The True Story Behind “Midnight Mary”!
June 30, 2007
In the early 60′s, I went out with a few Iranian girls who actually told me that they were brought up to tell people what they wanted to hear, then go out and do the exact opposite. One of these girls, Jamela, was the beautiful daughter of a deposed general, who was exiled to the United States along with the Shah of Iran. I admit it was exciting to wonder who was following us on our dates, her father’s bodyguards…or the Secret Service! All of this danger, brought us closer together, and she revealed many aspects of her culture I never knew about. She told me that Iranian men showed no quarter to their enemy and were fierce warriors because they weren’t afraid of dying! It was only when she told me that she feared for my safety, did I take our cultural differences seriously! We continued to see each other secretly, however, which led me to co-write my first hit song, ” ( Meet Me At) Midnight Mary” (Raleigh/ Wayne).
Ben Raleigh (“Wonderful, Wonderful”, “Tell Laura I Love Her”) came up with the title, and we wrote it in a couple of hours. The next day we took it up to Larry Taylor at Bourne music, who gave us an advance and gave us money for a demo. For the next year, the publishers weren’t able to get the song recorded, then we were told that a new artist on Capitol records, Jerry Cole, had just cut it.
Although his record was good, I thought I could produce a better one. I had become good friends with one of my co-writers, Joey Powers, who had just been released from an RCA recording contract. We decided to go into the studio to do another demo good enough to become a master. We scrapped up $500.00, booked Associated recording studios, hired arranger Al Gorgoni and Charlie Macey to play guitars, Buddy Saltzman on drums and Jeannie Thomas who sang all the background parts.
The following week, “Midnight Mary”was turned down by every major record label in New York City! I remember playing it for my friends song plugger, Jerry Landis (Soon to become better known as Paul Simon) up at E.B.Marks music and Tony Dee, who was a promotion man for the company. They both suggested that I take my master up to Larry Uttal who had started running AMY Records. Larry, who was my former neighbor at 1650 Broadway, loved the record gave us our production costs back as well as a shitty percentage!
I remember as we signed contracts he asked me if I could make the bass on the master a little bit louder? I just looked at him and said, “What bass?” Larry smiled and handed me an extra $15 out of his pocket to add a bass and do a new mix.
$15 ? for a bass player And a new mix? Fortunately I had a few friends who did me some favors, including bass player, Russ Savakis. After the session I took the $15 and bought everyone hot dogs and some coconut champagne at a store around the corner from the Brill building.
A few months later, I remember taking publicity pictures and being handed a gold record by Larry Uttal, who whispered, “Now this doesn’t necessarily mean it sold a million records!”
It was November 22, 1963 and I had been preparing to record the entire “Midnight Mary” album during the four day weekend. I’d been flying to Columbus, Ohio every week to rehearse Joey Powers, who was going for his Masters Degree at Ohio State.
That night, as Al Gorgoni put some finishing touches on the arrangements, and Jeannie Thomas polished the background parts for her and Lettie Hamblet. Our usual crew of musicians, augmented with Paul Simon and Roger McGuinn on 12 string guitars, was going over the charts for the first session, due to start in a half-hour.
Joey Powers and I were riding into the city from the airport, when we heard the horrible, unconfirmed reports on the news. By the time we walked into the studio and saw the tears in most everybody’s eyes, we knew it was true, “President Kennedy had been shot!”
(To Be Continued)
Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne
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