[JPL] The Tracks of Our Times with Joel Dorn, Interview by Randy Ray:

J Stein jstein at berklee.edu
Fri Sep 22 00:44:34 EDT 2006


Thanks for sharing this, really a great interview!



On Sep 21, 2006, at 8:40 PM, Arturo wrote:

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> Children of Coincidence – Randy Ray
> “There’s a great line about committees. A giraffe is a horse  
> designed by a
> committee. These A&R committees—I’ve just never had much luck with  
> them.”
> - Legendary music producer Joel Dorn
> Joel Dorn is not just the legendary record producer who was able to  
> draw the
> line from “Roberta Flack to Bette Midler to the Neville Brothers to  
> Leon
> Redbone to Rashaan Roland Kirk because I can.” He is also a gifted
> storyteller, seasoned industry inside/outside veteran and a longtime
> survivor of the lengthy and wicked transition from family-run, no- 
> college
> degreed music business cats to the tightly-controlled, rigidly- 
> hampered,
> genre-specific, committee-addled conglomerate of today’s jukebox.
> He’s a music connoisseur who knows what he knows and he can get  
> just that
> right sound. After working as a disc jockey early in his career, Dorn
> achieved his dream of producing at Atlantic Records. From  
> 1967-1974, he
> garnered two Grammy Awards for consecutive Record of the Years with  
> Roberta
> Flack. He has also worked with a legion of giants—illustrious names  
> dropped
> include Cannonball Adderley, Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, Bette  
> Midler,
> Leon Redbone, Joe Williams are to name but a few of the more  
> influential
> musicians that have crossed his storied past.
> Dorn’s base of operation has shifted from the glory and toxic days of
> Atlantic Records in the 60s and early 70s to the Brooklyn-based Hyena
> Records which has a stable of groundbreaking acts—many of whom are  
> featured
> on Jambands.com—like Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Skerik’s Syncopated  
> Taint
> Septet, James Blood Ulmer, and, of course, the equally legendary  
> Dr. John.
> Dorn was selected by the New Orleans musician to assemble the best  
> of his
> live dates from the last twenty years and Hyena Records has  
> recently issued
> All By Hisself and Right Place, Right Time in a continuing series  
> of Dr.
> John vault releases produced by Dorn. He was also jazz multi- 
> instrumentalist
> Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s producer. While at Hyena, he has released  
> several of
> the late Kirk’s extraordinary live dates—recently, the mindblowing
> Brotherman in the Fatherland —the man played three saxophones at  
> once, a
> nose flute while shouting into a microphone—an hour of searing  
> improvisatory
> music captured live in Germany, 1972. As I pointed out to Dorn, the  
> music
> sounds like it was recorded yesterday and tomorrow—there is no  
> accurate
> timeline for the heady and exuberant experimentalism that Kirk  
> displayed on
> stage.
> Dorn is a lively and engaging conversationalist as well as a gifted
> writer—he crafts all of his own fairly hilarious yet insightful liner
> notes—photographer and astute art historian. His discussion  
> regarding the
> relationship between surrealism and the sound of a recording is both
> illuminating and uniquely visionary—hence, his 40 years on a curiously
> magical journey through the evolutionary jungle of jazz, R&B, pop  
> and rock
> music. Jambands.com offers this portrait of Joel Dorn—a man who  
> knows the
> value of random coincidence and humble servitude: “I’ve always been  
> drawn to
> stuff that’s left of center. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been  
> able to
> select to work with people who aren’t what’s happening but are the  
> thing
> that isn’t what’s happening that could happen.”
> Track 1 – Rules of the Game
> JD: Kevin [Calabro from Hyena Records] sets up all of the  
> interviews because
> he knows what I like to do and what I don’t like to do. (laughs) I  
> trust him
> implicitly and I remember he said it was with Jambands.com so I said,
> “Cool.” Are you taping this?
> RR: Yes, I am. I’m pretty well versed with the transcribing, sir.
> JD: I gotcha. You call me ‘sir’ again and I’m going to punch you.  
> (laughter)
> I’ve done some interviews for liner notes and I always send it to a  
> service
> to transcribe because I couldn’t imagine—that to me would be like  
> being back
> in school.
> RR: I like doing it myself because I can capture the flavor of what is
> happening plus I’m usually subconsciously structuring the piece as I
> transcribe.
> JD: Yeah, but you’re a real writer. For instance, I did an  
> interview with
> T.S. Monk—you know, [Thelonious] Monk’s kid—and I did a Monk album  
> which had
> notes and to have the son of a giant who is in the business that  
> has a real
> understanding of his father was number one, he had a real  
> understanding of
> what his father did and number two, you got that insight into what  
> it was
> like to have Monk as a father, what it was like growing up like  
> that and I
> thought that was something I didn’t want to sit down and talk and  
> then go
> back and say, “Last Tuesday, I spoke to Monk’s kid and  
> blahblahblah,” so we
> sent it out to get transcribed and it was like 70 pages. I reduced  
> it and it
> was great. It was one of the few times that I did that. I loved  
> having that
> inside look. For anyone who has been in the business as long as I  
> have, I
> know what Monk did and I know what I think and I know what other  
> people
> think but to be able to talk to his son about playing basketball  
> with his
> father, how his father hung out at a firehouse as a kid and liked  
> to sit in
> the truck, his high school stories about Monk—you can’t get that  
> stuff any
> place else.
> RR: Thelonious Monk liked to hang out at fire stations?
> JD: He grew up in the West 60s in New York and when he was a kid,  
> he was the
> mascot of a firehouse. It’s very interesting to get a son’s view of an
> eccentric legend who also was a father, you know—a genius who was a  
> father.
> But, I digress.
> Track 2 – The Jazz Police
> RR: I love the liner notes that you write for albums. Some people lean
> towards dry, historical pieces but your writing is filled with  
> refreshing
> irreverence and insight.
> JD: Well, first of all, I’m not a writer writer—a literary writer.  
> I write
> because I enjoy it and because I have to opportunity. If you buy an  
> album
> that I produce and you’re looking for the government-approved liner  
> notes,
> you came to the wrong place. It’s another part of the record for  
> me. I’m a
> really old school producer. I generally find the artist; I make the  
> record;
> I pick the pictures; I work on the cover; I write the liners and  
> it’s not
> just the music—it’s a total package.
> It’s more like you’re not a record producer but a director. I’ve  
> always
> enjoyed making the package. For instance, when I get taken to task,  
> I love
> it. Anything I do with Rahsaan [Roland Kirk] is really a specialty  
> because
> he was a special artist in my life and he understood. It’s amazing  
> that a
> blind guy understood the totality of the record package.
