During college and the two years after, I made several trips to Clovis, New Mexico to play songs I had written for Norman Petty at his famous recording studio. He recorded several of my songs with various local recording artists but none of this effort brought any success. In 1964 Norman hired me to be his representative in New York City. Moving from Amarillo, Texas to New York City was a jarring cultural experience but a great adventure that I'm lucky to have had. Working in Manhattan for Petty thrust me into the midst of the mainstream pop music business, which served as a prime learning experience and offered abundant opportunity.
In 1965 United Artists Music, the music-publishing subsidiary of United Artists Motion Pictures, hired me. In addition to being an employee I signed an exclusive recording artist and songwriting contract and being with United Artists was the real beginning of my professional music business career.
In 1968 I was sent to Hollywood by United Artists to establish a west coast office for the company. During my seven years with United Artists Music in New York and Hollywood I worked with recording artists and/or songwriters Mac Davis, Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Holiday, Sharon Sheeley, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Billy Ed Wheeler, Alex Harvey, Buddy Buie, Richie Havens, Andy Kim, Paul Leka, Kenny Young, and others.
Photo: Eddie & Alex - 1971
My first success as a songwriter happened in 1971 with "Don't Change On Me" by Ray Charles, "Rings" by Cymarron and "All I Ever Need Is You" by Sonny and Cher. "Rings" was also a top ten-country record by Tompal and the Glaser Bros. In 1974 "Rings" once again had national success by recording artist Lobo and in 1978 Kenny Rogers and Dottie West had a national hit with "All I Ever Need Is You." Two more of my songs were recorded by Ray Charles and one of them, "If You Wouldn't Be My Lady," was also recorded by Charlie Rich and included on his "Behind Closed Doors" album that sold over four million copies. "Don't Change On Me" was included on the Alan Jackson album "Like Red On a Rose" released in 2006.
I left United Artists and signed an exclusive recording artist and songwriting contract with ABC Dunhill Records in 1972. After two years and no further success as a songwriter, and having made an album as a recording artist that ABC Dunhill was unwilling to release, I accepted the job of west coast vice-president of Chappell Music that was the world's largest music publishing company. While there I signed and helped launch the careers of Kim Carnes, the Sanford Townsend Band, and Jules Shear. I also hired the talented, energetic young record producer Jim Ed Norman.
In 1977 I established my own music publishing and personal management company to help promote the careers of recording artists / songwriters Kim Carnes, Jules Shear (Jules and the Polar Bears) and the group Slow Children. Kim Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson wrote all of the songs on the Kenny Rogers "Gideon" album that sold over two million copies.Photo: Jimmy Holiday & Eddie receiving ASCAP award - 1972
With this success and the ambition to continue my music business adventure in England, I began planning my move to London in 1980. But this plan was sidetracked and I moved to my hometown of Amarillo, Texas where for four years I managed the real estate properties.
In the spring of 1984 I accepted the job of General Manager for Warner Bros. Records in Nashville where I worked the next sixteen years for former Chappell Music employee Jim Ed Norman. For the last ten years I was Executive Vice President and General Manager until retiring at the end of 1999 at age sixty. During the Warner Bros. Nashville years we had great success launching and marketing the careers of Faith Hill, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Little Texas, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, David Ball, and Take 6 while promoting the continued success of Hank Williams, Jr., Emmylou Harris, John Anderson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others.
In the summer of 2000 I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada where I began compiling my songwriting catalogue of over a hundred songs and working on my collection of writings from notes I began keeping in 1972. My writing is mostly from a spoken-word inner voice and sometimes spoken word makes poor written word. My struggle to succeed in writing something worth reading has on occasion caused me to state my occupation as "word wrestler."
In 2003 I moved to Franklin, Tennessee and then in 2007 to Houston, Texas where I now reside and live by my credo of "work hard, play hard, and love hard."
