Producer, Sales & Promotion
lets start with a little background on yourself?
Ok. I come from a little town called Georgiana, AL. Thatís the same place Hank Williams was from. I had been playing locally with bands and what not. Then I hooked on with a band called Cousin Wilber and his Tennessee Mountaineers about 1946. They came through there and played a theater. I jumped straight from No-Wheresville to Nashville, TN.
I worked for him about 6 months and quite frankly, I had been making more money where I was than I could make with him, so I quit and went back to where I was.
Back to No-Wheresville?
Yeah, back to playing in local bands. The war years were still hanging over and people were going out and what not. But about six months later it was down to nothing.
You mean the people quit coming out?
Yeah, it sorta dried up. They just didnít have the money to spend. We went through about 2 or 3 years like that. It was tough stuff. I remember going out several times and only making 2 or 3 dollars a night.
It must have been pretty bad back then.
I used to run into Shot Jackson a lot and weíd sit and talk about those "Hamburger Days". Man, there were a lot of them. But Iím getting off track.
In later years I worked with the Georgia Peach Pickers. I was with them probably longer than I was with anybody. Curley, the head of the band, had tuberculosis and he had a nightclub there in Montgomery, AL. I carried a band in there and played while Curley was in the hospital so he could keep the place open.
About that time was I got interested in songwriting and Slim Williamson was the first one to give me a real chance with my songs. A guy named Bill Goodwin introduced us. Bill came by to visit me and asked me to get in contact with Slim. I went on up there primarily to be a songwriter and ended up doing everything else too! Thatís one thing I can say though. I was able to do everything there is to do in the music business. Thereís not many places where you can go and do that.
How do you get started with Chart Records?
Well, actually Slim had started the company and had a hit record with Jim Nesbitt before I ever moved to Nashville and I still moved my family up there before he did. I used to go in at work at night for him because he couldnít afford to pay me. (laughs)
I worked a day job, and then at night I worked for him until he could afford to pay me, then I started working full time for Slim. Thatís basically what happened.
What time frame was that?
I moved up there in the summer of 1965. Slim and his family and Ott Stephens were still in Louisville, GA, but Slim had rented an office in the RCA Building (806 17th Ave So.) then moved over to the Hubert Long Building (806 16th Ave So.)
How long was Chart in the RCA Building?
I donít remember. There was a boy & girl who made records for him, I think they were brother & sister the best I recall. I canít remember their names. They had kept that office over there (RCA Building) open part of the time. There was nothing ever really official about the office until Slim and his family moved there! They (the brother & sister) gave it some time, but they had to finally quit and go make some money. Then for a while Slim would come up about once a week and I would go in some at night and that was about it!
What did you do there at night?
I listened to tapes, typed stuff up, this that and the other. You know.
Basically you were doing the administrative chores?
Yes, thatís right. Mostly for the publishing company. That was taking more time than anything else. Neither Slim nor I were good typists. Back in the early days over at the RCA Building there was just he and I. We would go in at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning just to try and get our typing done before 9:30 in the morning when the traffic started coming though! We were both one finger typists!
I have a couple of Jerry Laneís contracts here that, I guess, one of you two typed up. One was from 1965 when Jerry was first signed to Yonah Music, Inc.
I havenít seen that rascal in a long time. I used to go down to the River Festival in San Antonio every once in a while where I would run into him. Usually if I missed everybody else, Iíd see him and Darryl Royal. He was a coach for Texas. Theyíd be there just about every year.
When you started working for Chart full time, what was your job title?
I donít think I had a title. I was supposed to be working primarily with the publishing company. Handling the paperwork, pitching songs, and what-not. But pretty soon it spread into a little of everything.
I know you also produced a lot of the sessions.
We all had our hands full then. It was all we could do just to keep up with it. Quite frankly, when we went with RCA, they wanted too much of a release schedule out of us. I think we would have been better off promoting half the amount of artists, but that wasnít my decision to make.
So they were kinda hounding you all to put out more records?
I donít know whether Slim wanted to have that many or if they (RCA) did. It wasnít any of my business so I didnít ask anybody!
Another thing that got us started off on the wrong foot was right after we got started, Steve Shoals, who had been the head of RCAís Country Division, was supposed to be our contact with RCA. New York had shuffled him off into a nothing job - and you donít do a man with that kind of intelligence and talent that way. At any rate, he had a heart attack and died on his way to Nashville, coming in from the airport.
