A Personal History of the British Record Business 47 – Jeffrey Kruger 4.

Without wanting to, without maybe even realising it, in order to maximise the return on an American publishing deal he had struck with Ember’s Al Silver, Jeff finds himself having to release the original single of a song called ‘Banjo Boy.’ Because he’s successfully persuaded the majors in the UK and US to record versions, he has no option but to do so himself

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So I was in the record business.

So I’m telling Tony (Hall) that I want to release jazz records. He’s saying to me ‘there’s no money in jazz records; that’s a hobby.’ I went out with some girl and I heard the Ray Ellington Quartet – they were huge at the time. Dick Katz was their pianist, lovely guy, and when I watched him play piano my mouth was open because I couldn’t play like it.The Ray Ellington Quartet.png

Jimmy Phillips, the publisher, came to me with a song called The Madison  and he said ‘I’ve got the same problem as you – I’ve got to get a local version. I can’t get anybody to do it. London are releasing the original version and EMI have knocked it off already but with a singer, and that’s not going to work. I need a gutsy record. I want you to copy this record.’ ‘What do I do?’ He said ‘You hire a studio; in fact I’ll pay for the studio.’ I said ‘Well, I saw somebody last night who could probably cut it beautifully – Ray Ellington.’ ‘Great idea.’ At midnight the next day, the first time we could get any studio space, down  by the BBC where our engineer was the most famous rock producer today, Glyn Johns.

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We cut that and on the other side I put one of my copyrights, happened to be an Angel copyright by the Four Seasons guys, Bob Crewe and Bob Guardio. So we had The Madison Parts 1 & 2, She lied and Too old to cut the mustard. (not according to this single sleeve, but never mind!)

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We put it out; Jimmy got it in the charts for us (November-December 1962) and Walter’s (Woyda) calling me ‘We need more records.’ And I get a call from Woolfsons saying they’ve got record distribution for Scotland but they can’t get the majors’ products – they’re doing main scottish and Irish. I went up to look at this operation. It was huge. So they become our Scottish one. Lugtons did London and Leed with Walter, Then I get a call from a man called Solomons – not Phil, not Mervin, but the father (Maurice). I’d like to see you.’ I don’t know who he is. Up he comes, the old man and his wife, dolled in diamonds, beautiful. He said ‘Do you know me?’ I said ‘No, but are you any relation to Phil and Mervin?’ ‘Yes, Mervin runs our distribution in Ireland – we are the exclusive distributors for Decca; Phil’s got his own agency and he’s going to start a pirate radio station…(I’m not sure of the chronological order).’ He said to me – ‘Look, my bona fides are this: When Ted Lewis couldn’t pay his wages in 1927, I’m the one who backed him, I’m the one who got the shares and I’m the controlling shareholder for Decca. I want your line for Ireland and I want you to release some of these LP’s of Irish artists. I can sell tens of thousands.

So suddenly I had a network of distribution. ‘What about jazz?’ I said. He said ‘Anything you release there’s a market for, We’ll help you to sell, or we’ll export it for you.’ ‘What’s export?’ ‘Oh, we’ll ship it to France, to Germany, wherever.’ And that’s how I started in the record business. It became the necessity and in order to teach Al Silver a lesson I had the Ember label, so I used what was there. The artwork was ready.

How did you deal with all the admin?

Admin I was brilliant at. I had people. I brought in an accountant. I brought in a book-keeper and the three of us worked donkey’s hours. I mean, I always believed in paying good money and I was young. I worked sixteen, eighteen hours a day, crawling to the club, picking up my father at midnight and driving home. It got to the stage where I fell asleep one night and we brought in a driver. But I was running them all. Pete King was doing the agency, I was looking after the records and in 1961 I realised I needed albums.

In between I went up to see Len Wood again. Len always comes in to the picture, and I said ‘Len, I need distribution – I’m going to go after albums and things.’ He said ‘well, I can’t give you distribution yet unless Decca do, because I’ll be breaching an agreement that I shouldn’t tell you exists. The majors will go against each other, let’s simply say that. But downstairs is a man you can meet who has an office in Hayes and he’s the best exporter of product in the world. When he’s sober, he’s the best.’  I can’t think of his name, but he was your (EMI’s) head of export sales for donkey’s years – you brought in a young guy to help him and he took over, I sat down with him and he said ‘I can export this stuff but I must have an exclusive.’ I said ‘I don’t want the bother. How do I get paid?’ He said ‘every six months.’ I said ‘I want monthly payments – I need a cashflow.’ ‘OK, EMI’s big enough to handle that, or we’ll feed you on account and twice a year we’ll adjust it and you’ll owe us or we’ll owe you.’ Great.

