I hate bland boring bio's, hopefully this one isn't. I was born in Hollywood, CA, October 3, 1940, & this event has affected my life greatly. As a little kid, I was sick often, but the fevers caused me to have very colorful dreams. My dad used to give me back rubs with syncopated hand-pat drum figures. My mom tried to keep me away from germs, & sang me silly songs.
When I was six, I started creating melodies on a xylophone. At age seven, we moved from L.A. to Palm Springs, this having nothing to do with my xylophone work. I graduated to the ukelele, & soon was singing to my classmates. On records (remember records?), my idol was Spike Jones.
1954 found me entering Coachella Valley High School, & playing piano by ear. I started my first band, now emulating Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard (I was hoarse a lot), Elvis & Fats. Besides figuring out chords on the piano by ear, my spare time at home was divided between 1) soaking up records on the radio, & 2) "over-dubbing" my musical ideas on two borrowed tape recorders.
The Coachella Valley has a large Spanish-speaking culture; my band gradually morphed into six Mexican Americans and me, affording me new chord & melody ideas from our latin reportory of boleros, cha chas, & corridos. I started writing & performing my own "pop" songs, often inspired by dark-eyed untouchable high school senoritas.
The band became immensely popular locally. In my senior year we performed for a school assembly. I sang my songs, girls screamed & cried, & I’ve never recovered!
Through my college years in Pasadena & San Bernardino, my mind was more on music than my liberal arts studies. New friends turned me on to B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Muddy Waters. Deeply bluesified, I began teaching myself guitar & harmonica. Little Richard was too white for my tastes at that point.
In 1961 I teamed up with a high school guitarist friend, Archie Hall, Jr., whose father ran an independent movie company in Burbank, CA. It was here that I first scored... I was the “Musical Director” for the movie Wild Guitar, starring Archie Jr., produced & directed by Arch Sr. What this meant was Archie & I did the music for the film on two home tape recorders, overdubbing guitar & electric piano. Later, we put together a four-piece group & began playing clubs. Calling ourselves “The Archers”, we did funk & rock stuff with four-part harmonies. I played Wurlitzer electric piano with a Farfisa organ strapped underneath. (For a deeper look-and-listen from this era, see the CD “Wild Guitar”, available from Norton Records. It features vintage tapes rescued from my garage, & extensive photos & liner notes).
I continued performing in bands for several years, gleaning most of my musical education from records ("Let's see, if I play this 45 at 33 rpm, I can figure out the piano riffs"). I had some exciting moments: performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, recording for Dunhill Records in 1966, entertaining our troops throughout Europe & the Far East in 1967.
In 1969, I cleared my head to try songwriting full force. I stopped performing, & survived by working part time at a Hollywood recording studio. I was "Head of A&R", which included sweeping floors & emptying wastebaskets, but it gave me time to learn some technical stuff, & write & exploit my songs.
Signing as a writer with E.H. Morris Music in 1969, & Warner Brothers Publishing in 1971, led to my first hitas a writer: Bobby Sherman's "The Drum". What a thrill it was to hear my song on the radio!
I broadened my arsenal of musical & electronic equipment, so that on my demos I could do all instruments, voices, & mixing. This gave me more control over presentation of my songs. My demos became a minor legend in the biz; virtually all the successful records of my songs followed my arrangement & feel. One example is Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby", which hit #1 in December of 1974, & became her biggest selling record (see “The Story of Angie Baby” in the Articles section).
In 1976, I signed as an artist with Pacific Records, a brainchild of my WB publishers. I was the first, & at that time the only artist on the new label. Distributed by Atlantic, my first release, "Undercover Angel", zoomed to the top of the charts in July 1977, selling about two million copies. A follow-up single, "Skinny Girls", became a #1 song in Australia in 1980, & in 1981 I co-wrote "Your Eyes" with singer-songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita, which became a hit for him in Japan.
I left Warners in 1982 to write & self-publish. In 1983 I was invited to Tokyo to cowrite 6 more songs with Yamashita for his album "Big Wave". The collaboration yielded a Gold Disc Award in Japan, & I still co-write occasionally with Tats.