I remember Cliff telling me that.
Obviously it put us in a bad position. We never quite got it all straightened out. Not that people werenít nice to us, but we were kind of like second hand citizens.
Thatís the idea I got from Lloyd Green and Slim. Slim said he never got the respect and recognition he felt he should have gotten.
In a way you canít blame their people. I mean, like their Regional man in Atlanta. He would walk in there to WPLO or whatever station and say " I brought you a new Eddie Arnold and a so & so" and then say "Oh by the way, hereís a new Lynn Anderson on Chart". That was the attitude. I really donít think they tried to do anything against us, they just didnít wind up doing anything for us.
From what I gather, they just wanted Lynn Anderson.
They wanted Lynn Anderson from about her 2nd or 3rd record. She had one single, then a duet with Jerry, and then "Ride, Ride, Ride" which was covered by a half dozen other people. We didnít sell a lot of records on it, but we established her as an airplay artist with that one. Then we came up with "If I Kiss You Will You Go Away". We got to number 3 in the country with that one. This was all before we ever did the RCA deal. At the same time we had the Junior Samples thing going and a pretty good Jim Nesbitt thing going, so people started paying a little attention to us. But thatís what they (RCA) wanted, just to milk it for all it was worth.
Why did you start producing records?
A friend of mine from a radio station in Montgomery came up from Alabama and I produced the session on him. Lloyd Green and some of the other session men were impressed that I had arranged the music and did everything. They didnít have to do anything except follow direction. It made everything go a lot quicker. Lloyd suggested to Slim that I should start doing some other producing. So I started producing, mostly independent stuff. At that time Slim was the producer for most of the Chart records, but there was more than one man could do in the studio, too. Later on we handed off some of the artists to Cliff.
Yeah, Cliff had done quite a bit in that area.
He sure did.
What did you think of the sound Cliff was getting from his artists at that time?
I think the boy was very smart! I felt his wife at the time, Connie Eaton, was doing stuff that was maybe 5 years ahead of her time. She was a little "pop" for the country music market back then. 5 years later what she was doing happened in a big way.
It sure did. Groups like The Eagles, Poco, even the Byrds was going after that sound.
Yep, we were there in the beginning with it, just a little early is all. I was under a lot of pressure to make her a star right then! I tried everything I knew. I had her on TV with the Arthur Godfrey Show; I got her on a soap opera, and a couple other shows. She got more attention than anyone we had, but I couldnít make it happen for her.
For distribution after RCA, Slim says that Audio Fidelity wanted to do their own distribution, but you say this was when you guys set up sales & promotion and were really busy. What went on at this point?
I donít recall the exact dates when Audio Fidelity took over Chart, but yeah, it was a busy time. I donít have any idea what heís talking about for the distribution because from the time Audio Fidelity took it over me, my son, and Cliff did just about everything. My son was doing all the mailing, with a little help sometimes. I was doing sales & promotion and I had to let the girl up front take some of the orders. Cliff had to make some of the promotion calls because we were so busy one man couldnít do it! I was working 10 or 11 hours a day already and one man just physically couldnít do all the work.
I had to go to New York about once a month and report to them what I was doing. They kept trying to tell me how to do my job, but I went my own way and went about my job because we were more financially successful at that time than they were! If the teams winning, you donít tell the team how to do it!
Thatís very true! Stick with whatís working.
Slim said you were the promotion man for the label?
Thatís right. There was a couple two or three years there I was head of sales and promotion. We didnít have separate departments. We couldnít afford to have them! After the label got pretty sizable, Cliff Williamson came in and started doing some of the promotion. I still had to handle sales, though. Well, I didnít have to, but I felt like I should.
Were you also in charge of the two sub labels, Great Records Co. & Musictown?
What was your capacity in respect to those two labels? I know you were an artist on Musictown, you were a songwriter, producer . . .
Yeah. I moved up there to be a songwriter. I didnít have any intention of being anything else. Then, you know, things just evolved. The couple of records I made were, frankly, paid for by someone else. I donít remember who. I was doing it just to record some of their songs.
Iíve talked to quite a few of the Chart artists and personnel lately. Slim & Cliff, of course, Kenny Vernon, Jerry Lane, Jim Nesbitt, to name a few.
