PM: A lot of people consider you
something of a production guru... just what is it you do?
MS: What is it we don’t do? We create all sorts of things... jingles, spots,
voiceovers, industrials, music, sound design, re-mastering, making
records… we even set up In-Store Broadcasting for restaurants and
business’ .. y'know we set up custom radio stations for them and help with
the music licensing plus software and hardware to do it …just about
anything. I’ve been in Hollywood quite awhile... so if I
can’t do it... I certainly know who can. I'm probably best known today as the voice of the
Sports Chalet here in Southern California... I’m also the voice of about 15
radio stations coast-to-coast... voice of the Wave for almost 11 years and
produced most of their jingles and imaging. We also have a line of CD
compilations and a number of syndicated jingles packages. Basically, what
we do is try to determine the clients needs and goals... y’know create the
vision... then bring all the loose ends together and realize those dreams. I’m the guy that gets together with the client and picks their brain... then translates that information into a product. Y’know create the
package, work with the copywriters, actors, arrangers, whoever... give them
examples, name the tunes, determine how many of this or that we need, hire
the talent, co-ordinate the schedules, oversee the session in a
collaborative way, and then help with the mixing... I’m there from the
first idea to the last lick... that’s not hype... it’s the truth.. If its
got my name on it... I care. Basically, the most important thing for me is,
what is it the client is trying to get across... what are they trying
to communicate... what is the work telling me it needs... then I try to find
a creative way to make it all happen.
sort of like sometimes you’re actually the instrument and sometimes you’re
simply the catalyst. The doing is probably the easy part... it’s coming up
with the concepts that can be a challenge. And it’s not all me by a long
shot... I’ve been blessed to work with some incredible talent. It’s not a
matter of just putting lots of notes or ideas out there... it’s putting
the right notes and ideas out there... the ones that to suit the project.
We very much function on a project-by-project basis... and we bring in the
talent to match the work... not the other way around. Basically, we’re a
creative community... and outside of Hollywood we have associates in
Austin, Nashville, Honolulu, New York, Chicago, London and a few other
places... but the project comes first... it dictates everything.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no job too big or
too small... you give your love and attention to each one equally... it’s
just a habit you develop.
often joke that when I’m in the studio I do two things really well... “stand there and look stupid” and “get the hell out of the way”. Knowing
when to quit is also pretty essential too. I have lots of help, but a lot
of the time... I’m in the studio by myself... I love getting
down in the trenches, getting my fingers dirty and creating the magic. I’ve always been kind of like... just let me go in the studio and fool
around and I’ll come out later and blow your mind... I love to watch
peoples faces the first time they hear something we’ve done... it’s worth
the price of admission. On the other hand, I love to collaborate... because
you always want to bowl with someone who’s a better bowler than you are... it raises your game... a lot! Lemme tell ya...
I know some incredible players... and come to think of it... some pretty
good bowlers too!
PM: Give us an example?
Well... when I’m in the studio I sort of function like a Japanese tour
guide... I’m the one holding the flag saying “OK kids we’re heading this
direction." I’m not trying to boss anyone around... most of these folks
are an absolute treat to work with... and I’m probably the biggest fan in
the room. So I simply try to provide the direction. For instance... if I’m
working with Tom Scott... who is an absolute monster talent... here’s a
guy who has worked with everyone up to and including the Beatles... am I going
to teach him anything? Maybe, maybe not, but I can tell him
where we’re headed and where we’d like to end up... then function as his
partner on this side of the glass... like another set of ears. When the
artist is out there in the spotlight they’re paying attention to a million
things... they may know what that last take felt like... but they’re hearing
it from a different perspective... if they’re getting honest answers from my side of the glass... they are money ahead. Tell them what you’re
trying to achieve and then get out of their way. Many times you just say... go wherever the music is telling you to go... and these folks are at such a
high level of talent the results can be absolutely breathtaking. It's not
like they’re trying... they just have it in them and it has to come out.
Good players just think it and it comes out... great players don’t even
have to think. Make sure everyone’s on the same page... point em’ thataway
and get out of the way. When there’s magic happening right in front of
you... it can be an exhilarating experience.
