This post is an outgrowth of a lot of material written originally for a review of Dave Frishberg’s Oaklahoma Toad album. It will be updated over time.
Doug Payne says of this early CTI period:
Creed Taylor left the auspices of A & M to initiate CTI as an independent entity in May 1970. This little known part of CTI’s history spanned only five releases. All were recorded between mid-1969 and mid-1970, during the time Taylor was recording memorable work for A & M and his own CTI label, but none of these recordings showed the personality or distinctive character of Taylor’s other work.Doug Payne via http://www.dougpayne.com/cti_100t.htm
Here, Taylor was experimenting with productions outside of jazz – much as he had done earlier at ABC Paramount and, later, during his first years with Verve and MGM. Productions spanned a number of then-in styles including singer-songwriter folk (Kathy McCord), art rock (Flow, featuring future Eagle Don Felder) and soul jazz (Fats Theus’s Black Out). Hipster Dave Frishberg’s solo debut (Oklahoma Toad) and an unusual Hubert Laws record made in Memphis (Crying Song) also appeared in this series.
In retrospect, it’s hard to know if the CTI 1000 series was conceived of by Creed as a popular music label, or was just something that happened while Creed was starting a jazz music company that would define the music genre for the next decade.
Kathy McCord, Flow, and Frishberg were the initial efforts, as Doug notes. What is less well known is the role of Billy Vera and an agreement that he had with Creed. Whatever that agreement was meant to produce, it didn’t. This would also explain the non-appearance of the John Martine album that Daramus had copyright in 1969, and despite the assertion in the February 28th, 1970 issue of Billboard magazine,
Hubert Laws album, CTI 1002, was released as part of the series as a matter of timing, it couldn’t wait for the 6000 series to be established. The Fats Theus Black Out album, CT 1005, was a trial for a new sax start, and an audience for a more funk-related sound. A year later, 1971, the sax role went to Grover Washington Jr. after Hank Crawford failed to show for a recording session, and Creed launched his new Kudu label.
For the initial CTI offerings in the CTI 100x album, and CT 5xx singles, two other people would have an impact on that early music, publisher and music business insider, David Rosner; and song writer, and former Creed Taylor, secretary/assistant Margo Guryan, and in the end, to a lessor extent, Billy Vera.
During 1970, Creed also established his own publishing companies, Char-Liz Music Inc.(BMI), and Three Brothers Music. Again according to Billboard, Taylor was also a partner in March Hare Music, with Billy Vera. March Hare Music, Inc.(ASCAP) was incorporated in New York State on November 20th, 1969, and the only album I can find with tracks published by March Hare, are the tracks written variously by Kathy McCord and Billy Vera on Kathy McCord CT 1001. March Hare Music was wound up in March 1981.
While nothing of record came of it, the connection between Rosner/Guryan and Billy Vera, Chip Taylor, and Layng Martine, Jr. bought together, albeit briefly, some of the most successful American music writers of the 1970’s.
After the Frishberg album, there was no other Billy Vera, David Rosner, Margo Guryan involvement in CTI, that I’m aware of, after this. Creed either gave up on the idea of a pop label, or Billy Vera decided it wasn’t going to happen and never deliver the promised material. Billy Vera says in his autobiography
I suppose I should have asked myself why a big shot like Creed Taylor would want to be partners in a publishing company with the three of us. But Murri [Barber] had a way of making outlandish things sound plausible, and I wanted to believe it. Creed eventually claimed he’d made no such agreement, and I decided not to sign with him in the end.Billy Vera: Harlem to Hollywood – ISBN-13 9781617136627
Daramus, Rosner & Guryan
For detail and the connection of Daramus, Rosner and Guryan to CTI, see also the John Martine single CT 506.
Margo Guryan, a New York native, from Queens, had become a successful song writer. Chris Conner recorded Guryan’s “Moon Ride” as a b-side for her 1958 “Under Paris Skies“, while still in university. Guryan attended the prestigious Lennox School for Jazz in 1959, where she was taught by many luminaries of the time including Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Milt Jackson et al. Ornette Coleman and Gary McFarland were fellow students. Post Lennox, Guryan was signed to MJQ Music where she would write lyrics to Colemans music. Their songs were recorded by many including “Lonely Woman” by Connor, two other Guryan/McFarland tracks were also heavily covered during this period. Guryan was married to Bob Brookmeyer, pianist and trombone player from the Half Note house band. It’s unclear if Guryan met Frishberg through Brookmeyer at the Half Note or before, there is no question they would have known each other.
