cher (#7 pop, #1 AC for five consecutive weeks, #8 U.K., #10 Canada), Ray Charles, Ray Sanders (#18 country), Andre Hazes (#1 Dutch version titled "Ik meen 't" in1984), Tom Jones, Sammi Smith, Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed, and Kenny Rogers & Dottie West (#1 country);
“Rings” co-written with Alex Harvey and recorded by Cymarron (#17 pop, #6 AC), Lobo (#8 AC, #43 pop), Reuben Howell (#86 pop), Leo Kottke, Twiggy, Tompall and The Glaser Brothers (#33 country), and Lonnie Mack (vocal rendition from the guitar man of “Memphis” hit-record fame);
"Don't Change on Me" co-written with Jimmy Holiday and recorded by Ray Charles (#13 R&B, #33 AC, #36 pop), B.B. King, Van Morrison (unreleased by Warner Bros. but available on an Italian bootleg album), and by Alan Jackson (album #4 pop & #1 country);
"If You Wouldn't Be My Lady" co-written with Jimmy Holiday and recorded by Ray Charles and by Charlie Rich (on “Behind Closed Doors” album that sold over four million copies);
"It’s a Hang Up Baby" recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis (his last rock ‘n roll session after which he became a country recording artist), Z.Z. Hill, and also performed on November 6, 1969 by Tom Jones with musical backing by the Moody Blues on the ABC national television variety show, "This Is Tom Jones"; and many other recordings by artists you’ve never heard of—some with entertaining names like “Ephus Mosley” and “The Don Ho Suck ‘em Up Singers.”
Albums including my songs have earned six “RIAA Gold Certification” awards (sales of over 500,000 copies) and three “RIAA Platinum Certification” awards (sales of over 1,000,000 copies). And as previously mentioned, “Rings” earned BMI’s “Special Citation of Achievement” for having received over one million radio and television performances.
Three of my songs were associated with Grammy Award Nominations:
1971 Pop Vocal Group – Sonny & Cher – “All I Ever Need Is You” lyrics;
1971 Best Country Vocal Performance – Duo or Group – Tompall & the
Glaser Bros.– “Rings”; and
1973 Best Country Instrumental Performance – Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed–
Me and Chet (album included “All I Ever Need Is You”).
Here are samples of some of my lyrics—all © 2014 WordWrestler Music.
Oh sweet temptation
Sometimes gets the best of the very best of us
Oh it’s amazing
Just how much everything we touch we want so much
“Guns & Bibles”
I learned two ways of dealing
When the going gets rough
I’d either damn it all to hell
Or drown it with love
Here comes a little payback
Proverbs 12: 21
Straight from mama’s Bible
Out the barrel of daddy’s gun
She was born in southern Georgia
Born a southern Baptist without doubt
Her mama gave her a gentle manner
Her daddy gave her a life he hammered out
Juicier than the Georgia peaches
When she smiles she always reaches me
Sunday mornin’ the preacher preaches
Sunday evenin’ she gives me what I need
Done the research, got a theory
It’s scientific, kind of scary
Chromosomes and evolution
All headed for the same conclusion
Lovin’ you is what I’m good for
Lovin’ you is what I’m made for
I don’t need no Stephen Hawking
For the proof of lovin’ you
“NOBODY in the MIDDLE”
Friends who are conservative
See me as a liberal
Hint I don’t deserve to live
So completely temporal
Friends who are liberal
Think I’m a conservative
Soaked too long in simple
Hey now Bo Diddley diddle ain’t nobody left in the middle
Hey now Bo Diddley diddle ain’t nobody right in the middle
Hey, hey Bo Diddley diddle politicin’ frickin’ riddle
Where’s them people used to be in the middle
Whole dang country now it seems
Adoptin’ dogma of extremes
Half free-loadin’ socialist
The rest God-blessed survivalists
Now we’re strung up by the balls
Clean up to the hilt
Building taller, thicker walls
‘Round walls already built.
Hey now Bo Diddley diddle tired of hearin’ those political fiddles
Hey now Bo Diddley diddle burnt skin smell is our asses on the griddle
Hey, hey Bo Diddley diddle politicin’ frickin’ riddle
All them people don’t give a paradiddle.
“The Lingo Song”
Pango, pango drinking up the sun
By fandango I know you’re the one
If the song go on too long you’ll see
You be jingo jango just like me
“Sing ‘Oh! Susanna’”
She was a giver and she gave love to me
I was a taker I would take it and leave
But as a foolish boy it was so hard to see
Just how good the good was she was givin’ to me.
Daddy told me, “Shine on even if you don’t see the light.
