The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #57 – Elliot Mintz

This interview with Elliot Mintz was recorded in January of 2011. It is being brought out today as a podcast in celebration of Elliot Mintz’s 73rd birthday.

Elliot Mintz made his name as a radio and television personality, interviewing thousands of people, among them: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jack Lemmon, Alan Watts, Jack Nicholson, Salvador Dali, John Wayne, Groucho Marx and many others.  Mintz went on to become a media consultant for everyone from Bob Dylan, the John Lennon Estate, Don Johnson and Paris Hilton.

His eyes and ears have seen a lot. It remains one of my absolute favorite interviews to date and we hope you enjoy listening. 

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #1 – Willie Nelson

A postcard I wrote ended up in Willie Nelson’s hands.  He responded warmly.

For episode #1 of The Paul Leslie Hour, I want to invite you on Willie Nelson’s tour bus for an honest and light-hearted conversation with the man himself.

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Visit Willie Nelson online, like him on Facebook and Follow him on Instagram & Twitter.

Elliot Mintz: A Sound Portrait

Elliot Mintz is a former radio and television personality who went on to become a media consultant for many well-known celebrities and CEOs.  I cannot think of anyone in the business they sometimes call the Hollywood “entertainment industry” who has grabbed my attention quite like Elliot Mintz.  I cannot really think of many people who would not find him interesting…years ago when he represented a lot of the A-list celebrities like Paris Hilton, he seemed a million miles away from my own life.  Then there was the many recordings I heard of his nationally syndicated radio program, “The Lost Lennon Tapes” that played rare alternate takes, composition tapes and interviews of Elliot’s friend John Lennon.  John Lennon along with maybe Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley may be the only people in the history of popular music with enough interest that an entire radio series could be devoted to them.  You may think Paris Hilton and John Lennon are worlds apart, but you have to understand Elliot Mintz.  He isinterested in the true essence of a person.  The media and people in general for that matter tend to try to put people in neat categories, a box.  As he told me during our first encounter, “You know, there is a difference between who we are and what we do and there’s probably more of a significant difference about how we are perceived.

I was curious about Elliot Mintz for a long time before I finally decided to email him.  I asked him a question and he wrote back and immediately gave me his phone number.  We corresponded for years until I finally had enough nerve to ask him if he would be interviewed.  Why I was afraid to ask I can’t quite say.  He said “yes,” and it was few years later, in 2011, I would find myself in an airplane heading to Los Angeles, California.  It was more than just curiosity.  Sometimes we just know it’s the way we’re supposed to go.  There I was in his house where I was free to ask whatever I wanted.  This was a man who had seen and heard a lot.

The first question I asked him was “Who is Elliot Mintz?”  He said, “I guess it depends on who you ask.”  I haven’t really had someone answer the question of who they are in that way.  Elliot Mintz has said he doesn’t really know who he is, but if there is any reason for that, it is because he has spent his life looking at who other people are.  He has seen a lot, heard more and along the way tried to look at it and think about what it means.

So who is Elliot Mintz?

If you spend some time on his website www.elliotmintz.com  you may believe he has been the conduit between some of the most interesting people who have ever lived and the listening world.  He was born in New York, but found himself moving to California at a very young age.  He decided he wanted to be on the radio.  This may have been a surprise to some people given that Elliot Mintz was very shy and had stutter and a thick New York accent.  Over time he overcame those challenges.  It was interviewing that Elliot Mintz really loved.  It was more than the extraction of information, it was a person’s very essence.  Many of the people he would interview were or would become in some cases the most iconic people of all time…Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Jack Nicholson.  Elliot Mintz was always a preservationist.  To hold onto the tapes is to be a keeper of the stories.  In this respect, some interviewers become almost like archivists.  Elliot Mintz kept the tapes and for many, many years they remained tucked away, unknown to most.  It was long before the internet.   These piles of unmarked tapes could not remain hidden forever.

The question Elliot Mintz began being asked repeatedly was “Elliot, when are you going to write a book?”  Elliot has told me that a more accurate biography is written by someone other than the subject.  It seemed to me like Elliot was looking for something more accessible where those who wanted to find out more could make up their own mind.

What would be created was something old and something new.  A jukebox that doesn’t need a coin.  In short, that is what elliotmintz.com is.  You get to decide to watch or listen to whatever strikes your interest.  You can play it all day…and because of the incredible content on this website, I choose to think of it as a portal into new worlds.  The stories and minds of people like Alan Watts and Jack Gariss are all available at your fingertips, and not a coin is required of you.  Some of the material is visual, but a lot of it is audio…radio has been called a theatre of the mind and this description always comes to my mind when I think of elliotmintz.com

At first elliotmintz.com was only available on computers and laptops.  Now the reach of the website has been expanded to iPhones and other more portable devices.  I decided I had to do a second interview with Elliot Mintz, which he agreed to do.  The website has a lot of insight into Elliot Mintz’s opinions, recollections and thoughts, but my curiosity was still not satisfied.  I spoke with Elliot Mintz and the second conversation was far more personal and more of an inner-view than the first.  I felt like I had gotten his essence then, but I felt I was gaining more of an insight into who he really was…  If we are judged by the company we keep, Elliot Mintz is certainly diverse and intriguing.  I found myself speaking with a publicist named Michael Levine who has written the best-selling book on public relations of all time.  Then there was Te Kay, the technical wizard and digital artist behind elliotmintz.com…to call him a webmaster really is a disservice.  Then there are two of Elliot Mintz’s broadcasting colleagues—Sirius/XM DJ Jim Ladd and Roy of Hollywood, the host of “Something’s Happening” on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California. 

 Since the beginning of my radio program, almost all of the shows have followed the format of music along with an interview.  I found myself creating something without knowing what it was…exactly.  Was it an audio documentary?  Was it a radio broadcast? Was it an audio book?  The creation of the piece continued.  Daniel Buckner helped me write program…if you want to call it that.  Henry Jordan of Jordan Digital Studios mastered, produced and mixed it.  The musical selections you hear are courtesy of songwriter and recording artist John Goodwin.

In the end, I decided that this was a sound portrait.  For those who are looking to find out a little bit more, I want to invite you to listen or read this piece which I am quite proud of…

Spoken arts radio is something very rarely done these days.  The two exceptions ot the rule are Roy of Hollywood in California and Bob Fass  in New York.  In keeping with that tradition, I am very honored Elliot Mintz and his friends have allowed me to ask questions and create a spoken arts record of Elliot and the launching of his fascinating website.

With that said, I believe the story is not over yet… elliotmintz.com will have more selections added to the jukebox. 

This “sound portrait” will be available soon.  For those who prefer to read, a text version of the program will also be available.  I look forward to your thoughts… 

I will also admit that my curiosity still persists.  Communication is very important to Elliot Mintz and I believe we will pick up where we left off and go just a bit deeper on another night… 

John Tesh: Singer-Songwriter, Recording Artist, Radio Personaity, TV Host

We welcome a familiar face and a familiar voice.  John Tesh is known for not only his music recordings, but also his years as a host on TV’s Entertainment Tonight.  His radio program “Intelligence for Your Life” is heard by 14 million listeners on 400 stations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.  John Tesh has won six music Emmys, has 4 gold albums, 2 Grammy nominations and an AP Award for Investigative journalism.  As a recording artist, John Tesh has sold 8 million records.  He joins us to talk about his album “BIG BAND,” which features his interpretations of American songbook classics and also 3 original songs.

 

Frank Sinatra, Jr. – Singer, Songwriter, Recording Artist, Conductor & Entertainer

Music is definitely in Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s blood.  Like his legendary father, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Sinatra is a singer, performer and recording artist.  He is also a conductor and songwriter.

You will find Frank Sinatra, Jr. to be a wealth of information, a very interesting and passionate man as well as a lover of the Great American Songbook, those songs written in the early half of the 20th century.  I would describe Frank Sinatra, Jr. as knowledgeable, honest and passionate.

Despite the fame of the Sinatra family name, Frank Sinatra, Jr. calls himself a “homespun boy at heart,” going on to describe himself as follows:  “Frank Sinatra, Jr. today is an old man who tells people that he was never famous he just has a famous name, and as it happens the only thing that justified his life is that he practiced what he believed.”

What do you think?

 FRANK SINATRA JR

Transcribed by Rosalind Winton

 Our special guest is a singer, songwriter, conductor and recording artist. Ladies and gentlemen it’s an honor to introduce Mr. Frank Sinatra, Jr. It’s a great pleasure.

 Well, the pleasure is mine. Surprised, last time we spoke, you had told me that you are fairly young, and I’m surprised that someone your age is interested in this kind of music.

There are some of us out there. (Paul laughs)
Yes, there are, all too few.

I want to go back a little bit.  What are your most vivid memories of music you heard as a child?Most vivid memories today, looking back at those memories from the wrong side of 70, the only thing I can say is, that they’re  kind of blurry, going way back, it’s been a long time since I was a child, but that was the best music, popular music that was ever made in America.

And was music playing around the house a lot?
Oh yes, the point is in order to be considered a person who made music, at least professionally in those days, the people who made that music were musicians.  Something that probably, a great majority of people who claim to make music today are not.

And, by that you mean there are lots of musicians who are making music on computers, but they don’t have a proficiency in an instrument
That’s what they say and they don’t know anything about music and the whole story about that kind of person, years ago there used to be classes in certain schools  in a subject that was known as musicology and they would give people degrees in what was called musicology.  They would become musicologists, and there used to be a joke around the working musician community: a musicologist is a person who can read music, but can’t hear it, and today, most of what you hear, when you hear things on the radio that are current, and it has spilled over into television, there are, when I watch sports events on TV for example…there are commercials that are the most annoying, camp-made sounds in the world and they’re made by what we call in the trade today, garage bands, a few of these people, who get together in a garage somewhere with a few amplified instruments and they consider themselves to be musicians.  They press a few buttons and a program comes out, which they use, it might have harmonic changes, or something, and this they consider making music and it’s unfortunate because all it is, is formulated nonsense. The louder and the more distortive, the better the auditory scientists refer to it as vibratory insult and this is regretfully the state of the art, if you want to call it art, where we are today.  The industry has been taken over, has been taken away from the professionals and given to the garage bands and as it happens the business of being a real musician and dedicating one’s life to it has gone out of style and when I think back to the question you asked me about “what was it like when I was a child?” It was the greatest music that was ever made in America.

When did you start to realize that you were a very musical person?

I began to receive, personally, training at the age of 3 or 4.  This goes back to the 1940s and because of my father’s work in those days, he always had guests in our home, who were great composers, lyricists, songwriters, orchestrators, and as it happens they, by degrees, began to tutor me. I can remember when I was 3 or 4, one of my uncles who was the head of the music department at Colombia Pictures in those days, back when each studio had a music department, and he gave me a book about the instruments in the symphony orchestra and I could look at the pictures that he would point to and identify each one of the symphonic instruments.  At the age of 5 I was started on piano lessons, and in that situation I continued on all the way through college, I had once, had the desire to be a composer and a pianist.

 

You just mentioned “composer.” Can you recall when you first learned that you had the ability to write songs?

Well I had been writing melodies, much to the chagrin of my piano teacher when I was a boy, rather than practicing the lessons that she had given to me.  I would be spending my time at the piano composing little melodies and little things of myself and after a time, something else happened, which was really quite remarkable.  I could hear a piece of orchestral music on a recording, hopefully not too complicated a piece of orchestral music and by listening to it I could then play it with the correct harmonic changes on the piano and this as they say, by ear, and at that point in time it occurred to me maybe this was what I was meant to be, which is why after high school, when I went into college, I began to study on musical things and composing things and the like.  In music school there are many, many compositions that one must write, some stress melody, some stress harmony. The classes for those things are called “composition.” Then there’s another one called “counterpoint” in which how do you write a counter melody to match a melody and so on, and then of course there is orchestration, there is rhythm and all the different components of writing music that make up the curriculum of someone who really wants to get into this.

 

What do you believe is more important, the lyrics or the melody?

Oh no, they’re equally important.  They, um, one must compliment the other, they must be in great exactitude of purpose,.  If you consider , now you seem to be very familiar with what they call today “The Great American Song Book.”

I try to be (Paul laughs).

Okay, no doubt you are aware of a great, great song, written in the early 1940s by the great Johnny Mercer and there’s a song called – let’s just use this as an example – “The Blues In The Night.”

Yes.

Okay.  The melody of that song cause ordinarily the melody always comes first, the lyric comes later. The melody of ‘Blues In The Night’ could only be a blues song. The melody is lonely, it has the blues harmonic changes, it is just by it’s very nature sad, and Johnny Mercer’s lyric is absolutely reflective of that state of mine and it matches, it marries to that melody perfectly.

And that melody was by Harold Arlen.

Harold Arlen, another one of our more important songwriters through the years.  Mr. Arlen who just was absolutely incredible.  I wish I could have met him, he was just magnificent, at the time when he would write some of these great, great songs, a lady by the name of Lena Horne, very popular in those days and she said that Harold Arlen was the blackest white songwriter she had ever listened to, because he understood the blues idiom so perfectly.

Fascinating.

Well when you consider, when I was a boy, Mr. Leslie, understand, when I was a boy, radio stations, which routinely played people like Billy Eckstine, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole. People who played Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five. P eople who played these records, the ones who played Jimmy Witherspoon and Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb and Sarah Vaughan and Duke Ellington, were often times accused of playing “racial records” as they were called.

 

Who was the first person to record or perform a song that you wrote?

