THE
CAST OF CHARACTERS
 

 

behind the making of Sonny & Cher are all feature players in their own right:  dazzlingly talented,

unforgettable, unforgotten.  Sonny’s earliest connections on the Los Angeles R&B circuit are now celebrated

for their remarkable contributions  to the American musical landscape. Later players constitute the veritable

Who’s Who  of the Spectropop genre: artists and musicians par excellence, and characters one and all.

 

 

 

 

A&R (man)  for “Artists & Repertoire

 

The person who selects artists and songs and often hires arranger, musicians etc. As well as the terms “A&R” there’s also “producer” and "supervision",of which Sonny can claim plenty. In the days of A&R Men, engineers had most of the clout in-studio, with arrangers having varying degrees of same. The terminologies are interchangeable – with some owners of master recordings claiming “producer” or "supervision” credits though they may not haveeven been in the same city as the actual recording session venue. 

 

AH = AL HAZAN writes:

“Great idea honoring Sonny. He was my best friend along with Jack Nitzsche in the music business. It’s a shame they’re  both gone now. Reading it here  brought back many memories of those days at Gold Star with Sonny, Nitzsche, Spector, Steve Douglas, Stan Ross, Larry Levine and the many others who recorded there. Little did I realize how far he would go as a performer, and how well he could sing. I loved the guy and we remained friends  long after we were both out of the music business.”

A true renaissance man, Hazan is an accomplished producer, musician, songwriter, singer and photographer. He now practices as a qualified psychologist / psychotherapist. Al has some terrific memories of working with Sonny, some great music, and fascinating insider accounts of his Sixties California  recording sessions  online….Visit him  HERE

Arr = ARRANGER

The arranger of a rock’n’roll record functions at a number of levels: he may write individual charts for the band / orchestra players, he may conduct the orchestra in the studio and transpose key changes for instruments or sections or devise “head arrangements” on the spot.  The arranger is invaluable in helping translate a producer’s vision of the overall sound design.

DON & DEWEY

 

Don Bowman Harris and Dewey Terry are seminal So-Cal rockers best remembered as writers of  “I’m Leaving It All Up To You”, but  Sonny & Cher and especially The Righteous Brothers were to benefit from both the Harris / Terry  catalog and energetic style….Read more about the duo  HERE

 

DC = DON CHRISTY was Sonny’s regular recording and performing name 1959-62,  along with  RONNY SOMMERS .

 

Eng = ENGINEER


The recording engineer is the guy who rolls the tape and twiddles the dials in the studio. Engineers have made enormous ontributions to the art of rock’n’roll recording: they’ve developed new technology, built recording consoles and entire studios, and their know-how has helped many producers and A&R  men make unique and ground-breaking records. Stan Ross engineered for Sonny on countless sessions at  his state-of-the-art Gold Star Studios during most of the ‘sixties…Read about the legendary studio
 HERE




G&S = CHARLES GREENE & BRIAN STONE

 

met Sonny & Cher at the Hale & The Hushabyes session in 1964 and subsequently signed them to their business outfits: Greene-Stone Enterprises for management, Ten-East and Five-West for music publishing; and York-Pala Records for record production. York-Pala has a stake in the Sonny & Cher Atco recordings - similarly most of Cher’s Imperial recordings. Greene & Stone also shared sales royalties as writers of throwaway instrumental B-sides of Sonny-produced singles – most notably the Quetzal Songs which were actually the work of Harold Battiste Jr. The actuality of their songwriting or record production has long been questioned but their hit-rate is astonishing. Charlie & Brian are responsible for launching groups which have produced  unique and enduring superstars. Early Sonny & Cher bios touted the pair as being such believers they hocked their typewriters to finance recording “Baby Don’t Go”: as hustlers they made even Sonny look amateurish…and Cher’s not certain they even owned the typewriters.


During their tenure with Sonny & Cher they recruited West Coast acts for Atco Records, discovering groups like The Cake and The Rose Garden. With a post-’65 slowdown, Sonny came to resent their social and professional presence and (with much difficulty) set about firing them. He was finally able to buy out part of their contracts and Greene & Stone went on to successfully perform similar services for  Iron Butterfly and Crosby ,Stills, Nash & Young. 
They remembered their Sonny & Cher days  with a Star tabloid three-parter (“Cher’s Secret Past!”) in 1985,  Sonny was still seething about them in 1991 and Cher recalls the times fondly.

HB = HAROLD BATTISTE JR writes (re Sonny & Cher):

 

"I  am very happy that their is continued interest in their story. Among many of my jazz friends I seem to always have to explain, and sometimes defend, Sonny's gifts and insights."

