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The one and only, Cooker

February 21, 2011

It’s been awhile since I posted anything as I have been writing and recording. As soon as the stuff is finished I will post everything. During this time I had a chance to reflect on my friend, Norman Charles Des Rosiers or as I know him, Cooker. My friendship with Cooker began around 1974  in a publisher’s office in the heart of Hollywood. We were introduced by Clive Fox who was running the West coast office of Chappell Music. I liked Cooker immediately and was fascinated by his rough exterior and his beautiful sensitive interior.  Although I asked him many questions about his past I’m not going to reveal what he told me and I’m not sure it was the truth as Cooker’s poetic nature tended to sometimes get in the way of reality. I became a fan of his music from the start and Clive was looking for someone to produce a couple of sides with the idea that a deal could be made for an album. In the photo, Cooker is at the piano, Clive is behind and I am at the front. I’m getting a little ahead of myself so I think a little history would be appropriate. Cooker was in a group, signed to Atlantic Records called The Groupies. Any hard-core fan of the Punk Movement knows than The Groupies was a seminal part of the Punk Movement. Here is a link to one of The Groupies recordings. Even though the recordings are rough, with a garage band overtone you can tell that Cooker’s lead vocals are impactful and exciting. I think that there is a prophetic connection to the fact that their sound was much like a rawer version of the Stones and eventually Ahmet Ertegun ended up with a Stones label deal. All of this was many years before I met Cooker.  The first song I ever heard was called “Try (Try to fall in love)”. I loved it from first listen. The demo was just Cooker playing an acoustic guitar and singing. It was not a difficult decision for me as to my involvement but I had to make sure that Cooker wanted to work with me. I must say that I was unfamiliar with The Groupies so I had not heard any of his early recordings. If I had I would not have believed that he could write the songs that were flowing out of him. We talked for hours and discovered that we were quite a bit alike in our heritage and musical influences. My personal dream always had been to be an Atlantic artist because of Ray Charles and Bobby Darin and Cooker had lived that dream. At the end of that first day he decided that we should give it a shot. I figured that whatever we would record, “Try to fall in love “, should be first on the list. I was able to get a small budget from Clive and I booked a studio and some  “A” players including Ron Tutt (Elvis) , Spooner Oldham (writer of songs by The Box Tops etc.) and Leland Sklar. It became obvious quickly that the tried and true method of recording was not going to work with Cooker. Even though we completed a couple of sides, one of which was a version of ,”Try to fall in love”, it didn’t capture the essence of the song. I went back to Clive and asked for a few extra dollars and a friend of mine wrote  a simple string chart which I sang to him, consisting of mostly echoes of the melody line and pads. My friend Laurie Jarvis(Cello) got a few of her friends and we put strings on the demo. It almost mixed itself with a few moves on the echo pot.  We loved it so all we needed now was a deal. I knew that getting a deal on a beautiful sensitive ballad with only an acoustic guitar and a string section and sung by one of the most unique voices ever recorded was not going to be easyand Cooker was an acquired taste and that would take some time. I was wrong. Clive was able to make a deal for Cooker at his first stop in New York City. The label was the legendary independent Scepter Records. Scepter was owned by Florence Greenberg but my connection at the label was my friend Stanley Greenberg, Florence’s son, who was a true record executive with a genuine college educated knowledge of music. Stan was blind but he could play and arrange with the best. Of course I didn’t know this until I made my trip to New York to master the album. So the deal was done and Cooker and I started hanging out and reviewing his songs. I became his biggest fan and nothing has changed for me since then. I felt then as I do today, Cooker has an incurable passion and is able to express that passion with his songs and his poetic words. That he is not an important musical entity like Bob Dylan or Tom Waits is just bad luck. He is deserving of the honor. After choosing a number of songs to consider for the album, Cooker went back home to Champaign, Illinois. During this time Scepter released “Try to fall in love “, as a single . Even though it received critical acclaim it was slow in development due to Cooker’s unusual voice but those who gave it a shot had immediate response. It became a number one record in Dallas, Texas but never reached its potential for one reason or another. This does not diminish Cooker’s rightful position as a great innovative, inventive artist. Those of us who are fans believe this to our souls. I could not be prouder of having had the opportunity to produce this album and  the opportunity to work with an artist of Cooker’s quality. He never failed to hold me in amazement.   When we got the call to  begin finalizing the song selection and make the recording schedule Cooker was still in Champaign with his girlfriend Nancy, who had her own web site called, “Hollywood Hangover”,which she started many years later.  Clive arranged to have them come to Hollywood and  stay at one of the local hotels. The day arrived when they would be in town and I figured that I would leave them alone so they could get situated and since I had never met Nancy I was going to wait until the next day to make connections. Little did I know that this was the beginning of one of the funniest (on tape) moments I have ever heard.  It began with an early morning call from Cooker that they had been thrown out of the Hotel. I didn’t know the details because I was more concerned about getting them another place. I called Clive and he called Stanley and they made arrangements and I picked them up and took them to the new place.  It was at this time that I heard the story of how they met Joe Cocker and invited him up to their room and Cooker and Cocker decided to start singing blues songs with no regard for the hotel patrons. Cooker wanted to preserve this moment so he recorded everything. even when the manager of the hotel banged on the door and got into an argument with Joe Cocker. The ensuing argument was hilarious and it got Cooker and Nancy thrown out.  Here is a You Tube version of that tape , I think it’s as funny as anything on Saturday Night Live. We spent the next month recording “Bout Time” . Some of the sessions were just Cooker and his friend Ron Davies. which started late at night and went into the morning. Other sessions began in the morning but in either case Cooker always came with a six-pack of beer. The most important thing was that Cooker let me be a producer and I let him be an artist. Sometimes these lines are blurred and the outcome is convoluted but not in this case. I remember one session when we were sweetening, “Sunny Day Sun”. I had gotten together with the arranger, Dave Roberts and as Dave was a trombonist I knew that we could get a kind of N’awlins feel and when Nancy heard the clarinet and trombone she started to strut. Nancy had ben a dancer so she knew how to strut and it was an exciting moment to say the least. Cooker was not real demonstrative but I know how he felt about me because when he and Nancy decided to marry He asked me to be his best man. My weekend in Champaign was memorable and I love Cooker as a man and as an artist. Please listen to a few cuts off his  album that are my personal favorites .

