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In the past few months we’ve heard about millions of dollars being paid out by the giant music conglomerates, as a settlement for using payola to get their product played. The first time the public became aware of the practice was forty years ago, during the cold war, when endless repetition of popular music on the radio was the ONLY way to sell records!

Critics of Rock and Roll, equated the saturation of the public consciousness with this subversive music to “brainwashing” and many politicians saw this “pay for play” scandal as a way to stop the music in it’s tracks. What better way to accomplish this, than to crucify the man who was responsible for many of the hit artists of the day and the record companies who spawned them…The man who named Rock and Roll, Alan Freed.

The following is from the history of rock…

“Payola” is a contraction of the words “pay” and”Victrola” (LP record player), and entered the English language via the record business. The first court case involving payola was in 1960. On May 9, Alan Freed was indicted for accepting $2,500 which he claimed was a token of gratitude and did not affect airplay. e passed away in Palm Springs

Before Alan Freed’s indictment, payola was not illegal, however, but commercial bribery was. After the trial, the anti-payola statute was passed under which payola became a misdemeanor, penalty by up to $10,000 in fines and one year in prison.

By the mid- fifties the independent record companies had broken the majors stranglehold on airplay and BMI licensed songs dominated the charts. In the wake of the quiz show scandals ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) urged House Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Oren Harris to look into the recording industry’s practice of payola.

ASCAP, with its head in the sand, believed BMI licensed songs were hits only because of payola. With the breakdown in morals, ASCAP believed these records were played so often by greedy deejays causing them to become imprinted on unsuspecting teenagers. ASCAP who had always looked at rock and roll as a passing fad. With these hearings they were trying to ensure that would be the case.

“The cancer of payola cannot be pinned on rock and roll.” ….Billboard Magazine. Billboard stated payola was rampant during vaudeville of the 20s, and the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s

The committee decided to look into deejays who took gifts from record companies in return for playing their records on their shows. Fearing the worse the record companies began stepping forward and announcing that they had given money to specific deejays. Soon twenty five deejays and program directors were caught in the scandal. Among the more popular ones were Joe Niagara (WIBG, Philadelphia), Tom Clay (WJBK, Detroit), Murray “The K” Kaufman (WINS, New York) and Stan Richards (WILD, Boston) The probe quickly focused in on the two top deejays in the country Dick Clark and Alan Freed’s broadcast alliances quickly deserted him. In late November, Freed was fired from both ABC-radio and WNEW-TV.

Clark, with more to lose, quickly gave up all his musical interests when ordered to do so by ABC-TV. When asked to sign a statement denying involvement Freed refuse and was promptly fired from his job with WINS.

When Clark appeared to testify he brought Bernard Goldsmith a statistician. Goldsmith told the committee that Clark had a 27% interest in records played in the past 28 months and those records had a 23% popularity rating. The committee was stunned as they wondered what came first the chicken or the egg.

Clark’s testimony began with telling the committee he had given up all outside interests connected with the recording industry. He also said the only reason he had gotten involved with those businesses were for the tax advantages. Clark admitted a $125 investment in Jaime records returned a profit of $11,900 and of the 163 songs he had rights to, 143 were given to him.

When questioned about Jamie records it was discovered that Jamie paid out $15,000 in payola, but Clark denied ever accepting any. The committee clearly didn’t believe Clark, but he received just a slap on the wrist. In fact, committee chairman Oren Harris called Clark “a fine young man.”

Freed who refused to deny involvement wasn’t so lucky. Though he would only receive a small fine and six months suspended sentence his career was in tatters. Freed would die penniless, a bitter broken man, Jan 20, 1965 in Palm Springs, California.. He was forty three.

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Alan Freed, Larry Williams, some guy in a hat and Buddy Holly

I first met Alan Freed in 1959, at one his legendary Rock and Roll Shows at the Brooklyn Paramount. I wanted to become a rock star…and Alan wanted to manage me. I spent a lot of time backstage with he and his”family”, which included Jackie Wilson, Jimmy Clanton, The Isley Brothers, Fats Domino, Bobby Darin, the Skyliners, Little Anthony and the Imperials.

While basking in their reflected glory, I thought back to when I started High School, and really had to search the radio for my kind of music. Alan Freed, was always the first one I’d turn to when I wanted to hear Bill Haley and the Comets, The Platters, Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, or Elvis Presley!

As Rock and Roll became more and more popular, so did Alan Freed. He gave us all a steady diet of what we wanted to hear. I heard the word “Payola” from time to time, but it never meant much to me. Growing up in the Bronx, I accepted the fact that you did whatever you had to do to gain the edge! I thought, ” What’s the big deal about paying to have a record played anyway?”