PM: What question do you get asked most
MS: Everyone wants to know if that’s really me as a
kid smoking the cigar on our logo. The answer is no... it amazingly looks
like I did then... but no I smoked a pipe back then. Actually I quit
smoking about 12 years ago... (laughs) and I’ve been fighting the same 40
pounds ever since... but I’d rather be fat and happy... than slender and
Anyway... the picture is from a 1935 newspaper
article we found... the kid was supposedly three at the time... smoked
cigars and preferred beer to milk... so much for parental guidance... but
it makes the point.
PM: How did the company start?
original partner was Greg Mundy. Greg had
worked with the David Geffen Company and had done management work with
Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and people like that... then went on to become
a very successful concert promoter in Hawaii. Greg walked in one day and
said "Hey, want to be partners? I’ll write... you produce.” I agreed and he
said “Great... our first client is NBC.”
And they were. We did
quite a bit of work
for them... would get 10 to 20 spots done a week... actually in a three day
period. I’d never done that type of work before... certainly not for a
network... so it again was quite a learning curve. We had some fundamental
differences though... Greg always thought you needed to explain the story
line every time... my feeling was we've got :25
seconds to get the idea across... so tease them, intrigue them and get
those butts in front of the TV... that’s our job. We
had some friendly battles but we actually worked well together... he had a
very strong minded personality. Unfortunately, he drowned in Lake Tahoe
later that year... so Mundy/Sheehy Productions became Michael Sheehy
Productions and we’ve never looked back.
PM: Who helps you do all this?
MS: Well... first off... it’s not them helping me or me
helping them it’s this team coming together to put the project FIRST and
create something special.
Becky Bonar provides a lot of our writing... she is
an amazing producer/director as well... she has tons of little gold
statues to prove it... She’s done lots of that network TV promo stuff and
things like that …consistent and extremely quick. Becky’s been the voice
of Mervyn’s and Safeway... a member and past president of the Groundlings improv group here in Southern California... oh yeah... she was Wanda on a
very successful ad campaign the Gas Company ran a few years ago. Becky’s
actually a very experienced actress as well... done Shakespeare in the
Park and quite a bit of theatre. For the past 20 years or so she’s been
working with my hero Dick Orkin at the Dick Orkin Radio Ranch. We have a
great working relationship... we compliment one another. Amazing talent.
Don Wright is another one of our core team. Don has
an extensive background in radio and production like me... he’s a
specialist in Re-Mastering Audio and Sound Restoration. We are coming out
with a number of CD compilations and he handles most of that. Don does
character voices like you wouldn’t believe... funny funny stuff... you can
hear him doing wimpy type characters in our sound design stuff. Donald has
probably introduced me to more different musical genres than I could ever
imagine... he’s into just about everything... as a result, so am I. There are
a lot of worlds of music that make up our musical universe.
Andrew Morgado came aboard a few years ago as my
apprentice... and man has he blossomed... aside from the fact he’s now a
pretty competent engineer, editor and director... his acting career is
taking off, and now he's booking gigs constantly... plus
he’s only 22. We take advantage of the fact he’s young too... it keeps us
thinking young. He introduces us to new things daily. For instance, Rap or
Speed Metal don’t fill a very big void in my life... don’t get me wrong,
it’s a legitimate form of art... just not necessarily my cup of tea... but
Andrew knows a lot about both... and shares that information with us and
we’ve learned quite a bit we wouldn’t otherwise know... keeps you
open-minded. His character voices are right up there with the best I’ve
ever heard... and his normal voice is what we use for a lot of our
Alternative and Rock & Roll stuff. Someone has to give back... you know
mentor a little bit... so he’s had a lot of exposure to music, producing and people he normally wouldn’t have gotten... and Andrew has picked up the
ball and run with it... we’ll probably be working for him pretty soon
(laughs)... hey, that’s not that funny.
My wife, Denise handles all of our business affairs... she’s spent 25 years as a manager at UCLA... so she knows her stuff. Her
last big project there she co-coordinated a $16 million dollar
construction job... unfortunately, she doesn’t have to deal with those kind
of budgets with us. We out-source our talent payroll. We bring others in
depending upon the project... this keeps the overhead down. The funny
thing is we all do voiceovers... but many times we’re the last people we’d
cast... once again, you have to do what the project calls for... and if
we’re not right... we get the person who is... that’s really one of our
strong points... knowing who to get for what.
