Q&A with Rick
Q: You started out in your career as a musician, song writer and record producer. What did you play, and which area of music were you most successful in?
A: I started as a working rock & roll bassist and occasional guitarist and singer. Then I went into producing, and I co-produced (with Bill Stahl) over 50 records, including “7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Blow Your Whistle” by The Gary Toms Empire a half-million selling single that popularized whistles in discos, Moonlion’s “The Little Drummer Boy” which was named one of the top instrumental records of the disco era and used by the NFL for a few years as the holiday music bed on its TV broadcasts, another Gary Toms single that was featured in a long-running Coca Cola commercial, a Grammy-Nominated album by Steve Allen - the first computer instruction album when home computers were in their infancy - and albums and singles by Bobby Rydell and the Platters.
Q: When you switched to the business side of the music industry did you work with any well-known executives or music men?
A: I certainly did. Clive Davis Chris Blackwell, Russ Reagan, Neil Bogart, Jimmy & Don Ienner, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Robert Stigwood, Jon & Marsha Zazula, Chip Taylor, Steve Katz, Joe Galante, Randy Goodman, Tim DuBois, Mike Dungan, Paul Winter, and L.A. Reid among others.
In case you don’t recognize all those names, Clive started and ran Arista Records and is a true legend in the industry, Chris owned Island Records, Russ discovered Neil Diamond and Olivia Newton-John among other superstars, Neil founded Casablanca Records, Jimmy produced Dirty Dancing and many other hit acts and projects, Don headed Columbia Records, Puffy is Puffy, Jon & Marsha discovered Metallica & Anthrax and owned Megaforce Records, Chip wrote “Angel In The Morning” & “Wild Thing,” Steve was the guitarist in BS&T and the Blues Project, Joe ran RCA Nashville as Randy does now, Tim ran Arista Nashville, and Mike is President of the Universal Music Group Nashville, Paul owned Living Records and headed the Paul Winter Consort, and L.A. co-owned and ran LaFace Records.
Q: What recording artists did you work with on their records and/or their careers?
A: First and foremost, I am quite proud that I helped launch the careers of Melissa Etheridge and the Backstreet Boys. I also worked on the records of a plethora of other superstar acts that spanned almost every musical genre including Kiss, U2, Whitney Houston, RUN-DMC, Barry Manilow, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Wu-Tang Clan, Kool & The Gang, TLC, The Scorpions, Dave Matthews Band, Pink, Usher, Reba McIntire, Alicia Keys, Yanni, Aretha Franklin, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer, Buddy Guy, Brittney Spears, The Village People, The BeeGees, Yes, N*Sync, Anthrax, and Sarah McLachlan. And many, many others.
Q: What’s your connection to film and TV?
A: I received my B.A. at NYU in filmmaking, and while I was there both Bob Balaban and Martin Scorsese were classmates. I used what I learned in the program to create film and video presentations for many of the companies I worked for. I also specialized in marketing and selling major film soundtracks, including the first three Star Wars films, Saturday Night Fever, Grease, The Bodyguard, This Is Spinal Tap, Krush Groove (the first-ever major rap movie), Breakin', Chariots of Fire, and Flashdance. One of my fondest memories is being at Lucas’ ranch and getting an ILM sweatshirt.
I’ve always had the “acting bug.” In addition to playing the Crown Prince in a summer stock production of the King & I many years ago, I appeared as an extra in the TV show Sex & The City and in a Billy Baldwin pilot, played a musician in the TV movie version of Arsenic & Old Lace (with Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish, Bob Crane and Fred Gwynn), was a contestant on the TV game show Sale Of The Century, was in the peanut gallery of the Howdy Doody show, and appeared on numerous local tv news shows as an expert on the music industry.
I now have a show on my YouTube channel called Chapter & Verse. On it, I talk with best-selling and hot new authors about their books, their careers and tips and advice they give to other writers, especially aspiring ones. The first authors I’ve had on the show are Rex Pickett, PC Cast, Catherine Coulter, Heather Graham, and Andrews & Wilson with many, many more to come.
Q: Didn’t you run a few record companies?
A: I headed multiple children’s and pop/rock/jazz record labels. At the first, Pleasure Records, I signed one the earliest all-female rock bands, Margo Lewis & The Lewis Explosion, at another I signed Herbie Mann (with whom I had a #1 jazz hit “Jazil Brazz”), and at a third, I signed Richie Havens (and did his first ever music video), the Tokens, and released an album with Freddy Kruger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame (which I co-produced).
Q: You seem to always have been interested in innovation and technology. What are you most proud of in those areas?
