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Diana Ross As Billie Holiday

The following is Part III of Breaking The Motown Sound Barrier Series. If you haven’t read Part I, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, click on to https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/08/14/breaking-the-motown-sound-barrier-aint-no-mountain-high-enough/

If you haven’t read Part II, “What’s Goin’ On?”, click on to https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/09/23/breaking-the-motown-sound-barrier-part-two-in-the-series-whats-goin-on/

Part III

In 1972, Ed Silvers, President of Warner Brothers music was losing his patience with me because he thought I was spending far too much time at Motown. Although I was getting our songs covered by some of their biggest artists, they were only album cuts. Ed was convinced that I would never get a single released by them. I didn’t say much, but I had spent over a year infiltrating the company, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I scored big with them!

I started to notice a change at the company when CEO Berry Gordy, Jr. became interested in producing movies. When production costs soared, record production budgets were cut and fewer records were released. I remember hanging out at Motown one day when I ran into producer and song writer, Michael Masser. He played me a song he had written with Ron Miller and produced on Diana Ross, that was being canned again! When he played me “Touch Me In The Morning”, my mouth dropped open! I couldn’t believe such a phenomonal record could be in the can for over a year, but Berry had his own plans for Diana. He and Paramount pictures had started production on “Lady Sings The Blues” and he was determined to make Diana a movie star!

For the first time, I heard complaints from usually loyal employees about all the money that was being wasted on Diana’s film. I heard that Berry had shot a scene for the film using an integrated chorus line at the Cotton Club, which had to be reshot with only Blacks to maintain historical accuracy. This mistake cost $50,000! Athough the record company was still on top, it couldn’t keep absorbing such costs without suffering in the process.

The only new artists who were given the “Motown Push” were the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson who now was having hits as a single artist. I knew at this point that the only way I could have a chance for a hit with this company was to get a cover by the Jacksons or Michael. There was only one staff writer at Warner Brothers music who could write in a classic R+B style, George Clinton, Jr. ( not the lead singer of Parlement, but the one who later scored the three Austin Powers movies.) The two producers who loved Georges writing the most were Jerry Marcellino and Mel Larson, who just had big hits with 12 year old Michael on “Rockin’ Robin” and “Little Bitty Pretty One”. “Ben”, from the movie of the same name was racing up the charts and Berry Gordy asked each of his producers to start recording new sides with him.

I sat with Jerry and Mel and we talked about what kind of song they should record with Michael. I suggested A Christmas song…one so commercial that it could be the follow up to, “Ben”. When I saw their eyes light up, I told them that George Clinton, Jr. and I had started such a song! When they asked to hear it, I told them we were still working on it ( when in fact we hadn’t even started! ) I couldn’t tell them the title (’cause there wasn’t any!) I did tell them, however, that it was a true story of how my girlfriend left me out in the cold like the last tree in a lot which was left unsold on Christmas eve. They freaked out and said they had to have the finished song by Monday. I said, “No problem”

I called George, who knew nothing about any of this as soon as I got back to my office. He couldn’t believe I’d told them we’d have a finished song to them by monday, when it was friday and we hadn’t even started it! Saturday morning we met at my office, which was on Hollywood Boulevard across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was the middle of summer, about 90 degrees, but we had to get in a Christmas Mood. As I told George my sad story, I started throwing Ivory Snowflakes around the room…and after a few hours we had the verse and chorus of, “Little Christmas Tree”

Little Christmas Tree

words and music by George Clinton, Jr. and Artie Wayne

I watch the snowflakes fall against my window pane

and wonder if you are watching snowflakes too?

I take a walk downtown to where you used to meet me

There’s joy everywhere but all that’s waiting there…is just a

Little Christmas Tree..Lookin’ sorta’ sad and lonely just like me

No one seems to care… They just went away and left him standing there

All alone on Christmas Eve!

Copyright 1972/ 2006 by Warner Brothers Music

On Monday morning George did a piano voice demo, and I got it to Jerry and Mel that afternoon. They loved it so much that they knocked one of their own songs off the date and cut ours on thursday! I was almost in tears when I heard the finished record the following week with the news that it was being considered for the follow-up to “Ben”, which had just hit number one! You can imagine how I felt a few weeks later when Berry decided not put out any follow up to Oscar nominated “Ben”, until the Academy Awards were given out…after Christmas! A few days later I came up with a plan and presented it to Motown. Put 2 albums worth of previously recorded Christmas songs by all of their hit artists along with a new song that Marvin Gaye recorded and of course, Michael Jackson’s, “Little Christmas Tree”. I’m proud to say that “A Motown Christmas” has sold many times platinum over the years…but there was a dark cloud  loomng on the horizon!