Kenny Vernon! Where in the world did you find him? In Albuquerque?
Yep, heís there and Jerry is in Irving, Tx.
What about LaWanda?
I havenít gotten to speak with her yet, though Iím hoping to. Sheís in Albuquerque, also.
You know she married Billy Smith. Billyís Daddy owned that nightclub down there where Kenny & LaWanda used to appear sometime. He owned it and another one. Theyíve made a pretty good bit of money over the years. Thereís no telling what circles they run in now.
I donít know what sheís doing now. Iíve seen a couple of photos on the internet where she was at a show or something, but I donít know if she was performing.
Do you know anything about the sale of Chart Records to Bill Worden?
I wasnít in on that deal. I know nothing at all about it. I left there at the end of í70 or í71. It must have been í70. Right after that was when Slim sold it to Bill Walker and Cliff. That was the only sale I knew about.
I see. I wasnít aware Cliff & Bill Walker had actually owned it, I was under the impression that Cliff was sort of the General Manager or President of the company for about a year or so.
Slim had bought it back from Audio Fidelity, turned right around and sold it to Bill Walker & Cliff. They werenít having a lot of luck with it so Slim took it back over and sold it again to this Bill Worden, as I understand it. I had lost track of what was going on over there by then. I didnít really know any of the details about any of that.
Yeah, the details surrounding the sale to Bill Worden is kinda fuzzy. Slim just remembers his name and thatís about all. He was ready to get out of the business about that time, I think. I just wondered what all went on with the label while Bill Worden owned it. I canít find any information on him or what happened to the label since.
Now this isnít gospel, but I heard the family was from Louisville, Ky. Something happened, maybe he died or something or there was a death in the family. I donít know what happened after that. No one else seems to know very well either.
Yes, it is quite a mystery to me.
There was some crook there in Nashville ended up with our old logo. He had the logo from out in the front hall and was representing himself as Chart Records.
Would that have been Tom Anthony?
Well, that was the name he was going under at that time. I donít know what his real name was.
Well, that explains a little. Slim said he wasnít aware of anyone named Tom Anthony buying the label from him with Bill Worden, but Lloyd Green said that a Tom Anthony had control of the label at one point.
I donít know how he ever got a hold of that old plaque! Itís beyond me how he came by it. It was a mystery to me, but it didnít concern me enough to go out and do any detective work on it.
On the promotion side of the house, how did you get interest stirred up in the artists?
On thing you have to understand is things were a lot different back then
Well, I donít even know how things work today!
We went into a distribution deal with RCA was the first thing. They werenít really "cooking" it. They only wanted to sell our Lynn Anderson records and only paid lip service to the others. Obviously, we were going to wind up owing her more money than the company was taking in. So they wound up selling it to Audio Fidelity in New York. Thatís when I really took over as Sales & Promotion.
How did you do it?
We just got out there and started working! One big difference in what we were doing and what other people were doing was, we were working smaller stations as well as larger ones. If I was on my way to see a distributor or something and if a station was sitting out there in the middle of a cornfield, Iíd go to it! Iíd be the only person from Nashville they had ever seen! We got a lot of support from places that way, sometimes over and above the bigger labels, because we treated them like human beings. Eventually, we got to where we were being accepted at some of the larger stations. And that was through a constant calling campaign. Weíd call them up every week and ask them if theyíre playing our records! Next thing you knew, some of them were. We got to be more than a "one artist" label that way!
Well, thatís an interesting way to go about it. But I guess that was the norm back then.
Then we lucked into the Junior Samples phenomena. Did anyone tell you how we invented his first record?
Well I know the basic story about the car race and all that and being announced on the radio an all.
Yeah. It was a public service program here in Georgia. Bill Powell from WMAZ in Macon sent it up to Nashville to us. Lynn Anderson & I listened to that tape and copied it down, word for word, from beginning to end. Lynn typed that thing up and we began crossing out lines and she & I edited the thing. Then we took it over next door to CBS and had the tape edited. We ended up with a 5 minute record out of a 20 minute program.
I wonder if that entire tape is still floating around anywhere?
Iím sure there is, but I donít know at this point in time. There were several people who had copies of it back then. It wasnít funny all the way through. Thatís why we edited it!
