My first real music job in Hollywood was as an engineer at Hollywood Sound Recorders. Record producer, Jesse Hodges, had purchased the studio. He was working with me as a singer but I was quickly realizing that I might not become the next rock superstar. He asked me if I wanted to help him open the studio. I figured it would be a great place to advance my career. Had I stayed with it, my career might have been drastically different. Hollywood Sound became one of the legendary Hollywood studios and with engineers (brother) Tom Perry and John Guess churned out gold and platinum records like candy.
I was hooked from day one on the production side of the business. I put in a year at the studio and decided to go out on my own when a client, Vivian Roberts, hired me to produce a record for her. Jesse told me I was making a big mistake. He had tried to secure a record deal for Vivian and had failed. He told me as a new producer without contacts in the industry and an artist who had been turned down by major companies, that I was setting myself up for failure. He was absolutely right…I went ahead anyway.
I had mixed some song “demos” for legendary writer/producer/record executive, John Marascalco. John had written early Little Richard hits: “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Rip it Up”, “Ready Teddy” as well as classics such as: “Goodnight My Love” and “Send Me Some Lovin’ “. The singer John used for the demos was a singer who blew me away with his talent. His name was Harry. Harry was working at a bank at night so he could keep his days free to pursue his career.
I called John and asked him if he had a song that I could record with Vivian and he sent me over a song he had written with Harry called “So Proud Of You”. It was perfect for her. We recorded it and John helped us get a deal with independent label/distributor, Vault Records. Harry called and thanked me for recording the song and told me I did a great job. That meant a lot to me…even more so later.
We didn’t quite make history with the record. It received some local air play and Vivian did a few local TV shows but in the end it just didn’t take off. We did another session with Vivian but her heart wasn’t in it. After trying for so long to land a deal and working so hard to promote “Proud”, she just decided to move on and spend time with her family.
As for me, I had a start. I had made a deal with my first independent production. John Marascalco was still a legend and Harry was Harry Nillson. A few years later he won a Grammy for vocal of the year for his single “Everybody’s Talkin” from the movie “Midnight Cowboy”, one of the many milestones from a brilliant career. In a press conference in 1968 when John Lennon and Paul McCartney introduced their Apple Records, John was asked who his favorite American artist was. He answered, “Nillson”. Paul was then asked who his favorite American group was. “Nillson” was his answer…and Harry had called to thank me for recording that early song!
You have to start somewhere and it sure wasn’t a bad place to start.