I went over to the States. I knew and bumped into the man running 20th Century Fox, Norman Weiser, and he said ‘Well, you can have some of our albums. We’ve got Al Martino, Tommy Dorsey, the soundtrack of Summer Valley, Glenn Miller Band, but the best thing we’ve got is the Harry Simeone Chorale Little Drummer Boy.’ I said ‘I’m a jazz label, R&B, what is this stuff?’ He said ‘Well, you’ll have all our soundtracks, a free pass to all our pictures (I still loved the movies) and we’re filming Cleopatra  so you’ll finish up with that.’ Little Ember Records signed its first deal, not with a nobody, with 20th Century Fox! Again, we got publicity all over the world. Then I started to pick up albums. On the Billie Holiday tour she said to me ‘I’ve got masters you know.’ I said ‘Well I don’t know if I can get them out but I will try and get them released for you. Who knows? I don’t know what the future will bring. Send them to me.’  When I toured Billy Eckstine, he told me he had a band. He said ‘the girl you’re bringing on tour was my relief pianist and singer, Sarah Vaughan.’ I said ‘ Where are those records?’ He said ‘I’ve got them somewhere – I’ll send you the tapes.’ I started to collect these things, never thinking I’d put them out.

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I went to Cincinnati and met Syd Nathan who had a label called King. His office boy was Seymour Stein who went on to do Madonna and so forth. Syd took a liking to me. He was very wide, very fat, eating all the time. Came to work at two in the afternoon and stayed till midnight, that kind of operation. While waiting for him I was listening to these black guys recording. ‘What’s your name’ ‘Woolly John.’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘I’m Brown, James Brown.’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘We’re the Five Royales.’ I was hearing all these great sounds while waiting for him. His idea of an Englishman was like the Sherlock Holmes films – you wear striped trousers, bowler hat and an umbrella, and here was I going to baseball with him. Not that I liked baseball, but he did, so I liked baseball! The bottom line was that I came away with a contract that gave me his Bethlehem label, which was Duke Ellington, Chris Connor, a lot of jazz stuff which is what I was after. But he said ‘You’ve got to take my Federal label as well. You’ve got James Brown.’ I said ‘Yes, I heard him last night. I don’t know if that stuff will sell in England.’ He said ‘Tonight he’s cutting a new single – come to the session. Woolly John (I don’t believe he exists!!), The Shondels. I’ve just cut one called Dedicated to the one I love, that’s a hit (by the Five Royales). I want you to put those out. If they don’t sell initially, they’ll sell in five or ten years time – this is the coming music. Like, you fancied Al Silver’s kind of R&B – this is the real black stuff.’ So I was at the session when he did Tell me what you’re gonna do by James Brown. I went home and put that out. Then I put the album out. I put all the King albums out and that’s when I needed distribution.

Your (EMI) people were doing a phenomenal job exporting. Then I had Ariola in Germany become my representatives. They came to see me, wanted all this stuff. I called Syd. ‘You got anybody in Germany?’ ‘Where is effing Germany – I thought we destroyed that in the war’ I said ‘Well, can I have the rights for Germany?’ He said ‘Do what you like in Europe.’ I said ‘If I ever do anything, I’ll let you know.’ These guys were all too busy running their own operation to worry about where LA was, let alone England. The clever people were Decca and to a lesser degree your people when they bought Capitol, getting people to pick up all that independent stuff.

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We’ll stop and draw breath here, but not for long. The Ember empire carries on growing; Jeff plays Sir Edward Lewis off against L.G. Wood and is the first to spot Dave Clark….and much more!

Text ©David Hughes 2017. All illustrations are just that, courtesy Google search.

 

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50 years ago in the Music Industry 8 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

Those who are asoldasme may remember Lobby Lud, the mysterious character in trilby and raincoat who popped up at seaside resorts during the summer months in the 1950’s. If you approached him with a copy of the News Chronicle (my parents’ daily paper of choice due to its Liberal leanings – those were the days when the Liberals WERE a party!) and said “You are Lobby Lud and I claim my prize” you did…..though I have no memory of what the prize was – probably a voucher for the News Chronicle!

Anyway, in the summer of Sgt Pepper, someone at Disc – I’d like to think it was the advertising manager, a fine man with the unforgettable name of Fred Zebedee, rather than editor Ray Coleman – came up with the idea of repeating the experience by creating a Miss Disc and sending her off to Brighton and other resorts. By approaching Miss Disc, Sandy Brown, clutching a  copy of Disc & Music Echo and answering a carefully chosen question from her – you won a record token!

Sandy’s personal life shall remain hers, though I did recently rediscover her via Facebook living in Spain and sent her a good selection of these 1967 memory photos. Apart from looking fantastic, she became Miss Disc because her then boyfriend’s sister was the girl friend of Disc’s news editor (and said boyfriend and I later shared a flat in Sutton for a while). Also her (Sandy’s) sister married a pirate DJ and they are still together over 40 years later. That’s how things intertwined and  worked in those days!!

