John Madara Remembers ...
I discovered Leon Huff in 1963 playing in a band called "The Lavenders" in a club in West Philadelphia. I was really blown away by his piano playing and invited him down to the Madara / White offices at 250 South Broad Street, The Shubert Building. Our offices were on the 2nd floor and on the 6th floor of the building was another producer by the name of Jerry Ross, who went on to produce many hit records (98.6, Sunny, and many others). Jerry had a writer / singer working with him by the name of Kenny Gamble. Over the next couple of years, joining them on the 6th floor would be the great writing team, Thom Bell and Linda Creed, who wrote many of the Stylistics' hits, "Betcha By Golly Wow" and many others. It was not unusual to have all of us (Thom Bell, Linda Creed, Kenny, Leon, Bunny Sigler, Len Barry and myself) outside the Shubert Building, swapping music stories. Also during that time Leon and I became close, him coming to my home many times for dinner and us just hanging out. During those first couple of years, 1963 to 1965, Leon was honing his talent and learning a lot by writing a lot of pop songs with Dave White and myself. Besides being signed as a writer and a producer (as well as producing some sessions on his own), I kept Leon working by having him play piano on all of our sessions, whether they be in Philadelphia or New York, even including his name as a writer on the B Side of "1-2-3," (Bulls Eye), when all he did was play piano at the rehearsal. I knew Leon was a big talent, and I always tried to give him as many opportunities as I could. In doing our sessions in New York, I used all of the top New York musicians, Bobby Greg, Joe Mack, Panama Francis, Artie Butler, Trade Martin, Al Gargoni, Vinnie Bell, George Devins and the great Artie Kaplin (Horn Section), and always having Leon on piano. The recording engineers I used were Eddie Smith from the old King Records days and Brooks Arthur, renowned engineer and producer. These sessions were done at Bell Sound and Mira Sound Studios. The engineers in all of the Philly sessions were either Emil Korsen or Joe Tarsia and were recorded at Reco Art Studios, later changed to Sigma Sound Studios. These recording sessions in New York and Philadelphia gave Leon the opportunity to work with the very best in the business, again, honing his talent. In 1967, Dave White and I broke up. At that time we were doing the Bunny Sigler session, "Let The Good Times Roll," which Leon produced with me. Leon and I went on to produce Bunny's album. We also had some great recordings with The Sweet Three and The Formations (At The Top Of The Stairs). All during this time Leon was establishing a relationship with Kenny and starting to write with him. I was sharing in the publishing with the songs that they were writing, "Cowboys to Girls,""Expressway To Your Heart," "Only The Strong Survive," "Western Union Man," and many others. If I remember correctly, it was about 1968 that Leon wanted to get out of his contract with me and become a partner with Kenny in a new record company, and I would continue to share in the publishing over the next year and a half, the balance of his contract. All during that period from 1963 through 1968, Leon received a weekly advance and was a musician on all of our recording sessions, which he got paid for also. During the time he was signed to my company, Leon received a considerable amount of money, and I was always proud to have been a part of establishing his career and keeping him going in the beginning years. Needless to say, if you are to read a Leon Huff bio, you will find no mention of my name, but yet Leon will say that he got his start from the New York sessions and the friends that were helpful to him. He will mention people like Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Grenwich, Quincy Jones, and others, ALL friends of mine and who I introduced him to, and because they loved his playing on my sessions, called to give him work. As my friend, Russ Regan, says "they got amnesia on me," because Russ has also received no credit for many of the incredible things that he has done. So, Kent, if somehow we can print the truth about how Leon and Gamble & Huff really got started, it would be nice for once to read the truth and to get some credit for being responsible for getting his career started, and Jerry Ross for getting Kenny's career started. Because of their enormous success and my move to California, I have only seen Leon and Kenny a couple of times in the last 15 years.
As a footnote: The person that I became the closest with was Thom Bell. Great guy. Lots of fun. Enormous talent. No ego. He's one of the most straight ahead guys I've ever met. I used to pick Thom up every Sunday because he didn't (and still doesn't) drive, and we would go to Martin's Aquarium to buy fish for a joint hobby that we both shared, having aquariums. He lives on an island in Washington State and I haven't seen him for at least 15 years. Good guy.