In the early 60’s, when I was primarily a songwriter and producer, I was concerned with making quality commercial records and would only lease my product to companies who could give me the kind of radio exposure needed to make a hit! I never asked them how they did it …and they never told me! I always believed what you don’t know, won’t get you indicted!

Whatever Alan Freed did or didn’t do, he should be primarily remembered as one of the first Champions of Rock and Roll, a man who for the love of the music, was responsible for dozens of sucessful careers in the spotlight as well as dozens of those behind the scenes of the music business.

Thank you for befriending me and validating me in a way that nobody else could!

Alan Freed, R.I.P. Rock In Perpetuity!

Respectfully, Artie Wayne

 

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Brian O’Neal and The Bus Boys, “It Must Be Saturday Night!”

The acomplishments of the Black architects of Rock and Roll, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino have always been underappreciated and still largely remain underacknowledged. So tell me, what chance does an African-American Rocker have competing in today overwhelmingly “White” Rock and Roll World?

Every now and then a Black artist will make it through like Sly Stone, Rick James and Lenny Kravitz whose music has elements of early Rock and Roll…but actually is a fusion of Rock, Funk, R+B, punk, and/or Psychedelia which makes it easier to pigeonhole and fit into an acceptable radio format.

I’ve actually heard some white kids say, “What do Black people know about Rock and Roll?” What do they know? SHIT…We invented it! Although I enjoy groups like U2, All-American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day, the Rock and Roll of today is more about angst, alienation, sexual obsession and other dark topics than it was at the beginning, when it celebrated the joy of life!

Brian O’Neil and the Bus Boys have brought that joy back and over the years have remained true to the original spirit of the genre! What I’ve heard, so far, of his “Future Retro” music has entertained me, made me smile and makes me want to hear more!

I first met Brian in 1982, when I was hosting Genghis Cohen, a top Hollywood restaurant. Brian was riding high with the hit single “The Boys Are Back In Town” from Eddie Murphy’s “48 Hours” (which will be out on DVD in April) and became a regular customer. When I started creating wearable art, he bought a hand-painted graffitti shirt for his girlfriend and asked me to add, “A Hard Man Is Good To Find!”. His sense of humor, is indicitive of what you’ll find in his music…but “That’s like tryin’ to tell a stranger bout Rock and Roll!” you can download “It Must Be Saturday Night!” from the forthcoming Bus Boy Album, FREE for the next two weeks! http://busboys.com

“Come On…Get On…The Bus Boy Bus! They’re servin’ up a real good time!”

Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne

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Richard Perry
I was in the music buisness as a songwriter, artist, producer, publisher and promoter from 1960 to 1996 and met many people who have become legends. One CD and record producer who particularly stands out is Richard Perry. His track record is astonishing! From Tiny Tim, Harry Niilson, Barbra Streisand, Ringo Starr, The Pointer sisters, to the last four Rod Stewart “American Songbook” albums…he’s been consistantly on the charts for the last four decades!

I talked to him a few months ago after not being in touch with him for ten years ( I was quietly recovering from a spinal operation ) and have begun to submit songs to him again. I’d like to share a couple of stories with you from my forthcoming book about some of my experiences with him.

Richard Perry and I became friends in the mid-sixties when we were neighbors at 1650 Broadway. He was producing the “God Bless Tiny Tim” album and recorded one of my songs, “Daddy, Daddy What Is Heaven Like?” His first Gold Album, and mine. Since Richard isn’t a songwriter and depends totally on outside material, he became the number one producer that songwriters and publishers would persue. When I ran the professional department at Warner Bros. Music in the early ’70’s, Richard was always the first to hear our best songs. My boss, Ed Silvers, suggested that I update the old Johnny Burnette hit, “You’re 16,” with a New Orleans feel for Richard’s upcoming Fats Domino session. Richard loved it, but didn’t cut it with Fats. Over the next two and a half years it was turned down by 122 artists and producers. My little piano voice demo became an ongoing joke at Warner’s….until Richard Perry finally cut it with Ringo Starr and sold five million records!

The next story…

In 1971, the single “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand was in the top ten, but her album wasn’t finished yet. Richard Perry, who was the producer, called me up on a Sunday afternoon and asked if I wanted to listen to the final mixes on Barbra’s album.

Needless to say I was thrilled, but as I sat in the studio listening to the playback something was bothering me. I couldn’t hear the lyrics loud enough over the track!! As I sheepishly told Richard what I thought, his engineer, Bill Schnee, jumped up and said, “I told you Richard……You can’t hear the lyrics !!” Richard looking a little stunned, smiled, thanked me for coming down and started re-mixing again.

The already overdue album was finally released a month later. My friend Allan Rinde, who was the Columbia Records’ West Coast Contemporary A+R director, told me that I’d be banned from the company forever if I ever interfered with any of their producers again!

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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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