January 26, 2013

By Joe Klein
The Oscar nominated documentary SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is the work of Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul who first learned of the story of Sixto Rodriguez while traveling the world for a few years in search of a great story for a docupic. In 2007, he made a stop in Cape Town, South Africa and wandered into a record store called Mabu Vinyl, co-owned by Steven “Sugar” Segerman, one of the Rodriguez fans who had spent several years looking to confirm the rumors of the artist’s death or find him if he was still alive and well. Segerman told the Rodriguez story to the filmmaker, who quickly decided that this was to be the story he’d document on film. It took nearly four years to shoot all the footage and complete the film, which debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Audiences at Sundance raved and the documentary received to awards at the festival. Last November, 60 MINUTES broadcast a segment about the artist and movie, which was rebroadcast a few weeks ago.
Happily, the rumors of Sixto’s death were greatly exaggerated, and Rodriguez lives on to this day, enjoying the fame that avoided him for so many years. He remains modest and humble about his elusive superstar status, even giving most of his recent earnings away to family, friends and others he feels worthy of the funds. His latest new-found fame resulting from all the acclaim for the Sugar Man movie resulted in several high profile media appearances since last summer. In addition to the 60 Minutes profile, Rodriguez has performed on The Late Show with David Letterman and, just last week, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has made dozens of live concert and club appearances in the US, Canada, England and Ireland in recent months and, next month, makes his latest triumphal appearances in South Africa, with shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg that have been sold out for weeks. Concerts in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia follow in March.
A jaw dropping moment occurred for me watching the movie, when Dennis Coffey mentioned working on the Cold Facts album at the legendary Detroit recording studio,TERA SHIRMA, owned by Ralph Terrana, the brother of one of my other lifelong close friends, engineer RUSS TERRANA. Russ left Motown Records, where he had become one of the labels top engineers, to work for his brother at Tera Shirma for a couple years in the late sixties before returning to Motown, where he worked for nearly twenty more years as chief engineer until the sale of the label late in 1988. Russ got such a great sound that he was one of the most sought-after engineers of the Detroit music scene when he worked at Tera Shirma, engineering scores of hits to come out of the studio. Surely, I thought, Russ recorded the first Rodriguez album.
I called my old pal and asked if he had any recollections about the project. Russ told me, “Wow, Joe. I worked on so many albums at Tera Shirma that I just can’t remember if that Rodriguez album was one of them. But I do remember the name. So maybe I did work on it!” I had to laugh, because I’ve talked to Russ countless times about the days spent in Detroit, working at Motown and his brothers studio, and he couldn’t remember many of the number one hits he recorded or mixed (and there were 89 of those)! If that’s not the mark of a successful genius, I don’t know what is…..
SM DEN MIKERuss suggested that I call his brother and ask what he remembered, if anything, about the Rodriguez sessions at the studio. I called Ralph Terrana and he was pretty excited that his studio had been mentioned by name in the Oscar-nominated docupic. But, like his brother, he could remember very little about the Rodriguez project. “Hell, Joe, ya’ gotta’ remember that this was over forty years ago,” Ralph told me. “There were so many artists coming in and out of the studio. Producers Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore (“SCORPIO”, “NICE TO BE WITH YOU”) were working at Tera Shirma constantly. I even gave them their own office in our building! But I do remember the name Rodriguez, probably from seeing it on a studio schedule.”
I asked Ralph if Russ could have been the recording engineer. Ralph said, “You know, probably not. Dennis and Mike would often come in at night and work well past midnight on projects. Russ always preferred the day shift. Mike usually engineered the sessions himself at night.” I wondered if Russ might have mixed the tracks even if he didn’t record them. Ralph told me, “Russ was such a damn good mixer that everyone wanted him to mix their stuff if they could get him. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Russ mixed the album. 

Rodriguez, the Detroit singer-songwriter at the center of the Oscar-nominated documentary Searching for Sugar Man, will perform at the Coachella, Glastonbury and Primavera festivals this year, Billboard reports.


Special thanks to Joe Klein for putting this story together!
Joe can be reached via email
Joe’s production company’s website is
For more about “super engineer” Russ Terrana and to see my MOTOWN VIDEO JUKEBOX of the incredible 89 number one hits he engineered and/or mixed, click here:



  1. Kelly Says:

    Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few
    of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I
    think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

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