The first person and the only person has been me.  My songs I regret to tell you are not in demand and never have been.  I’m the only one that ever did anything with them.

 

Aside from the songwriting, you’ve recorded albums. You’ve performed. You’ve conducted.  What part of music would you say you’re the most passionate about?

Well, it has to be all of them. You cannot take favorites. They all demand great concentration, great attention, it is like any other practice like that. An attorney who walks into a law case, a surgeon who goes into the operating theatre, anything like that, you must clear your mind of everything other than the job at hand and it is so vital to do this.  This is how things of this nature have to be handled and I have never really picked a favorite.

 

You told me, the last phone conversation we had that you also hosted a radio program. What did you find that experience to be like?

I had had an idea for many years that people at night, bearing in mind that the average American family works of course, five days a week usually and that now is changing and the average American family has a certain routine.  All of us, I think are married to such a thing, we get up in the morning and we have our breakfast, we kiss our spouses and our children goodbye and go off and work and we come home in the late afternoon and then there’s dinner and spending time with the kids, perhaps doing homework or whatever it is and then, as the hour goes late, when the children are in bed it is time then for the parents to have just a little bit of relaxation time, usually that comes in the form of television, obviously, but I had an idea that perhaps, since…. you remember no doubt, the great three words that would come up at nine o clock, nine thirty, ten o clock and ten thirty, “film at eleven.”’ The news would be the last thing they would see at eleven pm before they would switch off the TV set and go to sleep and I watched this year after year and having traveled the United States, all the states over and over and over again, it occurred to me that the story about the newscast today is quite correct, they say the newscaster on late night television, the newscaster opens up the hour by saying to you “good evening” and then spends the next 60 minutes informing you why it isn’t. (Paul laughs). This is of course, you know a flippant statement.  It occurred to me some time ago that maybe somebody would like to have a little bit of relaxation that would prepare them to go to sleep, so I created a radio program that was not to be run before 10:00 at night, 10:30 at night, it would run for an hour, less commercials and then it would gradually get down and down into the music, more gentle more loving, so that when the time came to turn off the radio and go to sleep, it would be the last thing people would hear at night and it was to be a kind of a electro-acoustical  tranquilizer and this was the theme of my radio program.

What was it called?
It was called “Radiance.”

 “Radiance.” In keeping with nighttime.  It seems like so many of the songs from the American Songbook had the word “moon” and so many of them included the idea of nighttime, I mean just if you want to take the example of songs Frank Sinatra recorded: “Moon River,” my goodness “Fly Me To The Moon,” he did that entire album of songs with moon in the title.
There was an album, his Producer Sonny Burke created a record called “Moonlight Sinatra,” but they did not include “Moon River” or “Fly Me To The Moon.” “Moon River” was a very famous motion picture song, which won the Academy Award that year in 1961 and “Fly Me To The Moon” is actually a misnomer. The name of that song is “In Other Words.” Everybody just calls it “Fly Me To The Moon.”
Aaaaahhh..
And that song had also an interesting situation, when the astronauts aboard Apollo 11 went out in 1969 to land on the moon for the first time, the NASA beamed “Fly Me To The Moon” to the boys in the capsule–to Collins and Armstrong and Aldrin.

Very interesting.  Of the albums that you recorded, do you have a favorite of yours?
Gee, I wouldn’t know what to say. My albums never did get any attention. My first album, when I was singing with the Sam Donahue Band that was not a favorite, that was in 1965 and I’d just become 21 years old.  I didn’t make another record album again after that until 1971 and that was my first album with Nelson Riddle, with the great Nelson Riddle who was my music teacher and that album was called “Spice” and that was a pretty good record. Afterwards there was another album in ’72 and from that I didn’t have a third album, a fourth album rather until 1977 and at that point in time, the big thing in the music world was Country music. Country music had been around for decades, but now, everybody was making Country albums and they sent me, the people I was working for at the time, they sent me to Nashville in 1977 and we made an album called “It’s Alright,” that was a pretty good record. After that I had no album until 1996.  As you can see, my records were not exactly best sellers, they were not really in demand.

The one in ’96, was that “As I Remember It”?
That was “As I Remember It.”

I happen to like that album a great deal. What inspired you to record it?
There is a great theatrical producer in New York City, a man who I worked for many times, his name is John Schreiber and he’s a marvelous show producer. John Schreiber, in 1995, became aware of the fact that Frank Sinatra, who was very much alive then, was becoming 80 years of age and he decided to have a 3-night music festival in New York City—3 concerts. Each night would begin with 80 minutes, followed by a 20 minute intermission and then 80 more minutes, and this 3 nights in a row and it was a salute to the music of Frank Sinatra and he invited Linda Ronstadt  who was the youngest.  He invited Rosemary Clooney.  He invited Jack Jones, Big Joe Williams was there, all the people who make this kind of music were invited to perform and when it got to the final 80 minutes on the final night, he gave me the entire 80 minutes and I was singing and conducting the same orchestra that I had conducted for Sinatra prior to his retirement.  So here I was sitting on a music stool at a music stand with the music in front of me, a symphony behind me with Frank Sinatra’s rhythm section and we’re in Carnegie Hall and I told people stories in the audience about where some of these great songs had come from and they were absolutely taken by this and then we would do these numbers and the reaction was quite severe and when the evening was over, I returned to my dressing room and I was introduced to a man who gave me his business card.  He was the President of the Capitol Records EMI Record Group and he said “you know, what you did down there would make just a dandy little record album” and I said “whenever you’re ready.” Now this was in the summer of 1995. In September I got called by that same gentleman and he said “we want to put you on our Angel label, which is primarily our classic label,” with this album. So we went back to New York, I hired the same orchestra who had been with me at the concert.  They were the same musicians who had played  Sinatra for year after year after year and we went and we made that album and that probably comes closer to being something of a success than any record I’ve ever made, Mr. Leslie. The record qualifies to be put in the category with movies like “Citizen Kane” and many years later “The Manchurian  Candidate,” movies that at the time of their initial release mean absolutely nothing.  Nobody even pays attention to them.  Only years later did they become famous, they call such an entity “a sleeper.” well, as I remember it, is a sleeper, today, somebody told me recently that record is for sale on eBay for $185 dollars a copy, if it can be found.

I have seen it for even more.
Well, the only thing I can tell you is, it was a great effort.  We put it together, we had the finest people in the New York music community.  Half of our strings, our French Horns and people like that were right out of the New York Philharmonic.  We had the best people, all of whom who had played Sinatra music with Sinatra through the years and we put it together with the interspersel of underscore as you’ve heard, since you seem familiar with the album and when we were finished in New York recording it, everybody in the orchestra was talking about the underscore we were doing.  There were, for example a woodwind ensemble of ‘I’m a Fool….. um… “Wee Small Hours” rather, then we had a brass choir of “I’m A Fool To Want You,” then we had a cello quartet of “My Way” and the musicians just ate it up alive.  They were just so magnificent and they wondered what all of this was about and on the last day, in the last session I said “listen everyone,  you’ve worked so hard on this and I really believe when it’s all put together and you finally get to hear it in it’s entirety, you’re going to be really happy you were a part of this.” They didn’t know what was coming in the sense of the linkage. After the music was recorded in New York, then the master tapes went out to Los Angeles to Capitol Records and I went into a little booth with the underscore coming through ear phones and at that point all the songs on that album were selected with the most total commitment.  Everything was scrupulously prepared in terms of pacing, but then I began to listen to the underscore and I started to speak my personal memories, nothing was written down, nothing was prepared.  If you are to listen to that record and you hear the narration in between the songs, that is exactly as you hear it, that is exactly as it sounds.  There was nothing prepared for that.  Nothing was written down, because as I told everybody when they said “you mean you’re going todo this off the cuff like that?”  I said “absolutely, it has to be conversational, not institutional, if we get some fool reading the Gettysburg Address, that’s exactly what it’s going to sound like, it has to be one person speaking intimately to another” and when you listen to the narration on that record there are mistakes in it, things like. that.. and I said “no, no, leave it that way.” You cannot point your finger at somebody’s head and say “prepare to be spontaneous” (Paul laughs) it is absolutely impossible, the idea was to be spontaneous and just let it flow, so that people would know they’re being talked to, not talked at, that was the theme of that album and what made it very powerful.  My sister Nancy, on her downlink radio show on XM Sinatra Channel, periodically she gets that album out and plays the entire 71 minutes and change, without interruption and they get a sensational reaction from that.

Our special guest is Frank Sinatra, Jr. The album that followed the record you just mentioned, the one that followed, “As I Remember It,” is “That Face” that came out in 2006. One of the musicians who appeared on that album, the jazz pianist, the late Bill Miller. What are your recollections of your time with him?
Bill Miller, who was the greatest accompanist that any singer has ever had, came on board in Frank Sinatra’s career way back in 1951. Frank Sinatra at that time, as still as a young man, still in his 30s and in the worst period in his career, had been hired to play in Las Vegas and he was there working and late at night he would go into the show lounge and here he would see this little jazz group playing.  They still had jazz groups in Las Vegas in those days, and here was this pianist who he had met actually, pianist from Bensonhurst, New York—from Brooklyn who had played with Charlie Barnet’s big band during the big band era and he liked the way this man played in such a minimalistic fashion and they got together and they put their heads together and they found out that they liked each other.  Bill Miller came on board with Sinatra at that point.  I was in knee pants and I can remember him at the record dates and I was already at that point in my life taking piano lessons and I was absolutely in awe of the man.  He was so beautiful, in terms of the beautiful things that he would make on the piano, and, another quality he had, he had as we say, he could read an anthill and make music out of it.  He could read anything that was put in front of him and it was absolutely incredible and I grew up with him.  I used to watch him, I used to stand by him during the Sinatra record dates year after year, and the next thing that happened, is that suddenly came 1995, a lifetime had passed, Frank Sinatra retired and Bill Miller went into retirement and some years after that, in 1998 Frank Sinatra died. For me, it was a great loss of this great talent the world knew as Frank Sinatra, but for me it was my Father.  My Father had died, always a painful experience and we were on our way to play my show just a few months after his death, at Atlantic City, New Jersey and coincidentally, it happened to be in the same hotel/casino that Frank Sinatra had appeared in when he was still working Atlantic City and I was conducting his orchestra.  So I got the idea, the real, typical idea, remember, the Wile E Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons would try to find some way to catch the Road Runner and you’d see him walk and he’d stop, hold up one finger and a light bulb would go on over his head?

Yeah.

I had an epiphanal idea, like that, one morning, when we go to the Sands Hotel, Atlantic City.  We’re going to take the whole orchestra, the strings, the horns, everything and then I got on the telephone and I called out to Burbank, California and I got Bill Miller on the phone, who had been in retirement for three years and I said “Bill, I have an idea and I wonder what you think of it, would you be interested in participating” and he said “not only would I be interested, but I’ll tell you now I’ll do it.”  So in October of 1998 we went to the Sands Hotel, Atlantic City and I came out as I always did in a tuxedo, I did 3 or 4 songs and then walked off the stage leaving the audience with the orchestra and they couldn’t figure out what was happening.  Suddenly, the orchestra began to play a very lonely  – here’s that word “mood” again you mentioned earlier Mr. Leslie – a very modal, down, unhappy, grey sky, darkness piece of music of the strings and one symphonic clarinet playing over it and through the hall came a voice-over recording, a narrative voice saying “these great showrooms late at night, when the audience is gone, the dancers are through dancing, the comics and comedians are through making people laugh, the singers are through singing, the musicians are through playing, don’t think in these old showrooms some of the spirits of people who pass through them don’t come back to visit.”. At that moment on the darkened stage the blue light lit up on Bill Miller at the piano with his trademark silver-white hair playing that famous introduction “One For My Baby And One More For The Road” that he had been doing with Sinatra as far back as 1953.  Now, it was 46 years later and he was playing and the audience gasped, because they recognized him. I came out in silhouette in dark blue… no direct light and I sang “One For My Baby” and at that time there was something of a resemblance in the dark and the audience never made a sound, you didn’t even hear a chair squeak and when the number was over and faded to black, nobody applauded. The death of Frank Sinatra had only been five months prior to that evening, and it was still very fresh in the minds of his admirers who were there that night and the lights came up slowly and I looked at them and they looked at me, a lot of them had tears in their eyes and I just nodded at them and I said “hello everybody, welcome to our show” and from that point on Bill Miller, who did not want to be in moth balls came out on the road with me and played with me for the next 8 years until 2006.  When we were at Montreal, came back doing our shows, we always did Whiteville and Bill had a heart attack and we put him into hospital and while we were in Montreal, he died and before he got sick and went into the hospital, he was still playing that Sinatra music. His daughter came to me to be with her Father when he was dying and she said “he died in harness,” I said “yes, he did,” she said to me and she hugged me, she said “you gave my Father 8 extra years of life” and I said to her, “yes, dear, I did and in return, your father gave to me and all of our people 8 extra years of his talent.” It was a beautiful symbiosis.  This is Bill Miller. This is that man who you can listen to in that wonderful Sinatra piano style.  You have an album in your collection Mr. Leslie, no doubt, called “Strangers In The Night” from that period in 1966, in which they put “Strangers In The Night” the big hit record at the front of the album and then the rest of the album was Nelson Riddle and on that album, they recorded the Burton Lane song ‘On A Clear Day’ and Nelson Riddle wrote a roaring arrangement.  As a matter of fact, next month in Atlantic City I’m going to be using that arrangement again and, in the beginning, which is just a rhythm section, listen to Bill Miller and the way he economized, the way he, can we say, “musicalized” his little ad libs that were necessary in the first 8 measures, I’m sorry, the first 4 measures of that song, I think you’ll find what I’m saying is just so beautiful.

