Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sugarloaf: Green Eyed Lady

I awakened this morning with this song on my mind – for whatever reason I don’t know as I hadn’t listened to it in years; however, I searched YouTube to see if they had the album version of Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady” and was pleasantly surprised that they did. It features the fine Hammond B3 playing and vocals of Jerry Corbetta. I've never owned the vinyl copy of the album, but remember Pittsburgh top 40 radio playing this long version at night. More on the album later.

I first heard the single edit of this song on my way back from visiting my step-sister and her family in Chicago in August 1970. Bored as any teenager would be traveling in the back seat of our car across Indiana and Ohio to our home outside of Pittsburgh, my only solace was my cheap AM transistor radio that kept me company for the duration of the journey.

I remember four songs that I specifically heard on that road trip: Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “My Back Door,” Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” Status Quo’s “Down the Dustpipe,” and Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady.” Within a week, I owned three of the four singles. I did not know the artist or title of the CCR record – just the line, “Just got back from Illinois.” So unfortunately, it was not one that I purchased.

Of the three that I did buy, Sugarloaf’s “Green Eyed Lady” was my favorite. Even its flip “West of Tomorrow,” which got a bit of airplay was a good tune as well.” I can’t remember when or where I first heard the LP version of this song – but was blown away by it. I that time I didn’t understand the whole song editing process to create singles out of longer songs, but the engineer that tape edited this seven minute plus song down to the neighborhood of three minutes did a fabulous job - unless you've heard the album cut of this song, you would never know that there was a longer version of it.

Tape editing is an art and one I had to teach myself, as none of my radio mentors ever showed me how to do it. One day I needed to edit some voicers at WOAY-FM, so I went out and bought a book on tape editing, an edit block, some razor blades, splice tape, and a china marker and began learning. I got pretty good at it, but it is a skill that is superfluous these days as programs such as Sound Forge and others allow for audio tracks to be edited easily with a click of a mouse. If you mess up, you can hit CTRL Z for undo – a luxury that tape editing could not afford – if you made a mistake – well, that was it.

Earlier I mentioned that I didn’t have a copy of the vinyl version of the album, but I do have a high quality cassette tape of it. There is a story behind this as well. When I was music director at WCIR-FM, our regional EMI America/Liberty Records rep, Dave Blanford, brought the VP of Promotion, Jack Satter, to Beckley to meet me and my program director, Ron Hill.

Ron Hill and Jim Owston (the author) in the WCIR production
room with some of our gold & platinum records in 1982.

At dinner that evening we chatted about the various artists that EMI America had in its catalog after receiving the entire United Artists collection a few years earlier. There were numerous artists and recordings from various labels such as UA, Liberty, Dolton, Imperial, Sunset, Minit and others that over the years had come to be owned by Transamerica Corporation, who at one time owned United Artists.

I mentioned to Jack that they needed to re-release Sugarloaf’s debut LP, as it was long out of print and the world needed to be re-exposed to “Green Eyed Lady” in its original form.

A few weeks later, I received a package in the mail that included a chromium dioxide cassette of the Sugarloaf LP. When Jack returned to Hollywood later that week, he had stopped by the Capitol/EMI recording vault and asked the chief engineer to pull the album master for Sugarloaf’s debut LP and make me a tape.

This tape coming directly from the master was so crystal clear, you could even hear Jerry Corbetta adjusting drawbars and presets on the Hammond B3 organ. These extraneous noises were inaudible on the vinyl release; they had been picked up by Jerry Corbetta’s vocal mike and could be heard on this high quality cassette recording. The surface noise, inherent to nearly all record albums, had masked the sound. I still have this cassette and I thank Jack Satter for making it available.

Back at the station, we put the song on a Fidelipac broadcast cartridge that allowed us to share this recent acquisition with our loyal listeners. As mentioned earlier, the featured instrument is the Hammond B3; however, Corbetta is also playing a Clavinet on this song as well.

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