> If you need me to explain the music to you—and I’m not putting down  
> anybody
> who writes standard liner notes because some of my best friends are  
> great
> liner note writers like Nat Hentoff. I just love to write. It’s  
> taken me ten
> to fifteen years where I don’t cringe about what I wrote. I  
> probably like
> writing more than I like records now because, I kind of know how to  
> make
> records—or I think I know—(laughs) but I’ve been learning how to  
> write,
> seeking a voice and it’s a lot of fun. But the Jazz Police—more  
> than any
> other music that I record—boy, the Jazz Police, if you don’t write  
> a real
> set of liner notes, they certainly break out in hives, these guys,  
> you know?
> RR: It’s funny how jazz—even to this day—still has the rep of a
> stuffed-shirt club.
> JD: Yeah. What the fuck is wrong with them?
> RR: You know Nat Hentoff? He wrote the liner notes on Bob Dylan’s  
> debut
> album and that excellent first Dylan profile in The New Yorker.
> JD: I know Nat very well; he’s a good friend; he’s one of my early  
> heroes.
> It’s funny because I was talking to David Ridge today about a  
> project that
> we’re doing together and we’re going to include Nat in it. I  
> remember when I
> was a kid boy, I would race to get Downbeat or when he used to  
> write that
> music column in Esquire. I was around 12, 13, maybe, 15 years old  
> and I
> loved Nat’s work. He’s not just a jazz writer; he’s a political  
> writer and,
> especially, a first amendment expert so the bulk of his writing now  
> isn’t
> about music. Lots of times when I do a project, I ask him to be a  
> part of it
> and boy, does he write great stuff.
> Track 3 – The Golden Era of Music
> RR: Let’s talk about your work as a disc jockey at WHAT-FM.
> JD: Well, when I was in college, my major was Communications, which  
> was
> basically radio, television and journalism. I always wanted to be a  
> record
> producer but I also always wanted to be a disc jockey. I thought it  
> was a
> good way to meet the artists, the record companies and get a leg  
> up. Plus, I
> just wanted to be a disc jockey—I thought it was a cool thing to  
> do. One of
> my professors at school—Jeff Sherman—paid his way through college  
> by being
> an all night disc jockey on the jazz station in Philadelphia, WHAT- 
> FM, which
> was one of those early FM 24 hours, 7 days a week jazz stations  
> that were
> popular back in the 50s and 60s. We became friends even though he  
> was a
> teacher.
> In September of my junior year in college at Temple University,  
> there was an
> opening for a weekend guy at the radio station and he got me the  
> job. When
> one of the guys quit that had a regular six-day-a-week shift, I got my
> break. So, I was 19, going to college and I was on the air as a  
> full-time
> jazz disc jockey, which back in those days was like a hip thing to  
> be. I was
> working all night, hanging in the clubs with the cats—it was cool.
> RR: I imagine that you were turning yourself onto a lot of new music.
> JD: Well, you know, I was a music junkie since I was a little kid—I  
> mean
> real little and I always knew that I’d be in some kind of music but  
> I have
> no skills, I only have ability. I can’t play an instrument, I can’t  
> sing, I
> can’t arrange, I don’t know how to engineer—I don’t know how to do  
> anything
> but, I do have an instinct for producing records so I always knew  
> I’d be
> doing something in music.
> People tend to think that jazz is the music I like best because  
> I’ve made so
> many jazz albums but it is one of the musics I like best. If I had  
> to pick
> them, my two favorite musics would be gospel and doo-wop. I don’t  
> love them
> more than I love jazz or pop music or Motown or New Orleans or  
> bluegrass or
> a lot of other musics that I love but I’ve made a lot of jazz  
> records so I
> get this rattle. I read about myself from time-to-time and I see “Jazz
> Producer Joel Dorn” and I’ve made a lot of jazz records but I was  
> turning
> myself onto as much music as I could when I was a kid. I was a  
> sponge; I was
> one of those kids, you know? There was so much. I grew up in the  
> Golden Era
> of Music so if you had a radio, you could hear Ray Charles, Hank  
> Williams or
> Frankie Lyman. There were just so much and so many different kinds  
> of great
> music around.
> RR: Was ‘less is more’ the key to some of that timeless music? The
> technology was simpler; yet, much of that music holds up very well as
> producers captured the atmosphere of a room, which I feel is  
> incredibly
> crucial to a record’s sound.
> JD: Listen—you used whatever technology was available but the  
> technology
> didn’t drive the music; the music was served by the technology. I  
> don’t
> think there’s anything wrong with what happens, now. My youngest  
> son, Adam,
> under the name of Mocean Worker, is an electronic artist. He has  
> his own
> studio at home; he doesn’t have to go any place. I can’t do that. I  
> still
> need to be in a room with people who play; I capture it and,  
> hopefully,
> complement it and do it right.
> I’m a big sports fan, a big music fan and a big art fan so there  
> are Golden
> Ages. I think by birth, I was lucky. I was born in 1942 and I  
> caught the
> Golden Age of sports, cars and music. I still make records the way  
> I made
> them, then. I use Pro Tools and lots of digital stuff but,  
> hopefully, it
> serves my approach rather than me being a slave to technology. It’s  
> just a
> function of when I was born more than anything.
> Track 4 - The Legend of the Masked Announcer
> RR: You worked at this station and suddenly became the Masked  
> Announcer?
> JD: I guess it looks odd—Produced by Joel Dorn for the Masked  
> Announcer.
> When I left the radio to go to Atlantic Records in 1967, UHF stations
> started showing up—you know, the high numbers like Channels 17, 48,  
> 29 and
> basically they played bad movies, horrible local shows and reruns  
> of series
> as it was the very beginning of syndication so they also had lots  
> of local
> sponsors. They’d be selling nine rooms of carpeting for $99 or  
> cheap vacuum
> cleaners, food choppers or clear plastic slipcovers—so they would  
> hire local
> talent to do their commercials.
> A friend of mine had a place that sold clear plastic slipcovers and
> carpeting and he said, “Why don’t you do the commercials on  
> television? Do
> some of your crazy stuff.” So, I created this character the Masked
> Announcer. I’m really going to tell you the truth, what I would do  
> is take
> three, four hits off a joint and babble aimlessly for an hour. We’d  
> cut like
> thirty commercials. I did my brand of humor. The Masked Announcer  
> became a
> local character in Philadelphia on these stations. I would babble  
> in a mask,
> cheap suit and a hat and had a lot of fun doing it for about a year.