You mentioned “mood” a moment ago. Do sad songs, or happy songs resonate with you more?No. Here again, you can’t take favorites (Paul laughs) you have to go with, as I’ve always said, happy songs and sad songs come in two categories, there are good ones that touch you, that move you, that strike a memory, and there are the ones that do not hold your attention. I was a guest recently Mr. Leslie on a film show about movies and they said “what kind of movies do you like to watch?” and I said, “well, there are all kinds of movies.  You have adventures, you have mysteries, you have comedies, you have love stories, you have musicals, you have war pictures, you have horror pictures, you have science fiction pictures, and my viewpoint is the same about every darn one of them, there are good ones and there are bad ones” and I always had this attitude, when I was a kid, I loved science fiction movies and they made some beautiful pictures, when I was a little boy in the early fifties they made a movie ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, they made ‘The War Of The Worlds’, the George Powel picture, which holds up today and these movies, people who didn’t like science fiction loved them, because they were such great theatre, they were such great movies, at the same time, in the Sci-Fi era, you have “A Thing with a Face” and then a sequel, “A Face with a Thing” and then they’d do “A Thing with a Face in It’s Thing,” and then they’d do “A Face with a Thing In It’s Face” and things like that.  They’d made the cheapos, the real dumb ones.  So you have to be selective and for me, picking music is just like that, you have to go with the good ones, the happy songs are magnificent.  You know what I mean?

Yeah, definitely.
And at the same time the sad songs on your “That Face” album, the last one that I recorded Mr. Leslie, there is a song, written by a magnificent talent in New York, a man named Rupert Holmes, there’s a song called “The People That You Never Get To Love” and I heard this song when it was new, and it lifted me right off the chair I was sitting on, and I said “where did you get this little puppy?” Somebody brought me an LP out and I heard this song and I had Nelson Riddle write the arrangement which you now hear on my album made in 2006 “That Face” and the reason why I had that arrangement written was for Frank Sinatra.  That was the kind of song that HE could sing and I brought it to him with Nelson Riddle’s magnificent arrangement.  One afternoon we were rehearsing for the opening of his show that night, he came in and I said to him “Dad, you’ve got to hear this, listen to this song” and I conducted it and sang it for him and he said… and his eyes got big and he said “where did you find this little mumser?” (Paul laughs) and I… his reaction was exactly what mine had been and I said “there’s a guy in New York who is a magnificent talent and he is brilliant and he has a song he wrote that no one’s going to hear and Sinatra, Mr. Leslie, wanted to record it and unfortunately he didn’t live to record it, but this is what I mean about being selective, about picking the good songs.

 On the note of picking the good songs, one of the songs you recorded on that album “I Was A Fool” composed by Barry Manilow, with lyrics by Marty Panzer.  How did you come to be exposed to that song?
It was on one of Mr. Manilow’s albums, I think it was called “Even Now,” excellent album, Barry Manilow is one of the biggest musical talents to hit the recording industry in decades and unfortunately we’re talking about the ’70s. I wonder, if Barry Manilow were 35, 40 years younger, right now, and just getting started, if anybody in the quote ‘music community’ unquote, would even pay attention to him. His songs have melodies, they have harmonic changes, they are intelligent, they are musical, and this is the kind of thing that no longer seems to matter anymore. The greatest oxymoron that has ever come across the English Language is “rap music” (Paul laughs) as it… well, we call it “crap music,” but getting at what we’re saying here, Manilow is a genius, always has been. Do you know how Barry Manilow became famous?

Well, I know that he originally wrote jingles.
He wrote “You Deserve A Break Today,” at McDonald’s, he wrote the “I’m Pepsi Generation” “You Be You, I’ll Be Me.” He wrote commercials and somebody said, “you can’t do this, you’ve got to write songs’ and he did, oh boy, did he, so on that album, I think it was called ‘Even Now’, there was a song called ‘Even Now,’ very nice song that he wrote, this song ‘I Was A Fool’, and I thought at the time, when I was Frank Sinatra’s music director, he came to me and he said “I want to make an album, all ballads and swing and they have to be songs I have never sung before.” I said, “Oh is that all?” So I put down “The People That You Never Get To Love”, he had never sung before and then I said “What about I Was a Fool?” I had an orchestration written, he liked it very much, and he listened to it with great attention and he loved that lyric, ‘after I’ve had my last cigarette and the night is as dark as the night’s gonna get,” that’s the kind of Sinatra blues song that has existed for decades, that was another song that was selected to be on one of his albums. Unfortunately he didn’t live to record it, just like the other song I mentioned to you, so I recorded it on “That Face,”  we already had the orchestration and I love that song and I’m a huge admirer of the lyricist of that tune, who I have never met, and also Barry Manilow, who I know slightly and this is the kind of music I mean, by being selective.

One of the greats, in terms of songwriters would be Jimmy Van Heusen, you performed a lot of his songs throughout the years and recorded some of them. Did you meet the man himself?
I used to sit on his knee at the dinner table when I was three years old.

What was the man himself like?
Jimmy Van Heusen was the brunt of a whole bunch of jokes, because he had come from… my God if he were alive right now, he would be 101. Jimmy Van Heusen came from Syracuse, New York and his name was Chester Babcock, and when my Father would get him on the telephone, if he would call my Father for example, my Father would pick up the phone, he’d say “Chester” and he would always tease him and Jimmy Van Heusen and the great lyricist Johnny Burke wrote all of the songs for “The Road Pictures,” with Crosby, Hope and Lamour, if you like those movies. All of the great tunes that they did “Moonflowers,” “But Beautiful,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” all were written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke for ‘The Road Pictures’, and to show you how they loved to ‘zing’ Van Heusen, the last road picture, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, which was made in 1962 was called “The Road To Hong Kong,” and the character in that movie that Bob Hope played, the character name was “Chester Babcock,” they did that just to sing Van Heusen, which they did with great frequency and at the time he got a big kick out of that, but as you can imagine, that was a little bit “inside,” nobody on the outside knew about that, they were ‘zinging’ Van Heusen, but you’ve asked me a question, I’ll try to answer you, he was a very intelligent and very, very capable man. Jimmy Van Heusen, growing up, as I said in Syracuse, New York, as a young boy, he became fascinated with airplanes.  He took a pilot’s license at a very, very young age and logged hundreds and thousands of flying hours.  He was a great expert, so much so, that when World War II broke out, Jimmy Van Heusen was hired by Lockheed Aircraft as a top security Lockheed test pilot. If you know anything about the air weapons that we had at our disposal during the war, there was a magnificent tactical fighter plane called the P38, the Lockheed Lightening.  It had 2 booms for 2 rudders, a common elevator and 2 engines, it was very maneuverable, it was deadly and Jimmy Van Heusen at Lockheed Aircraft was the Chief Test Pilot on that prototype, so here’s a man who won 3 Academy Awards for movies, and one of the first TV Emmys, as one of the first big hit songs that ever came from television and this is what the man was about and when I first started… you asked me when I did songs that I had written, on that first album I made with Nelson Riddle in 1971, I wrote 3 songs on that record.  The title song which was called ‘Spice,’ it was re-recorded on your ‘That Face’ album again in 2006, and when the original was made, so many years ago, almost 40 years ago now, I happened to be working in Palm Springs, California which is where Van Heusen made his home and he came to hear our shows.  He always did, and I used to tell the band leader I was working with then, I used to say to him “wind up all the Van Heusen tunes” and we would do a show that was almost totally Jimmy Van Heusen and he would sit there, have his drinks and have a marvelous time and on this one night when the show was over, I said “Jim, I just made my first album with Nelson Riddle, and I want you to hear a couple of the songs that I have written on that album,”  Well, he couldn’t wait, he listened to the songs twice, over and over again and he listened and said “what was that line?” and he kept listening and listening and finally, when it was done, because I had written the lyrics as well as the melody, he smiled at me, a little bit paternally and he said “well, seems that Sammy and I have taught you fairly well,” I said “Yeah, I would say you did”.

Of the composers and lyricists in the American Songbook that you met, was there any commonality you found with those people who wrote this music?
Commonality?

Yeah, was there anything that a lot of the composers and lyricists had in common?  I mean aside from their genius.
Yes.  One thing: a lifetime of dedication, they didn’t do anything half way and they did not just get into it as a whim and suddenly decide there was a lot of money to be made with it and so they would start doing this, until of course the reason for it was gone.  You know, you were talking about the era of the garage bands that we live in today. As it happens, some of these amateur people come up with something that becomes a local sensation, then it begins to proliferate into other geographic locations.  Some record company people hear this and they decide there’s money to be made, so they start promoting it and the next thing you know that particular selection, like that suddenly becomes a phenomenal recording record success and the people involved walk away with a couple of millions of dollars and that is just absolutely magnificent, but after that, the magic is gone.  You never hear from them again, and this is the difference between the real composers and the real lyricists and the amateurs.  They come up with something that somehow becomes a fluke and ‘hits’ for an instant. Years later, somebody will play that record “oh I remember them, wonder whatever happened to them.” There was, when I was in my 20s, Mr. Leslie, there was a big hit record in the mid 60s called ‘Winchester Cathedral’ and this is one of the dumbest things you ever heard in your life, but they had a novelty.  They hired somebody to be on this record, who played of all things, the bassoon, which rock ‘n roll children had never even heard of and with this thought in mind, it became a fluke.  It was like a novelty and it sold millions and millions of records and as it happened, this group, you never heard from them again. After that they vanished and where they are today, who knows? You know admittedly, many, many years ago… but all I’m getting at is, when those records became hits, all the big singers of the day, including Sinatra, had to record that song, and he did it in order to sell the records.  He had his own record company and they needed to keep his records on the charts, he hated doing it, but he bit the bullet, and he had to record so many of these tunes at the time, and this is the difference, in answer to your question of what it is that the real songwriters, the real lyricists had.  They dedicate their entire lives to these things, they have countless failures, but after they have had a success, they now come back, hopefully with another success, and this has made the careers of all the great music writers for our musical plays.  Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, these are people who are absolutely devoted to what it is that it takes to be a professional songwriter or lyricist.

There aren’t many recording artists that are recording these songs anymore, despite their incredible quality, I mean nobody can disagree that these songs are just incredible. There’s the ones that Rod Stewart recorded, Harry Connick Jr, recently Gloria Estefan did an album of American Songbook. Who do you think is doing the best job at carrying on the torch of singing these tunes?
The first on the list would have to be a lady named Diana Krall.
Oh yeah.
Diana Krall, for me, is the finest talent around today.  She is absolutely magnificent, she sings beautifully, she is a magnificent jazz pianist and she has done all of this for me.  Another person who got into it for a time and then regrettably stopped, was Carly Simon.

Oh yeah.
Many years ago Carly Simon made a record album called “Torch,” of all the sad songs, and it is absolutely magnificent, even now it’s magnificent and Rod Stewart who I have met, I don’t know him well, Rod Stewart, really was not deeply into,”’If You Think I’m Sexy and you Want my Body,” which he did to get himself famous and once he became accepted as a great recording artist, he then moved into the music that he believed in, he’s made many, many wonderful albums of, as you say, the Great American Songbook.  He’s become very, very good at it, you’ve got this young kid, this Canadian kid Michael Buble now, they are doing this music, and it’s good to know that someone still has this kind of thing. I have a young friend, I must tell you, Mr. Leslie, it’s a man I met who comes from Baltimore in Maryland, he’s in his early 30s and his name is Dale Corn.  Dale Corn is a big band singer, he works with a big band at Baltimore, he’s made albums, pretty decent singer and he loves the jazz, he loves to come and hang out with me when I’m working nearby and he’s wonderful, and here’s a guy that I hope you will look into and begin to use his music, cause it’s pretty good, and his vocation, how he makes his living, you wouldn’t believe if I were to tell you.

What’s that?
He is a yard engineer on the CSX, on the Chessy, he’s been working on the railroad, he is a railroad engineer.

Interesting.
You know those yellow switch engines when you go by a railroad yard, it says ‘CSX’?

Yes.
Well, he is an engineer on the Chessy, on consolidated and he is also a big band singer, he’s very good and he’s had some wonderful records with wonderful orchestrations and if you look him up on the internet, you will find him and you should have his records, they are pretty good, this is another guy who makes that music, I think he’s in his early 30s.  The difference between he and Michael Buble and the others is that he’s not famous, but there are those very, very few who do this thing, and then of course there are people in radio, the die hards, like you who are.. and they’re going to call you all kinds of names in the younger community, they’re going to call you a dinosaur, when I’m on the stage working, I tell the audience that the younger people come to my show and they call me ‘Jurassic Park,’ which is a good description for me, that’s what I am, and this is the fact and you will be criticized as well, because you’re into this kind of music. Do you remember I told you I had a radio show years ago?

Right.
Okay.  The radio station that ran my show, and this is over ten years ago now, they were the good music station in Los Angeles where I lived and at that time they had a wonderful following in their audience, their radio audience, but of course, the bean counters upstairs, did not like the fact… “well, yes, if you’re making us 2 dollars, why aren’t you making us 5 dollars?” And when they came up with 5 dollars, then the bean counters said “well, why aren’t you making us 12 dollars?” So they first changed the format of the station, they made it a Latin music station.  They were not happy with that, now it’s a talk station about sports.