( To Be Continued)

Copyright 2006 by Artie Wayne

To hear a sample of Michael Jackson’s, “Little Christmas Tree” from “A Motown Christmas”, just click on to http://www.amazon.com/Motown-Christmas-Various-Artists/dp/B00000JPBZ/sr=1-1/qid=1165772884/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-5725259-3053219?ie=UTF8&s=music

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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)


In 1971, When I was general professional manager of Warner Brothers music, the late Johnny Stevenson played me a song he just recorded, “Rock and Roll Heaven’. I thought the chorus was a smash, but didn’t care for anything else! I suggested that he collaborate with Alan O’Day (“Undercover Angel”, “Angie Baby”) and turn it into a tribute to Rock Stars who have passed away.

In 1974 the Righteous Brothers recorded it and took it to number one! Since then we’ve lost so many more of our heros that it was time for an update of the lyric. Alan O’Day worked on it for months, then he went to Nashville and made a demo with Ronny Kimball. I e-mailed a copy of the demo to my friend, director and producer, Sebastian Prooth for an opinion. This morning he surprised us with this brilliant video he made!

You can reach Sebastian Prooth at http://sebrt.com
You can reach Alan O’Day at http://alanoday.com
Artie Wayne http://artiewayne.com

Of course, it was impossible to mention every Rock Star who has passed away in the song and the video, but I would like to start a list to honor as many as we can on this blog. I would like to begin with my friends Jim Croce and Bobby Darin, who were mentioned in the Righteous Brothers record. Then we have Bill Haley (Comets), Rick James, Marvin Gaye, Carl Perkins, Rick Nelson, Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, Sam Cooke, John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Keith Moon (The Who), Richie Valens, Luthor Vandross, Eddie Cochran, Wilson Picket, Tammi Tyrell, John Phillips (Mamas and Papas), Mama Cass (Mamas and Papas), Frankie Lyman, Peter Ham (Badfinger), Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chas Chandler (The Animals), Mike Milward (The Fourmost), Stu Sutcliff, Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones), Keith Relf (The Yardbirds), James Jamerson, Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys), Carl Wilson (Beachboys), Big Mama Thornton, Bert Berns, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Blackwell, Ben Benay, Lowell George, Van McCoy, Floyd Cramer, Ersel Hickey, Bobby Sheen (Bobby Soxx and the Blue Jeans), Mickey Most, Jim Capaldi (Traffic), Gene Vincent, Tony Williams (The Platters), Joe Brown, John Lennon, George HarrisonJohnny Johnson, Ray Peterson, Janet Vogel (Skyliners) Jan Berry (Jan and Dean), Freddy Garrity (Freddie and the Dreamers), Eugene Record (Chi-Lites), Chuck Willis, The Big Bopper, Jimmy Radcliffe, Bill Orr (the Cars), Doris Troy, Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Duane Allman (Allman Brothers), Billy Preston, Joe Strummer (The Clash), Del Shannon, Barry Cowsill The Cowsills), Bill Cowsill (The Cowsills), Joey Ramone (Ramones), Stevie Ray Vaughn, Link Wray, David Blue, Danny Gatton, Zal Yanovsky (Lovin’ Spoonful), Phil Seymour, David Blue, Shel Silverstein, Graham Parsons, Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Bobby Fuller, King Curtis, Buddy Knox, Johnny Preston, Eddie Cochran, Kirsty MacColl, Jimmy Bailey, Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees), Richard Tee, Hank Ballard, Tony Romeo, Jessie Belvin, Ed Townsend, Sterling Morrison (Velvet Underground), Jackie Wilson, John Fred (Playboy Band), Hank Ballard, Bobby Hatfield (Righteous Brothers), April Young, Arthur Conley, Dick St. John (Dick And Dee Dee), Timi Yuro, Lou Rawls, Paul Atkinson (Zombies), Johnny Bristol, Francine Barker (Peaches and Herb)Maurice Gibb, Chris Curtis, Shirley Goodman (Shirley and Lee), Johnny Cymbal,The Duchess, Little Eva, Mickey Most, Billy Preston, Irving Green, Morris Levy, Nick Drake, Barry White, Laura Nyro, Frank Zappa, Barbara George, Arthr Lee, Baker Knight, Eddie Kendricks, Tony Jackson (Searchers), Link Wray, Kevin Gilbert, Michael Hutchence (INXS), Milan B. Williams (Commodores), Adam Faith, Johnny Wilder junior (Heatwave), Richard Barrett, Arthur Lee (Love), Syd Barrett (PInk Floyd) , Arthur Conley, Gene Pitney, Freddy Garrity (Freddie And The Dreamers), Shannon Hoon, Ray Peterson, Denny Doherty (Mamas And Papas), Bruce Gary (The Knack), Freddie Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers), Dennis Peyton (Dave Clark 5), Ruth Brown, Ahmet Ertegun, James Brown, Bill Pinkney (Drifters), Harry Nilsson, Dusty Springfield, Florence Ballard (Supremes), Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon), Barbara Acklin, Ron Miller, Donnie Brooks, Paul Griffin, David Ruffin, Freddy Scott, Hank Medress (Tokens), Dan Fogleberg, Ike Turner, Al Gallico, Mike Smith, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, Norman Whitfield, Alan Gordon, Levi Stubbs ( 4 Tops) , Estelle Bennett (Ronettes)…

