A Personal History of the British Record Business 53 – Jeffrey Kruger 10 and conclusion!.


We left Jeffrey at the end of a lengthy story featuring Charlie Pride and Kenny Rogers which prompted me to ask about the relationship between concert tour promotors and record companies.

I always try to be fair. I have sat at both sides of the table. Where I wore my promotor’s hat my brief was to get maximum exposure, sell as many records and put as many bums of seats as possible. I thought I had common ground, whether it was EMI or whoever. Roy Featherstone, when we took him out with Colin Burn to do the Helen Reddy tour, heard Jeff Wald say to him ‘this is what we want’ (and at that time Helen was a heavy seller), but whenever I got what I thought was fair, I would report back to, in this case Jeff Wald. ‘Not good enough’, he said, ‘I want extra limousines. I’m bringing my mum, my dad, uncle and my aunt and EMI have got to pay for it.’ I said ‘hold on, I’ve got to work with them again” Then he would go to the president of Capitol – in those days it was the gambler Artie Mogul. ‘Artie, Jeff (Kruger)’s giving me trouble because he’s having trouble. Roy Featherstone won’t give me my flights to Liverpool. We’ve got to go in a car and you want us to do a special.’…and all of this, not understanding that it took longer to fly to Liverpool from Luton and we were halfway there anyway in the limo. Jeff was most obnoxious and tough. In the end Roy, every time he heard my name, cringed because he knew Jeff (Wald) was going to ask for more, so I became the symbol of the bad one. Not that I’m saying I wasn’t tough – I was. I wanted the maximum. But once certain people agreed, I was once of them. Roy was another – within the confines of what he promised me, it was there. But the record companies always felt that if they put their hands in their pockets, if they laid on the limo, then they controlled the artist. I took the view that as I’m bringing them in, this is primarily a tour. The TV is beneficial to both of us, but I’m not changing a concert date so they can do ‘Top of the Pops,’ important as it is to the record company.


Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye in happier days

That was where I had my biggest rows with EMI, over Marvin Gaye. I barred Ken East – he never saw the concerts. I refused to allow him in the Albert Hall; he was turned away. He then bought a ticket and tried to comein the public entrance, and I had him ejected. That;’s what Marvin wanted. Berry Gordy was not allowed through the door because he insulted Marvin. He did not send a welcome note; he didn’t send any flowers and Marvin said ‘He don’t want to see me, I don’t want him in the audience.’ You try telling Berry Gordy that! That afternoon Ken East came. Roy was with him and they came to the stage door because they’d been told Marvin was pissed off with him (Ken East). They never even had the sense to send him a bowl of flowers or anything when he arrived. Normally your (EMI) people were brilliant at this but the Motown (international) Division was supposed to pay and that wasn’t EMI. There was a war between Motown and war between EMI and I was in the middle of it. We did used to have terrible terrible troubles. I wanted a dozen records. I didn’t want them for myself but to give to my radio people to promote the local date. ‘They’ve all been serviced.’ ‘Well, Radio City in Liverpool haven’t got it.’ It happens even with the biggest of companies. The bottom is, I had to go and buy the record. Marvin sees me doing this one day and goes beserk. So what does he do – he calls Mike Rushkind ‘cos he’s not talking to Berry. Mike, who has a temper of all tempers, is immediately talking to Ken East!

Marvin said to me at the Albert Hall – ‘who’s on the guest list?’ “Jagger, Ross – all these people.’ ‘I’m not having Ken East in here.’ I said ‘Look, I’m doing a tour with Glen (Campbell) in three weeks’ time.’Screw that, I don’t want EMI in here. I don’t want Motown in here. If they don’t think enough of me….where’s their ad in the programme?’ They wouldn’t even do that – I think I put one in the end – Mike Rushkind said he’d pay me back. They’d already postponed the tour to allow them to do the (‘Live at the Palladium’) recording. The mistake I made there – the Palladium album – was that I did it, got a credit, but I trusted Mike and I never got my farthing royalty. It sold three million and I never got a penny.

In light of my own experiences of working with Marvin when at Motown, I took a deep breath and asked about the July 9 1980 Lakeside, Surrey charity concert in front of HRH Princess Margaret.

The night before, I flew back, left Howard (Kruger, Jeff’s son) with him in Switzerland and on the plane Marvin said to him “What am I doing getting up early in the morning. Doesn’t your old man trust me to get there in time for the show tonight?’ ‘No. He took your mum, your aunt and your son to buy clothes for tonight and he’s got to make the arrangement – it’s a Royal show.’ ‘What does the Princess want with an effing n****r like me?’ is how he told the story, by which time Marvin is snorting away on the plane. About two-o-clock Howard calls me. ‘We’ve landed and he’s in the hotel. He’s not in a mood but he’s out of it.’ I called him mum and said ‘Look, he wanted this evening, not me. My tour’s finished.’ She called me back. ‘I can’t wake him, he’s out.’ I said, ‘you’d better do something because I don’t give a shit frankly. I’m tired. He’s caused me more aggravation than I’ve had from anybody. I can’t take this paranoia where one day he’s the greatest gentleman in the world and ten minutes later he doesn’t know who I am.’ She said ‘well, he doesn’t know who I am either.’ I felt very sorry for the mother and the aunt. Anyway, they call me about five-o-clock and say ‘we’ve got him up and he’s feeding the kid – he’ll be alright.’ Quarter to seven, Terry Jones calls me and says ‘is the band there?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Marvin’s out again.’ I call Peter Prince. ‘You left your office yet?’ Call in at the Britannia (Hotel) and see what’s happening. I can’t leave here.’ He calls me back. ‘I’m going to get a conference call – I’m getting Berry Gordy on the line; this is serious.’ I said ‘Is he going to come or not?’ ‘He’s screaming, running round the hotel saying you’re going to kill him if he doesn’t go on’ Now I think I said in the afternoon ‘if you don’t get here I’ll bloody kill you’, like you do. Peter by now has come out to the club and he’s left Terry Jones and the tour manager, who was the one supplying Marvin with all the stuff. The mother, the aunts and the son are already at the venue, dressed magnificently – it’s cost Marvin £5,000 in gowns and things.lakeside-country-club.jpg

