DICK CAMPBELL MEETS GARY USHER:
You're already familiar with how Gary Usher met Brian Wilson, wrote "In My Room" and "409" with him, and was influential in helping the Beach Boys get off the ground in the early '60s. So I'll just pick up the story where I came in...
In 1965 I played in a band in Massachusetts, Dick Campbell and the Scarlets, as a guitarist, lead singer and writer. We cut a demo album in Boston. A friend of mine had once met Gary Usher at WORC radio when he visited Worcester. Through him I sent a copy of the demo tape to Gary in California and he liked it. He called me to say he thought he could use some of the songs I'd written with other artists and that I should come to L.A. to write and work with him. That summer I started out by car for California, but stopped in Chicago to see what reaction I might get to the album from the labels there. Vee Jay wasn't interested, and Chess was into black artists, but Mercury liked some of the tunes and wanted to publish them.
To make a long story short, Mercury particularly liked a couple of my folk rock type tunes, and moreover, since Columbia had Dylan and they didn't, couldn't I write ten more and they'd cut an album of me singing them? Now, in hind sight, I probably should have continued on out to the coast and gone to work for Usher then and there since most of his happening stuff occurred in the '60s. But instead, I signed a deal with Mercury Records and recorded "Dick Campbell Sings Where It's At" which was pretty much a blatant rip off of Bob Dylan. To be sure, I was backed up by some very good musicians, in fact, artists who have gone on to much bigger things since this project.
There was Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, just fresh from recording with Dylan on the "Highway 61 Revisited" LP. Marty Grebb of the Buckinghams also played guitar and Paul Butterfield was on harmonica. Mark Naftalin played organ and Sam Lay was on drums. A kid from a local group called the Exceptions played bass and he later had a brilliant career as the lead singer for Chicago -- Peter Cetera. To shorten this story even further, by the time I got done spinning my wheels in the Midwest (including a tour with the Guess Who, an appearance at The Bitter End, and marriage plus three children) it was 1969 before I got out to L.A. and went to work for Gary Usher.
He hired me to run his Before and After music publishing division of the newly formed Together Records. This was a subsidiary of MGM records, but after a bit Mike Curb gave us the heave ho, and Gary took his staff over to RCA in Hollywood for an A & R gig. I landed the job of West Coast Professional Manager of RCA's Sunbury/Dunbar Music. My job was to work the catalogue for covers including Harry Nilsson's tunes. Our biggest hit during this time was Perry Como's "It's Impossible." Gary and I were now writing a lot together -- mostly my music and his lyrics. One of the runners I'd hired to work the RCA catalogue knew the Cowsills and got a song that Gary and I had written called "Good Ole Rock & Roll Song" to them which they really liked.
Gary and I were invited over to the Cowsill's house in Brentwood to finalize the deal. By this time, 1970, Gary was evolving from his hot rod/surf music, commercial faze, into more serious and ethereal music. He was unimpressed with the Cowsill kids and almost blew the cut on "Good Ole Rock & Roll Song," but I kept their interest up. They recorded it on their "On My Side" LP for their new label, London Records. The Cowsills viewed it as one of their best songs on the album and sang it on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Unfortunately, the group's success of the 1960s was by now over and the album failed to make a strong impression.
After a while RCA fired Gary and his A & R staff, but not me until later in 1971. My little joke with Gary always was: "You guys were all on the 4th floor (of the RCA building) and it took 'em six months to find me on the 7th." Gary and I were still writing songs together, so he made a deal with Larry Gordon for our publishing. Larry, who was managing Paul Williams at the time and who had gotten Paul's "We've Only Just Begun" to the Carpenters, decided to open a music publishing company with his father-in-law, comedian Danny Thomas. In addition, I was hired by Larry as General Professional Manager of the company, Rip/Keca Music.
We signed a young writer whose tunes hadn't been doing well at Jim Nabors' music company, and got Cissy Houston (Whitney's mother) to record one called "Midnight Plane To Houston." It was later also cut by Gladys Knight & the Pips who changed the name to "Midnight Train To Georgia." We had several hits with that writer -- Jim Weatherly. Meanwhile, Gary and I were working on a concept LP called "Beyond A Shadow of Doubt." Although the entire album was demoed, we never ended up cutting it. Gary and I wrote probably fifty or more songs together, and although we both had many of our individual songs recorded by other artists, the only one we'd written jointly ever to be released was "Good Ole Rock & Roll Song" by the Cowsills.
During the latter '70s we drifted out of the record business. Gary headed up to the San Juan Islands near Seattle to open a restaurant, which failed, and I started my own film production company which continued through the late '80s. In 1989, Gary, who was now back in California, told me he had lung cancer and not much longer to live. We spent a lot of time together during his last year. As my friend and mentor, Gary's influence on me had been greater than almost anyone else I can think of, and when he died in 1990 at age 51, I was inconsolable. I am reminded of a dedication in "Wouldn't It Be Nice," Brian Wilson's biography, to "the late Gary Usher, to whom I said goodbye but have not forgotten." I haven't forgotten either.
This article was written at the request of Ron Weekes by Dick Campbell for www.garyusher.com
Our sincere thanks to Ron Weekes and www.garyusher.com for the use of this articleVisit the original Gary Usher web site (www.garyusher.com)at this link-------www.garyusher.com.
Back to Home.
Jump to Links.
~Web page created by Gary Campbell 4/3/2003 / Last updated 6/11/2004~