Back in 1961 my mentor Bobby Darin sent me to see Don Kirshner, who had just formed a publishing company, ALDON music, with music biz vet Al Nevins.

I didn’t know it at the time, but when I signed an exclusive songwriting contract with them, I would be working around and learning from some of the greatest songwriters in history Goffin and King, Sedaka and Greenfield, Mann and Weil.

I learned how to sing harmony from Barry Mann, how to make demos from Carole King, write better lyrics from Howie Greenfield and learned how to plug songs from the best…Don Kirshner!

I remember Don would play the new releases for all of us. We’d analyze the hits then at Don‘s insistence, run off and write the follow up record! At every meeting Don would play a song that would become his Mantra…and ultimately his theme song ”I’m Gonna’ Be A Wheel Someday” by Fats Domino.

When author, Rich Podolsky asked me to contribute to his book “Don Kirshner, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN EAR”, I was not only happy to, but was also anxious to hear about what went on behind closed doors that helped shape the modern music business…I tell you I’m not disappointed!

I’ll let Rich tell you himself.

“When I sat down to write this book, it seemed like Don Kirshner had always been around. I first met him when I was 16 at a record industry dinner in my hometown of Philadelphia. That was 1962. He was only 27 but his song-publishing firm was the biggest thing in the business.

Even back then I knew he had signed Neil Sedaka and Carole King and had started a revolution of teenage songwriting, but it wasn’t until years later that I understood why, and how he was able to achieve it.

When I found out that Kirshner began his career writing songs with Bobby Darin, (when Bobby Darin was still going by Walden Robert Cassotto) I decided I needed to write this book. Kirshner, who had more nerve and guile than anyone, couldn’t understand why publishers (in the ‘50s) weren’t buying their songs.

The answer was simply that those Brill Building publishers were playing it safe. They were more comfortable with the middle-aged songwriters from Tin Pan Alley writing fare like Perry Como’s “Hot Diggity (Dog Diggity, Boom)” that went to No. 1. They not only didn’t like the teens that were trying to sell their songs, they didn’t trust that there was a big enough market to support it.

But Kirshner knew, because all of his friends were dying for more songs like those from Chuck Berry, Little Richard and the Everly Brothers. Kirshner’s vision drove him to open is own publishing firm and throw open the doors to all of that teenage writing talent waiting to be discovered. In the process he discovered and guided the careers of three of the greatest teams in history: Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield, Gerry Goffin and Carole King and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Kirshner’s other great contribution to the music industry was creating and hosting the groundbreaking TV show, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” which ran for over a decade. Every time I ask someone about it a smile comes to their face. My theory is that they all have fond memories watching every weekend while getting high. It was the first long-form programming that didn’t feature bands pretending to sing. Live performances helped make it great.

Kirshner always had a good sense of humor, and liked to tell this story on himself: (This is one that’s not in the book). When Kirshner was putting one of the first shows together (it was called “In Concert” the first year), someone like Artie Wayne told him that they might be able to get Alice Cooper for that show. Without blinking, Kirshner asked, “Is she any good?”

Don Kirshner, undoubtedly, had a golden ear. At 76, he died too soon, and in April he’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, way too late. Politics kept him out, and now that he’s finally being inducted, the Hall’s silly archaic rules are preventing his family from making an acceptance speech. It seems they only allow living recipients to speak.

                                                    *****

Here’s a quick story that didn’t make the book because of deadlines.  Neil Sedaka’s first hit was a song he and Howie Greenfield wrote called “The Diary.” Kirshner had taken it to George Goldner hoping Little Anthony and the Imperials would record it and release as the follow up to their big hit earlier in ’58, “Tears on My Pillow.”

Sedaka told me that when Goldner played Little Anthony’s record for him that both Sedaka and Goldner agreed it was terrible. “Why don’t you record it yourself,” Goldner suggested according to Sedaka. He did and the rest, as they say, is history. But just last week I saw Little Anthony and the Imperials  perform in New York (and they still sound great). After the show I asked them what happened. “Goldner was out of town and the A&R guy decided to release another song instead, “ said Anthony. By the time Goldner returned RCA had already released Sedaka’s version.

Live and Learn. There are always two sides to a story. Or was Sedaka rewriting history in his favor? There are a hundred other stories like this one in the book. Hope you all enjoy it.