Next I call the Commissioner of Police and tell him the story. ‘Before the party leaves the Palace, can you send somebody (to Marvin’s hotel) I don’t want him stopped anywhere, but pour some coffee into him and get him here.’ ‘I’ll send one of my best men, Mr. Kruger; we’ll do it discreetly. Berry Gordy said to me ‘He needs money. I’ll offer him fifty grand to appear, not to disgrace Motown.’ The American ambassador calls him  and says he’s reasonably coherent. ‘I don’t want your effing money  – you only offer me money when you want something.  I’m going to CBS.’ The American ambassador said, ‘look Marvin, forget Berry Gordy, forget Motown, you are going to hurt the American black man. You are going to hurt the President of the United States. You are going to insult of the next in line in the Roayl Family. It’s going to hit every paper. You’ll be through. Your mother’s here.’

He finally agrees he’s going to come…by which time my wife is stalling Princess Margaret who is going down the line and wants to know where I am. Then I get called to her and have to explain. Meanwhile I get hold of Pete Murray, who was there, and Susan Maughan and a couple of comedians. Pete said ‘don’t worry, I’ll get these people together; we’re not going to give the money back – it’s a charity thing; we’ll all do a show.’ It turns out to be a better show – Marvin’s band was there. My wife told Princess Margaret ‘(Marvin’s) so overwhelmed about coming here tonight that he can’t get his act together.’ She said ‘Many of us have been through that.’ She knew what we meant. She said ‘don’t worry, I’ll go on stage and introduce these other acts and we’ll manage without him.’ Which is exactly what she did, and it was a wonderful evening. We explained that Marvin was indisposed, but the word had got out and the press suddenly turns up in drove. ‘Marvin Gaye spurns Royal Family’ was the big headline. Jimmy Green was there, the doyen of the Evening News – he and Don Short (Daily Mirror) were the ones you could trust. So the show’s over and at twenty-to-eleven, the Princess leaves, and as we’re leaving he rolls up. I never saw him; I wouldn’t stop. I said ‘we’re going, finished. I don’t want to know him any more. I’ve been through this now for three tours. Let him go with this Freddie Cousaert (a Belgian whom Marvin had hired to try and resolve his tax problems. Marvin subsequently moved to Belgium) Let him learn what a good promotor was. They next day as you know they (the band) picketed my house in London because I wouldn’t give them their air tickets. I didn’t ‘you didn’t perform, I’m not obligated to send you home. Find your own way home. I couldn’t care less.’ He stayed in London for a while and the band went home. I never saw him again.

So there you are! Jeffrey ended by telling me that he was trying to sell Ember Records and its subsidiary and licensed labels; a serious illness in 1991 which forced him to scale back his promotor duties and further differences of opinion with Hal Shaper. I hope he managed to settle all these aspects of his multifarious businesses before his death. Whether you regard him as a hero or not, he was a British independent music business pioneer his is a story that I do not believe has ever been told. Jeff did write his autobiography but it was never published, though at least one reader of these blogs has a copy. He was writing it at the time I interviewed  him which may explain the extraordinary clarity of memory he had.

As to the Marvin Gaye/Princess Margaret episode, several EMI people were there and may have different versions of the evening!

Next we move to a titan of Decca Records, the producer Bunny Lewis (to the besdt of my knowledge, so relation to Sir Edward!)

Text © David Hughes 2018. Illustrations courtesy Google Search.



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50 years ago in the Music Industry 11 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

Looking for articles with my by-line, I chanced upon this, written pretty much 50 years ago. I’d forgotten all about it, but then Bob Farmer – who has completely disappeared with no Google trace – wrote it, not me! Some six years later Maureen was to play a hugely important part in my next life – as press officer at Polydor, when she was persuaded, or maybe volunteered, to start the Official Osmonds Fan Club of Great Britain.

I don’t think either of us knew what we had started, but that’s a story for another day!!




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A Personal History of the British Record Business 52 – Jeffrey Kruger 9.


Straight on where we left off. But a warning – this episode contains a very long, but very entertaining, story about Charley Pride!

What happened to Ember Records? Did it become second fiddle to the show promotion?

In the early 1970’s what happened was….I like to create things and I love talent. I was only happy when I was working with talent in a theatre or a club. All I wanted to do was to be near talent. The publishing was running well under Hal Shaper. I used my contacts to bring it in. Professionally Hal did a marvellous job for me – on the personal side, another story..not for today! I had stopped the agency. The club ran until 1975 but I didn’t like the psychedelic approach. We started to have Iron Maiden and these groups. I was ashamed. I wouldn’t go in the club. After my father died in 1964 I was very disenchanted. For a year and a half I did practically nothing; I couldn’t believe he was gone and everywhere I went I saw him, so I couldn’t face the club. I still had a good management team there. Tony Harris was there and if £100 was made, I’d get my £80 or £75, whatever the percentages were – they never cheated me. I’m not saying Rik Gunnell didn’t put his hand in the till, but he put whisky into the club. I didn’t know about that until one night I caught him and fired him. But, as he said to me “this is the way it has to be with allnighters.” I only fired him when I got off the plane, read the Evening Standard one night, and there’s an article saying he owns and runs the club. I went straight down there and fired him. He never worked for me again.


He became Georgie Fame’s manager – we were supposed to do it together but I couldn’t be bothered – I had the club, publishing, records. I didn’t mind what my people were doing as long as they told me. Rik told me he wanted to manage Georgie Fame and I said ‘if you want to manage him, do it’ Fine, I knew.

