The 'Hush Sound' from New York City
When the grit of the urban plight of NY was beginning to find its footing as an expression in the R&B music industry, the suave sophisticated dwellers whom shared the same stories and circumstances had a musical expression of their own. The new classy sound had no catchy name but its harmonies, melodies, smoothness, distinctive vocal style and lush funk production (orchestrated by producers Kashif Saleem, Paul Lawrence Jones III, Rahni Song and Barry Eastmond) spoke loudly. One of the crucial catalysing factors in the success of this fresh contemporary NY sound was the HUSH/Orpheus music company.
Orpheus Music is a record label that has been in business for almost 30 years. Throughout its long history, it has been a constant in the industry. Along with its subsidiaries, Orpheus Productions and HUSH Music, Charles Huggins (CEO) and Beau Huggins (President) have been creating hit music for decades. Establishing themselves through the 1980's and 90's, the brothers have been the driving force behind the scenes, quietly making music with a loyal and hardworking staff, while the artists took center stage.
Today, Orpheus/HUSH manages artists, goes on releasing new work by smooth jazz musicians like Rob White or André Ward and owns an extensive catalogue of music. Covering everything from Jazz to Rock to Gospel and Hip-Hop, Orpheus/HUSH Music continues on with the long-standing legacy of making music for a lifetime.
Also an intricate part of the Hush/Orpheus production machine were Rahni P. Harris II a.k.a. Rahni Song (Freddie Jackson, Willie Collins, Melba Moore, Ray Goodman & Brown, Scott White, Alex Bugnon, John White, Najee, Rob White, André Ward, Alfonzo Blackwell), Timmy Allen (Paul Laurence, Freddie Jackson, Lillo Thomas, Beau Williams, Melba Moore), Ernie Poccia (Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Vaneese Thomas, Beau Williams), Barry Eastmond (Melba Moore, Najee, Lillo Thomas, The Controllers, Freddie Jackson), Vaneese Thomas (Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Vaneese Thomas, Beau Williams), Darryl Duncan (Sarah Dash, Sweet Obsession, Scott White) and Wayne Warnecke (Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Vaneese Thomas, Beau Williams). These busy studio cats all contributed to the awakening of a new, contemporary, sparkling USA-Soul/Funk sound during the eighties.
HUSH Productions, Inc. started as a New York-based management company to support Melba Moore's career specifically. Melba was married to Charles Huggins and she and he started the company as a joint venture about 1973 to handle Melba’s growing needs as an artist involved in every aspect of the entertainment field. I originally met Charles and his brother Beau and the management company while working with G. Fitz Barkley (he had a public relations company then, and also was a writer for Soul Magazine, an American Soul newspaper magazine that was the Soul Bible for many years here). I had know about Charles and Beau earlier from my days as a club DJ in the earlier part of the ’70s - Charles was the owner of a nightclub in the Bronx called "Charles' Gallery", an in-spot for Soul and Disco. He also owned the famous club “Small’s Paradise” in Harlem.
We never knew other than that it was how the brothers conducted business. The Huggins brothers had a music publishing company called Bush Burnin' Music. When you join "Huggins" with "Bush" you get "HUSH"! Some who worked at HUSH used to say: “between the H's were the rest of us... see it. Charles liked to joke that the reason why they were called HUSH was because the keys to their success were a secret. They seemed to have risen out of thin air. Their background, where they came from and how they got where they were, was a bit of a mystery. Besides, Charles would say, "The only thing you really need to know about HUSH Productions is that we know how to make hits!". That they did.
When did Beau Huggins start to work as an executive producer also?
Beau was probably acting as an executive producer right from the start. Anne Thomas took care of the finance and Jerry Silverhart handled the touring side. It's only around 1980 that Beau is effectively credited as executive producer on Melba’s album Closer. In 1981 Capitol Records gave Charles a production deal, from the success that they were having with Melba during that time period. Beau was de facto executive producer since at that point in time he was in charge of getting Melba's albums done. He also cultivated the relationships with Kashif and Paul Laurence, who were working with Morrie Brown at Mighty M Productions. Beau made sure that the creative end kept moving. Charles was more behind the deal making scene between. He was the business head and face of the organization. Charles and Beau got Kashif and Paul Laurence signed to HUSH as producers and songwriters. So, to sum up that’s the time period Beau got started on executive production. It continued with the next signing of importance, which was Freddie Jackson who was as noted in history and Paul’s friend, who had been doing backup on Paul’s studio work, then was backup singer for Melba on the road.
In 1981 the very strong creative team of Mighty M Productions was engaged to produce Melba Moore’s first Capitol album What A Woman Needs. Were her managers at HUSH already the real architects behind this project?
Yes they were very instrumental. Charles had by then cultivated a great relationship with Don Grierson, head of Capitol A&R and as HUSH demonstrated a continual growth and savvy in attracting talent to their organization, Capitol in turn trusted HUSH with more creative input.
When did HUSH evolve into a production company? Did the Huggins brothers have the intention right from the start to bring about a new, fresh and sophisticated sound concept for their stable of artists?
The production deal that Capitol gave HUSH was under Orpheus Productions. Freddie Jackson was the first act signed under that deal. HUSH's position at that time was to keep everything hush-hush and the only indication was a small production line credit on the first few albums. Beau and Charles had by then developed a great relationship with lots of producers and songwriters and constanly were looking for and seeking songs for Melba Moore throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s.
So it was along that avenue that HUSH observed and learned and grew. Most would call it a grand design, but I don't think it was at first. The original idea was to get and record great songs, Kashif and Paul set the initial tone. But as other producers came into the fold (I had come about by then) we knew that we needed to keep the albums sounding like a unified piece of work rather than random productions.