A: When I spearheaded marketing and branch operations for a billion-dollar division of BMG Music, we developed and launched the first ever music-genre-specific websites and the first music-industry B2B site. I also conceived, created, and released the first-ever commercial CD single, Don Dorsey’s “BachBusters” for Telarc.
Q: You may not be known to the general public from your days in the music industry but weren’t you well-known inside the industry.
A. I was named “Record Company Executive of the Year” by the Coalition of Independent Music Stores and have been written about in numerous books on the music industry including Hit Men, Rock On, Cowboys & Indies, And Party Every Day, and Heavy Tales. I’ve also been featured/profiled in Billboard, Cashbox, Album Network, the New York Post, Counter Intelligence, and other magazines and newspapers.
Q: You’ve had some pretty unique life experiences. What are some that stand out to you?
A: I was offered a job with an adult film company to “try out” aspiring actors and actresses, had a blind date with a witch whose coven sacrificed goats in her basement, sat at a tennis match behind the Governor of South Carolina while he was under the threat of assassination, acted as a human ‘lookout’ for Kiss’ Gene Simmons, had my life threatened by tire-chain-wielding rednecks because of the length of my hair, and opened for 3 Dog Night the day the men first landed on the moon. I was aboard a flight that was running out of fuel during a major snowstorm, and another that had a reported bomb on board.
Three friends and I had a “private concert” by Jerry Lee Lewis at a club in Miami during a hurricane and I had another by Jimi Hendrix in the legendary musical instrument store, Manny’s Music. I assisted a police investigation into the murder of an ex-employee and founded a company that put the public’s “Name in Lights on Broadway” on an enormous digital billboard at Times Square. I watched the Twin Towers fall from my office building in Times Square, won a crossbow competition in England, was trapped on the 31st floor of a skyscraper that was on fire, took the calls from the public when the Milli Vanilli scandal broke, and ran a record company for the Weight Watchers organization — I also wrote a music column for a WW newspaper.
Q: Speaking of writing, what rock opera did you write?
A: I co-wrote a science fiction rock opera, The Alpha Centauri Project: The Eye of Jupiter, with my bandmate Jack Climent, which Leonard Bernstein’s producer, John McClure, recorded and the man who brought the Beatles to America (Sid Bernstein) represented. It got very close to being produced as an album, a film and a Broadway play. Robert Stigwood, a true impresario in the entertainment business, almost produced it, but he had to choose between my rock opera and Evita. I guess you know which one he went with.
Q: What other writing have you done before Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives?
A: Under a pseudonym, a book I wrote was a #1 eBook in Politics and humor on Kindle, won the New Apple Literary Society award as the best independently published General Fiction eBook of 2016, and received a 5-Star Readers Favorites review in which the reviewer called the book, “A literary satire of epic proportions.” I was the main copywriter for over ten years for two Political Action Committees, wrote three monthly columns as well as cover stories, features and political interviews for two regional magazines, contributed stories to the books More Kisses and The New Age Music Guide, and wrote articles and features that ran in newspapers and industry magazines.
Q: What’s next in your writing?
A: I have a story in an upcoming mystery anthology, Hotel California, along with eight other best-selling mystery writers (Blackstone Publishing, May 22, 2022), and another story in the follow-up to that collection, which will be called Thriller. At this point, I’m well into writing the second PS&TBD book.
Q: What organizations do you belong to?
A: I am a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association, the Mystery Writers of America the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP), The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Ashland Independent Film Festival Emeritus Boards, and the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society.
Q: What has been your involvement in Education?
A: In addition to my B.A. in film, I have an M.A. in Communications, also from New York University. I completed an accelerated advanced business leadership program at Harvard University as well. I’m quite proud that when I was in college, I was offered a Fulbright Scholarship in writing. I have taught and lectured at New York University, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Southern Oregon University, the University of Miami, and Baruch College, where I co-founded their Sports & Entertainment Marketing program.
Q: Have you been active in philanthropy and community service?
A: I founded the National Visual Art Search, which Peter Max and I used as a vehicle to discover and reward aspiring visual artists. I helped put together one of the first seminars on AIDS education (when it was still called GRID) with my cousin Saundra Shohen (to whom Scorbion is dedicated). I served two terms on the board of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, during which time I ran the OSF Business Alliance for two years. I spent three terms on Southern Oregon University’s President’s Advisory Council, was its chair for two years, and was the chair of the Fine & Performing Arts Committee. I was an early board member of the Ashland Independent Film Festival (and created their fund-raising raffle) and served as an advisor to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank when they needed funds to purchase a permanent building. I was one of the creators and organizers of Blackstone Audio’s fund-raiser Warehouse Sales that raised over $70,000 for libraries, fire departments, JPR (a National Public Radio station), a PBS TV station, and the food bank.
