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New eden ahbez Blog!
bcxists
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Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-14 06:13 am   Permalink

P.S. I wanted to thank everyone here for their support of the blog. In just under five days, it has bumped up to the #4 result on Google and Yahoo's search results for "eden ahbez." I've already gotten emails from five people who knew eden personally that I have not interviewed.

 
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virani
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Joined: Sep 17, 2003
Posts: 1438
From: Volcanic area of France
Posted: 2012-03-14 08:06 am   Permalink

awesome. I look forward more info about the great musician and composer !


 
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The Granite Tiki
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Joined: Jul 02, 2005
Posts: 810
From: Nashua, NH
Posted: 2012-03-14 08:40 am   Permalink

Hi Brian, I love the blog!!

Do you know what type of flute was used on eden's Island? Specifically on "The Old Boat" and did eden play it himself?

[ This Message was edited by: The Granite Tiki 2012-03-14 08:41 ]


 
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bcxists
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Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-14 5:11 pm   Permalink

Hi Granite Tiki,

It's a hand-carved flute. Throughout his life, ahbez made many of them, including the one he's holding in the studio with Brian Wilson in that 1967 photograph. One of the things ahbez loved to do was sit up in the Hollywood Hills and hold his flutes up to the wind... let nature play its song.


 
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The Granite Tiki
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Joined: Jul 02, 2005
Posts: 810
From: Nashua, NH
Posted: 2012-03-15 05:14 am   Permalink

Excellent, thanks so much for the info!

 
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OnyaBirri
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Joined: Feb 02, 2006
Posts: 419
Posted: 2012-03-18 08:01 am   Permalink

This is fascinating. I only knew Ahbez because of "Nature Boy" and "Eden's Island."

I have a couple of questions and comments:

First, it is worth noting that arrangement on Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" is by none other than Les Baxter, although Frank Devol gets label credit as the conductor.

At first glance, I might have thought the bearded person pictured with Brian Wilson was Mike Love, only Eden Ahbez has more hair.

I'm glad to hear there is a compilation of his various songs/singles in the works. (Eden Ahbez, that is, not Mike Love).

While I'm not a huge fan of biopics, Eden Ahbez would be a great subject.

It's amazing that there have been countless people who have tried to "make it" in show biz, yet here was this guy who enjoyed a certain level of success and seemed to avoid all of the trappings and folly associated with fame and new-found wealth. Has anyone ever estimated the amount of money Ahbez made from "Nature Boy" and what he did with the earnings at the song's height of popularity?

You mention his estate, and that it won't allow certain recordings to be issued. Ahbez apparently has no surviving family members, based on my understanding of what I read. Did he actually leave behind a will, and does anyone know what the terms were?

If my last two questions come off as intrusive, that is not my intention. I just find Ahbez to be such a fascinating character.

Thanks for the blog!



[ This Message was edited by: OnyaBirri 2012-03-18 08:08 ]

[ This Message was edited by: OnyaBirri 2012-03-18 12:09 ]


 
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bcxists
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Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-19 1:36 pm   Permalink

Yes, there was a will. He left the physical recordings to Joe Romersa, a musician and collaborator with ahbez, who retains them in his home studio. He left the publishing rights to David Janowiak, a real estate agent who helped ahbez several times to sue (successfully) for unpaid royalties on "Nature Boy" and helped him copyright most of his songs unter the title Golden World Publishing. Ever since ahbez's death, Romersa and Janowiak have not gotten along and disagree about how to proceed with ahbez's unreleased recordings. Romersa, best as I can tell, most certainly wants them all out; Janowiak has done some pretty bizarre things with ahbez's writings, including hiring a young woman to edit and re-write much of his poetry. I have interviewed her and she walked away from the project because she thought what he was requesting was unethical. Janowiak has blocked most of ahbez's last recordings from coming out.

As to the arrangement on "Nature Boy," I have the AFM session logs and didn't notice Baxter's name on there. I can look again, but might you be thinking of the 1958 Cole remake of the song (much slower)?

As to what ahbez made financially from "Nature Boy," it's somewhat confusing. He made a small pittance when it sold its first million copies, but royalties were soon held up in litigation due to Herman Yablokoff opening a lawsuit against ahbez for copyright infringement of his song "Schveig Mein Hartz," which Yablokoff claimed the lyrics and melody of "Nature Boy" were derived. In 1950, ahbez settled out of court for $25,000, but retained the copyright to "Nature Boy."

He sued Capitol Records in 1972 for unpaid royalties and again in 1992. It seems that the Local 47 AFM and ASCAP paid regular mechanical royalties to him, though he only retained 12.5% of the publishing, doling most of the publishing out to Nat Cole, his valet Otis Pollard (who took the song to Cole), Cole's manager and others. So desperate was ahbez to get the song placed in 1947 that he nearly gave the thing away.