PM: What about music?
create almost all of our big music projects with Groove Addicts... they
are absolutely the best music company around hands down. If someone
doesn’t have the budget we have alternative ways to go... but I’ve worked
with these guys for 20 years or so... There’s plenty of shorthand going
on, so we feel at home... and most importantly, the work is terrific. Groove Addicts owner Dain Blair and I go back 25 years... he’s an
accomplished producer and really knows how to create a classy yet
productive environment... it’s a wonderful place to work. The whole place is
like that... from the people answering the phones to the mail room to the
creative team... I brought Dain into Killer Music way back when... and if he
learned anything from me... it was a well-fed crew is a happy crew... and
oh man am I in trouble when I get there... Tubby here does not need that kind
help. Our arrangers like Al Capps, Howard Pffifer and Jim Cox... are
unquestionably at genius level and working with these guys is a really
cool. You may be clomping around in the dark... but these guys make your
simple little ideas shine and breathe life into the project. They are
PM: What about engineering?
MS: Gerhard Joost does the majority of our
engineering and mixing... he’s worked with Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross,
oh lord the list goes on... he’s simply the best. Y’know it can get
stressful... because it takes long long hours and you’re working on
someone else’s dime... so it can get touchy... but we keep one another
laughing and productive. Lots of the time I’ll say “why don’t we try
this”... only to discover Gerhard’s already been working on it for the
past two minutes... it’s mind-reading pure and simple. He does an amazing
amount of work that goes on unnoticed... stressful stuff too... but he’s
tuned in and controlling the flow of the session to a great degree. He’s
also an expert schmoozer as well.
Robert Wear does much of the sound design creation...
he created a package for Groove Addicts called “Mindbenders” and I use
them all the time. Robert is sort of a quiet secret weapon... and it’s the
quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for. He’s a production maniac.
One of the most important things one must stay in
touch in this line of work, is that the industry shifts all the time, and
it's an ever-changing learning curve... so it’s a godsend to work with
people who get it... not only can they can enlighten you... but they
elevate the work.
PM: What do you use for equipment?
MS: For the longest time we’ve used the Spectral
Synthesis Digital Engine... but they were bought out a few years ago so
that their competition could remove them from the market... it’s been a
great workhorse... we still use it everyday... not fancy and an antique by
today’s standards... but steady as a rock... having said that I’m sure it’ll
now blow up or something. (laughs)
We've researched all the industry standards
available, and for our money, the SAW system is the best thing going... It’s easy to see, more powerful and
considerably quicker to get what you need up and going... it blows the
doors off of anything else we’ve seen... we’ve got two of them. I guess
the company just went thru some restructuring... but they’re still alive and well
and doing fine for us.
PM: What about microphones?
We use a variety of mics... personally my favorite is
the old Shure SM5B... it was only a couple of hundred bucks when it came
out... and they don’t make them anymore. The one they replaced it with is
OK... but just not the same. It really depends on what you’re going for... what does the project require?
equipment is important... because it opens doors you otherwise wouldn’t
have available to you... but it is not the most important thing... that is
between your ears... at least on most of us! (laughs) Your imagination is
the whole ball of wax... listen to everyone... take in information from
all quarters ... use all the tools at your disposal... but listen to the work...
listen to your imagination... and go forth and multiply... or divide or
whatever. In music the song is everything... you can
really produce the hell out of a bad song... and then you end up with a
wonderfully produced bad song... it’s what they call in the biz “polishing
a turd”... sorry Mom… it’s not my phrase. It’s like that no matter what
you’re developing... create first... polish afterward. Get to the soul of
the matter... the cake... not the icing. Did you know the Beatles first
album was produced in a day? ONE DAY... it was a long time ago and
technically the work had a lot of flaws. As a matter of fact with today's
CDs you can now hear most of the edits... but the whole thing was done in
one day... I think they stopped for a dinner break... but one day... that
wasn’t the equipment. Of course, now Paul calls me
all the time... can’t get rid of him... he’s really become sort of a pest.