Yeah, I could imagine it not being funny all the way through.
Then Jim Nesbitt had a few hits for us over the years.
Yep. Quite a few, actually.
Oh yeah! We had what would have been his biggest record in í68. One of those songs where he was talking about the presidential candidates. Bobby Kennedy went and got himself shot and messed us up!
Yep I remember all that mess.
We had sold about 20,000 copies that first week!
This was "Clean The Slate in Ď68".
Yep. It took off like no record of his had done before. It was going to be gangbusters! Like I said, Bobby went and got himself killed and fouled us up but good!
Man, oh Man! I wonder what wouldíve happened if those circumstances hadnít occurred. Another song that Jim mentioned to me was "Truck Driviní Cat With Nine Wives". He said that Charlie Walker covered it and "plum killed his version". Then to top it off, Charlieís didnít go anywhere either!
What year did you first start working with Chart Records?
I moved my family to Nashville in July 1965, Slim moved his down in the autumn of that year. It was another year or year and a half before I started working as a salaried employ, though.
Were you associated with the label while it was based here in Georgia?
Well, Slim always had an office in Nashville. Even though he & Ott Stephens were still in Georgia, Slim had an office in Nashville. The company was located in Nashville.
So in 1965 he moved his family and the whole works down to Nashville.
Right. We moved into the RCA Building.
Now as far as Great Records Co. & Musictown went, what was their purpose? Why not just put them all on Chart?
He had bought Great & Chart at the same time from Gary Walker.
Oh! I see. I didnít know that.
He had been putting some people on Chart and some on Great and I donít know what his idea was. After we got the RCA deal for Chart, we decided I would take a whirl with Great Records and see if we could get another thing going. We were about to do it, too! I was outdoing them on a few things! It was creating a lot of confusion, really. The distributors were afraid I would get to going with another label over there and then take it away from them, so I was having a hard time selling records. Thatís one reason we came up with the Musictown deal. Maybe the distributors wouldnít associate it, you know, with Chart.
Were these "singles" only labels? I mean, were any albums released by either of these labels?
No, I donít remember any albums being released.
I read an article in Record World (5/18/68), that the Skelton Bros. single on Great had done so well that an LP was in the works. I just wondered if it had come out.
I donít think they ever put it together. I know them boys pretty good. They had a record shop up in Kingsport, TN.
I wonder if they are still around anywhere?
I have no idea . . . (note: yep! Theyíre still around!)
You said you were with Chart until 1970. Why did you leave?
AhÖ. two things. A guy came along and made an offer that sounded real good to me. I could go into business for my self. Also, at that point it was obvious that Lynn Anderson was going to leave us for CBS because she had married Glenn Sutton. They didnít give him much choice. Bring her "over here" or else, you know! There were a couple other little things too. My wife had a nervous breakdown the year before. Her doctor suggested to me that I put her to work with me so I could watch her all the time. So thatís what I did. I put her to work and was around her day and night. It made a world of difference.
It helped her out?
Oh yes! It helped her greatly!
She was a songwriter also, right?
Oh yes. She was a writer.
Did she make any records or sing?
No. What she did do though was . . .it was funny. When she went to work for me and I was out sick one time for 2 or 3 weeks. So she had to take over the promotion and stuff. She became, well not the first, but about the second female promoter in the business. She was so much better than I was, it wasnít even funny! Everybody called her "Momma Hype".
"Momma Hype"! Thatís pretty good!
What was the general atmosphere like back in those days?
Oh! It was a lot of fun! Right across the hall from us was the SESAC offices, The Willis Bros were doing jingles and had a small officeÖ.we were like one big happy, scrappy family! You donít find that in the music business anymore.
The whole business is different now. We did something back then that hadnít been done before. We took a bunch of kids and started raising our own.
What do you mean, "raising your own"?
LaWanda Lindsey was 14, Connie Eaton was 15, Anthony Armstrong Jones was 16, and Lynn was 18. Just imagine taking a stable like that, man!
What about Dianne Leigh?
Dianne was a Canadian artist. She recorded for RCA up there. Carl Smith had a TV show on up there in Canada and she was on that show. She was the number one country artist up there. That was before they invented Anne Murray. Anne kinda knocked us out of the saddle! A funny thing about that, if you want to hear it.