    Try (Try to fall in love)       

Nowhere at all

Sunny day sun

Me and cousin Earl

                                                 

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19 comments

  1. Thank you much I really enjoyed the music brings me back to time when they was real music Buren in Missouri


  2. Classic!! What a unique talent.


    • the last time I looked, Nancy had the Cocker tape posted on her website. Also, whenever all the girls would get together, she would stick that darn tape recorder in her pocket, after a few drinks we would forget that it was on…….oh, to listen to the tapes today! Nancy is my cousin and I love her dearly.


  3. I lived with the guys in the band in the `60s at a place called the house of awareness in hollywood.
    I might be one of the few people that still has a copy of the album.
    Cooker also played on one of the Seeds recordings.
    He is still in Illinois. Talked to him lastyear.


  4. what a singer…why didnt he ever make it big…Try (Try to fall in love) how do i get this lovely song sir ?


  5. can anyone tell me where to download the song..Try (Try to fall in love)


    • Hi Garry, Yes he is a great artist. I put a few of my favorite cuts that I produced on the blog and someone told me that they were able to down load them. Let me know if you have trouble getting them off the blog.


      • sir,can you please tell me how to download Try (Try to fall in love) this is a very nice song + the others…this man has a voice. thanks garry ye neyah.


  6. i need help please on how to download- Try (Try to fall in love)


    • If you want me to send it to you, e-mail me from daddydewdrop.com


      • yes please,i would like you to send the song …thanks so much i was giving up hope sorry.


      • sir thanks for the song sent….Try ( Try to fall in love )


  7. Do you remember who took the picture of you, Clive, and Cooker?


    • I can hardly remember if I was in the picture.


  8. Daddy, How can I get this song?! I’ve heard it covered by Doug Dillard but his is simply awesome.


  9. Sorry I didn’t specify, but It’s Try(Try to Fall in Love) Thanks so much.


  10. I’ve been looking for this recording since I broke up with a girl that had this album … 30 years ago! Thanks so much!


  11. Thanks for your e.mail sir,i still listen Try(Try to Fall in Love) regular, i sent the song to my friends,
    Regards Garry ye neyah Decker.



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