The summer of love!

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Oh, and just because it was in the same issue of Disc, how’s this for a bargain

 

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50 years ago in the Music Industry 7 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

Amen Corner had the joy of being managed by Don Arden, though I think it was he who decided the lads from Wales should live communally in a large house in Streatham. I went there a few times and it was all nice and innocuous. Little was I to foresee that Andy Fairweather-Low would go on to reach iconic guitarist/producer status, a revelation I encountered years later when, having been tasked by Harvey Goldsmith who had given himself the impossible task of being both Roger Waters’ manager and promotor of his “Pro’s and Cons of Hitch hiking” tour, got me to tell Waters and his wife why tickets weren’t selling! Deep breath….”No one knows who you are!” (Waters had refused to mention Pink Floyd in the advertising). Uproar!! However, something must have sunk in, as, the band was then boosted by Eric Clapton and Andy Fairweather-Low!!

Some years later, Andy produced and played on a “lost treasure” Glyn Johns-produced album, “Blue Slipper” by a lady called Helen Watson to whom my area of EMI tried hard to bring her the success and recognition she deserved….but we failed.

Today Blue Weaver is a Facebook friend, though I doubt he remembers who I am!!

Anyway, here they all are in Amen Cornerland in August 1967.

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 46 – Jeffrey Kruger 3.

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Picking up the story from where we left off. Jeff has proved his ability to run a hugely successful jazz club in Central London, has begun to record his artists for Decca’s Tempo label and has agreed a license deal  with Al Silver of Ember Records for American repertoire. Now he wants his own label in the UK, but after a bad experience at Decca he has agreed a licensing deal with the Parlophone and Columbia labels at EMI. We are in 1956.

Well, about that time, rock and roll had reared its ugly head and I took Tony Crombie from being a jazz band to being a rock and roll band, and naturally I put him with EMI. I couldn’t work with Tony (Hall) because I couldn’t work with Ted Lewis. I mean “I don’t want you in the business” (see Pt.2). My Ember releases were on EMI and I became very friendly with Len Wood. If I wanted to know something he’s tell me. I expanded and we did pretty well. We never had hits but very healthy sales. George (Martin) recognised the music even more than Norrie (Paramor) who was a little more staid. Norrie was more interested in taking the better songs and knocking them off with his own artists, but I didn’t care because I wasn’t interested in the record business – it was the publishing. I picked up a song called Banjo Boy, sung in German by two Danish boys, but something in the song hit my ear. I had a good ear and my deal with the German publisher was that I had the rights outside Germany. I had to get a major  (English) lyric, so I got Buddy Kaye, who was one of the top American writers  at the time and I had to get the original German version released in America and England to retain the copyright for life. I did too good a job. I went over to America – everybody,  from Kapp Records with Dorothy Collins, to MGM with Art Mooney and Capitol with Kay Starr.They were then released in England and we had about 13 cover versions out. I also got some British versions – George Formby on Pye. I had 23 covers. I was a hero.

 

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My dad was reading the contracts – he wasn’t in the business; he was a gentleman’s hairdresser but was also looking after the Flamingo for me. He gradually left that and looked after the club full time, host and so forth. He said to me ‘I don’t understand this contract – explain publishing to me. Have you seen this typewritten thing on the end?’ I said ‘what is it, dad?’ He said ‘you’ve got to put the original German version out!’. ‘Oh, shit! There’s no labels left.’ So I went to see Len and told him the problem and he said ‘I’ve got no label to release it on. I’ve got five versions out.’ Top Rank had started at the time and I’d got the Dorothy Collins version out there.

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Frank Chalmers, who was Len’s right hand man, had left EMI and gone to Top Rank, and he said to me ‘well, bloody well press it yourself!’ So I thought ‘interesting’. In between I had got very close to Al Silver (Ember USA, see Pt.2) and his wife Sylvia – we were bosom friends. Suddenly I couldn’t get hold of Al, which meant one of two things. He was running away sorting money or he had money troubles…or I don’t know what else! Frank calls me and says ‘Jeff, don’t you control the Ember label?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Do you till license it to us (EMI was his home, even when he went to Top Rank)’ I said ‘no, they’re at EMI.’ ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I meant EMI, I’ve got to remember I’m now at Top Rank! Al Silver’s offered us the Ember line. We’re thinking of launching an Ember label. Thought I’d better tell you.’ ‘Let me tell you, you can’t. I had a funny feeling about Al Silver and I trademarked the name. I own the name Ember. Not only do I own it in England, I own it for the world and if he’s playing games with me I’m going to teach him a lesson.’ ‘Well, he needs the money – he’s got IRS problems.’ I said ‘But we’re earning a fortune on the publishing. I’ve got about eleven grand here – how much does he owe?.’ I called Al and couldn’t get him, so I flew over to the States and said ‘Frank, you do your deal, but don’t consider releasing it on Top Rank – give me two weeks to go over there.’ He said ‘we’re going to schedule and the first one will be Lee Allen.’