> My last contract with Atlantic let me do outside productions and I  
> had to
> find a name for the company so instead of ‘Produced by Joel Dorn  
> for Joel
> Dorn Music’—which sounds insane to me because how many times can  
> you mention
> your name on the back of a record?—I said ‘Produced by Joel Dorn  
> for the
> Masked Announcer.’ For some reason, it strikes people oddly.  
> Usually you see
> ‘Produced by Whoever for Zenith Productions’ or some shit like  
> that. I just
> like the way it sounded and how it reads. People are so funny; I’ve  
> been
> using it since the mid-70s and people say, “Awww—I saw your thing; so,
> you’re the Masked Marvel.” “You’re the Masked Marauder.” When you  
> want to
> make yourself into a cartoon or a comic book character: THE MASKED
> ANNOUNCER. It’s so stupid when you think about it and if you saw  
> any of the
> commercials, you’d see how stupid it really was. Kids loved it, you  
> know. He
> was insane. He’d come on and babble aimlessly and we sold lots of  
> slop—I
> can’t tell you how many $19.95 vacuum cleaners and food choppers.
> RR: Do you have tapes of the Masked Announcer anywhere?
> JD: There is one tape that exists, a two-inch tape that I haven’t  
> heard in
> years; I’m not sure what is on it. Sometimes, it worked; it was  
> always nuts
> but sometimes it was really funny. We’d do thirty of them and we’d  
> pick
> three or four that actually worked and put them on the air. The  
> funny thing
> was that it moved the products that people wanted to advertise—it  
> was so
> insane but kids loved the character and they would call the stations
> incessantly. It was really weird.
> After a year, I just got tired of it and enough was enough. At that  
> point, I
> was living in New York, working in Philly and I was commuting. The  
> producing
> just exploded and I was spending so much time in New York so I  
> really didn’t
> have time to do it anymore. It was fun while it lasted—half  
> Kingfish, half
> Sgt. Bilko. When I was a kid we’d spend our summers in Atlantic  
> City and I
> was fascinated by those pitchmen on the boardwalk. I used to go and  
> listen
> to them and a crowd would gather. After a while, the pitchmen knew  
> me and
> they’d say, “Come up, young man! Have you ever tried to squeeze an  
> orange,
> before?” [affects a young boy’s voice with the proper cracked  
> modulation]
> “No, I haven’t, sir.” They would put this thing in the orange and I  
> knew I’d
> have to do it, you know. I would be like ‘The Show’ for the house.  
> I had an
> older buddy who sold newspapers so I would work the boardwalk by  
> these big
> newsstands and I’d scream these fake headlines. I’d loved to do  
> that stuff.
> It was great.
> Track 5 – Tales from the Atlantic Crypt
> RR: How did you get involved with Nesuhi Ertegun at Atlantic Records?
> JD: When I was 14, I was listening to a radio station, WBAS—AM 1480  
> and it
> was Georgie Woods, the Man with the Goods—heavy into black music.  
> At 9:15 on
> a Friday night in March of 1956, he played a record by Ray Charles  
> called
> “Ain’t That Love” and my whole life changed. I had never heard of Ray
> Charles in my life. It was as if somebody had hit the brakes on the  
> planet
> and then, it started up again. But when it started up again, man, I  
> was
> headed in a different direction. My parents had gone to New York  
> and my
> brother and I were staying with my grandparents. When I heard that  
> record, I
> just went berserk.
> I went looking for Ray Charles records the next day; I couldn’t  
> find them in
> the white neighborhoods so I went to the black neighborhoods; I found
> something but I couldn’t find that record. I asked the sales  
> person, “What
> record label is Ray Charles on?” He said, “Atlantic,” so I looked  
> on the
> back of the album to see where Atlantic Records was because I was  
> going to
> write them because I had to have that Ray Charles record. I  
> happened to pick
> up an Atlantic jazz album and I think it was 1-something West 57th  
> or 56th
> Street [in New York City]. It had a name on the back of the album  
> that said
> Supervision – Nesuhi Ertegun. Well, he did the jazz so I wrote him  
> a letter.
> About eight or ten months later, he wrote me back and sent me the Ray
> Charles record.
> When I wrote him the letter, I told him I wanted to be an A&R man— 
> back then
> they didn’t call us producers, they called us A&R men—and produce  
> records
> for Atlantic. I gave him ideas for records that I thought would be  
> good. He
> sent me a letter back and said, “I like your ideas and I’m going to  
> mention
> them to the artist.” I still have that letter on my wall. We stayed  
> in touch
> for years through high school and the beginning of college. I’d  
> write him
> letters and he’d write back and send the different Atlantic  
> catalogs and
> stuff like that. We spoke a few times and I told him about three or  
> four
> million times that I’d like to work at Atlantic Records just as  
> soon as I
> got out of high school. (laughs)
> When I got into college and got on the radio, my theme song was an  
> Atlantic
> record, every third song was an Atlantic record and he started to  
> invite me
> to New York to be at sessions. I was actually apprenticing to him.  
> At the
> same time, I had secured some independent financing from a guy that  
> owned a
> record shop in Philly and I started making records on my own and he
> distributed them for me.
> I made some records with Sonny Stitt, Duke Pearson and, sadly, with  
> a fellow
> that just passed away recently, Rufus Harley—a jazz bagpipe player in
> Philly. Of all the records that I produced that was the one that  
> sold the
> best and that was the record that got me to New York and got me off  
> the
> radio and into Atlantic Records. Nesuhi was my mentor and without  
> him I’d be
> working at the post office or be in prison.
> While I was on the radio, I was plotting and scheming for the  
> artists that I
> wanted to take away from other labels and bring to Atlantic. When I  
> did come
> to Atlantic, I brought guys that I had seen in the clubs, who I had  
> become
> friends with and had been making records with and playing their  
> records on
> the air. I had people that I had a definite idea that I could make  
> better
> records than they were making on the labels that they were on— 
> Rahsaan Roland
> Kirk, Yusef Latif, Les McCann.
> Nesuhi had given me a shot at a point when I was still on the  
> radio. He
> said, “Here’s what I’ll do for you. Find an artist who has never  
> made a
> record as a leader before, sign him to the label, make an album,  
> and if it’s
> successful (which in those days meant that it broke even and got good
> reviews) than I’ll let you make a second record.” There was a guy  
> in Philly
> who owned a club called Peps, which was one of the two jazz clubs— 
> Peps Show
> Bar. He was very nice to me; he used to let me into the club while  
> I was
> underaged because he knew how much I loved music. You hang out at  
> night and
> go get breakfast. It really gave me a chance to meet a lot of the  
> artists
> and to see them perform—not just hear them on records. He was just  
> another
> nice person who was a great help to me. His name was Jack Goldenberg.