(laughs) I’m just kidding... but y’know Helen Reddy won’t make a move
without me and look what it’s done for her career... Boy George as well.
PM: Where do you find all these talented
MS: Well as I said, I’ve been here awhile and, for
the most part, so have the rest of the team. In this town there is no
shortage of snakes,
pigs and posers... so the good people... the honest people... the truly
creative people... find one another... they coagulate. Despite the talent
involved... it takes quite a bit of energy to create at this level... Who
wants to run around watching your back all the time? You attempt to work
with those you trust and respect.
I’m a true believer in... “If it isn’t fun... what’s
the point?” We put in some insane hours... but it doesn’t feel like work. Y’know life is too short and there’s a
quotient of pain involved... so try to be good and compassionate and laugh
all you can... it takes too much energy to be angry or negative. I think
it was Quincy Jones that said “a big laugh is a loud noise the soul makes
when it wants to say “Ain’t that the truth!”... so I guess you could say
in a left-handed way... we spend a lot of time in search of the truth.
Hey... if it isn’t fun... what’s the point.
PM: Interesting concept. Give us an example.
one time early on Greg and I had spent all weekend doing promos for Vince
Manze and the folks at NBC... I mean 10 in the morning till 3 or 4 in the
morning for three days straight... we were absolutely pooped. It was
about 2a.m. and Greg had to deliver what we’d produced later that morning
about 10... and we were exhausted and getting dingy... really dingy. So I
said go away for 15 minutes and I’ll slap something fun together. We had
been doing this promo for Steven Seagal’s “Out For Justice”... now you
know this kind of movie isn’t Mary Poppins …. Every other word is “F” this
and “F” that... so I lifted out all of sound bites we were actually going
to use and replaced them with sound bites of the “F” variety... in the
movie someone gets thrown off a roof... so I made the splat... just a
little too loud. I honestly don’t know if the rest is true because I
wasn’t there... but Greg told me he boundered into the room and plopped
the tape onto the desk with the explanation “We may have gone a bit over
the top... see what you think.” Well according to him two seconds into the
spot they were almost apoplectic... then realized it was a joke. Greg said
one NBC exec was laughing so hard he ended up falling off the couch and
onto his hands and knees on the carpet. They, of course, had to go and
play the joke on the head of NBC …he thought it was so funny, he went and
did the same thing for the Chairman of GE. Probably never going to win any
awards for that spot... but if nothing else... we weren’t tired anymore.
Unfortunately, we also had to find a good upholstery cleaner following
that little episode... hey, if it isn’t fun what’s the point... life’s too
PM: Who have you done
MS: All the major networks including UPN, WB, the
Family Channel, and Disney... we’ve done quite a bit of stuff for the BBC
in tandem with Groove Addicts... we have work in Belgium, Switzerland,
Brazil, Thailand... Warner Brothers and Capitol Records... um...
Mad Magazine... Esquire...
I produced the Killer Tracks Source Music library a few
years ago... can’t watch TV without hearing one of those cuts pop up from
time to time.
PM: What about local radio?
MS: In addition to all of the Waves
jingles, I did some of the later KNX FM stuff, KKHR, Rick Dees, American
Top 40, American Country Countdown, KBIG quite a while ago, KFWB’s been
running our stuff since the 80’s... that enough? (laughs).
PM: What talent have you worked with?
MS: Musically, most of the major players in Smooth
Jazz... Al Jarreau, Brenda Russell, Bobby Caldwell, Joe Sample, Stanley
Clarke, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Peter White, Tom Scott, Boney James,
Norman Brown, Keiko Matsui... even Lee Ritenour via email... oh man...
there’s a ton more...
PM: How about voiceovers... who have you
Well... thousands of people …. some pretty fierce
talent too... Burgess Merideth, Della Reese, Don LaFontaine, Gary Owens,
Wanda De Jesus, Jimmy Smits, Ed Grover, Michelle Lee, Michael Stull, Brian Cummings, Terry McGovern, Rip
Taylor, John Tesh, Dale Evans, Timothy Leary.
PM: What are they like to work with?