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Right away I said: ‘I can tell you now that I’ve got a contract with EMI and he’s (Al Silver) got a contract with me , and mine pre-dates yours. I know that much about the law. Anyway, I go over and I can’t get hold of Al Silver, so I go straight up to his office and I sit there until I know he’s got to come in. He couldn’t face me, so I said to him ‘Listen, I’ve been your friend; you were at my wedding; you’ve been to my house and you’ve stabbed me in the back. You haven’t even got the guts to call me. If you’d have called me we’d have done something. I’ve got this deal with EMI.’ He said ‘well, it’s a cockamamie deal with EMI. I want a label deal.’ So I said ‘Have I got news for you’ and I told him in no uncertain terms to stop using Ember there and then. As far as I’m concerned he can shut the label down. ‘I ownEmber. You want to go to Rank, go to Rank, but it will be released on Top Rank and we’re through. But I’m holding on to all the masters that I’ve got and all the publishing.’ I had a big row with him. Top Rank took my advice. I produced my paperwork and they released it on Top Rank.

Meanwhile I went to Ted Lewis again and I said ‘Look, how do I press records?’ ‘I’m not helping you.’ I went to Len Wood and said ‘How do I press records?’ He said ‘You know, there’s a factory called Orlake that makes buttons. It’s owned by Ted Lewis but he probably doesn’t know it’s a Decca holding. All they’ve got to do is, instead of making the button, they can widen the template and make a record.’ So I went up to Orlake, which was in Edgware somewhere and they said ‘Yes, we can press records.’ ‘How much’ I worked it all out – a nice little profit on records. ‘I only need to press ten, I’ve just got to…’ ‘No you can’t – the minimum run is 100. Design a label.’  Now I’ve got to prove that I’ve distributed the record. (Just as an aide memoir (!!) we’re still talking about releasing Jan & Kjeld in the UK to satisfy the contract) . I don’t know who, but someone suggested I go and see Walter Woyda. (I interviewed Walter so that will follow one day!) He saidKeith Prowse has 34 shops and is always looking for product because the majors don’t really help him – they serve HMV and the like.’

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I went to see Walter and he couldn’t have been more charming. He said ‘of course I’ll distribute your records. What are you going to do after this German one – that’s not going to do much’ I said ‘well, I’m going to get it on the air. I’ve got to prove to this publisher.’ I press the 100. I deliver about 90 on my bike to Walter and he tells me about Legations (?) in Tottenham Court Road and I give them some and I go to the BBC because I’m told I’ve got to put it in their library. The BBC said ‘You can’t put it in the library – you’ve got to have a contract with PPL’ I can’t get a contract with PPL because it’s owned by the majors. I won’t tell you who at EMI, but our mutual friend, who shall be nameless as I made a promise, said ‘Sue the buggers! The BBC is a public corporation – they can’t be dictators.’ Off I go to the BBC and tell them either they give me a direct licence and put my record on the air, or I’m going to sue.’ I’m in the record business!

Because you weren’t part of PPL, they wouldn’t play your record?

That was the rule, or something like that. Only the majors could get their stuff on the air. That’s when I really knew what a monopoly was. Anyway I was the first one to get a direct agreement with the BBC. You’ll find EMB S101 – The Banjo Boys – the first thing in the library that they had there. I got the record out; it’s being played and it hits the bottom of the charts. I don’t know what’s happening but I’m pressing and pressing and pressing. The DJ’s, especially David Jacobs, who is (was) a law unto himself, and Jean Metrcalfe on ‘Family Favourites’ played the record. All I can tell you is we sold thousands – I couldn’t keep up with it. (It was in the charts for four weeks from July 21, 1960, reaching No. 36).

Now I’m not going down the club. I brought Pete King in from Ronnie Scott’s to run the agency and I’m sitting there. I don’t know what to do with myself – I’m in the record business with one record! Then I get a call from Australia.’Can we license it?’ ‘What’s licensing?’

So I was in the licensing business!

Don’t know about you, but I’m getting breathless just transcribing this! Part 4 will follow.

Text © David Hughes 2017. Photos for illustration purposes only, courtesy Google search.

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 45 – Jeffrey Kruger 2.

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In Pt.1 Jeffrey recalled his early life and the creation of the Flamingo Club in a basement room of the Mapleton Hotel, assisted by Tony Hall. Now we move seamlessly on!