The most important aspect was great singers and great songs, then sound. HUSH created a strong revival of melodious, lush and classy soul music like we had known during the ’70s Philly era, but wrapped in crisp ’80s music technology. It became a competitive thing amongst the producers or song writers to deliver songs in that hip synth bass funky style that Kashif and Paul largely created on the east coast. Even though Leon Sylvers III was doing a similar thing on the west coast, Kashif and Paul had the market cornered on the East. Both Kashif and Paul were much the technocrat. They loved the electronics. Both the drum machine (new on the scene at that time) and the various new synths that were coming out in the early eighties. Mind you, they weren't as meticulous as say Greg Phillinganes, the young musical wunderkind, but Paul and Kashif had chops. And laid the ground work for years of success.
Around 1985 HUSH Productions became ORPHEUS Productions. Why did the name change?
Business reasons, more than any other reason. To make a clear distinction between the management and the creative part of the Huggins firm. By 1986 there were a lot of productions under way (John White, Meli'sa Morgan, Controllers, Najee, Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Ray Goodman & Brown, Willie Collins, Vaneese Thomas, Chad, Beau Williams, ...). There were even production deals with Geffen Records and RCA Records, then eventually became Vista Productions. The management arm remained HUSH, and Orpheus and Vista became the production vehicles. Orpheus also became a record label about 1988. In 1992 the Huggins company also started up the small underground label THG Music (The Hush Group) that was marketed and distributed by PolyGram. THG Music officially went defunct in 1994 and in 1996 the Huggins brothers launched the new label HUSH Entertainment. A huge achievement if you realise that HUSH grew from a small management based beginning with two artists and five people working to a full-service entertainment company that included a record company, a management company, a top rated music publishing company and even a film production company, that was the largest African American owned urban music management and production company in the country of the period. Orpheus Entertainment and HUSH Management still live on today and Beau and Charles are still working at delivering music.
Could you illustrate the different HUSH entities, because it’s sometimes confusing.
Hush Productions, later Hush Entertainment, was split into three different basic artist categories.
There were some artists who were just managed by the company but were not signed to the label or production company. Kashif 1983 to 1984, The Force M.D.’s 1985 to 1990, Isaac Hayes 1986, Stacy Lattisaw 1989, Lillo Thomas, The Boogie Boys and Paul Laurence Jones fit into this category.
There were some who were signed to Orpheus Productions (or Vista Productions) but not Orpheus Records. Freddie Jackson, Scott White, Chad, Meli’sa Morgan, Najee, Ray Goodman & Brown, Sarah Dash, Melba Moore, Beau Williams, Vaneese Thomas, Janice Dempsey and John White fit into this category.
There were others like Eric Gable, Ray Chew, Poppa Bear Kool Breez, Alex Bugnon, Comptons Most Wanted, Aleese Simmons and Z’Looke who were signed to Orpheus Records or the Hush Entertainment imprint.
The Controllers was a unique situation in that we were contracted to exec produce their album which Beau Huggins did. We were in talks to also manage them but those talks never closed. They are never signed to a Hush/Orpheus entity.
I came to work at HUSH around 1982/1983. Like I said earlier I had met Beau and Charles with G. Fitz Barkley, It was my involvement with clubs and such that got me started there. I had lots of relationships with DJs and record pools at that time. A few jocks had worked with me early on and we became friends. I cultivated other relationships with pool directors and I started doing club promotions. So, I organized the club promotions aspect at first for HUSH. From there I started working with Beau on getting the albums recorded. At first (as always) it was just to get things organized. Beau had been handling a lot of the work by himself as far as the studios were concerned. But I came aboard to take the load off of him, so he could spend more time developing the artist roster and take song and producer meetings.
It was to say the least exciting. It was also tiring, exhausting, and richly rewarding. When we were in the midst of it, early on, the who aspect of "who should be credited with delivering the sound of Hush" didn't come until Freddie’s 2nd album, and Lillo's 1st album. By then, after experiences working with the various producers and having their work being delivered, the mixes weren't always at the same levels sound wise. I noticed it more so than Beau at first, because I had spent at that point more time in the studios with the producers and acts. I had also started attending the mastering sessions, as well, working out the sound with the mastering engineer I felt most comfortable with - Jack Skinner of Sterling Sound. I had gotten to watch and learn from Greg Calbi, but Greg was really busy with his other acts. Jack took the time to work with me and help me see how the right aural structure in the mix could make less headache when mastering time came. I took it all in and Jack and I started doing all the albums. If you check out the vinyl of the records that we did at that time you will notice our signature in the inside groove it was a “z/j ack” impression that Jack would inscribe. It was our way giving the record a seal of approval.
What was the role of the “Production Coordinator” Zack Vaz at HUSH exactly?
You will notice my name on just about every hit record that came out of HUSH as Production Coordinator, but don't let that title fool you, I was much more instrumental than that. I became production coordinator because it was the only title that I came up with at the time because it encompassed a large majority of what I did then. I worked closely with Beau (Charles was more of the manager of the acts and head of the company) - it was Beau that selected the music and it was my job with him to get it recorded and produced for delivery to the record companies that we were involved with. Thus leaving the producers with song writing and producing.
My job included: securing the studios (making the deals to get the producers in) - making sure they got paid, hiring and paying musicians and background singers when necessary (Paul: Zack I need singers for the session... Zack: how many voices and what configuration.... Paul: 3 girls... Zack: got it.) I would call around and come up with the people that were needed and since I knew the songs he or the other producers were working on I got the right ones. Unless they specifically requested certain ones, they relied on me to handle that.
