Phone interview conducted October 16, 2012
With the reissue of two great Columbia albums by The Miracles - their last recordings as a group - on SoulMusic Records, David Nathan caught up with Billy Griffin for a chat about those much-underrated projects and what he's been up to in recent times...
David: Over the many years that I wrote for Blues & Soul, I had the opportunity to meet some really great people, some great artists and musicians, songwriters, producers… and I remember meeting this gentleman…. The very first time we met, I actually remember exactly where we were. We were in a publicist’s office on Sunset Boulevard. It was not the actual record company publicist. I have no idea who the publicist was at this point, but it was a publicist that had been hired by this record company to work on this project. Maybe it wasn’t the record company that hired them. It might have been the group themselves. I don’t remember that. We’ll find out in a few minutes. I was sitting there with, I believe, just two members of the group as I recall. I’ll have to go back and look, but I’m pretty much sure. It might have been all of them, but I think it was just two, including this gentleman. We were discussing what was then considered a controversial album that turned out to be this particular group’s best selling album for the record label. I’m about to reveal all in a moment. I’ve got you all wondering who this is going to be - except of course we know that you will have already read the headline, so you’ll know! So, without further adieu, let me say where that was. That was in Los Angeles. It was with The Miracles. It was an interview with Pete Moore and Billy Griffin, who is about to join us, and it was for the album CITY OF ANGELS. That was the first time we actually met.
Billy: I love that story.
David: I remember it very vividly because the album had just come out and it was quite controversial for various reasons. Some of the songs on there provoked a lot of interests for people, the titles, the subject matter and it was a really amazing concept album that really detailed the story of a man who came to Hollywood and all that happened to him when he got there. If I remember correctly, and I have to really go back through my memory banks because that album came out in the 70’s - of course as we know - I think I asked Billy in particular because he was not an Angelino by any means. He was of course the person who came into the group replacing Smokey Robinson. I asked him if any of it was sort of biographical and I don’t remember his response. So, I might have to ask him again now. But, anyway, welcome Mr. Billy Griffin to SoulMusic.com. We’re going to talk of course about the brand new reissues at Soul Music Records of two of The Miracles albums’ on Columbia. But before we get into any of that, just tell me, just for my own amusement, in fact when I asked you that question way back in the 1975 I think? Probably ’75 when the CITY OF ANGELS came out. Were any of the songs sort of biographical?
Billy: Yeah, the whole concept album was biographical. Autobiographical, because I come from a town – I’ve been in England quite a bit. So, let’s say I came from Manchester to London. So, you can imagine the difference in culture between those two places, maybe even during that time period. London is such a big flashy city and Manchester is a blue collar town. It was like that for me, leaving Baltimore, Maryland, which is a port city, but a real blue collar town, with really rigid strict moral way of life. Then you go to this town that’s kind of like ten years into the future of every city in America. Whatever is happening in Los Angeles, it’s like a decade before it’s going to happen anywhere else in the country. So, just getting on the plane, David, to go to Lost Angeles at that time, the stewardesses were wearing hot pants! I’m coming from working at the Baltimore Gas and Electric company in Baltimore as a junior accountant and I’m flying to Hollywood with stewardesses wearing hot pants! I was like, man, what an introduction to a new life.
David: What a really…truly truly truly, what an introduction!
Billy: Then, when we get to Los Angeles - and I’ll let you move on to the next question - but the second thing that struck me was the gay community. As soon as you get off the plane, you see it for the first time coming from a blue collar town where in the 1970’s being gay was kind of squashed or hidden or in the closet. Out there it’s prevalent, in fact they have their own part of Los Angeles called ‘Boys Town.’ It’s just something that hit me as a writer because, like I said I’m an author in addition to being a composer, I said one day, ‘I’m going to write about this.’
David: And you did.
Billy: And I did, yeah.
David: And of course, as we know, that became as I said earlier in the introduction, the most successful album by The Miracles at Motown, and of course contained the massive now classic song, “Love Machine” and then just to continue the story, I know you did a couple more albums for Motown and then we go to the subject, not the entire subject, but our focus for some of our interview today, which is the two albums that The Miracles recorded for Columbia. So, can you set the scene for us a little bit? So, obviously, I read the liner notes [written by Lewis Dene] - because they’re on SoulMusic Records. I know a little bit about the history, but for those who have not yet purchased the SoulMusic Records reissues of LOVE CRAZY and The Miracles’ THE MIRACLES, just set the scene for us a little bit about what motivated you to go to Columbia.
