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With A Little Help From (A Lotta) My Friends

Cathy Henderson of Antigone Rising

Muse-Wrapped Records GM Trent Gardner

indie and national artists CD Reviews


Jack Foster III

compiled by Sandy Serge

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There are certain individuals in our business who actually believe that they did it all from day one. They found and groomed the artist, cut their first hit, well, maybe not a hit - all done without any outside influences - GARBAGE!!

Not this fella! I credit many people who taught me many things. Firstly, Sam Cooke, who told me (when producing an artist) to never sacrifice a word for a trick vocally. Sing that important word, then do the trick. Cliffie Stone, the owner of Central Songs in L.A. where I was the general manager listening and (sorta) judging material from some of the greatest country writers in existence. But, confidentially, during my first few months, I actually told the writers to tell me if it's a contender. Cliffie told me, when I was choosing songs, to show an act to not overdo it. Play (maybe) 4 songs to the producer and always hit 'em with the strongest song first. Then they'll always want to hear more.

Then there was Archie Bleyer, the wonder and producer of Cadence Records where you found the Everly Bros, Andy Williams, The Chordettes, etc. Archie never missed getting in the Top Ten and I asked him what his secret was. And he said, verbatim, "I don't care if my artist is a writer or not. I'm gonna cut the best damn songs I can find." He also told me not to do anything dishonest in the business as you're gonna get caught. And boy, do I ever know a few who fit in that category!

Herb Alpert taught me how to communicate with the masses with uncomplicated songs and proved it with the Tijuana Brass and his vocal on "This Guy's In Love With You", a great song, being sung by an average singer. Herb said that, not me!!

Harry Nilsson gave me the opportunity to recognize an ultimate singing talent as I was the first person who heard him sing in an office in L.A. Sadly, I wasn't with a label at that time, but rather Eddie Fisher's guitar player and friend, but if I had been with a label at that time, I definitely would have signed Nilsson.

Gene (Be-Bop-A-Lula) Vincent taught me (artist-wise) to save it all for the studio as I had to find material and rehearse him for his producer at Capital Records Karl Engemann, and Gene held back in rehearsal. But when the red light went on in the studio, he exploded. Oh, by the way, I didn't realize that Larry King's wife is Karl's daughter and I used to bounce her on my knee when we were experimenting with The Lettermen. Karl's brother Bob was the lead singer.

And then there was Phil Spector. I played on quite a few of his hits and saw him create the "Wall of Sound". He had some great tricks in the early 3-track days and I never saw a gun (pistol) when I worked with him! Guess that came later.

Chet Atkins, a very close friend, who said that there's no such thing as a hit song. Until it's in the Top Ten, it's merely competitive, and he sure did take a lot of competitive demos to number one status.

Slim Whitman drilled in me that we better get a song down on tape in two takes as he didn't like to sing it over and over. And that was in the old days when we got it all (musicians and background singers) at one time. No overdubs. There were also singers like Jerry Wallace, Vicki Carr and Rosemary Clooney who mesmerized me when I was producing them. True pros.

And finally, the Nashville studio guys who afforded me the opportunity to "Shut up and let them do their job", something I adhered to on my first session and still holds true today. I say two words - any confessions? After a take and if a picker wants one more shot, we do it.

There are many more people. Too many to mention who helped me along the way. Over my door in L.A. and Nashville, I had a sign that said,  "A great arranger knows what not to write, A great musician knows when not to play. And a great song doesn't care who sings it". That's it!

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Copyright 2005 by Music Morsels,
a Serge Entertainment Publication.
Editor: Sandy Serge
Contributing Columnists/Writers:
Mark E. Waterbury, Scott Turner
Div. of Serge Entertainment Group