So it was also when it came to mixing. With my background in clubs and the recording engineering course I took earlier in my life, I knew my way around the studio, so the more time I spent in them with the producers we were working with. I picked up a lot of key ideas on how things should sound. The busier we got the more the producers and Beau knew I could communicate what I felt to the engineers we were working with to get what we needed, to keep the consistency going. It was the late Keith Diamond who first asked me to help him with some of his mixes that he was doing for us. The first one was "When You Love Me Like This" Melba Moore featuring Lillo Thomas. From there it just blossomed. I never wanted to be in the forefront and a lot of what I did went on after the producer finished production so most of the time my information was left off the album credits. So most of my credits were listed on the actual singles or 12”s as either mixed, remixed or any other part that I may have played. If you listen you can hear my work throughtout the different songs that I worked on. It was my job to ensure that HUSH's sound stayed true. I worked with all the engineers and producers and they not only can vouch for my work, they will usually praise me for my work.
It was also my responsibility to master the records to ensure that the sound did get carried through to disk. It was mostly Jack Skinner of Sterling Sound and myself making sure the records themselves sounded great. And history shows that we were correct.
I still remember hearing the sensational debut albums of Lillo Thomas and Kashif (not a HUSH production but related though) for the very first time in 1983. What a refined wealth of new electronic sounds, synth bass patterns and revolutionary arrangements! Could you illustrate the contents of your job with the first album of Lillo Thomas? Where did the “ride” start and where did it end?
Good question. Again you are right on point with what you say about both albums. It was at this point in time that both Kashif and Paul were doing solo projects as producers. Kashif had been a member of the group B.T. Express, and was more willing to do any album on his own at that point (he had a treasure trove of songs that he amassed for himself), his deal was through Arista Records and he was extremely busy during that period. With his work on himself, Whitney Houston and Kenny G. I was AMAZED he had time for himself. But he did and his first album to me was mesmerizing. I love it to this day. "Help Yourself To My Love" still sends shivers through me with the bass line and Ira Siegel guitars, synth work, and the layers of vocals. "I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)" which has Lillo all over the backgrounds, was just the freshest use of instrumentation that came out. I could spend hours telling you about his sessions, but that will happen later. I learned so much from Kashif (more than he knows - but Kashif is responsible for me becoming adept in computers. He bought my very first computer. It was a Commodore 64. The most basic computer, but one that led me to learn how to explore the depths of how to make computers make music and art.) I had little to do on Kashif’s record because he was so self-contained and he had a great staff assisting him.
I had more involvement with Lillo’s album. Lillo's album was Paul’s baby. I had a lot of involvement with this project from front to back, since I had to book all the studio time, hire the singers, orchestrate the movement of equipment and get everyone PAID, the most important part of the project. I became very good friends with both Lillo and Paul at that time. Lillo became like a younger brother, we were everywhere together. I took him around to clubs; I was like his liaison to HUSH at then. It was at during Lillo’s project that I came in contact with Barry Eastmond, who was a talented musician at that point, and arranger. His main involvement was writing the horn and string arrangements that Paul needed for the album. Little did I know how important Barry would become down the line.
It was my love of the Temptations that got Lillo to record "Just My Imagination" on this album and "My Girl" on the next. Lillo's falsetto was remarkably just as smooth as Eddie Kendrick’s. So it was like a hand in a glove.
By the time this album was finished I was exhausted, and the day after the listening party, I went to Jamaica to visit my "Godfather" Jim Tyrrell who at that time was assisting Rita Marley run Tuff Gong. Shortly thereafter Lillo and I went to Brazil to promote his album, where because of “Just My Imagination” enjoyed a countrywide success as the running theme song on a popular daytime soap opera.
HUSH always worked with a club of first-rate NYC musicians and producers like Howard King, Paul Laurence Jones, Billy Nichols, Bryan Loren, Amir Bayyan, McFadden & Whitehead, Wayne Brathwaite, Barry Eastmond, William Rhinehart, Rahni P. Harris, Timmy Allen, Kashif, … What made HUSH collaborate with these musicians? Was it their distinctive sound that fitted the HUSH vision or did HUSH “push” these studio cats in a particular direction?
Beau Huggins had a distinct way, he basically chooses music. And it all centered on the song and some of the production of the demo that was turned in. So the producers used that as their starting
point for their submissions. Once they were green-lighted they produced their songs and got input from Beau as the songs progressed. Howard King (a very close friend - married my half sister) was the funkiest drummer I knew, so he knew how to deliver. Bryan Loren and Billy Nichols brought the right stuff at the right times. Amir Bayyan and Royal Bayyan also delivered when they had songs that fit one of the projects we were working on. But the rest of the fellas starting with Kashif and Paul Laurence laid the groundwork and set the pattern for what the others had to aspire to. Keith Diamond brought Barry Eastmond further into the fold, Barry brought Wayne Brathwaite, Paul brought Timmy Allen and Rahni Harris (photo left) was persistent and very very talented. Jackie Rhinehart brought her brother William. Gene McFadden and John Whitehead were like family for years. Their collaboration with HUSH went back to the ’70s, as they wrote a lot of Melba’s early material.