Billy: Well, you kind of set the scene by your introduction to this interview when you said that The Miracles had done an album that was the biggest album on Motown for The Miracles and it is kind of in some circles, some people will tell you that CITY OF ANGELS rivals “What’s Going On?” as far as sales during that time period. Later on after Marvin passed on, of course, stuff just went crazy, but during that time period as far as sales, CITY OF ANGELS was very very competitive and we kind of felt like nothing really changed with our relationship between the record label even after that success. Before CITY OF ANGELS, we kind of felt like step children. We kind of felt like we weren’t being given the attention that some of the other acts were given and we thought, well, ‘we did a number one record.’ After doing major success, it was still the same kind of condescending not participating in our career kind of relationship. After “Love Machine,” we said it’s time to leave here because our contract was up and they weren’t really courting us heavily to re-up the contract, but then Columbia was really like courting us. Of course, with more money and saying, ‘We’re building a new black faction over at Columbia’ and at that time, when we entered, they were [working with] Sony. We had a really good relationship with the Sony people in Japan because we were doing tours to Japan quite a bit. I think it was on the second tour, and we met the Sony family, and they were really really nice to us. So, we said, ‘It’s time to make this move.’
David: Okay and was there any particular person that you were working with at Columbia that was the person really responsible for offering you the deal?
Billy: Yeah, that was Don Ellis - at that time was, I think a VP, and Don kind of like courted us away from Motown, and we had a nice relationship with Don. He was very friendly with us, and I think he knew that probably what would seal the deal was an effort on the executive branch to reach out to The Miracles and say, ‘Hey guys, let’s go and do this thing together.’ So, they gave us that feeling of family even before we got there.
David: So, tell us something. Obviously I know from looking at the credits, as everyone else will do if they haven’t already purchased it will see, you and Pete wrote I think the entire album if I’m correct, LOVE CRAZY. Also, your brother Donald was involved and actually is pictured on the cover of the album. You know he had been with the Miracles as a guitarist I think for a few years before that, correct?
Billy: Right. So, which question do you want to ask me? ?
David: That’s a couple that rolled into one! So, tell us a little bit about what were you and Pete thinking in terms of the kind of material you wanted to write for the first [Columbia] album, and what were the themes that you were thinking about and what did you want to create?
Billy: Well, Pete was trying - I think at that time being that he was ten years older than me - he was trying to keep the reins on me as far as lyrically. Because I wanted to really stretch out. I wanted to do things that people hadn’t written about before. He said, ‘You know, we’re still The Miracles. We still have a reputation. We can be adventurous and be stretched out with the music, but maybe let’s try to corral some of the lyrics,’ but still we did stretch out and do things like “Love to Make Love” and “Spy for Brotherhood” [and “Gossip”] is on that album. And to kind of like give you a feeling of the flavor of that time period, my brother Donald was part of The Miracle Workers, which was the band that used to accompany us. So, when I would introduce the band, introduce The Miracles, when I would introduce Ronnie and Bobby and Pete, of course we would get a very rousing applause for them, but when I would introduce my brother [Donald], the young girls would go crazy, and it was embarrassing. It was really embarrassing. So Pete said, ‘You know what, man? Maybe we need to bring Donald into the group?’ I said, ‘I agree with you. He needs to be a part of the group. We’ll stretch our demographic’ - because Donald was five years younger than me, so he had that young vibe, that Jimi Hendrix vibe. So, we brought him into the group. I remember reading a review saying, ‘The Miracles are trying to be the Isaac Brothers.’ I said, ‘No, it had nothing to do with that.’ We were kind of forced into bringing my brother into the group by the response that he would get on the road. Then, after “Love Machine” too with Donald (and John Barnes, who played keyboard and [who]did such a masterful job on the instrumental part of “Love Machine”), Donald had…. a couple of spots in the show when we would feature him just playing his guitar and we would leave the stage and change clothes. It worked. It worked out that way.
David: There were a couple of songs you mentioned, you referenced in there when we were talking about LOVE CRAZY, but before we talk about that, a couple of the songs. Did you and Pete sit down in a room and just start writing? How did the process of actually creating that album come about?
Billy: Well, we were leaving Motown at that time, as we already referenced, and we owed Motown an album. So, we actually had to sit down and write two albums. THE POWER OF MUSIC and LOVE CRAZY. That were right behind each other. They just came out right behind each other. In fact, Motown just kind of like threw THE POWER OF MUSIC up against the wall and said, ‘if it sticks, it sticks.’ It didn’t really count if it did anything, but still we had to deliver an album. So, I was writing feverishly like night and day to try to have at least thirty six songs to pick twenty-four from. So, we picked the songs for THE POWER OF MUSIC and then we picked the songs that were more ‘love crazy-oriented’ for LOVE CRAZY, like all forms of love that you could have. You have “Love Crazy,” which kind of like tells you what the album’s going to be about, and then you get to “Love to Make Love”, which is very sexual, and then there’s a song called “Too Young” about a guy digging on a young girl. Then you have “Gossip” which is about people not having love for you and the antithesis of it, and then you have “Spy for the Brotherhood”, which is about a love for brotherhood, a love for your fellow man. I think there’s another one on there called “We’ve Got to Find a Better Way to Live”.