Rocky roads and horny toads ain’t worth a bit of uptight.”
Daddy told me, “Shine on even if you don’t see the light.
Every dog is gonna have his day, ever-thing’ll be all right.”
Funny how things turn inside out
When you least expect ‘em to
Funny but it always happens just about
When you think you’ve finally made it through
All the blues and grays that clouded up your days
Now ain’t that the way life goes?
“Where Is the Love In Loving You?”
All the words came hard
And so carelessly aimed
Without grace, without thinking.
Arrows shot straight thru
Every target of blame
How could love so full
Turn so quickly away
Far beyond redemption?
Was it God’s own plan
Or some human ballet
Spinning foolish intention?
“Killin’ Time’s Killin’ Me”
I’m lookin’ but I can’t find me anywhere
Used to be a place where I could go and waste some time
And drink a little wine, ease my weary mind
Smilin’ on the face of friends, erasin’ all the bitter ends
Of empty lights, burned out city nights
Nothin’ seems the same without Sal
“I Need Somebody To Love”
I can feel my heart pounding inside my head
My blood’s runnin’ hot and I’m tossin’ in bed
There’s an achin’ inside from the seeds I ain’t sowed
I’m a state of confusion with a heavy load
The devil inside me he won’t leave me alone
He tell me, “Go out and get it then you get it on home”
He say that, “Your ol’ lady won’t know you been gone
You know a man is a man and man it’s been too long.”
“Was That Love?”
Was that love rushing through our veins
Or some foolish thing that comes and goes
Up and down ‘til both we know
There’s nothing to be lost, nothing gained
Tell me was that love?
Oh dreams die-hard
Sometimes they do
Somewhere between what is love and what’s true.
Oh words die-hard
Sometimes they do
Somewhere between what is said and what’s true.
Sweet Cheyenne maybe
A tumbleweed will roll me home
Sweet Cheyenne save me
You’re the only piece of heaven that I ever have known.
“What the Hell Are We Doing?”
You take everything you can
I take more than you can stand…to give
Seems we’re both too busy dying for us to live
What the hell are we doing to each other?
What are we doing to one another?
What the hell are we doing?
Face to face we try erasing
The fact we know it’s just a game
We can’t escape the truth we’re facing
We know we’ll never be the same
Shaded from the feelings that we once knew
You thought you loved, I thought I loved you
But now we know there ain’t nothin’ real
We can feel
Face to face constantly tracing
Each step we took who was to blame?
Where is the dream we were chasing
What have we got now but the shame?
Reached out for love but never made it
The dream we had slowly faded
Now we’ve become all that we…hated
Ring, ring voices ring
With a happy tune anybody can be a singer.
THE MUSIC BID-NESS
Music bid-ness is not the only type of bid-ness. In September 1969 I signed a young songwriting team, lyricist Howard Finkelstein and composer Val Johns, to a six-month songwriting development contract with United Artists Music. Howard had recently relocated to Hollywood from Manhattan where he’d owned a bar on the second floor of a building located on the southeast corner of 7th Avenue and 48th Street—a place only half a block south of the United Artists building. For his bar business Howard had created an attention-grabbing advertisement-in-motion of “go-go dancers” performing just inside the 2nd floor windows so their gyrations were visible to pedestrians bustling along 7th Avenue and 48th Street below, and some passengers in vehicles wrangling through the congested stop and go traffic of Midtown Manhattan, the world’s largest central business district according to Wikipedia.
Howard’s bar was a hangout for the famous Gallo Brothers gang with oldest brother Larry, who died of cancer in 1968, and youngest brother Al “Kid Blast” Gallo frequenting the place during the years middle brother Joey “Crazy Joe” Gallo served a 10-year sentence from 1961 to 1971 in Attica Prison. Due to financial difficulties, Howard made a deal to sell part ownership in his bar to the Gallo Brothers, but a few days later and prior to receiving the agreed upon payment from the Gallos, Howard was able to solve his financial problem. He informed the brothers he no longer needed, or wanted, the partnership, but they demanded he adhere to the agreement. Howard refused their payment and explained he was unwilling to relinquish part ownership in his business.
One night after closing, Howard walked down the flight of stairs leading to 7th Avenue, where two Gallo associates stood waiting. These friendly, regular patrons of his bar forced Howard into their car and drove to the dock area on the lower west side near the Port Authority train terminal. Howard knew he was in serious trouble and pleaded to be allowed to work things out with the brothers. “We have a job to do, Howie. We don’t want to, but we have to. It’s nothing personal.” He received a terrible beating—teeth knocked out, broken arm, and a broken bone in his face. Alone, bleeding, and semi-conscious, he eventually made his way to the Port Authority men’s room, where two homeless men cleaned him up. He was treated at a hospital emergency room and was unable to return to work for two weeks. When he did return, the Gallo gang greeted him warmly. “No hard feelings, Howie, but you don’t back out of a deal.” The score was settled and Howard’s beating was the value assigned to this particular piece of bid-ness.
