Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sharing Your Comments: Al Kooper and Rick Nelson

You're coming back in a big way! Al Kooper and the late great Rick Nelson. 
Oh boy, oh boy , oh boy, I can't wait for part 2!
Mike De Martino   

Great post, and like you, I WAS and AM a HUGE Rick(y) Nelson Fan. And Ozzie was an absolute GENIUS! Did he know how to promote his kid or what? AND as you know, "Travelin' Man is considered the FIRST music video EVER, opening the door for everyone else to follow suit and the creation of MTV!
I just regret and could kick myself in the ass because I not only had chances to see Rick Live in Concert AND Roy Orbison Live, (strangely just months before their deaths). However, I had the mindset that I'd see them ... the NEXT time they came to town ... and that NEXT TIME never materialized!
That's why I especially urge your readers to see each and EVERY Oldies Show and Group they've ever followed or loved because they all could to be gone in the blink of an eye. I hate to say this, but Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon, et al, could be GONE tomorrow. Geez, anybody ... you and me included!
Heads Up FH Readers!
Again, so glad you're back my friend!
"Wild" Bill Cody
Thanks, Bill, it's good to BE back ... especially when I get to write about the stuff I love!  I was fortunate enough to have seen Rick Nelson half a dozen times (including once on New Year's Eve, errilly enough ... a few years before he died on that date in 1985.) Rick's career was filled with ups and downs once The British Invasion hit ... but there was never any doubt as to how much the music meant to him. (He may have made his first record to show his then-girlfriend that he could sing on the radio just like Elvis Presley ... but he kept it up and at times gave The King a real run for his money on the pop charts!)
But a good example can be made of yet another "teen idol" with the recent (and completely unexpected) passing of Davy Jones ... nobody ever saw that one coming. Bill's right ... and we've made this point several times over the years ... see these artists when you can ... tomorrow is promised to no one. (kk)

Rick was on Decca; my father worked with him; classy guy!
Saw a bunch of his shows ... just outstanding. A real Garden Party!
David Salidor
As I mentioned above, I was fortunate enough to see Rick in concert half a dozen times over the later years of his career ... everywhere from what wasn't much more than a pizza parlor / banquet hall to the (then) pretty darn ritzy Park West Theater in Chicago (on New Year's Eve no less!) It was always a very satisfying show. We lost one of the good ones when Rick's plane went down in 1985. I was interviewed on a local news program the day after (filmed at Rolling Stone Records!) and could barely convey my feelings ... it was just such a shock. Hopefully new fans will continue to discover his music ... which was our goal in featuring the unofficially released "Back To Vienna" LP this past week. (kk)

I am really enjoying this read. One of my first 45's (my Uncle gave me four for Christmas when I was seven) was Ricky with two songs per side. I watched his TV show and wished I was older.
Imperial released quite a few Rick Nelson EP's (mini-albums with four tracks and a hard cardboard cover picture sleeve) in the late '50's ... and I'm pretty sure I've got all of them. (Would have been nice if they had switched the covers up some!!! They all look exactly the same! lol) The rarest in the bunch seems to be his Gospel EP (probably trying to cash in on Elvis' success!) Rick's years with Epic have often been dismissed ... but I think you've seen that he recorded some GREAT tracks while he was there! (kk)

