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Truth, Lies, Magic and Faith

May 3, 2010

There are times when things go wrong and other times when everything is clicking and no matter what you do you have a positive reaction. I always considered myself  a songwriter first and everything else second. I’m not going to go into songwriting right now but a fantastic happenstance I had in 1968. During my time at Moonglow Records I made the acquaintance of  a life long friend, Richard Delvy. Richard was street guy doing many things in the record business. He was a leader and drummer in “The Challengers” surf band and the publisher of the big hit, Wipe Outby The Surfaris. More than that he was a master chef and we spent a lot of time enjoying his culinary creations and his knowledge of fine wine. He was my friend. At this time he was working for Hastings Music, a division of MGM Records. He held court in his office every day, along with many of the independent producers and songwriters of the day.  We were all trying to come up with something to advance our careers. One day Richard played a Linda Ronstadt recording of “We need a whole lot more of Jesus and a lot less rock and roll”. I thought it was fantastic. I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that her vocal performance could be improved upon but the song was great. Richard decided to record the track for a possible single release with me as the artist. He tagged it on to a session he was doing for another project. I didn’t know that he had any intention of cutting the track that night so I wasn’t there but Danny Moore, who went on to write “Shambala”  “My Maria” and many other successful songs, was and helped create a terrific track which knocked me out. Even though I had several records released by this point, this time I had a chance to be released on a major label. That was a dream come true. When I put the vocal on everybody came up with ideas as to how we should finish the record. Due to the fact that the intention was just a single, Richards approach was to go in the studio and see what happens. This was not his style on The Challengers product but those were albums and this was a single.  As luck would have it Richard liked the way it sounded and asked for the budget to turn it into an album. Now is when Dave Roberts was brought in as arranger and we were on our way to conceive of a concept for the album. This meant that I was going to be on the same label as Frank Zappa, the prestigious Blue Verve. As development began it became apparent that this project was going to be more than just a bunch of songs strung together to make an album.  At first it looked like it might be a gospel album but that would not have been an accurate description. It became necessary for me to write an explanation as part of the liner notes. Here is what appeared on the back of the album.  ” In comprising these tunes, we have expressed an attitude that we both share. By looking at the titles one might be tempted to think the attitude is religion, well it might be religious but it has nothing to do with organized religion as we know it.  What we have attempted to do is express the point of view that one man’s God, no matter how he may define it, is another man’s booze, another man’s grass, another man’s money, another man’s sex and on and on until we have exhausted everything that can be considered either good or evil, and each of these things can be practiced religiously.  Everyone forms their own attitude on each other’s obsessions and these attitudes fall into the broad classifications of truth, lies magic or faith, as will your attitude of this album. Richard Delvy and Dick Monda.” Hence the title of the album, Truth, Lies Magic and Faith. Once the concept became clear to us we chose the songs. Richard was never one to think small and believe me this thing took on a life of its own. By choosing Dave Roberts as arranger we had someone fully capable to be spectacular with everything including strings and horns. He himself was a first call trombone player. Since Richard was employed by Hastings Music, most of the songs had to be published by Hastings so what we did was look to public domain songs to adapt to the project. We came up with six P.D. songs, I wrote two more, we chose a song by two Hastings writers,(Jack Dalton and Gary Montgomery) the first song,          “We need a whole lot more of Jesus…” a Billy Vera song and a Jean Chapel song published by the same publisher who published my songs, Four Star Music. That made twelve so the next step was recording the eleven songs needed to complete the project. This is where my involvement as an artist took a major upswing. Although I had recorded in major studios with top-notch players I was never in a situation like I was about to be in. The dates were done at Wally Heider’s in Hollywood with Larry Cox at the controls. Larry went on to be a major producer with hits by Climax Precious and few and The Jefferson Starship just to name two of the many. On piano was Bobby Doyle, a blind piano player who was with Kenny Rogers for years when Kenny had a trio in Texas before The First Edition was formed. On guitar the legendary James Burton who played with Ricky Nelson and then Elvis. Joe Osborn on bass, arguably the number one bassist in Los Angeles at the time and Johnny Guerin another first call session player. This was the rhythm section from heaven. I think we did the tracks over the course of three days and I always got to the studio early. I thought I would be the first one there but Joe and James were always there before me because Joe had to show James what he was supposed to play because James couldn’t read music. I would have let James play what he felt was right because his instincts were impeccable but when you have an arranger, he wants to hear what he wrote. In the middle of the first track run down,which had a long solo piano and vocal beginning,  Bobby stopped and said to me, ” hey man just sing it the way you feel it, I don’t want to blow your phrasing”. I knew Bobby couldn’t see me but he could feel that I was a little hesitant because I had never worked with a blind musician before. From the next take on I never doubted that Bobby’s sense of where I was and I could take all the liberties I wanted with the phrasing. What a pleasure. After the tracks were cut the process of sweetening began. I knew that a lot of money had been spent already so I wasn’t expecting anything elaborate. I remember one day we went out to a studio in Glendale that had a huge Hammond organ to create the opening track. Again Richard chose a blind organist, I think his name was Julian Lee.  