David: I’m actually checking while you’re speaking. I want to make sure that all the songs are on there. Actually, I can’t find a song called “Gossip” on there. It’s not on here.
Billy: I think “Gossip” is on the original album. I believe it is. Maybe “Gossip” is on the POWER OF MUSIC.
David: Yeah, but what is on here is “A Better Way to Live’, which you mentioned, of course “Too Young”, which we just talked about, “Spy for Brotherhood” of course, which we talked about that.
Billy: “The Bird Must Fly Away”.
Billy: My brother Donald, he had some really special kind of music that he had been playing all the time at the studio. I said, ‘Donald, what’s this song?’ He said, ‘It’s something I’m doing.’ I said, ‘Well, let me write something ethereal to it because it has that ethereal lifting kind of sound.’ So, I wrote “The Bird Must Fly Away” to it, and it surprisingly, it’s kind of like a cult record. People ask me about it all the time. It’s one song I kind of like, I didn’t forget about it, I just didn’t expect to have [available again]. Oh, and “Women Make the World Go Round”, right?
David: Right, which we also want to talk a little bit about. So, actually, let’s just talk about some of those songs. So, one of the ones that you mentioned - of course I read as I said the notes that Lewis Dene wrote for this – in which he quoted you in saying that the original title of “Too Young” was “Too White”.
Billy: Right. I at that time was dating, or wanted to date, a Teenage Miss America or something. I think we had met, I’m not making this story up, I’m just trying to remember the time period. I think she was a Teenage Miss America and we were staying at this really ritzy hotel somewhere and Pete and I were having dinner. This girl comes in with all this fan fare. They bring her over and introduce her to us, and then she and I kind of like liked each other. I’m like 25, she must have been about 19. We talked about dating, but I think during that time period, her whole little promotion campaign was probably built around her being Miss America, little Miss White America. We kind of figured that this wasn’t going to work. Not at that time. But I wrote the song, and the song was “Too White”, and Pete said, ‘No, no that’s not going to work. So then he said,’ Let’s change it to “Too Young”. ‘ So, we rewrote it to say, ‘ You’re too young for me,’ but if you were to take the word’ young’ out and put the word ‘white’ in and then have me singing the song, then you would hear the original song.
David: I gotcha. And then you mentioned, of course, “Spy for Brotherhood”, which again we know did cause some controversy, but can you explain to me why was the FBI - I know you reference the FBI in the lyrics - but why would they be so concerned about?
Billy: Because there was talk around that time period, which prompted us to write that song…Martin Luther King was killed in, I believe, 1968?
Billy: And this was around 1976 when we were writing it, which was about eight years later. In the United States, there’s a thing that happens. A lot of stuff that is snuffed out, or pressed down, information you can’t get to, all of a sudden, as the years go on a lot of stuff comes out. Around that time period, there were talking about that J. Edgar Hoover was following Martin Luther King and trying to come up with some dirt on him to discredit him and try and make him appear not as he was, but as a philandering liar. So, I wrote the song. I wrote “Spy for Brotherhood” because said, ‘Okay, what would it be like if you traveled around and you knew that really that people who were supposed to be protecting you as an America were trying to discredit you? So, is it you or is it what you are about?’ It’s what you are about, which is to make life better for everybody or to build a relationship between races, and try to snuff that because then it makes black people somehow equal. So, that’s what happened. So, what happened was since the lyrics talked about the CIA and the FBI, the top radio stations had a problem playing it. You have to remember, this is not 2012, this is 1976. So, they had a problem playing it. They said, well, we can bleep them. At that time period, nobody had to bleep records. This was later on when they started bleeping records. They just wanted to bleep too much. I think that Don [Ellis] said, ‘Why don’t we just pull the record back and put out something else,’ which was I think at that time, “Women Make the World Go Round”. Unfortunately, when your first record jumps out there and has a problem, then you have a problem even with the second record, trying to get regular play.