Well, JOHN, we're happy to help to put the word out there regarding some of the early days of these great talents. (I've always called it "Selective Memory" ... but what's the point in denying ANYBODY who helped to advance your career??? I've never really quite understood that line of thinking! You'll see this very same topic come up again in our HALL AND OATES Feature below!)
By the way, after CHARLES and RICHARD INGUI of THE SOUL SURVIVORS joined our FORGOTTEN HITS List earlier this year, I asked JOHN MADARA if he had any personal involvement with THEIR monster Pop / Soul Hit EXPRESSWAY TO YOUR HEART.
JOHN MADARA: My involvement with The Soul Survivors was strictly that Leon Huff had written Expressway To Your Heart with Kenny Gamble and that my publishing company, Double Diamond Music, was the co-publisher on this song because of Leon being signed to my company. I also co-published with Gamble and Huff The Soul Survivors' follow-up hits, Explosion In Your Soul and Impossible Mission. I met the Soul Survivors in the late ‘60s, but have never seen them since, though I know that the two brothers are still working as The Soul Survivors.
THE EARLIEST DAYS OF DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES:
While still based in Philadelphia, JOHN MADARA crossed paths with ANOTHER soon-to-be recording act. Although you'll RARELY (if EVER!!!) find anything in their bios regarding their earliest recording studio experiences, JOHN was there when DARYL HALL (and later, JOHN OATES) waxed their vocal talents for the very first time. Today, we've got THAT amazing story to share with in FORGOTTEN HITS.
In 1970, I had a co-publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music. I met Daryl Hall for the very first time when Joe Tarsia sent him over to my office. I recorded Daryl as a solo artist and I also recorded him with his friends, Tim Moore, Tom Sellers and Jim Helmer under the band name "Gulliver." We had an LP out on Electra Records.
During that time, Gulliver became my house band, and I used them as my rhythm section. This was after Daryl's relationship with The Temptones. Daryl was signed to my production company and to my publishing company. Tom Sellers and Tim Moore were also signed as writers, and each were receiving a weekly advance, along with the money they were making from the recording sessions that we were doing.
My relationship with them was great. We sang harmonies together on recording sessions, but Gulliver was not to be an ongoing act. Daryl really wanted to do his own thing.
About the same time, John Oates, with whom Daryl and Tom Sellers had a personal relationship, started hanging out in the office. He sang background and played guitar on some of the sessions with the guys. We were recording many artists, including Chubby Checker and many great R&B records that we made in that era, some of which I have sent to you.
I was also writing songs with Daryl and Len Barry. We also recorded other sessions for Buddah, and in 1969 we did a special project for them called "Journey To The Moon," which was a LP dedicated to the first moon landing, which was approved by NASA, who sent in the tapes every day to us of the moon flight, which we used on the LP. Neil Bogart wanted to be the first record company out with authentic conversations with the astronauts and others, including President Nixon, using original music that we composed. The reason I mention all of this is to show you how close we were and the amount of work that we did together.
Anyway, Daryl and John started writing together. I was really blown away by them. I knew that they were really special and would be a huge success. Daryl's voice was incredible, and the two of them were sensational together, writing great songs and performing. We went into the studio to do some demos and some tracks for Daryl and John. (I've included some of this early stuff for your feature here today.) I remember staying up all night with them in the studio and really having a great time. Around the same time, we also recorded some sides with John Oates.
Sometime in 1970, I'm not quite sure what month, I took Daryl and John to New York to perform live for Chappell Music with the sides that I already recorded with them. Because they were so great, I felt sure I could get a record deal for them through Chappell's many record company relationships they had. And of course, they were co-publishers on all of this new, original material. Employed by Chappell was a young man whose job it was to try and get recordings from Chappell's huge catalog and to take new acts around to the different record companies in New York to try and secure a record deal. He was married to the daughter of the President of ABC / Paramount Records, who I believe was Sam Clark. He seemed like a really nice guy and he was really excited about Daryl and John.
The first couple of times that we went to New York to audition, I would take John and Daryl up in my station wagon with all of their equipment (which I had purchased), but because I was recording other artists at the time, I did not go every time to New York when they had an audition.