MS: As you can imagine most of these folks didn’t
need a whole lot of direction... We try to treat people the way the way
we’d like to be treated... just because they’re well known doesn’t mean
they don’t want to be treated like a normal person... it’s generally the
insecure ones that have the ego baggage to cart around. Funny... Roy
Rogers used to say... “even if you’re a king... you still have to sit on that
big white throne once a day”... that kind of says it all.
Anyway, I probably learned more from a 45 minute
session with Burgess Merideth than I did in the next 10 years... whoa what
an education… Della Reese is great... she’s a preacher but has some of the
best jokes I’ve ever heard... we hit it right off from the minute she
walked in... she’s very real and down to earth... I got the long eyeball
from Dale Evans... I had to tell her we had to do everything twice for
insurance... and boy did I get a look... and when you’ve gotten the long
eyeball from Dale Evans you know you’ve been looked at... she was a real
sweetie and absolutely down to earth... what a sense of humor... wow...
Bobby Caldwell is very intense... an absolute sweetheart... but a
perfectionist and completely focused... Jeff Golub was Rod Stewart’s
guitar ace for a number of years... he plays like flowing water... I was
actually going to buy a new guitar, then I did a session with Jeff and I
said forget it... he’s that good... Rick Braun and Richard Elliot got the
flow going too... and Joe Sample... oh man... just look out …that man can
talk some trash with his hands... funky... but I’m off the track... Gary
Owens is a national treasure and one of the funniest people on the planet... he’s a walking talking computer of funny... puts me away
every time... Brian Cumming is a good friend and an absolute mastermind at improv as
well... you don’t need TV. Just invite Brian over... sort of a modern day Mel
Blanc… Rip Taylor on the other hand... You just shut the door behind him
and duck. David Crosby was a trip... I can’t really repeat what he
suggested I do... but it was pretty silly. Sick puppy that boy! Jimmy Smits
was very very nice... and a bit reserved... where I’d use an expletive... he’d say “ah shucks”... I told him if that got out it’d ruin his image... he
laughed. These guys were a lot of fun... and a real treat from time to time... but we’ve also done thousands of sessions trying to make civilians sound
real... or disc jockeys back off from pukey town. When you’re working with
the pros... it’s not work... you don’t get bad takes... you just get
PM: What is it that makes your work different.
Well... my stuff is probably a little fatter and balder than most.
Seriously, I think our approach might be a little different... once again,
we let the work dictate where to go... we don’t try to shove it around. If
you listen... it will talk to you... don’t want to sound metaphysical or
anything... but it really talks to you. If
you sit back and LISTEN, the project will tell you where to go and what to
do... Try to listen to it and not your ego. It’s sort of like automatic
handwriting... when I sit down to doodle I don’t say now I’m going to draw
a cat... I mean I can do that if I want to, but usually I sit there like a
spectator and see what develops from my fingertips onto the page. It’s
coming from somewhere else... God, your subconscious, your higher self,
who knows... producing is very similar... only there’s money, outside
talent, and schedules involved so you have to be disciplined... follow
your instincts and intuition... but be real disciplined.
Wilson (founder of Radio & Records magazine) and I were just talking about
this not long ago... he pointed out that the information is coming down
from somewhere... but only a few people take the time to tune in and
listen to it. We can go years without this or that great idea... then
it’ll pop up about the same time at three or four different locations all
around the globe... hey some people tune in... some don’t.
For instance, when Dale passed on... or graduated as
the family likes to say... I had the privilege of putting the music
together for her service... I knew the Western stuff backwards and
forwards... but I really didn’t have a clue as to the religious music...
which was a lot of what Dale was all about... y’know she was really a
preacher. A lot of people don’t realize she wrote “Happy Trails” and “The
Bible Tells Me So”... both of which are standards now. Well, we didn’t
have much time... I started at 4 in the afternoon and finished about 4 in
the morning. Obviously, I had a wealth of music to choose from... but it’s
not just slapping things together... it’s putting the right music
together... in the right fashion... in the right order... it has to say
something... it has to mean something... music adds emotion... and when
you’ve got people’s feelings in your hands... a misstep this way or that
can come off real cheesy... so I was trying to be cautious yet sum things
up... make a statement. Well, I have no idea who was guiding my hands
that night... but I honestly didn’t have a lot to do with putting the
project together... yes, I was the facilitator... but it really put itself
together. This is kind of an extreme example but... that’s the type of
thing I mean.