Tony (Hall) was writing for various papers and he came to me one day and said ‘Listen, I’m going to join Decca as an A&R man for their Tempo label.’ So I said to him ‘Who are you going to record? Let’s record all these guys (the musicians he was booking at the Flamingo) Let’s do a series whereby on every record you put “Recorded at the Flamingo” or “by arrangement with the Flamingo” and maybe then we can open two or three nights a week’ So you’ll see that the first jazz stuff on Tempo was by everybody that worked at the Flamingo.

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Then I started to manage the jazz artists because I didn’t want them to go back to Studio 51, and in order to do that I had to guarantee them three nights work a week because if they could only one or two they would play Feldmans and Studio 51. So I organised them, but where the hell am I going to put them (to play)? So I started an agency. I called Ted Heath and said ‘look, it’ll be cheaper for you.’ and his wife Moira put a ‘Jazz at the Flamingo’ unit on as support to Ted, costing £5 a man insteaad of paying Johnny Dankworth £150. Ted is the draw anyway and they always sold out. He used to do the regular Sunday Night at the London Palladium. That’s how we started. I sent ‘Flamingo’ units all around the country – it didn’t matter what they paid me as long as it said in big type on the posters By Arrangment with Jeff Kruger’s Jazz at the Flamingo. Then we started recording. I then get a call from the BBC.  ‘We would like to use your guys on Jazz Club, you’re the manager. So I went to Aolian Hall and sat down with them and they said ‘Thursday night we’re on the air from 8-10pm.’ OK, that didn’t affect the club. I said ‘Well, I want a credit.’ ‘The BBC don’t give credits’. ‘Well, you don’t get any of my musicians.’ ‘You can’t do that.’ I said ‘why not?’ Anyway, that’s how I started to get my reputation as a tough bastard!

And you were working to get the club open more nights a week?

 

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It went to Saturday & Sunday; it went to Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Then we opened the Florida Club across the street at the Cafe Anglais next to the Odeon, Leicester Square. That took 600 people to deal with the overflow. I started to be able to offer the guys three days a week, but then I did what the (musicians’) union didn’t like – and certainly Studio 51 and The Feldman didn’t like – I put an exclusive clause in there. ‘You work for me or you work for them. You work for them, you never work for me. That means you don’t record and you don’t go on the air on any of my programmes.’ And I built up this agency that represented most of the jazz stars. The BBC then agreed to say ‘by arrangement with‘ and I stipulated that in each interview they must mention the club. To be fair, they did! So I was building up an image for the club. At the end of the second Jazz Club recording, the producer Johnnie Stewart  said to me ‘right, can you fill in these PRS forms.’ ‘What’s PRS?’ (this is 1952) ‘Performing Rights Society. Don’t you understand that every time your guys play these original songs we need the publisher.’ ‘Crombie, who wrote that song”‘ ‘I did’ ‘Sign this bit of paper’. ‘Why?’ ‘I’m going to get you money.’ ‘What do you get?’, which is a musician’s first question. ‘Every £1 I get, you get 50p and I get 50p.’ ‘Oh, that’s OK’ Crombie signed, Bill LeSage signed, Dankworth signed. So I built up a jazz publishing company and got into the publishing business before I realised what I was doing. At that point Tony (Hall) said ‘Right, we’re doing the first sessions at Tempo. I’m going to use Tubby Hayes…what are we going to record?’ ‘You can record this lot, or the boys can write new sstuff.’ Now I’d learnt there was such a thing as mechanical payment, so I became more interested in publishing and brought in Rik Gunnell to compere and run the all-nighters when they started. My parents took on the physical running of the club, the collection of the money and so forth. We ordered the Coca Colas and became the single biggest Coke user in London. We booked all the musicians, mainly from our own in-house people. Always fighting the union who were always saying  ‘it’s a monopoly.’ and I would say to them ‘Hey, these guys have never had it so good. They are now working three days a week, not standing outside the Windmill Theatre looking for gigs. I’m doing recordings with them; they’re being paid union scale.’ But they didn’t like the monopoly.

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Didn’t you recognise it as a monopoly?

No, I didn’t know what the word meant. I was protecting the Flamingo. We started to record and I could see that when the Tempo catalogue came out, of the first 20 things on there, 18 were mine. So I said to Tony ‘In order to expand my publishing I’m going over to America to see if I can pick up some more publishing catalogues.’ I picked up Angel Music Inc. from Al Silver and Doug Moody, whose main businesses were Ember and Herald Records. They had hit after hit. In 1953 when I started talking to them, they had Shake a hand with Fay Adams which was No. 1 on the R&B charts

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Then, in 1957 I got them to actually sign an agreement whereby I represented their publishing and we got The Joker by Billy Myles – a No. 1, Lee Allen’s Walking with Mr Lee, The Mello Kings‘ Tonight Tonight, Fred Parris and the Satins’ In the Still of the Night – all top five R&B charts hits, and I’m the publisher, so I’m building up an R&B catalogue, my first move away from jazz, although when I first heard the music I heard it as jazz – the same riffs –  and I’m meeting all these great guys…Screaming Jay Hawkins…all of these kind of people, and picking up all their publishing. Then I said to Tony ‘I’ve got records here – I’ve got to do something about them.’

