The latest release in our Producers series contains key tracks from the career of Grammy-winning record producer, songwriter, publisher, record company owner, film director and all-round music biz mogul Lou Adler, an architect of the California sound.
Adler started out in 1958 writing songs with Herb Alpert for Sam Cooke. In 1959 he and Alpert began managing Jan & Dean, producing their smash hit ‘Baby Talk’. They placed other productions with New York label Madison, including Danté & the Evergreens’ successful cover of ‘Alley-Oop’, before going their separate ways.
Adler was then hired to run the Los Angeles HQ of Aldon Music, home to some of the top young songwriters of the day, including Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He serviced West Coast artists with Aldon songs, mainly via producer Snuff Garrett. While Garrett hit his winning streak with Bobby Vee, Adler enjoyed a successful run producing the Everly Brothers, whose ‘Crying In The Rain’ made #6 in 1962.
In 1965 Adler formed his Dunhill label. The company’s first big hit was Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve Of Destruction’, a chart-topper at the peak of the folk rock boom. McGuire in turn introduced Adler to his friends the Mamas & the Papas. Their debut single, ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’, was quickly withdrawn to make way for ‘California Dreamin’’, which rose to #4, establishing them as Dunhill’s star act.
After selling Dunhill, Adler started the Ode label. The initial releases were ‘Stoney End’ by the Blossoms, a group he had known since the late 50s when they sang background for Sam Cooke, and Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)’, one of the biggest hits of 1967.
By 1968 Carole King sought to resume her recording career. Recalling his enthusiasm for her Aldon demos, she approached Adler, who proffered a contract. Calling themselves the City, she and her fellow musicians recorded the album “Now That Everything’s Been Said” with Adler producing.
Other significant Ode artists included the band Spirit, whose first three albums Adler produced, and the Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles, whose “Dylan’s Gospel” appeared in 1969. The lead vocalist on many of the tracks on the album was Merry Clayton, who made her solo Ode debut with her version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ in 1970 and also supplied backing vocals on Carole King’s landmark “Tapestry” album.
Released in 1971, “Tapestry” struck an immediate chord with the public and ascended to #1, where it remained for 15 consecutive weeks, becoming the best-selling album of the 70s. King and Adler were rewarded with Grammys for Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year.
Carole King notwithstanding, Ode’s most successful act was “stoner rock” duo Cheech & Chong. Their string of hits singles included ‘Earache My Eye’, a Top 10 in 1974, while their “Los Cochinos” album bagged the Grammy for Best Comedy Recording of 1973.
Adler – whose story is told in more detail in the picture-packed booklet, much of it in his own words – was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award in 2013. “If you asked me how to succeed as a record producer,” he said on being presented with his accolade by Cheech & Chong, “I’d say it helps to work with three of the best singers and songwriters: John Phillips, Carole King and Sam Cooke.”
By Mick Patrick