It's great to hear from you, especially another Rick Nelson fan. I can't thank you enough for reading my stories on Rick Nelson and other classic pop culture icons. I will definitely be writing more on Rick Nelson this year. I recently spoke with his longtime producer / arranger Jimmie Haskell.
I'll post the Al Kooper interview on my Facebook when it goes live and recommend it to everyone. Can you believe it, I don't have Rick's Epic recordings, so I've got a bit of catching up to do.
I think I first learned about Rick when I listened to his songs on oldies radio as a child. Probably around the same time I saw him with John Wayne in the amazing Rio Bravo [I wish Rick had committed himself to more films, especially after his singles quit charting significantly].
Jeremy Roberts
Jeremy has published some EXCELLENT Rick Nelson articles in the past year or two ... we've run several links to these in the past ... and I can't wait to see his latest piece. For subscription information (to all of his Pop Culture musings), click here:
I'm loving Al's stories about working with Rick. I was at a dance last Saturday night and a friend who happens to be a serious Rick Nelson fan came up to me and started talking about Rick and James Burton and the record company situation. I feel like I'm reliving that conversation this week with Al doing the narration. A great series marking the return of Forgotten Hits. Thanks, Kent!
David Lewis
This was a very special series for me to do ... being both a HUGE fan of Rick Nelson and having Al Kooper cooperate and share some of his one-on-one memories with our readers. We did most of our talking in May and June ... and then the computer crashed and I feared I had lost everything. Fortunately, I was able to reconstruct the interview from old emails and our taped phone conversations. I knew that whenever I was able to come back, THIS was the one I wanted to kick things off again ... hopefully another one of our landmark series that you've come to expect from Forgotten Hits. From the sounds of things, we've hit our mark. (kk)

Good interview with Al Kooper.
I am wondering how Rick got out of his 20 year contract with Decca to record for Epic?? I have the Nelson Epic 45 you played and thought it was a well done 70's cover as you mentioned. Rick's voice was always smooth as silk. I remember watching his taped TV show with Fats Domino locally the night before his death! It was eery to think of seeing him performing for the first time in ages and then he dies the next night! The plane crash details were a bit sketchy as was Buddy Holly's coming 20 years earlier were, I thought.
Sounds like Al had a great plan with James Burton. Am wondering is Elvis was alive when his plan was hatched and if James was playing with him at that time? John Beland was a Chicago boy who I think I sent you his 1968 unreleased Dylan-like demo of "Wake Up Sweet Mary" years ago. He is a talent who goes unrecognized by many to this day.
As for the Dylan influences, I loved "She Belongs To Me" by Rick, but "Easy To Be Free" could likely be my favorite Nelson song of all time.
Loved the talk of the late great Andrew Gold. He truly was a master popster in the late 70's, "All This and Heaven, Too" is one of my VERY fave LPs.
I hope the LP sells this time around! I look forward to the rest of the interview!
Clark Besch
From what I understand, the decision to leave MCA / Decca was mutual ... Rick wasn't selling any records for them and they really didn't know what else to do with him. Nelson kind of switched gears once he got to Epic, taking more of a MOR / Adult Contemporary style vs. the country stuff he had been recording for MCA.
Rick's version of "She Belongs To Me" is one of my favorites ... and further proof of just how big of a Bob Dylan fan he was.  I've featured that one a couple of times now and it served as sort of a "mini-comeback" for Rick when it was released in 1970 (#30). "Easy To Be Free", his follow-up release snuck into The Top 50 at #48 ... but then he had to wait two and a half years again before scoring another hit. It was a monster 'though ... "Garden Party" was Rick's first Top Five Hit in ten years!
I like all of his Epic stuff ... and my hope, too, is that helping to get the word out there may help to sell a few more albums. It's a strong set and deserves to be heard. (kk)

Rick Nelson and his Stone Canyon Band did a follow-up to "Garden Party" shortly after MCA swallowed up the Decca label, called "Palace Guard". Lengthy -- but gorgeous. Faves are "Poor Little Fool," "Waitin' In School" and a tie between "Teenage Idol" and "Travelin' Man" -- but I love most of his 1957 - 1963 output. And not only did I enjoy The Lettermen's opening theme for "Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?" but a friend of mine posted (on Facebook) scenes from "The Sweet Ride" (1968, Michael Sarrazin and Jacqueline Bisset) with Dusty Springfield's obscure but fantastic theme single. Best (& glad you're back, up and running!)
-- Bobster