Don't Change On Me – Jimmy Holiday & Eddie Reeves
I had written the melody and the lyrics for a chorus for a new song and I asked Jimmy to write three verses. He came up with lyrics that weren't very good and I told him to try again and to think "church." He came back with two verses and we worked on refining them and then worked together on writing a third verse. Jimmy took our demo to Ray Charles and it was recorded and released on the next Ray Charles album, "Love Country Style."
Soon a radio promotion man who worked for Ray's company called to tell me there was a possibility that our song could be released as Ray's next single but that the decision would be heavily influenced by what this promotion man reported to Ray. The promotion man then hinted that I should consider doing something "nice" for him to increase the chance of our song being selected as the next single. I asked what he meant and he told me that recently someone had bought him a pair of alligator shoes, and that it would be good if I bought him another pair. He told me the store where I could buy them, his size, and how much they cost. I couldn't believe it. It was Hollyweird.
I ignored his request and it had no effect on our song "Don't Change On Me" being released as Ray's next single. The record was an R&B hit and had some success on the pop charts at number 20-something in Cashbox and 30-something in Billboard. But it was top ten on pop radio in several major markets including Los Angeles.
All I Ever Need Is You – Jimmy Holiday & Eddie Reeves
Johnny knew Ray Charles had recorded the song, which was on his current ABC Dunhill album, The Volcanic Action of My Soul. Cher currently had a number one hit with "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" and the Sonny and Cher television show had just exploded. In this environment of phenomenal success, the first new Sonny and Cher recording session was about to take place. The morning after my discussion with Johnny Musso, he called and asked if Ray Charles was releasing "All I Ever Need Is You" as a single. I told Johnny that Ray's manager had told me it would be released as a single but not for a few weeks. Johnny requested that I send him a copy of Ray's album that he sent to Sonny and Cher's record producer, Snuff Garrett.
About a week later Johnny invited me to his office and played the Sonny and Cher recording for me. I was excited about the good prospect of having a hit record as nearly anything they would have recorded at that time would have been a hit, but I didn't like their version of the song. Think about the lyric, "Sometimes when I'm down and all alone..." and then think about the Sonny and Cher recording which is very upbeat and happy. This made no sense to me. On the demo I sang the song in a mournful style of a Kenny Rogers ballad, an emotional rendering that fit the lyric. In fact, Kenny was the first artist that I played the song for but he passed on it. Later he had a number one adult contemporary radio hit and a huge country radio hit as a duet with Dottie West. This recording is with thanks to the efforts of friend and Nashville music publisher Jimmy Gilmer and record producer Larry Butler. I always thought it was ironic that Kenny had originally passed on the song and I wondered if he remembered doing that the first time around.
The Sonny and Cher record shipped 990,000 copies and there were some returns, so it wasn't a gold single. Still, a gold record was presented to Sonny and Cher on their television show. But of course, the writers, Jimmy Holiday and me, didn't get a gold record, but we did establish a good copyright. The song has been recorded many times and has earned about $1,500,000 in publisher and writer royalties. The major portion of these earnings occurred while the mechanical royalty rate was about 25% of what it is today. At today's rate the total earnings of the song would be more than $4,000,000. But don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the earnings of our song.
If You Wouldn't Be My Lady – Jimmy Holiday & Eddie Reeves
I remember sitting at that piano and not touching a key for over an hour until I finally attempted an idea. I discarded this idea and continued to solemnly sit on the piano bench until the next idea came stumbling forth. I did this from mid morning until mid afternoon until I finally discovered an idea that took root. I had written a chorus and the next morning I wrote a melody for the verses and added some "dummy" lyrics that I planned to discard when I took the song to my writing partner Jimmy Holiday.
Jimmy liked my new beginnings and convinced me to retain the dummy lyrics for the first verse. He then wrote a second verse and "If You Wouldn't Be My Lady" was complete. We made a demo for Ray Charles on which Jimmy did the vocal. We made another demo suitable for some pop artist or group on which I sang. Jimmy took his vocal version to Ray Charles and Ray soon recorded it on his ABC Dunhill album "Through the Eyes of Love."
