Cowsill Transcripts

Sunday Soundscape: The Wiz
XM Radio Interview
July 16, 2005
Guest: Jimmy 'The Wiz' Wisner

(Note: I'm only typing in Cowsill related parts.)

60’s Onset – Sunday Soundscape

It’s all about the music

Intro: You know the songs. You just might not know who’s behind ‘em. Songs like The Rain, The Park and Other Things, 1-2-3 by Lynn Berry, Playground In My Mind by David Holmes, I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and The Shondells, Tighter and Tighter, Alive and Kicking, Asia Minor by Kokomo , Sunday Will Never Be The Same , A Mirage, Pada Pada, Love Is Strange, Keep The Ball Rolling, Lazy Girl, The Writer (???), Don’t Throw Your Love Away, Gettin’ Together, I Light The Way. The list goes on and on. Many songs you know from the 60’s all had one person in common, the man Jimmy Wisner. One of the most versatile and consistently successful talents in the music business. Jimmy Wisner, better known as ‘The Wiz’. Jimmy has had well over 100 hit records to his credit, either as a producer, arranger, writer, or an artist. And all of his creative efforts have accounted for over hundreds of millions of songs being sold. Born and raised in Philly as he graduated from Temple University with a degree in psychology. He’s earned 25 gold records, 12 platinum records. Jimmy’s work is represented with the ‘Who’s Who’ of show business, including Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, Tommy James, Carly Simon, Robert Goulet, Barbra Streisand, and the list goes on. Jimmy was also the head of A&R for Columbia Records in New York when Clive Davis was president. As a composer and songwriter, he’s had over 250 of his compositions recorded. He’s a member of ASCAP and a governor on the board of recording academy, the group that awards The Grammys. For television he even composed the theme for ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment. Also the score from The Last Frontier. How about the theme for the Phil Donahue Show. He’s done commercials for Burger King, National Car Rental, AT&T, Clariton and the list goes on again. He was also the producer and musical director for the smash off-Broadway hit, Scrambled Feet (???) Let’s meet him. Jimmy ‘The Wiz’ Wisner.

. . .

Announcer: Let’s talk about some of the other ones you’ve done, arranged The Rain, The Park, and Other Things – Cowsills. Another huge song we play.

Jimmy: Jerry Ross was the producer. I was the arranger. We did it at the 799 7th Ave which used to be the old Columbia Records studio. Artie Kornberg (note: yes he did get Artie’s name wrong) was the producer. He wrote the song with Steve – oh forgive me Steve I’ve forgotten your last name.

Announcer: Well that’s all right Steve ______

Jimmy: What happened. We met The Cowsills. Jerry Ross introduced me to them. We were getting set to do the date and they wanted to play for themselves. They were an intact band. And, of course, wisely Jerry talked ‘em out of playing for themselves in the recording because we had studio players who were really adept at understanding the pop scene particularly in New York at that time. And they were used to the red light in the studio. It didn’t phase them. But you take anybody who doesn’t have a lot of experience in that environment, as soon as that red light comes on they just couldn’t do what they were supposed to do. Not that we, we never tried it with The Cowsills, we just knew that they wouldn’t be as prolific as our guys. It was the right move and the arrangement is a little more complicated than something they might have handled. But I used, I was happy to use a harp. I used harp. I used an oboe, and a flute. You hear the record there’s a couple of interesting things there. I liked to mix the rock sound with some unusual instruments. And kind of one of my trade marks being something different. And it was a very successful record. The Cowsills’ record of The Rain, The Park was a monster. I remember when our country went into Panama and it knocked Noriega out of power. And he ended up at a monastery or someplace being protected by the Catholic monks there. And what our government did to try and get him to come out, they kept playing records, a lot of rock records and one of them was The Cowsills’ record. And I remember Doonesbury did a column on it, where you see Noriega, where he stayed and then had the lyrics, ‘I Love The Flower Girl’ which is part of the lyric of

Announcer: Wonder who requested the song under the name

Jimmy: It made him come out, in other words. It made him come out of hiding. But it’s a great record. The Cowsills worked. Another story about The Cowsills which may be worth relating is that they were supposed to be The Partridge Family.

Announcer: Yeah they were. The Partridge Family came out because of them afterwards.

Jimmy: Well, they wanted them to play themselves in this television show. And the only thing they wanted to do differently. The mother, the mother of the kids was in the group. But they wanted to replace their mother with an actress, because they felt they needed that for the continuity of the television show. And the father was apparently managing them at the time and he didn’t go for that. And it’s a shame that, because they would have been The Cowsills rather than The Partridge Family. I don’t know how that would have worked out. But they were good. They were cute, attractive kids and they were talented. And they are. They are still, some of them are still out there working.

Announcer: Uh huh We saw them at the game. We saw them at Fenway Park.

Jimmy: They are wonderful kids and I loved working with them. And they sang great.

Announcer: We got to do it. The Rain, The Park and Other Things. Let’s play the song that you arranged here. Jimmy ‘The Wiz’ Wisner has done all these productions from the 60’s.

Song: The Rain, The Park and Other Things

Announcer: Cowsills on the 60’s on Six in studio with Jimmy ‘The Wiz’ Wisner who was the arranger on that song and not only that song, but many other ones that you’ve heard.

. . .

We used a guy named Gene Bianco, a famous, I guess I helped make him famous, in the pop world. He’s a quite an accomplished harpist and he’s still very active. Gene Bianco is a terrific player and he’s been on a lot of hits. He as the harp player on The Cowsills’ record and he’s played on Mirage

. . .

Jimmy: Interestingly enough, the one thing I learned early on in the business. I didn’t do every date that was offered to me. I had to like the songs and I had to like the artist. I had to feel there was one song at least that would give me a chance of getting a hit out of it. Because that’s what I do and as good as I am at what I , thank God, at what I do, if you don’t have a good song or a good artist, I can’t make them happen. So I would always exercise some judgment in that and I turned down a lot of dates, but the good part about that is I’ve kept a reputation for a long time. Now 3 or 4 decades of excellence which makes people, when they see my name on a record, they know that it’s going to be a pretty decent record, whether it’s a hit or not.

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