>>>Al has previously praised Forgotten Hits as being a reliable source of accurate information ... as we've learned, SO many websites and publications report .. and then repeat ... SO much inaccurate falsehoods that they are soon accepted as "fact" when, in many instances, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one of the kindest things ANYBODY has ever said to me regarding Forgotten Hits came from Al Kooper when, several years ago, he emailed me and said: "Thank you for spreading the truth." It is EXACTLY what we have always strived to do ... and to receive that kind of compliment from a guy who's been around and seen it all literally meant the world to me ... no higher compliment could possibly be paid. (kk)
Hi Kent,
Glad to see you getting it back together like the Phoenix rising from the ashes!
Are you trying to say that some sights spread rumors without checking the validity of the information?
Next thing you know you'll be telling people Don MacLean's 'American Pie' isn't named after the plane he crashed in !!!
Sweet Dreams,
Charlie Fraser

Al was on Spectropop a lot in early 2000's. I sent in this attached WCFL jingle which steals from Al's "I Can't Quit Her". If I remember correctly, Al did not know about it or authorize it. It was a Chuck Blore production for 'CFL, I think, from 68 / 69 era. Great 'CFL Jim Stagg jingle.

I also sent this message (below) to him and commented below about an early Columbia 45 he produced (according to the 45 label itself), but he claimed he did not. I found that odd, but have seen where he had a credit and also said he did not do it either, so maybe sometimes, the labels get credits wrong?

For Al Kooper: Do you know why the B side of "This Diamond Ring" was replaced? Originally, it was "Hard to Find" written by Leroy Vinnegar, but was quickly replaced by "Tijuana Wedding", thus making "Hard to Find" ... hard to find! Seeing that the second B side was written by Gary Lewis (hmm??) and arranger Leon Russell, could it be because Jerry Lewis or someone smarter about the money situation, said, "Hey, we can get writing royalties if we replace the B side on our hit with one we wrote"?? Also, it must have been a little disappointing that both versions of the "Ring" 45 have Kooper listed as "Kooder". Then, when the cool little pic sleeve 45 of Gary's "Doin the Flake" became available, "This Diamond Ring" was on the B side. This time they got "Kooper" right, but it was listed as "I. Kooper - B. Brass - I. Levine". Apparently, spelling was not a big thing at Liberty, as the original "Ring" 45 had "Bras" as co-writer, also.
Another 45 I found in my collection: Children - Robert John (Columbia 44639) Produced by Al Kooper! I like the cool phasing (?) at end.

I seem to remember Al addressing the misspelling of his name in his book ... and, as you said, his name wasn't the ONLY name misspelled on the label. "This Diamond Ring" was written by the songwriting team of Al Kooper, Irwin Levine and Bob Brass ... but that's not what the record label said. 

Here's what Al told me about that:
Yeah - they had the billing as Kooder - Levine - Bras ... so only Irwin had his name spelled correctly ... I went to a store and had a business sign made and we put it on our writing room door:
"Kooder Levine Bras" with a drawing of a brassiere - best money I ever spent.
-- Al Kooper
Here's a picture of Al Kooper with Gary Lewis, the guy who took his song all the way to #1, circa 2007 ... Al HATED the Gary Lewis and the Playboys' version! (And I think he still does!) kk

Passing your series on to my group of Al Kooper fanatics -- we've all seen him more times and in more venues than any of us can recall at this point. The best was when he reunited both the Blues Project and the original BS&T at the Bottom Line years ago -- we all liked the first show so much, we stayed for the second. SUPERB! Posting a link on my Facebook page, too, as many of my Facebook friends are also big Al Kooper fans.

>>>Do you know who Little Beaver is? (Al Kooper)
>>>Little Beaver is Willie Hale, a virtuoso guitarist who has played on any number of hit records over the years, primarily for TK Records but, as Al mentioned, most notably on Betty Wright's hit single "Clean Up Woman".  You can hear the Al Kooper version of "This Diamond Ring".  (kk)
So far I'm really enjoying this. The part about Little Beaver caught my eye as Jaco Pastorius played on the Little Beaver track "I Can Dig It Baby" in 1974.
Ed Parker