Huh.
And I’m sure in your career in radio, you told me that your show is broadcast in several different markets, you’re going to have the same thing. There’s a man, Mr. Leslie, at Philadelphia, who started on Friday afternoons, a show called ‘Friday With Frank,’,he just plays Sinatra records.  Then he graduated to Saturday, with ‘Saturday With Sinatra’ and ‘Sunday With Sinatra.’ This man’s name is Sid Mark and he has been doing the Sinatra radio programs for 58 years. Every time I go to Atlantic City, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks now, right after Labor Day, I have to go through the airport at Philadelphia and I always stop at Philadelphia and go to do Sid’s radio program, so that I’m with him and he is getting along in years now, but imagine, he has done the Sinatra show for 58 years and as it happens, he has interviewed everybody who has anything to do with Sinatra, including Sinatra himself.  At the same time I have been a guest on his program for over 40 years now and he has had to go from one radio station to another. All of a sudden, the star chamber upstairs, the administration changes. In comes some new regime and they say “what do we need with this old man playing this elevator music for?” So he has probably been, since I’ve known him, on 7 or 8 different radio stations.  Yet, they still keep him on the air, and if you’re going to be dedicated as you seem to be, Mr. Leslie, to this music, you’d better be prepared for that, because it’s going to hit you too. The bean counters are going to say “We like the music you play personally, but we think there’s a bigger market for rock and for talk radio and things like that.”

No doubt.
Forgive me, forgive me if I sounded like I was lecturing you, but this is the benefit of my experience.

Oh no, I mean I have encountered plenty of people who said “yeah, that’s great, but why don’t you do this? Or why don’t you do something that’s on the charts?” But I’ve never been able to do something that I didn’t like (Paul laughs).
Well, this is the way of things today.

What do you think about Robert Davi?
Robert Davi is a very old friend, and I’m glad that he has decided if he’s going to go into music, I’m very, very glad that he too has dedicated himself to this kind of music. He’s an excellent actor.  He was one of the bad guys in the James Bond pictures and he is a wonderful talent and he tells people when they ask him, he got his break in movies from Frank Sinatra who hired him for a picture back in the 70s. He’s a fine talent and he goes into this kind of music now and I’m delighted, as I say, that if he’s going to do this, this is the music he’s picked, but then again, just like the rest of us, he will be facing some difficult times because the audience for this music, that you have embraced, that I have dedicated my life to, and that Robert Davi is now doing, that audience is the minuscule minority of what’s out there.

What is the best thing about being Frank Sinatra, Jr.?
The experience of having in present, meeting so many of these people, great people like that, that created all of this wonderful, wonderful music, lyric, movies, radio, television, records.  You name it and hopefully just picking up now and again and a few droppings from these brains, these great, great brains and this has been my prize possession as I look back.

In addition to being on the radio, we’re going to put this interview online so people can access it from anywhere in the world. What do you want to say to anyone who’s listening in?
They have a lot of patience. (Paul laughs) If they can listen to my ramblings, which tend to become quite lengthy and I apologize for that, they must have a great deal of patience.

 Could you pick a song that you have sung or recorded that best describes you?
Me?

Yes.
No, I couldn’t do that, I really wouldn’t know what to say, there’s so many songs, which are so important through the years, you know, and I’ve recorded as a singer for the number of years I’ve been in this business, I have recorded actually a very small number of released records, because nobody ever wanted my records and as it happens, this is just a fact, you know.  As I was saying, it occurs to me that I could never pick just one specific number like that then have it, you know, as my song.

I have two final questions, this first one is kind of just a light-hearted one. What is your all-time favorite meal?
Breakfast. Oh Bacon and eggs, some nice toast, things like that. I’m just a home-spun boy at heart I guess.

My last question. Who is Frank Sinatra, Jr.?
Who is Frank Sinatra Jr? Frank Sinatra Jr today is an old man who tells people, you want to put this in a third person, tells people that “he” was never famous, he just had a famous name, and as it happens, the only thing I believe to really justify his life, if there are those philosophic people who say that every man’s life has to be justified, the only thing that could be said that he justified his life with, is that he practiced what he believed in, devoutly , and it cost him a lot of hungry nights, but then again this was a lesson that he had learned from his Father before him, and his Grandfather before his Father, and I believe that that still stands for something and might be on a tombstone, it might be an epitaph, but the fact is he did practice what he believed devoutly.

Beautifully stated, Mr. Sinatra, thank you very, very much for your time and thank you very much for this interview. I appreciate it so much.
I hope it’s of some use to you, I can’t imagine what, but you know, you might want to line the bird cage with it if you type it out, (Paul laughs) but as it happens you asked me some… ummm… some philosophic-style questions, I’ve tried to answer you in kind.

Well I thank you again, it’s been enjoyable, I looked forward to it and it was worth the wait.
Okay, thank you very much for your interest in what it is I do and I hope that you continue to devote yourself to this music, because I would very much like to believe that it’s going to sustain.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON

Bobby Weinstein: Songwriter

Hit and Hall of Fame Songwriter Bobby Weinstein tells listeners all about his life as a songwriter in this in-depth interview.

Bobby Weinstein is the writer of such great songs as “Goin’ Out Of My Head,” “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” and “I’m on the Outside (Looking In).”  Songs he wrote have been recorded by Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and Frank Sinatra.

Ladies and gentlemen, our special guest is a songwriter who has written songs recorded and performed by the greatest talent in music. Everyone from Little Anthony and the Imperials, Dionne Warwick, Jerry Vale, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and even Frank Sinatra. But there’s more – Duke Ellington, The Lettermen. So many artists have recorded our special guest, Bobby Weinstein’s, songs. The song he co-wrote, Going Out of My Head, has sold more than 100 million records by over 400 artists and ranks in the top 50 of the most recorded songs of all times. Our special guest, Bobby Weinstein, is an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and we are so pleased to welcome him here. Thank you so much for joining us.

It is a pleasure, indeed.

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?

I was born at a very young age (laughter). I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. And Brooklyn, NY, in those years, was a melting pot. The neighborhood that I grew up in was mixed to a point where it was like, like a fruit cocktail. We had every, every conceivable type of person. As a mater of fact, I really, for many years, thought that I was Italian (laughter) and that was because I was so in love with tomato sauce. But one day, somebody told me one day “You’re not Italian, Bob. You’re Jewish! And you’re, you’re stuck with gefilte fish and matzo and that’s all there is to it.” (Laughter) No, but I’m still, I’m still a tomato sauce junkie. But growing up in Brooklyn at the time, it was, it was quite an experience to put it mildly, you know? It was a time when music was wonderful and life was different. Tony Bennett was just getting started at the time. As a matter of fact, he and I went to the same high school at different times. It was the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan and he became a fine artist, as you probably know. And, uh, I went to the school several years later as an illustration major. The high school is now known as the High School of Art and Design. I wound up designing greeting cards for a company called Norcross many years ago. Going to that school, I used to – it was a really an old building. It was, like, a hospital during the Civil War and it had these winding staircases in it. And the Boys Room, the lavatories, had these wonderful tile walls. And myself and these other rock-and-roll lovers used to gather in the Boys Room and harmonize and sing the songs of the day by the Cleftones and The Harptones and Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, and on and on into the night. We sounded so good but – I mean, you know, we did it for our own enjoyment, but we got to singing so good and sounding so good that they decided to feature us in the Christmas program at the school.

It was a lot of fun, but during that period of time a young lady approach me and said ‘You need to meet my cousin.’ And I said ‘Well, who’s your cousin?’ and she said ‘Teddy Randazzo. Haven’t you ever heard of Teddy Randazzo?’ and I said ‘Not really.’ And she said “Well, he’s the star of all the rock-and-roll, Alan Freed rock-and-roll shows at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater.’ And I said ‘Well, I’ve never heard of him but that, that doesn’t mean anything. I think I’d love to meet him.’ ‘The reason being’ she said ‘because he’s a songwriter and he’s looking for somebody to collaborate with and you might just be the person.’ Anyway, she made an appointment for me to meet with him backstage at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater during one of Alan Freed’s famous rock-and-roll shows. And I appeared at the backstage door and the watchman asked me who I was and I said I was expected by Teddy Randazzo. And went and he called Teddy to the door and Teddy said ‘Oh hey, yeah, of course.’ and in I went. And he took me around and he introduced me to Bo Diddley, and he introduced me to Jackie Wilson, and he introduced me to everybody that was, you know – Diana Washington – I mean, I was flabbergasted because all these people were appearing on that show and I was now backstage as his guest. My jaw hung to the floor. I could not believe what was happening to me. Anyway, following that experience, he and I got together and started playing around with the idea of writing songs together. I would go to school early, in the early part of the day, I’d come from Brooklyn, go from Brooklyn to Manhattan, go to school until 4:00 in the afternoon, at which time I would meet with Teddy and we’d spend an hour or two or three writing these little songs together. And then I’d, of course I’d have to go back to Brooklyn because my parents expected me, like in time for dinner – sometimes late dinner. I could go on forever, you know. If you get the feeling you want to slow me down or stop me, just, just jump in there.

Well, I never interrupt my guests – ever – so (laughs) …

Oh. Well, I hope you have about five hours then (laughter).

Speaking of Teddy Randazzo, what was your impression of him when you met him?

I was very impressed with him. I mean, I didn’t quite know who he was. He was very handsome, very handsome guy. He had a lot of charisma. He had just completed, uh, I guess it was a two-year engagement with a group called The Chuckles at the time, and now he was, he was out on his own. And he had been selected to star in many of those early rock-and-roll movies like Mr. Rock and Roll and Rock, Rock, Rock and Hey, Let’s Twist! and he was very easy to be around. And he made it very easy for me to be around because we were now going to start working together, without really realizing where we were headed or what we were doing. We just, you know, we both had the desire to just write songs. I mean, I didn’t think about money, or didn’t understand what royalties were all about, and the only thing I had in mind was to write songs and hear my songs on the radio. And I think he felt the same way. We headed into the distance just writing whatever came to us. We got lucky. In 1961, we met a man by the name of Don Costa. He was making a demo record in this little demo studio at 1650 Broadway in New York. And we used to sneak in between the paying clients. The engineer knew us well and he’d let us sneak in and make these little 25-cent demonstration tapes of our songs. And we’d have to wait until the paying clients were finished, of course. And this one day, it was Don Costa who was in the studio and the engineer, that became our close friend, said ‘You know, you really ought to meet this guy because, because he produces a lot of records with a lot of people.’ And when he was finished, we were introduced to him and he said ‘What do you guys do?’ and we said ‘Well, we write songs.’ And he said ‘Well, let me hear something.’ and we played him a song that we had just written. And the song was titled Pretty Blue Eyes. And he said ‘You know, that’s a cute song. I really like the song.’ He said ‘Would you let me hold it for a couple of days?’ and we said ‘Absolutely.’ You know, why not? I mean, you know, we were kind of cavalier and blithe and, and sure – why not? And so, we gave him – we made the tape and gave it to him. And it didn’t take very long, maybe four or five days, we got a call from his office that he had recorded the song with Steve Lawrence, and we should turn on the radio and listen. And we turned on the radio and it was unbelievable. Every 10 minutes the song played on the air. Every 10 minutes. And, needless to say, it became a Top Ten, Top Five record in no time at all. And that was the first taste that we had of success, he and I together. People ask me, well did you collect royalties? Did you, you know, did you make money on that? Or were you, uh, you know, did somebody come along and sneak it out of you, sneak your income out of your pocket? We were very lucky because there were people around us, starting with Don Costa, that were honorable and led us in the right direction. Somebody said ‘Well, you need to join BMI.’ And, of course, I didn’t know what BMI – neither did Teddy – we didn’t know what BMI was and nobody said ‘it’s a performing rights organization’ and, I mean, we knew very little or nothing about it. But they took us to BMI, introduced us to the BMI people and the staff at BMI. And we affiliated with BMI and then started collecting royalties for the performances of our works during the year. Then I had a very ardent understanding of what royalties were all about (laughs). And following that, I mean we were like non-stop. We just met and wrote songs every day to a point where, you know, I was – I know that I was exhausting my parents, who were starting to wonder where I was every day and why I was coming – leaving so early in the morning and coming home late at night. And I told them that I was writing these songs and they said ‘Songwriting is not going to lead you anyplace (laughter). Why don’t you, why don’t you become – be like your father and be a milkman?’ My father was a milkman in Brooklyn, which – boy, talk about, talk about an outdated job, huh? That one went by the wayside.

(Laughs) Right.

Yeah, so I said (imitates a whiny voice) ‘No, no. This is what I want to do.’ And they said ‘You wanted to be an artist. You’re going to art school. You want to be a songwriter? There’s something wrong with you!’ Needless to say, once the success started their discouraging words quieted down. They quieted down. They never really liked the idea that I was involved in what I was doing, which was always shocking and surprising to me because, growing up as a child in the home, my mother and father both played guitars and sang. It was like part of the, it was part of the program at home. My father was really good. They played songs like All of Me and the songs of the day, like Back in Your Own Backyard and My Dear Miss Duchene. Not only did they play but I had two uncles and aunts that they’d come over on the weekend and they’d all play – they played ukuleles and banjos and things – and at my house, there was always a lot of music. And I was like the fly on the wall. I was being educated without realizing that I was being educated. And, for example, if you were one of my classmates at that time and you invited me to your house for dinner, and nobody played and sang before dinner or after dinner, I would think that there was a problem at your house.

Interesting.

