Brief Encounters With Burt Bacharach!

January 20, 2007

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Since the early 60’s, Burt Bacharach has been one of the most innovative and influencial figures in popular music. His unique melodies and signature rythyms also made him one of the most imitated musicians of all times. With various lyricists, he racked up an early array of hits that included, “Tower Of Strength”, “Baby It’s You”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, “Any Day Now”, “Only Love Can Break A Heart”, “Blue On Blue”, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and “Walk On By”.

I always felt a thrill just to be in his presence! I would see him at a party or a music business function and go over and introduce myself. This happened so often that after about the fifth or sixth time I did it, he stopped me, smiled and said, “I know…you’re Artie Wayne!” This not only made me feel good, but I felt validated!

He was not only a musical role model, but a personal one as well. He was probably one of the coolest people I’ve ever known, with his sunglasses on top of his premature white hair he always seemed to be dressed for a tennis game or a polo match! I also noticed all of the beautiful women that would fawn over him and it made me realize that you didn’t have to be a Rock Star to get that kind of attention!

In 1963, after I had my first hit as a songwriter and producer, “Meet Me At Midnight Mary” ( Raleigh/ Wayne) with Joey Powers, I called up Burt to see if he had any songs for the follow-up. I met him in his office at Famous music, in the Brill Building and he played me a new song he and Hal David had written, “Message To Martha” (which later became a smash in the UK by Adam Faith and a hit in the US by Dionne Warwick, re-titled, “Message To Michael”)

I loved the song, but I thought it was a bit too complex for Joey Power’s simple folk musical direction we were taking. I felt really weird turning down the song, but Burt was cool and said don’t worry about it. A few months later, I ran into him on my first trip to London, where he was the musical director on Marlena Dietrich’s concert tour, we had a drink and laughed about my embarrasment over turning down one of his songs.

The next time I saw him was in 1965, I was signed to Scepter records publishing company, as a songwriter and producer. I was encouraged to use the studio as often as I wanted for overdubbing and making demos of my songs to help break-in the studio. I produced or co-produced The Shirelles , The Kingsmen and the Guess Who, there which made the owner, Florence Greenberg, more confident in her new facility. At that point, she offered Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a chance to try her new, improved studio out.

I remember Burt and Hal had trouble mixing Dionne Warwick’s, “Are You There With Another Girl” at the original studio where they cut the track, and they decided to try out Scepter. I remember being in my office the day of the “Great New York City Blackout “…when the lights all over our building were dimming then getting brighter! Burt and Hal, after mixing for hours, ran out of the studio screaming, ” What the Hell’s going on ? We almost had it…We almost had the mix! Then machine started slowing down then stared speeding up!”

Tempers cooled, when we looked out the window and saw lights in the entire city dim…then go black! Florence’s son Stanley, who was head of A+R, as well as being totally blind from birth, yelled out, “Don’t worry, I’ll get us all out of here…JUST FOLLOW ME!”

About 20 of us, with Stanley leading the pack, managed to get down several flights of stairs, in total darkness, safely and without incident. It was an event that I’m sure none of us will never forget!

Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne

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4 Responses to “Brief Encounters With Burt Bacharach!”

  1. Laura Says:

    What a great story – the blind literally leading the blind. And it worked out perfectly! I’ll bet this was a night that not only will none of you ever forget, but one that everyone present has probably talked about many times over. Thanks for sharing. đŸ™‚

  2. Steve Owen Says:

    Artie,
    Wow! Thanks for the cool Bacharach story..you know I
    eat this sort of stuff up….hearing about Scepter and all…
    I once met Stan Green in his office in Hollywood
    later on in the 70’s…he was a very interesting fellow…
    thanks for the great story!

    Steveo

  3. carol ross-durborow Says:

    artie, you have so many wonderful stories and memories of when the music business was exciting ……your stories remind many of us of our own stories and fond memories…thank you for sharing! love, carol ross-durborow

  4. Kendra Spotswood Says:

    Hi, Artie …

    Couldn’t resist a reply comment. I know exactly how you felt about your encounters with Burt. I had a couple, too. In Nov, ’64, I was asked to sing with the Shirelle’s while they worked out their legal differences with one of the group members. (You’ll remember It was a “sue-countersuit” situation). During the Christmas holidays that year, we were performing at the Brooklyn Paramount (I think).
    Ms Greenberg made no bones about the fact that she did not like me, even though I had never done anything to deserve it. Anyhow, she came up to our dressing room to wish the group a Merry Christmas. They welcomed her into the small room, and she purposely excluded me from the conversation. I ended up going over to the dressing table to sit by myself. I felt so hurt by her actions. After a few minutes, I sensed that someone had pulled up a chair and sat down behind me, but I was so upset, I just ignored whoever it was. I was in no mood to be “cordial.” But
    when I heard a man’s voice greet me, I turned around. To my utter shock (and shame), it was Burt! It took a minute for me to get my composure. Funny, I knew he understood what was going on and how I was being treated, and he just spent time talking with me about music. He turned that evening around for me.

    A few weeks later, I walked into the elevator at 1650 and a man jumped in just before the door closed – it was Burt, and he remembered me! He asked where I was headed, and I told him, to see Van (McCoy) at April-Blackwood. He wished me well and sent Van his regards. That’s my encounter with a Legend!

    Take care, Artie! Happy New Year!

    Kenni Woods


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