The Life and Times of a Second Call Studio Musician Part 24

The Life and Times of a Second Call Studio Musician Part 24

So we left off with the last sessions I did for Michael Omartian in 1990. The record was for Raymone Carter. The dates were at Omar’s studio in the valley. At that session I remember having a conversation with Michael about the state of the LA music scene. He was not feeling real positive about it and a few years later he packed it up and moved to Nashville. Now, if Michael Omartian is leaving LA that’s saying something as he was HUGE. Legendary amongst us musicians. That’s when I thought wow, everybody’s leaving town! Looking at my book the major league dates are pretty much over. There was still good music to be played though.

On August 30th I did my first session for Kit Thomas. Kit had the gig of doing Karaoke tracks for Pioneer. At this point in time the Karaoke thing had just started and the music that was being produced was pretty horrid. Kit aimed to change that and he really did.

The band was typically Tom Walsh or Bernie Dressel on drums, John Leftwich or Ken Wild on bass, Rich Ruttenberg or Brian Mann on keyboards and myself on guitar. Lee Thornberg headed up the horn sections. The vocals were done by Gene Miller, Kip Lennon, Randy Crenshaw, Philip Ingram, Maxie Anderson and Carmen Twilly. These these vocalists were magicians in getting an authentic sounding vocal. That’s the tough part but Kit’s team of singers made it happen. Also amazingly, Billy Preston did all of the B3 parts on the “gospel” tracks. I mean there is some serious “A” team personnel here but Billy Preston? Really? He had hits and played with the Beatles and this is Karaoke music! It just goes to show you that working musicians/vocalists are all ready to gig!

Kit wanted to make these tracks sound exactly like the original records and sometimes it was a painstaking process getting there. I remember one time we are working on a Buffalo Springfield song and he says, “what kind of guitar did Stephen Stills play in that band?” I seemed to recall it was either a large body Gibson or a Gretsch. I didn’t have either and the sound I was getting was not authentic enough for Kit. My cartage guy Andy Brauer had lots of great guitars for rent. We call up Andy in the middle of the session and Andy knew right away what it was and he brought the same model that Stills played over to the session. So now we had the guitar but the sound was not quite right. We are listening to the original recording and I say. “Kit I think the reason it does not sound exactly like the original is Stills guitar is slightly out of tune, do you want me to tune my guitar a bit out?” That’s how deep this stuff was. Kit was one dedicated dude.

One story that I’ve never forgotten. Kit used to mix at Westlake studio in Hollywood. Westlake was a big time facility and lots of great musicians worked there. The story goes that Kit was mixing our Karaoke version of “What A Fool Believes”. Amazingly Michael McDonald just happened to be working at Westlake that day as well. Kit runs into Michael and tells him he is mixing the Karaoke version of his song. He is working on the mix and invites Michael to come and listen. They are listening without the vocal, and Michael checks it out and the first thing he says is “Where did you get my master”? Hahahaha He literally thought Kit had somehow got his hands on the original recording. The band track was that close apparently. 🙂 We GOOD!

Also in 1990 was the next Benny Hester record. On the heels of the success of his album “Perfect” Benny came to me and asked me if I would like to write songs with him for his new project. We sat down over the course of a few weeks and hammered out seven songs. The assembled team was the same as the last album with Bill Baumgart producing, Dave Jahnsen engineering, and Tim Heinz on keyboards. For the songs Benny and I had written I did the arrangements, I believe Tim did the ones I didn’t co-write. The band was being booked and Jeff Porcaro who did the last record was unavailable. I told Benny we should get John “JR” Robinson. John and I had been writing together and I loved playing with him. On bass again was Neil Stubenhaus, and while Tim did lots of pre-production work the keyboard chair for the tracking sessions was a bit up in the air so I suggested using Smitty Price. Smitty was well known in the Contemporary Christian session scene and he had a sound all his own. The album was released in 1990 and featured this track which I wrote with Benny and sang the backing vocals.

Here is another one from that album that I always liked. I was in the midst of writing this piece for no one in particular so I played what I had for Benny and he took it and ran with it.

The rest of 1990 was good but filled with lots of incidental sessions. Jingles, TV stuff, smaller label records. Moving into ’91 more of the same but a few really good musical projects arose.

I had been working with songwriters Frank Musker and Jeff Hull. We had a quasi “band” called “World Goes Round” and we were recording demos at Frank’s home studio. The demos were being engineered by Tommy Vicari and Bob Biles.

Here is a promo shot, left to right, Liz Lamers, Jeff Hull, yours truly and Frank Musker.

It really was not a band per se, just Jeff and Frank writing tunes and Liz and I along for the ride. The project was shopped for a deal but no takers. A few years before, Jeff was up for a grammy for his co-writing of the Brenda Russell hit “Piano In The Dark”. Frank and Jeff were also working with a British artist, Simon Darlow. Simon had a budget for an album and in May of ’91 Frank, Jeff, Tommy and myself all headed to England and studio called “The Manor”. Beautiful place in the English countryside with a world class studio. Some pics from that trip.

The Manor

Frank and I

Jeff, Tommy, Simon and Frank at the studio

The tracks were done at the Manor, then I did overdubs in LA with Tommy. I had forgotten about this album when a few years ago I asked Tommy what ever happened to it. The album was never released. Not sure why. Tommy did have a copy though and gave one to me. Actually a really good record, too bad it never saw the light of day. Here are a few of the tracks from that project if you care to dig.

Simple Heart


Next week my last sessions for David Foster, Richard Perry and my TV debut on Roundhouse. Here is my promo. 🙂