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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Mike Sigman's second 'History of the Music Biz' volume out via 'Hits'

Mike Sigman has followed his book History of the Music Biz—The Mike Sigman Interviews, which Hits Magazine published last year and featured interviews with luminaries along with observations gleaned from Sigman's many years heading the now defunct music trade magazine Record World, with a second volume, History of the Music Biz Two—The Mike Sigman Interviews.

The new book, which is also published through Hits, features interviews with 19 more music business titans—one more than the preceding tome and including Herb Alpert, Tony Bennett, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the late Tommy LiPuma, Russ Solomon, Mike Stoller, Jann Wenner and Walter Yetnikoff.

"For Volume One, I interviewed Berry Gordy, [Elektra Records founder] Jac Holzman, Clive Davis and 15 more record company founders/chiefs from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s--people I had covered when I was editing Record World, and in many cases people who had a connection with my dad or his songs," says Sigman, who is the son of Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Carl Sigman (credits including such standards as "It's All In the Game," "Ebb Tide" and "What Now, My Love") and a former publisher of L.A. Weekly.

"For Volume Two, we expanded the universe to include artists, music publishers, radio people, and retailers. Some interviewees--such as Herb Alpert and Tony Bennett--are music people first and foremost: They grew up singing and playing instruments. Others, like [co-founder with Alpert of A&M Records] Jerry Moss and [one-time Epic Records president] David Glew, knew little about music until they got into the business and then became huge fans. Still others--and I won’t name names--could as easily have been selling shoes. One way or another, all developed a passion for certain artists and certain records and got them to the top of the charts."

Sigman, of course, was essentially born into the music business.

"My parents met at the [fabled Midtown Manhattan home of songwriters and publishers] Brill Building in the 1940s," he says. "My dad was a songwriter who’d had some hits by then, including [Glenn Miller & His Orchestra's much-covered 1940 hit] 'Pennsylvania 6-5000' and 'Crazy He Calls Me' [cut by the likes of Billie Holiday and Linda Ronstadt]. My mom was the inimitable Louis Prima’s 'Gal Friday': She signed his autographs and placed the bets on the horses. My dad was writing songs for Louis, and so they met in the elevator of the Brill Building and got married soon thereafter."

So Sigman was brought up in a New York music business family in the 1950s and ’60s, "where traditionalists like Johnny Mercer, Percy Faith and my dad would battle it out with rock pioneers like Jerry Blaine, Joe Carlton, and Jerry Wexler," he recalls.

"I started at Record World during summers while still in college, then went to work there the day after I graduated in 1971 and quickly became editor by default: Everyone above me on the masthead quit or got fired--and I ran the mag until it folded in ’82. So I covered the interviewees during their heyday."

Sigman's History of the Music Biz books came about after lunching in Los Angeles with Hits editor-in-chief Lenny Beer, whom he'd known since seventh grade and who was the chart editor of Record World during the 1970s.

"It was in September of 2014 on the day the beloved record man David Anderle died," says Sigman. "Everyone was telling their favorite David Anderle stories, and Lenny suggested I interview veteran musicians and music biz figures so they could tell their own stories. Lenny, Hits publisher Dennis Lavinthal and I created a target list and nearly everyone agreed to participate."

Sigman still hopes to get Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and a few others for future History of the Music Biz volumes. Of those he spoke with for the first two, he marvels how Alan and Marilyn Bergman still finish each other’s couplets, and how recording artist/label executive Jimmy Bowen went "from rockabilly teen idol to producing the Rat Pack to presiding over spectacularly successful country labels."

He notes how music business veteran Mel Posner "was thrilled to sweep the floors at Elektra when he started as one of just three employees, the other two being the brilliant Jac Holzman and Jac’s wife Nina." Tower Records' founder Russ Solomon and Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, he says, are mutual admirers and credit each other for their early successes—both having started their businesses in Northern California.

Sigman's "biggest thrill" in writing his new History of the Music Biz installment was answering his home phone and "hearing a universally loved voice boom, 'Mr. Sigman! It’s Tony Bennett!'" He says he laughed out loud when longtime CBS Records chief Walter Yetnikoff, who had "made my day back in the day with a terse 'You didn’t f**k it up!' when Record World published a special issue on CBS, was pleased with his story and emailed me, 'Once again, you didn’t f**k it up!'"

Also inducing a laugh was Joe Smith, whose career included leadership roles at Warner Bros., Elektra, and Capitol.

"He asked me, 'How the f**k did you get all those people with all those huge egos to agree to do this thing?' But what made me cry—in a good way—was when [legendary songwriter] Mike Stoller, one of my musical heroes, asked me to sign a copy for him."

And Sigman remembers laughing and crying when Kal Rudman, whose colorful Friday Morning Quarterback was a pioneering radio industry tip sheet, had a column in Record World.

"My first week as editor, Kal wrote that a certain record made the girls’ 'nooshies' wet. I didn’t know what it meant--or maybe I didn’t want to know--but I let it run and got yelled at by my boss!"

History of the Music Biz Two—The Mike Sigman Interviews is available via Hits' online version of the magazine, Hits Daily Double.



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