> I told him that the man at Atlantic Records said that if I could find
> somebody that he’d give me a chance. He called me up one night when  
> Mongo
> Santamaría was playing at Peps and he had a big record with  
> “Watermelon
> Man”—that Latin jazz was a very popular commercial brand of jazz at  
> the
> time. Jack called me up and said, “Are you coming to the club,  
> tonight?” I
> said, “Yeah.” He said, “I’ve got your guy for you.”
> When I walked in the door, Hubert Laws was playing a version of  
> “Manha de
> Carnivale” and I had never heard anyone play the flute like that in  
> my life.
> I introduced myself, ultimately signed him, brought him to  
> Atlantic, made
> his first album The Laws of Jazz and it sold pretty well. Back then  
> if a
> jazz album sold between five and ten thousand copies, it was a big  
> deal.
> Nesuhi gave me $1,500 to sign the artist, make the record, do the  
> cover,
> give myself a $50 producer fee (laughs), and the record did well.  
> It helped
> me a lot. Along with that Rufus Harley record and the years that I  
> had spent
> watching Nesuhi do sessions with the MJQ, Betty Carter, Herbie Mann  
> and Hank
> Crawford and all of these people—so, that was my schooling.
> RR: You really didn’t come from a musical background other than the  
> love of
> music. How did you acquire production skills just by watching Nesuhi
> Ertegun?
> JD: I was a music nut like a lot of guys who came into the record  
> business
> back then. Don’t forget—the record business was a cottage industry  
> in the
> 40s, 50s and into the 60s.
> At a certain point, it exploded and when it did—I mean, by the 70s  
> they were
> teaching Entertainment Law at Harvard. You could go and learn how  
> to be a
> recording engineer at some place. Record companies started to  
> become places
> where kids who might have gone into a variety of other fields went  
> because
> music became such a big part of the American fabric at that time.
> I was in the generation before that and I was still there when it  
> was a
> cottage industry. When it exploded, all of sudden, the  
> conglomerates started
> buying the record companies. Record companies that were little  
> family-run
> businesses were suddenly doing $30, $40 million dollars a year. The  
> whole
> thing changed. Now, entertainment is probably America’s biggest  
> export. It
> all started happening for real in the late 60s, early 70s. I left  
> Atlantic
> in the mid-70s; I think it was ’74.
> The music business was an American business. It wasn’t a bunch of  
> Jewish
> guys and black guys and Italian guys who loved music and it wasn’t  
> a bunch
> of gangsters who controlled it—which was my favorite time, by the way.
> (laughter) Back in the 50s and 60s was the Golden Age of American  
> Record
> Companies. By the time it exploded and the conglomerates bought up the
> companies, the magic was gone. I usually analogize my years at  
> Atlantic for
> playing for the ’55 Dodgers [first year that the boys from Brooklyn  
> won the
> World Series before their infamous departure to California in 1958  
> along
> with the New York Giants]. Then I woke up one morning and Atlantic  
> Records
> was part of a multi-national corporation. Wildcatters like me—well,  
> the
> Atlantic Records that I dreamed about joining and ultimately joined  
> didn’t
> exist anymore. For someone like myself, it was over. I was a kid; I  
> didn’t
> understand that things changed, that Atlantic Records goes from  
> becoming the
> hippest, greatest record company in the history of the world to a $100
> million dollar a year corporation. I just went out on my own because I
> figured I could keep it going the way it was.
> I didn’t realize that it would be difficult and that those years  
> would never
> come back. I always use sports analogies but the way sports was  
> when I was a
> kid is not the way sports is now. It wasn’t a billion dollar
> business—seventy-five cents and I’d sit in the bleachers
> and watch the Phillies. You go to see the Philadelphia Warriors and  
> in order
> to get a thousand people in, they’d have to have a doubleheader.  
> Football
> was played by guys who got $200 a game! (laughs) It’s not that it’s  
> better
> or worse or anything; it’s just that certain things happen in a  
> certain way
> at a certain time. The romance and the magic and the talent at that  
> time is
> what hooked me and what I still relate to, you know?
> RR: Let’s talk about your time at Atlantic. You produced records  
> there for
> about seven years, right?
> JD: I did some independent producing from ’63-’67 before I joined them
> full-time from ’67 to around ’74.
> RR: I know that Atlantic Records changed significantly in 1968 when  
> they
> started signing heavy groups like Led Zeppelin to huge advances— 
> whereas
> before, the label had been predominately an R&B, jazz and soul  
> music label.
> That had to increase the wave of rock acts on the label, which  
> produced
> extreme revenue at a time when the business really kicked into  
> gear. I mean
> giving a band like Zeppelin that hadn’t proven themselves yet a  
> $200,000
> advance really changed the whole ballgame.
> JD: Listen—the R&B and jazz label that Atlantic was was the basis  
> for them
> becoming a major label. At that time—they always had their ear to the
> ground. Ahmet [Ertegun, Atlantic president]—well, Nesuhi stayed  
> with the
> jazz and Jerry Wexler stayed with the R&B but Ahmet had the vision  
> to see
> the new musics that were coming so we got Zeppelin, Cream, Blind  
> Faith and
> we ended up with the Stones. I mean, you know, Ahmet was on top of  
> that.
> There’s never been a record executive like him. Don’t forget that  
> he and
> Nesuhi grew up in the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C. Their  
> father was
> the Turkish Ambassador to the United States during the Roosevelt  
> years.
> Nesuhi left Europe at the beginning of World War II. He was studying
> literature at the Sorbonne. Ahmet and Nesuhi speak four or five  
> languages
> apiece. They fell in love with the blues and jazz and started this  
> record
> company in the late 40s. There were no other executives like them.  
> When
> Jerry Wexler came in, he was the bright young journalism student  
> who loved
> music so that combination of Nesuhi, Ahmet and Jerry—there’s never  
> been
> anything like that and I doubt that there will be anything like  
> that again.
> Aside from the fact that the music at Atlantic was so spectacular,  
> the look
> of the label—Nesuhi hired Lee Friedlander to be the house  
> photographer and
> Marvin Israel to do the layout and design. There were no labels  
> that had
> black artists that had album covers like Atlantic’s. Take a look at  
> some of
> the stuff on King or Powell or any of those labels—it was ghastly.  
> Atlantic
> treated the artist with respect. When you got an R&B record that  
> came out
> like Clyde McFadder or Drifters, they had a look. It looked and felt
> different. If I had never worked for Atlantic and I was just a guy  
> that
> loved music and the record business, I would say the same thing.
