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“Songwriters II”

“Songwriters II”

In 1915, great songwriters Irvin Berlin, Jerome Kern, John Philip Sousa and others, formed the Association of Songwriters, Composers and Producers (ASCAP) to protect songwriters’ copyrights on recordings and live performances but excluded Jazz, Blues and Country Music (called Hillbilly then) which were not considered “professional”.

Talking movies, radio, TV and the Internet were added when invented.

In 1940, 600 radio stations created a competitor, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) to license the excluded music which had become popular with Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, Louis Armstrong and later Elvis.

From the 1940’s on, BMI ate ASCAP’s lunch, and herein begins the local connection.

By the 1960’s, ASCAP attempted to get BMI writers to switch and since Vin Bruce and I had built up a catalog of songs, they scheduled a meeting at Rebstock’s Dance Hall in Golden Meadow inviting us, Harry Anselmi, Ebdon Barrios and others to make their pitch.

After discussions with our publishers, we declined. Right decision? I don’t know, but it’s all moot now. ASCAP believed signing multitudes of small timers like us would retrieve their losses. (ASCAP makes Vin and I an “offer we can’t refuse” though … in my next column.)

The Eddie Powers affair:

By 1962 I had a few successful record productions, two national hits, songs being published and recorded and was co-writing songs with Mac Rebenac (Dr. John) which were recorded by New Orleans artists Tommy Ridgley (Heavenly) and Fats Domino (Cheating Traces).

KTIB fellow announcer Jim Swiler had approached me about his cousin, Eddie Powers, a young New Orleans rocker seeking a recording contract and needed a demo record.

By this time I was back playing country and Cajun music with and managing “Vin Bruce and the Acadians”. I had gotten him a recording contract with Floyd Soileau’s Jin/Swallow Records Company and he and I formed a great new touring band, our last one.

I reformed my rock and roll band “The Vikings”, consisting of me on bass, Lloyd Toups and Don Stevens on sax, Pat Curole on trumpet, Lanny Boudeaux on piano and Sherill Rivet on drums. We were back at Cosimo’s Recording Studio!

Record producers liked our South Louisiana sound (known today as Swamp Pop).

In the 1960’s we backed dozens of recording artists like Mickey Gilley, Joey Long, Jimmy Donley and Phil Bo, resulting in three million selling hits, including my productions of Joe Barry’s I’m a Fool To Care, Barbara Lynn’s You’ll Lose a Good Thing and Jerry Raines’ Teen Age Love.

For his demo, Eddie Powers recorded two of my compositions, I’ll Dream No More and No Cure for the Blues, and Jim began shopping it around. Meanwhile Powers, without our knowledge, had signed a contract with another label and recorded a New Orleans hit called Gypsy Woman Told Me.

Cosimo Matassa remembered our demo, called me and we made a deal to release Powers on his label. He reworked the recording; took out the horns; added a girl chorus, The Dixie Cups who had a national hit with Chapel of Love, got Earl Stanley to record two instrumentals to back the two songs and “voila”, we had two of Eddie Powers’ 45’s to release.

Such was the recording business then, done with 3-tract recording, then 8, 24 and 32, and with digital, innumerable tracks.

Cosimo released I’ll Dream No More, which was an instant hit in New Orleans, going to number 5 in one week, and major labels began knocking on his door to lease the record for national distribution.

Then the fan got hit! Eddie Powers got an injunction and stopped the radio stations from playing the record.

Although it had already sold over 10,000 copies, the radio plays and the record sales hit a brick wall.

My lawyer and friend Charles Leblanc and I went to court and WE WON! The judge ruled we retained ownership, but the record died and so did Eddie Powers’ career.

Lesson learned … always sign contracts!

My friend Charles Leblanc (later a Thibodaux city judge and father of Lafourche Parish Judge John E. Leblanc) did this Pro Bono and all he earned was my eternal gratitude.

A friend in need is a friend indeed!

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