It has now been nine years since Terry Melcher passed away on November 19.
It was for this reason that I went back to listen to Melcher’s self-titled LP from 1974, the Sundazed Bruce & Terry CD, the original Rip Chords CDs (Hey Little Cobra and Three Window Coupe) and the material that Melcher recorded and collaborated on with the Beach Boys (“Getcha’ Back,” “Kokomo,” most of Summer In Paradise) it seemed prudent to share some interviews that were conducted as a part of a celebration of his memory.
Part one begins with a discussion with drummer extraordinaire Hal Blaine.
How did you meet Terry?
Hal Blaine: When I first met Terry he introduced me to Candy (Candice) Bergen, just an absolutely beautiful lady. He was very proud of her. He was very kind. We never got into hanging out, but I was very taken with him because I was a major Doris Day fan.
What was it like working in the studio with Terry?
HB: When he started at Columbia, the word from all the big shot producers, we need to give him a break here because he’s Doris Day’s son. Let’s give him six months and then we’ll see him (leave). And it turned out to be just the opposite. Terry worked with a lot of young people. He came along and started doing music for the young generation. And I have found – I don’t know why – that a lot of blonde-haired guys seemed to have a chip on their shoulder. Just his vocal attitude made it sound like he had a chip on his shoulder, but he didn’t. He didn’t laugh a lot. He was a hard-working guy. He had a horrible motorcycle accident in the late 1960’s. We didn’t think he would ever walk again. Both of his legs were crushed like powder, but he got through it.
What was Terry’s strength in the studio?
HB: Terry was a producer, and in a lot of ways, like Brian Wilson; he would give me and Larry Knechtel carte-blanche. Terry appreciated our expertise. That’s the way I operate: I gotta’ hear a song. I want to hear it, see what the lyric is, and get a feel for it. That’s the same way that Brian Wilson was, except that Brian could call out certain things to certain musicians on certain instruments. Once we heard a song with the Byrds, or any of those groups, we’d listen to the parts and made my drum parts. With Terry, we really gave him all the help we could give him, because he really was not a musician’s musician. He was not arranging music and telling guys what notes to play. When we did “Mr. Tambourine Man,” that was a major hit.
What about the earlier music?
HB: With the Rip Chords and Bruce & Terry, Terry was more hands-on. Of course Bruce Johnston is such an incredible musician. I first met Bruce when he was playing organ, and we hired on organ. He was a great B-3 Hammond organ player. I don’t know that I ever saw Bruce on piano on any session. And we were all kind of happy when Bruce and Terry got together. And they did pretty darn good for Columbia. Terry proved everyone wrong by making hit records. Terry was the boss. He was absolutely in charge.
He used to call me once in a while and would say, “You know Hal if it wasn’t for you none of us would have done anything over at Columbia. You always took control, put in your two cents, and it was always right.” He used to say, “I’m so grateful.” I told him, “Terry, I was just doing my job man.” … Terry was a good guy. He was a little bit shy. It was such a shock when he passed away.
To be continued…
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