Chapter 6-H.264 800Kbps
RR: Lets talk a little bit again this is another chapter of your career, this very distinguished career, is Chess Records which is Cadet Records really... RE: Well Chess Records was the big main thing and they had the jazz label, they had a different name when they first branched out, then they branched out to Cadet Records. Now, I always got something strange to say, you ask me a question I have to go...I was working bass at the London House which is the best gig in the world. Eddie Higgins was playing piano, Marsha Thompson who used to be where a dancer with peck and peck it was called, he's playing drums. His time, you could set your watch on his time you know it was so beautiful. It was a great gig I was enjoying, it was a very good. There was an African American man who brought type to the building. It was a stone container building that it was in. In those days they had to bring their type in. I remember he was a pigeon nosed fellow, kinda stout. But he spoke polish with the polish ladies that worked in there. It was a big huge polish presence there in Chicago. One day after knowing him for a few months he came to me and said "Richard, you know I have the ability to tell stuff about people." And he says "I have a strong impression about something about you and if you don't mind I'd like to discuss it with you." I said "well yeah i'm not going to die or something." So he says "You won't be working here at the London House much longer." I said "Really?". "No you're going to be offered a new career, and you're going to leave here. I see you in a room, you're in a room with five white guys, one with a bald head that you're facing. He's smoking a cigar and I can see the smoke coming up and everything. They're going to offer something you won't be able to refuse it." I said "Ok well thanks." About a couple weeks later I got a call by Leonard Chess. They wanted to have a meeting with them and somebody said "I think they may want some producer there, If they ask for that and you don't want it, I'll do it." I said "Well you know whatever." I go to Chess, sit down, and they're saying "Well you've done a lot of arranging for us, you did Ramsey Lewis "Wade in the Water", you had so many hits, Kenny Burrell "Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas." A thing I did called "Soulero" or something like that, it was like bolero with soul. That was a big hit for him. Hit after Hit. So they said Ezmund is leaving, he's going to Verde Records and we'd like for you to take his place as the executive producer of Cadet Records. So I said "Producer? Well I dont know i'm an arranger, I'm used to that but uh producer I dont know if I want to do that." Joe Seagal said that if you want a producer he'd like to take the gig. And Leonard Chess "If we wanted Joe Seagal, we would've called him." So I said "Ok." $20,000 then was pretty good money then, a year. So I said "Well with Ahmad Jamal I made about close to $20,000 last year, if you want me to come work here could I maybe get 25?" Leonard Chess says "Hows 45?" I said "Well I'm your man then!" haha. I said "I'll have my lawyers call you tomorrow." So I got up and said "Wait a minute, five white guys, Dick LaPalm, Max Cooperstein, Leonard Chess's son and Dick...whats his name...over here. And then here's Leonard Chess's brother sitting across from me with the bald head, cigar, smoke rising above. And i'm thinking about this man describing this whole thing man. That's why I believe there are people who can tell the future, on what's going to happen. I just through that in. So I wound up being a producer of that. I could producer somebody, I could hire other producers. I could hire other arrangers. The idea of the Sober Spring was started by Desmond Edwards. It was his idea, and that was back in 65'. This was in 1967 that this happened. But about 65' Desmond Edwards says "Yo Richard what about starting a string group, maybe a quarter or string group that plays funky music or you know rock and all that." Now me being just starting had I been very stretched, I said "Well No we can't do that" I would've said "Because strings are kinda stiff, they don't get funky and all that." But me being Richard dumb dumb at the point, I said "Well yeah ok I'll tell you what we'll have this formula, if somebody that we are copying, if its a female we'll use violas to copy what she's sing, and if its a male we'll use cellos." So this Soulful String first album that was done had four cellos and two violas, no violins. It was a very dark sound. We used Charles Stiffing on Vibes, lets see then we had Phil Upchurch on some guitar and stuff like that. We did that thing and I thought "Man I don't like it" So I didnt listen to it at all. Desmond Edwards took it Leonard Chess's office and Leonard Chess cussed him out. "Get out!'' You know figuratively speaking. Then they released the album The Soulful Strings "Painted Black" was the title. It hung on the charts for 11 months. It was the longest selling thing they ever had. So then they had to do the Soulful Strings from that point on. I wound up doing all of them, about 7. RR: 7 in all, yup. RE: I think it was about 7, ending