A couple of months went by and I got a call from my attorney saying that Daryl and John wanted out of their recording contract with me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, one of their auditions was with Atlantic Records, and what I eventually heard was that this young man had told them that he could get them a record deal, but they had to get out their contract with me first. It was my understanding that Daryl and John's attorney was the same attorney as the young man's.
I was really shocked by this because we had had such a great relationship, and their reasoning for getting out of their contract was not valid. They claimed that I had not recorded the required sides per year, but that was incorrect. In fact, I had recorded MORE than the required sides. But when you have this kind of a situation happening to you with an artist, it kind of destroys any future of working together. All that I could think about was all of the wonderful times we had in the recording studio, and the times I did go to New York with them, I remember on the way home where we would sing songs together in the car, they singing harmony, me singing lead, Daryl singing lead, John and I singing backgrounds. Just having a lot of fun. We were friends.
So, moving on, I kept a percentage of the first two Atlantic Albums and the co-publishing of certain songs. Needless to say, the young man, who had been working for Chappell, started his own management company, Champion Management. That "young man" was Tommy Matola. Of course, he went on to have a huge management company, because of Daryl and John, and then went on to CBS, where he took over Bruce Lundvall's job as President and then Walter Yetnikoff's position as CEO.
FORGOTTEN HITS: What an AMAZING tale! You ALWAYS hear the stories about how the ARTIST got screwed over by the record company or manager or agent ... but you NEVER hear this story told in reverse!!! And, as HUGE as they became, who would EVER delve this deep to find any of this out???
JOHN MADARA: Kent, this is a story that no one is aware of. Tommy Matola takes all of the credit for discovering Hall & Oates, and of course, because I didn't let them out of their contract without me keeping part of their deal with Atlantic, I became the bad guy. All of the hours, all of the money and effort that went in to getting them started and on their way, all of the rewards went to the wrong person. And, as with Leon Huff, Daryl and John have never, never mentioned my name or given me any credit for discovering them and putting all of the things in gear that led to their enormous success.
FH: And it's possible that TOMMY MATOLA used THIS act as the springboard to his ENORMOUS success in the record business ... there was a time there where TOMMY had his hands in EVERYTHING that was going on musically in the world!!!
JM: I should point out (as a side note) that some of the sides that I had recorded with them, were re-recorded on their debut album with Atlantic. (I have over 40 sides that I recorded with Daryl and John.) Of course, Tommy Matola, besides the fortune he made from Champion Music (Daryl and John being the biggest recording duo of all time) and the amount of success that he got from the CBS positions were a direct result of me bringing Daryl and John to Chappell Music in the first place. Would Tommy Matola have started his management company? Would he have become President and CEO of Sony if it hadn't have been for his success with Daryl and John? Who knows. But needless to say, I think Daryl and John are a fantastic act, and I am really proud that I was responsible for starting their careers.
FH: I think it's great that you can look at it this way after all these years ... and I can honestly say that I've NEVER really understood why ANY artist would slight or deny those who were most instrumental in furthering their careers in the earliest days ... that faith, that trust and that belief in them as artists quite often is ALL these musicians have to go on in the early days ... FAR too many have given up and thrown in the towel simply because they couldn't GET somebody to believe in them and encourage them to keep pushing on.
FH: Kent, I mentioned to you earlier that no one has ever properly documented my career and, as in the world of Forgotten Hits, you have become a forgotten hit-maker. The only thing that I ever wanted to do was be creative. I was never a great businessman, but I loved the business of making records. It would be great to FINALLY have the true stories told. It means a lot to me at this point in my life. Thank you so much, Kent, for your interest in my career.
GULLIVER consisted of DARYL HALL, TIM MOORE, TOM SELLERS and JIM HELMER. Their only LP was recorded at Philadelphia's Legendary SIGMA SOUND Studio and was produced by JOHN MADARA and CAMEO / PARKWAY Ace JOE TARISA. We ALL know where DARYL HALL ended up. TIM MOORE became a successful solo artist and two of his compositions became major hits in the '70's for other artists. (ART GARFUNKEL made The Top 40 when he recorded MOORE's SECOND AVENUE and THE BAY CITY ROLLERS hit Top 30 paydirt with their rendition of his ROCK AND ROLL LOVE LETTER.) TOM SELLERS went on to arrange and / or produce THE ASSEMBLED MULTITUDE's version of THE OVERTURE FROM TOMMY, the ELECTRIC INDIAN hit single KEEM-O-SABE, ROCK THE BOAT by THE HUES CORPORATION and GLEN CAMPBELL's #1 Hit, RHINESTONE COWBOY. In addition to cutting their OWN album in 1969, GULLIVER served as JOHN MADARA's "House Band" on many of the OTHER tracks he recorded in Philly in 1968 / 1969. JOHN MADARA was fortunate to catch ALL of this great talent at the earliest phase of their careers ... hard to imagine that even HE knew just how big they'd all eventually become!