Q: Speaking of Blackstone, how did you get into publishing with them?
A: In 2006 our friend Christopher Toyne came to Ashland to license Winnie-The-Pooh to Blackstone, and while he was here, he told Craig Black, who owns Blackstone with his wife Michelle, about my wife Deborah and me (Deborah was also a senior executive in the music business in New York for most of her career). Craig hired both of us as consultants to be on the Blackstone Board and to advise to the company. After a few years, Deborah retired and then I joined the company as Head of New Business Development. I am quite pleased to say that during that period the company has achieved unparalleled growth.
Q: What have you done at Blackstone?
A: I initiated their relationships with Google and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (which resulted in Grammy-winning audiobooks), negotiated the purchase of other companies, and have been involved in product acquisition, contract negotiations, marketing, film/tv placements, and digital growth among many other areas. I’ve put together deals with Weird Tales Magazine, Valiant Comics, Assemble Media and Artifacts Magazine, Aethon Books and some other non-traditional partners.
Q: What authors have you acquired for the company?
A: I secured the rights to the catalogs of James Clavell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, HP Lovecraft, Leon Uris, and Gregory McDonald and works by best-selling and debut authors such as Pablo Neruda, Rex Pickett, PC & Kristin Cast, Catherine Coulter, Jim Harrison, Kylie Basutti, Cory Doctorow, Natasha Boyd, Caesar Milan, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Daniel Hecht, Nick Jones, Al Di Meola, Nick Pirog, Francine Pascal, Pamela Binnings Ewen, Rudy Ruiz, Coco Ma, David Slayton, Joshua Hood, Mark Langley, Brian Andrews and Jeff Wilson, James Wade, Emily Adrian, Eric Maikranz, Lisa Nash Taylor, Lani Forbes, Dan Mayland, Sharon Lynn Fisher, Alexandra Vinarov, Charlie Lovett, Sarina Dahlan, Dr. Joel Shulkin, Ray McPadden, Jill Criswell, Justin Travis Call, Michelle W. Miller, Lindsay K. Bandy, William Kotzwinkle, Dr. Seth Gilihan and Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh, Jotham Burrello, Tim Willocks, Kris Lackey, Larry Dudley, Paul Di Filippo, Bradeigh Godfrey, Amy Hearth Hill, John Altman, Jeneva Rose, Alex Temblador, and other great authors.
Q: Didn’t you also do a series of books written by First Nation Elders?
A: Yes, Native American Jason Couch and I co-created a First Nation book series for Blackstone to preserve the wisdom, humor, stories and life experiences of First Nation elders, including books and audiobooks by the late Grandma Aggie (Agnes Baker Pilgrim) Grandma Says: Wake Up World, Doty & The Coyote by now deceased Thomas Doty, and a yet unpublished audio by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
Q: Are you still making music?
A: I am indeed. In fact, if you press the music note tab on my website it will take you to a page that contains new songs and music I’ve written and recorded within the last couple of years (sung by Jake Howard and William Ray), another page that has tracks I have recently done from The Eye of Jupiter rock opera and some of the script I’ve been rewriting, and there’s even a page with some of the records I produced in the past. I’ve also written and recorded a theme song for Scorbion, and there’s a link to it on the first page of my website.
Q: What’s next in writing?
A: I’m working to expand into a novel the two stories in the anthologies, both of which feature Walker, a New York hitman, who escapes to Hawaii when a hit is put on his life and begins a guardian service to protect people who are being unjustly threatened. Once I’ve completed Scorbion Book 2, I’ll start on Book 3. And I’m sure something else will pop into my head that I’ll write that I just don’t know about yet.
Q: What else would you like to tell people about you?
A: I’m 77 years old and want other seniors to know that it’s never too late to try and start something new. I hope I can be an example that you should never stop chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow no matter how old you are. The chase has always been as much fun for me as finding the pot of gold.
Also, I’m a proponent and practitioner of both meditation and manifesting, and I’ve been manifesting to ensure that the future I want to have, and the success that I believe Scorbion will have, come to pass as they did for the book that I wrote under the pseudonym.
I live in Ashland Oregon with Deborah and our 11-year-old Havanese, Gracie. I have two sons, Ben & Jon, a daughter-in-law, Kate, a son-in-law, Karl, two granddaughters, Sophie & Penny, and some really dear friends.