Born in The Bronx, New York, to a Sicilian father and an Irish mother, “Crazy Joe” Gallo earned his nickname in mafia circles because he was a ruthless killer who was a happy shooter and very unpredictable. The Gallo brothers did some work for Carlo Gambino and are credited by most sources to be the assassins of Murder, Inc. leader and gangster Albert Anastasia in 1957. Both the Jimmy Breslin novel and the 1971 film, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, are a roman a clef of the life of Joey Gallo whose fictional counterpart is played by Jerry Orbach in the film. Gallo was also immortalized in the song “Joey” by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy on Dylan's 1976 album Desire.
Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy
Larry was the oldest, Joey was next to last
They called Joe “Crazy,” the baby they called “Kid Blast”
Some say they lived off gambling and runnin’ numbers too
It always seemed they got caught
Between the mob and the men in blue.
He did 10 years in Attica, reading Nietzsche and Wilhelm Reich
They threw him in the hole one time for tryin’ to stop a strike
His closest friends were black men ‘cause they seemed to understand
What it’s like to be in society with a shackle on your hand.
When they let him out in ’71 he’d lost a little weight
But he dressed like Jimmy Cagney and I swear he did look great
He tried to find the way back into the life he left behind
To the boss he said, “I have returned and now I want what’s mine.”
King of the streets, child of clay
Why did they have to come and blow you away?
© 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music
After leaving United Artists in early 1972, I was offered a contract as a recording artist and songwriter by Mums Records, where acquaintance Albert Hammond (“It Never Rains In Southern California”) was signed. The offer was made by music-business friends Marty Kupps and Barry Gross, who had recently left ABC Dunhill Records to work for Mums. My girlfriend’s twin brother, a radio promotion man at ABC Dunhill, learned about the Mums offer and asked that I consider ABC Dunhill.
“Larry, I’m not a fan of Jay Lasker. I don’t really want to be with ABC Dunhill.”
“But, Eddie, Jay knows you’re about to sign with Mums and he wants to see you. It will really be embarrassing for me if you don’t at least have a meeting with Jay.”
On the way to the meeting I thought, “I’ll just ask for twice the amount that Mums is offering and add a couple of other unreasonable demands. That’ll kill the deal and I’ll sign with Mums.”
“Eddie, what do you want to do?” Jay asked.
“I’d like to make an album as an artist.”
“Okay, we’ll do that.”
“I’d like a two-year firm contract as a songwriter.” This meant the company would be contractually required to make payments for 24 months before they had an option to renew or discontinue my contract.
“You got it.”
“I’d like 50% of the money paid upon signing the contract.”
“You got it.”
“I want to own 100% of the music publishing rights outside the U.S. and Canada.”
“No problem. What else do you want?”
“You’ve got a deal. Let me introduce you to everyone in the company.”
I couldn’t believe what had happened. I’d asked for much more than any other company would have paid and with contractual terms tilted much to the advantage of my favor to boot. Jay introduced me to every employee and then left me with Len Korobkin, one of ABC Dunhill’s attorneys who I’d known at United Artists Music and who had represented me in a production deal with Bang Records. I explained the Mums offer and urged Len to quickly draft the contract without the usual first-draft jargon to reduce negotiation time required to consummate the deal. He kindly agreed and soon I was meeting with prominent entertainment attorney David Berman in his Century City office. In an earlier telephone conversation I’d generally explained the ABC Dunhill contract to David, and after scanning the contract at our meeting he said, “You’re quite the chess player, Eddie.”
“What do you mean?”
“The way you’ve played Bobby Roberts (head of Mums) against Jay.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You know the relationship between them, don’t you?”
“They’re brothers-in-law and they hate each other.”
“I know nothing about that.”
David explained that Bobby Roberts was one of four original partners who started Dunhill Records and later he brought Jay into the company. Ultimately, Jay forced Roberts out of Dunhill, creating a heated feud that still continued. David had mistakenly thought I knew about this circumstance and had taken advantage for my own contractual benefit. Learning I’d been completely unaware of this family feud David said, “Well then, you’re quite the lucky fellow.”
I signed the ABC Dunhill contract and during its two year term I had zero success with my songs or with the album I recorded. Even though my recordings had initially received praise from some within the company, including the head of A&R, it was never released. Financially, I fared well, while also enjoying the unstructured lifestyle of a singer/songwriter having few daily responsibilities other than writing songs and recording an album. But it was a dead-end career move fostered by financial attraction instead of organic gut instinct and heart’s desire.