When they (Capitol) released the record, they released it with the other song, I donít remember the title now, ("Just Bidiní My Time") as a "AA". (same song on both sides) to all the radio stations. One or two stations got hold of the commercial copy and started playing "Snowbird". So they released it again with the other song as the A side and couldnít beat it to death with a stick! The B side, "Snowbird" was the hit! They eventually had to re-service the whole country with a copy with "Snowbird" as the A side!
Man, thatís some good stuff!
Capitol had 3 or 4 instances back during that time like that, but they never would admit that they were wrong!
What about Trina Love? She recorded some duets with Ott Stephens and had some singles on her own, too.
She was from up around Indianapolis. Last I knew of her, she came down to see me; some years after they had done anything. They were talking about doing something, then she dropped out of sight and I never heard anymore from her. Period!
She had released a few singles. I wonder why an album was never done on her?
Well, the stuff she and Ott did sold fairly well, but not well enough to support an album. It was selling well enough so that you didnít want to quit. You say, "Well, maybe the next one will be it", you know, but then never get quite to where you wanted it to.
Anthony Armstrong Jones?
He was Conway Twittyís protťgť. The first record he did with us, Conway & I did it over in the RCA Studios, I believe. We were doing pretty well with him. He was getting up around 20 or 30 in the national charts. Of course he eventually left, too. He went over to Epic Records. He had some back problems and became addicted to some kind of medicine he was taking. Some pain killers.
Yeah, I had heard that, too.
I donít know what ever went on with that. Later on he was in Nashville selling cars for a Lincoln Dealer. He used to come by and see me every now and then.
Wasnít he a professional golfer, too?
I donít know if he was a professional, but he was a darn good one!
After his deal with Epic he recorded for a couple local labels and finally moved to Louisiana and ran a nightclub called "Proud Mary". He passed away in 1996. He seemed to be in a good position to make something of himself in the recording business.
Yeah, I thought he had an awful good chance at it. He had a lot of breaks a lot of people would have liked to have had.
Tell me some stuff about Jim Nesbitt if you can.
AhÖ Heís probably the only one in the whole bunch I can tell you very little about. Heís still my favorite of all the people who were on that label. We put a record out on him in later years on another little label that Slim started up Ė "Phone Call From The Devil" on Scorpion Records. And had fun with that thing!
Were you involved with Scorpion Records at all?
I think that one record I handled for them. Maybe one or two more. Other than that we helped him set up his own thing again with Allen Whitcomb who later became Randy Travisís manager.
When you say handled, what do you mean? You produced it?
No, we were promoting and selling it. At that time I had a little company called Nationwide Sound Distributors that was handling national sales for a lot of the independent labels. We could do a better job for them than they could do for themselves individually by putting a bunch of them together.
Ok, lets talk about distribution. Sound of Nashville distributed Chart in the beginning. Then, you all set up independent distribution sometime in Ď66. RCA came along in Ď67 until early í69 when Slim sold Chart to Audio Fidelity. According to Slim, Audio Fidelity wanted to do the distribution and thatís where they fell through because they didnít understand how to deal with country music. After Slim bought it back, independent distribution was set up again.
Well, I think Slim has it confused a little bit because when Audio Fidelity bought it is when we set up Sales & Distribution. When we released Jim Nesbittís "Running Bear", I shipped more records than I ever had.
Do you remember why RCA stopped distributing the records?
Yeah, we asked to get out of the deal. This was after it was sold to Audio Fidelity. We wanted out of the deal because it was a trap for us. Pretty soon we would owe Lynn Anderson more money than we were getting.
How could that happen?
Simple. We had to pay her for what records on her were sold and if they (RCA) were taking out all this stuff for all these other records over there, it wouldnít leave us enough money to pay her! Do you understand what Iím saying?
I do sort of, but not really.
Ok, expenses were being taken out on, say, 10 artists and only one was profitable. All the expenses were being taken out on that one account so youíd wind up in the hole! We had raised Lynnís royalty up to 5%. If we sold 100,000 copies of her records we had to give her 5%. Well, a lot of the other artists couldnít carry their own sales. The sales on the others didnít cover the cost of production. We had to pay for that, plus pay Lynn. So after a while, the cost would catch up with us.
Ok, I get it now! What was the standard royalty back then?