So basically you can say it was a family affair. The glue that kept everything together was Beau Huggins selecting the right music and me making sure that the projects were recorded by people that we trusted. The engineers and the studios that we used kept the sound tight. From Celestial Sounds, to Unique Sound, The Hit Factory, Right Track and the others. Ron Banks, Steve Goldman, Rory Shamir, Kurt Upper, were our main tracking engineers. I stuck with these guys on a regular basis, because after awhile they knew what we insisted that we get. So that by the time the songs had to be mixed everything was where it needed to be. In the pocket.
Last but not least Sterling Sound and Jack Skinner and I shaped the final sound in mastering. We were fanatical about getting the sound of the finished record RIGHT. Especially during the mid-eighties when we had to master for vinyl. Vinyl would kill your record if you were not careful, because of how the medium was. Hi end could wear thin if too much bass was used on 33 1/3 rpm near the inner part of the record. So we always made sure that the singles were either track 1 or 2 on either side. The 12 inches were always cut at 45 rpm to make sure that we could get the right top and bottom (highs and lows). Even on the ballads. Thanks to Varnell Johnson who was the Vice-President of Promotion at Capitol Records who green-lighted my decision to “cut” that way on Freddie Jacksons “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)” and every other single after that. Not only did he agree to that he let me put the long version of the song on the record. It was a 7:02 cut. Unheard of for a soul ballad (for Capitol… Isaac Hayes did long tracks like that, but they were album cuts). Yes we had the standard 3:59 radio version also, but the 12” version is what made the record.
The Sunday morning after my Friday mastering I met Barry Mayo at 98.7 Kiss FM in NYC to let him debut the record on his Sunday morning show. I had to meet him at 7:00 am. That was some dedication.
Did HUSH/ORPHEUS produce records tailored to the individual artist? Or do you think they rather made producer’s records, with every artist sounding a bit the same and tracks interchangeable?
HUSH made individual records for the most part. But like Motown who really took the interchangeable art to the nth power years before. By recording the same song on most of the artists until they found the right fit. We never did that. Each artist brought his or her own style. Take for instance a Willie Collins or a Beau Williams. Beau was a more Gospel Soul flavored artist out of the Sam Cooke mold. Willie a Bobby Womack type. Meli’sa Morgan, Melba Moore and Vaneese Thomas were all different in their approach. And they all, for the most part, had different producers. Meli’sa and Vaneese largely produced themselves. As I stated before we got the goods from our mixing and mastering. That kept the consistency.
Why did a great artist like Lillo Thomas only make 3 albums?
I wonder about that myself. I do know that he made another album, not as successful as the ones he made with us. But I think at the time he wanted more and to try other things especially after the success of Freddie and Meli’sa who both came out after him and had more success. As I stated I really think that Lillo had the voice of an angel. And was great at his craft. If you check out what people say about him from the material that’s posted on sites like YouTube or Imeen, they are missing that voice.
Why was the Vaneese Thomas song "Love in your eyes" (B-side of the "Let's talk it over" 45) not included on the album ? It was by far the best track from these sessions...
To be honest I can’t answer that question. I do know that Vaneese Thomas (Rufus Thomas’ daughter) was very involved in song selection for material on the album. She had a strong album (IMHO). It would have been hard for anybody to select just 8 songs that went on that album. Vaneese came out on Geffen Records and that was a new relationship for HUSH at that time. So I think that had a lot to do with it also. Vaneese was and still is a viable artist. Here in NY I hear her a lot in all the jingles she makes. She has such a distinctive voice. She is also a brilliant songwriter.
I didn't do that trip with Lillo, but if I am not mistaken I met him on a trip there with Willie Collins who had a deal with EMI and we also did that album. We were in town for a week and I believe I met him after I had a Blues and Soul Interview that EMI had gotten for me. The interview dealt with the HUSH sound (of course). [see B&S interview below]
HUSH’s involvement with Soul and Urban Contemporary Jazz (Najee, Alex Bugnon, Dennis Coffey) was much more successful than with Rap/Hip-Hop music through artists like Comptons Most Wanted (CMW), Mr. Mystic or Poppa Bear Kool Breez. Any explanation why HUSH couldn’t conquer the “streets” also?
I wasn’t at HUSH when they went into those ventures. I couldn’t really answer that. I know that Charles and Beau together with their nephew James Huggins launched the Hip-Hop label THG Music in the early ’90s. But to me personally HUSH’s main thrust has always been soul/R&B songs. As with Najee particularly, he was an R&B singer who sang with his sax. Alex Bugnon was the same way. When you really listen to their first albums you can really hear that. When I went in to a remix on Freddie Jackson’s “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” I originally called Najee to come in to do a sax solo for the remix. But by the time I was finished I had Najee do a complete cover of the song that wound up as the B-side of the 12”. But also his record label EMI wanted to use the song as well as a single release. His version was that strong and you can really hear him singing the song through the sax.
I moved to Motown Records in 1989 and had a chance to work on two “street acts” THE GOOD GIRLS and MC TROUBLE. Their albums which I mixed enjoyed some success.
So I know it wasn’t me.
When was to you the climax of the HUSH era? Which artists do you consider the absolute diamonds of HUSH Productions? Which are the best realizations of HUSH?
The absolute diamonds were to me: Kashif, Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore, Meli’sa Morgan, Lillo Thomas, Najee and Ray Goodman & Brown.
HUSH is, as Orpheus, still going on. The climax hasn’t been reached yet. Let’s watch and see what happens.
The best realization was that at HUSH a lot of talented people got together to work and make records and dreams come true. Kevin Harewood (general manager), Jacqueline “Jackie” Rhinehart (marketing), Bobby Duckett (touring), Bill Hickman (promotion), Don Huggins (sales), Von Alexander (publicity), Lynda Simmons (video maven), Anne Thomas (administration)… this was HUSH Productions. Charles Huggins (deals), Beau Huggins (executive producer) and me (jack of all trades). That’s it. This was the heart of HUSH
Who were the artists and staff people you preferred to work with at the time?
