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Long before, “Lady Marmalade”, “Devil With The Blue Dress On”, and “Cant Take My Eyes Off You”, Bob Crewe, was one of my favorite songwriter and producers. When I was starting out in the music business. “Silhouettes”, “Luck Ladybug”, “Walk Like A Man”, were the kind of songs I wanted to write and “Palisades Park” and “Tallahassee Lassie”, were the kind of records I wanted to produce.

I remember being introduced to Bob for the first time, by publicist/ manager Harriet Wasser in front of 1650 Broadway. We all talked for a few minutes, then he invited me down to Allegro studios, which was in the basement of the building. He was recording a few demos for the Four Seasons and as the afternoon progressed, Bob became more and more dissatisfied with the vocals.

Harriet suggested that he give me a try on vocals since she was familiar with the demos I was doing for publishers around town, that required using a lot of falsetto and singing all the background parts. Although he wasn’t a musician, he was a singer and was able to tell me exactly what he wanted, as well as instilling the confidence in me to execute it. He truly was able to bring out the best in everybody he worked with…like a great director!

He loved the results and a few days later, Bob asked Harriet if she would see if I’d be interested in “being” the Four Seasons for one record? It seems that Bob was having a dispute with the group, and owned the rights to the name and could put out whatever he wanted! Although I was flattered, and wanted a hit record…I wanted to be a solo Rock and Roll Star!

Over the next few years, I’d run into Bob at parties and industry functions, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I had a chance to sit down and talk to him at length. It was up at Motown records in Hollywood, where he had an exclusive production deal. He was up there to play a new mix on a record that Berry Gordy kept turning down, which he played for me,”My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli. I sat there stunned by the incredible record I was listening to…then Bob started to pace back and forth, becoming more and more agitated, then he confessed that he was there to give Gordy an ultimatum!

( To Be Continued )

Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne

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l -r Bob Crewe, Bobby Darin and Ellie Greenwich

Photos at the top- Bob Crewe…Bob and singer/songwriter Eddie Rambeau

To reach Eddie Rambeau
http://www.edrambeau.com

Special thanks to Rosemarie Edwards
http://www.craftweb.org

 

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Although Motown had been having hits produced in Hollywood for the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson, the move to the West Coast from Detroit allowed Motown more time and money to develop new artists, like the Commodores, Lionel Ritchie, and Thelma Houston, songwriters like Michael Masser, Patti Dahlstrom, and Clifton Davis. The producers that came into their own during that time, included Freddie Perren, Deke Ritchards, Fonse Mizell, Hal Davis, Jerry Marselleno and Mel Larson. Only a handful of those who had hits back in Detroit were able to make a successful transition. the first was Marvin Gaye, who initially met with resistance from Gordy when he delivered his landmark album, “What’s Going On’?” Berry wanted to continue his persuit of “The Sound Of Young America”, making “crossover” singles that dominated the charts. Marvin, on the other hand, wanted to push the envelope with a socially relevant concept album. My friend, Jobete staff writer Al Cleveland, told me that when he heard Marvin working on a new track in the studio, he stuck his head in the door and asked, “What’s Going On?” This led to their collaboration on a song that defined a generation!

Although I was General Manager and Director of Services for Warner Brothers music, I was up at Motown so often people thought I worked there. I would sit in the outer office flirting with the receptionist, waiting to see what producer or artist would walk in next. I remember meeting writer producer Norman Whifield (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, ” Cloud 9″) that way. After briefly, but enthusiastically, discussing his body of work he invited me into his office to listen to a track he was starting to work on. I sat there and listened to a track for twelve minutes that consisted of only of an electric bass and percussion and was a bit confused. I asked him if there was a song that went along with it? He started the track again…and sang, “Papa was a Rolling Stone”

Around the same time I cornered Freddie Perren in an elevator, who was cutting Jermaine Jackson and convinced him to cut a Warner Brothers standard, “I Only Have Eyes For You”. I also got Hal Davis to produce “I Want To Be Happy”, from the Broadway revival of “No, No Nannete” for Michael Jackson, which eventually went to newcomer Lionel Ritchie.

Although I was starting to get cuts…they they were slow to be released. Ed Silvers, President of WB Music, thought I was spending too much time at Motown and doubted I’d ever get any of our new material covered. I couldn’t give up now, so in an accelerated effort I got Hal Davis to cut “Doctor My Eyes”, which Jackson Browne wrote and Michael Jackson took to the top ten in the U.K. As my friendship grew with Jerry Marselino and Mel Larson, who produced a top ten hit with Michael on “Rockin’ Robin”, I suggested that they cut as a follow up, “Little Bitty Pretty One”, which I had no interest in. I knew for certain that I had their attention when it became a hit…but I wanted to wait for the right opportunity to present them with an original song that I really wanted them to cut.

