I started in the game as a promotion man. Someone who promotes records to radio for the purpose of receiving airplay.
I’d done a brief stint in both, college and commercial radio in the early ’80’s as a dj. I returned to Soul City at the age of 22 and was installed as the director of college radio promotion at, Sugarhill Records. I began my record career by inducing college programmers to play, Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five’s, The Message. From note one, I’ve been a witness to history.
Due to the tutelage of Sugarhill Records don, Joe Robinson and later, hip hop wunderkind and yoga enthusiast, Russell Simmons, I learned the ways and nuances of the radio promotion game. In radio promotion, after the fundamentals are acquired, it then becomes a matter of two things, contact and credibility. I had both.
By the late ’80’s, urban powerhouse Kiss-FM, New York and black FM pioneer, WBLS, New York were programmed respectively by, Tony Grey and Fred Buggs.
Tony was an out of towner with a penchant for corporate media infighting. He’d relocated to New York after delivering strong numbers for Philly’s Power 99. Fred had also done a stint in Philly but was a local boy who’d made good from Queens. Fred kept it closer to the street and is an on-air, NY radio legend. He’s currently the overnight guy at NY’s Kiss.
I knew music, I knew clubs, I knew artists and I knew the game. Until I got in with these two, I was an afficianado. After they embraced me, I became a force in record promotion circles.
After a brief period as the national promotion man for Jive Records. I decided to go out on my own. In truth, I just decided to bounce from the restrictive atmosphere of Jive.
They had a cool enough A & R direction at the time but no real label culture. To this day, this is evident in the way they’ve handled their troubled franchise player, Britney Spears. They love the records, now if they could just get rid of those annoying artists, they’d have something.
Soon after I left Clive Caulder’s label, I received a call from west coast A & R man, Ed Eckstine. Ed was the son of the legendary, Billy Eckstine. One of the first true crossover sensations of the 20th century.
Mr.B straddled the worlds of, be bop, big band and pop and was respected in them all. He was a velvet voiced crooner with leading man looks. His big band was an early gig for both Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Ed had roots in the game.
THE WING MAN ED ECKSTINE
Ed had also spent a good deal of time working with Quincy Jones at Quincy Jones Productions when Q was the standard. The period of Ed’s tenure with Q coincided with Quincy and Michael Jacksons history making collaborations, Off The Wall, Bad and of course the landmark, Thriller.
During the early sixties, Mr B. was the acknowleged leader of the west coast black entertainmet world. Right around that time relocated midwesterner, basketball coaching legend, John Wooden convinced high school phenom, Walt Hazzard to move west and lead the UCLA Bruins to it’s first, national division I men’s basketball title. Mr. B embraced the young Hazzard and helped to smooth his transition from high school phenom to national figure.
At the time of his call to me, I’d known Ed casually for about two years. During that time, he’d left Quincy, moved to New York to work at Arista, for Clive Davis and left Clive to start a Polygram backed joint venture called Wing Records.
Ed knew that I was plugged in and wanted to offer me a production deal for any artists that I might find. I wasn’t working with anyone and I was a full two years away from my first A & R stint. I suggested to him that if he needed someone to get his records played, I could make it happen.
Ed’s first two signings were the former Miss America and current Ugly Betty actress, Vanessa Williams and the Raphael Saddiq led, new jack, neo outfit, Tony Toni Tone. Due to my presence at east coast radio, every release form both of their debut projects jumped “out of the box” and on to the airwaves.
We had a year of wild fire success together and Ed invited me to LA for the second, Soul Train Awards ceremony. As a rule, it’s hard for me to go to LA, handle busines and bounce. So I was around for about a week after the show.
Friends of Ed’s were having their 25th wedding anniversary party and he wanted to know if I wanted to go. The party was at the house of the former UCLA legend, Walt Hazzard and his wife Jaleesa. I dropped in and I’ve never left.
to be continued….
1 love to Michael Johnson, Manny Bella, Bill Underwood, Jewel Love, Karen Durant, Pow Wow and…The Wirk