I was in Nashville with Glen Campbell and I saw Charley Pride – loved him. I was very friendly with all the country artists. I loved Faron Young, all those guys. I used to hang out with them because they all had breakfast at King of the Road, and that’s where I stayed.


Glen told me “stay there” so I was one of the few allowed to sit at the artists’ table, and I’d have breakfast every morning with Marty Robbins, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner and his young bird Dolly Parton. I get a call in 1971 from Jack Johnson, manager of Charley Pride. ‘Look, everyone’s seen what you’ve done with Glen Campbell. We can’t believe you broke a man like that in Europe and sustained it. Would you consider promoting Charley Pride?” I say ‘well, I saw him in Vegas and was quite impressed. Who’s he with?” “RCA. He sells more records than Presley.” I said “hey Jack, if we’re going to have a relationship, don’t snow me. Bottom line it.” He said ‘here’s the number of the president of RCA. Call him and ask him who below the Mason-Dixon line sells more records.” I made the call – Charley outsold Presley 2 or 3 to 1, and the guy at RCA in New York said ‘his contract’s up for renewal Mr. Kruger. He’s going to ask you to do a tour. We’ll back it in any which way. We must re-sign him. He is as important to us as Presley. Anything you want.” I called the Solomons (Phil) for something. Renee and I were going over to Ireland and we had dinner with Maurice, the old man and Mervyn (Conn) and his first wife were there. I said ‘I’m thinking of bringing over some country stuff.” “Great, we’ll sell 30-40,000 albums on each one.” ‘They’re not my artists.” “Well, maybe you can pick up some rights on your Starday deal. Put them out, hold the material. Who’s the first one?” “I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, Charley Pride.” “We can’t get his records in Ireland – I will sell 50,000 albums of Charley Pride within a week if you’re bringing him over.” I said “well, I’m not bringing him here (Ireland) – you guys are at war. I don’t know what I’m doing here!”


Mervyn Conn  and Phil Solomons

I called Jack Johnson.”If you’re serious, I’ve now researched it. RCA have put out two Charley Pride albums and have no plans to put out any more. You’ve got 18 albums out there (USA), you want to re-sign. Someone has to put the pressure on somebody here. The only one who has any faith is the RCA plugger Tommy Loftus.” So I sat with Tommy before the RCA meeting and he said “They’re not interested. They’re only interested in Presley and their rock stars. This new American who’s come over in charge – the English hate him and he hates the English people he’s got here. He can’t bring the Americans in and we’ve got no management. We’re torn asunder.” Up I go with Jack. He (no idea who ‘he’ was) keeps us waiting for 25 minutes. I send a note in “You have five minutes and then I’m walking. If I walk, the next act to walk will be Charley Pride and if you don’t think he’s important, please call this number, your president.” And I said to Jack “let’s have a walk round the block.” In that five minutes he must have called New York and he must have been told how important Charley was. As we got back in the building, they were waiting for us downstairs in Curzon Street and now we’re being treated a little more deferentially. “Well, we don’t know what we can do”. Jack said “Look, all I want you to do is, whatever Mr Kruger wants in the way of posters, publicity, promotion, give it to him. We all know it’s going to be charged back to Charley. When he comes in I want all the press I can get. He’ll do every interview, no matter how small, and I want television. I don’t care if he standing on his head!” I told them what I wanted – posters for each venue, adverts for the forthcoming releases and the tour dates on every advert. I wanted trade paper ads, also Disc, Record Mirror, NME and they agreed all of this and agreed to put out some albums. And Jack said “that’s not good enough – all 16 albums are to be released en masse by the time we come over. They must be in the catalogue.” And on that basis he went back and re-signed with RCA. The English people promptly forgot about him. I went up there, sat with them, ordered the posters and got permission from Presley to say “I love Charley Pride – you must see him.” – that was our poster. They would print it and overstick the theatre dates. I thought “great, it’s not costing me anything; these ads would go in, they’d buy radio ads, it was all laid out, ticketed and signed. Loftus was the liaison.