In your interview with Al Kooper, Al mentions that Andrew Gold produced Linda Ronstadt's album ... but wasn't it really Peter Asher at the helm for this one?
In our never-ending quest to present "the most accurate truth", you are correct, sir. Asher was the producer of "Heart Like A Wheel", the album that begat Linda's #1 Remake of "You're No Good", the old Betty Everett song. Andrew Gold, however, arranged and played all of the guitars on this track ... and it was an AMAZING piece of work. I'll never forget the first time I heard it. I described it earlier as "Beatlesque" ... but you just knew the moment you heard it that this record was going to be a hit. Gold would go on to have a couple of hits of his own a few years later, most notably "Lonely Boy" (#3, 1977 ... on which Ronstadt paid back the favor by singing background vocals!) and "Thank You For Being A Friend" (11, 1978). Sadly, he, too, left us a short time ago. (kk)

The Al Kooper interview has been lots of fun. I read his book several years ago and consider it one of the best of its type.
Kent, you are a true journalist - always going to the real sources for the truth you publish. Thank you!
Thanks, David.  Al's book ("Backstage Passes And Backstabbing Bastards") is real fun and informative read ... HIGHLY reccommended.  (kk)

I just wanted to say that the Al Kooper interview is great.
Two things that I wonder though ...
First, I went to that first site that had some of the albums that he did around Christmastime back in the day ... but I didn't see anything there. Did I miss it?
Secondly, since I am totally blind, I was wondering if there were any plans to put his book in audio format?
He's right. It's way better that he lost his site, than to have lost his hearing or the use of his hands. OK that's my opinion.
I was born Blind and think that going blind later on would be indeed be much harder.
Al Kooper narrating his book would be a real hoot ... he's a very charismatic speaker and so much personality comes across when you talk with him ... I imagine an audio version of his book would be quite entertaining. (Plus he could probably spice it up with some musical snippets and interludes, too.) What do YOU think about that idea, Al? (kk)

Hi Kent,
Just a bit about your great Al Kooper interview.
I agree with Al and his annoyance at 1650 Broadway being mixed up with the Brill Building. However, I come to my annoyance from a different angle.
I am a Brill Building baby. That's where I went when I decided to to elbow my way into the music business in 1957 - because that's where the publishers were.
My complaint - like Al's - is that so many record compilations and one TV special about the great Donny Kirshner writers have been mis-named "Brill Building Writers" (or something like that.)
I wrote my early hits; the Kalin Twins' "When", Bobby Vinton's, "Roses Are Red (My Love)", a couple of my Elvis recordings and various and sundry doo-wop songs in the Brill Building.
You really can't dismiss the fact that the Brill building has a long and significant music history, and I'm proud to have been a part of that history. Really.
Thanks for giving me the platform to vent. :-)
Paul Evans

Absolutely great interview with living legend Al Kooper. Spectropop was the first online 6Ts et al discussion group I joined and you can imagine how exciting it was to have Al Kooper and dozens of others who've been there and made names for themselves chiming in with us fans!!! Who would have thunk that "This Diamond Ring" began as a soul song!! I checked it out -- nice. I still love Gary's version -- after all, I was raised on it!!!!

WONDERFUL Al Kooper interview! Congratulations on the exclusive. I've enjoyed every part.
On Tuesday, you had: "(For years, there was talk about John Fogerty producing a Rick Nelson album ... and that one made sense ... Creedence even covered a couple of Rick Nelson tunes over the years ... )"
Not to forget that it worked the other way as well: In 1981, Rick covered John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night" on his "Playing to Win" album.
Henry McNulty
Thanks Henry! You're right ... in fact, Rick cut "Almost Saturday Night" a couple of times ... for both Epic and Capitol ... another great track that never got a chance. We'll feature the Capitol single version today. Great suggestion. (kk)


Tomorrow in Forgotten Hits ...  
This past week has been filled with
with the announcement that Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork ... AND Michael Nesmith ... will be reuniting for a series of twelve live concert appearances later this year.
We'll tell you more about it ...
And why we've got mixed emotions about the whole thing ...
Tomorrow in Forgotten Hits.
Hope you'll join us!