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GM: Yeah, everybody was doing what they call one shot dates. It wasn't like I was drastically surprised. I was just surprised of their attitude and their attitude just grew and it became very detrimental to me because I think they poisoned other people in reference to me. It was almost like a blackballed thing. It hurt me very bad, Fred. I will tell you, Fred, I was very uptight about it. I had a meeting with John Hammond and John at that time was interested in trying to do something with me and I was telling him the problems I was having at Blue Note and he said to me, "The publishing thing is a touchy kind of thing right now. I will tell you something. I know what you're going through. I know it's not pretty, but I guarantee you one thing, Grachan, you will find out in years to come that in the long run, Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff are two of the best cats in the music business." And he was right. Even though I had a hard time with them, my business books is more intact with that company than it is with any other company I recorded with in the world.
FJ: Even with all the drama, Lion and Wolff still had the presence of mind to do the right thing.
GM: Right, and not only that, Fred, let me tell you something. Let me set the record straight for you. First of all, Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff had their business in order. Whoever took over, if they meant to do well, if they meant to do right, everything was in order for they to do right with it. The musicians are very fortunate that my man, Michael Cuscuna, being the dedicated person he is, musically and the business person that he is and the kind of respect that he has for musicians in general and the music. Thanks to a guy like him, who is really responsible for most of the reissues, thanks to a guy like him or guys like him, he was able to set my thing in order the way it was supposed to be and for him to pick it up and to have me where I was supposed to be as a legendary artist within their catalog. If it wasn't for a person like that, I could be lost in the shuffle. So it was like John Hammond had said, they were the two best cats in the business because he knew better than I did or better than most of the fly by night record companies that were coming up during the time and are still coming up, he knew, being the businessman that he is. He knew then how they were handling their business. He knew down the line that my stuff would be, I would be in better shape than I would be with just about anybody else that I recorded with. That holds true with everybody. There is only a few other labels that come close to that so far like ABC/Paramount, labels that I've recorded with. Domestically, those were the two major labels that I dealt with, which is now Capitol and ABC, which is like Impulse! What I am saying is that you have some other companies that I think probably are on that level now, but because I haven't recorded as much music with other companies like I did with Blue Note because in a very short period of time, within about a two year or three year period, I recorded I would say pretty much half the stuff that I've every recorded, period. This is within a two year period, so they have quite a bit of my recording material, more so than any other one company. So I can't really make the good judgment of how these other companies are doing compared to them.
FJ: I take it that doesn't hold true for the European label that you did numerous sessions for, BYG.
GM: Oh, Fred, that has been a disaster. The tragedy is within the situation that I am now. The tragedy is my financial situation and the inactivity behind not being out there properly, just not being paid, first of all. Not being paid, that puts a damper on your lifestyle within itself. With them not doing anything for the artists as a follow up, it didn't lead for me to get any exposure or any work or any tours or anything. Whereas some of these other companies, once you record for them, they help to get the artists out there to start working. If they don't give you a million dollars, they get behind you to put something together and go out there and make some money.
FJ: That still doesn't explain why you are not recorded now. Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff have long since passed and the BYG and Blue Note catalogs have been sold repeatedly. Hope, the bread by which we live, is dwindling.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...