By Harvey Sid Fisher
Palm Springs, CA(Hollywood Today)2/23/12/—HAL BLAINE knows. He is 83, alive and active, but has this long time feeling that 2012 is his last year as a tellurian (an inhabitant of earth…you’re welcome).
WHAT’S THAT ABOUT, HAL? DO YOU KEEP A MAYAN CALENDAR IN THE CLOSET? I just thought all these years that 83 was it. People I know have died at 83. WHO? My brother, Ben…and Frank Sinatra.
I could be wrong. I could live to a hundred.
MAKE IT A HUNDRED AND ONE. I DON’T WANT ANYTHING HAPPENING TO YOU TOO SUDDENLY.
When I drove up to his house he was out front to escort me in. As I approached his front door a loud, deep, scary growl of a dog erupted from inside. It sounded like the dog was bigger than my car but upon entering there was no dog. It was an amplifier box by the door that played dog growls. A digital motion sensor with a small byte to give intruders pause and incongruously minimize the chances of Hal’s moribund predilection being correct.
As a drummer it is likely you never heard of Hal Blaine but it is highly unlikely you never heard his drumming. He is the founding lead member of the WRECKING CREW, a group of around 20 highly skilled studio musicians whose nucleus included LEON RUSSELL, TOMMY TEDESCO, and GLEN CAMPBELL. Glen was the only one in the group who could not read music.
Tommy’s son, Denny Tedesco has put together the eponymously titled award winning documentary of the storied Wrecking Crew. Hal has proof of drumming on about 9,600 recordings, many of which were huge hits for the biggest names in music; The Carpenters, The Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas, the Monkees, Don Ho, the Rat Pack, George, as producer, Ringo, as a singer, John as the rock & roll star, Paul,with some overdubs, Phil Spector with his wall of sound productions and just too many more to list here.
A gifted tune detective, Steve Escobar, also a drummer, assists in searching the nooks and crannies down the windowless storage of time to exhume even more evidence of Hal’s forgotten gigs. When all of the rock is rolled over, the number of recordings to come into play should easily exceed the 10,000 mark.
YOU WORKED WITH PHIL SPECTOR SO LET’S GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY.
DO YOU THINK HE WAS GUILTY OF MURDER?
I sat here in my house with the detectives. They grilled me for over three hours. As far as I’m concerned, I wasn’t there. What can I tell you? On the day of the tragedy I was in Petaluma, California, the chicken capitol of the world: recording with Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. And the detectives said, ‘Yeah, but you saw the gunplay.’ I never once in 30 fucking years saw a gun. Never.
SO WHY DID IT TAKE THE THE DETECTIVES 3 HOURS TO QUESTION YOU?
‘Hal, you’re not under any suspicion. We’re just trying to find out why this happened.’ I never heard of this happening before with Phil. There are a million stories that go around. We were doing John Lennon’s recording and there was all this talk about guns. I never saw a gun. Yes, there was a gun fired in the studio. Yes, there was a bullet hole in the ceiling and they had it framed and called it the PS. They claim it was Phil who fired the shot but it was not. I never saw him drinking. He used to bring a bottle of Manischevitz once in a while. That’s all he drank.
DID YOU TESTIFY AT HIS TRIAL?
No. I was standing by several times. Phil used to take me to New York on his cases as a witness because he knew I was clean as a whistle: I don’t drink or do drugs.
All the shit he was going through with Ronnie Spector, his ex-wife. Every time she got married again she sued him again. Crazy. Just crazy.
OTHER STORIES HAL DRUMMED UP:
BUDDY HACKETT was a drunk, a maniac and crazy for golf. He drank all night and then would go play golf. One round, after 20 minutes, he fired his caddie. Funniest guy. A genius. But it was his way or the highway.
FRANKIE LANE was one of the nicest guys in the world. Bad toupee. He was the first guy in Las Vegas to get $25,000 for appearances and his contract stipulated that he was to be paid in silver dollars. And he actually cornered the market on silver dollars. When he finally sold them, each dollar was now worth five dollars.
I worked for WALT DISNEY. He was the cheapest bastard in the world. I did a pilot as an actor. I played with COUNT BASIE at the Waldorf.
I toured with SIMON & GARFUNKLE, recorded with JAN & DEAN in the 60’s, started with TOMMY SANDS in the 50’s, who married Nancy Sinatra. I played on These Boots Are Made For Walkin, and then for FRANK and little FRANKIE and Everybody Loves Somebody, with DEAN. I even recorded with REGIS. I cannot remember everybody. They say the brain is the last thing to go soft.
I had 7 Grammy records of the year, 6 in a row. I had 45 number ones. I had a divorce. I had to sell my house in 1983 for $75,000. Today it sold for 13 million.
BRIAN WILSON used to come to my house and rehearse. Brian was afraid the Beatles would knock him off the charts.
WHAT MADE YOU SUCH A GREAT DRUMMER?
I was a talented drummer and could read music, but also, producers knew that when things got tense at a session my humor would put people on the floor. When you smile, you stay a while. When you pout you are out. I was known for my reputation. A lot of drummers today are known for their tattoos; if they stand in front of a wall they look like wallpaper.
I was married to a Libra who committed suicide. Her daughter was Michelle. I searched for a mother for Michelle, who I adopted. Met a lot of gold diggers who wanted to live in a big house. I had three wives, one was a former Miss Nevada. Michelle might be Tony Curtis’ daughter. She has given birth to eight children: one as a surrogate for a close friend.
YOU ARE RETIRED NOW?
Yes, but there is always something to do; marketing, laundry, enjoying a cigar. George Burns was a friend. Until the day before he died he smoked 30 cigars a day. George Burns, Jack Benny, Milton Berle… I was shocked to hear they all had girlfriends on the side that they were keeping at the Beverly Hills Hotel and paying all their bills.
WHO DIDN’T YOU KNOW?
I worked with a lot of people.
Harvey Sid Fisher