PM: Do you ever make mistakes?
MS: Boy you can’t be afraid to make mistakes... half
the time creativity comes knocking disguised as a mistake... so if you’re
afraid to experiment, play around a little or, God forbid, make a mistake,
you’re probably not going to come up with anything very special. You have
to stretch the envelope. The same goes for performing... if you’re afraid
to make an ass out of yourself... you’re sunk from the start. It’s much
easier to pull someone back in... than stand behind them prodding them to
come out of their shell.
PM: What is In-Store Broadcasting?
MS: In-Store Broadcasting is where we create custom
made radio stations to fit our clients needs. There are a couple of
companies that do this... but honestly, they're usually too expensive or
too generic to meet everyone's needs... and in a few cases they just plain
stink... the quality is non-existent. Remember... music adds emotion...
and if you have a shop or restaurant... why would you want to leave a
large chunk of your ambience in someone else's hands... especially when it
could be tailor made to suit your needs and style. We provide this service
for one-location Mom & Pop's, as well as the big chains. Some folks simply
want to control the music heard and that's simple... but others want to
put together the whole enchilada with announcers, jingles, bumpers, point
of purchase spots, weekly updates, co-op spots, satellite driven... y'know
the whole kit and caboodle. There's quite a bit more involved than you
might imagine... music licensing, software and hardware... what we do is
provide a turn-key service... and believe me it sounds a lot better than
what you can get on the radio... they're trying to please too many
masters. We have well over a hundred years of extremely successful radio
programming and production experience... we simply put that knowledge to
work for you.
PM: Aren’t you telling us too many well kept
secrets - sort of giving the store away?
MS: Well... there’s two schools of thought in that
department. One says “learn all you can and keep it to yourself” and the
other says “be generous and
give away everything.” I’ve found the second school to be the most
profitable. The more you give... the more you get... so I give whenever
and whatever I can. I don’t mean to come off as a goody two shoes...
because that’s not my deal... but a few years ago I went through a few challenges and I
ended up reading a book that really changed my life... it
was called “Angel Unaware”... in it I discovered this little
line “If you want to be happy... make other people happy”... well I sort
of took that as my mantra and life made an amazing change for the better.
It sounds so fundamental it’s almost stupid... but it really works. Get
out of the “me” and into the “we” and you’d be surprised the good things
that come your way.
friend Ellis Hall is an incredibly soulful talent… you leave the door open
just a crack and he’ll come along and blow it off it’s hinges. You may
know Ellis as the lead singer for Tower of Power or the California
Raisins. He was one of the dark plump wrinkly ones. (laughs) Ellis wrote a
song called “Planet Hope." It has a line that says “Give while you get...
teach while you learn”... and that is what it’s all about. You try to
bottle up your gifts and they are going to fade
on you... and you’re going to be pretty lonely as well.
PM: You must have started young.
Well... I started banging on pots and pans in Mom’s
kitchen just like most kids... but that lead to 26 years of trumpet and
just about anything with three valves, bass, drums, guitar, piano, I even
terrorized the accordion for a while... I was writing and arranging music
by the time I was 11... big dance band stuff... I was the drum major of my
high school band, did orchestra and youth bands and of course, rock and
roll bands... (laughs) lots of em’. My folks knew early on they didn’t
have a doctor or lawyer on their hands. They got me this little Sony tape
recorder when I was about 13... and we were immediately off doing ”This is
Chet Hunkley and this is David Stinkly” right off the bat... and some things
never change. In high school I was head over heels into the blues... you
could ask me a question about McKinley Morganfield or Luther “Snake Boy”
Johnson and wham bam boy I got yer answer right here. But I never ever
dreamed of going into radio.
PM: How did that transition come about?
Do you know the old joke... “What do you want to do
when you grow up? Well I want to work in radio! No! No! No! You can’t
grow up AND work in radio.” With that in mind, I was a perfect
PM: You seem to have a reputation for making
something out of thin air... where do you get that?