To view a RARE VIDEO OF BO DIDDLEY IN HIS PRIME!                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8PIbrMh6vo&feature=related

Copyright 2008 by Artie Wayne

If you have any names that you would like me to add to the list you can click onto comments (below) or e-mail me at artie_wayne@yahoo.com You may submit up to three names to add to the list, which I will post.

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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/

EXTRA! EXTRA! NOW YOU CAN BUY MY NEW BOOK ,“I DID IT FOR A SONG” AT AMAZON or Barnes & Noble or from Smashwords

TO READ A CHAPTER OR TWO FOR FREE CLICK  HERE

TO READ SOME OF THE COMMENTS  CLICK  HERE

BACK TO ARTIE WAYNE ON THE WEB! https://artiewayne.wordpress.com  
 

whoppy


One of the main reasons I joined Spectropop http://spectropop.com was the appreciation, by its members, of the well-crafted Pop song, the kind that dominated
the Top 40 charts in the 1960s. I’m formerly a “Colored”, “Black”,
“Negro”, and currently a “Bi-Racial”, African-American songwriter/
producer/publisher, who started in that era, who is still interested
and active in all kinds of music today. Every weekend I religiously
listen to the Top Ten on MTV, VH1, Country Music Television, and the
Black Entertainment Network, to stay aware of the market. I’ll admit,
the last few years have been very discouraging.

The only genre in which the Pop song, as we knew it, has consistently
evolved is country music. The song is still well-crafted, cleverly
written, and heartfelt. It is also universally considered the most
important ingredient in the recording process. The field is currently
dominated by some of the best singer/songwiters, coming from all
around the world, including Gretchen Wilson (USA), Keith Urban
(Australia), and Shania Twain (Canada).

As far as music that might have evolved from ’60s bubblegum hits
Levine/ Resnick produced, Fountains of Wayne and Bowling for Soup
are really satisfying. Over the last year or so, I’ve watched bands
like Coldplay emerge who might be considered the grandsons of The
Left Banke. As I’m writing this I can hear Coldplay singing “Walk
Away Renee” in my head.

As far as the current state of rap goes, Its glorification of
inappropriate behavior and pursuit of things I care little about
overshadows everything else. How many times can you, “Raise your
hands in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care”? Then, about
a year ago, I heard what Kanye West was doing and I knew from that
point on the genre had been elevated!

As far as R&B goes, the listening and viewing public is starting to
demand more from today’s artists. Check out by R. Kelly’s brilliant
“Trapped In A Closet”, which rivals anything Marvin Gaye ever
released. I can’t wait to hear what Usher, the Michael Jackson of his
generation, is going to come up with next.

Personally, I’d like to hear some more ’60s and ’70s songs covered by
today’s artists. Can you imagine “Happy Together” being done by Tim
McGraw and Faith Hill? or “Rock And Roll Heaven” being revived by The
Foo Fighters or American Idol Taylor Hicks? Alan Gordon, Alan O’Day …
are you listening?

One thing that I’m certain of for the rest of my life I will love songs — past, present and future. That’s why I want to thank Mick Patrick for helping to create and maintain one of the best music sites on the web… Spectropop!

Regards,
Artie Wayne http://artiewayne.com

special thanks to Whoppy (pictured) for helping to make this announcement.