> As Ahmet got into the larger record business, he snared acts and  
> developed
> them. He went to England and he mesmerized these people. So he got Led
> Zeppelin and all of that other stuff. They kept doing R&B. At the  
> same time
> they had Zeppelin, they had Aretha [Franklin]. Same time they had  
> Cream,
> they had Otis [Redding]. Atlantic was still mining the R&B vein and
> expanding into new music.
> Track 6 – Roberta Flack, Winston Churchill and Clint Eastwood
> RR: I read voraciously but I tend to get hazy on the details so please
> forgive me. Did you win two Grammys for producing Roberta Flack?
> JD: We won the Grammy for Record of the Year in, I think, ’73 and  
> ’74 for
> “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Killing Me Softly.” I think  
> that is
> the only time that an artist has won back-to-back Grammys for  
> Record of the
> Year. That was fun.
> The first time I heard about Roberta Flack she was married to a  
> bass player
> in named Steve Novosel; he was in Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s band.  
> Rahsaan called
> me at 7 in the morning one day and he said, “I’ve got your next  
> artist.” I
> said, “Who’s that?” He said, “It’s a girl, she’s a singer, she’s my  
> bass
> player’s wife and her name is Roberta Flack.” And I asked him what  
> I thought
> was an innocent question, “What did she sound like?” And he  
> screamed, “She
> sounds like a colored lady!” and he slammed down the phone. We  
> never talked
> about it again.
> About a year later, I had made the first album at Atlantic with Les  
> McCann
> and Les called me up at the same time—around 7am and neither time  
> had I been
> asleep. He said, “I got it.” I said, “We’ve got what?” He said,  
> “I’ve got
> your next act.” I said, “What is it?” And he said, “There’s a chick  
> down
> here named Roberta Flack and she’s unbelievable.” I thought, “God—I  
> don’t
> want to ask what she sounds like.” (laughter) He said, “Just sign  
> her, man.”
> I went to Nesuhi and said that Les had found a chick singer in D.C.  
> that was
> the greatest singer he had ever heard. The beauty of Atlantic at  
> that time
> was that Nesuhi said, “Have you heard her?” I said, “No, but I’m  
> telling
> you, he went nuts.” Nesuhi said, “Well, you know—let’s make a  
> record with
> her.” He gave me a $10,000 budget and we signed her before I had  
> heard her.
> I went out to D.C. on a Tuesday night. She used to play at a club  
> near the
> Capitol called Mr. Henry’s—she had been there for six or seven  
> years; she
> was a real solid attraction in Washington D.C. There’s a guy named  
> Tony
> Taylor that had owned a jazz club there called Bohemian Caverns and  
> he had
> made some live tapes of her performing and had sent them to every  
> record
> company in the world and they all passed on her. Atlantic Records  
> was one of
> the companies that had passed on her.
> So, here I am. I signed her without hearing her, I go down to see  
> her and,
> look—I had no idea she was going to be the giant record seller that  
> she
> became. At Atlantic, the thing was “is she good?” or “is he good?”  
> so I
> heard her and thought, “well, this is great.”
> Each song was a gem; she had a way in which each song was just  
> perfect. I
> remember the first time I saw her, there was me, four gay chicks  
> sitting
> right in front of the stage, a bartender, a waiter and a waitress.  
> Those
> four gay chicks were screaming and yelling. I remember she did a  
> Jim Webb
> song called “Do What Ya Gotta Do” and all four of them stood up and
> screamed. I never saw a standing ovation in an empty club.
> RR: Did you record Roberta Flack immediately after signing her?
> JD: I just knew she had it and I loved the way she sounded so I  
> brought her
> to New York and she insisted on recording the album with her band  
> who had
> been with her for years—she was loyal to them. She also wanted Tony  
> Taylor
> to bring up—Cannonball had a device he used like “Mercy Mercy” and  
> all of
> those songs that were recorded live? They were recorded in a  
> studio; they
> weren’t recording in clubs.
> RR: Cannonball Adderly?
> JD: Yeah, Cannon. They’d go to the Capitol studio in L.A. and  
> they’d invite
> an audience, lay out a spread with food and drinks so they’d have a  
> studio
> sound but the benefit of guys playing and relating to an audience.  
> Tony
> Taylor—who was friends with Cannon—said that he wanted to make her  
> first
> record like that so they brought a bus of 30, 40 people and we made  
> the
> album and her group didn’t cut it.
> RR: Her group was weak?
> JD: I went to Nesuhi and said, “Look, she’s great but the album  
> isn’t. Could
> I have another $10,000?” (laughter) I don’t know if you know what  
> $10,000
> was back then.
> RR: I don’t know if I know what $10,000 is now.
> JD: Nesuhi said, “Do you really believe in this?” I said, “I really
> believe.” He said, “Do you really believe?” I said, “I really  
> believe.”
> So I said to her, “Look—I want to do the album again but I want to  
> use my
> guys. So I got Ron Carter and Ray Lucas—the drummer I loved—and we  
> did the
> same songs again with Ron and Ray on that first Roberta Flack  
> album, which
> was First Take. The reason we called the album First Take was that  
> before
> the first time she sang I told her to sing something and the  
> audience were
> all fans, loved her and they all started to applaud. I said, “O.K.  
> Let’s do
> it again.” And the audience all turned around at the same time and  
> looked
> through the glass and they said, “What’s wrong? That was great.” I  
> said,
> “That’s just a first take.” So when we put the album out with Ron,  
> Ray,
> Bucky Pizzarelli and Bill Fischer who wrote the strings, Nesuhi  
> said, “What
> do you want to call the album?” I said, “I want to call it First  
> Take.” I
> just remember those people turning around and saying, “What was  
> wrong with
> that?!” We didn’t even have a drum sound yet.
> The album came out and it was on the Jazz Series. Now, she’s not a  
> jazz
> singer but there were lots of people like Shirley Horne and Nina  
> Simone who
> were these trio singers and it just fit into Atlantic’s jazz  
> category. It
> wasn’t a pop or R&B record so since it was a vocal with a trio, we  
> put it in
> the Jazz Series and the record started to sell—mainly off of jazz play
> because there were still plenty of FM jazz stations at that time.  
> Also, it
> got a little bit of late night R&B play—they’d put in some adult- 
> kind of
> things after midnight.
> In the first year, we probably sold around 150,000 records and I  
> was already
> almost done with the second album, Chapter Two when I came into the  
> office
> one morning and one of the guys came into the office and said, “Clint
> Eastwood’s on the phone.” I thought it was one of my friends  
> goofin’, right?
> I went and picked the phone up and said, “Clint?” He said, “Yeah.”  