He played The Hallelujah chorus on this magnificent instrument and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better version. We were going to do some over dubs at Columbia’s recording studio that night and Richard had been telling me that we were running out of money so we had to do what we could on our own to finish the record, which I was okay with but I asked Dave Roberts if maybe he could put some trombone on to sweeten up a couple of tracks but Richard said that we wouldn’t have time.  The date that night was set for seven p.m. so we had a little time to eat something and then get to the studio. Well you could have knocked me over with a feather when I got to the studio and there was a full string section and a full horn section running down the tracks. I thought Richard was going to pee his pants because he was laughing hysterically as I had been trying to come up with something that would take the place of a bunch of expensive musicians not to mention the arrangements.  The next surprise was Richard’s idea to get Danny Moore and Brooks Hunnicutt to assemble around fifty singers to put on the background vocals.  The sound in the studio that day was nothing short of amazing. One of the best examples of what these tracks turned into is, “River’s End “  which directly follows Hallelujah on the first side of the album. The other song I wrote is called, The Wandering Carpenter which Richard let me put the vocal on after the string and horn date I think it was about eleven p.m. but I was inspired. The last song on side two is, Glory Glory Hallelujah. Richard booked a vocal overdub room at Wally Heider’s and after hours of trying he said he had to go but told me I could continue if I wanted to. When he left there was just the engineer, Buzz Clifford, of Baby Sittin’ Boogiefame and myself in the room. Buzz is a great singer in his own right and he could see that I was frustrated, not being able to nail this so he again said to me, “Why don’t you just do it any way you feel like?” This certainly worked for me when Bobby told me the same thing so that’s what I did. I wasn’t sure what anyone else would think but I liked it. It sure wasn’t the way I had ever heard it sung before so from that stand point I felt I did the right thing. Richard accepted the performance and all the vocals were done. Once the mix downs were finished all that was left was the album cover art. The cover was designed by Beverly Parker,we went down to the train station in Los Angeles and shot all over the area I didn’t get it at the time but over the years I have come to appreciate the way she thought out of the box for the times. The back cover art was left to me so my friend and sometimes writing partner, Jill Jones, helped me put together the shot where an array of stuff was put on the steps behind her apartment and her friend Ted Jacques shot the photo. Jill’s feet can be seen at the top of the stairs and the lead sheet to one of my songs which was later recorded by Frankie Laine can be seen on the lower step. There are other things strewn on the steps trying to exemplify our vision. Shortly after the album was released MGM/Verve had a convention attended by distributors,other artists, the promoters, the distributors and the employees of the record company including the President of MGM corporate, Bo Polk. This photo was taken at the convention from left to right it’s me, my wife Jan, Ken Mansfield, Richard Delvy and Bo Polk. When it was played for all the promoters and publicity people they gave it a standing ovation. We really thought we were going to have something. As it turned out, even though they tried many singles and print ads the album never caught fire. But from a critical point of view I heard from many people who loved the album, in fact one program director told me that they used to play my album in its entirety every sunday morning. I’m not sure what that meant but I was excited about the exposure. I was disappointed in the general results until one day in 1972 I was listening to the local top forty radio station and they played “An American Trilogy”, by Elvis and when he got to the Glory Hallelujah part he sang it like I did on my album. I couldn’t believe that both of us would phrase it the same unless he heard my version which was inspired by Buzz Clifford’s suggestion to sing it like I felt it. Then I started thinking back on the circumstances following the release of my record and around that time Kenny Rogers had recorded one of my songs and I became friendly with Kenny and his then wife Margot. One of Kenny’s best friends at the time was Mickey Newbury, who put together “An American Trilogy”, which was a combination of “Dixie”, ” All My Trials” and “Glory Hallelujah”  Kenny’s wife used to play my album all the time at home to the extent that she mentioned to me the possibility of her managing me. I think that Mickey Newbury heard my version at Kenny’s house and used my interpretation as a model. I’m not comparing my performance with Elvis’s amazing reading just the phrasing. Remember mine was in 1969 and his in 1972   I have no proof of this but if it is true I would be immensely honored but I’ll leave it up to you as I have included both versions. Let me know what you think.

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8 comments

  1. Good stuff Dick. Keep it up.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Woodrum, dick monda. dick monda said: Truth, Lies, Magic and Faith: http://wp.me/pNEX4-1s […]


  3. I am proud to say that I have a copy of this LP autographed by Dick Monda, and it will always be treasured in my collection of over 30,000 records. Never have I enjoyed an album more than when this was released and when I was working at KIST in Santa Barbara, Johnny Hyde, our music director let me play this LP freely on Sunday mornings. Thanks … See Morefor the insight into what went into this work of art, and I know now that it will be a treasure to keep for my lifetime. Thanks, Dick Monda, for being a friend, and all that you did for my career in radio and beyond.


  4. Oh jah foo. That was fantastico.


  5. I predict that this album will be rediscovered in 2011 along with Bill Hudson’s gold lame dress


  6. So interesting! Keep remembering and I’ll keep reading!
    Great stuff!


  7. I LVED THIS ALBUM PLEASE SEND ME A CHANCE TO DOWNLOAD FOR MY COLLECTION OOFMA


  8. I collect records made by Richard Delvy and Dave Roberts, and this by far is one of my all time favorites. Thanks for taking the time to write about it here.



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