 

 

Harold Battiste is respected globewide for his body of work as a musician, arranger, producer, record company executive, teacher and advocate for the music and musicians of New Orleans and the greater jazz community. Harold, a sax player, came to Los Angeles from Specialty Records' New Orleans branch. His producer / arranger credits for studio, film, stage and television include legendary records like Sam Cooke's "You Send Me", Joe Jones' "You Talk Too Much", Barbara George's "I Know" and Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya". He introduced audiences to Mac Rebbenack as "Dr John", and produced his early albums. Earning six gold records, he spent thirty years in Los Angeles including fifteen with Sonny & Cher (on records, and later, television).

 

Harold's contributions to Sonny & Cher's records as (often uncredited) arranger and musician were towering inasmuch as he brought exotic musical ideas and sophisticated elements which went far beyond straight-ahead pop. Sonny - lacking extensive musicianship - relied heavily on Harold Battiste's abilities to translate grand visions of musical soundscapes into the unique Sonny & Cher recordings of the 1960's.

 

This site is indebted to Harold for his contributions...for more about him and his current activities visit him  HERE

HBB = H.B. BARNUM

can't be accused of lacking diversity in his impressive credentials: as arranger, producer, pianist, songwriter, singer and actor he's collaborated with Sinatra, Puff Daddy, B.B. King and Sonny Bono, to name just a few. As an R&B artist he was a member of the Doo-Tones and The Robins, and arranged for The Coasters.

JN = JACK NITZSCHE

 

Sonny collaborated with the brilliant arranger / producer from the onset of their friendship (at Specialty Records) until 1964, when he was

hired to write lead sheets. They co-wrote songs and organized recording sessions - with Sonny as producer (and sometimes vocalist),

and Jack arranging. Their greatest success came in 1963 when The Searchers covered "Needles & Pins". Unconcerned with genre limitations

or traditional approaches, Jack Nitzsche helped many a song belie its ordinary origins. His signature string figures - whether ethereal or

on-the-attack - and his percussive surprises added delicious flavors to his confoundingly diverse rhythmic structures.

 

Jack Nitzsche's most respected and valued talent however was his mastery of his trade: he was able to transpose entire orchestral arrangements on the job, and with astonishing speed. Such men once walked the planet - they now no longer do...visit HERE and enter the world of Jack Nitzsche: The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

JOHNNY OTIS For in-depth information about Johnny and his achievements visit him  HERE

 

Prod = PRODUCER

 

What Phil Spector did, aside from his genuine innovations in production itself - the Wall of Sound was no mere imitation - was to bring recognition to record producers as artists. A gifted self-promoter, he significantly raised the profile of the record producer in the eyes of the record-buying public. People bought Leiber & Stoller's records because they liked the way they sounded, without necessarily knowing who'd made them; Phil Spector's records being bought on the basis of brand recognition. (with thanks to Peter Stoller)

 


PHIL SPECTOR = PHIL SPECTOR

SB = SONNY BONO

SC = S.CHRISTY

was Sonny's songwriting name 1958-62 for music publishing deals with companies like Art Rupe'sVenice, and his own ChrisMarc (administered by Cotillion and Warner Warner/Chappel). All his copyrights are now affiliated with BMI, under the authorship names of S.Christy, Salvatore P. Bono or Sonny Bono.

SPECIALTY RECORDS are on CD as Specialty in the US, and Ace in the UK., with the majority of Sonny's Specialty collaborations now available.

A star in his own right, Billy Vera has compiled landmark Specialty reissues and collections...visit Billy HERE  for more details of his work.

 

THE WRECKING CREW

 

was a loose-knit '60s aggregation of highly-skilled studio musicians, considered fundamental to the creation of quality records in Los Angeles. Many became virtuoso stars in their own right, and Sonny Bono followed Phil Spector's example of individually crediting the contributions; to not do so here would be remiss. A partial list includes:

 

DRUMS: Hal Blaine, Frank Capp, Sharkey Hall, Earl Palmer, Jesse Sailes

PIANO: Harold Battiste, Gabriel Mekler, Don Randi BASS: Rene Hall, Cliff Hills, Mel Pollan, Lyle Ritz (electr

GUITARS: Don Peake (lead) Glen Campbell, David Cohen (12-string) Monte Dunn, Carol Kaye, Barney Kessel,

Steve Mann, Mike Post, Mack Rebbenack, Howard Roberts, Randy Sterling, Bob West

HORNS: "Teenage" Steve Douglas

OBOE, VIOLIN, FLUTE: George Poole

PERCUSSION: Frank de Vito, Gene Estes, Jim Gordon, Jungle Geno, Julius Wechter

 

 

                                    main index

                                                                BACK TO HOME