"Promotion Man"
Gambling on a career in Rock and Roll.

n the fall of 1963, after serving four years in the Navy, Dick Wooley started college in the sleepy South Georgia community of Norman Park. Too far from any metro area to receive a clear TV signal, the only link to the outside world was listening to the radio at night and hearing John "R" and Gene Nobles broadcasting their Blues programs that covered rural America from Canada to the Keys from Nashville Tennessee over the clear channel 50,000 watt powerhouse station WLAC.

Isolated at school and with plenty of leisure time Dick assembled a rock band "The Fabulous Serpents" to play at local venues for extra money, and they recorded a single that became popular in the region. After being low-balled by area clubs, Dick decided to promote his own shows, so he rented a hall, sold tickets and kept 100% of the gate.

This combination worked great during the school year, but band members went back to their home town in summer. To keep his music connection alive Dick got a job at Southland Record Distributor in Atlanta in 1965, selling records to the mom and pop record stores throughout the South. On nights and weekends Dick managed a couple of local bands, he booked their gigs and promoted the bands shows.

In the summer in 1966 Dick's hard work paid off, one of his bands played a local Atlanta  DJ's high school shows, in return he played their record on WQXI and it became a local hit. The single attracted the attention of New York's Bang Records, but after a trip to the Big Apple for a disastrous meeting with the owner Burt Burns the deal went South.

At the Bang offices, Dick and the band's first meeting with Burt Burns soured quickly when members began demanding star-treatment, needless to say the deal was rejected, the band's single never made the national charts and soon they were back to square one. After paying all the expenses for the New York trip Dick was broke and discouraged, but he'd learned a valuable lesson and despite the temporary setback it proved to be a door opener for Dick in the music business

Shortly after the failed introduction to the real record business world, John Towels, the manager of  F & F Arnold record distributors in Charlotte wanted Dick to promote their regionally distributed indy labels including; Atlantic Records, Monument Records and Warner Brothers Records. This was a breakthrough for Dick because in addition to getting paid for doing record promotion, he got to promote his rock and blues shows on weekends.

Dick worked with some very interesting music people promoting indy labels, including legendary mob music boss Morris Levy of Roulette Records, the "Sopranos" base the character "Herman Hesh' Rabkin" on Morris. Dick helped Kenny Rogers launch his first solo hit single and career, and he worked with Elvis's Memphis Mafia, Marty Lacker, and with the legendary Roy Orbison.

In the day to day promoting Dick broke several records while at F & F and he discovered a local "beach music" band called "The Okasions". The band had recorded and pressed a single costing all of $400 and brought it to Dick for promotion, he soon had it spinning on Carolina stations and it turned into the million selling hit single "Girlwatcher".
And then...

Chapter 1

Atlantic Records
Making Music Legends

Dickey Kline, Atlantic Records legendary Miami based promo man had known Dick from Atlanta and watched his progress in the Carolinas. At the annual Atlantic convention in the Bahamas, Kline introduced Dick to Atlantic's new Vice President of Promotion Jerry Greenberg. Jerry was in the process of building his new promotion team and recruited Dick on the spot to head-up Southeast and Midwest promotions.

Dick was ready and eager for the opportunity to work for a great company like Atlantic Records and with best wishes from F & F and John Towles he packed the car and moved to Cincinnati Ohio to open Atlantic's regional promotion office.

Record promotion was not an easy job back in the halcyon days of vinyl records in 1967. It was years before the Interstate highway system was finished and Dick routinely had to drive fifteen-hundred miles every week over two-lane black top roads promoting Atlantic Records to large and small market Top 40 and R & B radio stations alike throughout the Midwest and Southeast. Dick stated, "Anytime I saw a radio tower I'd pull in their parking lot and start promoting Atlantic records".

Building personal relations and many times starting lifelong friendships with radio programmers was Atlantic Records strength, these were great people and they were always professional in the way they conducted their business affairs. No company in the business was more respected or had more loyal employees.

Atlantic spared no expense in helping it's promotion men to make and keep alliances. It was the promotion mans responsibility to entertain, make friends and influence radio programmers. After all, they were the key to breaking Atlantic's new records and keeping Atlantic artists high on the national charts. 

Unlike many other record companies of the day Atlantic was not into pay for play, or as it was more commonly called by government investigators "Payola". Money wasn't exchanged for airplay, we offered something more valuable to music programmers, we gave them the career building courtesy of scouting job opportunities in other markets and we gave them the respect they deserved. In return, they showed us their appreciation when we needed them most by adding
our records to their radio playlists when the chips were down.

Record promotion was hard and challenging work, because at the time Atlantic was still a small Indy label that could only afford six full-time promotion men and each of these men had the responsibility to make sure every radio station, show promoter and independent record distributor in America was doing their best for Atlantic Records. This fabled gang-of-six was headed by
Jerry Greenberg, Dickey Kline, Leroy Little, Bob Greenberg, Vince Faracci and Dick Wooley.

These six guys could sometimes work promotion miracles by getting Atlantic records to the top of the charts, and the small group did it against all odds especially when competing against the more heavily financed major record companies. For example, back then song publishers had a great deal of power and it was not uncommon for two competing labels to release the same publishers song, but by different artists and sometimes even did it on the same day. "When this happened, Jerry Greenberg would put his assistant on a plane with boxes of DJ singles and they would fly around the country delivering these records by hand to each of us promotion men. We in turn would drive through our territory delivering the new record to radio stations by hand. We covered the entire country in forty-eight hours, and by the time the competition knew what happened our record was being played by so many radio stations the race was already over before they'd left the starting gate... they never had a chance. It was like we were competing in the record business Olympics and Atlantic never lost one of those head-to-head challenges".

Dick said,
"It was a genuine honor and privilege being a member of that elite group of promo men and it was a once in a lifetime experience to work with the greatest music people ever, legendary music geniuses like Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd."

During the 1960's Atlantic Records established many great  R & B and Rock and Roll legends and several of them are in the "Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame" To name a few: Percy Sledge,
Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Joe Tex, The Young Rascals, King Curtis, Sam & Dave, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie, Led Zeppelin, YES, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Derek And The Dominos.

Jerry Wexler

Ahmet Ertegun

Tom Dowd

Jerry Greenberg

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