David: Although it’s interesting, Billy, of course you know thanks to YouTube you can see a lot of stuff that we may have forgotten. There’s actually a clip, a Soul Train clip on YouTube of Don Cornelius playing “Spy for Brotherhood” and the dance line doing the dance to it! So, it obviously got a little bit, it got some exposure. Probably, that was about all thanks to Soul Train, and you guys weren’t on it. They were just playing it as you know on Soul Train they had a point where they had the dance line and they’d play something and they chose “Spy for Brotherhood”.
Billy: Isn’t that a telling thing? That’s a very telling thing you just said because The Miracles performed on Soul Train from the time I hit the group, whether it was all the Motown stuff, and then when it comes up to “Spy for Brotherhood”, the only reference to this tune is the kids dancing to it as opposed to us on the show singing the song!
David: So, that confirms, pretty much what you’re saying is how that all went down as they say. Then, of course, so LOVE CRAZY comes out, the album comes out, we now know what happened in terms of the response to it, which was obviously somewhat muted because of people’s reluctance to play “Spy for Brotherhood”. It’s time to do a second album, and what happened?
Billy: Well, we did the second album, but before we did the second album, the guys who we had usually been working with, John Barnes and James Gadson and Freddie Perren, were no longer part of the troupe anymore. So, we had to go build a new troupe. So, we met this young kid named David Foster and David Foster had been in a group called New Birth, I think.
David: He was in a group called Skylark.
Billy: Skylark, and they had a great record.
David: Actually, the connection, just as a point of information…is the song. Actually, Skylark did the song “Wildflower” first and then New Birth did it, so you weren’t far off! So they were connected by a song.
Billy: So, we met David and I sat down, just like I would do with everybody else, I had my guitar and I just started playing a song and then David arranged the songs, but it was like a new relationship. Before, we had our team that we had had for ten years. It was a new relationship and I can say that CBS did not want us to release the record. They wanted us to go back and do some more songs for the record. At this time, Pete had become the producer and I think it had to do with a contract of some sort. Something where they wanted Pete to do something different. I really can’t remember what the problem was. So, the album sat and was not released in America at all. It never was released in America. I think they released it in certain European regions.
David: Actually, it was only released in the Netherlands.
Billy: Right. So, that makes that like a collector’s item. The one tune we did for that album was a tune called “Sad Rain”. What happened was, my whole life, I’ve always lived in the city, and the city makes me a better writer, I feel. I had moved out into the country and bought like a ranch. The first week I moved there, it rained every day and there was mud, horses running around, and it was just like a very sad time period. I told people, ‘I’m going to write a song about it.’ I wrote “Sad Rain”, but the focus was really just the scene that I was missing. I just kind of like turned it into a girl. David [Foster] loved that song.
David: It’s a beautiful song. It’s one of the most, it’s one of the really great highlights of the CD, of the original album and now CD. Of course, one of the things I also noticed when I was working on it is that you did have Stevie Wonder guesting on it.
Billy: Stevie and I, at that time period, were really friendly because we worked in the studio called Crystal Sound. The group War would be there in the morning and then The Miracles would be there in the afternoon, and Stevie would be in there at night. So, Stevie would come and hang out at our sessions while we were cutting. I said, ‘Hey man, I’m writing this song called “Mean Machine” and it would be great, could you play that synclavier on there!’ He said, yeah. So, he turned his synclavier into kind of like a guitar sound, was for you young listeners, it looked like a Rhodes piano, but it sounded like a mixture between a Rhodes and a guitar, a wah wah. So, Stevie played the synclavier to “Mean Machine”.
David: Wow, and Motown even gave permission!
Billy: You know what? I don’t know. I really don’t know.
David: Well, he’s definitely credited on there. So, I don’t remember if it actually says that, but he’s definitely on there and his name’s on there so whatever had to happen, he was on there. But, unfortunately, as you said, the album didn’t get released in America. It’s really interesting when it came to trying to reissue it because I was aware of course of LOVE CRAZY and then I found out about this album. I didn’t even know it existed to be honest with you, and I happened to be doing a search online and I typed in The Miracles on a site called MyDiscogs and this album THE MIRACLES came up and I’m like, ‘What is that? I’ve never heard of it.’ So, I clicked it on and the artwork was there and a list of songs, and I’m like, ‘Well where can we find it?’ I couldn’t find it – we finally found an actual vinyl copy, which we had to buy from The Netherlands because that was the only place it came out. Fortunately, by some strange quirk, I don’t really know how this happened, Sony Music in London - who we had to license it from – they had to get permission from the U.S., but – Sony Music in the UK actually had the tapes in London, which was amazing. So, of course, what we are using are original tapes. So, this isn’t dubbed from vinyl. This is actually original tapes that were used to make the album. So, it really is very - as you said - …. extremely rare. We’ve probably upset a few people because those people who have rare copies might have been trying to sell them now. They won’t be worth quite as much as they were before we reissued it.
