One day, on my first job at Hollywood Sound Recorders, Jesse Hodges called me into his office. He played me a “demo” of a new song and explained to me what he wanted the final production to sound like. With that in my head, he sent me out to El Monte to meet with arranger Bob Summers (or Bobby as he called him). I soon found out that Bob did more than arrange. In his big industrial looking studio, The Sound House, Bob arranged, produced, played most of the instruments and even sang on the background vocals. The finished “track” that came back for Jesse to overdub his singer on was phenomenal.
Bob grew up in a musical family. His older sister, Iris Colleen Summers, was better known as Mary Ford. Along with guitar and recording legend, Les Paul, the duo became one of the hottest recording acts of the ’50s. Utilizing Paul’s revolutionary recording techniques, the duo sold 6 million records in 1951 alone. All told, they had 16 top ten hits by 1954 and an incredible 28 hits for Capitol records by 1957.
Young Bob learned well from Paul and by the age of 13 set up his own studio. In 1959, at the age of 16, Bob arranged, produced and recorded his first hit. “Sandy” by Larry Hall, peaked at #15 on the Billboard “Hot 100” charts. It exploded in 1964 when Terry Stafford brought in an Elvis Presley song, “Suspicion” that he wanted to record. With Bob arranging, producing and playing all the instruments, the record skyrocketed up the charts…selling over two million singles and becoming the only record at the time that was not by “The Beatles”.
When I went out on my own as a record producer, Bob was always my “go to” guy. We did lose touch for a few years when I ventured into concert promotion. A few years later an artist I had recorded, Christopher Cain, called and asked me if I could produce the music for a film he was producing. I immediately said yes. I called Bob and asked him if he wanted to score the film. He said yes and we were off and running. That call, for a ridiculously low budget film, helped me establish my career. We agreed to guarantee the budget and deliver the complete score. No one else would do that. If it went over budget it came out of my pocket.
We ended up doing four films for Chris and my concept of becoming an “in house” music department for independents quickly led to more projects. One of those low budget projects for Sunn Classic Pictures led to the TV series, “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” and a nearly 20 year relationship with that company. To deliver on time and on budget, I needed a reliable “family” of composers, arrangers and musicians that I could always count on to be there for me under pressure. Bob was all of those rolled into one.
From those early days, Bob was with me every step of the way. Together we did (as well as I can recall) 33 Features, 7 TV Series (nearly 200 hours) and over 20 Movies of the Week for TV. In between we worked on 27 albums, countless singles and together had 5 chart records. Needless to say we developed a producer/artist relationship that clicked from the beginning. We worked together nearly every day, became partners in a recording studio, friends and ultimately family. We learned over the years that we could trust one another and always had each others’ back. We never had a written contract between us for any project together. I would call Bob, tell him we had a job, and he would show up…big budget or small. He never asked how much it paid. He trusted that I would get him as much as I could…and I did. He just came to create and he created some of the best music I’ve ever heard in my life.
I realized when I finished my book that without Bob, it might have been only 10 pages long! He was there for me in the beginning and I know if I called him today, he would show up and do it all over again. That’s what friends are for. Thanks, Bob.