Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith

Both members of The Monkees have their birthdays today! Happy birthday to Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith. Below is an excerpt from Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear, by Rich Podolsky.

With all the publicity he had received, Kirshner was getting quite a requtation, and his ego swelled a little more once he began guiding the musical career of the Monkees.

In 1965, producer Bob Rafelson approached Bert Schneider with an idea. Rafelson was inspired by the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night, which not only featured the group’s songs but showed their happy-go-lucky wackiness as well. He wanted to do a TV series with four actors who would play a wacky American foursome. Schneider agreed and the two formed their own company, Raybert Productions, and sold the show to Screen Gems.

Screen Gems put out a wide casting call and finally settled on Americans Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Englishman Davy Jones. The company planned a weekly TV show, which would feature the group’s slapstick antics and a song or two.

For the music, the company relied heavily on Kirshner. And he delivered. He selected and executive-produced all of their songs, several of which were written by Jeff Barry and Neil Diamond, two of the decade’s greatest songwriters. For their first single, Kirschner carefully picked “Last Train to Clarksville,” which was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who were new in the Kirschner stable.

After “Clarksville” went to No. 1, Kirshner somehow talked Neil Diamond into giving the Monkees “I’m a Believer,” even though he wanted to record it himself. At the time, Diamond was already a successful performer, having struck with “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry,” the latter reaching No. 6. Talking him into giving up “I’m a Believer” may have been Kirshner’s greatest accomplishment for Screen Gems.

Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear

In 1958, long before he created and hosted Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the most dynamic rock-and-roll series in television history, before he developed the Monkees and created the Archies, Don Kirshner was a 23-year-old kid with just a dream in his pocket. Five years later he was the prince of pop music. He did it by building Aldon Music, a song publishing firm, from scratch. This is about how he did it – with teenage discoveries Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka, and more.

By 1960, at the ripe old age of 25, Kirshner had built the most powerful publishing house in the business, leading Time magazine to call him “the Man with the Golden Ear.” In five short years he coaxed and guided his teenage prodigies to write more than 200 hits. And they weren’t just hits, as it turned out, but standards – including “On Broadway,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “I Love How You Love Me,” “Who Put the Bomp,” and “The Locomotion” – songs that have become the soundtrack of a generation. “We weren’t trying to write standards,” said one songwriter. “We were just trying to please Donnie.”

Don Kirshner’s Birthday

Guest Blogger:  Rich Podolsky, the author of Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Earwrites in with a piece in celebration of Don Kirshner’s birthday today.

Don Kirshner Got His Wish

A year ago, just before what would have been his 78th birthday, Don Kirshner got his wish and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, what should have been a slam dunk didn’t come so easily.

You’d think that discovering and developing three of the greatest songwriting teams of all time—Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and Barry Mann and Cythia Weil—would have been enough to get him there in one of the first years the Hall opened its doors.

Or the fact that he developed the Monkees, created the Archies and also discovered and Kansas—the band not the state—would have put him on the Hall’s doorstep.

Or at least if anyone took into consideration that he created and hosted the most successful and dynamic rock ’n’ roll show in television history, he should have been able to walk into the Hall of Fame. Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which ran for nearly a decade and presented more than 500 of the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll acts, ran from 1973 to ’82 and in the 30 years since it still hasn’t been surpassed.

But Don Kirshner was the bitter enemy of Ahmet Ertegun, the man who founded the Hall of Fame along with his partner Gerry Wexler, and until Ertegun passed away Kirshner had no chance for admittance. Even after his passing Kirshner was ignored by the insiders who comprise the Hall’s nominating committee.

Unfortunately Don Kirshner had to die to get in. After dying of heart failure early in 2011, Carole King campaigned vigorously and got her former boss in the Hall’s back door last April. His wife, Sheila, accepted the award, ironically named the Ahmet Ertegun Non-Performer Award.

After King made a passionate speech in his behalf she handed the award to Sheila, who hoisted it over her head in victory and proclaimed, “Donnie, you made it, babe.”

Somewhere up there Don Kirshner was enjoying the moment.

Rich Podolsky—

Author of Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear, and Neil Sedaka: Rock ‘N’ Roll Survivor (due 9/1/13)

Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear

In 1958, long before he created and hosted Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the most dynamic rock-and-roll series in television history, before he developed the Monkees and created the Archies, Don Kirshner was a 23-year-old kid with just a dream in his pocket. Five years later he was the prince of pop music. He did it by building Aldon Music, a song publishing firm, from scratch. This is about how he did it – with teenage discoveries Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka, and more.

By 1960, at the ripe old age of 25, Kirshner had built the most powerful publishing house in the business, leading Time magazine to call him “the Man with the Golden Ear.” In five short years he coaxed and guided his teenage prodigies to write more than 200 hits. And they weren’t just hits, as it turned out, but standards – including “On Broadway,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “I Love How You Love Me,” “Who Put the Bomp,” and “The Locomotion” – songs that have become the soundtrack of a generation. “We weren’t trying to write standards,” said one songwriter. “We were just trying to please Donnie.”

Rich Podolsky, an interview

 Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, Rich Podolsky, author of Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear joins Ed Robertson in this episode of TV Confidential. This episode has been reposted on Onstage and Backstage podcast with permission of TV Confidential.