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So I went to see Sir Edward Lewis at Decca, got as far as his right hand man Bill Townsley; couldn’t get beyond him, and he said ‘I’m not putting you in the record business.’ I said ‘Hold on, I’m not asking you to put me in the record business; I want to licence to you for your London label’ (which I’m not sure had started then). And the reason I went to Decca first was that every morning I travelled up with Beecher Stevens, who was their head of promotion, and we started to talk. All I wanted was to get a  record out – I didn’t realise what records were – to protect my publishing. They threw me out. I went to Philips, then threw me out. Morris Levy (Oriole Records), loveable man, said ‘Look, I’m concentrating on my Embassy line with Woolworths. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it but I’ve got this Tamla Motown label, well, Tamla and Motown,’ he said. ‘It’s terrible music. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but this man Gordy came to see me and nobody else would take it, so I’ve got it.’

So I thought, well, there’s no point going to EMI. They’re the giants, I wouldn’t get through the door. Who’s the boss of EMI, L.G. Wood or Sir Joseph? I’ve forgotten, but that’s the way I thought. His (L.G. Wood) secretary, who was a lovely lady said ‘You need to see L.G. Wood.’ I thought, ‘God, how am I going to get to see him? It’s taken me months to get to Lockwood on the phone, never mind anything else.’ So I wrote a little note to L.G. Wood. ‘Come up and see me.’  So I went up to see him and he said ‘What have you got in mind?’ I said ‘Look I’ve got this Ember label’ – by this time I had signed a deal with Al Silver that I represented Ember for the world outside America. We’d formed Ember Records International Ltd. on a 50/50 basis and he (Al) was too busy hiding his money away and making everything he touched turn to gold. Hit after hit after hit. He didn’t put a thing out that didn’t chart, or if it didn’t chart it sold more down in Louisiana and those kind of places, he didn’t care if it didn’t show on the charts. Everything he did was touching six figures and in those days that was heavy. And his father-in-law owned the pressing plant, adn they had the publishing. They didn’t know what day it was for counting money.

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So I explained my theory to Len Wood and he said ‘This is novel; they’ve (Decca) started their London label. Wally Ridley is very staid on the HMV label – I don’t think that’s your cup of tea, but would you allow us to release them on Parlophone or Columbia, at our election, but we’ll give you a credit ‘Licensed from Ember Records?’ So I said ‘Well, yes, but I was kind of thinking about having an Ember label.’ ‘That we’re not going to do. We’re not going to put you in business that way but we will release the product and you can pick what you want released, but you’ll have to work with one or other of our A&R men.”Who are they?’ ‘Norrie Paramor or George Martin – do you mind if I get them into the meeting?’ In they came. Wally Ridley was against it – he didn’t want anyone usurping his recordings of Alma Cogan or whoever. George and Norrie listened to the music and thought ‘This is great; we can’t reproduce those sounds here; do we get a promotion budget? etc.etc.’ ‘We’ll discuss that when Mr Kruger has gone. But in principle what do you think?’ ‘We love it.’ So the deal was done whereby Ember Records International was licensed to EMI through Len Wood, and the first releases came out on Parlophone, a couple on Columbia and I worked with George and Norrie.

Phew! You will notice I’ve asked very few questions! Still 24 pages to go, and I’m enjoying the transcription. I need someone to tell me the early Ember Int releases on Parlophone or Columbia.

Text ©David Hughes 2017. Images courtesy Google searches are for illustration purposes only.

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 44 – Jeffrey Kruger 1.

 

 

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Jeffrey Kruger, who died in May 2014, will forever be remembered in the music business as one of its true entrepreneurs – the man who created The Flamingo, London’s premier British modern jazz club off Leicester Square, and Ember Records which he owned and ran successfully as an independent label in the years of an industry dominated by the giants of EMI, Decca, Philips and Pye. I interviewed him at his home near Brighton, where Pink Flamingo statues adorned the driveway.

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When I was starting out in the early 1950’s, EMI had the monopoly, though that word was never allowed to be mentioned. There were five of them as I recall: Decca, EMI, Philips, Pye, and then Oriole.