It would be easy to say that I enjoyed working with them all. It would be harder to say which ones I liked the best. I learned much from each of them. Paul Laurence, Gene McFadden, Rahni Harris (a.k.a. Rahni Song) and Barry Eastmond all were very great people to know and work with. Gene McFadden to me taught the key to great production and better mixing. Something I keep with me to this day. It really is a powerful secret. And you can hear it in the mixes I did for both HUSH and Motown. Ron Banks and Steve Goldman were my go to guys for recording and mixing. Wayne Brathwaite, Howard King, Yogi Horton and Leslie Ming were to me key in keeping the bottom and the top together. Rahni was and still is the most underrated talent in the music business. Listen to his Dayton albums (you know). I used to convey to Rahni all the time about being a producer and musician and how that sometimes you can be such a great musician that it inhibits your objectivity as a producer. Meaning that as a musician you want to hear your instument more than you care to hear the other instrument or artist. I worked a lot with Rahni on remixes, because I liked his feel on keyboards and I could always tell him my thoughts of arrangements and he could execute them. Like on the Beau Williams song "All Because Of You" even though William Rhinehart produced I felt Rahni had the right touch. Barry Eastmond, I believe, sees notes before his eyes when he sleeps. He is so talented as an arranger.
The soulful HUSH/ORPHEUS releases versus the “sexy-cool-bling-bling” contemporary productions of Nu R&B: what’s your opinion?
It really is different out there today. On the one hand radio doesn’t mean the same thing in the states that it did back in the eighties. There are far too many distractions. And the record companies have very little idea how to develop good Soul/R&B music. But I know that the pendulum swings both ways. And soon the demand of hip-hop will wane, as the folks who listen to it get older. They will demand great R&B, and not the R&B of Justin or Robin.
The sound quality of the HUSH recordings was unequalled! Where did that passion for a great sound come from?
Thank you. It’s nice to know after all these years someone would say what I always knew. The sound of our records were amazing. Even as I listen to them today, they sound much better then music that comes out now. Especially on better sound equipment and speakers. It started for me with Kashif and Paul’s work. I wanted to embellish their music on wax the way I heard it in the studio. Thus mastering became was really important to me. I have stated that that’s where I derived my biggest pleasure in the recording process. Jack Skinner and I would make sure that the records sparkled. Each of them. Remember during the 80’s we were still primarily mixing for wax. But Jack and I made sure that the records were CD-ready ahead of time. LOL The record companies that go back in to re-master our albums don’t really do them justice. Because they don’t understand what love went into making the records the hits they were. So they re-master flatter than the sounds we put into the records.
The instruments that were played did play a part. But more than that, it was the musicians and engineers making sure that they captured the soul of the performance. They nailed it each and every time.
Why is the HUSH-connected ’70s/’80s back catalogue of Buddah, Epic, EMI-Capitol, RCA, Geffen, MCA, etc. so neglected? Hardly no official CD reissues so far of Melba Moore, Controllers, Paul Laurence, John White, Chad, Ray Goodman & Brown, Vaneese, Meli’sa Morgan or Lillo Thomas!
Therein lies the problems I state on my blog on Imeen.com. There are no A&R ears at any of the labels any more. A verse in the Bible, Luke 23:24, that sums it all up to me: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And to be a good A&R person you have to know the history of the music to be effective. Possibly this is why there is a slump, and also because there are shows like American Idol, where the companies depend on lots of folks to find talent. To me that’s funny. Really funny!
When did you leave HUSH? Any specific reason?
I spent seven straight years at Hush and I enjoyed it. Every bit of it! Beau is still my friend. We talk almost every week. He is trying to get me to come back and do music. But, lets go back a minute. I always wanted to work at Motown with Berry Gordy. He would have been my ideal mentor. But in 1988 just before I got married, Motown was sold to Boston Ventures and Universal Music Group. Jheryl Busby was impressed with my work and made me an offer and I became his Vice-President of A&R, based out of Los Angeles. So I took my family and moved to LA. Motown at that time was still going through turmoil. The old Motown staffers versus the new Motown staffers, then me coming in from NY. Ultimately it was a bad move for me. And when you combine that with a new marriage, the movie “Perfect Storm” comes to mind.
In retrospect I fulfilled a dream by getting to work at Motown, I did good work there. It was unappreciated. But the work still stands the test of time. The Good Girls were one of my acts. Their first album was their best. I didn’t work on the second. MC Trouble is a legend from only one album. She died suddenly before we got to work on her second album. I got to co-produce the song "Just Another Lonely Night" on Johnnie Gills first Motown album… a classic album. I mastered it as well. It was his best Motown album. I co-produced two Marvin Gaye songs that could be singles today. I also worked with Nile Rodgers/Diana Ross, The Boys, Smokey Robinson and Ada Dyer. The sound is there. I specialized in sound.
I left Motown after 2 ½ years because of a strained marriage, because I worked too much. And divorce at the time wasn’t a consideration, I loved my children and I wanted to be near them and I wanted to raise them.
What are you doing nowadays?
I work as a graphic designer in NY at various advertising agencies. For the last 15 years.
The creative process in art comes directly from the same place as it does in recording. I have done and am in the process of doing CD covers for HUSH, as I type this. It’s Beau Huggin’s way of keeping me near to music, so by the time I’m ready to get back in. It won’t be that far to go.
