Bobby Karl Works The Room: “Capitol Nashville During The Jimmy Bowen Years” Party


Chapter 542

Pictured (L-R): Wayne Halper, John Mason, Jimmy Bowen and Bianca Mason.

Pictured (L-R): Wayne Halper, John Mason, Jimmy Bowen and Bianca Mason. Photo: Beth Gwinn

The former staffers of the Capitol Records office of the 1990s gathered to celebrate their boss on Thursday (Oct. 6) at Cabana restaurant in Hillsboro Village.

The party was titled “Capitol Nashville During the Jimmy Bowen Years (1989-1995).” It was a nostalgic look back at what many of the attendees viewed as the most rewarding experience of their careers.

“It was the best of times; it was the frickin’ BEST of times,” said event host Wayne Halper.

“My life here was the best time of my life,” said honoree Bowen about Nashville. While on Music Row, he also headed the offices of Elektra/Asylum, Warner Bros., Universal and MCA. He is credited with upgrading Nashville recording by leading the transition to digital, moving to the CD format, boosting country recording budgets, transferring Nashville labels’ finance operations out of L.A. and New York, empowering artists and mentoring a generation of prominent Nashville music-business figures.

Deana Carter with Jimmy Bowen

Deana Carter with Jimmy Bowen. Photo: Beth Gwinn

Music City Music Council executive director Justine Avila read a proclamation from the Mayor’s Office declaring Oct. 7, 2016 as “Jimmy Bowen Day” in recognition of the honoree producing 67 No. 1 singles, 20 gold albums and 12 platinum albums, plus being responsible for 250 million in record sales.

“Do you believe that stuff she just said?” commented Bowen. “I’m TIRED. You don’t know what you’re accumulating in your life as you go through it.”

Several former employees took the podium to praise him. “Capitol Nashville was the gold standard where artists wanted to be signed and where music professionals wanted to work,” said Halper.

“He got the most and best out of people,” testified Bill Catino. “He taught us to intimidate in a loving and peaceful manner. It was, ‘Believe in the music,’ and that’s how we went at it.”

“I worked with a lot of labels before Bowen, and, believe me, he’s The Man,” said Sam Cerami.

Jimmy Bowen and Bob Bullock

Jimmy Bowen and Bob Bullock. Photo: Beth Gwinn

“His leadership style was one that inspired you to give 120 percent,” added Sherri Halford. “He started promoting women to executive positions in the ‘80s at a time when it was just not done.”

Several artists were there, including Kim Carnes, Mandy Barnett, Curtis Wright (who has a new bluegrass CD), Paulette Carlson, Pinmonkey’s Michael Reynolds (who now works at BMI), Keith Stegall, Eddy Raven and Deana Carter.

“Nobody did as much to influence me as Jimmy Bowen,” said Raven. “He made recording the tiara-and-champagne event that it should be,” added Carter. “Bowen, you never age: You’re like Dick Clark,” she quipped. “Dick Clark is DEAD,” fired back Bowen.

Industry mavens working the room included John Allen, John Lomax III, John Mason, Mark Brown, Terri Brown, Dave Ellingson, Dave Shofner, David & Carolyn Corlew, Jimmy Rector and Jim Beavers, who has co-written nine No. 1 country hits since his Capitol days.

Rob Herndon has also graduated into another career. He is now a successful visual artist. He presented Bowen with a vivid, red & white painting of an abstract guitar.

The room was awash in schmoozing fabulons – Herky Williams, Cindy Wilson, Garry Shierra, Charlie Lico, Hugh Bennett, Stan Moress, Katharine Richardson, Jay Jenson, Lon Helton, Donna Duarte (go Steelers!), Scott Siman, Barry Yarborough, Susan Collier, Aubrey Harwell, event queen Abbe Nameche (go Steelers! go Pirates!), Beth Gwinn, Bob Doyle, Joanna Carter, Janie West, Ronnie Cummings and Betsy Morley.



Photo: Beth Gwinn

The wait staff circulated with trays of chilled beef sandwiches, veggie spring rolls, chicken sliders, red-and-yellow beet cubes on rosemary skewers (how did they do that?), biscuits and other delights.

The honoree, now a cancer survivor living in Phoenix, waxed nostalgic. He recalled producing Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in L.A. and realizing that the rock world would soon swamp that kind of music. His label suggested a meeting with The Grateful Dead.

“It was at the Beverly Hills Hotel,” recalled Bowen. ”We were in a cabana by the pool on a beautiful sunny day. I looked over, and they had a joint the size of a cigar. I’d never smoked dope in my life — I fixed that later — and after I smoked it, I said, ‘Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.’ I went to Nashville.

“When I came here, the major labels didn’t care about Nashville.” He said he encouraged artists to pick and/or write the songs they recorded, suggesting that other Music Row producers hadn’t. This rather overlooks Bill Anderson, Roger Miller, Marty Robbins, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tom T. Hall, The Statler Brothers, Hank Williams, Don Gibson, Mel Tillis, Donna Fargo and many other acts who were self-determined before him. But, whatever…

“I can’t tell you how crazy it is to be here tonight, but I’m so glad I came,” he said of the tribute.

I teased him about wearing his old trademark Greek fisherman’s cap to the event. “I haven’t had it on since 1995,” he replied. “I wore it because I thought they won’t know who I am without it.”

Pictured (L-R): Aubrey Harwell, Jimmy Bowen, Wayne Halper. Photo: Beth Gwinn

Pictured (L-R): Aubrey Harwell, Jimmy Bowen, Wayne Halper. Photo: Beth Gwinn


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