Now, I'm going through mounds of court records and paperwork to put the pieces together, but it seems at some point, Janowiak got him more of the publishing back, placing the publishing with Golden World in 1972, as it had been with Capitol-Irving since 1948. Once they got the publishing back, ahbez rarely complained about money any longer. In fact, he logged over 200 sessions with Joe Romersa at Salty Dog Studios from 1987-95, with Romersa saying ahbez always wrote a check for the studio time and it never once bounced.

No worries about the questions... I find him fascinating too, but I guess that's obvious.

Brian


 
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OnyaBirri
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Joined: Feb 02, 2006
Posts: 419
Posted: 2012-03-19 4:29 pm   Permalink

Thanks for the detailed response.

As for Baxter's name not appearing on the session logs, there was a lot of ghost arranging going on at that time. Baxter's arrangement of "Nature Boy" got him the gig for conducting "Too Young" and "Mona Lisa." Baxter had moved on by 1958. I'm sure that the stereo recording of Nature Boy was either done with the same written arrangement or a transcription.

Thanks again!


 
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bcxists
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-20 08:30 am   Permalink

If not the union contract, then what are you basing your assertion that Baxter arranged it on?

 
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OnyaBirri
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Joined: Feb 02, 2006
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Posted: 2012-03-20 10:47 am   Permalink

There are plenty of references in Les Baxter bios, explaining how his "Nature Boy" arrangement got him hired to to the other Cole tunes I mentioned. Additionally, aural evidence would confirm this: The arrangement uses all sorts of signature devices that can be heard in Baxter's other exotic music from this period, including the Theremin albums and Voice of the Xtabay. It was not necessarily common to list the arranger on a musician's union log unless the arranger is also the conductor. The fact that "arranging" can come in multiple stages, e.g. one person doing a sketch and another writing the full arrangement, can further obscure these situations.

 
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bcxists
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Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-20 12:57 pm   Permalink

I gotta see some sort of written evidence. What Baxter bio source specifically are you citing?

 
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OnyaBirri
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Joined: Feb 02, 2006
Posts: 419
Posted: 2012-03-20 1:10 pm   Permalink

I was simply trying to pass on helpful, generally accepted information to add to the discussion. You don't have to put it in your blog or your book. I have no dog in this race and do not have the time to do the research. I'm sure you can confirm this detail if you're that interested. I've never heard it contested.

What I can tell you definitively - and you can find LOTS of references to this, if you do the research - is that conductor/arrangers during that period routinely farmed out arranging duties to colleagues or assistants when they were in a time crunch. All of Sinatra's arrangers "ghosted" for each other on occasion. Folks who worked with Quincy Jones will tell you that many of "his" arrangements back then were by either Billy Byers or Bobby Scott.

So the fact that a record label says "The Frank DeVol Orchestra" doesn't mean he wrote the chart.

Either way, I am enjoying your blog and look forward to the book. Please post updates on your progress.


 
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bcxists
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Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-20 1:22 pm   Permalink

If you say so. But my experience with AFM contracts is that they normally list EVERYONE who can expect a mechanical royalty, which, in the case of "Nature Boy," I know for certain that every person who played on the session got royalties until the end of their lives, and they still go to their heirs. So I'd imagine that Baxter was not about to be stiffed, but thanks for the info. I will look into it.

 
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OnyaBirri
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Joined: Feb 02, 2006
Posts: 419
Posted: 2012-03-20 5:07 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2012-03-20 13:22, bcxists wrote:
If you say so. But my experience with AFM contracts is that they normally list EVERYONE who can expect a mechanical royalty, which, in the case of "Nature Boy," I know for certain that every person who played on the session got royalties until the end of their lives, and they still go to their heirs. So I'd imagine that Baxter was not about to be stiffed, but thanks for the info. I will look into it.



I understand what you're saying, but that's the whole tricky issue with farmed-out or "ghost" arrangements: The person who did the work often was not credited. They were either paid a flat rate as an assistant, or they did it as a favor to another arranger, knowing they may need a favor in return. Keep in mind that Baxter was just starting out at this point. I'm sure he was grateful to get to work with someone as big as Nat "King" Cole to solidify his reputation.

Since you mentioned it, plenty of artists over the decades opted out of royalties for a flat rate, because they were starting out or simply needed to pay the rent. Fats Waller sold "Ain't Misbahavin'" outright, for, if I recall, a hundred dollars.

I'm sure you can find confirmation of Baxter's involvement with "Nature Boy."

Sorry if my previous post came off stronger than what I intended. Thanks again for the blog!


 
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bcxists
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 21
Posted: 2012-03-21 07:49 am   Permalink

I saw three occasions on the net where different individuals claimed it was Baxter, but none showed any evidence. Thanks for the tip, though. If it's true, that'd be great. I'll dig deeper into it, for sure!

 
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