As you know all to well that most of the real talented people in music now-a-days work outside of the narrow-casted record business.
A lot of people wanted to know why I stopped mixing and I would always say that I will start again by the year 2010 (an arbitrary number) because that’s when people will really start missing great sounding music. For me it was always about the sound, being a quasi audiophile, I always wanted to make the records sound as if the performance was right in the stereo spectrum and the top and bottom were respected. Thats why we all bought the expensive stereo equipment for in the first place. (I was an avid reader of Stereo Review in my youth) and loved the reviews that always told about the sound aspect of the recordings which is why Jack Skinner (of Sterling Sound) and I wanted to make the masterings sound alive on the turntable by making sure we got the right amount of dynamic range on the vinyl. Something most people neglected was the mastering of the songs because they didn't understand the process.
What were to you your best mixes at HUSH Productions and Motown?
1. I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love - Freddie Jackson
2. A Little Bit More - Melba Moore Featuring Freddie Jackson
3. Do You Still Love Me - Meli’sa Morgan
4. Take It to The Limit - Ray, Goodman and Brown
5. Have You Ever Loved Somebody - Freddie Jackson (and Najee’s version)
1. My Last Chance - Marvin Gaye
2. I Wanna Make You Mine - MC Trouble
3. Your Sweetness Is My Weakness - The Good Girls
4. Just Another Lonely Night - Johnnie Gill
5. Same Old Love - Smokey Robinson
Now even though I have many more songs that I love that were my mixes, these were my favorites. It has nothing to do with sales or artists. These songs represent to me the top of my sound. They all share a common thread. Great Sound. Beau Williams “All Because of You” and The 12 inch version of Freddie’s “Jam Tonight” and Meli’sa “If You Can Do it: I Can Too” are on the bubble. And That’s it.
Thank you for your interest. Good luck and God Bless.
Artist Scott White was born Scott Alfonso White III on September 23, 1960. He hails from Steelton, Pennsylvania, US and appeared only briefly on the soul scene in the late Eighties. The singer and piano player released his debut album Success...Never Ends on the RCA record label in the Summer of 1988.
|Photo courtesy of Malridge Mace/Mal Mace Archives|
Scott White grew up in a large musical family, singing gospel music at The New Hope Primitive Baptist Church from an early age. College time proved crucial. At Oral Roberts University he signed with vocal group Souls Of Fire and really began exploring his musical abilities. He also ran into a fellow student whose older brother happened to be artist Rahni Harris of "Six Million Steps" fame, which ultimately brought Scott to the attention of the management firm Hush Productions. Rahni Harris (Ronald Preston Harris, Jr.) aka Rahni Song, became one of the mainstay producers at Hush Productions, collaborating with Melba Moore, Willie Collins, Alex Bugnon, Freddie Jackson (as Yasha Barjona) and many other acts. After Scott’s graduation in 1982, the award-winning R&B producer offered his protégé work on various projects he did. At this point, Scott White moved to Harlem, NYC and began to establish a reputation as a backing singer and arranger. Credits include recording sessions for Rahni’s band Dayton, Melba Moore, Ray, Goodman & Brown, Ruffin & Kendrick, Najee and Scott’s younger cousin John White (deceased in 1994). Incidentally, Scott White and John White were both soloists on the record Amazing by Kingdom, a contemporary gospel project instigated by Rahni Song in 1987 and co-produced by Scott White. Scott even became a minister of music at the church to which Song was pastor.
Treasured by Hush Productions President Beau Huggins, the young talent smoothly moved on to the next level of his career and signed with Hush as a recording artist. His one album Success...Never Ends (two titles from tracks on the album stitched together) received critical acclaim and offered a solid match between White’s gospel-infused vocals and Song’s bright production sound and contemporary songwriting. Scott White showcased his versatility through a balanced mixture of smart dancefloor tunes and silky soul songs. The urban R&B set included the club favorite and sole single off the album “I Don’t Understand It”, the CD-only bonus track “Been Gone Too Long”, the sophisticated dancer “Hypnotized” – reminiscent of “Save The Overtime (For Me)” by Gladys Knight & the Pips –, producer Darryl Duncan’s one contribution “Never Ends”, the techno-funk beater “Love Emergency” – that might as well have been fabricated by David Frank and Mic Murphy of The System – and the scorching ballads “Success” and “Time Has A Hold On Love”, both co-written by White. The seasoned session singers Janice Dempsey and Vaneese Thomas provided the background vocals.
Today White lives in Washington D.C. and works as a minister of music, as a studio singer/arranger and as a vocal coach and arranger for Broadway musicals e.g.. He has perhaps adopted a low profile from the R&B scene, but not from the spiritual music scene. As a musical director of The Scott White Family, he’s a man with a mission: delivering compelling, soul lifting gospel music and touring the country with America’s biggest gospel-singing family – named after his granddad. And this my brothers and sisters, truly is a heartwarming Success…That Never Ends.
