By Marlin Greene
Los Angeles in the 70’s – Elektra Records – the house that Jac built. I occupied a small room in that house for a couple of years. My job description was assistant to Russ Miller, A & R person for the West Coast. What that meant was that I was a nerve ending for Russ and Jac Holzman in terms of ferreting out promising candidates for an Elektra recording contract from the slush of bric-a-brac that arrived every day.
Not all of the tapes and disks came in the mail; a lot were delivered through the door by agents, cousins, lawyers, girl/boy friends and sometimes by the wanna-be’s themselves. My long-suffering secretary was my screening mechanism – if they convinced her they got to see me. If they convinced me, they might get to see Russ, etc.
Into this unfair and haphazard mechanism for gaining celebrity and becoming fodder for radio-land’s insatiable void, one spring day came Dana Cooper towed by his producer, Stan Farber. They had made it past my Brenda because Dana let Stan do the talking. Stan was a Hollywood veteran of the record biz – Dana was from Kansas.
Dana opened his guitar case to “audition” and sang two or three of his songs. They were all impressive, but the one that got my attention was “Oklahoma Rodeo Queen.” As far as I was concerned, this put Dana on the songwriter shelf next to Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. Dana also put up a nice appearance and played a mean acoustic Gibson, adding up to a pretty good candidate to impress Russ and Jac. I signed on.
After hearing Dana, Russ and Jac signed on too. Without realizing it, Dana had insured that I would not be evicted from my little room any time soon and that Elektra would make an album. However, Elektra was by this time was mostly selling units, not poety set to music. Dana had one hindrance that he would never overcome: finely burnished poetry set to music is not for everyone and doesn’t move a lot of units.
I had a dream somewhere around this time. I saw Dana clear as daylight performing in a very prestigious venue – maybe Carnegie Hall. The house lights were dim. Dana was playing solo in a spotlit center stage. Of course he was singing “Oklahoma Rodeo Queen.” I never told Dana about this. Maybe it will still happen. Maybe it already has and I got the venue wrong.
Dana, thanks for hanging in there. I always knew you were a magician who sets words to music and now I learn you are a conjurer as well.