And Some Other Odds And Ends ...
After the success of DANNY AND THE JUNIOR's #1 Hit AT THE HOP, JOHN MADARA now had a proven track record for creating hit records. He and his then-partner DAVID WHITE were soon placing their work with a diverse list of artists. After topping the charts with the reworked AT THE HOP for DANNY AND THE JUNIORS, they came back to produce their follow-up Top 20 Smash ROCK AND ROLL IS HERE TO STAY. Thanks to their Philly ties, they were presented with the chance to work with Twist-Master CHUBBY CHECKER, who took their 1961 composition THE FLY all the way to #7, and Former DOVELLS Lead Singer LEN BARRY, now stepping out in pursuit of a solo career. (You'll find an entire chapter devoted to LEN's smash 1, 2, 3 on the JOHN MADARA'S GREATEST HITS section of this web page.) They ALSO worked with some of the early Girl Groups of the day, such as THE PIXIES THREE (BIRTHDAY PARTY hit #40 in 1963 and 442 GLENWOOD AVENUE went to #51 in 1964) and THE SECRETS (THE BOY NEXT DOOR was a #18 Hit in 1963). They wrote the #2 Smash YOU DON'T OWN ME for LESLEY GORE, also covered in greater detail on the JOHN MADARA'S GREATEST HITS section ... and later crossed paths with a number of artists either on their way up the charts (JOHN was there for the EARLIEST recording sessions of artists like DARYL HALL and JOHN OATES as well as KENNY GAMBLE and LEON HUFF) or on the way down (BO DIDDLEY and DENNY DOHERTY of THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS) ... or just plain "In Between" Hits (WAYNE NEWTON and JOEY HEATHERTON). In 1965 they scored a Top 40 Hit as THE SPOKESMEN when they recorded a pro-America anthem called THE DAWN OF CORRECTION, an answer song to the chart-topping BARRY McGUIRE Hit, EVE OF DESTRUCTION. Four years later, they were back in The Top 20 with the unlikely instrumental hit KEEM-O-SABE, released under the name of THE ELECTRIC INDIAN (but using some of Philadelphia's finest classical musicians!) After starting his career as a pop singer as JOHNNY MADARA (with his regional hit BE MY GIRL ), one could correctly argue that MADARA had pretty much been exposed to EVERY conceivable aspect of the recording business ... and all by the age of 33!
Today, JOHN MADARA shares some memories with us regarding some of these other recordings:
ROCK AND ROLL IS HERE TO STAY by DANNY AND THE JUNIORS
JOHN MADARA: I produced the first three records for Danny and the Juniors: "At The Hop," "Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay" and "Dottie." I was involved in the later recordings, too, but to amuch lesser extent.
THE FLY by CHUBBY CHECKER
JOHN MADARA: While "The Twist" was the #1 record in the country, I still had my record shop in West Philadelphia, and after a record hop one evening, I came in the next day to the record shop with an idea to record a song called "The Fly." So with our local house band, Carl and The Commanders, we wrote the song and went in and recorded it with Carl's band, and with Carl's lead singer. We went to Cameo and played it for Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, where we were told that they really loved our record but would like to take our track and put Chubby Checker's voice on it as a follow-up to "TheTwist." (And Kent, if you listen to the original Chubby Checker version of "The Fly," you will hear how different our track was to the tracks Cameo was doing at the time.) So Bernie says to us, "Either let us use your track with Chubby, or if you put out your version, we'll cover you." So we decided to let Chubby do it, and of course it went on to be the#2 record in the country, which by the way, we never received any production royalties and we are still trying to collect half of our writers' royalties from the co-publisher!!!
