Tag Archives: March Music et al

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Bob Dylan’s  famous flubbed intro to his 115th Dream with Tom Wilson laughing and saying “Take 2.”

Record Producer Tom Wilson

There are many people who the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has inducted onto its hallowed list. Most are, obviously, performers, but there are those non-performers whose contributions to rock and roll are so important that they, too, are inducted.

For example, Amhet Ertegun of Atlantic Records.  Bery Gordy of Motown.  Manager and concert producer Bill Graham. Record producers George Martin, Quincy Jones, Phil Spector, and Jerry Wexler.

But a search of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Tom Wilson yields “0 RESULTS FOUND.”

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Waco, TX

Thomas Blanchard “Tom” Wilson Jr was born on March 25, 1931 and grew up in Waco, TX.  As with many black families, music, particularly in church, was an integral part of life.

After a year at Fiske University, he transferred to Harvard. He officially studied economics, but being a part of the Harvard new Jazz Society was his first love.

He graduated from Harvard University in 1954 and started Transition Records. The first musicians he worked with were–at the time– struggling unknowns.

Not today: Donald Byrd. Horace Silver. Art Blakey. Sun Ra. Cecil Taylor.

He did it all at Transition. Photographer. Album design. Liner notes.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Columbia Records

Financial difficulties forced him to shut down the label. He worked with United Artist and some other labels before becoming a producer at Columbia Records in 1963.

His first assignment was the young, somewhat brash, and unknown Bob Dylan.  John H. Hammond had produced Dylan’s first album in 1962. It went nowhere.

Wilson wasn’t a big folk fan but thought more musicians behind Dylan might improve the sound.  Dylan and Albert Grossman, his manager, declined. Wilson and Hammond co-produced Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It fared better.

Wilson alone produced Dylan’s third album, The Times They Are a-Changin’. Again, though, Dylan was the sole musician.

On June 9, 1964 Dylan alone recorded and Wilson alone produced Another Side of Bob Dylan. That’s not a typo. They did the album in one day. Coumbia Studio A, 799 Seventh Avenue, NYC.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Bringing It All Back Home

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Seven months later, Wilson and Dylan were back in the studio.  This time, for Dylan’s first time, they divided the album into an electric side (side 1) and an acoustic side (side 2), although the acoustic side included some tracks in which other instruments were backing up Dylan and his guitar, but no drums were used.

That album changed everything. Until then, Dylan’s image was that of a talented folk singer. With Bringing… he became, at least, a folk rocker if not simply a rock artist.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Like A Rolling Stone

Bringing was the last Dylan album Wilson produced, but not the last song. That was, according to many, the greatest rock and roll song ever: Like a Rolling Stone.

The song’s unforgettable salient  is the organ that jumps in just after the rim shot. That is, as you likely know already, sneaky Al Kooper. Kooper was a friend of Wilson and Wilson had invited him to the studio that day. Kooper, a guitarist, slipped in behind back, sat at the organ and joined in.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Simon/Garfunkel

In 1964 Tom Wilson had produced Simon and Garfunkel’s first album, Wednesday Morning 3 AM (when else is 3 AM but the morning?) The acoustic album went nowhere. Simon went to Great Britain; Garfunkel back to Columbia University.

One song from the album, The Sounds of Silence, attracted a bit of attention in Boston and areas of Florida. Unbeknownst to the absent duo, Wilson decided to electrify the song and brought in musicians Al Gorgoni and Vinnie Bell on guitar, Bob Bushnell on bass, and Bobby Gregg on drums.

That is the version we know today. Wilson’s tweak sparked a career.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Verve/MGM

In 1966 Wilson left Columbia [some suggest the “Al Kooper Incidient” may have been part of his Columbia fall] and became the head of A & R at Verve/MGM Records. One of the first groups Wilson signed was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Their musicianship and fusion of styles appealed to Wilson. He produced their first two albums.

“Tom Wilson was a great guy,” Zappa later said. “He had vision, you know? And he really stood by us.”

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Velvet Underground

While at Columbia, Wilson had tried to sign the Velvet Underground. He succeeded in signing them at Verve because he promised them artistic freedom.

John Cale later said to the authors of Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story, “The band never again had as good a producer as Tom Wilson.”

Others Wilson produced at Verve were Hugh Masekela, the Animals, the Blues Project, Soft Machine, Nico.

In 1967 Tom Wilson had eight albums in the Top 100.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Outside 

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Irwin Chusid writes: In 1967 and ’68 Tom Wilson hosted a free-form radio program called The Music Factory, sponsored by MGM-Verve. It premiered on WABC-FM (New York) in June 1967, before going national via 12″ vinyl discs distributed to interested radio stations. Wilson hosted 25 hour-long syndicated episodes, each of which featured interviews with musicians, producers, and engineers, as well as tracks from MGM, Verve, and affiliated label releases.

Here’s a link to the first show:

Wilson was also integral in getting The Record Plant recording studio on successful footing. In early 1968, Gary Kellgren and Chirs Stone began building a 12-track studio at 321 West 44th Street, creating a living room type of environment for the musicians. It opened on March 13, 1968.