During the last year of the ABC Dunhill contract, the U.S. president of Chappell Music, who I had worked with at United Artists, attempted to hire me as head of Chappell’s west coast office. At the time Chappell was arguably the world’s largest music publishing company, but an old-line company steeped mostly in iconic Broadway-show copyrights, including some from Rodgers & Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers & Hart, and Cole Porter. Having purchased 49% ownership in Chappell Music in 1972 for $25 million (nearly $150 million in 2016), Phillips Electronics N.V., a Dutch conglomerate, was engaged in efforts to modernize the company. When the ABC Dunhill contract ended, I joined Chappell Music as VP/GM West Coast Division.
My immediate imperative was to discover and sign young songwriters, to procure recording of their songs, and to obtain recording contracts for songwriters that had such potential. When visiting record producers and record labels, I often crossed paths with a young, energetic song plugger I’d met via Alex Harvey. I had built a demo recording studio at Chappell’s office and in my search for a recording engineer to manage the studio I thought this young man was well qualified—a musician, a former member of a solid rock band, and a musical arranger/record producer in the formative stages of his career. He complained that the music publishing company where he worked required the submission of bureaucratic “leave of absence” forms when an opportunity afforded him the chance to produce a recording session. To me, a talented music publishing company employee who shows such creative promise should be rewarded with more than submission of bureaucratic forms.
“How much are they paying you?” I asked.
“$250 a week.”
“I’ll pay you $300 a week to run my demo studio, and require that you commit only half your time to Chappell so you can devote the other half to producing records—and with no leave of absence forms involved.”
“I’ll think about it and let you know.”
He called the next day to ask if I was serious about my offer and after being reassured, he promised an answer that afternoon. This intelligent young man used my offer as a fallback position in his attempt to create a record production partnership with the music publishing company where he worked. He requested that his boss have this music publishing company invest $100,000 (nearly $500,000 in 2016) to fund a partnership that would endeavor to develop new singer/songwriters and secure recording deals with major record companies.
“There’s no way I can do that,” his boss replied.
“If you need two weeks, you’ve got ‘em. If you don’t, I’d like to leave right now.” This was my first business experience with the young, talented, and soon-to-be successful record producer Jim Ed Norman, who accepted my job offer.
The son of a Methodist minister, Jim Ed was raised in Florida and studied music at North Texas State College (now University of North Texas). He played trombone in high school and college and soon learned keyboards, guitar and bass. In 1969 he joined Don Henley, Richard Bowden (Henley’s childhood friend), Michael Bowden (Richard’s cousin), and Al Perkins to form the rock band Shiloh. After recording an album produced by fellow Texas Kenny Rogers, which was released on Jimmy Bowen’s Amos Records, the band moved to Hollywood in June, 1970. Achieving no success with their album, the group disbanded with Henley, Glen Frey, and others forming the Eagles in September 1971. Meanwhile, Jim Ed was sleeping on any available couch and at times in his car, while he pursued music opportunities, which soon had him writing string arrangements for both Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. During his employment at Chappell Music, Jim Ed produced his first hit record with “The Right Time of the Night” by Jennifer Warnes. The sudden demand for his time and talent soon encroached upon his commitment to Chappell, which led to the following conversation.
“Jim Ed, our original agreement was that you’d spend half your time recording demos for Chappell and the other half pursuing your career as a producer.”
He quickly interrupted, “Are you gonna fire me?”
“No, no, that’s not what I have in mind.”
“Well, if you are, I’ll quit before being fired.”
“I want to renegotiate our deal. Do you still depend on your $300 per week salary or do you make enough as a producer that it’s no longer needed?”
“I’d like to keep getting the $300 if possible.”
“Okay. I’ll continue paying you $300 a week, but instead of it being payment as an employee, it will be a weekly royalty advance for a 50-50 music publishing deal. Any songwriter you plan to sign to your own company will first have to be offered to Chappell Music as part of our joint venture. If we agree to sign the writer, we’ll pay the writer’s royalty advances and the songs will be co-owned by your music publishing company and Chappell Music.” I was confident Jim Ed would succeed as a record producer, which would afford him opportunities to sign songwriters for the joint venture. After considering the offer for a day or two, Jim Ed accepted it and I hired another demo studio manager.
