"Promotion Man"  Chapter 3

Capricorn Records: The start-up

After months of travel Dick was finally back home and realized the hiatus could not have been timed any better, because the tide had turned in Rock radio back in the good old USA. The new independent FM stations were now playing progressive rock full time, the car manufactures began installing factory FM radios and it was driving the once too-big-to-fail AM stations out of the market. Hooray... finally never having to listen to bubblegum music again, progressive music was establishing a solid ratings presence on radio across the country. But, Dick sadly reflected that he no longer worked with the greatest record company ever, "My timing for the trip had been a great, but leaving Atlantic Records was like leaving my own family."
After talking with several record companies, Dick was full of new promotion ideas when Frank Fenter at Capricorn Productions called and everything went into high gear. Frank invited Dick to a meeting in Macon Georgia with he and his partner, artist manager Phil Walden. Dick knew Frank well from Atlantic Records, they'd shared information when Frank was running the European operation from Atlantic's London office.

Frank had been a rising star at Atlantic Records and was a highly respected record man who had surprised everyone at the company in 1969 by moving from London England to Macon Georgia to partner with the late Otis Redding's manager Phil Walden. Together they started a production company called Capricorn Production and Atlantic records distributed their artist's albums on Atlantic's pop label Atco.

Frank was the man behind the scene who'd put the production company deal together and it was financed by Atlantic. Jerry Wexler, Frank and Phil's mentor had helped to start up their company by giving them a sure Top10 Hit Single, "Sunshine" by "Jonathan Edwards."

It had been three years since then and Dick was anxious to hear in detail what the guys had in mind as he drove down to Macon for their meeting. The meeting, over lunch, with Phil and Frank was a real eye-opener for Dick, their lunch consisted of "Hoppin' John" (black-eyed peas, rice and deep-fried fatback) washed down with four double Vodka Martinis in big iced tea glasses. Dick said, "I wasn't much of a alcohol drinker and even if I had been, there is no way I could have keep pace with those two guys."

As one Vodka martini followed another Dick said, "the two partners tag-teamed me, a technique I later found out later they were known to use very effectively. They offered up one idea after another and how they wanted me to help them make the production company a stand-alone record company, my head was swimming with infinite possibilities, or was it the booze?"

"I nursed my drink for as long as I could to keep my head clear as they sold their plan for me to join them in Macon and help launch a real record company from their "yet to be profitable" production company".

"I wanted to leave the meeting on a positive note, but as the three hour lunch wound down I was by no means convinced it was in my best interest to help promote a new start-up label in the sleepy South Georgia backwater town of Macon and I was only being offered half the salary I'd been making at Atlantic Records!"

Back in Atlanta, Dick's friends were advising him not to move to Macon, mainly because he'd be gambling a hard earned music business reputation on an unknown start-up label. Also, industry wags maintained that the Allman Brothers Band would never recover from the death of their charismatic leader Duane Allman the previous October.

There was much truth in what they said, but that wasn't the real obstacle to overcome, the real obstacle was that the Allman Brothers were almost unknown outside the Southeastern market, but that was mainly due to their in-house booking agency Paragon, run by Alex Hodges who booked them where the money was. Also, the Allman Brothers had sold "zero singles" in what was still a singles-oriented business, and they'd only sold about thirty thousand albums. A paltry amount in those days even for a regional band.

That was the reality. Dick knew the real sales figures at Capricorn Productions from working for Atlantic and it was not an encouraging number. Dick reasoned that maybe the lack of sales for the ABB was that major AM radio wouldn't play progressive or regional artists at that time.

Phil's publicity proclaimed to the media that the company had sold ninety thousand albums, but Phil had a quirky formula of three's he always used, if a number helped, it was multiplied by three, and if it didn't it was divided by three.

Dick had to make a life changing and irreversible decision whether or not to sell his comfortable Morningside home in Atlanta and move to a small South Georgia town that was more often than not referred to as "the redneck capitol" of Georgia.

There was just no way to get around it, Macon was a lazy southern backwater who's architecture or attitude had changed little in since the Civil War, and it was led by a two-term white supremacists mayor called "Machine Gun" Ronnie Thompson. Thompson got his nickname and national media attention for his disgraceful actions during Macon's predominately black sanitation workers strike. Thompson stood atop a National Guard armored vehicle in a school playground waving around a Thompson submachine gun and giving Macon Police officers orders to shoot to kill any disorderly black citizens.

Thompson was a reflection of the local voting pool, the same kind of knuckle dragging rednecks that hassled Dick on many occasions while he promoted Atlantic R&B records to southern black owned radio stations and associated with black DJ's and artists. To say the least the Capricorn job being offered was severely handicapped by the reality of having to actually move to and live in Macon.

In addition to Macon's racist attitude and location Dick had reservations about Phil's well known diva temperament, but rationalized that thought after remembering their good times together at Atlantic's Otis Redding shows. A
nd even the bad times they'd shared when Phil, Frank and Dick were together in the Atlantic suite at the Rivera hotel in Las Vegas attending a Billboard convention in December of 1967 and a phone call came with the tragic news of Otis Redding's plane crash.

Dick knew Frank and Phil needed help fast because they were not record promoters and they knew that Dick Wooley was the promotion man that would get them their much needed airplay. Frank and Phil had a new Allman Brothers album coming out soon and the rumors were flying that it would be a flop without Duane Allman. Frank and Phil new if they lost this album they'd lose everything and they were pressing hard for Dick's answer.

The deal closer came when Johnny Sandlin played Dick some of the raw studio tracks from the new Allman Brothers album and Dick was blown away. Soon after Johnny's preview, there was a meeting of the minds between Dick, Phil and Frank, they began clarify the responsibilities each would have in the new Warner Brothers distribution venture. Frank naturally would continue to manage the company's production and liaison with Burbank, Phil of course would continue to manage the artists, that left Dick the new job of getting the new artists airplay and getting their records on the national charts.


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