Segarini: Kim Fowley Part One – A Hick in Hollywood

Bob at 16

All the world loves an Oddball. The history of Pop Culture is full of creative iconoclasts and nutcases, drama queens and bad boys, deviant dilettantes and dangerous dreamers. Taken at face value, they more often than not get a chuckle and derogatory and sarcastic evaluation from most of us, and then end up affording us the pleasure of unique viewpoints and out-of-step entertainments that not only catch our attention, but alter both the creators and consumers of popular diversions.

On January 15th, 2015, we lost one of the last, great, madmen of music. A boy in a man suit that was such a freak, even Frank Zappa didn’t want him in the Mothers of Invention.

…but he performed on the Freak Out album anyway.

What the Freak wants, the Freak gets.

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Kim 2014

“I learned how to speak at 10 months, read and write at a year and a half, and I was at UCLA when I was 14. I retired when I was 24 years old from having to work. I did everything fast. I didn’t struggle at all in music.” – Kim Fowley

Douglas FowleyFowley was born and bred in Los Angeles, California, and was the son of character actor Douglas Fowley and actress Shelby Payne. He attended the same high school as singers Jan Berry and Dean Torrence (Jan and Dean), Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Johnston (a Beach Boy), as well as actors Ryan O’Neal, James Brolin and Sandra Dee.

In 1957, he became manager and publicist for a local band called The Sleepwalkers which included Johnston, drummer Sandy Nelson and, occasionally, Phil Spector.

He spent some time in the armed forces and, by his own account, also worked in the sex industry in Los Angeles in the late 1950s.

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In 1959, he began working in the music industry in various capacities for both Alan Freed and Berry Gordy.

His first record as a producer was “Charge” by The Renegades, a group comprising Johnston, Nelson, Nik Venet and Richard Podolor.

He also promoted records for the duo Skip & Flip (Clyde Battin and Gary S. Paxton) including the hit, “Cherry Pie

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Kim Fowley young

“Since 1959, when I first entered the industry on February 3rd, the Day the Music Died, I have not been off the charts as a writer, artist, producer, publisher or deal maker. Since that day in the following countries- Australia, New Zealand, Japan, America, England or Germany- something has charted.” – Kim Fowley

The first time I ever heard of (and met) Kim Fowley was at Gary S. Paxton’s studio in Hollywood. It was the end of  the Summer of 1961, and I had just turned 16 years old.

You can ride shotgun, and I’d appreciate it if you chipped in a couple of dollars for gas. You’re in charge of the radio, I’ll do the driving.

Settle back. This is going to take a while….

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Stockton City Limits 99 and 50

L.A. was a 5 or 6 hour drive from Stockton, straight down Highway 99, which cut right through the center of the state, passing through the towns along the way instead of circumnavigating them as we would do years later on the faster but mind-numbingly boring Interstate 5, a freeway laid out flat and straight like a Midwest horizon, Instead of a town or small city with multiple places to stop for food or gas at our fingertips, you then had to exit the freeway and drive miles in one direction or another to find food, gas, or a bathroom.

Giant Orange B

A lot of great diners, drive-ins, and cut-rate gas stations were doomed to fail, and they did, making the drive less fun and more tedious, and when the mom and pop places were replaced with franchises like McDonalds and corporate owned gas stations, the only thing that made the trip manageable was constantly twirling the dial on the radio, finding new music, radio stations and voices to pass the time. Every station was different, playlists didn’t sound all the same, and the formats were just country, R&B, and pop/rock…with most playing a little of each other’s chosen genre. Radio was just incredible, exciting, and every turn of the dial resulted in a new discovery, an old favourite, and cruising along in your very first car, immortal and adventurous, the sounds spitting out of the little dashboard speaker, compressed beyond all sanity, became the single most important thing in my life.

My Car

After I got my car on my 16th birthday, I made the drive to L.A. every chance I got. Almost every weekend during the school year, and more during the Summer. Gas at a cut-rate gas station chain called Terrible Herbst that had outlets scattered along the way, was 19 cents a gallon. smokes were 25 cents a pack, and a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke were under a dollar. Parents weren’t up your ass every 10 minutes, there were no cell phones, and nothing scarier than your own neighborhood weirdo to be afraid of. Kids today have no idea….

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I was determined to get into the music business.

My First Recording SusanI wanted to write and make records, and for 3 years, ever since I started writing my first attempts at joining my heroes on the radio, I had dreamed of being able to go to the centre of the musical universe on the West Coast and make my way in through the door and become a singer and a songwriter with a record wedged somewhere between Marty Robbins and Little Richard in the charts.

I was on a mission.

Cheap motel

I would check into a cheap motel on Sunset (and I mean cheap) with a few phone booths in the lobby instead of phones in the rooms, and armed with a pocket full of dimes, flip open the yellow pages and start calling record companies and recording studios.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing…which is why I had no problem doing it.

I had thick skin even then, and a good thing I did. If I was lucky, the voice at the other end of the phone just laughed before they hung up. That was a lot better than some of the ear melting rebuffs I got.

I was a hick in Hollywood.

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Phone BoothAfter a few hours and several visits from the Motel manager asking me if I needed help dialing the phone or was I just trapped in the booth, I came close to giving up.

I had managed to secure meetings with a couple of tiny labels I had never heard of, but who were willing to hear my songs and talk about my dream of making records, but they were the next day and I wanted to do something NOW.

I gave myself another hour. I had lots of dimes.

Two hours later, down to my last few dimes, I called a studio that wasn’t far from my motel.

A man answered the phone instead of an officious sounding woman who would speak to me like I had just called her while she was having a baby. I had interrupted most of them by calling and disrupting their job which consisted of answering the phone, which I found just as annoying as they found me.

By now, my opening explanation of why I was calling must have sounded like I was reading it off a piece of paper taped to the wall of my cubicle. It was pretty simple and to the point. To the best of my recollection, it was just, “Hi. My name is Bobby Segarini and I’m from Stockton, and I write songs and sing and play a little guitar and piano and I am visiting Los Angeles to meet people who might be interested in signing me so I can make some records.”

“Okay. Come on over.” Came the voice from the phone.

“Excuse me?” He couldn’t possibly have said what I thought he said.

“Come on over. Here’s the address. Ring the bell next to the door. Gotta go.”

I must have sat in the booth for 10 minutes waiting to wake up in my car parked by the side of the highway.

I had forgotten to ask the man’s name, but I could still hear his voice repeating what he had said.

“Come on Over”.

I had just spoken to Gary S. Paxton.

Friday: Part Two. The King of Hollyweird

Kim Fowley Sings the 60s

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Any Questions or comments, please write them in the Comment Section below.

Your Comments Are Welcome

Segarini’s regular columns appear here eventually.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

3 Responses to “Segarini: Kim Fowley Part One – A Hick in Hollywood”

  1. Now I have to wait until Friday for the rest of the story!!! I’m hooked…

  2. Just watched Kim’s interview on the Runaway’s. He’s bored out of his fucking mind while remaining polite….. the questions were inane …. I can’t imagine what was running through his mind…. I love the monosyllabic answers….

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