Every year we’d go down to Cannes for the summer for the whole of July and part of August. I get back at the end of August for the tour starting in the middle of October. Nothing. I walk in my office ‘”where’s the Charley Pride psoters?” Nothing. Called Tommy Loftus. He said “everything’s manana. They’ve got some of their rock acts over – this is going to fall on its face.” I said “no it’s not, tickets go on sale next week.” I call Jack – Charlie was with him- they put me on the squawker. Charley said “I’ll call you back in 15 mionutes – don’t budge.” The called RCA’s boss. I don’t know what went on but you never saw a team pull its finger out like the London people did. But again, not with grace. “That effing Kruger.” I was treated like a pariah, but I got what I wanted and Charley’s tour was a sellout. The Solomons sold 150,000 albums in Ireland within ten days of him appearing in Belfast. Charley became a massive seller here as you know. I did three tours with him until I upset him in Dublin through his own stubbornness. We always had to arrange with the Provos and the IRA that if we brought an act over – Glen Campbell, Bill Anderson, Faron Young, Don Williams and Charley – they were the five, that they got tickets and then there’d be no trouble. Special branch used to take me to meet them. The mayor of Belfast opened this up for me and met the heads of…you know, the villains, and I said “Are you sure?” “Yes, we need it here – it’ll be good PR, there’ll be no problems.” I said “well, I’m going to see the Provos next” “That’s OK, we know what you’re doing. Don’t worry about the tickets – we’ll all sit together.” I said “what! – you’re killing each other Monday to Friday.” “That’s business, this now is something else? And I swear to you we never had any trouble. We go to Dublin and the routine was ‘you call the army post and tell them the coach is leaving and it’ll come through the checkpoint at such and such a time and they will escort it to the hotel’ On this occasion I said “I’m following with Charley Pride, Mrs Pride, coming in this Jaguar and we’re leaving at 12 and will be through the border at a quarter to one.” Charley, who could be very stubborn, comes out at twenty past eleven and says “I’m going shopping”. I said “Oh not you’re not” Well, when I said no, he said yes. Charley goes shopping and comes back about twenty past twelve. Now we’re late for the checkpoint. Unbeknownst to me at one-o-clock the morning army shift ended and the afternoon shift took over. They were given a clipboard that said to be on the lookout for a limo with five passengers and help it through to the hotel. The officer in charge knew, but we were late – I didn’t phone. I’m yelling at Charley. “Don’t worry”, he says “I’ve bought gifts for everybody.” We get to the border and there’s suddenly Bren guns pointing at everybody, soldiers lying on the floor with guns pointing at us. “Get out of the car with your hands us.” Charley’s saying “what’s going on?”. I said “I don’t know, we’re late but it’s all organised.” I get out but they say “Everybody”. I said “wait a minute. I don’t know what’s going on but I’ve got Charley Pride in here.” He was a huge name by that time – he was on this third tour – and I said to the officer, “I think there’s been a mistake.” By this time Charley’s got out and is signing autographs, but he’s going “I’ll never forgive you for this.” I said “it’s your bloody fault for going shopping.” and his wife is saying “shut up both of you”. And Frank Mancini of course can only see his artist is upset and he’s going “you should have made us leave.” I said “you’re a fat lot of good, poncing over here, getting a free trip. You’ve never been outside New York. Don’t you ever interfere; you’re lucky I even let you in the car.” After ten or fifteen minutes…”We’re sorry Mr Kruger, we’re sending an escort” and of course we’re taken to the hotel, a sell out concert that night. Afterwards at dinner, Charley said to me “I nearly went white. I’ll never forgive you. I’m not working for you anymore. I said “you’re blaming me for your ignorance. Sod you, go and work for who you like – I’ve got more important artists. ” “Who’s more important?” “Well, I’m bringing Glen over and Don Williams gets the treatmnent next. If there was another black country artist, I’d sign him just to do you!” At that point I learnt he was leaving Jack Johnson, so I lost respect for him anyway. He didn’t talk to me again until I bumped into him in Hawaii one New Year’s Eve, and he comes up and cuddles me. “Come to the show tonight.” I said “I’m surprised you want me.” “Oh well, that’s temper.” I said “I see you’re coming over (to Britain) for someone else.”  He said ” I said what I said and I’ll stick to it, but we’re still friends and you’ll come to my house for dinner?” “Oh no, we’re going to see Kenny Rogers with Diana Ross. Michael Jackson’s staying with us and Nick Sevano.” “Bring them up here.” “I’m not bring them to your blinking show.” But I went up for ten minutes, waved, left him and we went to see Kenny, and that was the last time I saw Charley until I had a letter from him the other day asking how I was.


Charley Pride…as if you didn’t know!

I was planning  to conclude here, but I know your attention span is reaching its limit. But, stay in touch. There is a final lengthy tale concerning Marvin Gaye and Princess Margaret, among others. I need a drink!

Text ©David Hughes 2017. All photos are drawn from Google images and are for illustration only.




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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!

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 50 – Jeffrey Kruger 7.

We have now reached 1967 and the Glen Campbell story, so without further ado…photos of Jeffrey are thin on the ground and this one is obviously not from 1967! Beggars can’t be…


Coming to 1967, I heard Turn around look at me on the Shindig TV programme. I called the television station and said ‘who’s that guitarist who just sang?’ ‘Glen Campbell.’ ‘Who is he?’ ‘I don’t know but I think Capitol have just signed him.’ I went back to L.A. two days later, went up to Capitol and said ‘listen – I heard a song called Turn around look at me’. ‘Oh well, that’s not ours, it’s on a little label. We’ve just bought the label and we’ve signed this Glen Campbell. In fact he’s recording tomorrow.’ I said ‘well, I like him. Can I get him as one of my second rights artists?’  He cut something for Capitol before Phoenix and Top Rank had Turn Around.

glen-campbell-turn-around-look-at-me-1961-5.jpgI went to the session. That’s where I caught up with Nick Sevano whom I had met previously when I was representing all the Frank Sinatra publishing. Nick was a partner in that operation. He said ‘I’ve got this new kid, Glen Campbell.’ It was a coincidence. He said ‘he’s recording tonight, He’s dashing from a Sinatra session where he plays lead guitar.’ It happened to be the Strangers in the Night session. This cowboy comes in. Al de Lori’s there. I say ‘where’s the orchestra’ ‘No, he’ll just do it with three rhythm players and he’ll dub the voice in later.’ And they did By the time I get to Phoenix and three other things. I heard Glen put a rough voice on. Al just needed a rough voice to do on the background arrangements, then Glen would go back in and re-sing it. As it happened he never went back to re-sing because he sang it so bloody well the first time – the arragement made it enormous. I heard the finished record and said ‘Jesus, that’s something, but how the hell’s it going to sell – By the time I get to Phoenix?’


The demo came to London. Ron White (EMI) heard it and said ‘we can’t sell this rubbish.’ and I said ‘ Well, will you confirm to Len Wood that I can have Glen Campbell?’ Then he sent the famous memo – I do’t know whetheStanr you can get hold of it – I have a copy somewhere – which said ‘Let the kid have the bloody cowboy. No good to us.’ Signed Ron White. Len Wood said to me ‘you’ve got him.’ I went over, got it signed as an addendum (to my contract with EMI) and at the same time put in there, because Nick had told me ‘I’ve just signed this girl Anne Murray and I’m going to give her to Capitol and they’re (Anne & Glen) gonna do duets, ‘including any duets Glen does with other artists’ They didn’t care – they didn’t know who was going to break. It was a five year deal with options. That’s the story. That’s how we got Glen Campbell.