MS: Well I was blessed with the best parents a kid
could have... boy I ought to get a good Christmas present outta that line
huh? They just celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary... and haven’t
strangled one another yet… well not much. My father was a custom home
builder in Sacramento… built classic California Ranch style homes... and
he did absolutely everything... the design, the blueprints, the carpentry,
the electrical, the plumbing, the painting... he was involved
with every little detail. One day there’d be a vacant lot... and two
months later this gorgeous home. He had created something out of nothing
and I guess it made a big impression on me. Now I’m very project
oriented... sort of like having these little love affairs... then moving
on... it keeps things from getting routine... keeps you growing too.
Dad’s older sister Eleanor was married to a big band
performer named Ray McKinley. Ray was the drummer with the Dorsey’s and
Glenn Miller during the war... anyway Eleanor co-wrote the song “Beat Me
Daddy Eight to the Bar”… the tune is now a standard but at that time went
a long way towards establishing the Andrew Sisters career... so it’s
osmosis again. My sister was always a great singer and pianist... and my
mother was the organizer... so it’s just in the blood I guess.
PM: Other than your parents have you had any
MS: Oh lots of them... I’d always like to sit in the
back... make mental notes... and then pick their brain later. Don Wright
and I have been together almost from the beginning... I was so green when
we met... one time I warned him not to hold an LP too near a bulk eraser
because he might erase it accidentally... well a bulk eraser only erases
magnetic things and certainly not plastic... so I’ve been reminded of that
for about 20 years. I just tell him to shut up or I’m going to erase his
privates. Tom Yates was a big influence on me early on.... I don’t think
he realizes just how big an influence... gave me my first big break. Steve
Marshall certainly taught me how to manage with class. Bob Nelson still
continues to function as a sounding board and advisor... the man wasn’t
with CBS for 40 years for nothing. When I was at Killer Music, Ron Hicklin
taught me a lot about producing... just by letting me watch and ask
questions later... learned by stealth. He was the singer/vocal producer
behind the Monkees and a lot of the bubble gum and pop groups from the
late 60’s and early 70’s. As a human, Ron is a pretty insecure guy... but
in the studio he was a master, and I learned a lot. Al Capps is a soft
spoken genius... I mean a true genius... so I ask and learn... and
generally get in his way. (laughs) I’ve had so many teachers I can’t begin
to tell you. Give while you get... teach while you learn.
PM: What’s the most important thing you’ve
MS: Overall, I’d say patience. Y’know it’ll be soup
when it’s soup. It’s a hard lesson to learn too. Sometimes you just have
to arrive through screwing up... sticking your hand on the hot stove. I
think it was Mark Twain who talked about how much smarter his parents
became when he was between the ages of 18-22. Everything in it’s due time.
I was once trying to help Sac State put together a radio station... but
lo' and behold the kids already knew everything there was... and didn’t
welcome the help... I mean they really thought they knew EVERYTHING! At
first I got irked and indignant... y’know... “Hey you little dopes,
Professor Sheehy is here to enlighten you”... then it occurred to me...
I’d had those lessons... I’d learned from my mistakes in my time... this
was their time and their mistakes to make… so let em’ go. Remember, if
your parents like it... it ain’t rock & roll! Patience …that’s the ticket!
PM: Is there anything you haven’t done that
you’d like to?
MS: Yeow... dream time... well given my knowledge of
music... I’ve always fancied the thought of someday being a music
supervisor for the movies or TV... but it’s a pretty politically charged
position... so I’ve never actually pursued it.
PM: Do you consider yourself an artist?
I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
I guess it depends on what I’m working on. Art doesn’t have to serve a
purpose... craft does. When an artist is singing a tune they can express
themselves pretty freely... but a jingle singer, for example, is told "make
this as soulful as you can... billboard the client name here... gimme that
little thing you do right at this point and don’t forget we need to
every single word." They are two different animals... but it’s not
surprising so many great artists have a background in jingles... it’s
talent combined with discipline. It’s where you can develop a lot of
chops. But to answer your question... I just do what I do and try to make
sure it is real and has soul. Is it art? Well... sometimes
yes and the rest of the time I’d like to
think it’s commercial art.
you ever considered doing anything else?
MS: Well the way I look at it... if this doesn’t work
out, I can always go back to my old job neutering pets door-to-door!