A few months later I left Chappell and Jim Ed negotiated an end to the joint venture. He and friend Bruce Hinton, an independent radio promotion man, rented office space in the same building where Chappell was located at 6255 Sunset Blvd., and soon I shared the small office suite with Jim Ed and Bruce. I received financing from the EMI Music divisions in England and Australia, which enabled me to form my own music publishing and artist management companies at the start of 1978. Jim Ed and I shared one office where we placed drafting tables face to face to serve as desks, but due to our busy schedules we were seldom there at the same time. The office suite consisted of a reception room, a small file room, Bruce’s office, and our office. When the first month’s rent was due, Bruce requested that Jim Ed and I each pay one-third of the total cost. I suggested to Jim Ed that we should split the rent with Bruce 50-50 since we shared one office and Bruce occupied the other. Jim Ed agreed and said he’d speak to Bruce. But after brief consideration Jim Ed said, “Eddie, you know how Bruce is. Let’s just pay a third each, okay?” Yes, I did know how Bruce was. He was a thrifty fellow—very thrifty indeed.
I was the managing executive of Chappell Music in Hollywood from the beginning of 1974 until the fall of 1977. About mid-point of that last year the company fired the U.S. president, Norm Weiser who was my boss, and appointed Heinz Voigt, the world executive vice president located in Hamburg, Germany, as interim president. Heinz visited me on several occasions and the questions he posed spoke loudly regarding his lack of trust in the honesty and integrity of Norm in reference to various business dealings. It was obvious Heinz was probing to what extent, if any, I had participated in the business activities in question—a suspicion possibly derived from Norm having hired me. I assured him even though Mr. Weiser was my superior that our business dealings were completely independent from one another and that I had no knowledge whatever of Norm’s business activities. I knew only that he supported my efforts, which had achieved success for the company. On Heinz’s third visit, he was accompanied by his German boss Werner Vogelsang who wished to hear firsthand what I had already communicated to Heinz. “Tell Mr. Vogelsang what you told me during our last visit,” Heinz began. I believe their eventual conclusion was that I had no involvement in any of Mr. Weiser’s business activities they deemed questionable.
Kim Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson were the first songwriters I signed at Chappell. Our first successes were Barbara Streisand’s recording of their song “Love Comes From Unexpected Places” and Kim being signed as a recording artist to A&M Records where eventually two albums were released. During my discussions with Heinz Voigt regarding Norm Weiser, Kim and Dave’s three-year contract ended and Almo Music, the music publishing company of A&M Records, offered Kim and Dave 50% more than Chappell was willing to pay. But due to our initial success and close relationship they chose to remain with Chappell. I greatly appreciated their loyalty and in the absence of Mr. Weiser received approval of the contract renewal from Chappell’s CFO. A few days later the CFO informed me he had decided to withdraw his approval of the deal, to which I replied that Kim and Dave had already been informed of the Chappell renewal. A protracted discussion ensued, but the CFO steadfastly refused to honor his initial approval. One of my meetings with Heinz Voigt took place the following day and I explained the situation to him, including the fact that the CFO had neglected to include an estimate of the Streisand income in his calculations. I attempted to also explain the value of Kim’s A&M recording contract, but from the questions Heinz ask it was evident he lacked the most basic understanding of songwriter development. Fortunately our discussion ended by Heinz stating, “You tell these writers they have a deal based on my approval.” For a second time I informed Kim and Dave we had a deal and enjoyed a dinner celebration that evening.
The following day Heinz called from New York to say he had changed his mind and the contract would not be renewed. I countered, “For a second time Chappell has advised Kim and Dave their contract has been renewed and it will be a terrible mistake for the company to renege again.” I explained the considerable extent to which his decision would negatively affect my representation of Chappell in the Hollywood music community, but my most earnest efforts to reason were all for naught as Heinz firmly refused to honor his prior commitment.
I was upset by his egregious action and clearly voiced my frustration. Heinz asked if I intended to resign. “I’ll let you know when I return from my vacation that begins next week.” Meanwhile, Kim and Dave signed with Almo Music and invited me to participate as a partner if I chose to leave Chappell. But while on vacation I decided to remain at Chappell to take a stand to “do the right thing.”
A new Chappell Music president and creative vice-president were appointed—the latter with whom I and had a friendly relationship. During a meeting at my office the new executives apologized for what happened with Kim and Dave and claimed they would have renewed the contract due to their high regard for Kim and Dave as songwriters, and especially for Kim as a recording artist. They also gave rave reviews regarding my work, offered to increase my salary, and encouraged me to remain with Chappell Music as part of their team. But they warned that one important change was needed—that I must stop sending Heinz letters of complaint.
“In essence, Heinz has told me, ‘Screw you’ to which I have responded, ‘Well then, screw you.’ If he continues to insult me, especially after having caused the loss of our two best songwriters, then I’ll continue to respond in kind.”