(JOHN MADARA later produced CHUBBY CHECKER's version of THE BEATLES' classic BACK IN THE U.S.S.R., a #82 National Chart Hit in 1969 on The BUDDAH Record Label.)
THE DAWN OF CORRECTION by THE SPOKESMEN
A topic that seems to come up from time to time here in FORGOTTEN HITS is the subject of PROTEST SONGS ... with America entrenched in yet another seemingly endless (and pointless) war, several of our readers have suggested that EVE OF DESTRUCTION may once again be the most appropriate song of the day.
Back in 1965, after BARRY McGUIRE topped the pop charts with his rendition of the P.F. SLOAN anthem (our buddies THE TURTLES ALSO recorded this tune), JOHN MADARA felt compelled to voice his OWN opinions as to the current state of affairs, circa 1965. He quickly assembled his songwriting partner DAVID WHITE (along with WIBG DeeJay RAY GILMORE ... who, by the way, is NOW working as SEAN CASEY in Boston) and went into the studio and cut THE DAWN OF CORRECTION ... and released it as a brand new single by THE SPOKESMAN. In no time at all, the record started climbing the charts, eventually peaking at #22 in CASH BOX MAGAZINE.
We couldn't help but wonder ... in hindsight ... with The War in Viet Nam escalating ... and more and more opposition to the war rising at an even FASTER pace at the time ... what his thoughts were now, some 40-years after the fact.
FORGOTTEN HITS: Obviously DAWN OF CORRECTION was a quickly-put-together "Answer Record" to EVE OF DESTRUCTION ... and these types of records seem to have not only a short "shelf life" when it comes to relevancy, but also have to come out almost IMMEDIATELY on the heels of the other hit record to make any sense at all. Did you first try to place it with any other artists or was it just quickest and easiest to go into the studio and cut the record yourselves to get it out right away?
JOHN MADARA: We wrote the song on a Wednesday, recorded it the following Monday, and it was released by the end of the week. We did not have an artist at the time to record it, so we did it ourselves. We did take a positive stand with our lyrics and tried to answer Barry McGuire's statements in his lyric.
FH: LOL ... yeah, I guess that qualifies for "immediacy"!!! (lol) Your record was a very "positive" record as to the state of the country at that time ... or at least it STRESSED the positive aspects of what we had accomplished as a country. Did you catch any flack for that ... war protestors were really just first coming into the spotlight at this time.
JM: We had positive reactions and negative reactions. One of the reactions was when the Spokesmen worked with the Byrds on the Hollywood-A-Go-Go TV show. After we performed the song, we were hanging out later on with David Crosby and the Byrds and David said to us, "Do you guys really believe that shit you're singing?" Also, we could not perform the song on many of the TV shows that we did, i.e., Shindig, American Bandstand, etc.
FH: In hindsight, when the War in Viet Nam was deemed to be a war we couldn't win ... and probably some place we shouldn't have even been ... did you have any regrets or change of heart regarding recording this song? (By then, it was probably, at best, a "forgotten" novelty track ... but I mean did you PERSONALLY have any regrets?)
JM: In 1966, after recording Joey Heatherton for Decca, we started dating for the next two years, and I was invited in 1966 to go on the Bob Hope tour to Vietnam with Joey. I always felt a little uncomfortable about the lyrics. After the trip to Vietnam, I saw what our soldiers were going through and how much the war made no sense at all. I definitely had some personal regrets with "The Dawn Of Correction" lyric. When we wrote the song, we were never for the war, we were just for America, and we felt that "The Eve of Destruction" was a slap against America. Because of the anti-war sentiment, "The Dawn of Correction" was obviously taken the wrong way.
Despite being a Television and Las Vegas staple, JOEY HEATHERTON wouldn't enjoy her first big chart hit until 1972 (six years later) when GONE climbed to the #24 position on The BILLBOARD Chart. By then, MADARA and WHITE were already out of the picture.
