May 1, 2010

“In 1966, Sandy and Kelli Ross had just moved to New York from Chicago. Sandy was the in-house lawyer for Mercury/ Smash/ Phillips Records and Kelli was the daughter of Irving Green who owned those labels, .

At the time Sandy and Kelli administered the publishing companies of Quincy Jones, Lesley Gore, The Cowsills, Janis Ian, and Bobby Scott, and I was working for Scepter Records.

When the owner of Scepter, Florence Greenberg, sold her publishing company, without warning or severance pay,  Ed Silvers, Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, Joshie Armstead, and I were unceremoniously let go.

My wife Sheilah, who worked as a secretary at Mercury, and I had become good friends with Sandy and Kelli, who offered me a partnership in their company which I happily took.

Songwriter/ producer Artie Kornfeld, “The Father of Woodstock”, remembers. “My wife Linda and I were also friends with Sandy and Kelli, as well as being close to one of the groups Alouette represented, the Cowsills.”

When Artie made a deal to produce the Cowsills for M-G-M, the group asked for their publishing back, which Kelli gave them without batting an eye. I freaked out and tried to explain that you can’t just give the publishing back to someone when you’ve been working with them all these years, hoping their copyrights would become valuable…but Kelli always put friendship above business.

When Artie and the group hit #1 with their first single “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things”, they recorded one of our copyrights, “Ask The Children” (Wonderling, Budnik, Goldfluss), which helped to ease my pain…a little.

Lesley Gore (“It’s My Party”, “You Don’t Own Me”) recalls, “Mercury Records at the time seemed more like a mom and pop business than a flourishing record company.  I came to know Irving Green, the president of Mercury.  What a wonderful man.  His daughter, Kelli, and son-in-law, Sandy, were also in the music business and ran my publishing company.

Irving and his family became part of the extended Gore family.  We all celebrated the progress of a new single as well as birthdays, anniversaries and graduations.”

Everyone loved Kelli and anytime you’d walk into our offices you find Janis Ian or Michael Gore playing a new song, or Quincy Jones and Bobby Scott just hanging out.

When the urge hit me to become a recording artist again, Kelli supported me 100% and got us a label deal with the legendary Morris Levy, with Ron Haffkine (Dr. Hook, Shel Silverstein) producing me under the name
”Shadow” Mann, and my protégé Sissy Spacek, whose name I changed to Rainbo.

Producer Ron Haffkine adds, “I recall Kelli as a warm, sweet, smiling young woman who was helpful to me at the beginning of my career. Kelli’s office, at Alouette, would overflow with writers, singers, producers, and a lot of noise. I and my friend Shel Silverstein (lucky for me) would drift from time to time between the offices of my friend Joel Diamond (also lucky for me ) who ran MRC Music and Kelli. Some wonderful stories are waiting to be told about events that transpired in both the offices by the many talented and often broke hopefuls who were allowed to spend many days and often nights in those offices thanks to the indulgence of Kelli Ross and Joel Diamond which I’m sure was not always easy.”

During the next few years Alouette represented Artie Resnick and Joey Levine (“Chewy, Chewy”, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”), Motherlode (“When I Die”), as well as producers Ron Haffkine, and Bo Gentry.

Sunny Monday remembers when she was cutting her first single with Ron Haffkine for Decca. “I was still a teenager when I met Kelli. She made me feel comfortable, a little bit groovy, and right at home. I came from the Mid-West and all of a sudden I was a New Yorker hangin’ with the people who were “making it happen”.

Although she wasn’t a singer/ songwriter, or producer Kelli Ross had a musical sense second to none. I remember I was backstage at the bitter end one night and I heard this guy named Jerry Jeff Walker play a song he wrote, “Mr. Bojangles”. It was one of those times that I knew it was a smash halfway through and told him I’d like to publish his song. My heart sank when he told me his producer Dan Elliot made a deal for his whole songwriting catalog that afternoon…then I was elated when I found out he had made the deal with my partner Kelli!

A few months later Dan Elliot came to his friend Kelli and asked for the publishing back, so he could make a recording deal for Jerry Jeff Walker with Atlantic Records, which demanded half of the publishing. I went f#@kin’ ballistic when Kelli gave it to him…I tried to reason with her, but she always put friendship above business.

Producer/ engineer Brooks Arthur fondly remembers,“My wife Marilyn, our children, Jill and Jacqueline, were invited to Sandy and Kelli’s Amaganset summer home. We swam, BBQ’d and purchased and boiled fresh lobsters on the beach. We talked music but the emphasis was on family! Then Kelli, Marilyn and Carol Geld created a BIG & LITTLE DAY in Central Park. All our musician friends, their wives and kids … The women & the men prepared and brought food and blankets, stretched out on the sheep meadow for the time of our lives. Talked music, shared studio & songwriting stories but put the emphasis on friendships and families. Wonderful days!”

A year later I got divorced and also said goodbye to Sandy, Kelli and New York, When I moved to California to join Warner Brothers Music. Sandy made me give up my interest in Alouette productions and our co-owned company Tattersall music which published all of my songs.

The next time I saw Kelli was after she divorced Sandy and was running the international division RCA publishing. She gave me a $10,000 advance for the sub-publishing of my new catalog in Australia, where I was enjoying a top ten record, “From The Inside”, by Marcia Hines. I didn’t see Kelli again until bout seven years ago when she was selling real estate in Palm Springs California.

I figured I had nothing to lose so I asked her for my publishing back, which she gave me without blinking an eye… because Kelli always put friendship above business.

I wish everyone a friend like Kelli Ross.

Copyright 2010 by Artie Wayne

picture at top of Kelli Ross and Artie Wayne by Popsie

Special thanks to Lesley Gore, Artie Kornfeld, Ron Haffkine, Sunny Monday, and Brooks Arthur for helping to put this article together.



8 Responses to “MY FRIEND KELLI ROSS”

  1. don Oriolo Says:

    Artie…I remember the day I first met you when you were running Alouette….seems like yesterday….I loved that Shadow Man record….you say you wish everyone had a friend like Kelli…well I can say, everyone should have a friend like you….Don

  2. Barry Oslander Says:

    Artie what a nice story and it is all true…I know I was there…way in the background….I was 13 years old and a recording engineer at Mercury.
    Barry O

  3. Barry Oslander Says:

    Don is right on, everyone should have a friend like you….Lucky for me I can still call you friend.
    Barry O

  4. Joel Diamond Says:

    love your story Artie…although I did not know Kelli I was working in the same building at MRC
    Joel D

  5. jimmyboi2 Says:

    What a great tribute! Very nice to read something positive !

  6. Sunny Monday Says:

    This great photo Artie and it is just how I remember the two of you. By the way, Love the beads. The 60’s were special!

  7. Steve Dworkin Says:

    I remember, I think it was 1969, meeting you and Kelli when a deal was set up for you to adminster Gary Willet & my publishing company, Rock And Roll Music. Unfortunately, we never had any hits, but I remember only good things about you & Kelli.

  8. dorothy schwartz Says:

    I loved Kelli! I first met her when I was working for Hy Grill/Kapp Records in A&R. I always gave her an appt to see Hy. Years later, 1978, Normand Kurtz gave her my resume at MIDEM. She called me after and said “Is this the same Dotty Schwartz who worked for Kapp Records? I interviewed and got the job with her on the spot. I went on to stay for almost 25 yrs in International Legal/BA. Thank you Kelly for contributing to my long and fruitful career. God bless you.


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