“Okay, Eddie, but he may fire you and we won’t be able to intervene.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to. You guys don’t have a dog in this fight.”
For a couple of weeks I continued working for Chappell but it was obvious my heart had already departed, leaving little more than an empty shell sitting at a desk. I called the new president and resigned.
A few days later, while meeting with the two new Chappell executives to discuss their search for my replacement, Al Gallico, a highly successful independent music publisher headquartered just across the hall who knew both of the Chappell executives well, entered my office unannounced to pay his respects.
“Eddie, is it true that you’re leaving Chappell?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Come see me after your meeting.”
Al asked, “What do you plan to do?”
“I’m starting my own music publishing and artist management companies.”
“Do you have enough money to finance it?”
“I have $25,000 [nearly $100,000 in 2016].”
“Don’t take a job with another publishing company. I’ll be in touch with you soon.”
The following day again Al invited me to his office. “EMI Music has made you an offer.”
“What do you mean?”
“EMI Music is the sub-publisher of my songs outside the U.S. and Canada and I told them I found the next Al Gallico. They’re offering you $100,000 [nearly $400,000 in 2016] for a three-year deal in which they own the publishing rights in the United Kingdom and Australia of all songs published by your new company.”
“What guarantee does EMI require?” This was an important question because a sub-publisher would ordinarily require a publishing company receiving a monetary advance on future earnings to guarantee that major record labels in the countries involved would release a certain minimum number of recordings to provide the sub-publisher a reasonable chance to recoup the advance monies and make a profit.
“Nothing. You guarantee them nothing. They’re buying you.” This was Al’s way of communicating that EMI was willing to enter into a “good faith” agreement in which they would bet solely on my ability to create a thriving music publishing business and were not asking for any guarantees. In reality they were betting on the history of Al’s success with EMI and his judgment regarding my ability. It was difficult to believe such a deal was being offered and I kept thinking, “Where’s the catch?” But there wasn’t one.
“What do you think I should do?”
With great energy and assertiveness Al exclaimed, “Take it, Eddie. It’s a good deal.”
Chappell hosted a dinner in my honor and Heinz attended.
“What are your future plans, Mr. Reeves?”
“I’m starting my own music publishing and artist management companies.”
“Attention, everyone—let’s toast to the future success of Mr. Reeves. We hope you are successful so we can buy you.” His arrogance dripped with sarcasm—possibly one more “screw you” pompously offered by this small-minded man.
I launched Eddie Reeves Music and through my company Quixotic Music Corp. entered into a co-publishing agreement with Kim and Dave, and Almo Music.
Every songwriter and music publisher competed fiercely for top-selling artists to record their songs, Kenny Rogers certainly included. Kim and Dave began a long-standing friendship with Kenny in 1966 when they were members of The New Christy Minstrels, and that relationship provided the opportunity to present Kenny with Gideon, a concept Kenny liked well enough to record as his next album. Kim and Dave’s extraordinary talents and efforts generated a record consisting of only their songs, which sold over one million copies and included the hit single “Don’t Fall In Love With a Dreamer,” a duet by Kenny and Kim (#4 pop, #3 country). Over the years the song has been included in many albums by Kenny Rogers: Greatest Hits, selling over 12 million copies; Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits, selling over four million copies; 20 Greatest Hits, selling over four million copies; Duets, selling over one million copies; 20 Great Years, selling over one million copies; Daytime Friends—The Very Best of Kenny Rogers, selling over one million copies; 42 Ultimate Hits, selling over 500,000 copies; 21 Number Ones, selling over 500,000 copies; The Very Best of Kenny Rogers, selling over 500,000 copies; and many other Kenny Rogers albums.
Through my other music publishing company, Edwardo Music Corp., I published songs by Jules Shear of Jules and the Polar Bears who recorded three albums for Columbia Records, and also songs written and recorded by the punk rock group Slow Children on Don Arden’s Jet Records, Nigel Grainge’s Ensign Records, and RCA Records. Even though I invested most of my energy and time promoting these two bands, no significant financial gain materialized.
Given the special opportunity Al Gallico created for me, one might think we were close personal friends, or, at least, close business associates. But I hardly knew Al. Because his office was across the hall from Chappell’s office, I would see him when waiting for the elevator or going to the men’s room. But I’d never had lunch or dinner with him, or even a cup of coffee. Prior to the meeting previously described, I had never been in his office. Our total relationship consisted of seeing each other coming and going in the building at 6255 Sunset Blvd. I did not understand Al’s forthcoming generosity, but I was very thankful for it. Our hallway conversation was the common music publisher dialogue—artists upcoming recording sessions, songwriters and their songs, record producers, and record company A&R people. I had generated success for Chappell Music, but I thought it was extraordinary that EMI Music was willing to invest $100,000 in a startup music publishing company on the recommendation of someone who knew me only from only two or three years of hallway conversations. Al invited me to use one of his offices until I made arrangements for my own. I was amazed.