The bottom line is I never had any intention of going into the record business. I was basically the owner of the most successful club in Europe called The Flamingo. It started with jazz and went on to develop of what they called rock artists, rhythm and blues, ska, reggae, with all night sessions. It started the careers of people from Deep Purple to Eric Clapton when he was one of the members of a group with Rod Stewart who was never allowed to sing at the time, and a little guy from Pinner playing piano who changed his name to Elton John…who would beg to play piano…or Jimi Hendrix walking in and me introducing him to Chas Chandler who happened to be playing with the Animals that night. So all of that was my real interest, because it was the big money earner for me.

Artists were being recorded there, weren’t they? I remember R&B at the Flamingo.

It was the ‘in’ place, and later on The Marquee

What prompted it?

I was a piano player and a pretty good one, but I didn’t know it. Every time I heard jazz artists – I was into the big bands, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Basie, Jimmy Lunceford – I never knew if they were black or white. All I had were the 78’s of a cousin of mine. I couldn’t afford to buy records and my parents couldn’t afford to buy a gramophone. But I used to play a piano and I played in little groups, but I was then in the film business, selling films, and used to go down to Studio 51 or the Feldman Swing Club which were the  two trad/modern clubs, depending on which night you were there. I wasn’t a snob but I was working for Columbia Pictures and I saw the better things in life. My parents worked damned hard for me and my sisters, so I appreciated a good restaurant even if I couldn’t afford it – I knew what was nice and what was not nice. When I first walked down into the Feldman club there was for me a smell, a basement smell, damp. The music was great but I couldn’t take the atmosphere. Until I went to Studio 51 which was even worse, that was as near the drains as anything. But again, the music was superb. I went over to New York and bought Erroll Garner’s Penthouse Serenade. I got the (piano) music and the 12″ which was not available in the UK, brought it home and tried to play as well as Erroll Garner in five minutes, because I now had the music and I now had the record. In actual fact I was playing well but I didn’t realise it – I thought I was going downhill. I remember going for an audition for the Big George Evans Band, and he said ‘you’re a solo pianist; you’re not a jazz pianist; you can’t extemporise if you’ve got the music in front of you.’ I decided that if I could not play as well as these people I wanted to do something where I could enjoy my hobby and maybe earn a living. I was a great film salesman. I was their youngest and possibly their highest paid, because I worked like crazy. I had a knack of walking into a room sensing what to do, whether to talk football or women. I was a natural salesman – I could sell anything. At Columbia (Pictures) in those days we had to sell The Bandit of Sherwood Forest while MGM were sitting there taking orders for Quo Vadis – that was the contrast, selling straight to the cinemas. So it was like me trying to compete with a full out EMI campaign when I had Ember. There was no chance – you had to do it in other ways. So I went with a girl to the Mapleton restaurant on a Saturday night to have a meal after coming out of the Empire.220px-London_Empire_Theatre_EFA.jpgmapleton-hotel-coventry-street-london-7196013.jpg

I Went down to the men’s room and there was this lovely basement; it was like a room where they did their little affairs. I spoke to the manager, Tony Harris and I said ‘What do you do with that room downstairs?’ ‘Nothing’, he said.’The Wardour Street people use the room during the week but Friday, Saturday, Sunday it’s empty.’ And we started to talk and he liked music and I said to him: ‘I’ve been to the cinema, but before I picked up my girlfriend I went down to Studio 51 – God, it’s terrible down there. I’d like to open a jazz club here.’ And that’s how it started. He said ‘what rent can you pay?’ And I said ‘look, the room’s empty. If I bring in people, you run the bar, you keep the bar; let me worry about what goes on in the room.’ At that time I was exceedingly friendly with Tony Hall who was the compere at Studio 51, and one of my other close friends was Les Perrin, who was the laid back, arch PR man.

 

 

 

Les Perrin and Tony Hall

Had he (Perrin) left the NME?

This was 1952 – the NME hadn’t started. It may have started but Maurice (Kinn) was not involved and that will take another few hours! The take-over of the NME, just as a side issue, was going to be Harold Davison, me and Maurice and some money from the guy who ran ballrooms in Norwich and Nottingham. There was a lot of jealousy and friction between Maurice and me; we did two tours – the Sarah Vaughan tour which is how I got her to the club, and the Billie Holiday tour – that’s how I got Billie to the club. But Maurice forgot to bill me on the Sarah Vaughan tour. It was ‘Maurice Kinn presents…’ Left me out and everybody else. He did put ‘by arrangement with Harold Davison’ but we were not pleased. Joe Loss was his silent partner – the Kim Loss Agency. So I said to Les Perrin ‘I’ve got this idea.’ ‘Great idea’, he said,’we’ll go up and see Harold.’ So we went up to see Harold Davison and he said ‘what do you want to do?’ So I told him and he said ‘look, when my groups are playing The Palladium, they finish at 9.30pm, so what night do you want to open?’ I said ‘what night can I get Ted Heath?’