> I said,
> “Jesus, I’d love to talk with you, man but I’ve got Winston  
> Churchill on the
> other line so as soon as we’re done, I’ll give you a buzz.” (laughter)
> Track 7 – The Lost Art of Song Editing Secretaries
> RR: So, you quickly wrapped up the call with Winston Churchill.
> JD: Clint said, “Joel?” And I recognized it because he has a  
> recognizable
> voice. He said, “This is Clint Eastwood. Listen—I was driving to  
> work this
> morning and I was listening to KBCA (which was the FM jazz station  
> in L.A.)
> and they played this Roberta Flack record called “First Time Ever I  
> Saw Your
> Face.” I just got done directing my first film called Play Misty  
> For Me and
> I want to use it as the background music for the pivotal scene in a  
> redwood
> forest. Can I get permission to use it?” I said, “Could you get  
> permission
> to use it?! You sure can. You can do whatever you want.” He said,  
> “Look—I’m
> all out of money. I only have a thousand dollars.” I said, “Doesn’t  
> make any
> difference. You’ve got it.”
> I went to Nesuhi and said, “I just got a call from Clint Eastwood.  
> He wants
> to use Roberta’s song, “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (which was  
> the cut
> that a lot of jazz disc jockey cats were telling me that every time  
> they
> played the song, the phone lights up at the studio.) I tried to get it
> released as a single but they wouldn’t release it because it was  
> too long,
> too slow—it was too this, too that. So, here’s Clint Eastwood, right 
> —he puts
> it in the movie. When I told Nesuhi that Clint only has a thousand  
> bucks,
> Nesuhi said, “We get much more than that for a song in a film.” And  
> I said,
> “Yeah, but its Clint Eastwood’s film and it’s going to be the key  
> thing.”
> We work it out and the movie comes out and the next thing I know,  
> radio
> stations all of the country are getting calls for the song but it  
> was still
> too long. Back then, there were rules about how long a record could  
> be to
> play on a radio station. This is really a funny story. I get a call  
> from the
> pop station in New Orleans. He said, “We’re getting a hundred calls  
> a day
> for this Roberta Flack record but it’s too long to play. Would you  
> edit it
> and send it down here?” I said, “Sure.” I went in and took about a  
> minute
> off and
> he called back and said, “You know the edit’s no good. It doesn’t  
> feel the
> same.” So I said, “Well, you know, that’s the only way you can  
> edit. I don’t
> know another way to edit it.” He said, “Well, my secretary says  
> that she
> knows how to edit it.” I said, “Oh, yeah?” He said, “Yeah.” I said,  
> “Put her
> on the phone.”
> She said, “Hi, Joel. Look—you did it wrong. Here’s what you should  
> have
> done.” I said, “O.K.” For some reason, I went back and edited it  
> the way
> that the program director’s secretary said and she was 100% right.  
> Now, I
> sent it back down based on her edits and the next thing I know we  
> sold four
> million singles and two million albums. The second Roberta Flack  
> album comes
> out and it ships a million the first day. When you want to talk  
> about how
> brilliant you are and all of your great accomplishments, I think  
> the first
> thing to realize is how much randomness plays in your life and how  
> lucky you
> can get.
> Track 8 – The Sleeping Gypsy Meets the Extroverted Bass Drum
> JD: My engineer Gene Paul, Les Paul’s son, had an idea to make the  
> bass drum
> a lead instrument on a record.
> RR: On any record? He had an epiphany that it would be a great idea?
> JD: He wanted to do a record where the bass drum was the lead  
> instrument.
> (pauses) (laughter) This is a wild story. It took us two weeks to  
> mix the
> record until we figures out how to make the bass drum be the lead  
> instrument
> without making the record be lopsided and tilted and get all of those
> elements in. At that time, I was heavy into surrealism. I was more
> influenced by movie directors and painters than I was by other music
> producers although I was overwhelmed by Leiber and Stoller and Phil  
> Spector.
> RR: Did you get into Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau and—
> JD: Mainly Magritte but in getting into surrealists I went back and  
> studied
> Rousseau. I saw that painting The Sleeping Gypsy and—it’s hard to  
> explain
> something like this because I can’t explain the picture I had in my  
> head. If
> you look at The Sleeping Gypsy, there are only three or four  
> elements in the
> picture—you have the lion, the man in the stripped coat, the sky  
> and the
> ground.
> With Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly, you have that bass drum,  
> Roberta,
> background voices and the little percussion stuff that Ralph  
> MacDonald did.
> I acquainted the mix of that record with The Sleeping Gypsy and Gene’s
> engineer work on the bass drum. I don’t want to get too artsy but  
> we really
> worked on it and for some strange reason, I knew it was going to  
> win the
> Grammy; I knew it was spectacular—not because Idid it. It’s because  
> so many
> elements came together at once. Roberta Flack heard the original on  
> the
> plane, Gene wanted to mix it a certain way, I was heavy into  
> Frankie Lyman
> at the time and I remember that we had that instrument section in  
> the middle
> and Roberta asked, “What are you going to do there? I thought  
> maybe, we’d
> put a flute solo or something.” I said, “Do that shit that Frankie  
> Lyman did
> in all of those great records—that vocalese thing.” She did it, we  
> put it
> together and here’s the kicker—I turned the record in and I was  
> still a
> young producer because I’d only been making records five, six years  
> but, I
> said, “Well, this is it, man. I know it’s going to win the Grammy.  
> I know
> it’s going to sell millions. I know it. I know everything.”
> I turned the record in and they had just formed an A&R committee at  
> Atlantic
> because before that I was Nesuhi’s guy. We just worked; there were  
> no A&R
> committees. I turn it in and they said, “Ahmet wants to see you.”  
> And I
> figured he was going to tell me what I genius I am and how much he  
> loved the
> record. He said, “Nobody likes the record. That bass drum—what is  
> wrong with
> you? The bass drum is horrible.” I got insane. I went upstairs and  
> told
> Nesuhi that I was quitting. I said, “This is the best record I’ve  
> ever made
> in my entire life. It’s going to be a smash.”
> Anyway, Nesuhi went to bat and they put the record out. I did not  
> endear
> myself to the rest of the gang at Atlantic with that move, by the  
> way. It
> was probably the best record that I was ever associated with in  
> terms of an
> original piece of work and it did win the Grammy but when you think  
> about
> the Clint Eastwood thing and the secretary thing and Roberta  
> hearing it on
> the plane and them saying that you can’t put it out, isn’t that an odd
> combination for two records that went on to become classics?
> RR: Very odd plus the element of “let’s see, the bass drum as a lead
> instrument.”