While working for Warner Bros. Records Nashville from 1984 to 1999, I saw Al Gallico during his many Nashville visits. I felt indebted to him, but my attempts to reciprocate were ultimately unsuccessful. When I think about the faith he placed in me I consider his own music-publishing success to have been fueled by gut instinct, and possibly that same intuition led him to place a bet on me. Even though the Kenny Rogers album enjoyed great success in the U.S. and Canada, scant income was generated in the U.K. or Australia. Betting on my start-up company was a losing proposition for EMI Music, but surely Al’s long-term success kept him in good stead with that company. Great rewards and high risk go hand-in-hand in risk-capital business ventures where capital investment placed on the wrong bet may evaporate overnight.
After moving to Amarillo in the spring of 1984, I spent a lot of time with friends Bette and Buck Ramsay, John Blackburn, and the creative, unique married couple Mary Enemy and Dr. Hunter Ingalls. Mary has received many community accolades for being a “true giver,” especially to the disadvantaged. Hunter, who passed away in May 2008, had a doctorate in art history and was a quirky, entertaining poet. Some might say he was a throwback to the days of “beatnik” poetry, but in my view he created his own category. I have a video of Hunter reciting one of his poems, “Holy Halleluiah,” while standing on his head. He had developed leg movements that mimicked arm movements commonly employed for emphasis during verbal expression. Sometimes, as seen in my video, Mary joined halfway through his recitation by standing on her head and reciting the remainder of the poem in unison.
Here’s one of Hunter’s poems.
Heifferbeef, heifferbeef, Potter-Randal heifferbeef,
doctor, lawyer, councilman, thief,
Oldham, Carson, Armstrong, Deaf Smith
one two Muleshoe, dallyroo and take a breath,
Willie, Nelly, Emily, teeth
heifferbeef, heifferbeef, belt a bible (disbelief)
verily merrily cheerily grief
whole note treble clef, listen for Elizabeth
or how about a mouth and hoof
burp, belch…umm, relief… heifferbeef, heifferbeef,
baton violin, trombone slide beneath,
Lone Star symbol chore, chop a horn, cut a calf
ooh ah deedywah, Plainview to Nazareth,
Tulia, Borger, Hereford, Vega,
llano estacado esta muy conocido
heifferbeef, heifferbeef, quarter-crop clippety-clop
giddyap, yup, dig an onion, plow a leaf,
John Deere, Steiger, pop a beer and quaff a fief,
heifferbeef, heifferbeef, lasso wrangelo
oral rigs go rodeo, the sky above the wealth below,
arroyo warp and weft, weave a wreath, stitch a shelf,
seize a hawk, squeeze a chief,
heifferbeef, heifferbeef, heifferbeef.
Hunter and Mary invited some friends to their home west of Amarillo for what Hunter called a “Dogma Patty Party.” He requested that guests bring dogma of some type to be added to a supply of sand, cow chips, straw and water churning in a small cement mixer to create “dogma patties” in a like process of making adobe bricks. The mixture churned on and on while participants read, discussed, and explained their particular dogma contribution. Hunter read from an art textbook describing how various colors should be “thought of” and “used.” After reading a line or two of a page he would rip it from the book for contribution to the churning dogma patty mixture. Eventually, the entire book was added. Mary read advertisements from women’s magazines that incorporated overt use of sexuality as a sales ploy. I read from the original copy of a 1977 letter to me from Heinz Voigt of Chappell Music. I have no prejudice at all regarding the German people, but for pertinent emphasis I read with my best effort of a German accent until adding the letter to the dogma patty mixture. After all dogma readings and descriptions had concluded, each participant used some dogma mud to create dogma patties incorporating wide-ranging creativity (think hamburger patties shaped in artistic designs) on a long sheet of corrugated iron commonly used on ranches and farms. When completed, the inventive works were left to bake in the hot Texas Panhandle sun. A video of the event coupled with Santana’s version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” appropriately framed not only the symbolic event, but also Hunter’s eccentric persona and performance. Months later, the dogma patties still lay on the corrugated iron sheet in Hunter & Mary’s barn, but the essence of the art was fleeting save the promulgation of dogma chronicled in the video, and in a few memories.
Here’s my contribution to the “Dogma Patty Party.”
September 7, 1977
Mr. Eddie Reeves
Chappell & Co., Inc.