                                                   —Rich Podolsky

 

 TO BUY  DON KIRSHNER…”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN EAR” BY RICH PODOLSKY…CLICK HERE…  http://www.amazon.com/Don-Kirshner-Golden-Changed-Face/dp/1458416704/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329778813&sr=1-1 
copyright 2012 by Artie Wayne http://artiewayne.com 

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CHAPTER 4 

 

This is a picture of me and my first day on the job at NewYork’s Lowe’s State Theater, yelling, “Immediate seating for Gone with the Wind! ” It’s fun to meet stars like Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, even if it’s only to take them to their seats. The most appealing part of the job, however, is the location. It’s only five blocks away from 1650 Broadway — the new Tin Pan Alley, the “hipper”BrillBuilding! This is also the day that I take my Mother up to Aldon Music, to meet Al Nevins and Donny Kirshner.

imposing man still in his 20’s, is a close friend and songwriting partner of Bobby Darin, who sent me to meet him. He gives my Mother such a pep talk about my future, even I’m convinced I can’t fail. He tells her, “If you’ve got talent and perseverance; all you need is a little luck.”

Donny’s partner Al is a member of the Three Suns (“Twilight Time”), who’s the guitar player in one of the top instrumental groups in the fifties. He’s as stylish and dapper as Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. on 77 Sunset Strip, and convinces my mother that I can learn more about the music business from spending time in their offices, than I can by going to college. Even though Al and Don only give me a $50 general advance when I sign an exclusive five-year songwriting contract, I know that millions of dollars aren’t far away.

Like Chuck Berry says, “I study hard hoping to pass.” I’m privileged to be around some of the most incredible talent who soon would become the most successful songwriters in music business history!

As a wide-eyed 18-year old, I sit for a few hours everyday in Aldon Music’s 1650 Broadway office and become friendly with most of the writers who are signed: Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield (“Happy Birthday Sweet 16,” “ Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” ) Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“ One Fine Day,” “I’m Into Something Good”) Larry Kolber (“I Love How You Love Me,” “Patches”), as well as Brooks Arthur, Billy Michelle, Al Gorgoni, Tony Orlando, and a 14-year old Toni Wine.

It’s exciting for me to sit around and listen to them as they discuss their songs, other people’s songs, and what radio is playing. Most of them are older than me and far more evolved. They lose me when they start talking about writing from experience, since I have none. All I can write about is my teenage angst and disappointment, which I guess gives the older writers a peek into my horny little world.

Today is just another day when I’m going to hang out at the office. I walk into the revolving door at 1650 Broadway; I glance to my left and see Sam Cooke coming out. I get so excited to see one of my idols that I stop suddenly, trapping Sam in the revolving door.

Embarrassed, I pantomime an apology while Sam smiles and exits the building. While I’m still recovering from the experience, I ride the elevator to the 6th floor with Larry Kolber, who was brought to Kirshner by his longtime friend Ira Howard.

As I’m about to discuss a song we’re writing, Larry flashes me a “look” and puts his finger to his lips to make me shut up. When we get off at our floor, he cautions me never to discuss a song I’m writing on the elevator here or at theBrillBuilding. “You never know who might be listening and steal one of your ideas.”

I apologize as we walk into Aldon. Larry is waiting for Barry Mann to bring a demo back on a song they wrote for the Paris Sisters, “I Love How You Love Me”

I love how your eyes close, whenever you kiss me…

Jack Keller brings in his discovery, 14 year — old Toni Wine, to go over some songs in the piano room. On his way in to meet Jack and Toni, Tony Orlando stops to say hello. He’s the first one to notice that I have my hair straightened for the first time, a la Jackie Wilson.

Barry Mann and Brooks Arthur walk in with the demo of “I Love How You Love Me,” but every room with a phonograph is occupied. While they’re waiting, everyone starts kidding around. Barry starts doing impersonations of everyone in the office. He’s got Al Nevin’s smooth style and voice down, as well as Donny Kirshner’s walk and unbridled enthusiasm. He even imitates Neil Sedaka doing his “Oh, Carol” cha-cha. I’m surprised and a bit embarrassed when Barry does an imitation of me (complete with nerdy glasses and gangly walk).

