Sunday, March 30, 2014

Music Weird interviews Barry De Vorzon about Johnny Burnette's "Dreamin'"

Barry De Vorzon

Barry De Vorzon is one of those guys who did a lot of behind-the-scenes work for other stars but had star talent himself. 

He founded Valiant Records, which was known for the Association and Shelby Flint, among many others. He wrote the hits "Hey Little One" for Glen Campbell and "Just Married" for Marty Robbins, among many others. 

And he had some hits of his own. As Barry and the Tamerlanes, he had a hit with "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight?" in 1963. Under his own name, he had a Top 10 hit with "Nadia's Theme" (from The Young and the Restless) in 1976. 

Today he's the president of MasterWriter, a company that creates software tools for songwriters. 

I talked to De Vorzon about Johnny Burnette's 1960 hit "Dreamin'" when I was working on the liner notes for Hard to Find 45s on CD, Volume 7: More Sixties Classics. That compilation includes "Dreamin'," which De Vorzon wrote. The song was a #11 hit for Burnette in the US and a Top 5 hit in the UK. 

(Incidentally, Barry and the Tamerlanes' "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" is included on a compilation that I recently worked on, Hard to Find Jukebox Classics 1963: Rock, Rhythm & Pop, which will be released on April 15, 2014.) 

Here's my interview with Barry De Vorzen from August 15, 2001.

You have an interesting story about Johnny Burnette's "Dreamin'"?

Yeah. At the time, we [De Vorzon and Billy Sherman] were managing Johnny's brother Dorsey Burnette, and Johnny had been signed by Liberty Records. Snuff Garrett was the producer. And I had written this song, "Dreamin'," and I really liked it, and I was going to to try to place it with an important artist. I was playing it in my office when Johnny walked in, and he had just been signed, so he had never had a release. 

He heard it and he went crazy for it, and he said, "Barry—oh, man! You gotta let me have it! You gotta let me have that song!" 

I didn't want to. He was a new artist, he hadn't had a release yet, and I wanted to run it past some of the more established artists. But I was in an uncomfortable situation because I managed his brother, and it was hard to say, "No, I'm not going to let you have this, because you're nobody." 

So he got so excited, he called Snuffy Garrett and said, "Snuffy, I found a hit! I love it!" and Snuffy said, "Okay, Johnny" and I was trapped. I wasn't real happy about it. They went in to record it and nothing happened, and they had it in the can for about six months.

Then Snuffy called me and my partner up and said, "Barry, listen to this," and he plays me "Cincinatti Fireball." And he said, "If that isn't a hit, I will eat my...hat. Isn't that great?" And I said, "Wow, Snuff, that is terrific." 

He said, "Because you and Bill have been so patient, I'm going to put you on the back of a giant hit."  I said, "Well, gosh, thanks Snuff." 

Obviously, the label was going to go with "Cincinnati Fireball," and he—because we hadn't complained about being in the can for six months—was going to put us on the back of it. And as we walked out my partner said, "What do you think?" and I said, "I think we're on the back of a hit." And of course "Dreamin'" turned right around and was the hit.

[Merv Benton talked about his recording of "Cincinnati Fireball" for the Australian market in this earlier Music Weird post.]

So "Dreamin'" was the B-side but DJs flipped it?

Yeah. I mean, the company was definitely full-out on "Cincinatti Fireball." And at the time, the DJs said, no, man, you guys are wrong, this is the hit. When KFWB made it their pick of the week, I couldn't believe it. I thought, my God, I can't believe they're making "Dreamin'" the pick of the week. And of course it turned out to be a huge hit.

So, Johnny was a great guy and a good friend.

And died too young.

Yeah, he did. And I was just thrilled for both of us that it turned out to be his first big hit. So that was nice, when you can share a hit with friends.

I love your early recordings, by the way. 

My first hit was "Just Married," for Marty Robbins. Number one in the country on the charts. Then I had a kind of regional hit with "Barbara Jean," which I was the artist on. I don't know where "Hey Little One" came in. I recorded for RCA and for Columbia. I said, for RCA, that "Barbara Jean" was a small hit—what they call a regional hit. With Barry & the Tamerlanes I probably had my biggest hit, "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight."

Billboard, Dec. 23, 1957

De Vorzon's "Honey Bunny," from 1958, is my favorite! (Blogger won't let me embed it for some reason, so click on the link to hear it.)

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