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.
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.