To my good friend & mentor Richard Fitzgerald (February 23, 1946 – August 23,2011):
The year was 1978 and I was working in the mailroom of Bearsville Records. Renee was the secondary promotion person at Bearsville and her boyfriend and soon to be husband Michael Dundas was working for RSO Records just few blocks away up La Cienga. One day, Renee asked me if I could drop off a package of LPs to Michael who was working at RSO Records. I agreed and upon arriving at the RSO office and dropping off the package to Michael. If my memory serves me correctly, it was around lunch time and Michael invited me to stay for some pizza, which I did. That was the day I met Richard Fitzgerald. He was very friendly to me and we just bonded immediately. We both had a love of music and the business of music.
RSO was booming at the time with Saturday Night Fever and then Grease and so was the local Los Angeles music scene with acts like Blondie and the Motels, The Knack, and a host of others and I had my finger on the pulse of the scene. Doug Fieger and Prescot from The Knack were friends and I had their demo and I played it for Rich. He really liked it and he called his boss Al Coury in to listen to it. RSO didn’t really have an A&R department, it was Robert, Al & Richard. Al liked it too, but as Capitol Records were close to making a deal and Al was working the biggest records of all time, just was not interested, however Richard was. Richard was really curious about the L.A. Music scene, but was too busy to hit the streets so, from time to time, I would get together with him and play him demo tapes of what I thought was hot, and the best part about it was that Richard agreed with my taste. Richard saw the opportunity to expand his roll from running the promotion department into creating a vibrant A&R department and start signing bands to the RSO, but Al wasn’t. What to do?????
As RSO was a huge player in the record business at that time, unsolisited demo tapes from aspiring artists were flooding into the RSO offices and seeing he was really the only one at the company that wanted to do A&R, all of the tapes were ending up in his office. Richard did not have time to listen to them. At this point in time Bearsville had fired me as they were being absorbed by Warners and I got caught doing something that I shouldn’t have been doing (no need to go into that at this point). Having more free time and looking for a job, I asked Richard if he had a job opening for me. He said he had an idea.
The idea was to start an A&R department, but Al was not was not interested, but Richard was. And if you know Richard, he was soft spoken, didn’t like conflict, but was determined like nobody’s business to get the job done right. So this is what Richard did. He asked me if I would listen to the tapes that he was getting. His plan was to have me listen to the tapes reject the ones that weren’t any good and submit the ones that I liked to him and he would submit them to Al and see if he could convince Al to start the department. He paid me out of his own pocket and I worked out of his apartment, which happened to be just around the corner from the RSO offices on Sunset. This went on for about a month, but still Al was not interested.
Then Richard came up with a plan. I never thought it would work, but believe it or not, it did. Richard told me that I had to stop listening to the tapes and give him some time. I had no choice, so I did.
Al’s office was adjoining Richard’s and Al would constantly pop in and sit down and go over business with Richard. So what Richard did, was instead of putting the demo tapes in boxes on the floor of his office, he allowed them to accumulate and he had them piled up on all of the chairs and the couch in his office. Now when Al came into his office, he had no place to sit down. It took all of about two weeks for Al to tell Richard to hire me so that he could have a place to sit.
There is another part of this story, that goes beyond the fact that Richard created the job of a life time for me. Richard believed in me. And if you knew Richard, you knew that no one was a more loyal friend. He proved it with me. You see at the time, I had a problem. I was a drug addict. I was getting high from the moment I woke up until I took something to put me a sleep. Richard knew this, but he saw something in me that no one else saw in me including myself. He befriended me and made me promise that if he got me a job working for him that I would give up drugs and get myself together. He painted the most amazing picture of what my future could be like and he convinced me and stood by me all the way to assisted me in getting off drugs and going straight.
Working with him was one of the best periods of my life and if it wasn’t for Richard’s loyalty, friendship, tutorship and caring, I might have never made it out of the 70s.
Richard, I love you and you will alway live in my heart.