During the sixties, Guryan continued to write and had hits with “Sunday Morning” by Spanky and Our Gang; “Think Of The Rain” was been recorded Jackie De Shannon, Nilsson and others. Margo also worked as a secretary/assistant to Creed Taylor. After the breakup of her marriage to Brookmeyer, Frishberg is said by Guryan to have introduced her to the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds“, and that revitalized her writing. At sometime in late 1967 Taylor sent Margo to April-Blackwood for publishing and copyright advice. Guryan was signed by April-Blackwood in January 1968 as a staff writer.
The April 11th, 1968 issue of Billboard reports that publishing company April-Blackwood had signed Margo Guryan, and was also working with Billy Vera and Chip Taylor. As noted in “CT 502“, Billy Vera was brother of Kathy McCord, Chip Taylor had written songs that were recorded during the McCord album session, but were unused in favor of McCords own writing. [See “A&B Signs Margo Guryan” in the image gallery above].
Rosner and Daramus
By 1970, David Rosner was firmly established in the music industry publishing business. In 1964 he joined Columbia Records’ music publishing business, April-Blackwood Music. He was assistant to David Kapralik, general manager of the various publishing firms. Prior to that, Rosner was merchandise manager of single records for Columbia. Rosner would go on to become effectively Elton John’s first manager in the USA for Dick James Music, also managing the copyrights for Ringo Star and George Harrison, and in 1974, forming the Bicycle Music Company with Neil Diamond. So, Rosner was a music business insider, as well a mover and shaker in New York music scene. Rosner would also be part of the NY music exodus to the west coast in the early 1970’s, which would also pull along Dave Frishberg in 1971. Rosner is remembered today as a ferocious protector of music copyright. Ironically, 50-years later, double the original copyright limit on music, my Frishberg Oklahoma Toad video, posted above, has a copyright claim against it.
In April 1970, Daramus Inc. was merged into Dick James Music. At the time, the April 11th issue of Billboard Magazine reported that “Daramus is directing the writing and recording of Margo Guryan, Laing Martine Jr, and John Martine [see CT 506] among others”.
Billy Vera, real name. William McCord. My initial interest in Billy Vera is primarily because he is the brother of Kathy McCord, whose album of the same name was the first release by the newly independent CTI, CT 1001. The more I probed into those original independent CTI releases, the more Billy’s name came up.
Billy’s first hit song as a writer was “Mean Old World” which became a chart hit for Ricky Nelson and the next summer Billy wrote a hit for Atlantic Records star, Barbara Lewis, “Make Me Belong To You”.
Vera came to prominence as a singer with Judy Clay on the 1967 45/single, “Storybook Children” with a stomping b-side, “Really Together” and their follow-on 1968 album of the same name. As well as singing, Vera wrote many of the tracks, along with Chip Taylor, who produced the album for Blackwood Music, all bought together by Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records. Vera went on to become a music producer, Grammy winner, voice artist, actor, archivist, and disc jockey on KCRW. “Really Together” is still a cult northern soul classic in the UK.
Vera was first recorded on CTI by George Benson in 1969, with “Good Morning, Blues” on the album “I Got A Woman And Some Blues” which was eventually released in 1984. Vera said of it:
Murri Barber came along with some big ideas for my career, I thought it best to see where that might lead. Murri had connections with Creed Taylor, the record producer who had taken jazz into the mainstream with hits like Jimmy Smith’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” Stan Getz’s “Desafinado,” and “Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Astrud Gilberto. Creed had heard my song “Good Morning Blues,” the B-side of “With Pen in Hand,” and wanted to record it with George Benson, who’d done a couple of successful albums for A&M Records under Creed’s supervision. So I met with Creed, who expressed interest in recording me for his new label, CTI.
One of my favorites from this period is “Good Morning Blues.” Ray Charles told David Rosner it was the best blues song he’d ever heard, although he never got around to recording it, possibly because the publishing was not available. I wound up doing it myself for Atlantic. Jazz producer Creed Taylor cut a disappointing version with George Benson, who sang it beautifully over an unfortunate arrangement by Horace Ott. Years later, Michael Cuscuna and I produced the definitive version by Lou Rawls.Billy Vera: Harlem to Hollywood – ISBN-13 9781617136627
Vera’s autobiography, Harlem to Hollywood is a good read about not just his musical background, but also the New York music scene of the late 60’s and early 70’s and the tribulations of being a blue-eyed soul singer.
Billy Vera [by Scott Mitchell [via All About Jazz]
Billy Vera: Harlem to Hollywood [via Amazon, new and used]
David Rosner [via discogs, includes picture I found of Rosner/Elton]
Margo Guryan [via wikipedia]
Chip Taylor [via wikipedia]
Update10/15/2020: Corrected typo Muni to Murri
Update 10/23/2020: Corrected Blackout to Black Out