Lightly Touching Greatness III

While working through the confusion the deadlines of 3 different projects I
became James right-hand man. I could arrange for almost any style of music, I could travel with him and conduct the sessions, i could play synth overdubs when needed and could handle the piano on his rhythm sections, if he couldn’t find someone better… which he often did. He had Allan Feingold play the keys on the Masqueraders’ album, and Russell Ferrante did the keys on Susan and Fred’s singles. Russell became the leading force for The Yellowjackets, a very successful and exciting jazz group. No relation to Ferrante and Teicher, Russell told me.

                                                    Russell Ferrante

It seems we were in L. A. most of the summer of ’79, doing cuts and overdubs on the three projects. We had a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen that we stayed in most of the time, somewhere on La Cienega. We were rarely there, sleeping until noon, then leaving for the studio, where we’d work until sometimes 4 a.m. For my part, the overdub sessions were going quite well. The Masqueraders’ string session at the Scotti Bros went very well, the concertmaster being a pleasant young woman named Marcy Dicterow, who had just finished doing the strings for a Brenda Russell album. Everyone (even the foul-tempered Scotties) loved the strings and and felt they had a hit with the Susan & Fred cut… turns out they were right… sort of.

The string session for the Nigel cuts was quite a bit more exciting. James
booked us into a brand new studio, co-owned by Johnny Mandel, famous for
writing Mash’s theme, Suicide Is Painless,” And Charles Fox, who wrote the song “Killing Me Softly,” as well as the theme (at the time) for Monday Night Football and ABC’s Wide Wold Of Sports. We were one of the first sessions
booked into the new facility, which was spectacular, and the staff treated us
like kings. I didn’t get to meet Johnny himself, which is a shame, as he is
one of my writing/arranging heroes! He wrote and arranged the score for the movie “The Sandpiper” which remains one of my favorite scores, right up there with the score for “Two For The Road,” Albert Finney and Audrey
Hepburn. Remember that one? Written by Henry Mancini, my all-time fave! But Charlie Fox was there, and it was a kick to meet him, get the tour of his sparkling new studio, and briefly hang out with one of L.A.’s finest composers!.

The string session itself was also most memorable. We had twelve players in the brand new overdub room, all well-dressed and formal-looking, unlike the casual session we’d had at the Scotties. First, James came into the room and informed the players that this session was for a Nigel Olsson album, whom they recognized, some with lifted eyebrows, a few with a slight smile. Then the concertmaster, Sid Sharp, who played in the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra and was the leader of the Sid Sharp Strings, a first-call string section in L.A. comes to the podium. I shake hands with Maestro Sharp, and he quietly informs me that one of his violinists had just been picked to be the new concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic, and would I make the announcement to the group… I made the announcement, which got a stirring round of applause from the section. I had no idea how important that moment was, as Glenn and Sid had told no one. It turned out that Glenn was the New York Philharmonic’s concertmaster for the next 34 years!

                                                     Glenn Dicterow

I stepped off the podium and walked over to shake his hand. He was a quiet,
modest, confident man, exactly the kind of guy I would have liked to have
been. I congratulated him, then (somewhat stupidly) asked him if he might
be related to Marcy Dicterow, with whom I’d worked just two weeks earlier.
He smiled and shook his head. “No, a sister-in-law. Not very well-thought of
in our family…”

                                                     Marcy Dicterow

I shook his hand again and retreated back to the podium, embarrassed that
I’d stumbled into a unpleasant circumstance. But that session turned out to
be probably the best string session I ever had. Sid ran his section with a
quiet precision, and the performances were stellar, sounding deep, rich and full. And why not? there was probably a half million dollars of fine violins in that room, and another $50 K of Neumann microphones recording them. Not to mention that many of the players performed with the L.A. Symphony. Yes, that was a string session to remember! In playing back in the control room later, there were goose bumps all around, and  Charlie Fox brought out a bottle of champagne for the occasion! Sipping champagne in the shiny new control room that Mandel and Fox had built, after a truly memorable string session with Sid Sharp and Glenn Dicterow, I was in absolute heaven! High times for this Montana boy… lightly touching greatness.

Steve Hulse

One Reply to “Lightly Touching Greatness III”

  1. Mr. Hulse: Your efforts on “Lightly Touching Greatness II and III” require a response from me. As you know, I am not musically inclined. It’s not that my grandmother, Mary Francis, or my mother, Margaret, did not try to unearth some possible hidden musical talent. I was informed that I would learn the piano at a young age and so I was signed up for lessons, which were given in Mary Francis’ drawing room. I’m not sure how long these went on – my perception is – not long. I was soon informed that I had no musical talent – hidden or otherwise and that I was just wasting money by trying to learn the piano. Now if this wasn’t enough, my darling wife of 54 years informed me, awhile back, that I “couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”.

    I have always been incredibly impressed by your accomplishments in the music business, even though music is not high on my list (see above). I found both your articles to be incredibly interesting and entertaining. Each article held my attention throughout – even to the point of re-reading each one. I have noticed that your story telling and over-all writing has steadily improved – so much so – that I now find myself waiting for my daughter, Melanie, to forward the next installment. No I am not drunk – I have not consumed too much SM – good heavens man – it is 10:48 A.M. Hmm – well maybe check that last item on the time…

    So, my dear friend – while you have certainly “touched greatness”, I am quite sure that many of the folks you write about could say the same about their time with you. As I tell my friends – “hell, I knew Steve Hulse when he couldn’t even point his water gun straight and so it fell to me to show him how to use it…” That’s my story on “lightly touching greatness”.

    Love you man!

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