Weldon McDougal - Death of a Record Promoter
Last Friday I was driving on the NJ Turnpike, to NYC and I got a phone call from our friend Bob Lott of Black Entertainment & Music Association (BEMA) in Philly that Weldon McDougal had passed away. Bob asked me if I had anything written about Weldon that he could send out to his Philly area mailing list.
Weldon McDougal was a person that I spoke with quite a bit over the years, he would call me up on the phone every 3-4 months and we would talk for hours on the phone. Yet I can't say that I knew him very well at all as a person. At the end of each telephone conversation, he would always say the same thing; "Bob you gotta come over to Philly sometime so I can take you to lunch." I never took him up on the offer, so I never met him in person, even though he probably lived but 20 minutes from my house. I suppose that is my loss....
Of course I knew who Weldon was long before I ever had a telephone conversation with him. He was one of the key record promoters for BOTH Motown and for Philadelphia International, back in the days when the terms "record" and "45" were synonymous in my life.
The term "record promoter" is one of those music industry terms that I had always heard of, but never really understood just what the function was. I had always assumed that somehow this was the "payola guy."
Then I read the 110 page book "the Last Soul Company," which comes with the Malaco Box set of the same name, which documents the history of the Malaco Record label. One of the major characters in the book is a man named Dave Clark. Dave Clark was a record promoter who worked the Southern region of the United States in the 1970's for both Malaco and TK Records. A good portion of the book is devoted to Dave Clark, because he is given much of the credit for the success of the Malaco Record Label.
The book says that Dave Clark had a personal relationship with each and every Black music radio/club dj and Black record store owner in the south. The book said that if Dave Clark liked a record, he could break that record across the south, simply based on these personal relationships.
When Weldon McDougal first started calling me, he told me that he thought that it was important for me to know and understand his historical contributions to Black music at Motown and Philadelphia International.
However after a few of these conversations, I recognized that although providing me with additional historical insight may have been a part of his agenda with me, that there was something far more important involved...
WELDON MCDOUGAL HAD RECORDS THAT HE WAS EXCITED ABOUT, THAT HE WANTED ME TO BECOME EXCITED ABOUT!!!
That's because to the end Weldon was first & foremost a RECORD PROMOTER. Some of the music that he sent to me was very good and some of it wasn't. Nevertheless Weldon was mostly about trying to get me excited about whatever music that he had. Could his offer of lunch have been interpreted as "payola?" Perhaps, but I don't think so. I think that Weldon McDougal was all about establishing personal relationships with people, based on music, no different than the legendary Dave Clark of Malaco/TK Records.
There are still a few "old school style" record promoters around. They call me up on the telephone and I always end up having very long telephone conversations with them. They are usually men, who are 20-30 years older than me. I love having conversations with these folks. They usually know far more about the music business than I do, so I will usually take that as a cue to do far more listening than talking when I am on the phone with them.
THE ART OF RECORD PROMOTION IS A DYING ART, AND MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT, RECORD PROMOTION IS AN "ART."
Most "record promotion," is done these days via SPAM EMAILS (w/large mp3/graphics attachments), SPAM POSTINGS, & PEOPLE WASTING MY TIME ON THE PHONE. Of course the people doing this don't realize just how much damage they are ultimately doing to the career of the artist. Hell most of them don't even like the music they are promoting. (artists beware of who you hire to do things on your behalf!!)
So I am glad that Weldon McDougal thought that I was important enough to call up on the phone and engage in a lengthy conversation on a regular basis. I learned a whole lot from him and not just about Motown & Philadelphia International history, but more importantly about how building lasting relationships with people is far more important in the music business, then even the music itself.
Anyhow, I searched thru my files looking to see if I had ever written anything about Weldon, so that I could pass it along to Bob Lott for his publication. Of course I couldn't find anything that I had ever written about Weldon.
However I did find a review that I did on one of Weldon's projects that I really liked, called; "Various Artists - Philadelphia Soul Rarities: Produced by Weldon McDougal." Check it out and you will see that I was quite excited about this album after listening to it. It was the enthusiasm of Weldon McDougal that initially compelled me to listen to the album and of course after digesting the music, I became just as excited about it as Weldon was. And of course I was then compelled to write the review below.
It is a testament of just how good Weldon McDougal was at doing his job...
If after reading the review you find that you are excited about the album, I have a link posted on CD Baby where you can make a purchase if you like. And making a purchase of this album is something that you should want to do. I understand that his family needs the $$$$ for his burial...
ALBUM REVIEW: Various Artists - Philadelphia Soul Rarities: Produced by Weldon McDougal (Classic Soul)
Are you a person who likes "Classic Soul music?" Of course most of you would answer with a resounding YES to that question. That's because Classic Soul music is one of the most popular musical forms of all time. In today's world the fact that there are radio stations, concerts, websites and even TV commercials devoted to it are a testament to it's ongoing popularity, despite the fact that the true era of Classic Soul came to a painful end about 25 years ago.
However it has been my experience that in reality there are really very few actual fans of Classic Soul music. Many people who claim to be fans of the genre, actually aren't. What they are really fans of are specific songs that either they remember fondly because those songs are a part of the soundtrack of their lives or because they have been told by "experts" that certain hit songs are "core songs" and they are essential to like and/or to own. If you are one of those types of people chances are very good that you will not like this album. You would be far happier owning one of the Classic Soul packages that are sold on late night cable TV infomercials.
"Philadelphia Soul Rarities" doesn't contain any hit songs, even if you are an "expert" you won't recognize any of the songs on this album, simply because most of them have never been released before. In fact when I listened to the album for the first time, the first thought that came to my mind is that it is the complete antithesis of the Gamble & Huff Greatest Hits album that I reviewed a few weeks ago, where every single song was a major hit back in the 1970's and are instantly recognizable today even by people who weren't even born when the songs were initially released.
"Philadelphia Soul Rarities" is a compilation album that contains songs recorded during the same timeframe as the songs from the Gamble and Huff compilation. However they existed in a parallel universe. We never heard them before and therefore they aren't a part of the lexicon of Philadelphia Soul that is so well known to us today. All of the songs here have the same sound and feature some of the same artists from the Gamble & Huff era. I happen to be a fan of "classic soul music". I grew up in that era and I can appreciate that music as an art form that is un-equaled.
Listening to this album for me is kind of like going thru someone's collection of 45's who has a bunch of music that you simply didn't know existed. Or it's like going to another city back in the day and listening to the local Black AM radio station and hearing a bunch of songs that are popular in that city, and you have never heard them before (something that used to occur frequently, because of the regional nature of the music back then).
I am willing listen to these songs with an open mind and allow them to grow on me. That is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to actually write this review. If you are a classic soul lover, then you will like this album. It's got all of the classic Philly International elements; disco, slow jams, great singers, great instrumental backing and a whole lotta fun. These songs aren't a part of the Philadelphia Soul lexicon, however more than a few of them should be. That's really about all I have to say about Philadelphia Soul Rarities: Produced by Weldon McDougal, that's because the album truly does speak for itself. Not only does it have 18 tracks, but in the liner notes all 18 tracks are "reviewed" in detail, which you can in fact read at the CD Baby site for the album. All I can tell you is that if you are truly a "classic soul fan" and you like Philadelphia Soul specifically, then you will enjoy this album.
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