In the meantime, over the next few weeks Norman Whitfield let me hear “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, in it’s various stages of development. There were layers of vocals put on and taken off, sections editited or deleted, countless re-mixes, and finally the last step…the mysterious mastering that set Motown apart from all the rest! That’s when I met Iris Gordy, head of Quality control, who allowed me to watch and listen as she performed her magic!

The Temptations classic was finally released and zoomed up the charts. I remember running into Norman Whitfield in the lobby of Motown, the day the song hit number one on the Billboard charts. He was livid that he had written and produced another smash for Motown…and Berry Gordy hadn’t even called to congratulate him…it was never like this back in Detroit!

Berry’s new aspirations, producing films and his obsession with making Diana Ross a movie star, brought new problems along with new priorities. For the first time in Motown’s history his relationship with everone he had worked with at the label seemed to be on shakey ground! (to be continued)

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When I started writing songs and producing records in the ’60s, there wasn’t anywhere to go to learn your craft. Like many of my contemporaries, I went to the school of Top 40 radio. First I learned the ABCs of Rock and Roll in the ’50s, listening to Elvis, Fats Domino, and the Platters, then I graduated in the ’60s, where everyone in my class majored in Motown.

Although I’m an African-American, R+B music wasn’t my first love. It was Berry Gordy, Jr.the owner and guiding force behind Motown, who changed the sound of Black America into the “Sound of Young America.” The “crossover” vision soon captured my imagination as well. His formula always started with an extremely well crafted song, musically sophisticated with a strong beat, and used the best producers, musicians, arrangers as well as pool of remarkable singers.
It was, however, the competition between songwriters and producers within the company that drove the quality, commerciality and technical superiority to such a high level. Even “Smokey” Robinson ( Vice-President of Motown), had to compete with Norman Whitfield, Marvin Gaye, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Mickey Stevenson, and every other songwriter/ producer based at the Detroit label, for every single that was released!

Ironically, It was white people who made me aware of how Motown records were put together. I used to sit with Bert Berns (“Twist and Shout”, “Hang On Sloopy”), Jerry Ragavoy( “Cry, Cry Baby”, who co-wrote “Piece of Heart” with Bert) or with Ed Silvers, who ran the New York office of Metric music, and listen to Motown’s latest releases. Each of these astute, songwriter/ producers would point out something in each record that would strike a chord in me. Little did I know that this informal education would help me forge relationships with some of the greatest African-American performers, songwriters and producers of all time that included Quincy Jones, Van McCoy, Donny Hathaway, Freddie Perren, Hal Davis, Allan Toussant, Joe Simon, and Rick James.

It wasn’t until I worked with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson did more of the pieces of the Motown puzzle began to fit. We were all signed exclusively to write songs and produce for Scepter Records. When we weren’t creating, Nick and Val would take time to show me the chords and demonstrate the harmonies of all my favorite Motown hits.

They sang background on most of my demos and shared their studio musicians with me. I always thought it was a shame that Motown didn’t consider outsde material for their artists…I was convinced that they had two or three songs that could have topped the charts with The Four Tops or the Supremes.

Then something unexpected happened, for financial reasons, Scepter records sold off their publishing companies. Ed Silvers moved to Hollywood, to run Viva music, Nick and Val started doing more background sessions, and I who was newly married, had to scramble to find another job in publishing!

About a month later, I became a partner in Allouette productions with Sandy and Kelli Ross, and we represented the publishing interests of Quincy Jones, Bobby Scott, Joey Levine, Artie Resnick and Leslie Gore. I brought Ashford and Simpson to Quincy’s company, but at the time he couldn’t afford to sign them.

When I was approached by Jeffery Bowen and Eddie Holland (Holland/ Dozier/ Holland) to join Motown’s publishing company, Jobete music, I turned them down. I did, however, take the opportunity to introduce them to Ashford and Simpson. It wasn’t long before my friends were signed to an exclusive contract.

A few months later, Nick and Valerie call me from Associated studios, and ask me to come over and listen to the tracks they’d been cutting at Motown. I sat down and freaked out when I heard, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, and “Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Real Thing”. Although their voices were on the tracks, it didn’t take much imagination to hear Marvin Gaye singing it! They said he was recording it as a duet with a new Motown discovery, Tammi Terrell.

Over the next few years, I discovered that Motown was quite a secretive place and had little to do with people outside of their organisation. There were rumors that it was really owned by the Mob…but they were only rumors.

For years, I followed Nick and Val’s careers like everybody else…on the radio. The next time I talked to them was when I moved to the west coast to join Ed Silvers at Warner Brothers music. I got a call from Nick, who told me that they were victim of Motown’s “creative accounting” and they weren’t getting the money that they deserved as songwriters. I was happy to get my former partner, Sandy Ross to represent them and help them escape…but that was just the beginning!
(To Be Continued)

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left to right- Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson

2011 by Artie Wayne https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/about-artie-wayne/

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