Vernon Sandusky became leader of The Chartbusters in May of 1964. I had always wanted to build an entertainment conglomerate built along the lines of Berry Gordy's Motown empire. Vernon and I took in as a partner Mitch Corday, Big Al's drummer. His job was to book The Chartbusters, mine was to manage and produce the group's recordings, and Vernon's job was to keep the band performing smoothly on the road since that's where our immediate income would be coming from. We set up an office in D.C.'s Georgetown, a wealthy section where a lot of politicians and celebrities lived, such as Jackie Kennedy and Henry Kissinger to name a couple.
Mitch started booking The Chartbusters and I signed other hit groups to manage, such as The Kalin Twins, Jimmy Jones and Willie and The Handjives. The Kalin Twins had a million selling record in the late 1950's titled "When". Jimmy Jones had recently had a million selling record titled "Handyman". We also promoted concerts and were the first promoters to bring The Beach Boys into the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. market, where they always drew sellout crowds. As for The Chartbusters, with a national hit under their belt, the group generated so many gigs that Mitch Corday had to hire two more agents to book the band. The band played big gigs with many of the stars of the day, including The Animals, Johnny Rivers, Jan & Dean, Herman's Hermits and The Lovin' Spoonful.
With The Chartbusters rolling and excitement in the air over all of the new music coming out of England, I got together with my buddy Harv Moore from powerhouse radio station WPGC and we produced a record called "Interview Of The Fab Four". We sold the master to the American Arts Recording Company, which at the time was the record label of British Invasion Superstars Chad & Jeremy. It was a Dickie Goodman-style track where Harv pretended to interview The Beatles and their responses would be little snippets from their songs. Not only was it was very funny, it took off like a rocket with radio and distributors pre-ordered 500,000 copies. The Beatles' Manager Brian Epstein immediately killed the single by threatening to sue. In a way, American Arts was fortunate that they did not have to pay for the 500,000 copies since they had not been pressed yet. In a rush to release the record, the label hadn't secured the rights to use any of the various bits of Beatles' songs that were included on the single. Another hit down the tubes!
It was also around this time that Mitch Corday wanted to branch out and work with a new group called The British Walkers. The founding members of The British Walkers were Bobby Howard and Roy Buchanan. Roy became known as one of the best blues guitarists in the world and was asked to join The Rolling Stones after Brian Jones was told he was out. Sadly, in the 1980's Roy hanged himself in his jail cell after being arrested for public intoxication. At least that is listed as the "official" cause of death. Serious bruises to Roy's head were never explained and it has been documented that Roy had been beaten about the head by local police before. In any event, in 1967, after many personnel changes, John Hall (shown in the photo here) became leader of the band just as they were exploding with a hit record titled "Shake" on Neil Bogart's Cameo Parkway Records. "Shake" quickly reached #32 on the Billboard charts, but died - along with other label chart entries by Bunny Sigler and Bob Brady and The Concords - when Allen Klein purchased the label and pulled the plug. Myself and the management of the other two acts to this day can't figure out why Allen Klein would not ship product to distributors when he had three hits in the charts.
Allen Klein was briefly business manager to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, as well as controlling the catalogs of artists like Sam Cooke, Herman's Hermits and The Animals, to name just a few. The industry thought that after buying a major independent record company, Allen Klein was going to start signing these huge artists to his label. Klein took the company public and the stock took off from the initial stock offering of $2 to close at $80 per share. Klein never put out a record on Cameo Parkway, although he did bring it back without any of the artists as ABKCO Records in 1969. As it turned out, it looked like the scam of the century and the Securities and Exchange Commission pulled the stock off the market. Needless to say, we were crushed at the loss of a potential hit record. Not only that, we had a million dollar deal in place with the British Walkers Shoe Company, who were going to put British Walkers boots into production if "Shake" went Top 10 nationally. Allen Klein's actions killed that deal too. As for John Hall, he came and went as leader of the band. He left and later hit pay dirt with the group Orleans. He also co-wrote the song "Half Moon" with his wife for Janis Joplin and has had an extended solo career. These days John is a Congressman from New York, having been elected in 2006!
In 1968, Vernon Sandusky, Mitch Corday and I were arrested on three different charges in a span of two weeks! In December 1967, we figured Coffee Houses were becoming the hip thing in the nightclub business, with Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and other folk acts selling out these small to medium sized venues with ease. Vernon, Mitch, and I decided to lease a beautiful nightclub right across the street from our offices. The owner of the building had lost his liquor license and was looking for someone else to lease the club. We jumped at the chance, but could only pull off the deal if the club owner took a post-dated check for $10,000 and would hold the check for two months. That would give us time to set up the club as a Coffee House and get some money coming in. The owner agreed and we took possession of the building in January of 1968. Two weeks later the building burned down. Vernon, Mitch, and I found ourselves immediately arrested and put in jail. But when we went before the pre-trial judge, our attorney told the judge we had no motive to burn the building as we had not even moved in yet and had no insurance. Case dismissed!
Two days later we were again hauled before the D.A. for a $10,000 bad check. I had stopped payment on the post-dated check the day of the fire, as I figured something was not quite right. I told the D.A. it was not a bounced check, but a stop payment. Case dismissed!
One week later we were arrested again for Grand Theft Auto. The owner of the club had gotten an Attachment Before Judgment and had the United States Marshals' Office haul away our three automobiles. We applied for a pass to get personal belongings from our automobiles and The Marshals' Office mistakenly gave us releases for our cars. When we went to the impoundment lot, they gave us back our automobiles provided we paid a fee of $35 each for towing. We then took off and drove our cars home. The next day we were arrested for stealing property from the Marshals' impoundment center. We went before the judge, who asked the D.A. how can they be arrested for stealing their own cars? The D.A. said we stole them from the Marshals' impoundment center. We showed the Judge that we had paid $35 each for the release of our cars and did not steal them. Case dismissed!
After three arrests for doing nothing and substantial fees for attorneys, we were all broke. The owner of the building was arrested. The cops found candles with his fingerprints on them in the attic of the building. The crook had set us up to take the fall and of course when they found us not guilty, he was livid and had us arrested, first for the cancelled check and then for taking back our own cars. He ended up going to jail for five years and we all thought it served him right. However, the whole experience left us exhausted and disillusioned with the entertainment business. Not only that, it seemed that The Chartbusters had run out of hits, and The British Walkers, Kalin Twins and Jimmy Jones were a bust. Vernon, Mitch and I had had enough.
Vernon left to work with Country Music Hall of Famer Roy Clark and was in his band for twenty-two years. After Vernon left, Mitch and I were approached by Jack Boyle, a bartender at a happening club called The Cellar Door. The Mamas and The Papas had become a Superstar group and were then at their peak. Jack asked us to become his partners promoting music concerts. He said Cass Elliot had borrowed $10,000 from him to form The Mamas and The Papas and they had agreed to pay him back by giving him a free concert to promote. Mitch and I made the mistake of our lives by turning him down. This concert established Jack's new enterprise Cellar Door Productions. Twenty-five years later Jack sold Cellar Door Productions for several million dollars. It's not that we didn't believe in Jack Boyle, he just approached us at the wrong time. We were both burned out on dealing with Rock 'n' Rollers and going through three arrests didn't help matters...