PLAY THOSE OLDIES, MR. D.J. by ANTHONY AND THE SOPHOMORES:
A VERY popular Philly Hit (which we featured in our CAMEO / PARKWAY Series a few years back) was PLAY THOSE OLDIES, MR. D.J. by ANTHONY AND THE SOPHMORES, used as the "intro" tune by the local Philly CBS affiliate for their Saturday Nite Oldies Party. Sounding VERY "of the time" ... and considering that back then in MANY cases, the deejays were every bit as popular as the recording artists ... it's hard to imagine this song NOT being a hit ... heck, EVERY deejay across the country could have played this one as their "Theme Song"!!! JOHN tells me that it STILL receives a LOT of airplay in Philadelphia.
DANCIN' THE STRAND, TODAY'S THE DAY and SO YOUNG
by MAUREEN GRAY
Another artist that MADARA and WHITE wrote quite a few songs for was a young lady by the name of MAUREEN GRAY. Although her only chart hit was a little ditty called DANCIN' THE STRAND (#91, 1962), JOHN MADARA thought enough of her talent that he wrote and / or produced several other tracks for her. (In fact, YOU DON'T OWN ME was originally written for MAUREEN GRAY to record ... ironically, she never even cut the demo .... once JOHN and DAVID played it for LESLEY GORE, there was no need!!! LESLEY fell in love with the song and, as such, MAUREEN never got a chance to record it!) By the way, once again using his close stable of musical friends, JOHN's got DANNY AND THE JUNIORS singing background on MAUREEN's version of SO YOUNG, a track produced by MADARA and WHITE.
JOHN MADARA: We didn't write "So Young", but I really like the record that we produced. The Chantels sang background on a lot of Maureen's sessions ... this one features background vocals by Danny and the Juniors.
(I couldn't help but wonder if MAUREEN was sort of JOHN and DAVID's "Muse" ... similar say to DIONNE WARWICK and BURT BACHARACH or PETULA CLARK and TONY HATCH. Here is what JOHN MADARA had to say on this subject):
JOHN MADARA: I guess you’re right, Kent. Maureen was a source of inspiration and creativity. This was when David and I started writing and producing out of my record shop (the first records that we made after the Danny and The Junior records). Here's a little background story on Maureen Gray. For a year in 1961 I had a record shop in the black section of Philadelphia, at 60th and Market. It was called The Gold Record Shop. I had the gold record for AT THE HOP on the wall behind the counter. I was asked frequently if I was in the music business. One day an adorable 13 year old came into the record shop, told me that she sang and sang a song for me. Her voice just blew me away. I had not ever worked with a female singer and thought, wow, this girl has everything to be a star. So one night, at a record hop, I bumped into Dave White with Danny and The Juniors. I asked him to stop by my record shop because there was quite a bit of talent that came into the store. I told him about Maureen Gray and a band that I had discovered called Carl and The Commanders, who we could use as our rhythm section and also record them as artists. This was when David and I started writing and producing out of my record shop (the first records that we made after the Danny and the Juniors records.) So, within the next few weeks, Dave showed up at the record shop, and we started writing for Maureen and Carl and The Commanders and we also began to write a Johnny Madara record. The Maureen Gray records sold well on the East Coast and Dancing the Strand made the national charts. The first Maureen Gray record was a huge Philadelphia hit ("Today's The Day"). The Carl and The Commanders song called "Hey" got a lot of play in Philadelphia. Also during that same year in the record shop (1961), we wrote and produced "The Fly" with Chubby Checker. This was the "second" beginning of our careers together. During the next two years, we would record Maureen again, Chubby Checker, Billy and The Essentials, Anthony and The Sophomores, The Hearts, Johnny Madara, The Pixies Three, The Secrets and a host of other artists. Most of these records made the top 50 on the national charts. This was before the Lesley Gore record and the Len Barry records. Maureen, though, was definitely the first female artist and she was a total inspiration to the beginning of all of the records that we were to make. Through the years, we did record Maureen many times.
FH: Despite all that attention, MAUREEN never really had that one big "breakthrough" hit. Any idea what ever happened to her?
JM: After our involvement with Maureen, she moved to England, where she sang background on many big records working with Stevie Winwood, Eric Burdon and others. I have not seen her or communicated with her in over 20 years.
WARNING: This song is GUARANTEED to get stuck in your head for DAYS to come!!! Man, what a CATCHY tune!!! I'm thinking that THIS should have been an International Smash!!! As such, I'm VERY happy to bring it to you here today!
Copyright Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits, 1998 - 2014 ... All rights reserved