In 1983 I met, & co-wrote a children's song with, singer-songwriter Janis Liebhart. This was on "spec" for a new animated TV show, which became "Jim Henson's Muppet Babies". Unbelievably, eight years later we had written almost 100 songs for this Emmy Award winning Saturday morning program, which was syndicated worldwide. Janis & I continued co-writing for kid-focused projects, including National Geographic's Really Wild Animals, an acclaimed series of videos which features our singing & production chops as well. As of this writing, re-runs of these shows are airing Saturday mornings on Fox TV. Janis & I also wrote for Disney projects, Alaska Video, and National Geo’s “Animal Tales”. For further exploits of my talented friend Janis, including her ongoing tours with Michael Bolton, hit Google!
More recently, with my pal & children’s songwriter Dave Kinnoin, I have cowritten several special songs through an organization called “Songs Of Love”. They give us the opportunity to create & produce a song for and about a child with a life-threatening illness. Lyrics are never about the illness, rather they are a positive scenario of their pets, hobbies, parents & friends. I don’t have to explain how rewarding & healing this is for the writers as well as the recipients, do I?
I’ve become immersed in country & country-pop writing, for several reasons: The lyrics are often so wonderful, the genre is so challenging, its more about the song than the production, and Nashville in particular is a friendly place to work & visit. My old pal Denny Martin, a bandmate from the late 1960’s, is now located there, with a wonderful studio and valuable expertise in production and writing (see links).
Alan & Yuka. Boy, do we look Prozacian! This photo was taken by Jim Mc Hugh for the People Magazine article, but was unused. We sent it as a Christmas card recently; some of the recipients didn't notice we were sitting in a spa.
Here is my handsome, charming dad, Earle, in his 20's. Photographer, writer, newsman. But he was already 40 when I was born, & suffered a massive stroke when I was still quite young. Things went downhill from there until his death in the early 60's. I wish I could have hung out with him during his healthy days, but I have some special memories, & wonderful photographs he took.
This is my mom, about 1928, probably taken by my dad. They worked together for newspapers in the Pasadena area, had little money but a lot of love. When they got married, they drove a Model T Ford from California to Santa Fe, New Mexico, & spent their honeymoon with dad's Indian friends in San Ildefonso pueblo.
This is my dad with Maria, the famous potter of San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, taken in the '20s. His friendship with these artistic people was much more than "tourist", lasting his whole life. His early photos can still be found in homes there. After his passing, my mother took me to see what was so special. Now I'm proud to have personal friends in San Ildefonso as well, and I visit whenever I can.
Dancing with my mom at the René's reunion, circa 1995.
Alan and Yuka, circa 2004. Together since 1992, married in 2007. She is my rock, she makes our house a home, and she has even partially civilized me! We call ourselves "the odd couple", having different tastes & priorities, but somehow it works. I am grateful for this wonderful lady in my life. OK, enough of this sweetness. Truth is, she's quite proficient in karate, and I'm afraid to leave! Help me someone... help...
Steve Schalchlin: Previous website assistance, & inspiration for living life gratefully.
National Geographic, Jim Henson Music, Warner-Chappell Music, Viva Music, Wren Music, Famous Music; for permission to reprint lyrics.
Jim McHugh for spa photo.
First of all, this section won't thrill you unless: 1) you're in it, 2) you've got a lot of time to kill. I'm including it just to offer my acknowledgements in cyberspace.
In trying to assemble this page, I immediately ran into trouble. I wanted to mention everyone who has supported & believed in me through the years, & that's just impossible. So I'm limiting this list to those who made relatively long term contributions to my growth as a songwriter & a person. I have used first names only for the sake of privacy; I also have arranged names in alphabetical or chronological order.
Claire (deceased), my aunt, with whom I lived while attending my first year of college; you put up with a lot.
Dana, my cousin, your growth in maturity & selflessness make me proud.
Dolores,(deceased), my cousin, you were there for my mom when it really mattered.
Earle (deceased), my dad; thanks for the genes, the back rubs, the legacy of San Ildefonso.
Janet, my cousin, when you changed your life you made mine better as well.
Jeannette (deceased), my mother, who taught me so much about living & loving.
