I’ve written a little set-up to my background. I hope to post a new story every couple of weeks. When I start repeating myself…
Here’s A Start:
For over 45 years, my passion has been the music business in its various aspects. Like so many of my contemporaries, one Sunday night in 1963, we saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and the flame was lit for a lifetime. I was 13, but it was actually a second–coming for me. My older brother, Bill, had discovered Elvis Presley around 1956, and to this day, his passion for everything Elvis has permeated my life since I was six years old.
I had a long preparation for that Sunday night absorbing for the first time, The Beatles. By the time they performed that memorable night, as a devoted little brother, I knew virtually every lyric to Elvis’ songs, B Sides… you name it. I pantomimed in the mirror, less to copy the Big E, as to follow my big brother. I tried on the swagger and the sneer as a child without ever having the angst… which came much later!
My brother’s love for Elvis was bigger than life. It dominated my view of music and entertainment. I idolized the guy who idolized Elvis. That made Elvis a mythological creature to me.
That night the Beatles performed from the Ed Sullivan Theater, I was struck… by the excitement and frenzy, by their music, by their hair, by those gray suits they wore, and even by how Ed pronounced the group’s name. However, the strangest thing happened that night. I was struck by a euphoric sense of freedom. That night I found my own Elvis. I found my individuality.
But in discovering The Beatles, I had this unique sense of history. I had this dimension to compare stars and this texture of stardom and what it did to people that set me on a path that is just as intriguing to me today as it was then. What was it in these artists and their music that so moved people? What power? What passion? It was mind-altering… before drugs. Elvis shaped how my brother viewed the world. Rebellion, but with a sense of Southern politeness and patriotism. Freedom, but with a sense of generosity. Raw sexuality, but with a strange humbleness. And the Beatles did much the same thing in their own entirely different way.
I also had this almost imperceptible sense of debt to black music. Clearly, Elvis had borrowed, but never seemed to have stolen. I knew he knew his influences. He broke down the door to black music for young white Americans. As the Beatles became more than a Sunday night epiphany, and I began discovering The Stones and The Rascals, and more and more artists, I began to learn more about that extraordinary debt we owe to gospel, R&B, and the blues, and the African American musicians who blazed the trail to Rock & Roll. The English bands were really the ones I remember articulating the fact that they listened to old race records by artists like Robert Johnson and up through the influences of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, to only touch upon a couple of the more prominent names…
My immersion in discovering pop and rock music led me to playing in bands, to trying to write songs, to knocking on publishers’ doors, and to chasing my dream to be in the music industry. The dream never ended… and here I am nearing 60 years old, trying to make sense of what that chase meant… what it was… and what it means moving forward.
I was behind-the-scenes. A foot soldier. I had this innate sense of these artists and just as importantly, their audiences. I was fascinated about that connection… about that euphoria they create together.
Over the years, I have shared moments of fleeting experiences of being around a lot of recording artists. I was a product manager at Epic Records for The Clash, Pearl Jam, Meat Loaf, Boston, Cheap Trick, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Luther Vandross, Living Colour, Gloria Estefan, the indigo girls, Charlie Daniels Band, Ted Nugent, and many, many artists that didn’t have the good fortune to achieve the success of those artists. I oversaw the successes of many other artists handled by product managers on my staff, including REO Speedwagen, Survivor, Kansas, Dan Fogelberg, Celine Dion, James Brown, and on and on. I also product managed Michael Jackson through his final two successful albums at Epic, an experience that was utterly exhausting and certainly one of the most daunting marketing challenges in the contemporary music industry. It is strange to look back on it. Scraps of galvanizing situations and unbelievable moments are scattered roughshod through my consciousness.
I have a ton of stories, and I’m finally coming to the realization that I should write them down. I’ve probably bored the life out of some of my co-workers over the years with them, but I feel compelled to do this, because there are some people out there who have egged me on! Is there a book? I don’t know. Let me try a blog to see where it goes.
I also hope to use this blog as a tool to reach out to others. I have so many friends and associates who could top my stories like world-class chess players! Checkmate. I hope maybe they will share some of them with me and we can gather a few here.
Stories to Come: My Encounter With Sam Phillips and His Unpublished Liner Notes for Dickey Lee! Beatlemania on Broadway and Social networking without a Net! See you in a week or two.