6255 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, California 90028
Re: Kim Carnes and Dave Ellingson
Dear Mr. Reeves,
Your letter to Dr. Werner Vogelsang of August 17, 1977 regarding the above-named writers and my involvement with them has been referred to me.
While I can understand your personal disappointment and frustration regarding the decision not to re-sign these writers, I cannot excuse the means or manner by which you voiced your complaints.
If you will recall when I informed you of my decision not to re-sign these writers I offered to take the burden of such decision fully upon myself. This was done in full realization of your personal relationship with them. You must know by now that decisions are made at various levels which may not coincide with the personal wishes or desires of people working at lower levels. Such people must live with these decisions or resign.
I want to make it quite clear to you that if in the future you have any complaints, of whatever nature, these complaints should be voiced directly to your immediate superior. Any attempts or efforts by you to circumvent this procedure, as evidenced by your letter of August 17 to Dr. Vogelsang, will not be tolerated. I trust this is understood.
Yours very truly,
Heinz T. Voigt
Executive Vice President
C. C. : Dr. Werner Vogelsang
Mr. I. Robinson
Mr. I. Schuster
Mr. F. Military
POLYGRAM PUBLISHING DIVISION, HAMBURG 13, GERMANY
Here’s my reply.
chappell music company
September 15, 1977
Mr. Heinz Voigt
Executive Vice President
Polygram Publishing Division
2000 Hamburg 13, Germany
Dear Mr. Voigt,
I have received your letter of September 7 in reply to my letter of August 17 to Dr. Werner Vogelsang.
I am disappointed that you chose to ignore the main substance of my letter—the issue of business ethics. You chose instead to discuss corporate chain-of-command, and to issue me a warning to adhere to your directive.
If you recall, you stated you were unconcerned with the issue of business ethics and morals in reference to the fact that on two occasions Chappell Music offered a contract renewal to Kim Carnes and Dave Ellingson and then refused to honor said offers even though Ms. Carnes and Mr. Ellingson had accepted our the offer.
Chappell Music has undeservedly treated Ms. Carnes and Mr. Ellingson wrongly and as a representative of the company I have been humiliated. Chappell’s actions are now general knowledge in the Hollywood music business community and my credibility as well as Chappell’s has been needlessly damaged.
My letter to Dr. Werner Vogelsang was an attempt—evidently an unsuccessful one—to cause PolyGram to be aware of the situation, to admit their wrongdoing, and to apologize to the damaged parties.
Yours very truly,
Vice President and General Manager
West Coast Division
cc: Dr. Werner Vogelsang
Mr. Irwin Schuster
Mr. Frank Military
bcc: Mr. Ronald Solleveld
After the great success of Kim and Dave’s songs on the Kenny Rogers Gideon album, I sent Heinz Voigt a final letter that included copies of the Billboard charts notating this success. In this letter I make reference to “$1,000,000 in gross income,” but eventually the gross income and value generated by these songs exceeded $5,000,000. This calculation includes earnings from the sales and the radio and television airplay of “Don’t Fall In Love With a Dreamer” and the collective album sales, which equate to over 50 million single-song sales for all Kenny Rogers albums previously described. In addition, the present asset value of these copyrights may be worth $1,000,000 or more.
The withdrawal of Heinz’s offer to Kim and Dave, his dogmatic letter warning me to adhere to the corporate chain-of-command, and his arrogance at my farewell dinner gave me ample justification to rub his nose in his own poor judgment and shameless behavior. Seven years later, in 1984, when I joined Warner Bros. Records Nashville, Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros. Records, purchased Chappell Music and merged it with their own music-publishing company, Warner Music, to form Warner Chappell. I was reminded of Heinz’s toast: “We hope you are successful so we can buy you.”
eddie reeves music
18 May 1980
I spent four years working hard and giving my best to Chappell Music only to be treated unfairly and unkindly by you. Thanks to your unfairness and lack of vision I resigned and established my own company that now enjoys the benefits of the attached chart positions.
It gives me pleasure to know that the Chappell Music songwriters—Kim Carnes and Dave Ellingson—to whom you were unfair, are the creators of the music marked on the attached charts.
As a memoir of your ridiculous attitude I have attached the letter that preceded my resignation. Your misdeed has cost Chappell Music over $1,000,000 in gross income [over $10,000,000 in 2016 dollars including all income earned]. I’d say that’s a big mistake.
cc: Dr. Werner Vogelsang
Mr. Irwin Schuster
Mr. Frank Military
Bcc: Mr. Ronald Solleveld
“When man forgets how to live—he makes laws.” –unknown Native American source.