> JD: Yeah and that was because that was what Gene wanted to do. We  
> tried it
> on a Ray Bryant album and it was terrible what we did to that record.
> RR: The other thing is if you had used the flute in the  
> instrumental fill of
> “Killing Me Softly,” it probably would have dated the song.
> JD: I just don’t know. I just know that when she went into that  
> thing I said
> to do that Frankie Lyman thing because I was heavy into that thing.  
> I wanted
> to dedicate the record to him on the label but somehow or other it  
> got lost
> in some nonsense.
> I can take a compliment as much as the next person but so much has  
> to do
> with luck and the randomness of things. I once made a record with Dory
> Previn and she had a song called “Children of Coincidence” and the  
> opening
> line was “if I hadn’t made a left turn, if you hadn’t made a right”  
> and it
> talks about how much randomness plays a part in our lives—so many  
> other
> factors that come into play that sometimes if you allow yourself to be
> lucky, you do your great work. Sometimes you’ve just got to wander  
> aimlessly
> but if you know how to wander aimlessly properly, stuff happens.  
> 90% of what
> I’ve done has to do with wandering aimlessly the right way.
> Track 9 – The Neville Brothers, Leon Redbone and Saturday Night Live
> RR: I picked three acts out of my mental hat that you produced—Roberta
> Flack, the Neville Brothers and Leon Redbone. Let’s talk about the  
> latter
> two acts, now.
> JD: Sure. I’m glad you picked those three acts because number one,  
> I’ve
> always been drawn to stuff that’s left of center. I’ve been lucky  
> enough
> that I’ve been able to select to work with people who aren’t what’s
> happening but are the thing that isn’t what’s happening that could
> happen—you know what I mean?
> Like Bette Midler back in the 70s. Everybody said that she was a  
> live act
> and she was all visual but the second I saw her I knew how to make  
> that
> record. Rahsaan Roland Kirk, another example—“well, he plays three
> saxophones, it’s a circus act” and no, it ain’t.
> Anyway, the Neville Brothers—one of my best friends was Doc Pomus.  
> He called
> me up one night and said, “What are ya doin’ tonight?” I said,  
> “Nothin’.”
> And he said, “Ya wanna hear the greatest singer in the  
> world?” (laughs) You
> know—who wouldn’t want to hear the greatest singer in the world? He  
> said,
> “Meet me at the Bottom Line. The Neville Brothers are in town from New
> Orleans. Aaron Neville’s there and you’ve never heard anybody like  
> him in
> your life.”
> I went down there and sat at Doc’s table and they came on. I love New
> Orleans music. I love the Meters, Dr. John, all of those Allen  
> Toussaint
> records that sounded like no other records in the world. The Neville
> Brothers came out and I’d never heard anything like it. They were  
> the best
> bar band you’d ever heard in your life. When Aaron sang— 
> forgetaboutit. I
> went backstage and gave them my credentials and walked up to Aaron  
> and said,
> “Hey, how are ya doin’, my name’s Joel Dorn. If I made a record  
> with you,
> what song would you sing?” He didn’t blink. He said, “Mona Lisa.” I  
> said,
> “How come?” And he said, “Because when I was in prison, I used to  
> sing that
> song to myself all the time and that’s what kept me from going crazy.”
> I made the record for A&M Records and I went out there and,  
> (laughs) once
> again, this will spill out into the Leon Redbone story. A buddy of  
> mine,
> Harold Child from Philly was one of the two or three key guys at  
> the label.
> I said, “Harold, I got one. This is going to be a smash.” He said, “Be
> careful. They don’t like it.” I said, “What do you mean—they don’t  
> like it?”
> He said, “They can’t get any R&B play on it because it won’t go on  
> black
> radio.” I said, “It’s not supposed to go with black radio.” The  
> Neville
> Brothers were black but it was a white act. It was a bar band that  
> was all
> white college kids—that was their constituency. So I went and had  
> this big
> mistake and I did my pitch and the guy in charge of promote got up  
> and said,
> “Well, listen—I’m glad you like your work and I’m glad you like  
> your record
> (he gave me this snotty fucking blow off) but, we ran the record by  
> black
> radio and they don’t like it.” I said, “FUCK black radio. It’s not  
> a record
> for black radio. It’s a record for white FM rock stations—that’s  
> who should
> play it.” He said, “They’re a black act and a black act belongs on  
> black
> radio.” And I said, “Yeah, just like Jimi Hendrix, motherfucker”  
> and walked
> out. That didn’t serve me well, by the way. The record bombed and  
> then, of
> course, it went on to become a classic.
> Once again—when I talk about these things, I’m not talking about  
> me. You
> understand? I’m talking about the record. I’m not Phil Spector. I  
> don’t have
> a sound. I have a good instinct for talent and a way to capture it  
> and,
> hopefully, complement it properly. The thing that makes it work is the
> artist. If I don’t get in the way of it and fuck it up then, that’s  
> what
> makes it work. Phil Spector, Leiber and Stoller, Allen Toussaint  
> and George
> Martin in partnership with the Beatles knew how to make it work but  
> beyond
> that, other than a Motown sound, it’s the artist or it is for the  
> kind of
> stuff that I like to do.
> I felt validated when it was picked as one of the most important  
> albums of
> the last 50 years or something in Rolling Stone magazine. The Neville
> Brothers went on to become successful, you know. I really wore my  
> welcome
> out at A&M. This was back in my crazy days. I would just as soon as  
> pick up
> a table leg and hit them with it as opposed to listening to that shit.
> [Author’s Note: My beloved editor has hit me on numerous occasions  
> with
> heavy furniture when I’ve asked to introduce more metal to our site.]
> RR: Was this your transitional period after Atlantic?
> JD: Uh, you have a better way of saying it than me. (laughter) I  
> was high
> all the time. I was crazy. It was great! It’s great to be able to  
> have that
> in your life, live through it, come out on the other side of the  
> tunnel and
> get a grip on yourself.
> RR: I’m very familiar with the phenomenon.
> JD: I can actually listen to that Neville Brothers record—it holds  
> for me.
> RR: So how did you hook up with Leon Redbone?
> JD: Here’s the story on Leon Redbone. There was a chick at Warner  
> Brothers
> Records named Mary Martin and I was doing these off-the-wall acts  
> like Bette
> Midler and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. I had kind of settled into things  
> that were
> outside the white lines but were selling or were successful. I was  
> getting
> calls about every odd act, anything that was goofy that came down  
> the pike
> but there was only a certain ‘odd’ act that worked for me. Mary Martin
> called and said, “There’s an act I’d like you to see at the Bottom  
> Line but
> there’s going to be a lot of producers there.”
