Mickey Newbury Live at Montezuma Hall by Ron Middag
Mickey Newbury credit: mickeynewbury.com
After working in radio in San Diego and LA, including stints as program director of KPRI in San Diego and music director of KPPC and DJ for KMET, both in the LA market, by Feb of ’71, I was looking for something new. Gil Bateman at Elektra Records made me an offer to go to work for them as the western regional album promotion director.
I said to him "I don’t know the first thing about promotion" and his answer was, "I think that you do and I will teach you what you don’t know about the business." I accepted the offer and began learning from a man that was one of the most knowledgeable music guys that I have ever known.
In those days, Elektra was a very open record company. If you heard music that you liked or had ideas that you thought were worthy, there was freedom to pursue them.
I knew Carl Scott at Warner’s and he and I came up with an idea of producing low cost concerts, featuring artists from our companies, underwritten by the companies and co-sponsored by radio stations in individual markets. I pitched Elektra on a project and they went for it.
The first one that we did was produced by Don Nix. Initially it featured Don Nix, Lonnie Mack, Marlin Greene and Jeanie Greene. All of them were recording artists on Elektra.
Lonnie and Don were well known. Marlin Greene was a singer-songwriter and producer-engineer in his own right. Marlin co-produced and engineered the Boz Scaggs album with "Loan Me a Dime," featuring Duane Allman. Jeanie Greene had done back up vocal work with Elvis, so these were all talented people.
To that core group, Don added the blues great, Furry Lewis, The Mount Zion Choir, and many studio musicians from the Mussel Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama to make up the band. That band included some of the studio greats, Wayne Perkins, Clayton Ivy, Tippy Armstrong, Ken Woodley, Tarp Tarrant, Fred Prouty, and Bob Wray.
During rehearsals, Lonnie Mack dropped out for reasons of his own, but the show went forward and we toured nationally, getting Bruce Botnick (The Doors engineer and later producer) to record several of the shows. I flew those tapes to Memphis and Don, John Fry and I mixed those tapes down at Ardent Recording studios to a two-LP record, which Don produced and Elektra released in 1972 as EKS-75022.
The record was not a big seller, but it got lots of airplay and good critical acclaim, and maybe more importantly made a lot of friends in radio.
Mickey Newbury credit: mickeynewbury.com
As time passed I got to work on several projects with Mickey Newbury. I traveled with him and arranged many radio interviews for him throughout the western US. I got to know him well and was taken by his talent for story telling and song writing as well as his expertise as a singer. He had the ability to bring an audience into his songs in a way that won them over every time.
At that point the idea of the radio station-sponsored concerts came back and I was able make that happen again in 1973. We applied a scaled-down version of this concept to Mickey Newbury with solo concerts. I booked a number of concerts with him on the west coast and instead of selling cheap tickets, we gave the tickets to the sponsoring radio stations to give away to their listeners.
Because of my time in San Diego, I knew the perfect venue and the perfect engineer in Bill Blue, so I booked that show and arranged the concert with Barbara Atha, who was in charge of Montezuma Hall. When all was said and done it was a fabulous performance by Mickey and a very good recording so it was released as an official bootleg by Elektra.
Response to that bootleg caused it to be released commercially in August ’73 as a two- record package with Mickey’s “It Looks Like Rain” album that Elektra had licensed from Mercury Records.
Unfortunately my time with Elektra was coming to a close shortly, but Mickey Newbury was a major highlight for me and one of finest musicians and greatest songwriters that I have ever known. On top of that, he was a wonderful human being and a total pleasure to be with...
We came across a pristine version of Mickey Newbury Live at Montezuma Hall, which was produced by Ron Middag and Engineered by Bill Blue. It is posted on RadicalRadio.media at The Music and the Stations on the Sound Cloud Archive. Our thanks to Ron for sharing his background in radio and how he came to produce Mickey Newbury, the great songwriter, singer and musician, and a terribly under-appreciated talent.