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.
Forward ~ Gambling on a career in Rock and Roll.
In 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
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
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.
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
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...
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.