The Coachella Valley has a large Spanish-speaking culture; my band gradually morphed into six Mexican Americans and me, affording me new chord & melody ideas from our latin reportory of boleros, cha chas, & corridos. I started writing & performing my own "pop" songs, often inspired by dark-eyed untouchable high school senoritas.
The band became immensely popular. In my senior year we performed for a school assembly. I sang my songs, girls screamed & cried, & I never recovered.
Through my college years in Pasadena & San Bernardino, my mind was more on music than my liberal arts studies. New friends turned me on to B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Muddy Waters. Deeply bluesified, I began teaching myself guitar & harmonica. Little Richard was too white for my tastes at that point.
In 1961 I teamed up with a high school guitarist friend whose father ran an independent movie company in Burbank. It was here that I first scored... We put together a four-piece group & began playing clubs. Funk & rock stuff with four-part harmonies. I played Wurlitzer electric piano with a Farfisa organ strapped underneath.
I continued performing in bands for several years, gleaning most of my musical education from records ("Let's see, if I play this 45 at 33 rpm, I can figure out the piano part"). I had some exciting moments: performing in the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, recording for Dunhill Records in 1966, entertaining our troops throughout Europe & the Far East in 1967.
In 1969, I cleared my head to try songwriting full force. I stopped performing, & survived by working part time at a local recording studio. I was "Head of A&R", which included sweeping floors & emptying wastebaskets, but it gave me time to learn some technical stuff, & write & exploit my songs.
Signing as a writer with E.H. Morris Music in 1969, & Warner Brothers Publishing in 1971, led to my first hit: Bobby Sherman's "The Drum". What a thrill it was to hear my song on the radio!
I broadened my arsenal of musical & electronic equipment, so that on my demos I could do all instruments, voices, & mixing. This gave me more control over presentation of my songs. My demos became a minor legend in the biz; virtually all the successful records of my songs followed my arrangement & feel. One proud example is Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby", which hit #1 in December of 1974, & became her biggest selling record.
In 1976, I signed as an artist with Pacific Records, a brainchild of my WB publishers. I was the first, & at that time the only artist on the new label. Distributed by Atlantic, my first release, "Undercover Angel", zoomed to the top of the charts in July 1977, selling about two million copies.
A follow-up single, "Skinny Girls", became a #1 song in Australia in 1980, & in 1981 I co-wrote "Your Eyes" with singer-songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita, which became a hit for him in Japan.
I left Warners in 1982 to write & self-publish. In 1983 I was invited to Tokyo to co-write 6 more songs with Yamashita for his album "Big Wave". The collaboration yielded a Gold Disc Award in Japan, & I still co-write occasionally with Tats.
In 1983 I met, & co-wrote a children's song with singer-songwriter Janis Liebhart. This was on "spec" for a new animated TV show, which became "Jim Henson's Muppet Babies". Eight years later we had written almost 100 songs for this Emmy Award winning Saturday morning program, which is syndicated worldwide.
Janis & I continue co-writing for kid-focused projects, including National Geographic's Really Wild Animals, an acclaimed series of videos which feature our singing & production chops as well, and Alaska Video's children's products.
Currently I am writing "adult" songs for myself as an artist, my goal being a CD full of top notch, user-friendly creations. I still love writing, singing, producing & performing!
©1998, Alan O'Day, All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2001 Just Plain Folks Productions TM.