But because of the relationship with Nick Sevano and Stan Schneider, who became Glen’s business manager, and because I was the first in, Glen was a terribly loyal person. I said, ‘Glen, I’m going to try and make you a star in England.’ He said ‘whether you succeed or not, you’re my man for as long as you want to be with me. I’ll have Nick send you a contract but you’ve got my hand on it.’ I never got the sontract, never needed it. When he was earning a fortune, when he was earning £100,000 a night and I wanted him to come over and do Top of the Pops or a concert, over he’d come. He’d leave Friday night, come for the weekend, go back Monday and start the television series again on the Tuesday. From that day to two weeks ago (this interview was probably in 2000) when we had dinner with him, his wife and one of his sons, we’ve been bosom friends. I was sitting down here (Brighton) one April and we were doing a tour and he had two days off, so I was relaxing, catching up with my work and he was supposed to be playing golf with Bruce Forsythe and Jerry Stevens. My housekeeper came down and said to me ‘Mr Kruger, there’s some people upstairs.’ I said ‘leave me alone, I’ve no appointments.’ ‘No, your wife wants you upstairs.’ ‘Who the hell is it?’ She said ‘I think it’s Glen Campbell.’ He was a huge star by this time. I said ‘what are you talking about, he’s playing golf.’ I go upstairs, there’s Glen and the whole band. I walk in…there’s no hello…’Happy Birthday’ they sing. He doesn’t say a word, puts his arm round me and goes back to play golf. Never said a word! He’d brought them all down..that’s Glen. That’s the kind of man he is underneath everything else you may have heard about him. One of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life.


You remember the rows I had up at EMI trying to get promotional dollars, or what they said to me when I brought Anne Murray of Helen Reddy over – you remember some of those things?

What happened when it broke? (I was referring to the success of the first Campbell hit on Ember)

You’ll have to ask Len (Wood). He was the only one who said to everybody ‘Look, he had the sense to do it – we had it – so don’t hold it against him. Because then (after the hit) they tried to stop me getting anything. There was a guy in (Capitol) Los Angeles, Francis Scott III who was your business affairs manager, and another one, Brown Meggs, who had never met me but hated me. And the reason I know this is because all the lawyers who were your business affairs men all became friends of mine later when they went into business for themselves. Larry Thompson managed Barry White – I did the Barry White tour.He would tell me that I was hated at the (Capitol) Tower, but respected because I did it. If my royalty statements were a day late I’d get a ‘cease and desist’..and they were a day late, like everybody’s were. Brown Meggs, on the renewal date, said to me ‘I’ve been waiting for this day. You can stop everything now and everything reverts back.’ I said ‘no it doesn’t. I have the rights for as long as I sell 500 copies a year. And it says you have to pay me a royalty on any tracks you want to re-release on any of the product that I’ve released anywhere in the world.’ He says ‘it doesn’t mean America.’ I said ‘it says anywhere in the world. Had you been nice, had you treated me with some respect, the same as the top people….’ It was Brown Meggs who really took it personally.RSD90005.jpeg

Brown Meggs

I’d given Capitol Chad and Jeremy to release, and John Barry and Twiggy and as long as I didn’t deal with them, we did good business at Capitol. I loved Capitol’s distribution. It was superb. And Nick Sevano had an office up there, and I did tours with Al Martino so I was working with Capitol guys, but those business affairs men, for whatever reason, hated me. They’d talk about me. I used to go into Warner Brothers and they’d say ‘where are the horns? We’ve just heard at a trade dinenr with Capitol that Brown Meggs said you’re the worst man in the world.’

I did have a libel suit against Top Rank against a man who became my very good friend in the end – Dick Rowe, although I gave Dick The Moody Blues when I signed them. When Dick joined Top Rank I was at N.A.R.M. He was talking to some people including Phil Solomons and said ‘and that Jeff Kruger is a crook – this is what he did to me…’ I’m standing there and people are looking at me and I don’t say anything. ‘Mr Rowe?’ I said, ‘do you not remember me? When was the last time you saw Jeff Kruger? When did he do this to you?’ ‘I was in his office in Belgium two weeks ago.’ I knew exactly who he was talking about. I said ‘don’t you remember me?’ ‘Yes, you look familiar.’ ‘I bloody well should. I gave you David Bowie and Moody Blues in 1964.’ So he said ‘You’re Jeff Kruger – you’re not the one I’m talking about.’ I said ‘but I’m the one you’re bad mouthing.’

Frank Chalmers was there. He worked for me with Len’s blessing. He built up my distribution – he handled EMI distribution and your export business. Len called me one day and asked if he could go back (to EMI) and he stayed with Len until he dies, but we were bosom friends. I sued Top Rank for libel. He was talking about a guy called Jacques Kluger and he got it wrong. We became good friends after that but I got a settlement and an apology. I never bothered to defend myself with a lot of people, so I really built this tough reputation, which was not justified. All I was interested in was getting on with my business – it was my money.

We’re two-thirds through what was obviously at the time a very important opportunity for Jeffrey Kruger to tell his side of this long and fascinating story. Next episode will include David Bowie, Frank Sinatra and many more show business legends.

Meanwhile, for no better reasons that there are very few photos of him, that he was mentioned in the last chapter and that I suddenly remembered this picture, here, snapped at a special lunch at Rules Restaurant to mark, I think, a special birthday for Bert Weedon, of four music business legends, none now surviving.

From the left are legendary NME owner Maurice Kinn who will forever be known, if for nothing else, as the only man, via NME’s Pollwinners’ concerts, to feature Beatles and Rolling Stones on the same bill, the enigmatic EMI record producer Norman Newell, Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman and, on the right, Jimmy Henney.


Text ©David Hughes 2017, photos largely via Google search for illustration purposes only



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A Personal History of the British Record Business 49 – Jeffrey Kruger 6.