up with the Soulful Strings plays Gammond and Huff. That was the last thing we did, but that was a big item. I did Woodie Herman, they signed him with Dick LaPalm. He was a friend of Woodie Herman's. He wanted me to arrange for Woodie Herman, Big Band you know? "Ok I had never arranged.." Well I did for Lionel Hampton but not any album you know, so it kinda took a little while. Woodie kinda lost faith, "Oh I don't think he wants to arrange." I said "Yes I do I just want to make sure that its right." Because when they had a meeting to sign Woodie Herman, there was a vote. I was asked "Do you think you could get a hit with Woodie Herman?" I said, "I think I can." So Leonard Chess called me later on, "Why did you say that man? This is an aging old fade.'' I said, "Well I think that I can do it." He said, "Well all right but we're not going to pay a lot of money, how many men?" I said "Well I think he's got about 18 men." "Well, uh, ok um, you can do it but we're not going to pay her!" I said, "Ok i'll keep that in mind." So I wrote the tunes and everything, arranged the tunes and I met with these guys on an offside of Chicago at a hotel in their ballroom, and we rehearsed these songs. All of them, all 10 of them. And I said, "Ok guys, the guys are worrying about how much this is going to cost so what we'll do when we come to...." In those days they had 4 tracks, there were no 20 40 or 1000 tracks, 4 tracks. I used one for rhythm, one for brass, one for woodwinds and one for solos. It was kind of spread that way. A guy named Stew Black was the engineer. I said "When it came to do the thing..." They did it at Chess, they had a big studio. I mean Chess had a big studio there. I said, "Now we're not going to do this one tune by one, what we're going to do is we're going to do it like a concert. You guys are going to have to imagine that there's enough people out there listening and we're going to just go like you go into a concert, one and then do another. After having played this for about a month, then you're going to come in and we're going to do that. So they went through the whole thing. I had to do two things over, but they pretty much played it. In two and half hours they played the whole album. RR: How many tracks? RE: There was 10 tunes. They played them. But it was live I mean you know, everyone was playing it just enthusiastically. We put the thing out and then Leonard Chess passed away in October. He didn't have a chance to see it but the thing was a hit. It was a grammy nomination. I've had about 5 grammy nominations, winning one. RR: Which one? the one that you won was for? RE: Natalie Cole "Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady)." It was such a hit in England that the BBC flew us , the whole band including myself, to England in 1969. Flew us there to talk to us about how we did the album and so forth. So it was real success thing for Chess Records. RR: You can hear the excitement on some of those recordings. Sal, Mr. Cool. RE: Ohhhh yeah. But see there wasn't a lot of solo power in the trumpets. We had Chase, the lead trumpet player, but lead trumpet players are not necessarily great soloists. So he wasn't the one given the solo, so I leaned on really Nester Cole to do most of it. RR: Goodrich was also on one those sessions with, I read the liner notes. Even Donnie Hathaway. RE: Well Donny Hathaway, I had him come in on a thing called "Catch that Bird" or something. It was some kind of tune he did and Woody said " Who is this?" I said this is Donnie Hathaway. "Well who is he?" And I said, "Well you don't know who he is now in 1967, but he is going to be real real big and I want him on my album." RR: and He was RE: So Donnie and I became very good friends, in fact we have a tune out called "Everything is Everything" that we co-wrote. I got a thing from the publishing company that day that said "You haven't signed this yet so you can get paid." I said "Ok." So it's three people splitting, Donnie, Phil Upchurch and myself. What happened was that I watched a TV thing called "The Voice is Inside." It was about people in prison and I was moved by this. So I wrote a thing for The Soulful Strings called "The Voice is Inside" and I called Donnie in to play on it. But I said "You know what I just don't have a bridge for this thing, Donnie could you give me a bridge?" He said "do bee do da bee ba doo be dopee do da" He did that and put that bridge on it. So I said "You guys, we split it." I was trying to be honest with the people and we split it 3 ways. It was my song to beging with but we split it down the middle. It was called "The Voices Inside." Then a couple of years after Donnie became famous he called me and said "You know "The Voices Inside" I'd like to rename it and put it on my album." So I said "What are you going to call it?" He said "Everything is Everything." I said "You got it." So thats how that tune....But I'm still getting checks on that thing. Thats part of how I got up in the air. I think I was just guided. Something happened in my life. I was thinking "I'm going to be an artist" but something "No, you're going to be a musician." "But i'm not a musician." "Yes you are!" haha.