Not long after hearing Hal Ross of London Records say, “Hell I’ll release that” after hearing our tape, the postman dropped off a box of “Until You Do”. I was packing up for an out of town gig and because we had to drive right by CKY on our way out of town, we dropped off a few our records for Jimmy Darin and the rest of the KY Good Guys.
As we reached the outskirts of Winnipeg, all of a sudden, Jimmy Darin says, “Ladies and gentleman, a CKY exclusive Until You Do by The Jury.” We almost blew the speakers out in the car we had it turned up so loud as we sang along.
There is no way to describe the feeling you get when you hear your record on the radio for the first time other than to say that it was better than sex. I would venture a guess that even the biggest stars in the world can still tell you what they were doing, and exactly where they were when they first heard theirs.
I used to sit in my room for hours practicing on my guitar and dreaming about this moment. However, I thought that once you were a recording artist; you became a member of an exclusive club and your only problems now, were figuring out what to buy next. Unfortunately, dreams and reality have very little in common.My first hint about how it all really worked, showed up when I was doing a short tour with Ral Donner, Troy Shondel, and Ernie Maresca. I, of course, I wasn’t listening.
We were all sitting around Ral’s hotel room having a beer after having played our last show that night in Regina. Ral was telling us about how excited he was about getting to see Bobby Darin at the Copa when he got home and what I didn’t realize was that Ral knew he wasn’t in Bobby Darin’s league just as Bobby knew he wasn’t in Sinatra’s.
Only after releasing our own records did I come to realize that all recording artists were not created equal and after thinking about it for quite a few years, I may have finally figured out how it all works.
Imagine if you will, a pyramid-like structure that is seven stories high.On the top floor is all the legends, Sinatra, Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, Michael Jackson, Elton John, The Eagles, Neil Young, etc.
One level down is the “Hall of Famers,” Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, Dion, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beach Boys, the Everlys, Chicago, The Moody Blues, and Bobby Darin just to name a few.
Hanging out on level five are The Guess Who, BTO, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vee, Bruno Mars, Ral Donner, Del Shannon, Maroon 5, and a bunch of others who have all scored several top 10 hits.
On level four is where you’ll find the other Winnipeg groups who have released a few records but haven’t gone national yet. The Devrons, The Galaxies, The Jury, The Eternals The Quid, The Shondells, Sugar & Spice, The 5th, Brother, and many many others.
Level three contains the hopefuls; you know, the acts who deserve to be signed but for whatever reason, aren’t.
Level two is the place where the folks who have just learned to play Louie Louie or whatever the entry-level tune is today that gets you thinking about starting a band.
On the very first level, you have all your dreamers. These are the kids who are thinking about buying a guitar so they could become a rock & roll star as I did when I saw Elvis on TV.
The reality of the situation is that you better be doing music for the love of it because the money doesn’t start to show up until at least the fifth level.After releasing “Until You Do,” we knew that it would be a while before the checks would start showing up, but surely Dick Clark would be calling to ask us to appear on American Bandstand soon? While waiting for big things to happen we went back into the studio and cut iur second release, “I Tried To Tell Her,” hoping that it would move us a little closer to stardom.
Unfortunately, the only thing rising faster than our records on the charts were our expenses, and oh yeah, where the f**k was the call from Dick Clark? When, “I Tried To Tell Her” slipped off the charts, back into the studio we went and recorded “Back In My World,” but nothing changed so we decided to give it one last big push. Not only did we book Kay-Bank studios in Minneapolis, but we also changed record companies hoping a smaller label might have more time to promote us.
Out of the Kay-Bank session came “Please Forget Her” which went on to become the #1 Canadian record in Canada backed with, “Who Dat?” which ended up becoming a cult favorite and was recently listed in a publication as being 50 years ahead of its time. When I saw it listed on E-Bay for $125.00 recently, I wondered what the hell I did with the box of them I used to have? Would you like the Canadian or American version sir? (click on the link at the bottom of the page to hear it)
I knew that my band days were numbered when the butterflies stopped showing up before every performance but I still got very excited when we got to open for legends like Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. (shown above).
While watching the Ken Burns Country Music documentary last week on PBS, I was very interested in a segment they did about the Carter Family. It reminded me of a couple of things, the movie “I Walk The Line” which portrayed June Carter as a rather saintly person, and after opening for Johnny Cash one night, standing backstage with the Statler Brothers. We were watching Mother Maybelle and the Carter Family and the Statlers were bitching and moaning about how June had appointed herself as the leader of the band after recently moving into Johnny’s suite. I guess they didn’t appreciate a backup singer telling them how they should sing and frequently used the “C” word to not so affectionately describe her.
Artists see things that we don’t see until they paint us a picture.
So you’re saying that a man named Barach Hussein Obama is not a Muslim, but folks with Muslim names like Kareem Abdul Jabar and Mohamad Ali are?
Your wins and successes may blur together, but your defeats and failures will always remain crystal clear.
How come getting the job done is no longer the #1 job?
Why is it that least funny person off-air, is the one who always tells jokes on-air?
Those who recognize beauty are beautiful.
One can only aim too low.
The Netflix documetory about Clive Davis, “The Soundtrack Of Our Lives,” is excellent.
Paul Cavenaugh: George, I can’t even begin to correct you on so many levels this week. Especially the part about Trump being a great “President.” History will prove that statement incorrect in the future. Corruption has become so rampant, America is now on a par with the 3rd world. Ken LeMann, in my opinion, was one of the best radio talents ever on the air. He is so right about what radio has become. The ‘bottom rung’ of the show-biz ladder! It’s the same corrupt government that allowed that to happen too. (Consolidation)
Geo: I only said that Trump might turn out to be a great president to see if you were awake, Paul. 🙂 Only time will tell. Kind of like Slick Willy was a great president but a terrible human being. George Bush Senior talked a good game about making his time in the White House kinder and gentler and then immediately started the war that we’re still fighting. However, it will be history, not our opinions, that will straighten that all out.
Russ Dodge: Joe Pyne was one of the original shock radio personalities. I remember him telling callers to go gargle with razor blades. When he was on TV, there was a teenage band on the show called The Bantams. He would regularly insult them, and they generally ignored the insults or didn’t realize that they were being insulted.
Sharon Henwood: CFTR was the most fun I ever had while getting paid! I went on to a pretty satisfying career with lots of opportunity and growth – heck the Olympics was a world stage – but none of that work held a candle to TR for the great gang of characters and talent you assembled in T.O. I remember being excited that we could think of something, like a crazy spot or promo and have it on the air less than an hour later. No committees, no approval chain, no other opinions; that’s a luxury in most places. So many fun stories from a few months at TR, I can imagine how many you must have from your whole career in radio. Thanks for telling them. (Don’t Choke The Chicken, Shoot It.)
Geo: Those days at TR were magical, Sharon, and I still have all the memories.
Steve Eberhart: Ask any government employee, and they can usually tell you the exact date of their retirement. (You Win God)
Geo: Yep, talk about wishing your life away, Steve. Well, at least they’ll have what seems like a long one, their clock moves real slow.