When Al and Don arrive after lunch, Faith, Al’s secretary, asks if Donny knows he’s wearing one black and one brown shoe. As he looks down at his feet I say, “I bet you have another pair just like that at home”. Everyone laughs — except for Donnie.

Later after the excitement wears down a bit, I tell Larry Kolber about my Aunt’s candy store and the cute little girl who comes in and ignores me. That’s when we start to write:

Boy At The Fountain

I’m the Boy At The Fountain in your candy store

I make all the sodas that you ask me for

You want my chocolate, pistachio, peppermint sodas but heaven above

Knows you don’t want my kisses, you don’t want my huggin’

You don’t want my love.

(etc.)

copyright 2011 EMI Music 

Donny loves it, but nothing happens. It is never recorded, but it is the first song that is based on one of my own real life experiences that somebody connects with.

Although I know how to play piano, I’m amazed whenever Neil Sedaka plays. He can go from classical to R & B in a heartbeat, and when he writes with Howie Greenfield; it’s magic!

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…Happy Birthday Sweet 16

Barry Mann (“Who Put The Bomp?”) helps me develop my singing style and teaches me how to sing harmony. He helps me record my demos and is generous in showing me more interesting chords that make my songs bet                                                                                                              Carole King courtesy of the BBC

I occasionally baby sit for Carole King, while she’s in the studio doing demos. In return she plays keyboards, arranges, and sings all the background parts on my demos. I remember one day she comes in to play her new song for Donny Kirshner, but he’s still out to lunch. She asks me if I’d like to hear it while she rehearses it.

She sits down at the old upright piano and starts to sing,

Tonight you’re mine completely, You give your love so sweetly….

I sit there as she goes over “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” a few more times, even though I know I won’t be able to write anything of my own for weeks!

Then she’s summoned to Donny’s office. I think he likes it too…I can hear him yelling through the door, “It’s a Smash! It’s a F@#in’ Smash!”

photo in middle – Don Kirshner, Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin, and Al Nevins

CHAPTER 39

Jimi Hendrix stays at my apartment. Jim Morrison surprises me…

While I’m on the West Coast I let my friend, Ann Tansey, Mercury Records’ A&R director, stay in my apartment. I didn’t know she’d invited her sometime-boyfriend, Jimi Hendrix, to stay with her.

When I arrive home, I find some nasty notes from my neighbors, about my loud guitar playing at 3:00 in the morning. The notes also say something about people going in and out of my apartment by way of the fire escape. I have no idea what really happened, but I do admit I am flattered that they think it was me playing the guitar!

It’s hard for me to get back into the rhythm of New York this time around. There are too many things pulling me back to Hollywood, including a beautiful playmate I briefly met, while she is breaking up with a friend of mine.

I’m tired of writing formula pop songs mostly about made-up experiences in a location that no longer holds any fascination for me. My partners try to re-ignite my excitement in our company, by telling me how well we’re doing financially, but that isn’t enough for me.

In the summer of ’69, my friend Allan Rinde had just joined Columbia Records family as head of Epic Records publicity. Two weeks into his stint there he himself went off to L.A.for aColumbia convention and returned with two thoughts: he didn’t want to be a publicist and he thoughtL.A.was paradise.

I did my best to convince him that both of us should move there. Excited by the prospect, he approaches Cash Box owner George Albert (remember Allan had just left Cash Box to join CBS) and convinces him he needs more help in his West Coast office. Then he quits his job. Boy, is he pissed when he finds out that I don’t quite have it together to move out there with him.

Allan forgives me by the time I visitL.A.again and lets me stay on his couch at his apartment onHarper Avenue. As I’m walking around the neighborhood I run into a lovely publicist friend of mine, who lives in the apartment downstairs from Jim Morrison and his girlfriend Pam Courson, around the corner on Norton Avenue. My publicist friend invites me in for a little “afternoon delight,” and while we’re in the middle of hooking up, a burly, bearded, blasé Morrison walks in.

She smiles innocently and says, “This is my friend, Artie” and as Jim reaches out to shake my hand, all I could say was “Pardon me if I don’t stand up”

A few weeks later I leave the surreal world of Hollywood, go back toNew York and half-heartedly start to turn out demo/masters again.”

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

Copyright 2011 by Artie Wayne

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