Basically, we have now reached 1966, so we’ll end that last sentence in part 5 and move on!


That’s how our label grew until in 1966, thanks to Len (Wood) again, I did a second rights deal with Capitol. Arising out of that I was in Vegas and I saw Glen Campbell playing on Shindig. It was a song called Turn around and look at me.

Were you aware that the UK company was not releasing everything Capitol was putting out?

Correct. I was looking for album material, so I said to Len ‘listen, I’m a collector. Now you haven’t released Ella Mae Morse, you haven’t released the Jodimars.’  He said ‘never heard of them.’ Ron White came up ‘Ever heard of the Jodimars, Ron?”No.’ I said  ‘they’re a breakaway group from Bill Haley & the Comets – when I toured Bill he told me about them. Ella Mae Morse – can I release them?’ ‘I don’t see why not but you’ve got to clear everything through us.’ I said ‘that’s fair enough.’ The first ones I cleared  were Ella-Mae Morse, the Jodimars, Donna Hightower, whom I loved, and a Christian choir. Capitol was thrilled because I was picking up stuff that had no meaning, and they were earning money.


Oh, and in between I did a little thing and got the rumour from someone at EMI that John Barry was unhappy. I took John on as my A&R man and that’s when Ember got serious. He wanted to be in A&R but George (Martin), Wally (Ridley) and Norrie (Paramor) were protecting their positions and wouldn’t let him produce, so he came to me and that’s how we got Chad and Jeremy and the Bond soundtracks which we licensed to United Artists in America, and Annie Ross and Billy Cotton – all things John did.

Dave Clark?

Travelling up on the Brighton Belle every morning in a carriage for six were Laurence Olivier, Kay O’Dwyer, myself, Beecher Stevens (the big man, manager of Jimmy Savile), and Jimmy Phillips all in the carriage. Jimmy said to me ‘I’ve got this song by this new group. I don’t like the record but it’s got that thumping sound you did with Madison. Can you put it out for me? I want to hold the copyright.’ ‘Who is it?’ ‘Dave Clark.’ ‘Send him up to see me.’ Dave came up and played me the record. No sooner did I sign it than Harold Davison called me said ‘listen, I don’t want you to release that.’ I said ‘don’t put me in an awkward position. I travel with Jimmy 365 days of the year – I’m committed.’ ‘Well, don’t do anything with it – just put it out.’ I said ‘why?’. He said ‘I’ve just signed Dave to Columbia. He’s going to be one of our big artists and he’s embarassed that you’ve agreed to put this out. Knowing you, you’ve got two singles, you’ll put an EP out and you do it as part of an LP.’ I said ‘yeah.’ He said ‘well, will you let the other single come out?’ I said ‘what do you mean?’, knowing full well what he meant. ‘Well, Dave has now cut two crackers. I don’t want anything to interfere with that.’ ‘Oh’, I said, ‘I won’t do that’, thinking I’ll wait till EMI release it, let them do all the work and then come in with it. Which is exactly what I did. But what I didn’t realise was that, indrectly I made an enemy of Dave Clark. Subsequently, many many years later I sold it back to him. He’ll never let it come out again. It didn’t affect my friendship with Harold. I didn’t put out the second one as I recall, but I did put it out on an album with a group of ours called The Washington DC’s.



It was Dave Clark in big letters and….that’s because, again, once I got distribution and Oriole went out of the picture, my distributors were saying to me that it was getting harder and harder to compete with EMI and Decca. ‘You don’t have the promotional dollars to throw in. Your stuff is selling steadily and we know we’ll take everything you’ve got because we know it will sell three, five, ten thousand, but why should the dealers stock your stuff when they’re being pushed to take EMI’s Top Ten. Why don’t you do what you said you were going to do at the awards dinner.’ ‘What did I say?’ ‘When you got the award for Fool Britannia you stood up and said to the Gramophone Retailers Association that you guys out there had better support we independents.’ That’s when I made this famous speech. I just repeated what came into my head because the guest of honour was Sir Edward Lewis, who reluctantly gave me the award. I said ‘because if you don’t buy our material, you’re going to force us to go elsewhere. I’ve seen it in America, so I will sell to Smiths, Boots, chemists, airports, railway stations, garages – in fact I’m going to launch a budget line.’ I came out with the first budget line under ten shillings (50p). The cheapest was Decca at 17/6 (85p) so I undercut them, stupidly and without realising I’d probably cut the throat of the record business. Once I did, they had to undercut and it took the emphasis off the topline, except for the big stars. But I started the first under £1 budget record and it became a huge success. It became the FA (Famous Artists) series. FA had a different connotation – everybody told me I couldn’t do that!

LP’s for under ten shillings?

Yes, they were good. One of them was the Dave Clark thing, Broken. I couldn’t couldn’t have put John Barry out on that series, but I had other things and I packaged them as beautifully as I could. We really had the first budget line at that price. It was even cheaper than Embassy was selling to Woolworths, though they weren’t in it at the time.

As juch as he hated me, I got a call one day from Ted Lewis – very rare. I said ‘as long as this call’s not to invite me to cricket.’ He always laughed at that. He said ‘Have you heard of this man Mandela?’ I said ‘yes I saw it on the news last night – this canon Phillips or someone from St. Paul’s cathedral was saying how terrible it is.’ He said ‘they want me to release this album Why I am Ready to Die by Nelson Mandela. I can’t put it out. Same way as you picked up Fool Britannia can I give it to you? It’s got to come out’




Did Decca not want Fool Britannia?

Originally it was offered to Decca. It was the fact that I put out records that were different. I didn’t care. Politics didn’t mean anything. I saw the canon from St. Paul’s who said all his parishioners would buy it. All I could see were sales, but I got it fromSir Edward which was ironic. It’s still in the catalogue today (2000-ish) and it was a huge seller and we gave part of the money to the apartheid situation, and I was banned from going to South Africa for a while, not that I wanted to go. So there is a capsulated version are some of the highlights of Ember which sytarted with nothing.