Katherine "KK" (deceased), my grandmother, whose generous spirit & sense of discipline helped me as a child.
Yuka: two stubborn only children, over twenty years together! You have helped me learn to bend without breaking.
ASSOCIATES & COMRADES
1) THE "BAND" YEARS
The Renes: Don, Eddie, Ernie, Johnny, Sal, & Oscar, & their wives & families. Greg, Joe, Dan, Art, Mario; you were part of us as well. Those were great times, & I learned a lot. Thanks to The Shoves & The Imperials too!
Roger: You turned me on to blues, jazz, & guitar thinking. It's a blessing to reunite with you & Dave the Honker. And it's because of you that beautiful Julie is in my life! (OK, OK Chris, you're beautiful too ...)
The Archers: Archie, Ernie, Jerry (deceased), Joel; we survived to value each other even more. Dave, Nancy, where are you? And Dobie: Lessons in soul, friendship, & professionalism. Pandora's Box lives!!
Howard, Warren, Paula, Patty, Eddie, Stan, Ronald, Donovan, Cecilia, Vic & Joe, Pat B., Pat P., Robert, Doris, Rory, Earle, Judy, Mickey, Cathy, & T. - - You are all in my sweet memories.
"Alan Bob & Denny" (& all the other band names we used!): Denny, Bobby, Don, Chuck. We were great. And Denny, you're getting even greater!
Gamma: So many good times through the years, with you, & your family too. Now you've become my brother from another planet.
Rocky: I love your talent (please don't stop!), & your friendship was always a touchstone.
Sue T.: Germany, Spain, the Far East, always a lady, always willing to share your light.
Greg: I'm so proud of you; wish we could get together more often.
2) "BECOMING A SONGWRITER" YEARS
Jane (deceased): Your love, & your faith in my talent, was a beautiful gift that keeps on giving.
Sydney (deceased): My first publisher, you taught me craft, discipline & life lessons. You're still at my side when I'm rewriting.
Snuff: I'll always remember your confidence in me as a writer, singer, & co-producer.
Ed & Mel & staff: You made WB a family, helped me grow, & stood behind me.
Jamie (deceased): We connected again, 25 years later, to find we've become more ourselves. Two usholes! Thanks for stirring this world up; but mostly, thanks for the love. Peace to you.
Andrew: You & your staff challenged us & guided us in helping to create an outstanding product. I'm proud to be associated with the company. Can you give us some more work?
Bill: I remain grateful that your growth rubbed off on me, professionally & personally. Your help & friendship were crucial to my success.
Bob & Irwin: Thanks for the musical experience; I hope we get to see it performed again.
Dave: You're a wonderful combination of kindness, humor, & songwriting professionalism. I believe you may also be slightly insane.
Diane: You showed 'em, kid. Thanks for remaining a true friend.
Hank S.: Singer, writer, producer, a rainbow of talent & humor. You made it productive & fun. May you receive as much love as you give.
Janis: My life is more joyful thanks to you. You're an incredible talent, a wonderful co-writer, a faithful friend, & just as crazy & neurotic as I am. Yes, & you're feisty too, damn it.
Jim H (deceased): You set a standard for all of us to aspire to in kids' programming. I'm grateful to have met you.
Sandra J. L.: We don't talk often, but I know your friendship is always constant. "Step To The Music" was great fun. You should have a hit musical!
Sandy S.: Thanks for the perseverance & professionalism I learned from working with you. My respect & friendship continues.
Shakeh: I love your spirit, heart, & loyalty; I value our unique relationship. You do listen with your heart!
Steve (& Susan, deceased): You've been my caring friends through the ups, the downs, & ups again. How long is that in bird years? Steve, I wish you so much love, you deserve it.
Tats, Ryuzo, Mamoru, Ken, Carol: Thank you for helping me become an international songwriter, I am proud of my association with you.
Terry Sue and Bob Lopez: Your faith & your friendship stand tall; I'm rootin' for you both!
FINALLY, TO LOVERS PAST:
Each of you brought me something unique. Each of you helped me to be less self-centered. You shine in my memory, a color on a page or a chapter of my life. Please remember me in a corner of your heart.