- Aleese Simmons: LP/CD I Want It (Orpheus, 1988)
- Alex Bugnon & Najee: LP/CD Alex Bugnon & Najee (Orpheus, 1988)
- Alex Bugnon: LP/CD Love Season (Orpheus, 1989)
- Alex Bugnon: LP/CD Head Over Heals (Orpheus, 1990)
- Alex Bugnon: LP/CD 107 Degrees In The Shade (Orpheus, 1991)
- Alex Bugnon: LP/CD This Time Around (Orpheus, 1993)
- Alfonzo Blackwell: LP/CD Let’s Imagine (BMG, 1995)
- André Ward: LP/CD Feelin’ You (Orpheus, 2001)
- André Ward: LP/CD Steppin’ Up’ You (Orpheus, 2004)
- André Ward: LP/CD Crystal City (Orpheus, 2007)
- André Ward: LP/CD The Journey Part 1 (Orpheus/Hush Music, 2011)
- André Ward: LP/CD Caution (Orpheus/Hush Music, 2012)
- Antonio Allen: LP/CD Forever & Always (Orpheus, 2007)
- Arabian Prince: LP/CD Brother Arab (Orpheus-EMI America, 1989)
- Ashford & Simpson: 12 INCH “Hungry For Me Again” (Orpheus, 1990)
- Atoozi: 12 INCH “Calling Out Your Name” (Orpheus, 1990)
- Beau Williams: LP/CD No More Tears (Capitol, 1986)
- Bervin Harris: LP/CD In The Mood (Orpheus, 1990)
- Bervin Harris & Peculiar People: LP/CD Bervin Harris & Peculiar People (Hush Entertainment, 1998)
- B-Fats: LP/CD Music Maestro (Orpheus, 1989)
- Boogie Boys, The: LP/CD City Life (Capitol, 1985)
- Boogie Boys, The: LP/CD Survival Of The Freshest (Capitol, 1986)
- Boogie Boys, The: LP/CD Romeo Knight (Capitol, 1988)
- Bruce Saunders: LP/CD Touch You There (RCA, 1992)
- Bunny Man: LP/CD What's Real (Orpheus, 2002)
- Cashada: LP/CD Jack Of All Trades (Hush Entertainment, 2005)
- Chad: LP/CD Fast Music, Love & Promises (RCA, 1987)
- Chill: LP/CD Cold Fresh Groove (Orpheus, 1989)
- Clifford Adams: LP/CD Love’s Gonna Get You (Orpheus, 2004)
- CMW - Comptons Most Wanted: LP/CD It’s A Compton Thang (Orpheus-EMI America, 1990)
- CMW - Comptons Most Wanted: LP/CD Music To Driveby (Orpheus-Epic, 1992)
- CMW - Comptons Most Wanted: LP/CD Straight Checkn 'Em (Orpheus, 1991)
- Controllers, The: LP/CD Stay (MCA, 1986)
- Daezaster: LP/CD The Oracle (Orpheus, 2000)
- Dead Ringaz: LP/CD New Ringa Order (Hush Entertainment, 1996)
- Delano: LP/CD Let’s Make Love (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Delano: LP/CD Dim The Lights (Hush Entertainment, 1998)
- Dennis Coffey: LP/CD Under The Moonlight (Orpheus, 1989)
- Derek & Verdy Parker: 12 INCH “Hotel California” (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- E.L. Me & The Street Products: LP/CD 16 Lessons From The Streets (THG, 1992)
- Eric Gable: LP/CD Caught In The Act (Orpheus, 1989)
- Eric Gable: LP/CD Can’t Wait To Get You Home (Orpheus, 1991)
- Eric Gable: LP/CD Process Of Elimination (Orpheus-Epic, 1994)
- Exhale: 12 INCH “Still Not Over You” (Orpheus, 2002)
- Force M.D.’s: LP/CD Chillin’ / Tender Love (Tommy Boy, 1985)
- Force M.D.’s: LP/CD Touch And Go (Tommy Boy, 1987)
- Force M.D.’s: LP/CD Step To Me (Tommy Boy, 1990)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Rock Me Tonight (Capitol, 1985)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Just Like The First Time (Capitol, 1986)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Don't Let Love Slip Away (Capitol, 1988)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Do Me Again (Capitol, 1990)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Time For Love (Capitol, 1992)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Here It Is (RCA, 1994)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Private Party (Scotti Bros., 1995)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Life After 30 (Orpheus, 1999)
- Freddie Jackson: LP/CD Transitions (Orpheus, 2006)
- Gold Teet: 12 INCH “Searching For Love” (THG, 1993)
- G-Wiz: LP/CD Just Like You (Orpheus, 2003)
- Hi-Five: LP/CD Keep It Goin' On (Jive, 1992)
- Jaki Graham: LP/CD From Now On (Orpheus, 1989)
- Isaac Hayes: LP/CD U-Turn (Atlantic, 1986)
- Janice Dempsey: LP/CD Thirsty (Epic, 1990)
- Jay Love: LP/CD Get Into It (Orpheus, 1989)
- John White: LP/CD Night People (Geffen, 1987)
- John Whitehead: LP/CD I Need Money Bad (Mercury, 1988)
- Juvenile: LP/CD Juvenile Presents UTP Playas The Compilation (Orpheus, 2002)
- Juvenile: LP/CD Juvenile Presents Street Stories: UTP Playas & Skip (Orpheus, 2003)
- Kashif: LP/CD Kashif (Arista, 1983)
- Kashif: LP/CD Send Me Your Love (Arista, 1984))
- Keith Robinson: LP/CD Perfect Love (Orpheus, 1989)
- Kenny G: LP/CD G Force (Arista, 1983)
- King Dee & The Bishop: 12 INCH “What’s Your Opinion” (Orpheus, 1990)
- Koda: 12 INCH “Take Back” (Orpheus, 2001)
- Koda: 12 INCH “Trust Your Love” (Orpheus, 2001)
- Kountry Boy & T-Mix: 12 INCH “Brother Done Had It” (THG, 1993)