Yeah. And so it’s, it was like second nature for me, you know? I was programmed without realizing I was being programmed. And that, you know, all of that, that information and all of that stimulus became part of what I was later to become. And it’s still that way today. I still wake up whistling and singing in the morning and throughout the day, and it’s really one of the great gifts that I’ve lived with all my life. I’m so happy that it happened to me because I know too many people who don’t understand what that feeling is like – to be able to create without knowing what or why or how, and where it’s coming from. I’ve been asked several times throughout my career to teach at music schools, like the Boston College of Music in Boston, to teach songwriting, anduh, you know, I can’t. I told them I, I can’t do that. I mean, I could teach the A-A-B-A structure but I can’t teach somebody how to write a song. The concept of a song, the lyrics to a song, the music to a song, that’s something that comes through you. Teddy and I used to sit side by side on a piano bench and wait, just sit there and wait for something to happen. And sometimes it would be an hour or more and we’d be sitting there, not even speaking. Suddenly one of us would go, like ‘Oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh!’ and then the other one would say ‘What? What? What? What do you have there?’ We’ve written, you know, just by that kind of patiently waiting for those feelings to come through. We’ve written over 800 songs together, he and I.

Wow!

Yeah. That’s a lot of songs. Not all of them were recorded. Not all of them became hits. But all of them, each and every one, was a baby that we created together and we love, we love all of them. I’m sorry that he’s not around today to, to enjoy the kind of attention that our catalog and portfolio has been receiving. He also, he was inducted in to the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with me back in 2007, but he wasn’t there to enjoy the ceremony and that made me very sad. He was really like my best friend and the brother that I should have had – glandular brother, so to speak.

One of those songs is Going Out of My Head and it’s been recorded by so many artists, many great artists. When you were writing it, did you know you had something?

Not really. No. As a matter of fact, only two weeks ago I had a friend come up from Puerto Rico who I haven’t seen in, oh it must be 40 years. He’s a disc jockey, a famous disc jockey in Puerto Rico. His name is Alfred D. Herger, and he happened to be in New York at the time Teddy and I sat down to write a special song for Little Anthony and the Imperials, to follow what we had just written for them which was I’m on the Outside Looking In. And as that song slid from the charts, we had to come up with a follow-up and so that’s when we sat down to do the writing. And we were sitting in an office over on Broadway and 54th Street and Alfred was visiting with us from Puerto Rico. And Teddy and I never really allowed anybody into the room or the studio that we were working in when we were working but Alfred, being here from Puerto Rico and being with friends, we let him sit in the room with us. There was a dart board on the door, the back of the door in the office, and while Teddy and I were sitting on the bench waiting for something to come through us, Alfred was throwing darts in the dart board. And the thunking of the darts hitting the dart board were driving me crazy. And I turned around and I said ‘Alfred, you’re on Broadway. There’s Fascination, there’s Playland, there are movies – there’s all kinds of things down the street that can entertain you. Would you please do me a favor and go for a walk because the throwing of the darts and the thunking of the darts is driving crazy. You keep that up, I’m going to go out of my head.’ (Laughter) And Teddy, his ears went up and he said ‘Oooh, oooh, oooh’ – and he did the old ‘oooh, oooh. oooh’ thing. Alfred left and we sat and we got to work on that. And musically, it went into a chord change and an area that gave me to believe that yes, we do have something different here. It was beautiful. It just played itself. And it didn’t take us very long. It took us about a half-hour to write that song. Needless to say, I questioned it after it was completed because it was so different. We kind of wondered is this going to be good for Little Anthony and the Imperials? They just did Tears on My Pillow and Shimmy, Shimmy, Coco Bop andI’m on the Outside Looking In – very R&B style and all of a sudden here comes this, this song. Needless to say, they went in and they recorded it and history is – hindsight is 20/20. It went ba-boom, ba-bang and so many people have come to me, both Teddy and I over the years, and people said ‘You know, that’s my wedding song, Bobby.’ ‘You’re wedding song?!?’ (Laughs) I can think of a lot of other songs that would have been appropriate for a wedding, you know? And they say ‘No, that’s the one.’ I mean, I was very close friends with people like Margaret Whiting before she passed away. She performed that song at Carnegie Hall. Margaret Whiting, who was famous for Moonlight in Vermont.

Yeah.

I mean, you know she was one of several people who said ‘I love this song, man, and I enjoy singing it.’ It’s very – it’s not an easy song to sing but if you can handle it … And I had the great privilege of meeting Elvis Presley back in 1971 at a private theater party that he had in Memphis, Tennessee. And when I was introduced to him, the person that introduced me to Elvis said ‘This is Bobby Weinstein. He’s one of the writers of a song you like a whole bunch.’ And he said ‘What is that?’ And he said ‘The song called Going Out of My Head.’ And Elvis stood in front of me singing (imitates Elvis Presley singing) ‘Going out of my head, oh yeah.’ And talk about my socks rolling down (laughter)? Down they went, you know? And he said ‘I love that song, man. You know,’ he said ‘I’m going to record that song.’ And he said ‘All I need is the sheet music.’ And I said ‘I’m going to see to it that you get the sheet music (laughs).’ I sent him a box of sheet music after that. Anyway, after that he never did get, never did get around to recording it but he’s one of the few people that it, you know, that it got away from. I would have loved to have hear, to hear an Elvis recording. But then again, there are others that please me and make me happy, like Luther Vandross. I mean, that just – that recording knocks my hat off. Just, it’s unbelievable. And Mr. Sinatra chose to do it not once but three times. He did it live in concert in Oakland California, where he introduced the song as being written by Teddy and myself, which was very kind and generous of him. And then he did it again for, uh, Reprise Records. And then he did it a third time as a duet with Ella Fitzgerald for the special show that he did called A Man and His Music. And so, he was quite in love with the song himself. And it’s years later now and people come to, still come to me and say how much they love the song. I’m very attached to it myself (laughs) and so are my grandchildren (laughs).

What did you think of Jerry Vale’s interpretation of Have You Looked into Your Heart?

Oh! You’re talking about one of the wonderful recordings in my, in my repertoire, or in his repertoire. I just think it’s incredible. You know, that song wasn’t supposed to be on that recording date, when he went in to record that, that album that he did. And a friend of ours who was producing him at the time, Mike Berniker, was his name, he took the song in with him and said ‘These two guys write good songs. You gotta listen to this.’ And he listened to it and he said ‘Oh, I’d love to do it.’ And bingo, bango, he recorded it. And what do I think of it? It’s just, it’s incredible. I mean, it’s incredible. That’s another one that people say to me ‘Hey, you know, I love – I’m crazy about that song.’ Del Bryant, who is the president of BMI, every time I see Del the first thing he does is he walks up to me and starts singing “Have you looked into your heart”.

Another great song is It Hurts So Bad and that’s one that you co-wrote and that was recorded by quite a number of artists – everyone from Little Anthony and the Imperials to Dionne Warwick – so who did the best version of that one?

The best version of that – you know, the original recording by Little Anthony was outstanding. If I had to choose a best version or a favorite version, it would be Linda Ronstadt. She really put her heart and soul into it, and I was so pleased to hear her version and the fact that she had elected to do it. It just, it amazed me because that’s another one that lives on and on and on. I was so, so horrified to learn, when I got the news that she’s not, you know, she’s not going to be able to sing anymore. There’s something wrong with her voice. Such a gifted person that she is to experience or go through what she’s going through. However, with – you know, God’s plan is good. Something is going to heal her and we’ll be hearing from her again soon, too.

Very nice. You mentioned so many great artists already, just like Linda Ronstadt. You mentioned Frank Sinatra; obviously, Little Anthony and the Imperials – all of these great artists. This is probably a difficult question. Can you pick an artist who was the biggest thrill to have recorded a song you wrote?

Are you referring to going out of my head?

No, just any song you wrote. Any song you co-wrote.

Oh, any song.

Which was the biggest kick?

The biggest kick …

The biggest thrill when you heard so-and-so was recording a song you wrote.

That’s a really hard question because if I could have a photo taken every time somebody tells me so-and-so is recording one of your songs, if I could have a photo taken by the back of my neck you would see the hair rise on my head (laughs). It’s really a difficult question for me to answer. When I heard that Frank Sinatra recorded Going Out of My Head, I would say that probably that’s, that’s the one that really rang a bell and that’s the one that gave me, gave me the goose bumps. You know, I had trouble believing it because Sinatra is legendary forever.

Yeah.

And he’s the king of kings. And the notion that he would select and elect to do a song that I wrote was just unbelievable. I still, sometimes I’m still astounded by the fact that it even happened. And when I heard the recording, the one where he was live in concert in Oakland, California, and he introduced the song as, as being written by Teddy and myself – he took the time to do that before getting into the song – I mean, I just, sometimes it wakes me up from my sleep. You know, it’s so hard to believe that that ever happened. I’ve been a very lucky person. I’ve been around songwriters all of my life. Most of the people I’ve been involved with all my life have been music people and songwriters. I’ve been very lucky to have spent the time and shared the space with so many people that were – especially, like, when I was involved with the – I was an executive for BMI, for many years as a matter of fact – which gave me an opportunity to meet and greet and spend time with songwriters and, and recording artists. And the same thing when I was the president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, once again there came another opportunity. I’ve been around all these wonderful people who have practiced the art that, you know, that I’ve enjoyed all my life. And when I find out – sometimes it’s really interesting for me to find out, when I sit at lunch or dinner with some of these people – and to find out when I ask them the question ‘How did you come up with the idea for that song?’ Like, Otis Blackwell, who wrote Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up – we were having lunch one day in Brooklyn. He was from Brooklyn too, by the way. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. And we were having lunch and I said ‘Otis, how did you come up with that All Shook Up?’ ‘Bobby, you grew up in Brooklyn.’ He said ‘Don’t you remember when it got real hot in the summertime?’ He said ‘What we used to do is we used to, we used to go in the candy stores’– and they didn’t have these cold refrigerator chests at the time. They had these big boxes, ice boxes, that they put soda in and they put crushed ice in, chunks of ice with water, and the water chilled the soda. And you had to open this box and stick your hand down into this freezing water and be familiar with the shape of the bottle of the soda that you were looking for because you were feeling around under water to grab it – and he said, he said ‘We used to, we used to go and we’d get the bottles of Pepsi out.’ He says ‘When it got real hot out, we’d go outside and’ he says ‘we’d shake that Pepsi Cola up and then we’d spray it all over each other!’ And then they’d go and they opened the fire plugs to rinse themselves off with, because there were these little itching balls that came off these maple or – I forget what kind of trees they were in Brooklyn; that Otis, he was quite a character – the soda machine, spraying each other with Pepsi Cola, and the sticky soda getting all over us from the heat, and then the itching balls falling from the trees, and we’d cover each other with the itching balls and then we’d go and open a fire plug to wash ourselves off with from the, uh, the 95-degree weather and then the sticky Pepsi Cola itching balls.’ And I said ‘So what does that have to do with All Shook Up?’ He said ‘Just listen to the lyrics, man! (Sings) “Oh, bless-a my soul, what’s a-wrong with me? Itching like a man on a fuzzy tree. Who do you think of when you have such luck? I’m in love. I’m all shook up.”’ I said ‘You’re kidding me.’ He said ‘No! That’s where it came from.’ And every time I sit down with a writer and I, you know, and I ask them where did the idea for that song come from, hardly ever will be, the source be what the final phase of the song is all about. It just amazes me. And I love to ask folks questions because, of course, that just interests me to pieces. As a mater of fact, I started to put a book together at some point, which I, I have several chapters done called “Where Did that Song Come From?” If the good Lord sees fit to keep me around for a while, I’m going to finish it because I think that’s going to be a great coffee table item.

On that note, how did the song It’s Gonna Take a Miracle come about?

That’s an old cliché. I used to hear people say that in Brooklyn. I think – I’m not sure if it was the Polish people, the Italian people or the Jewish people, or maybe, maybe all of them. I would hear “If he lives to be a hundred, it’s gonna take a miracle!” You know? (Laughter) I mean, uh, you probably heard that in your lifetime, twenty or thirty times, or here, there and the other place. We just applied it to story about a love affair. I loved the cadence: “It’s-gonna-take-a-miracle-oooh-oooh” – we had to put an ‘oooh-oooh’ in there – (sings) “It’s-gonna-take-a-miracle-oooh-oooh. Yes, it’s gonna take a miracle.” And it just, I don’t know, it just all fell into place. All we had to do was write story around it. The story was simple but to the point and that one worked. Laura Nyro fell in love with that song. She just went bananas over it. And, of course, the original recording done by the Royalettes with Patti LaBelle – no, Patti LaBelle, it was Patti LaBelle with Laura Nyro. Bette Midler recorded it and the last real outstanding recording that was done was by Denise Williams, which is just an absolutely lovely recording. She was real good at it. We were happy with that.

Just prior to this interview, I was listening to I’m on the Outside Looking In which Little Anthony and the Imperials recorded. They recorded so many of the songs that you wrote. Why was that?

They just liked all of them. It was like every time we would write a song they would, they would say ‘Oooh, we have to – we want to do that one.’ It was a magical time in our lives, in our careers. Teddy and I had a thing. There was no doubt about it. We had a thing where we could sit down and it would take a while but all of a sudden there would be that magical ‘oooh, oooh, oooh’ and something would come through us. Now, Teddy was an accomplished musician. He played, like, twelve instruments and he could write arrangements, and I was more or less the conceptualizer and the lyric person. But there’s, you know, one thing we did not do is we did not count notes and we did not count words, you know? Or lyrics that went into songs because once a song was completed, we never knew who did what because I can think music; I can’t write music out and I can’t play an instrument the way Teddy could. But I can think – I can sing it out. That’s how we used to work. I would sing to him what I heard and what I was feeling, and he would run up and down the keyboard looking for the chord changes and what not, and start saying ‘Is that it? Is that it?’ and we’d find it sooner or later so the contribution was like – it would be something to watch if we had it on video, the way the two of us worked together. I’m on the Outside Looking In, you know, all of these are clichés that I’ve heard throughout my life. I’m on the outside looking in. Who else wrote that? Oh, I know who else wrote a song called I’m on the Outside Looking In. It was Anna Sosenko, who also wrote Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup. Remember that song, Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup?