As the studio was nearing completion, Wilson persuaded Hendrix producer Chas Chandler to book the Record Plant from April 18 to early July 1968 for the recording of the album Electric Ladyland.

He was also involved in the opening of the Los Angeles Record Plant.

After he left MGM, he began the Tom Wilson Organization in 1968.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Exotic man

Record Producer Tom Wilson

That same year, on September 29, the New York Times ran an article on Wilson. Among the many things Ann Geracimos wrote were that Wilson was an “exotic man in an exotic field.” That, Wilson strolls in wearing his work-a-day special: antelope suede jacket, lightweight white candy twill bell-bottom trousers, purple crepe shirt.”

She also implied drug use and in an October 20 letter to the editor Wilson took issue with the implication. He wrote, “Let me state unequivocally, that I do not advocate the use of drugs in any form. In my early years, while producing jazz artists, I saw many great musical careers destroyed or diminished by drug addiction. 

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Discography

Tom Wilson’s discography is impressive for both its astounding amount yet brevity in terms of years. His first was Herb Pomeroy in 1955. The first of six albums that year. His last year was 1978: Professor Longhair’s Live on the Queen Mary and that was recorded in 1975.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

1978

Record Producer Tom Wilson
Wilson’s grave marker with his parents. His death year on the marker (1975) is incorrect. It is 1978.

In 1978, Wilson and his business partner, producer Larry Fallon, were working with Danny Sims, the manager of singer Johnny Nash. Wilson and Fallon had written an R&B opera called Mind Flyers of Gondwana .

But the opera was not to be, nor was anything else. On September 6, 1978, Wilson died of a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was only 47.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Disillusioned

A 2003 article from the Blog Critics site quoted  Coral Browning, an early 1970s London girlfriend of Wilsons:  “Tom felt let down by blacks. He felt that after the civil rights successes of the ’50s and ’60s, blacks should stop complaining and get on with it. He felt they caused many of their own problems by carrying such large chips on their shoulders.” 

He had been head of the Young Republican Club at Harvard.

Record Producer Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson dot com

The aforementioned Irwin Chusid created a site about Wilson. Its mission statement is:

My original plan was to write a book about Tom Wilson. But I didn’t really want to write such a book—I wanted to read one. But there isn’t one. So I decided to launch a Tom Wilson website—because there wasn’t one.

Ancillary goal: to get Wilson inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame. No-brainer.

It is a great site with lots of information.

Pictures of Wilson with the many many people he worked with.

Also, among the many links is a collection of others’ quotes about Wilson

Here are two:

Bob Dylan: The producers that have meant the most to me are Tom Wilson, John Hammond and Bob Johnston.

Van Dyke Parks: Tom Wilson signed me to MGM in 1965. He was such an ebullient spirit — charismatic, statuesque, and curiously empowering for those in his orbit. That he was Ivy as well as street smart (viz. Cecil Taylor) was a jaw dropper

Record Producer Tom Wilson
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March 31 Music et al

March 31 Music et al

Question: What do  RCA, Chuck Berry, Connie Francis, Jimi Hendrix,  the Beatles, and the Beatle Fan Club have in common? 
Answer: March 31

Technological Milestone

Roots of Rock

45 RPM

March 31, 1949: RCA introduced the 7-inch diameter ’45 RPM as the “New System,.  RCA designed it to be a replacement for the bulky 78-RPM record and touted it to be 1/10th the weight of its 12 inch counterpart. It had a playtime of up to 5.3 minutes per side. It also had improved fidelity in terms of noise levels and frequency response. (Roots, see Dec 10; TM, see January 12, 1950)

March 31 Music et al

Chuck Berry

March 31 Music et al

March 31, 1958,: Chuck Berry released the “Johnny B. Goode”. Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about a poor country boy who plays a guitar “just like ringing a bell,” and who might one day have his “name in lights.” Berry has acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical, and originally had “colored boy” in the lyrics, but he changed it to “country boy” to ensure radio play. The title suggests that the guitar player is good, and hints at autobiographic elements because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue in St. Louis. Chuck has said that he wrote it as a Rock and Roll version of the American dream. (see May 9) (see Johnny B Goode for more)

March 31 Music et al

Billboard #1

Connie Francis

March 31 – April 6, 1962: “Don’t Break the Heart that Loves You” by Connie Francis #1 Billboard Hot 100. 

Written by Benny Davis and Murray Mencher,  Francis recorded the ballad in two-part harmony with a spoken bridge. It is a plea from a heartbroken lover who is trying to understand why her lover is going out of his way to treat her unkindly. The song ends with her begging him not to break her heart.

The song was Francis’s third and final #1 song.

March 31 Music et al

Jimi Hendrix

March 31 Music et al

Burning guitar

March 31, 1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience played at the London Astoria. While waiting to perform, Hendrix and his manager Chas Chandler were discussing ways in which they could increase the band’s media exposure. When Chandler asked journalist Keith Altham for advice, Altham suggested that they needed to do something more dramatic than the stage show of The Who, which involved the smashing of instruments. Hendrix joked: “Maybe I can smash up an elephant”, to which Altham replied: “Well, it’s a pity you can’t set fire to your guitar”.

