Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A Little History—Part 1

Back in the 70s I was going to be a rock star. I had dozens of songs and over the course of the decade, I got three recording contracts with major labels.

The big-wigs at these labels saw me as the next Barry Manilow. And why not. I wrote ballads, I played piano. But Barry never wrote songs about the destruction of the rain forest, the plight of vets coming home from the war and lady's thighs. Somehow I never quite got the "hit record" thing down. They'd all start out right, but then I'd get bored and the songs would take a right turn right off the pop charts. (Although I did have a top 10 Billboard Dance Club charted record with RCA called, In The Jungle.)

Eventually I needed to start making actual money. So I got into the jingle biz. And the money came fast and (almost) easy. Twenty years went by in a flash.

In the mid 90s I decided I needed to get back to doing something for the love of it. So I began work on a musical. I put together an outline for a script and started writing songs that would fit the concept. Because I was doing this in my "spare" time, it took three years to finish the double CD. I released it on my newly formed record label, Wire Duck Records, and got to work on completing the script.

Being my first script I did many things wrong. The show was big. Too many people to be commercially viable (unless you've got an extra 12 million lying around). Also, the subject matter was controversial. The show is called Meat Street and basically exposes the dirty little secrets of the Mental Health Industry. Not an easy topic when you consider how many people these days are wearing their mental disorders as a badge and taking antidepressants like candy.
I did get to see Meat Street in concert at the Florida Fringe Festival and Florida Movie Festival. We also had a showcase in Orlando. Meat Street is now in it's 19th rewrite. The cast is smaller. The story is more concise. But I took the lessons I learned about writing and producing a musical and wrote another musical called, Jingle This!

Jingle This! has just 5 actors, a small band, one act and no controversy. It's just a fun little show. And guess what! Almost all of the theaters that read the script and heard the CD loved it! Of course they all had some reason or other for not being able to put it on right now, but I got some of the best rejection letters you ever saw.

Somewhere along about the mid 90s, the music production company I was a partner in (Patterson, Walz & Fox) got to do the theme music for the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Even though I was just a co-writer/producer for the theme the checks were big. This was better than a hit record as far as airplay money was concerned. For as long as Dan's show kept the theme, I'd get quarterly fat checks. This money made it possible for me to start my record company and have a studio in the house that Dan built. Dan was truly supporting the arts. But I digress.

Anyone in the theater business knows how long it can take to get musicals produced. So my long-time friend and partner, Stuart Wiener, came up with the idea that I should write and perform a one-man show. This would be so cheap to produce that we'd have no problem finding a theater for it fast.

I loved the idea. In fact, I loved it so much I decided to take the BIG PLUNGE. Since I was still getting enough money from CBS to (almost) pay the bills, I decided to quit the jingle business and devote my full time to writing and performing the one-man show. At age 54 I would be starting over. And Dan's Texas smile was going to help make the transition.

The show was Pigeonholes.

(Continued on Part 2)

My research into the mental health industry also lead to my new book, News From Meat Street: Life On A Planet That's Lost Its Soul. You can see a free preview and rate and review it.