I don’t know that one.

Oh, it was a big, a big Nat King Cole song (sings): “Darling, je vous aime beaucoup. Toujours wondering what to do.” It was a terrific hit. It was the only song – she wrote a lot of songs but that was the only song that was a really big hit. But she also wrote I’m on the Outside Looking In. Several people wrote I’m on the Outside Looking In. You see, you can’t copyright the English language so somebody else could, tomorrow if they wanted to, write a song called Going Out of My Head but they would have to – it’s not that they’d be subject to litigation for infringement unless the music were the same and the words were exactly the same throughout the song. They used to count the bars. I don’t know how many bars is required for an infringement claim these days but you can’t copyright the English language. That’s all there is to it. So I’m on the Outside Looking In could be written in the future 300 more times.

When somebody listens to a song that you wrote, what do you want them to get from the experience of listening?

I want to try and lead the listener, to help them see what I see, to help them visualize what I visualize. I kind of feel like I see into the fourth dimension, beyond the third dimension. And we live in the third dimension but there are other dimensions. And I kind of feel that I see into the fourth dimension, and I want to help the person listening to what it is that I have to say, to see that also. Because some people can look at something or hear something and they can’t, they cannot ascertain exactly what point you’re trying to make. And, and I like to see people say ‘Oh, I never looked at it that way.’ It’s like the songs that I’m writing now – I have a CD that just came out. It’s on my website. It’s called Age Is Just a Number and I’ve, I’ve been writing or I did the – I wrote these songs with my wife and another collaborator. I’ve been writing with my wife since Teddy passed away because who knows me better, you know what I mean?

Yeah.

And I wrote about a dozen songs. The baby boomer songs were more, more, uh, targeted at seniors and the album is called Age Is Just a Number. There are songs on there like Granny Got an iPhone – contemporary humor. Senioritis – like I invented my own disease. Early Bird Special. My Heart Belongs to Lipitor – there’s a goodie for you. (Laughter) Anything, anything that I sense is contemporary and would be interesting and/or entertaining is what – I get up and my eyes open and I start to whistle, and I go ‘Uh oh, I think I got one!’ and I sit down and get it done. We do, my wife and I, we work every day. The work that we do, we do right here at home. We have a studio in the house and we record everything right here. We write it here and we design the graphics ourselves. What a great time in life for me to be – to have studied art initially, and to have combined my energies and my talents together with a person who is not only my equal but sometimes supersedes anything that I have to offer. And we did this every day. It just, it’s a wonderful time to be, to be alive and to be doing this. The older I get, the better I feel about spending today looking forward to tomorrow.

Very nice. What is the best thing about being Bobby Weinstein?

There’s only one other person I would like to be if I wasn’t Bobby Weinstein, and that would be my wife.

(Laughs) Why your wife?

Because she has taught me more about myself than I thought I knew or than I did know, and I’ve taught her very little about herself. She’s got a heart of gold. When we first started spending time together – we were living in an apartment in the Village together in New York City – and the phone rang and she picked up the phone and said ‘Yes, who is it?’ and then she looked at me and said ‘It’s so-and-so.’ And I looked at her and said ‘Tell him I’m not here.’ And she looked at the phone and she looked at me and she said ‘I can’t do that.’ I said ‘What do you mean, you can’t do that? Everybody does that!’ She said ‘I can’t do that.’ So I ran and I jumped into the shower in the bathroom and I said ‘Tell him I’m in the shower!’ And she said ‘He’s in the shower.’ And I said ‘Thank you.’ And at that moment, I knew I was with somebody who could – who was honest and honorable and couldn’t tell a lie. And you know how many people you go through in your lifetime, and relationships that you have in your lifetime, that you say ‘If I could only meet one person like that, that would be enough for me.’? Well, I’m a very fortunate man – I did. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I like who I am, also – and I do like who I am, and I really love and enjoy the gifts that were given to me, I would like to be her. I’m glad she’s not around right now because she would say ‘What did you say that for? Is that going to be on the radio?’ (laughter) And that’s a fact.

For anyone who is listening to this broadcast, to anyone who is listening to this interview, what would you like to say to them?

I would like to offer my thanks, special thanks, to all of the people that listen to my music and have bought my music and have supported my career, throughout my career. Not only the ones that are still here on the planet but the ones who have moved on and gone over the rainbow, and there are many. There have been so many people that have contributed to who I am today and what I’m all about. They’ve given me the opportunity to offer what I had and what I have, to a point where I’m totally fulfilled and the best is yet to come. I mean, there’s a lot more that I have to offer and I only hope that the people that are listening and those people that have become aware of me, or will become aware of me, take the time to take a listen to what I’m about to create, because it’s going to be, it’s going to be good. It’s going to be great. Some of it’s going to be great, some of it’s going to be good and some of it’s not going to be as good as what I’ve done in the past. But that’ll be okay, too. It’s just what is important is that I do it and I just think, once again I’d like to say thank you to anyone who has ever supported me and the work that I’ve done. That makes my life very pleasant.

My last question is a seemingly simple question but I invite you to answer this any way you like. Who is Bobby Weinstein?

He’s Harvey Weinstein’s brother (laughs). Actually, that’s vey interesting because there is, people have come to me ‘Are you the guy who does all the films? Are you the guy who does all those movies?’ and I say ‘No, that’s not me.’ And I’m sure he’s getting it on the other end, you know ‘Are you the guy who writes all the songs?’ Bobby Weinstein is a person that was delivered on this planet and found his way through what other people might’ve considered a tumultuous upbringing or childhood, because I didn’t tell you some of the, some of the things that I could have, I could have, where I could have messed up really big because, of course, I don’t want anybody to know that. But you know, everybody goes through their, everybody goes through their changes. I’m just glad that I was able, able to walk around some of it and skirt some of it and turn out to be who I am today. Who is Bobby Weinstein? Bobby Weinstein is a musical person who generally likes to think about love and honor before thinking about anger and I don’t, you know, anger and frustration. I get up every day with a good attitude and I look forward to getting through the day with that, you know, with that, with that whistle that somebody gave me years ago, Boy, that whistle sure works. I whistle on tune. I don’t sing on tune but I whistle on tune, that’s for sure (laughter). Pretty much, that’s who I am. And Bobby Weinstein can look at a tree and see, see the entire tree – the leaves and the branches and the twigs and everything. And where some people look at a tree and I don’t know that they can see the tree the way that I see the tree. But I’m glad that I can see it the way that I do because I can sit and look at a tree for, forever. Everybody says ‘Well, it’s only a tree.’ Well, no, it’s not only a tree. Isn’t there a poem about a tree?

I’m sure there are a number.

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” Who wrote that? I’ll have to look it up.

Oh … Joyce Kilmer.

Joyce Kilmer!

That’s it.

As I live and breathe. And I’m glad I do. Yes.

That’s it.

Yes. So you see, how did we get into this tree thing (laughter)? I should have said, you know ‘when I look at a bush …’ and then you would say, you know, we’d say who wrote, who wrote a bush? Who wrote the bush (laughter)? I don’t know. It’s really been an enjoyable journey, spending time with you on the phone today, my friend.

Yes, sir. Thank you very much.

And I hope what I’ve had to offer was entertaining for your listeners because it sure has been entertaining for me.

It’s been a joy and I thank you very much. And I also thank you for all the songs.

Okay, Paul. Thanks for calling and I look forward to working with you again.

Who is Richard Kerr?

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In 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Enoch Anderson, the very talented lyricist who wrote songs with Barry Manilow for 15 Minutes, the first original album from Manilow since the 2001 Here at the Mayflower. The experience was very fascinating and many people commented on how well-spoken Enoch Anderson is.

People sometimes ask me when I became a fan of Mr. Manilow’s. I always chuckle and answer that I was born this way. It’s not far from the truth. My mom has an appreciation for really great music. Appreciation is too mild of a word. She LOVES music. She told me about seeing Simon & Garfunkel as a youth. I got to see Simon & Garfunkel too and am glad we can share an admiration for them. We also love Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, along with her sister—my aunt. Either my mom or my aunt (both?) saw Frankie and the Seasons 21 times! She likes the impeccable and soulful vocals of Kenny Rogers. She likes a lot of the Beatles catalogue. Those are just the pop music favorites, and her favorite would be—Barry Manilow. Barry Manilow? The “Copacabana” singer?

Why, yes he did compose and sing that song, and I heard “Copacabana” along with so many of the other songs Manilow recorded hundreds of times. She held my baby sister in her arms and would dance while “Can’t Smile Without You,” played on a cassette tape player in the kitchen of our house in the Philippines. The fact is, “Copacabana” is only the tip of the iceberg of the music Manilow has recorded. He’s recorded classics from the Great American Songbook—backed by big bands and also pop standards from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He’s done Broadway standards, and of course plenty of his own songs, usually written with his favorite lyricists and others written solo. What is so impressive about Manilow is the incredible quality of music he makes and how well he is at interpreting another songwriter’s work.

As you may have guessed, I have an admiration and appreciation for what Manilow does and I think his career is something I both take seriously, from an almost faux-scholarly perspective, but also get a great deal of joy listening to. Some of my favorite songs Manilow composed—“Even Now,” “This One’s for You” and the joyous “It’s a Miracle,” had lyrics written by Marty Panzer. It was a name I had seen many times. I’m a careful reader of the liner notes, especially of the Manilow vinyl records I have and cherish. I decided after the success of the Enoch Anderson interview, it would be great to get in touch with Marty Panzer. His response to my inquiry was pure enthusiasm. I think he realized the purity of what I was doing. I really wanted to know what inspired these wonderful words I had heard hundreds of times.

Talking to Marty Panzer was exciting. People who know him well really love him and his passion is so infectious that you find yourself seeing music and what it is to experience music for the blessing and gift that it is! Those who have met Marty Panzer or have seen his storytelling on stage know what I am speaking of. It would become one of my favorite interviews to date and the amount of mail I got from people who listened to it showed that I was not the only one who appreciated it. Then something interesting happened. Often interviewers say that the typical relationship with the interviewee is that the interview is broadcast, or the article is published and you never hear from the subject again. My experience has been different in that I have really connected with some of my guests, but I feel like Mr. Panzer understood more than almost anyone what it is I am trying to do and has encouraged me so much in that respect.

I decided there was no need to stop there. I found out after 8 years of interviewing people on the radio, that I had a real passion for interviewing lyricists (those who write the words), composers (those who write the music) and songwriters (those who do both). I set out to try to interview the songwriters who had written songs that had resonated in my heart. It’s been incredible. Some of the interviews have been with very famous songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Neil Sedaka—or Bob Gaudio. Others have been a little more obscure…like Richard Kerr.

Who is Richard Kerr? If you’re asking me— he’s a musical genius. It all started when I was looking through the CD Ultimate Manilow. I noticed some of the greatest songs on the album—“Mandy,” “Looks Like We Made It,” and “Somewhere in the Night,” were all composed by a man named Richard Kerr. No question about it, Manilow had a lot of success with this man’s songs. But, who was this man?

“Somewhere in the Night,” is in my opinion one of the greatest songs I’ve heard. That’s a strong statement, but you can start with the absolutely incredible lyrics by the great Will Jennings. . Look at the lyrics that open this song: “Time, you found time enough to love / I found love enough to hold you. / I’ll stir the fire you feel inside/ Until the flames of love enfold you.” I mean… “Wow. Who does that?” Then I put on the headphones and listened intently to the melody. It’s one of the most gorgeous of any recording. I listened carefully to not only the popular Manilow recording, but also to renditions by Helen Reddy, Yvonne Elliman, Kim Carnes and Richard Kerr’s own version.

So it was in 2011 I decided to track down and interview Mr. Richard Kerr. One of the people who most encouraged me to interview Kerr was Marty Panzer. He wrote to me, “Richard Kerr is one of the great talents of our generation. At the time, his music may very well have had the greatest impact on Popular Music, since the Beatles. Richard does all the right things… for all the right reasons.” Keep in mind that Kerr has written songs covered by not only Manilow, but also Dionne Warwick, Roy Orbison, John Denver, Rita Coolidge, the Righteous Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Manchester, and Peter Cetera.

Manilow’s first #1 single was “Mandy,” recorded 40 years ago this year. It was written by lyricist and recording artist Scott English and composed by Richard Kerr. Scott English recorded the first version under the original title, which was“Brandy.” First, I interviewed Scott English and heard from a couple of people who were kind of miffed by Scott saying he did not originally like Barry Manilow’s interpretation of “Mandy.” I interviewed Richard Kerr next and received quite a few emails from people who read the transcript. When I asked if they listened to the audio of the interview, only a couple had said they did. Apparently more than a few people were also upset that Richard Kerr did not initially like “Mandy” either. Some responded positively to one of the two songwriters and not the other.