>>>LISTEN HERE<<<

Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear by Rich Podolsky
In 1958, long before he created and hosted Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, the most dynamic rock-and-roll series in television history, before he developed the Monkees and created the Archies, Don Kirshner was a 23-year-old kid with just a dream in his pocket. Five years later he was the prince of pop music. He did it by building Aldon Music, a song publishing firm, from scratch. This is about how he did it – with teenage discoveries Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka, and more.

Q & A with Rich Podolsky

Debra Ollivier (Huffington Post) interviews Rich Podolsky author of Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear.

Don Kirshner had such a huge impact on an entire generation. What was it about him that gave him such remarkable savvy and the capacity to hone in on people who would become giant stars?

Kirshner had an incredible ability to inspire people to get them to do their best. He couldn’t play an instrument, read a note, or carry a tune, but as Steve Lawrence once said, he sure knew one when he heard one. And that’s simply what it came down to. He had a tremendous ear and eye for talent. And he knew how to inspire people. He had a way to get people to really compete against each other. He would call his musicians into a room and say, “The Drifters are going to record an album in two weeks, and there are two spots open on that album. We’re going to get those two spots. Now go back and write your best songs for the Drifters. I want to hear them on Friday.”

And they’d go into their cubicles and they’d just go crazy trying to write the best songs they could. Then they’d meet in his office and play their songs. They broke their backs for Kirshner.

You mention that Kirshner pursued what was then a really radical idea: that teenagers should write music for teenagers. Why was that so radical at the time?

That was radical in 1957 and 1958. Music publishers really didn’t like rock and roll. In 1955, I believe it was, only twelve of the top 100 songs were rock-and-roll songs. They were putting out songs like “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” and “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and Perry Como’s “Hot Diggity Dog.” Those three songs became #1. At the same time, there was “Earth Angel” out there, and every teenager wanted to hear more songs like that. But music publishers didn’t trust that there was a teenage market strong enough to support more rock and roll, and it drove Kirshner crazy.

Kirshner would run into these kids — these artists and songwriting teams – and he knew how great some of their songs were. But nobody was listening to them. He knew that if he could ever get enough money to rent an office and start his own song publishing firm, he could launch the first rock-and-roll song publishing firm. This was his great vision in the beginning.

Aside from a corporate culture that didn’t recognize the big teen market waiting to be tapped, what other obstacles did Kirshner face?

In the beginning he was unknown, but that changed once Sedaka and Greenfield came into the picture. His strategy was unique. Other publishers would only pay musicians 25 or 50 dollars for a particular song that they liked and say goodbye. Kirshner gave them 50 dollars a week as future royalties. He worked with them and showed them how to write hit songs. That’s the amazing thing about Kirshner — he believed in their talent and was there for them 24/7. He told them that he’d place their songs with record companies and help them get on the air. These kids were running around trying to sell these songs. All they wanted was drive around in a car and hear their songs on the radio. That was heaven to them.

So his biggest obstacle was just getting known. Once Sedaka had his success, word of mouth got around that there was this publisher who actually liked rock and roll and was willing to work with teenagers. That’s how he got to Carole King.

For more please visit Huffington Post.

Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear

By 1960, at the ripe old age of 25, Kirshner had built the most powerful publishing house in the business, leading Time magazine to call him “the Man with the Golden Ear.” In five short years he coaxed and guided his teenage prodigies to write more than 200 hits. And they weren’t just hits, as it turned out, but standards – including “On Broadway,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “I Love How You Love Me,” “Who Put the Bomp,” and “The Locomotion” – songs that have become the soundtrack of a generation. “We weren’t trying to write standards,” said one songwriter. “We were just trying to please Donnie.”

Don Kirshner’s Birthday

To celebrate Don Kirshner’s birthday, here is an excerpt from Rich Podolsky’s recent book, Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear.

I’ve been in show business and the music industry for fifty years now, and I owe it all to Don Kirshner. He saw something in me that no one else did. He nurtured a career for me, as he has done for so many, including such great singers and songwriters as Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Toni Wine, Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, Jack Keller, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Barry Mann, the Monkees, and Cynthia Weil.

The list is never ending. I can’t list the people without writing pages upon pages of names of those who were blessed by this man with the golden ear. He changed the face of our industry by opening the door to independent record producers, allowing young record producers to be able to create and sell their works to major record companies. Prior to Donnie Kirshner, the major companies had their own in-house A & R men—artist and repertoire (fancy title for record producers), and outside producers were not let in.
The first such independent work was “The Diary” by Neil Sedaka, produced by Don Kirshner and Al Nevins for RCA Victor Records. Without that we would not have had such producers as Burt Bacha- rach, Phil Spector, and Leiber and Stoller as well as all the indepen- dent works of Motown, Gamble and Huff, the Beatles, Quincy Jones, and Michael Jackson. Don created this opportunity for them all.

Then came the Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert television show, which for ten years gave birth to so many artists. Yes, not only do I owe him grateful thanks, but so do all the people mentioned above, and maybe I can go as far as to say that the record and music industries owe a shout-out of thanks to the man with the golden ear, Donnie Kirshner.

–Tony Orlando, from the foreword

Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear

By 1960, at the ripe old age of 25, Kirshner had built the most powerful publishing house in the business, leading Time magazine to call him “the Man with the Golden Ear.” In five short years he coaxed and guided his teenage prodigies to write more than 200 hits. And they weren’t just hits, as it turned out, but standards – including “On Broadway,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “I Love How You Love Me,” “Who Put the Bomp,” and “The Locomotion” – songs that have become the soundtrack of a generation. “We weren’t trying to write standards,” said one songwriter. “We were just trying to please Donnie.”