Later Nashville hit producer Billy Sherrill recorded the song with Charlie Rich on his "Behind Closed Doors" album, which sold over 4 million copies. It is apparent from the musical arrangement on the Charlie Rich record that the song had been introduced to the Charlie Rich project from the Ray Charles album.
Rings – Alex Harvey & Eddie Reeves
Alex Harvey was a songwriter under exclusive contract to United Artist Music when I was west coast head of the company, but from time to time I would also write songs with some of the writers signed to the company. I was living at Venice beach in a house I leased from friend Bob Hamilton while for business reasons, he and girlfriend Chris, moved temporarily to New York City. About a year after their move, Bob and Chris decided to get married and since they had fallen in love at the Venice beach house they wanted their wedding to be on the beach in front of the house at six in the morning. The wedding was planned and I thought the writing of a wedding song was in order and invited Alex to join me in writing it. Later I also invited Mac Davis. They both agreed and we set a time to get together to write a wedding song for Bob and Chris.
On the writing date, Mac cancelled due to other business obligations. Alex and I got together and I introduced Alex to my lyrical idea of using the word "rings" in various connotations such as "wedding rings" and "church bells ring" along with the idea that Bob and Chris spent a lot of time at Martoni's Restaurant, owned by Tony Riccio and Mario Marino. I also hoped to include the fact that "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor was their favorite song and that Bob and Chris had separated and then reunited shortly before moving to New York City. I was hoping to incorporate all of these elements in an appropriate wedding song for my friends.
Alex had an old upright piano in his Hollywood apartment and while he was heating frozen TV dinners for us, I was sitting at the piano playing Alex's song "Jody's Face." The song had the simple cord progression of C, F and G and as I was singing his song, Alex hollered from the kitchen to continue playing the simple cord progression at hand. Soon he came into the living room and sang the first verse of "Rings." He went back in the kitchen and I wrote the second verse nearly as quickly as Alex wrote the first one. We ate our TV dinners and then we took turns writing the lines of the third and last verse of the song with Alex coming up with "Ring, ring, golden rings, around the sun, around your pretty finger" and me adding, "Ring, ring, voices ring, with a happy tune anyone can be a singer." Then we traded writing the last lines of the third verse and our wedding song was complete. We were proud of our accomplishment but realized that the song was so lyrically specific regarding Bob and Chris that it wouldn't have universal appeal. But still we were proud of our wedding song.
The wedding took place as scheduled at about 6:00 AM. There were about thirty people present and just after the ceremony (while "the sun comes up across the city" of Los Angeles from our location at the ocean's edge as we had written in our wedding song), a young guy came walking from the water's edge about a hundred yards away up to the wedding scene in front of the beach house. He had on old, worn jeans and no shirt or shoes. He was singing a song I didn't recognize, and as he sang in a full, mournful voice, he walked toward us and continued singing with his hands lifted to the sky. We were all mesmerized and everyone stood silent and still until the young man reached our location and finished singing his song. It was a unique and spiritual moment, especially since it immediately followed the spiritual joining together of Bob and Chris.
At the reception brunch that followed at the Marina del Rey Hotel, Alex and I introduced our wedding song by our performance with Alex playing acoustic guitar and singing lead vocal and me joining in on harmony on the second part of each verse. Everyone seemed to like the song and we were asked to perform it again later on. When Bob and Chris and some of the attendees returned to the beach house after the reception, Alex and I were called on to perform the song a few more times.
When Alex was ready to do his next demo recording session, he booked studio time at Quantum Studio in Torrance. Musician Al Perkins was learning to play steel guitar and came to Alex's apartment the day before the session to practice the songs that would be on the session. Alex and I hoped to have time to record "Rings" to give it as a wedding memento to Bob and Chris. The recording of "Rings" was a low priority on Alex's demo session since we believed it was such a specialized piece of material that it had little or no commercial value. We didn't believe a recording artist would want to record something that had been lyrically tailored specifically to Bob and Chris Hamilton.
Alex finished recording his songs with maybe fifteen or twenty minutes left until the musicians had to leave. We quickly laid down the track for "Rings" and later Alex and I added our vocals. I sent a copy of the recording to Bob and Chris in New York and also played it for some of our music friends. Friend Mike Settle heard it and played it for Dick Burns who worked for Jimmy Bowen's Amos Records. Dick thought the song could be a hit and asked Mike and me to record it for release on Amos Records. We recorded it and began to conjure up a group name. Since Mike is half Native American and I'm ten percent Native American, we decided a Native American name would be appropriate. He came up with Running Bear and Goldstein. It was so ridiculous that we loved it. Mike said he wanted to be Goldstein since he would be the group member that handled the money we earned. I was relegated to being Running Bear. I accepted his offer and countered that I needed a monetary advance of funds from him until our first earnings arrived. We had a good laugh about this and the silly name we decided to call ourselves.
Mike and I were never able to accomplish vocal performances that satisfied Dick Burns and we tended to agree with him. We asked Alex to join us as the lead singer. Soon the Running Bear and Goldstein record was being prepared for release on Amos Records, a company that by then had not had a hit record, and up until the shuttering of their offices, never did.
During this time Russ Miller, a producer working for Elektra Records, came to see me at United Artists Music wanting to hear songs for his artist Lonnie Mack. Lonnie was a guitar player that had an instrumental hit with Chuck Berry's song Memphis, Tennessee. Russ was preparing to record Lonnie as a vocalist as well as an instrumentalist. Because friends had finally convinced me that "Rings" could indeed have universal appeal and could possibly be a hit because of it's colorful, catchy and unique lyrics, I played the demo of the song for Russ. He loved it and wanted to know what was happening with it. I told him about Running Bear and Goldstein but he wasn't concerned about Amos Records. Russ recorded the song with Lonnie and it's a great version, one of the best. Had it not been for other events unfolding at this same time, Lonnie might have been the one to have a hit with our wedding song.
Bob and Chris received their copy of "Rings" and loved it as communicated by their thank you note.
Bob knew Marty Lacker who was part of Elvis' entourage known as the Memphis Mafia. He played his copy of "Rings" for Marty who took it to Memphis to play it for hit producer Chips Moman, who for months had been searching for a hit song for the vocal backing group working for him at the time. Chips immediately recorded it with his vocal group that became Cymarron with Richard Mainegra singing lead vocal. The record was released on Chips' label Entrance Records, which was a partnership with CBS Records and promoted by their label Epic Records. The Cymarron record was rush released and received strong immediate airplay, some of which came from major markets radio stations programmed by some of the attendees of Bob and Chris' wedding. And too, Bob was in the business of consulting many radio stations and he was not shy about touting the attributes of his and Chris' wedding song.
"Rings" by Cymarron was being heavily played by KHJ, the top pop station in Los Angeles. Mac Davis came by the United Artists office to pick up some lead sheets of some songs that he had written while under contract to Metric Music. He was beginning to perform in Las Vegas and was about to embark on his national television show. We talked as I gathered the lead sheets he needed and Mac said something like, "Man, I heard a great song on the way over here—something about rings. It's unbelievable." In all the time that had passed since he had cancelled the wedding song writing appointment with Alex and me, he and I had seen each other only briefly a couple of times and there had been no chance for me to let him know about the wedding song that Alex and I had written. So I replied to Mac, "That's the wedding song Alex and I wrote for Bob and Chris that you were supposed to help write." Mac was the kind of guy that usually talked more than he listened, and this was no exception as he continued to talk past what I had just stated. He continued telling me about the song about rings he had just heard and how good it was. I repeated my statement and this time it registered with him. He said, "What?" He just couldn't believe it. I don't think I ever saw Mac that flabbergasted. God knows if Mac had been with Alex and me for that writing appointment, the song "Rings" as it exists, would have never happened. Perhaps a song better than "Rings" could have materialized, but probably not. I'm satisfied things happened as they did.
August 7, 2009. Get more at eddiereevesmusic.com.
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