A few people emailed me to ask me this question—“Why do you bother interviewing these songwriters? Why not only interview the stars who sing the songs?” This is a question that people have asked me for years. Take for instance, Barry Manilow. He’s been the most requested interview by people who listen to my interviews for years now. It’s in large part because I’ve welcomed almost all of Manilow’s lyricists, Enoch, Marty, Adrienne Anderson and Jack Feldman. I’ve also interviewed other songwriters that Manilow covered: like Gerard Kenny who composed “I Made It Through the Rain,” and David Pomeranz who wrote “The Old Songs,” and “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again,” Charles Fox who composed “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” Randy Edelman who wrote “Weekend in New England,” Tom Snow and Cynthia Weil who wrote “Somewhere Down the Road,” and countless others. Needless to say, Manilow has recorded a lot of songs through the years!

There are a lot of entertainment people in Hollywood who think of screenwriters as being a joke. In our star-obsessed culture, it kind of makes sense, but in my opinion…it’s absurd. To me the screenwriters are the truly brilliant creators. The parallel in music is the not-so-celebrated geniuses in music. The fact is, if you don’t want to hear or read interviews with songwriters…I maybe and probably can’t make you care. All I can do is continue with my passion and explain to you why I work so hard to interview songwriters, and not just the legendary names like Burt Bacharach and Paul Williams that people recognize.

The fact of the matter is that we wouldn’t have a song like “Somewhere in the Night” without a brilliant composer like Richard Kerr and an artistically endowed lyricist like Will Jennings. The song was born out of their creativity, minds and life experiences. Why would I talk to Scott English about the first incarnation of “Mandy,” back when it was “Brandy”? Well, because he is the only one qualified to tell us what inspired those words when he took pen to paper. These men and women who write songs are geniuses. The pain and sorrow in Scott English’s life manifested itself and something of beauty came out—“Brandy.” Was there genius in the way Barry Manilow arranged the song? Of course! Certainly there was, but let us never forget who wrote the song. Without speaking for Barry Manilow, and this is purely speculation, but I believe he would agree with me. I can enjoy and appreciate Manilow’s interpretation and find the evolution of the song as fascinating as it is. After speaking with the men who wrote the song, I can appreciate both the original and the interpretation for different reasons. If you’ve taken a moment to listen to the interviews of Richard Kerr and Scott English, I thank you most sincerely. I’m going to continue to interview great songwriters—some whose name you know and some you don’t necessarily recognize. Maybe you’ll listen to what they have to say. They’ve certainly given us gifts that never feel “used.” Great songs continue to satisfy us again and again.

As to people taking offense to songwriters being surprised or not loving a recording artist’s version of their song, I would say this: if anyone is entitled to an opinion, it is the songwriter. After all,it is their song. When I or someone else asks what they think of an interpretation, should they lie? If anything, I am proud to give them an open forum and believe these people feel they can be honest with me. If someone felt they had to be diplomatic and not say what they really believed, I would essentially have failed as an interviewer. It’s important to preserve the history of these songwriters and also record their perspectives and opinions. As is the case with Pete Seeger, a legendary songwriter I interviewed who passed away today, an interview with them is a way to keep something of them around. Maybe one day it can help us and we can understand who the person that created these masterpieces was.

So it’s not that I don’t want to interview a star like Barry Manilow. I’ve tried and was even asked by a former publicist when I would be available to interview him. It ended up getting called off, but it’s not Barry Manilow the star I want to interview. It’s Barry the music lover and composer. And if I ever interviewed Manilow, before we parted ways I’d ask him to put in a good word with lyricist Bruce Sussman for me. Frankly, I am as enamored by the creative output of Marty Panzer, Bruce Sussman, Jack Feldman, Adrienne Anderson, and Enoch Anderson as I am Barry Manilow. One of the greatest compliments I ever got was today, from a great writer and friend named Kyle Prater. He said that what has kept what I do so genuine is that whomever I interview is given the same respect and treated every bit the same as a “big name.”

Recently, I had an interview scheduled in north Florida with a singer. This incredibly talented vocalist has an amazing story and a unique outlook, but had to back out of the interview not even 24 hours before it was supposed to take place. These things happen. I decided that the Paul I know, and I’m talking about myself here, would go down there and find a story nonetheless. So I drove down at night and fell asleep in my hotel room at 2:00 A.M. The next morning I set up a little office in my room and set out to track down and get an interview with a 92-year-old lyricist named Luigi Creatore. I’ve tried for some time to reach him and some may know him as not only a playwright and record producer, but also a co-writer of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” as sung by Elvis Presley and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” that the Tokens recorded. Could we ever comprehend how much joy and love these songs have helped us realize? Can you imagine how many people hear “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and remember it playing at their wedding? So after doing some detective work, I ended up getting ahold of Mr. Creatore and was invited to his home in Boca Raton. While I was there, I was introduced to his wife Claire, who as it turns out is the widow of George David Weiss who wrote “What a Wonderful World,” a song my mom loves. I recall very vividly my mother telling me how she related to the lyrics. I wonder if moments like those have had a bigger influence on my life than I realize. While I was interviewing Luigi he talked about that song “What a Wonderful World,” and even though he did not write it, I could tell how much he admired and loved it.

On my way home, I started thinking about how crazy this passion and very strange trip of interviewing songwriters has been for me. It caused me to be stranded once. I thought about how little sleep I had gotten that weekend, how weary driving for long hours can make you and if maybe I was a bit unbalanced? Then as I looked at the beautiful Florida skyline as the sun was setting I heard the unmistakable first few seconds of Louis Armstrong’s recording of “What a Wonderful World.” As the song played, I thought about the lyrics like I never had before. I thought about the people I have had the chance to meet on this big blue ball. Some of them were very young when they left us and some were older. And I thought about the newest one who was just born. Some of them wrote music or words that I grew up hearing countless times from childhood on albums or on the radio and would meet years and years later. I could have stayed home where I am comfortable, but I was now blessed with a new perspective from yet another songwriter, a man named Luigi Creatore who never had seen me before, but greeted me at his front door with a hug. To be able to meet people like him who have brought so much joy to others is something I have more gratitude for than I can contain. I won’t stop doing this. And thanks to people like Luigi and Richard, -the songwriters, because of them, yes—what a wonderful world.

Special thanks to Chef Adam Mohl.

We’re Here

 Hey, it’s me.  The past ten years have come and gone so quickly, but the memories collected add up to a lot of stories.  Some of the people who have shared are known all over the world and many of them are known to a few.  There’s one thread that unites them all – my love for what they do or in some cases did.  Ten years worth of interviews?  That’s a lot of talking, but the truth is that for me it’s mostly been listening.

Many of these interviews were broadcast on the radio one time, never to be heard again.  So many people had great things to say.  I would look for interviews with certain people who had created and accomplished amazing things and would find nothing.  More than once artists who had made incredible contributions to our popular culture would tell me this was the first time their story was being told in their own voice.

If there is one thing we all need, other than love, it’s purpose.  My love is my purpose and it’s a true blessing to know what that is.  I help people tell their stories.  Ten years ago, I would have never believed you if you had told me I would interview my favorite movie director (Woody Allen) or that I would have found myself drinking a beer and singing with a personal fave and one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n roll (Fats Domino) in his living room.  Don’t get me started!

The relaunch of this website is a new chapter in my life…a new canvas on which to paint.  Most importantly, it’s my gift to you.  Slowly, but surely all of the interviews from the past ten years will be available on this website.  You can listen, on-demand, to a conversation with Larry King, or read an incredible conversation with Maya Angelou and learn how important dance and calypso music were toher formative years.  It’s a lot of content.  It’s a lot of stories.

Music.  Movies.  Books.  Paintings.  Plays.  These are all various ways we communicate with each other.  What I try to do is get artists and writers to talk about their work.  They in turn are able to communicate with you so everyone can gain a better understanding.  Maybe this in turn will help you better understand yourself.  I know so many of these interviews have inspired new thoughts of my own or a different perspective on how to view the world we call home.

Whether it’s research or plain entertainment, my humble prayer and wish is for you to get something out of your time on this website.  Maybe it’s information or just a moment of happiness.  There have been some incredibly optimisic sentiments shared and the people featured here have been inspirational and I know from the interactions I have had that they have inspired many other people.

You could say things are lining up.  I’ve great people who care about me and make creativity so much fun.  These people are like espresso to me.  They get my imagination and enthusiasm to the highest level.   Then there’s Jeff Pike.  Although we don’t work together as much as we used to, so many of these interviews were made possible because Jeff was in the other room recording them.  My love for radio will never go away and it’s been a joy to collaborate with someone who loves music as much as I do.  I don’t know if I would have hung in there for as long as I did if it weren’t for Jeff.  We sure have some stories to tell.

So we’re here.  I truly believe the story is just starting.  I’m finally becoming the man I want to be.

I’m over the moon that you’ve joined us.  Perhaps we’ll fly there together.  Now that’s a story…

Special thanks to Charles & Wendy.

Percy Sledge: Singer-Songwriter

Percy Sledge is a true legend in Soul and R&B. His song “When a Man Loves a Woman” was a hit song in 1966 and has been receiving continuous radio airplay ever since. The song reached #1 in the US and went on to become an international hit. Percy Sledge was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, the Delta Music Museum, the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame and he was an inaugural Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Honoree.

Rolling Stone magazine lists Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” 54th in their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Some of his other classic songs include “It Tears Me Up,” “Take Time to Know Her,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Cover Me.” At the age of 69, he continues to record and perform to this day.

ALO: Rock Band

ALO is a rock band from California.  In an age when bands come and go, ALO continues to make records and perform around the world.

There’s something to be said for the “backstage” interview.  This is one of them.  ALO was opening up for singer-songwriter Jack Johnson and this was the result!

What do you think about James Brown’s advice to the band?

This is kind of like déjà vu because it was five years ago, back on the Radio Margaritaville days, I had a little digital recorder and I was on a tour bus – this was at Chastain Park and, uh, it was one of – I’m not just saying this – it was one of my favorite interviews that I had ever done with a band because it was lighthearted and fun but it was alsoserious at the same time. But it’s kind of like déjà vu because I’m back here with ALO again.

Zach Gill
The same spot even?

No, it was at Chastain.

Zach Gill
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

… and, uh, we’re at Lakewood this time. So for those who maybe, uh, are being exposed to ALO for the first time, just like last time, I would like it if you guys could introduce yourselves. (Group does self-introductions)

Dan Lebowitz
My name’s “Lebo”. I play guitar and do a little singing.

Dave Brogan
My name’s Dave Brogan. I play drums and sing.

Zach Gill
My name’s Zach Gill; keyboardist, singer.

Steve Adams
My name’s Steve Adams. I play bass and do some singing as well.

Alright.

Dan Lebowitz
I like how you said ‘being exposed to ALO for the first time’ like there’s going to be a vaccine for it (laughter) …

Dave Brogan
You may get a rash (laughter).

Zach Gill
The urge to … (laughter)

Dan Lebowitz:This is your first exposure … (laughter)

Dave Brogan:           The burning … (laughter)

Dave Brogan
Usually a rash comes from repeated exposure.

(Band member) Yeah (laughs)!

(Band member) If a burning sensation happens when you urinate, you …

Dave Brogan
‘Do this.’ (laughs)

Dan Lebowitz
Put on the first album. Drag it around. (background comments)

OK. So the new album is called Man of the World and it’s an album dedicated to the spirit of Creativity …

Steve Adams
Yeah.

… which, I thought that was interesting.

Steve Adams
Not too many people probably read that line on the liner notes.

I read liner notes, obsessively.

Steve Adams
Yeah …

Whose idea was it, to put that?

Steve Adams
Might have been Zach’s I think …?

Dave Brogan
Yeah.

Steve Adams
Yeah, but we all agreed.

Zach Gill
Yeah, and it’s a good dedication.

Dan Lebowitz
The spirit of Creativity sort of relates to, like, the spirit of Christmas Past.

Dave Brogan
Yeah. It’s an idea.

Dan Lebowitz
And we dedicated the album to, like, as an offering.

Zach Gill
It was one of many dedications, right? I mean, there were other – aren’t there other dedications?

Steve Adams
Well, there’s ‘thank you’s’ but that’s the sole …

Zach Gill
Oh, that’s the only dedication.

Steve Adams
… that’s the sole dedication.

Dan Lebowitz
The Muse.

But ‘Creativity’ was capitalized.

Dave Brogan
I’d really say that that’s like an offering, you know? Something that you leave out for the …

Steve Adams
… the ghost or spirit.

Dan Lebowitz
 … the ghost of Creativity Past (laughs).

Dave Brogan
… you know, cookies and milk for Santa.

Dan Lebowitz
… Oh, yeah (laughs).

Dave Brogan
This is like our cookies and milk, our offering for Creativity spirits.

Zach Gill
Thank you! It’s yours now.

Steve Adams
We kind of – I think we approached this record – well, we wanted to approach this record, going into it, like a real sort of open and creative mindset. And, uh, I think we kept referring to that while we were making the record – that, um, creative … I think that’s where that, you know, dedication came from.

Zach Gill
You know, yeah, you know. I always try to, I always try to dedicate a – like my solo album I dedicated to the spirit of Creativity and the art of galumping, galumping.

Dan Lebowitz
Galumping? What’s that?

Steve Adams
Lowering yourself into a cave?

(Band member) No, that’s ‘spelunking’. (Laughter)

Zach Gill
Galumping is the, uh, is the, uh, is the quality of when a kid has excessive energy and you watch them do things like, uh, like maybe they’ll, they’ll – you know, you’ll watch them just, like, follow the line on a sidewalk, but real meticulously, like, for no real reason other than …

Dave Brogan
OCD?