- La Chicas del Reggae: 12 INCH “Pum Pum” (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Legend: LP/CD Liquid Déjà Vu (Orpheus, 2001)
- Lillo Thomas: LP/CD Let Me Be Yours (Capitol, 1983)
- Lillo Thomas: LP/CD All Of You (Capitol, 1984)
- Lillo Thomas: LP/CD Lillo (Capitol, 1987)
- Lillo Thomas: 12 INCH “Out There Doing Wrong” (THG, 1993)
- Lotus Krokus: LP/CD Deva (Orpheus, 2006)
- Marc Nelson: LP/CD I Want You (Capitol, 1991)
- Mass Appeal: 12 INCH “Free James Brown” (Orpheus, 1989)
- Me-2-U: LP/CD Me-2-U (RCA, 1993)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD This Is It (Buddah, 1976)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD A Portrait Of Melba (Buddah, 1977)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD Melba (Epic, 1978)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD Dancin' With Melba Moore (Buddah, 1979)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD Closer (Epic, 1980)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD What A Woman Needs (Capitol, 1981)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD The Other Side Of The Rainbow (Capitol, 1982)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD Never Say Never (Capitol, 1983)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD Read My Lips (Capitol, 1985)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD A Lot Of Love (Capitol, 1986)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD I'm In Love (Capitol, 1988)
- Melba Moore: LP/CD Soul Exposed (Capitol, 1990)
- Meli'sa Morgan: LP/CD Do Me Baby (Capitol, 1986)
- Meli'sa Morgan: LP/CD Good Love (Capitol, 1987)
- Meli'sa Morgan: LP/CD I Remember (Orpheus, 2005)
- Miki Howard: LP/CD Can’t Count Me Out (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Mr. Mystic: LP/CD Wait ‘Til They Get A Load Of Me (THG, 1993)
- Najee: LP/CD Najee's Theme (EMI America, 1986)
- Najee: LP/CD Day By Day (EMI America, 1988)
- Najee: LP/CD Tokyo Blue (EMI America, 1990)
- Najee: LP/CD Just An Illusion (EMI America, 1992)
- Najee: LP/CD Love Songs (EMI America, 2000)
- Nuwine: 12 INCH “Doin’” (Orpheus, 2000)
- Nuwine: 12 INCH “Test” (Orpheus, 2001)
- Paul Laurence: LP/CD Haven't You Heard (Capitol, 1985)
- Paul Laurence: LP/CD Underexposed (Capitol, 1989)
- Poppa Bear Kool Breez & Baby Wise: LP/CD Now Ya Know!!! (THG, 1992)
- Rahni Song: LP/CD Breakin' The Rules (Queen Of Sheba Ent.-Hush Music, 2011)
- Raw Core: 12 INCH “This House Is Booming” (Orpheus, 1990)
- Ray Chew: LP/CD Blue Crystal (Hush Entertainment, 1996)
- Ray, Goodman & Brown: LP/CD Take It To The Limit (EMI America, 1986)
- Ray, Goodman & Brown feat. Greg Willis: LP/CD Mood For Lovin' (EMI-Manhattan, 1988 )
- Ray, Goodman & Brown: LP/CD Intimate Moments (Orpheus, 2002)
- Reggie Young: LP/CD Among Friends (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Rob White: LP/CD Let It Ride (Orpheus, 2006)
- Rob White: LP/CD Keep Riding (Orpheus, 2010)
- Rob White: LP/CD Just Kickin' It (Orpheus/Hush Music, 2012)
- Ron Perkov: LP/CD Do Ya Wanna? (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Sahr Issa: LP/CD Afro Tongue (Orpheus, 2003)
- Sahr Issa: LP/CD African Fire (Orpheus, 2007)
- Sahr Issa: LP/CD Warchild Soldier (Orpheus, 2008)
- Saison feat. CeCe Peniston: 12 INCH “Reminiscin” (Orpheus, 2001)
- Sarah Dash: LP/CD You’re All I Need (EMI, 1988)
- Scott White: LP/CD Success…Never Ends (RCA, 1988)
- Shocky Shay: LP/CD No Joke (Orpheus 1989)
- Stacy Lattisaw: LP/CD What You Need (Motown, 1989)
- Sweet Obsession: LP/CD Sweet Obsession (Epic, 1988)
- Sweet Obsession: LP/CD Sweet Obsession Too (Epic, 1991)
- System, The: LP/CD ESP (Orpheus, 2000)
- Tamika Patton: LP/CD #1 (Orpheus, 1989)
- Tanya Blount: LP/CD Natural Thing (Polydor, 1994)
- THC - Time Has Come: LP/CD Phoenix Funk (Hush Entertainment, 1996)
- Tony Smith: LP/CD Because Of You (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Vaneese Thomas: LP/CD Vaneese (Geffen, 1987)
- Various Artists: LP/CD Def By Temptation - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Orpheus, 1990)
- Various Artists: LP/CD Hush Productions - Music Makers Vol. 1 (Hush Entertainment, 1996)
- Various Artists: LP/CD Reggae Spices Vol. 1 (Hush Entertainment, 1997)
- Vaughn Harper: LP/CD Soulful Songs For Quiet Time (Orpheus, 2004)
- Vincent Green: LP/CD I’m Here For You (Hush Entertainment, 1996)
- Vlad: LP/CD Sun In Capricorn (Orpheus, 2007)
- Vlad: LP/CD Vladosphere (Orpheus, 2004)
- Willie Collins: LP/CD Where You Gonna Be Tonight (Capitol, 1986)
- Z’Looke: LP/CD My Desire (Orpheus-Epic, 1991)
- Z’Looke: LP/CD Take U Back To My Place (Orpheus, 1988)
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