Chandler then asked road manager Gerry Stickells to find some lighter fluid. During the show, Hendrix gave an especially dynamic performance before setting his Fender Stratocaster on fire at the end of a 45-minute set. In the wake of the stunt, members of London’s press labeled Hendrix the “Black Elvis” and the “Wild Man of Borneo”

According  Setlist dot com that night he played:

  1. Foxy Lady
  2. Can You See Me
  3. Hey Joe
  4. Purple Haze
  5. Fire

Tony Garland, Hendrix’s press agent scooped up the remains of the Strat, took them home and placed them in the garage of his parents southern U.K. home. About 30 years later, Garland’s nephew found the remains of the guitar, did a little research, and the burnt guitar was auctioned off in 2007 for $575,000.(see May 12)

March 31 Music et al

Beatles

George Harrison and Patty Boyd

March 31, 1969:  a drug squad had raided George Harrison and Patty Boyd’s Esher home on March 12. On this date the trial took place at Esher and Walton Magistrates’ Court. They pleaded guilty to possessing the cannabis, which was likely to have been planted in the house by police officers and were each fined £250 plus 10 guineas each in court costs, and were put on probation for a year. (Apr 14)

March 31 Music et al

Paul McCartney v Let It Be album


March 31, 1970: Apple planned to release Paul McCartney’s solo album and the Beatles’ Let It Be two weeks of each other. Since Let It Be was a group project, 

John and George composed a letter saying that they’d decided that it made better business sense to delay Paul’s album and avoid competition.

Dear Paul, We thought a lot about yours and the Beatles LPs – and decided it’s stupid for Apple to put out two big albums within 7 days of each other (also there’s Ringo’s and Hey Jude) – so we sent a letter to EMI telling them to hold your release date til June 4th (there’s a big Apple-Capitol convention in Hawaii then). We thought you’d come round when you realized that the Beatles album was coming out on April 24th. We’re sorry it turned out like this – it’s nothing personal. Love John & George. Hare Krishna. A Mantra a Day Keeps MAYA! Away.

Ringo delivered the letter. Paul blew up at Ringo.

As an attempt at reconciliation, John and George allowed Apple to release the McCartney album in the UK on 17 April 1970, and Let It Be  on 8 May.

The disagreement did additional damage to the already fragmenting relationships between the four. (see Apr 1) (see Beatles Bible site for much more)

March 31 Music et al

Official Beatles Fan Club

March 31 Music et al

March 31, 1972: The Official Beatles Fan Club closed. The Beatles Monthly magazine had ceased three years previously. (see Apr 29)

March 31 Music et al
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March 28 Music et al

March 28 Music et al

Fear of Rock

March 28 Music et al

March 28, 1955: from the NY Times: Memphis, Tennessee. The City Censor Board has banned the movie “Blackboard Jungle,” Chief Censor Llyd Binford said today. (see May 17)

March 28 Music et al

Roots of Rock

March 28, 1958: during the opening night of a tour promoted by DJ Alan Freed, Jerry Lee Lewis involved in a dispute with Chuck Berry over the line-up. Enraged that he had not been chosen to perform last, Lewis torched his piano during his set-closing number, “Great Balls of Fire.” (see Mar 31)

Cinematic recreation of the event.

March 28 Music et al

 New York City Bans Folk Music

March 28, 1961: NYC Park Commissioner, Newbold Morris, notified his staff to limit permits issued for musical performances in Washington Square to bonafide artistic groups. He also asked the police to issue summonses to guitarists, bongo drummers, and folk singers who do not have permits. (Washington Square blog article) (see Apr 9) (see New York City Bans Folk Music for full story)

March 28 Music et al

Pirate Radio

March 28 Music et al

March 28, 1964: with the increasing popularity of the Beatles and other similar bands plus the lack of airplay for them on the British Broadcasting System’s radio stations, Radio Caroline, the first so-called pirate radio station, began to broadcast off the coast of England from a ship. The combination of rock music and lively disk jockey patter played to a huge audience, but well out of reach of British authorities. (see Apr 4) (see Pirate Radio for expanded story)

March 28 Music et al

John Lennon and Nilsson

March 28, 1974: the Troubadour incident (see John Lennon Meets Brandy Alexander) was a wake-up call for Lennon and Nilsson. Lennon soon announced he would produce Nilsson’s next album, ‘Pussy Cats.’ They decided that the LP’s musicians should live together during the sessions. Lennon and Nilsson, along with Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, moved into a Santa Monica beach house.

On March 28, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney unexpectedly joined Lennon, Nilsson and others for a midnight jam. Ringo had left, so McCartney sat in on drums and sang harmony to Lennon’s lead vocals. Lennon also played guitar with Wonder on electric piano. Despite the star-studded lineup, standards like ‘Lucille’ and ‘Stand By Me,’ marred by technical problems, were disappointing.

By evening’s end, Lennon and McCartney agreed to see each other again but it would be the last time the two ex-Beatles would play together in a studio. (Ultimate Classic Rock article) (see Aug 31)

March 28 Music et al
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