Zach Gill
It’s kind of like – well, some people call it that but it’s like, you know, a free play thing…

Dave Brogan
Yeah. Oh, right,right, right.

Zach Gill
A lot of people believe that, like, the arts – you know, in general, come out of – you know, galumping is kind of something you do when you have extra energy …

Dave Brogan
Umhmm.

Zach Gill
 … and extra time and you’re willing to kind of just play with your time. Self-conscious time.

Dave Brogan
Yeah, Free play with time.

Zach Gill
Yeah, free play with time, which I …

Dave Brogan
Based on, where you can find yourselves.

Zach Gill
Yeah, which I always thought was a good thing.

So, for those that, uh, like I said earlier, this is the first exposure, their first contact with ALO …

Steve Adams
Oh, we’re in deep already (laughter)!

… through the powers of technology – how was ALO born?

Steve Adams
It was born …how was it born?

Dan Lebowitz
It was born from friends, kid friends, who wanted to but create music, right?

Dave Brogan
Yeah. Essentially, you know, it was galumping.

Zach Gill
Galumping. Yeah, it was born out of galumping. Yeah, I think Dan and Steve and I all wanted to be in a band – yeah, we wanted to be in a band when we were young. We all played instruments. And then at UC Santa Barbara we met Dave and he wanted to be in a band, too. And we all had kind of the same, uh, like – ahh, you know, you could, you could, uh, if you just practiced hard and you worked hard as a band, you could, uh, you could, uh, you know, you could become successful and do it for a living.

Dave Brogan
Well, you three guys, um, started in Junior High School, right? Which is a real prime time for galumping because really, it’s not quite as  – you don’t have as much homework, usually.

Zach Gill
No – and not as much expectations.

Dave Brogan
It’s not that serious.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah. We galumped all the way through college, though (laughter).

Steve Adams
There was even galumping through high school (laughter).

Dave Brogan
That’s really true, like when you – the scene that we were in Santa Barbara, or in Isla Vista, which is the town, it was, like – it was so fertile because you had a built-in audience of, like, thousands of students so you could play at any time and have a big crowd. There was a great, like, multiplex of, of band rehearsal spaces so you had a big community of musicians there and – and it really did feel like if you just did it and practiced that you’d be successful, you know?

Dan Lebowitz
The resources were all there.

Dave Brogan
It was a real outlier’s type of experience where it was just the right place at the right time. If you had the drive, the environment was totally fertile for you to do your thing.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, ‘cause we went to – that’s where we met Jack Johnson, was at college there and it was much the same thing, that band. Same thing, same rehearsal space.

Zach Gill
Yeah. It was an easy situation – I mean, you could nod in parties. You could just have a will to play and you could get a gig.

Steve Adams
Yeah, really.

Dan Lebowitz
Oh yeah.

There’s a DVD out and it’s called Jack Johnson in Concert
and, uh, it features you guys on it a bit.

Zach Gill
No, The Weekend at The Greek is the one.

Weekend at The Greek – sorry. You guys have played in a lot of really just incredible places. You know, uh, there’s a lot of pictures I’ve seen of you guys playing some places that are incredible looking. Is there one place that you guys can say, in unison, that was the most awesome place that you got to play a gig?

Steve Adams
I know one place. Should we all say it together?

Zach Gill
At the same time – Ahhh …

Dave Brogan
Red Rocks?

Steve Adams
Highlander (laughter).

Dan Lebowitz
 The Highlander in Augusta, GA. I’ll never forget it.

Dave Brogan
… or maybe it was Augusta, SC

(Band member) Which I think was …

Zach Gill
… maybe the most memorable place ever …

Steve Adams
… a really incredible spot. And in a way, I think it almost inspired the birth of ALO, sort of indirectly.

Dave Brogan
Umhmm.

Steve Adams
Because we were out in Georgia living for the summer ’96 all together and, uh, we got to like, sort of take in some of the James Brown scene and the influx and all of that, and came back to college wanting to, like, really play funk music and stuff. And I think that was a big thing for the beginning of ALO, wanting to have a funk orchestra. But, uh, I think that was discovered out here in Georgia.

When you guys put out an ALO record, what is the process like for making the music? Because there’s so many of you.

Dave Brogan
Yeah, that’s changed over the years. So, like, lately it’s been pretty collaborative, where we try to go into a rehearsal space and just jam together. And then we kind of pick some of the best grooves and stuff and try to trim those into songs. There’s that process. There’s also the process where people bring in pretty much completed songs and we flesh them out as a band.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, those being the two, you know,extremes and then things in between, even; where it’s, like, half someone’s song and half jamming, you know?

Dave Brogan
Yeah.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, but everything in between.

Dave Brogan
Yeah, and someone will bring in a jam, a song idea and we’ll jam on it.

Steve Adams
The last two records, too, we kind of gave ourselves a short amount of time to do them. So that’s probably part of – that’s a process, too. Like here’s three weeks; we’re going to take three weeks in the studio and just do as much as we can. Get as far as we can. And that’s, um, that’s been part of our process, too. Sort of limiting our time.

Zach Gill
And that’s an interesting assumption that you can – you know, that we’ve kind of like put into our process – that you could make a good album in three weeks.

Steve Adams
You know, it’s not about

Zach Gill
– as opposed to, you know, some bands like, you know, like the Legend of Steely Dan, where it’s like – that wouldn’t be, like, their way of attacking it. They’re like, ‘No, we’re here, we’re going to fix – make everything meticulously.’ And I think our thing is ‘Let the mistakes happen if they’re cool.’ Just think on your toes.

So, when you put out a record, what would you say the end result – what do you think the goal is?

Steve Adams
I think it’s to capture, you know, capture like a moment in time – how people are feeling and within that time, and how people are playing. I think if you can capture it well, you know I think that’s, that’s sort of the goal, I think, is to sort of capture that moment because you’re never going to get it again. It’s sort of like, it passes.

Dan Lebowitz
Almost feels like a, like an album is like, like a step on a staircase or, or a rung on a ladder or whatever. You know, like without it it’s all just sort of floating around. Like, we used to have periods – we’d go long periods of times without making albums – and then these songs would get written and performed and we’d get tired of them and they’d just sort of disappear. But an album, like, organizes all of that. Like, OK, here’s like ten or twelve songs, you know, recorded and documented. It feels like it sort of completes it and then you can, like, step on that. And then the next album is another step and you can keep on moving. Whereas, without it, sometimes it feels like you’re just swimming.

Well, speaking of moving – ALO has been around a while. How would you say that the band has evolved over the years? Because, like, if you listen to – I forget the name of this album but it has the Valentine’s Day song on it.

Zach Gill
Oh, Time Expander.

Steve Adams

That was an indie release.

You really, really have changed.

Zach Gill
Yeah. I mean, each one of us affects it. You know, I mean you know, time affects it. I think this goes through the same changes, musically, that, like, anybody’s life would go through, you know?

Dan Lebowitz
Hey, that kind of relates to the last question a little bit, too. Like, what’s the album? The album is like where we’re collectively at, at that time.

Umhmm.

Dan Lebowitz
You know, like, right? So, like, Time Expander is collectively where we were, yeah, at the time.

Dave Brogan
I think we wear our influences on our sleeves quite a bit – or did. I think maybe between the Time Expander and, and um, Fly Between Falls there’s a certain – like what we’re into musically kind of shows up on the album. Not so much any more.

Zach Gill
I mean, you can see it all. Like, you know, you can definitely – you know, the really nice thing about having albums, as Dan said, you can really follow the evolution. I always really enjoyed that with other bands. You know, sometimes I wish some of our, some pretty great moments of our thing where we didn’t make albums …

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, we had some really good times.

Zach Gill
 …were kind of like lost so it almost makes it like, ‘How did they get from there to there?’ you know? So like there’s definitely some lost recordings and tapes and albums that didn’t happen.

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah. There was definitely something happening in between Time Expander and Fly Between Falls.

Zach Gill
There was a lot!

Dan Lebowitz
There’s a sound that sort of didn’t get recorded.

Dave Brogan
Yeah. It’s sort of like there’s times in – there’s periods of your life when, like, you’re camera’s broken or whatever. You just don’t take a lot of pictures (laughs).

Zach Gill
Often, those are the times where you’re too busy to get a camera.

Dan Lebowitz
We’d started an album and, like, with Busy Killing Time and those tunes, it was sort of like one of those in-between …

Dave Brogan
That was…period.

Zach Gill
Yeah. Time Expander was a, you know, just a shadow of it’s original … thing.

I thought of this question last night and I think it’s an interesting question. How would you define a band that is successful?

Dave Brogan
Well, there’s lots of different levels of success. I mean, somebody was, I was like – I met an old, you know, kind of family friend not too long ago and he was like ‘So, what are you doing?’ and I told him what I was doing. And as he was like leaving his parting thing was like ‘Well, it’s good to see you. It’s good to see you’re doing your thing and you’re undoubtedly touching lives.’ You know, and that was sort of his thing. I was like ‘Oh, yeah (laughs). That’s right. Yeah, you’re right!’ I mean, he was right and so that’s a success all on its own, you know, right there. The other level of success is being successful enough to be able to keep doing that and have a, you know, an adult life at the same time you, know, there’s success there.

Steve Adams
Just like your personal goals – that like, what you personally want out of life and sort of what you dream of and whatnot. And it is, like, the band’s goals. You can kind of measure success next to those goals a little bit if you’re like meeting those goals, I guess.

But then there’s also just like – for me, I know the goal for me is just to maintain a level of happiness, you know, and satisfaction and… So, that’s like a general goal. It’s not like we want to be playing this club by this time or something, but goals are an easy way to sort of measure your success.

Dave Brogan
You just sort of rock as many people as you can and hopefully, you get enough back on that to just keep your thing going so you can just keep doing it and grow a little bit.

Zach Gill
You know, I totally saw a thing on TV the other day where the Red Hot Chili Peppers were really young and they like asked them if they felt successful and it was a very similar thing. You know, it was just like ‘what is success?’ We were successful when we were kids. Like, we put together a band, you know? Like lots of other kids, we put together a band.

Dave Brogan
Totally.

Zach Gill
You know, and like it’s all these different moments, you know? It’s very personal, you know? But, hopefully – it sure does help at night to sleep when you feel successful. You know, you’re feeling upbeat. Feeling unsuccessful is daunting.

Steve Adams
When we put on a good show and you can really tell. Everyone walks off stage and everyone agrees and that was a good set or a good show – that feels successful to me. And it’s such a micro-moment in the whole grand scheme of things but that’s a vali – yeah, those are validating moments.

Well, I have two more questions. What is the best part about being in ALO?

Dave Brogan
Camaraderie (laughs).

Dan Lebowitz
That’s what came to my mind, too, actually. It sounds kind of cheesy but I think it’s true. Like, a lot of other projects I’ve played in, like, don’t have that – the same, like uh, old-friends/family kind of feeling that ALO has. I think that’s the one thing that’s most special about it.

Yeah.

Dan Lebowitz
It’s not very business or it’s not very professional – I mean in a good way, you know? I mean, like, everyone’s real, just kind of comfortable. Sometimes that’s bad, too, you know? Like, you’re not afraid to think or something. But it’s personal, you know? It’s real, like, it’s alive.

Steve Adams
I think what I like about it, too, is we’re all like a sort of band process, a traditional band process. Like, very collaborative.  Well I don’t know how traditional that is, but it feels like very democratic and collaborative where everyone gets a say in something as opposed to a band, maybe, where there’s a leader, you know? So, I think that’s a real special thing for this band. We’ve been able to maintain that sort of over, you know, many hurdles and a long period of time, and still feel good about it. And I think the friendship, youknow, makes that possible for us.

Well, my last question – do you guys have any parting words of wisdom?

Steve Adams
‘Partying’?

‘Parting’

Dan Lebowitz
Get back in school (laughs), stay off drugs.

Zach Gill
That’s what James Brown …

Dave Brogan
‘Make music #2’

Zach Gill
That’s what he told us – ‘Make music #2. Get back in school’ (laughs).

Dan Lebowitz
We were in college still and we were thinking about quitting. Yeah, and like doing the band professionally (Laughs) and he said ‘Make music #2 and stay in school.’

Dave Brogan
You weren’t thinking about quitting were you?

Dan Lebowitz
Yeah, we did.

Dave Brogan
Wait – you guys were thinking about quitting college?

Steve Adams
Yeah, it crossed our mind.

Zach Gill
Yeah, we were in Georgia and that crossed our mind. We could just stay here.

Steve Adams
The Highlander was so magical.

Zach Gill
Yeah, the summer – I mean, we always talk about the summer of ’96 when we all moved to Georgia. It was like a real turning point, I think, in all our lives. It was, you know – it was an interesting moment. A lot of things changed forever after that.

Dave Brogan
What would it have been like if we all would have stayed there (laughs)?

Steve Adams
We probably would’ve had another three months in..(laughs).

Dan Lebowitz
I know (laughs) and we might have all got, like, strung out or something.

Steve Adams
I think someone told me this bit of advice about just relationships in general but I think it applies to the band, too. To be in a band but not be in it too seriously. Just to, like, yeah – not over-think it and not get too down or, you know, just do it and sort of appreciate it and, like, enjoy it and, you know, as long as that’s all flowing, it’s good.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can find out more about ALO at alomusic.com. What does ALO stand for? I’m not going to tell you (laughs). You can do that on your own (laughter). Alomusic.com – thank you gentlemen.

Band in Unison
Thank You.

Zach Gill
It’s a mystery… (laughs)

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA