A Personal History of the British Record Business 51 – Jeffrey Kruger 8.

We have reached the point where Jeff was getting into his stride and wanting to use the interview to try and dispel the image he felt he may have had as a trouble-maker rather than an early independent entrepreneur.
You were a thorn in their (EMI & Decca) side – it was a duopoly.
That’s the point I’d like you to get across, if you can make people understand. Andrew Loog Oldham worked behind the bar at The Flamingo and would come to me for all sorts of advice. They all came to me. I didn’t like that music – I didn’t like the Stones’ music. I liked the Alexis Korner Band, but not what Mick developed it into. So I could have signed all these people.I didn’t like the noise of Cream – I liked Tony Kinsey. All these acts were playing the club before they had record deals, or they were just starting and the club was the place to get showcased.
The first night we put on The Moody Blues they played to 25 people, 18 of them from Decca. ‘What have you signed me’ ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got the Hit Song  – Go Now’
David Bowie?
I must move to publishing side to tell this story. When I was doing all that I was doing in 1963, I was looking for someone to run my publishing, and Alan Holmes, one of the big three, and Teddy Holmes (no relation) at Chappells said ‘there’s a young plugger up at Robbins Music, Hal Shaper, why don’t you bring him in?’ So I took Hal as my plugger, formed Sparta Music with him and I had Florida Music and eventually we amalgamated them. I got all the Sinatra publishing, all the Glen Campbell publishing and some of the Jimmy Webb songs, but not the big ones. Terry Oates was at Chappells at the time. Terry was the one that I wanted. When I couldn’t get Terry – and I begged him because I loved him, thought he was the tops – I took on Hal Shaper for my sins. With the Moody Blues, Hal came to me one day and said ‘have you got any money? I want to sign Mike Pinder and Denny Laine.’ I think we paid them £500 or something in 1963. A few weeks later he came to see me again and said ‘there’s another guy here. You introduced me to Tony Stratton-Smith and he’s got a young guy called David Jones.’ This guy came up to my office and he looked like I wanted to throw him out. Hal liked his music and I heard a demo he’d made in Bond Street. We agreed that Sparta would sign him, and they changed his name, as you know, to David Bowie. We had him for the first five years and had  (the publishing) all the London (Decca) records. They weren’t actual hits but they sold well. But we lost him to RCA – we didn’t lose him; we couldn’t afford to pay. We had the first option to renew after five years and we couldn’t afford it. We never had that kind of money to compete with the majors, so we lost him and the Moody Blues. But we had them as writers, as their publishers.
Terry Oates ( and there is an interview with him to come)
(Now…the Sinatra story!)
The Sinatra story. When we were on our honeymoon, we went to Miami and then on to Cuba – this was November 1958. I go to check in at the Fontainbleu Hotel and the reservation guy is very rude and says ‘you don’t have a reservation.’ I said ‘I’ve paid for the first day – here’s my reservation slip.’ He turns his back on me – ‘there’s an error’. I had a temper in those days. I leaned across the counter, grabbed him by the beck and said ‘don’t you dare turn your back on me. I’m on my honeymoon – don’t you embarass me in front of my bride.’There was a little man standing by the round reception desk – a very elegant hotel but there was no one else around. I thought the place was shut, I said to this guy ‘get me the manager.’ And I see him look at the reservation guy and the guy just nods and says ‘Oh, Kruger. I was looking under C.’ I knew he was a bloody liar because you could see. ‘Kruger – of course we have a room for you.’ We go up to this room – it’s not a room it’s a whacking suite.’ I say ‘honey you unpack, I’ve just got to go downstairs.’ I go down and go up to this fat man because the manager’s not around. ‘Don’t think I’m grumbling’ I say, ‘but I don’t have a lot of money. I’m not a rich guy – I’m a working guy. $40 a day is a lot of money. That room can’t be $40. If you’ve made a mistake tell me now.’ He whistled and the manager came out. I told him the story and he said ‘no, no, that’s OK, it will only cost you $40 a day.’ I said ‘are you sure?’ He said ‘yes’. ‘Thank you very much’, thinking he’s the PR man for the hotel – I don’t know who he is. We have lunch in the deli – elegance; I’ve never seen anything quite like it. This was just before we went to Vegas – I hadn’t seen Vegas at that time. We tried to go down to the pool. There’s a big guard there and he won’t let us through. Again I lose my temper. ‘Hey, I’m a guest at this hotel here’s my key.’ ‘Nobody gets through.’ What are we, in prison? Then I see this short squat guy again and he says ‘What’s the problem? Mr & Mrs Kruger can come through anytime anywhere.’ I said ‘thank you so much, I really appreciate it. Thank God the hotel’s got one decent member of staff.’ He was ‘well, the reason you can’t get through is that they’re filming our there’. ‘Alright if we go out and swim?’. ‘Well, you might not be able to swim, you can watch.’ ‘Who’s filming?’ ‘We’re doing A Hole in the Head with Frank Sinatra.
Come on I’ll take you through.’ He sits us right at the front. I’ve got my 16mm camera, so I’m filming them filming. I haven’t seen Sinatra yet but this guy introduces me to James Wong How, who was an Academy Award photographer.
During the next break he introduces me to Frank Capra, then I see Edward G. Robinson. Jesus! Film stars!! He introduces us as ‘these are my English friends.’ This guy is sweating out there – they’re under cover for the film. There’s no sign of Sinatra. I see Eleanor Parker, Thelma Ritter, all those important people; lots of stars sitting around and I’m filming them filming. They had to stop a shot because I came into camera filming and I’ve still got it to this day. Out comes Sinatra, does his little schtick and away he goes and the man says ‘come on I’ll introduce you to Frank.’ I still don’t know who he is; I never thought to ask him what his name is. ‘Hello, Frank, here’s some friends of mine from England – they’re on their honeymoon.’ He’s as charming as can be. Next day we go down to the restaurant. They’re all sitting there..’come and join us’ and we sat with Sinatra and these people and I still think he’s the manager of the hotel. Finally I stop him and say “Everywhere I go everyone’s coming up to you – how do you manage to run the hotel?’. He says ‘I’m not with the hotel. My name’s Hank Sanacola. I’m Frank’s manager.’ (that’s him on the left, below)
We got exceedingly friendly. Castro had just got into power and they cancelled my visa so we couldn’t go to Cuba. I had been two years before and loved it and wanted to take Renee. I went to Hank and said ‘the hotel’s full and I can’t get to Cuba. Can we stay another week before we go to Kansas to see her family?…’ ‘Sure you can.’ We got friendly; we ate every meal with Hank, half the meals with Frank, Edward G. Robinson, Governor Brown, everybody who visited – we were their English friends. If they went to the track, we went to the track – never did anybody have a honeymoon like that. On the last night they take us out to dinner. I said ‘I’ve heard of American hospitality but this is ridiculous.’ ‘Well, we like you, we love what you’re trying to do and Frank sees a kindred soul in you. He won’t tell you himself but he came off the streets and you came off the streets. You fought City Hall – he loved that. We want to buy you a present.’ I said ‘you’ve done more than enough for us.’ ‘Well, what would you like?’ I said ‘you know that song Frank just mimed to  – High Hopes. I’m just starting a publishing business and trying to pick up good copyrights. Any chance I could publish the music from the film?’ I did it tongue in cheek. Frank says ‘what’s the position with the publishing – have we got it?’ That’s the first time I knew they had a publishing company. ‘Well, Universal has it for five years, then we get it back.’ Very seriously Frank looks at me says ‘Hank, when the rights revert, make sure Jeffrey gets it.’
Thank you…i thought, yeah, we’ll never hear from these people again, but it was a nice gesture. They took us to the airport and I kept in close touch with them both. I met Hank three times a year when I was in L.A. or he came to England. Christmas of 1965  we went to L.A. for Harold Robbins’ New Year’s Eve party. In those days it was a hell of a long flight. We check in – it was about 2-o-clock in the morning; all we want to do is go to bed. The phone goes – ‘come to the office.’ I say ‘Hank, I’m too tired; leave me alone.’ My wife says ‘don’t argue – go over there. It’s only across the road.’ he says ‘I’m sending a car for you – I’m sending Eddie.’ Huge Lincoln, takes me 300 yards down the road to the office. I walk in – Nick Sevano’s there, three years before I met him with the Glen Campbell thing. He was a partner in a publishing company called Bartan Music..Hank Sanacola, Sinatra and little Ben Bartan. It incorporated Sinatra’s songs – they had High Hopes, Saturday night’s the loneliest night of the week, Chicago, Come fly with me  – they had songs like you wouldn’t believe. Hank’s lying on the chaise longe with his big cigar. ‘Sign!’. No hello no nothing. ‘What am I signing?.’ ‘Sign’. ‘Hank, I told you I don’t sign anything without reading it.’ ‘This you wanna sign.’ So I thought ‘sod it; it’s under duress but I’m too tired.’ I sign. ‘Both copies.’ So I sign both copies. ‘It’s taken us a while – there’s your wedding present.’ I said ‘what?’ I look at it. It’s an administration agreement for the world outside USA for the entire catalogue of Sinatra, not only the songs in the film, but all the songs. Until Senecola dies I represented those songs. And all the companies. Hank’s words were his bond. I’m sure my wife had a lot to do with it because she was the charmer. I was never social; I never knew what to say to people. My mind was always on the next record, the next this, the next that. I had a great responsibility. I had no partners – the only money I had was that which I earned.
High Hopes sheet music cover.jpg
As Frank Sinatra stories go, that was up there, wasn’t it? Still seven pages to go, but next time we will be returning to Ember. Interestingly I have been told that around the time he talked to me, Jeffrey was writing his autobiography which part explains the vivid memory. It was never publicly published, though copies exist. In his obituary of Jeffrey, Spencer Leigh has probably hit on the reason.

“Kruger wrote his autobiography, My Life With The Stars (Angels And Assholes) in 1999, but, despite being informative and entertaining, it was only published privately, possibly for legal reasons. “People think I’m a tough son of a bitch to work with, but I’m not,” he said. “It’s just that everything has to be right and I won’t let people walk all over me.”

Spencer Leigh ”

So, in its absence, this interview is possibly the next best thing. Seven pages to go…who knows what is coming next?

text©David Hughes, 2017, illustrations courtesy web searches just to liven up the copy!

About dhvinyl

Lifelong obsession with music, 33 years in the music business, 43 years immersed in selling old records, 20 years very happily retired!
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