When I was growing up, I wanted to be a major league baseball player. Everyone told me that wasn’t a very realistic dream and I should have a back up plan…something more practical. I decided that if I couldn’t play in the majors then I would just become a famous singer/songwriter!
After high school, I was contacted by a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and he put me on a team for rookies and prospects on their winter league team in San Jose. He then offered me a chance to go to their Minor League camp. Meanwhile I had an offer from The Minnesota Twins to play on their minor league team in the Pioneer League in Missoula, Montana. Looking back, I don’t think my parents were too anxious to see a 17 year old go on the road and convinced me that I could always play baseball but I couldn’t always go to college. That advice was backward, but I enrolled at San Jose State and continued to work on “plan b”.
San Jose State was ahead of it’s time in those early days with a full blown radio and TV station and a full recording studio. I took advantage of the recording studio to cut some “demo” recordings of songs I had written. I performed one of those songs, “Lonely Lover” on a TV show called “Debut” on KTVU in Oakland. An executive at the station signed me to a management contract and I recorded my first full blown session in San Francisco. I thought I was on my way. When he failed to make me a star immediately, I went in and recorded a few more songs. Meanwhile several record companies were in danger of going out of business due to the postage costs they ran up rejecting my songs. This called for a more aggressive plan.
I decided to go to Hollywood and submit my product in person. Face to face they had to realize I had star potential. I dropped out of school for a semester to work and put away some money. This was a big mistake. I was drafted into the Army. Fortunately, we weren’t at war…although history now recalls those years as “The Cold War”. We were there to prevent Communist aggression. I am proud to say that in my years of service no Communist ever aggressed where I was!
When I got out of the service my family had moved from San Jose to Sacramento…I found them anyway. I went back to school and worked part time. In between I continued writing and recording demos at the local recording studio backed by brothers, Bill and Tom and their band “The Invadors”. A local DJ, Mike Larson, heard me and funded a full session. We cut two sides for his label, Mizon Records: “Lonely Lover” and “I’m Leaving You”. The only problem was Mizon didn’t have any distribution. Local station KROY agreed to put “I’m Leaving You” in its’ “Battle of the New Sounds” competition. Every night we went up against a new contender. Every night every relative and friend lit up the phone lines. Finally, we beat out Barbara Lewis recording of “Hello Stranger” and became the weekly “Battle of the New Sounds Champion”. This led to a week on the playlist. We bought 500 records from Mizon and Tower Records agreed to take a box of records on consignment. To our surprise, they called the next day to re-order. This led, in rapid succession, to an appearance on a local TV show and a “one night only” appearance in the lounge of a local bowling alley. We sold out our records and then we were done. We had no promotion, no distribution and no more money. Barbara Lewis’s record went on to become the #3 record in the country and #1 on the R&B charts. It was one of the biggest records of the year. Her distribution was considerably better than ours.
Undaunted by this temporary set back, a short time later I packed my bags and took my “Battle of the New Sounds” title with me to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. No one was particularly impressed by the title and the record was soon forgotten. I couldn’t even find “I’m Leaving You” to play it for you but someone posted “Lonely Lover” on You Tube. It’s only fitting since this is the song that started it all for me. It was never destined to be a hit but it did fuel the first step on a 30 year journey through the music business. The journey of a lifetime.