Jimmie Haskell is one of the unsung heroes of The Grass Roots studio recordings. He was a big part of the high quality in the groups recorded sound at Dunhill Records. His experience, attention to detail and professionalism assured that the songs were framed just right with intricate details in instrumentation similar to what George Martin was doing for The Beatles. Just listen closely to the records that he took part in and you can easily hear his signature. A gentle touch of strings here, a brass attack there, all in perfect harmony. He had the ability to listen to the vocals of a song and feel what touches would enhance the singer’s presentation. He had the experience to know just when and how much brass or strings were needed to elevate a song. It never sounded overbearing or contrived. It gave The Grass Roots songs a real touch of class and set them apart from many other groups of the time. It gave the group a definite edge when they competed for air time on the radio and higher chart positions in the highly competitive rock and roll arena. Many fans like the studio recordings by the group the best because of seasoned professionals like Jimmie who assured that The Grass Roots were a cut above the rest.
Haskell is an American composer, arranger, conductor and music producer who began his career working for Imperial Records, where he first came to prominence as Ricky Nelson’s lead producer. Since the early 1960s, Haskell has been considered one of the premier arrangers in the music. His list of collaborators include many of the best known names in pop, rock, and soul music. Along with his outstanding long term work with The Grass Roots, he worked with Simon & Garfunkel, Chicago, Bobby Gentry, Bobby Darin, Jose Feliciano, Steely Dan, Sheryl Crow, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, The Bee Gees, Blondie, Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Foreigner, The Four Tops, Neil Diamond, Fats Domino, The Doobie Brothers, Engelbert Humperdinck, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and Bette Midler. Haskell has contributed to over 100 Gold and Platinum albums
Haskell’s film music career began in 1952, when he was hired to be the TV music director for The Adventures of Ozzy & Harriet one of early television’s most popular shows. He is a four-time Emmy nominee (winning in 1978 for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Special) and is a three-time Grammy winner. Haskell scored 30 films and contributed to dozens of others, including "Pulp Fiction" and "The Color Purple." He wrote for television, working on "Bewitched" and wrote the theme for "The Hollywood Squares."
Some Grass Roots listeners may remember seeing his name on the hit records and albums they grew up with, not really knowing much about the man behind the name. Thanks Jimmie for working behind the scenes helping The Grass Roots to produce hit after hit and leave a musical legacy that all can enjoy.
Memories From Jimmie Haskell 8-30-08
It was always my pleasure to add brass and strings (when called for) to the Grassroots tracks, because the songs and the vocals were already hit quality. I enjoyed meeting the boys of the Grassroots, but I rarely saw them. Steve Barri would call me after the rhythm and vocals were successfully completed. We'd meet at his office at ABC Dunhill. He would play me the record that needed strings and/or brass. I would take it home, study it, hire the players, write the chart and fax my score to my copyist, Dave Ward. (Dave managed to find 2 early rotogravure machines that used thermal paper and I would "fax" my score pages to him using the machine he gave me. That may very well have been the first "faxing" of music). Dave would then copy out my music by handwriting beautiful, easily readable music notes for the individual musicians, and then deliver it to the studio on his motorcycle. One day the session was about to start and all the musicians were sitting and waiting for the music. Steve turned to me and said "If Dave has a problem getting here on his motor bike, we don't have a session, right?", and just then Dave showed up with all the music. (Whew!)
All the sessions were fun to record because we had such great musicians, and the tracks just flowed, (and my charts were pretty good too).
We would frequently play long fades where we would repeat the last 8 or 16 bars over and over, and I would have the players play a little higher on each repeat until they were at the top of their range. One time I realized that it was going to be tough for the trumpets to play that high for a long time, so before the take I told Ollie Mitchell and Tony Terran (Our 2 high note trumpeters) to stop the take when it got to be too long, and we would pickup from where we left off. After all, we were recording to tape!
I turned around at one point in the long fade to look at Steve in the booth and see how we were doing. Steve motioned me to keep going. I turned back to the players and saw that the trumpeters faces were turning red, so I stopped the take to avoid heart attacks in the trumpet section, and I said "why didn't you stop me?", and Ollie answered "we're scuba divers, we could have continued longer!" Well, Steve had his great engineer, Phil Kaye, roll back the tape a bit, and then we punched in and continued the excellent completion of that recording. We had so many excellent sessions that Tony Terran got in the habit of saying after each of the sessions, "Same old boring perfection!" which was his tongue in cheek way of complimenting all the musicians and the producer and engineer.
I want to mention our bass trombone player, Lew McReary. I frequently wrote low "D" below the bass staff for Lew to play loud and hold for 6 bars without taking a breath, because that's what I wanted to hear in the arrangement and Lew always played those perfectly. On one session Lew was unavailable, so I hired another great player, but when it came to those notes he had to take breath after 2 or 3 bars, and I stopped the rehearsal and told him I didn't want to hear a break in that long note, and he responded "that's impossible", and I said "Lew McReary always played it that way", and he then said "Lew is different!"
Last, but not least I'll mention our terrific string section led by our wonderful concertmaster, Sid Sharp. Sid was such a perfectionist that he would correct anyone who played slightly sharp or flat and he would call that person by name. I can assure you that when we recorded the final take, no one was ever sharp or flat.
............Jimmie Haskell (please give my regards to the boys)
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