Here’s a little story sent to me by Jim West about three years ago, which I don’t think I’ve shared before…
I just wanted to share a personal story of the kindness of Richard Berry to me. I’m Jim West, lead singer of the harmony trio, The Innocents (“Honest I Do”, “Gee Whiz”, and with Kathy Young, “1000 Stars”, Happy Birthday Blues”). We were a harmony group from the San Fernando Valley signed with a small independent record company- Indigo Records.
As with sooo many of the late 50’s- early sixties young and inexperienced artists we had our share of top 100 charting records but never shared in the profits. Before Indigo went under, they released the other two singers from contract but insisted that I would have to record two more sides before I could get a release to pursue my music.
At that last session (1962) Richard Berry had been hired to play piano and did harmony with me on one side (The Blossoms did background on the other). The record company was really trying to do the recording on the cheap-but when Mr. Berry heard me sing, he came up to me and said quietly, “What in the world are you doing HERE?” and set about to make sure we had enough musical rehearsal time and enough vocal takes to make it sound the best it could. He totally focused in on our effort- it was an inspiration to me and I let go of all the disappointment of the failed record deal and sang my heart out.
I put away that record and hadn’t heard it for 40 years-I recently acquired a turntable and when I listened to those two songs-it brought tears to my eyes. It was a lousy studio, and a poor production, but the harmonies, piano and my earnest and free performance hit me right down to my toes. Richard Berry was a true gentleman and it was an honor to work with him.