Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Greg Adams Short Story....

Printed on East Bay Soul's Facebook page last week.

NYC-1988. "I'd been arranging and playing for an ad agency in New York that had the contract for music for Budweiser and later, Michelob beer. My producer, Steve McCabe would fly me in from L.A. about once a month to do a set of jingles, a 30 and 60 second. I first met Steve... when he hired Tower to do one of these ads. Ours was based on Go And Get It With Your Good Credit. All you had to do was get the slogan This Bud's For You in there somewhere and you were good to go. After this first one with Tower, I became his go to guy.

The scenario for these jingles was this: Hire a famous singer or group and build the ad around the song that the artist was famous for. What was cool about it was the fact that we'd do very regional musical styles from around the country. We did Buckwheat Zydeco, The Neville Brothers, Robert Cray a...nd Wilson Pickett to name a few. This story is going to be about the Wilson Pickett sessions. I'd get the assignment from Steve about 2 weeks out and start in on the writing. I'd call Paul Schaffer and The World's Most Dangerous Band, (still on NBC) to be my rhythm section and get a small horn section, usually Barry Rogers on bone and Ronnie Cuber on bari. Sometimes I was lucky enough to snag L.P. fom SNL to play tenor for a couple of hours.

Here's how the trip to New York went. The agency flew me business class. Ahh. Then I'd check into an obscenely expensive hotel and have an obscenely expensive dinner with Steve. Noexpense spared here. Ah, the '80s. The downbeat the next day was for 10 am and the rhythm section was ready to go. This time I had Steve Cropper sitting in on guitar. He wrote the song that I based the song made famous by Wilson, Land Of A Thousand Dances. How cool was that to have the writer on the date. Plus he played on the original record. Wilson and his wife arrived about 11. What a nice couple. He was very soft spoken. Almost to the point of being shy. There was one little thing we didn't know. Wilson didn't know how to read written word. Oh boy. But that didn't faze him. His wife took the lyrics and him into an empty studio next door and they woodshedded for the next couple of hours while we built the tracks for him to sing to. Paul and the guys finished up the rhythm tracks in time to scoot over to NBC for their call on Dave's show. Cropper hung around to hear the horn overdubs and listen to Wilson sing. I always had to be careful not to make the ad sound too much like the original so as not to get in any hot water with the writers or publishers. What's that word? Plagiarism? The agency always had a musicoligist check things out so everything was legal. I had never had a problem besides, I had Cropper, the writer of the song sitting right next to me. I turned to him and asked him, "Does this sound too much like the original to you?" He says, in his deep Memphis drawl, "Nah Greg. Sounds okay with me." Cool. Now it's time for Wilson. Remember how I said he was soft spoken and shy? Well when that red light on the tape recorder goes on... look out!! He nails both the :30 and :60 in one take each. His wife has taught him to memorize the lyrics. I wish it didn't go so fast. I wanted more. The great Wilson Pickett singing a Bud jingle based on one of his biggest hits. How surreal was that?...

The process of building these jingles always took a full day in the studio. 10 to 6, no more no less. So by 8 o'clock we were in another obscenely expensive restaurant having dinner. Ah yes, that good old expense account. Back to the hotel and on my flight home the next morning. A few days later, Steve, my producer calls. Oh boy. It seems the musicoligist has had a listen and says it sounds too much like the original. Wait a minute. Steve has tried in vain to explain how the writer himself has no problem with it. I guess the ad agency's legal department trumps Steve Cropper, the writer. Back on a flight 2 days later to recut the horns to satisfy the suits. This time the nusicoligist was there. By the end of the date everyone was happy. I really didn't have to change much. Just some of the rhythms in the horn chart. Oh, and here's the irony of this jingle for Wilson Pickett: My producer Steve and I recieved International Broadcasting Award honoring the World's Best Broadcasting Advertisements of 1988 from The Hollywood Radio and Television Society. Oh, and I don't think the musicoligist got anything."

See you next week.

For more on Greg go to http://www.gregadamsmusic.com/ or http://www.eastbaysoul.com/