I hadn’t realised Ember started as a subsidiary of an American label

It was going to be subsidiary of an American label, but it was always mine.

Tell me about Glen Campbell

Before we come to that. Please understand that I am not looking for ego, but there are things that I did that nobody else did and if it hadn’t been for me, the independent business as it exists today might not have existed. I’d like you to at least acknowledge that I had to find pressing – it wasn’t there – and had to find distribution. I had to ride my bike to distribute product; I had to get it played against the majors saying ‘if you don’t play this you’re not going to get that’. I was up against everything. I couldn’t get my stuff on the air because there was a monopoly. If you explain that background within the history maybe, then it makes sense.

Tell me about promotion

What usually happened was down to personal relationship. For instance, Alan Dell loved jazz, came down the club. I’d say ‘I’m going to release this Chico Hamilton or this Gerry Mulligan. ‘I gotta have it.’ Alan played my records to death and in the course of chatting he wasn’t for me or against me. These are good records – support the independents. I built up a network of independent reviewers. A written review was very important, almost as important as radio. The Rodney Collins’s of this world were just starting and they would say ‘we can’t get review copies – we’re getting Melodisc, Oriole, can we have yours?’ So  I brought in a secretary just to service those people, so I was a hero to them. When John Barry came on board I said ‘Look, the biggest problem we have is getting your stuff promoted. Don’t think just because you’re John Barry and you’ve had twenty hits that DJ’s are going to love you because you’re on Ember. We’ve got a talking point John, but you’ve got to realise you’re now on the other side of the fence.’ ‘Oh no, I’m John Barry.’ John had an ego. We clashed all the time because I was watching the pennies and John was used to spending. ‘I want 60 men (musicians)’ ‘Jesus, can you get a bigger sound with 60 than you can with 30? I thought you were this great arranger who could make 30 sound like 60.’



It worked for a while. When he wanted a big band he had a big band – those were the rows. He came to me one day and said ‘We’ve got to have a promotion man. Who’s the best in the business?’ ‘You can’t afford the best.’ ‘Well, I don’t know who the best is yet.’

I bumped into Teddy Holmes at Chappells, who is the doyen of all publishers and who was giving me masters to release. That’s how I met Hal Shaper – they all had songs they wanted to get released. Ted said to me one day ‘Jimmy Henney will plug the hell out of this, don’t worry.’ ‘Who’s Jimmy Henney?’ Everywhere I went at the BBC all I heard about was Jimmy Henney, whose office wasn’t at Chappells, it was at the BBC! When Jimmy said ‘play’ it was played; when David Jacobs was told to play it on Juke Box Jury, it was played. They had a fantastic relationship. I found out Jimmy was unhappy for some reason at Chappells and I went to Ted and said ‘I’m going to talk to Jimmy.’ (I never went behind people’s backs). I sat down with Jimmy and told him what I was trying to do. He said ‘I’m aware of what you’re trying to do – they hate you in the business. You’re the one who’s doing all the things they wish they could do, but you’re doing it. But I don’t think you afford me, unless you let me do my deejaying’ (Chappells wouldn’t let him do his GPO broadcasts or something). I said ‘I don’t care what you do as long as you plug John Barry’s stuff.’ That’s how we got all the play on Chad and Jeremy and things like that. I put Jimmy Henney on the payroll.

Jimmy Henney.jpg

I think that next time we actually are going to reach Glen Campbell and maybe even a lengthy, but sure to be entertaining Frank Sinatra story!

Text © David Hughes, 2017. Photos gleaned from Google Search purely for illustration.

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 48 – Jeffrey Kruger 5.


The usual delay but here we go with the next instalment of one of the British music business’s key 1960’s entrepreneurs. Jeff has formed Ember Records initially as a British offshoot of the American company and used EMI to licence some now rare R&B tracks. Now we come to the Harry Simeone Chorale, whose version of Little Drummer Boy’ was a Top 20 hit in February 1959, and the seven following years.


It first came out on Top Rank; then their rights were up and I signed and had the hits. Bill Metcalfe was Jean’s husband (Jean Metcalfe was one of the presenters of ‘Two Way Family Favourites’, a record request programme for the armed forces in Germany and their families in England, and then the biggest record show on radio.) Bill was the show’s producer in Germany and I was one of the few publishers to go over there and give them my releases. I’d heard that Radio Luxembourg charged fees – that was where Keith Fordyce reigned. On the British Forces network Bill Metcalfe reigned but I didn’t know until I got there that Bill was married to Jean. The bottom line was that I would give new records for Bill to play. He became a hero. AFN (American Forces Network) was getting them off Bill, so socially he was on free meals or whatever, and Jean would play Onward Christian Soldiers, Little drummer boy and my other things, not just because I was over there plugging but because genuine requests were coming in. As long as she could find one card and she could finally play it (Drummer Boy) she’d play it.

(I think Jeff’s memory is playing tricks on him here. I cannot trace a Bill Metcalfe with BFN – Bill Crozier, yes – and Jean was married (for the first and only time I believe) to Cliff Michelmore and for a while all three were with Two-Way Family Favourites, whuch may explain the muddle!)