Most people would get 3%. If they were proven sellers, like Lynn was, then they would get 4% or 5%. At that time 5% was dog-gone good money!
How was the royalty formula figured?
It was a percentage of the retail sales price of the record, less 10%. So if a record sold for $1.00 and the artist got a 5% royalty, the artist would get about $0.045 (four and Ĺ cents). 10% was allowed for returns and things of that nature. That was standard for all record companies.
Who was pressing the records?
At one time we were using a place called Dixie Record Pressing. I think when we were pressing the largest amounts, we were using Mid-South Record Pressing which later became GRT.
There was an old place called Southern Record Pressing that we did business with for a while. They pressed some good quality records.
So we moved down to Standard Record Pressing, not Southern. We stayed with them for 2 or 3 months and finally moved over to Mid-South, which later became GRT. The lady who was running Mid-South is still my friend and one of my neighbors where I had lived in Tennessee.
What do you think was some of your major accomplishments during that time?
Hmmm, I never really thought about it in those terms. Around Nashville, I was considered one of the hotshot promotion men about that time. Iím not sure that was good for my ego! Sometimes they can pat you on the back once too often.
Yes, I know what you mean!
I would say the best thing we got out of that deal with RCA though, we cut an album that wasnít greatly successful with Junior Samples and Archie Campbell. Well, when Sam Lovello and those people came down to setup the Hee-Haw television show, why we got a taping interview for Junior. Archie was for sure going to be in it and he took Junior under his wing and took care of him. I always will appreciate that! Junior wasnít the easiest person in the world to get along with. He had a bad drinking habit and that sort of stuff. It took quite a bit of patience to do what Archie did.
Iíll bet it did!
He sure made a star out of him, though!
Yes sir! Junior sure did well didnít he? His records were pretty dang funny too!
Do you have any regrets?
No, not really. I guess I wish I had saved a little more time for myself. I was coming along as a songwriter, but got pushed so much by the business end of it, I didnít have time to write songs. They just dried up on me. A fellow shouldnít let that happen to him.
I agree with you. A person should have time for the things that really mean something to them.
Cliff told us a story about how he would have to take all the record returns out to the city dump and how heartbreaking it was sometimes to see his work go like that.
You ought to hear Shelby Singleton tell about his "Lt. Kelly" record. It was one of those spoken word things that was an instant hit, or an instant flop or what ever, back during the Viet Nam war. Shelby said, "I shipped that sucker coal, man. It came back platinum!" He took back about twice as many as he shipped! Somebody was bootlegging them somewhere! He over shipped them to begin with and when they started coming back, they just kept on coming!
What did you do after you left Chart?
I went in with some other people and started another little label called Prize Records, which only lasted about a year. There were three of us in it and no two of us understood it the same. It was just one of those situations that didnít work out. I just walked away from it and went over and started Nationwide Sound with a borrowed $1000.00 and a borrowed desk chair. It kept me there for 21 years!
That was a pretty big outfit back in those days wasnít it?
At one time I had 12 or 13 people working for me. Thatís about as big as it ever got. We handled some things like the group Alabama. Iím the one that named them, designed their logo and had their first couple of hit records.
Wow! Thatís pretty impressive!
Then we had "Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer".
Hey! I used to love that song! Elmo & Patsy!
Elmo & I hip pocketed that for almost 5 years. We sold a lot of singles on it! They never tried to sell any albums of any quantity until they let it go to Columbia or Epic, or who ever it was got it.
The first little hit we had was a song called "Love Ainít Love Until You Give It Away". I canít remember the artist, though.
That sounds familiar.
The next sizable one we had was Narvel Feltsís "Drift Away". From that point on we were in pretty good shape.
What were some of the labels you distributed?
We had Cinnamon Records back in the early Ď70s. We had Shannon Records, which belonged to Mary Reeves. A label called Commercial Records and one called Soundwaves, which belonged to my number 2 son. The early Scorpion product, before GRT took it. There were so many I couldnít think of then all.
What ever happened to Nationwide?
I closed it down. I unofficially closed it in 1993 and closed the corporation in 1994. My wife had cancer and I didnít want to fool with it anymore. I wanted to stay home with her.
Did you ever get into CDís? or Tapes?
Yeah, we did. But when the CDís came out was when my business started going way down. We didnít sell too many of them, though.