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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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IRVING GREEN  2/6/16 – 7/1/06

What do Sarah Vaughn, The Platters, Brook Benton, Patti Page,
The Diamonds, Del Vikings, James Brown, Dinah Washington,
Roger Miller, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Laine, The Troggs,
Wayne Fontana, the Mindbenders, the Troggs, Leslie Gore, Blue
Cheer, Manfred Mann, Steam, Freddie and the Dreamers, Dusty
Springfield, Keith, Paul Mauriat, Jay and the Techniques,
David Bowie, The Blues Magoos, Spanky and Our Gang, Crispian
St. Peters, Jerry Butler, Bobby Hebb, Louie Armstrong. and
Rod Stewart all have in common?

They all recorded for Irving Green, who owned Mercury Records,
a little indie who could… and did… become a major label!
He also owned Smash and distributed Phillips records and all
of their subsidiaries. He was one of the first champions of
Rock and Roll and Mercury was the first major company to
promote Black artists to crossover into the Pop mainstream.
It also was the first to have an African-American as Vice-
President of A+R, Quincy Jones.

Although he repeatedly asked me to call him Irv, I always
called him Mr. Green, out of respect for his daughter Kelli
Ross, who was my partner in Alouette Productions. Not many
people knew that Mr. Green was a silent partner in our
publishing and administration firm.

He was one of the few CEOS I’ve ever known who an artist
could talk to. Although he wasn’t a producer, I remember
when James Brown recorded briefly for Smash, he wouldn’t go
into the recording studio without Mr. Green being there.

From time to time he’d ask me to go “undercover” for him. In
the last days of Cameo-Parkway records, he asked me to
introduce him to my friends Neil Bogart, who was running the
label and Bob Reno, who was with the publishing company. He
wanted to get them to come over to Mercury, but Neil and Bob
wound up going to Buddah Records instead. A few years later,
Bob Reno did have a successful stint at Mercury, as head of
MRC publishing and later as head of A+R.

When the Lovin’ Spoonful were about to re-sign with Kama-Sutra,
Mr.Green sent me to Wilkes-Barre to meet up with my old pals
and offer them a check for a million dollars to defect to
Mercury! When I mentioned to him that he hadn’t signed it, he
said, “When they sign a contract…I’ll sign the check!”

The last time I saw him it was 35 years ago hanging out at
Quincy’s house. He said he would leave the music business
when it stopped being fun. I guess it stopped being fun when
a big conglomerate bought him out. A few years later he went
into semi-retirement and moved to Palm Springs.

Although I’d heard he had become a top land developer, I will
always remember him as one of the greatest developers of pop
music and the human potential. Thank you for believing in me
and helping me to believe in myself.

Rest-in-Peace, Mr.Green.

Respectfully, Artie Wayne

From my forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne
https://artiewayne.wordpress.com

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