> I had cooled off at the time and I went [to see Redbone] and there  
> were a
> lot of guys who were at the top of the charts—and me. If you don’t  
> have a
> hit record for six months, you’re not a hot producer. I went in  
> there and
> see this guy and I flipped: “this is my kind of guy” but I figured  
> I’d never
> get him. I was sitting there and I said, “Goddamnit—I wish I had  
> something
> going so I could have a better shot at getting him. (in a near  
> whispered
> voice) I knew I could make that record, right? (pauses) So…I catch  
> his set
> and I’m seeing that little by little all of the other producers are  
> leaving.
> By the end of the set, I was the last guy left; nobody dug him so I  
> got him
> kind of by default, you know? I made that first record—just like  
> with the
> Neville Brothers (laughs), how did you pick these two acts to talk  
> about?
> Just like the Neville Brothers record—when I got done, I flew to  
> California
> with their record because I thought it was a sure thing. I did the  
> same
> thing with Leon Redbone’s Warner Brothers record.
> I flew to California; I got wine and cheese and there was a room  
> with all
> kinds of plants—it was a Friday afternoon and everybody was done  
> for the
> week and they were headed to Malibu or wherever the fuck they go. I  
> threw
> this party and it was the first record I had made for Warner  
> Brothers so I
> figured, “Wait until they hear this.” I put the record on and there  
> was like
> 40 people there and by the time I got to the third cut, there was  
> me and two
> other people. The sales manager came over and said, “Listen—I know  
> you think
> this is a record but it’s not. This should be on Folkways.” I  
> figured, “How
> many times can I do this, you know?” (heavy sigh) I went home  
> depressed. I
> had seen Leon in the club a few times and I saw how people reacted  
> and I
> just knew it worked.
> There was a new T.V. show starting and I figured if people saw him  
> then,
> they would get it—you had to see him; there was no radio station  
> playing
> this record. He never busted character; he was one of a kind; he  
> was so
> brilliant; he really became Leon Redbone. This new T.V. show was  
> starting
> called Saturday Night Live and every week I went there and bothered  
> the
> people and said, “I’ve got an act for you that is perfect for you  
> show. You
> could break this artist.” Nothing for around six months. I got a  
> call on a
> Friday and the act that they had cancelled and they couldn’t book  
> anything
> else up in a day and “we’ll take a shot with your guy.” Warner  
> Brothers
> wouldn’t put a penny behind it and we had sold around 1,000 records  
> and we
> got him on Saturday Night Live and when we came in on Monday  
> morning, there
> were orders for 25,000 records. That record went gold, the next one  
> almost
> went gold and there was another one, then the movie was over.
> I’m really glad that you picked those artists to talk about—Roberta  
> Flack,
> the Neville Brothers and Leon Redbone—because they all come with these
> stories. The thing is that when you have success with odd acts,  
> there is no
> continuum in a record companies mind. That’s why I’ve pretty much  
> been in
> business with myself for the last thirty years. I can’t explain  
> what I do
> but I know what I do. You can’t draw a line from Roberta Flack to  
> Bette
> Midler to the Neville Brothers to Leon Redbone to Rahsaan Roland  
> Kirk but, I
> can.
> Track 10 – Oh, but I can. Ladies and Gentlemen: RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK
> RR: Brotherman in the Fatherland does not sound like it was  
> recorded in
> 1972.
> JD: Because he never sounded like the time he was in; he always  
> sounded like
> he was on his own plane, his own dimension. It’s really  
> interesting. Either
> you’re a genius or you’re an aimless wanderer because the first  
> night that I
> was at the radio station, I was really nervous. I was 19, on the  
> air, it was
> a Saturday night and the disc jockey who was on before me said,  
> “It’s real
> important that you end up at the top of the hour so you can do the  
> news at
> the right time. If you time your records out and you have two or three
> minutes to fill (and I was too nervous to talk for two or three  
> minutes), we
> have a whole bunch of really short jazz singles that you can throw  
> on and
> it’ll fill the time for you.”
> The first or second weekend, I look up at its like three and a half  
> minutes
> to 11 and I’m too nervous to talk. I reached into the drawer and find
> something that said “Roland Kirk-3 for the Festival.” It’s a single,
> right—they used to make jazz records for jukeboxes and, hopefully,  
> get a hit
> every once in a while like “Take Five” or “I Love You, Porgy.” I  
> had seen
> Roland Kirk’s name in the Downbeat columns. They would have a  
> different
> column for each city and he lived in Chicago. I remember it said
> “multi-instrumentalist.” I didn’t know that he played them all at  
> once. I
> put this on, heard this record and it’s wild—the phone starts  
> ringing and
> it’s “Whose that? What’s the name of that group?” I went on got the  
> album
> that it came from and I dug that he was playing three saxophones at  
> once. It
> wasn’t a group; it was a guy—I dug that.
> I got into him and started playing his records and they were wild— 
> there was
> nothing else like that. Now, there was a jazz festival a couple of  
> months
> later. The Philadelphia Academy of Music is like the Carnegie Hall of
> Philadelphia. Every two months they’d have jazz concerts, which  
> would have
> Cannonball [Adderly], Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis and Count Basie.  
> The next
> month they’d have Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Gloria Lynn and Duke
> Ellington. So, anyway, Cannonball’s stuck in a blizzard in Buffalo  
> so they
> called the Roland Kirk Quartet to fill in and I had never seen him.  
> I’m
> standing in the wings; it was my first jazz concert that I didn’t  
> pay $4 to
> see because I was a disc jockey now and I was backstage.
> Half the audience dug the shit out of him; the other half was an  
> inch away
> from booing. He’s playing these three saxophones in his mouth, he’s  
> got
> flutes in his nose, he’s screamin’ into the fucking mike so when he  
> came
> off, I said, “Listen, man—I love your records and I just saw you  
> and I love
> you (I started to babble) and I want to be your record producer  
> when I’m a
> record producer. As soon as you get done with Mercury, I want to be a
> producer at Atlantic someday,” and he calmed me down a little bit  
> and we
> became pals and I became his guy in Philly because he didn’t get a  
> lot of
> airplay. The critics hated him but I knew he was special, you know.
> He signed with me because I was much easier to control than a hot  
> producer,
> Creed Taylor, who also wanted him. He just wanted to do what he  
> wanted to
> do. He didn’t want anybody telling him and I was a young kid and  
> I’m deaf. I
> only have half hearing in my right ear—about 60%—and I’m deaf in my  
> left
> ear. So I always thought that besides the fact that he could  
> control me, he
> dug the idea that he was blind and I was deaf. (laughter)
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