Sunday, July 24, 2011
On August 1, 1964 there was finally a face, a record, and a label, to go along with the massive hype that had gone on for two months. I'm So Lonely and I Wanna Love You had been hastily thrown together, along with two other songs, Okey Fanokey Baby and Meadow Green, in a single afternoon at a studio on Melrose Ave. in Hollywood, called Nashville West. They were engineered by Charlie Underwood. There was no band and no rehearsal, just a couple of pick-up musicians that Underwood rounded up at the last minute. You would think that after all the publicity Tony would have made sure that the record was carefully and thoughtfully created, but such was not the case.
It was almost an afterthought and treated more as a pesky detail that was finally being attended to. In my own defense, it was what I was allowed to do, or more exactly, what I was told to do. There had been little consideration given to preparing for a recording session. It was a last minute arrangement where Tony simply told me to sing some songs, and the four songs cut were the only finished songs I had. The recordings are more like demos than finished records.
Notwithstanding the built-in weaknesses of the record, I had done the best I could within the confines of where I found myself in 1964. At age 19 I had little if any power over what Alamo did. I was a kid being directed by the one person who'd put me on the map so to speak. There was no room for discussion with Tony other than to listen to him tell me why he was right. "Look what I've done so far!" he'd say, and it was hard to argue with him.
In L.A. the record was viewed with disdain by local radio who refused to play it, but in Detroit Michigan a DJ named Terry Knight, on CKLW radio, broke the single wide open and it raced up their charts. Similarly, Cleveland radio had the same results. I appeared on American Bandstand and other L.A. television shows like Ninth St. West and Lloyd Thaxton. I did a live performance at Ciro's, on The Strip, but L.A. radio wouldn't budge. I was played live shows in Michigan, Ohio, and Canada and opened for The Beach Boys, Jan And Dean, and Chubby Checker.
It was hard, maybe impossible back then, to do what I was doing and not believe that I was succeeding, because on stage in those cities where the record was a hit, I was. A distributor in Detroit once told me that after Dell Shannon's "Runaway," "I'm So Lonely" was the second biggest selling record in Detroit.
When The record took off in the mid-west, a number of major labels made Tony offers to turn it into a national hit, but he rejected all of them. In his mind, he was the next Colonel Tom Parker, the latest version of the "Big Time" operator. In Alamo's world no one could tell him what to do or how to do it. So as I said earlier, this was not only the beginning of Bobby Jameson but the end as well. It is impossible to know what might have happened had Tony been smart enough to join forces with others when the opportunity presented itself.
Not long after what I have described above, Tony went off into another world. He claimed he was being talked to by God and told what to do. After a particularly disturbing event in an office in Beverly Hills, I made the decision to leave him. Strange though it is, it was the Billboard ads that prompted Andrew Oldham to send me a letter saying, "If you ever come to England I'd like to work with you," an offer I'd rejected, but then followed up on. It seemed like a good place to go, because it was as far away from Tony Alamo as I could get.
The picture at the top of this post came out in in August of 1964 and was the ninth and final ad in Billboard Magazine. The picture below came out around December of 1964 in London only months later. It was another ad, for another record, on another label, in another country, and I was completely lost...in another world.