So I wrote to Sir Edward Lewis in April 19th 1962. It was my birthday and his birthday. I said to him ‘Happy Birthday from one person in the record business to the giant’ (I worded it very carefully).’May I take your mind back to 1927 when you were in my position? Why would you deny me the right to get (record) distribution? How can I hurt you? You can’t stop the independents – we’re coming. If you don’t let me release legitimately, where you’ll earn money through your distributor, Selector, you’re going to force me to sell my records in railway stations, bookshops, anywhere I can. You’re not going to stop me. You may not like me but give me credit for doing no different to what you did.’ I get a call ten minutes after the post has arrived. ‘I’m on my way to Lords. England are playing – nothing stops for England. Join me.’ I go to (well, he says The Oval, which would have been a bit silly!). He’s sitting there in his box and he says ‘I don’t know what to make of you but you intrigue me.’ I said ‘If my product sells, you earn and I earn. If it doesn’t, I’ve misjudged. I’ve got specialist albums that are not going to hurt you – give me distribution with Selecta. Give me the freedom to deal with them the same as any other company.’ He said ‘I’ve got to make a call.’ Who’s the call to? I presume L.G. (Wood). In any event I get distribution. The minute I got Selecta L.G. calls and says ‘well, if you’ve got Selecta, you’ve got to have EMI.’ So now I’ve got the chance of full-blown distribution, all the money I’m earning from the club and from commissions and publishing. It’s a different story pressing albums. I had to have a designer. I had to have a copyright person, so I take on Margaret Brace who becomes owner of the biggest copyright bureau in Europe. Then I had to move to bigger premises. There was no pressing when I started – I found pressing.

Did you carry on with Orlake?

I was loyal to them right up to the time when I needed more. Then I went to Maurice Levy who had the pressing plant in Aylesbury that CBS eventually bought.

Oriole Records (owned by Levy) had the same sort of issues?

No, because he sensibly had a brother and they opened their own pressing plant. Originally his label was not meant to be commercial as it was the Woolworths thing (Oriole was pressing the Woolworth Embassy label, almost exclusively cover versions of hit singles) that kept him going, but in order to sell the Woolworths thing he had to put out a commercial line. He had very few hits. I did produce some things for him, all under my publishing company! What comes to mind? June, July & August comes to mind, and something with a group.


I produced for him; I didn’t care who, so really he was the first budget line rather than a true independent. There was Melodisc dealing with very ethnic Jamaican things, mainly on 10″. Siggy Jackson worked for a guy  called Emil Shalit. All of us used to talk because we were the pioneers, but I was the one who started the first full-blown label – singles, EP’s, LP’s. First one to put single in (picture) sleeves; the first one to come out with different lines – a jazz line (CJS – Collectors Jazz Series); a country line (CW series), and when London got fed up releasing Starday I took Starday, CEL for Celebrity Series; the first one to do gatefold sleeves. That really is the background to how Ember started.

I had hits in spite of myself. Little Drummer Boy – 300,000 sales for an independent was phenomenal. I had no promotion budget. Onward Christian Soldiers nearly 700,000. I found the first Dave Clark record and put it out.


Joe Meek had a label called Triumph, went into liquidation. We were all friends, the independents, they all came down to the club. It was like a little circle and Joe said to me ‘I’ve got this new recording of Angela Jones. I’ve just signed Michael Cox with a song called Angela Jones and I really don’t want to know. The liquidator doesn’t know I’ve got this – will you put it out on Ember and pay me the royalties?’ I look at it – one of the songs is my publishing, by pure fluke. So my third Ember record was in fact a Triumph record. We pressed a few copies (Ember S103) but we used all Joe’s remaining stock he’d pressed to beat the liquidator. That’s really what we did if you want to know the truth.



The fourth record we put out……my wife said to me in 1959 or 1960:’You’re going on holiday whether you like it or not.’ I don’t know why we chose Jamaica but we decided to go to The Playboy Club there. We get there and Ocho Rios is ten minutes away over the Blue Mountain. We got an inter-island flight on Jamaican Airlines and saw this nice little jet there but when we get to it, it’s a three-seater and she hates flying at the best of times. I bundled her in and up we go, the wheels don’t go down, we nearly touch the top of the mountains and we’re in Ocho Rios and she is that colour! She says ‘I don’t care how long it takes on the way back – we’re going by road.’ We have a breakdown and I bump into Desmond Dekker and I listen to a little thing he’s cut called ‘The Israelites’ which I didn’t understand, and while we’re waiting I met the Kong brothers who’d produced it. I stayed extra time, went to their house and signed up Beverley’s Records – well some of their stuff, only to find they’d also sold it to some of my friends in London, the original Trojan. I put it out on Ember. I let them keep it on their label but they had to pay me royalties. Leslie Kong had sold it to MCA and EMI, both of whom came out of the woodwork to get me and I saw them off. I had Desmond’s signature; I had the Kong brothers’ signatures and I made them swear it in front of the Jamaican government. Their lawyers Myers Fletcher and Gordon knew that I knew those royalties were being paid out of the country and that’s a jailable offence in Jamaica. They were also dealing in that stuff, ganja, which you would have known by another name – cannabis, not that I would have said anything, but they knew they’d better not mess. My reputation was getting to be ‘if you deal with him and he shakes your hand you’ll get everything – he’s very fair – but if you cross him, God help you’ and in those days I had a temper and a long memory.                 4e4817f8defe3df7103b91154c5c3ad6--bongo-ska.jpg


Anyway, I do the deal with Uni in the States after proving to MCA they had no rights, but they said they had this Uni label and I fell in love with Russ Regan who was one of the best. Russ loved the record so I saved MCA’s face by giving them a deal, a 1% over ride, and it went to No.1 as you know, it sold nearly a million. When I got paid it was on 400,000. We also put it out on Ember and it may also have been on Trojan.

Russ Regan header.jpg

At thgat time I brought in Hal Shaper and Hal got the publishing on it for our company. He had to fight Chris Blackwell at Island who thought he had it and in turn had passed it on to A&M’s publishing. So there was a battle royal but we finished up owning the song – it may have been less that 100%.

That’s how our label grew until 1966 when…..

And there, I’ll leave you to ponder the next tantalising episode, which again involved EMI’s legendary MD L.G. Wood.

Text © David Hughes, 2017, all ilustrations courtesy Google search and are for that purpose only.








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