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He said: ‘Don’t be mad, you couldn’t afford Ted Heath.’ In those days it was £150 for Ted Heath. I said ‘what about Johnny Dankworth?’ He said ‘the big band? You can’t get it in the room. But the 7-piece might be an idea. August 29th they’re going to be at the Palladium, they’ll be finished by 8 o’clock. If you want the Seven, how much can you pay them?’ I said ‘I’ve got no money, I’m trying to do this on the “if”. I think I paid them £30 but in those days that was a lot of money. Then Tony Hall and Les Perrin came up with the idea of the re-formation of Kenny Graham*, so Les got me the front page of Melody Maker and the top story was the Flamingo opening. It was the front page story because Ray Sonning became a friend of mine – he was the editor – he was at the Melody Maker and he had something to do with the NME – I can’t remember what. But in any event Ray gave us the front page story. Everyone was telling me ‘use this one (musician), use that one, use Tommy Pollard.’ I’d never heard of these people but I had to get into British jazz. I knew Tommy Kinsey, I knew Ted Heath because I’d seen him at the Palladium, but I really didn’t know the Tommy Pollards, the Dudley Moores, the George Shearings. I knew every American act. Les got me publicity like I’d never had and by four-o-clock on the afternoon of August 29th, I had a call from the police. I lived in Harrow. ‘Mr Kruger, come and get these people off the street or we’re going to charge you with obstruction.’ I said ‘what are you talking about’ ‘Hasn’t anybody called you?’ ‘No’. He said ‘there are 400- to 1000 people round the Mapleton, blocking the back of the Prince of Wales. Get them off the streets!’ The room legitimately only held 300 people. I called Tony Hall. ‘Listen, I’m on my way to the club; it’ll take me 40 minutes to get through the traffic. Got any records? What can we do?’ So Tony grabbed all the records he could; I got there, and it was mobbed. I grabbed my mum and dad and said ‘Look, we’ve got to make all these people members; they’ve all got to sign a form; it will take hours.’ We charged them 7s6d (37p) which was higher than the most expensive seat in the cinema and they had to wear ties and jackets. We were going to make it upmarket. That’s how the Flamingo started in 1952 – a full house and I had the Johnny Dankworth Seven (without Cleo), Kenny Graham, and a house trio. That night every guest in the world who was anyone tried to get it. I made nearly £100 that night after I’d paid everybody – I guess that’s £200 by today’s standards (remember this interview dates from 2000).

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Johnny Dankworth Seven

  • Wikipedia verification: After the end of the war, Kenny Graham played in many of the leading British dance bands of the era, including those led by Nat Temple, Nat Gonella, Ambrose, Leslie “Jiver” Hutchinson and Eric Winstone, as well as in Victor Feldman‘s Sextet, before forming Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists in April 1950. The band sought to develop “an amalgam of bebop, African and Cuban rhythms and super-modern harmonies” Although “artistically successful”[3] and acclaimed for its innovative style, the band was not widely popular with audiences and the original band folded in March 1952 when trumpeter Jo Hunter and drummer Dicky DeVere left. However, a new band of Afro-Cubists performed at the opening night of the Flamingo Club in Soho in August 1952.[5] Graham also played baritone sax in Jack Parnell‘s band, and tenor with other bands, occasionally reconvening the Afro-Cubists for recordings and performances.[1][2] The Afro-Cubists recorded two EPs in 1954, Afro-Cadabra and Excerpts from Caribbean Suite, with a band including saxophonist Eddie Mordue and drummer Phil Seamen.[

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Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists

Phew! And that’s just the first three of a 30-page interview. More as soon as….

©David Hughes 2017 (text) Pictures from Google search are for illustrative purposes only.

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50 years ago in the Music Industry 6 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

After my triumph at having found a Sergeant Pepper I guess it was no surprise that Ray Coleman should send me on another Beatle-related mission, this one even battier, to find out if the residents of St. George’s Estate in Weybridge were mortified to find a highly decorated gypsy caravan pitch up in the garden of neighbour John Winston Lennon. I’m guessing no actual Beatle was talking to us in the summer of ’67 – and it is of course, the silly season.

Still, in addition to this twaddle, you get a peek at another piece of Disc battiness, the seaside tour by Miss Disc! Chosen by “competition” earlier in the year, Sandie Brown was to mimic the legendary Lobby Lud and arrive incognito on various seafront promenades and if you spotted her and were carrying a copy of Disc….well, I can’t finish the sentence as I have no memory of the prize!

As always, Happy Days! Sandie is still very much alive and kicking, as his her sister, who has enjoyed a long and presumably happy marriage to Roger “Twiggy” Day!John Lennon 1.jpeg

“David Hughes reporting” indeed. I did better reporting on the Gravesend Kent Messenger!!

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