Billy: No, because digital recordings straight from tapes has got to be a phenomenal sound.
David: Yeah, and it does. It sounds fantastic, as you’ll hear when you get copies. So, now, let me ask you a couple questions about that and then I want to move into talking about what you’ve been up to in recent times. So, after that happened, after THE MIRACLES album, THE MIRACLES didn’t come out in the U.S. I’m assuming that was the end of The Miracles relationship with CBS…. It wasn’t the end of your relationship with them, but it was certainly the end of The Miracles and really was the last official album by The Miracles, right?
Billy: Right. That’s true. I remember them wanting to do another album with The Miracles, but they wanted to bring in some other producers. They wanted to do, kind of like the “Renaissance” album that we did with Motown. They wanted to bring in a bunch of like Gamble & Huff was supposed to come in and then two or three other producers who were at that time pretty hot, and Pete, I think had worn out because Pete Moore, during our time at Motown, was like our leader and he was our political leader other than just being one of the guys. Our voice to the record company, our voice to the management company, our voice to the agency, and I think he got tired.
So, he called me one night and he says, ‘Hey man,’ because he knew I had a bunch of guys in Baltimore who I grew up with who were great singers, and of course The Miracles had met all these people when they would come to my shows. He said, ‘Man, why don’t you get one of your friends, one of the guys who can really dance, young and handsome, why don’t you get him to take my place in The Miracles?’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah. I’m tired. I don’t think I want to do it anymore. I’m tired.’ I’m thinking like Smokey retired in 1971 as one of The Miracles and this was kind of like seven years later. I said, ‘Okay, this is par for the course because they’re all the same age and so, they’re probably tired.’ So, then it struck me - because I had been writing a lot of new different kinds of stuff - and to be perfectly honest, Pete was kind of like my dad or my older brother in the group and I didn’t enjoy that same kind of relationship with Bobby and Ronnie. I sang with them, they were my compadres, but we just didn’t have that kind of understanding with each other. So, I thought, you know, this may be a good time for me to try and do a solo project in addition to The Miracles.
So, I told them. I called a meeting and I told them, Ronnie and Bobby and our managers Marty Pichinson that I wanted to do a solo project because Pete was leaving and they said, ‘Under no circumstances will you do one.’ Then I said, ‘Okay, well, then I’m going to have to leave.’ I had intended on staying and performing with The Miracles, writing another Miracles album, and then doing what I wanted to do. Which was like “Hold Me Tighter in the Rain” and that kind of stuff, which was different than what they would have wanted to do. So, that marked the end of The Miracles.
David: I gotcha. Alright, well let’s complete that part of our interview by just me asking you one more question. How do you feel about the reissue of these two albums?
Billy: Well, I feel good about everything that I’ve ever done as The Miracles being released. I feel good about it. I want people to have access to it. For one great reason, is because there are movies about our time period that are well produced and people need music. So, “Love Machine” has truly enjoyed a tremendous relationship with the movie industry. It really has. So, anything that I’ve done, I want to be available for other media. Whether it’s TV, or movies, or commercials, I feel good about those two albums being available.
David: Fantastic. Alright, now let’s go to Billy Griffin 2012. That’s a leap forward, but it’s a good leap. So, tell us, what have you been up to in the last couple of years and what are you up to these days? What’s happening in your world?
Billy: Of course, I put out the LIKE WATER album, which has done very well internationally everywhere, and so we’re in the studio right now. I’m doing two albums right now because there’s a thought about doing a new rendition of some songs. There’s some songs I’ve done in my life that I wasn’t ready for vocally that I wanted to do better. So, I’ve talked about doing some songs again and maybe in a different way, and then of course I’m always writing songs all the time. So, we’re dong another CD of new material. We should have that out probably in a year or so.
David: So, obviously you’ve kept active. You haven’t stopped. You’ve kept going, like water. Wow, that was so corny!
Billy: No it wasn’t!
David: It really was actually, yes. So, in terms of performing, do you do much performing or is most of your focus really on recording and writing?
Billy: I love, and I’ve said this to you before, you’ve heard me say this before, I love seeing something come from nothing like the size of a mustard seed to the size of a stadium. I love creating something and I get that rush out of being in the studio and writing songs and producing songs. I did the stuff with [the British pop group] Take That, you know, it was, when I met those kids with [UK producer] Ian Levine, they were models. They were boy models. I’m like saying, ‘This is going to be some work,’ but we pulled it off and I enjoyed that whole thing. So, I’m doing some things right now. There’s some sons of some very famous Motown acts.
David: I’m intrigued, but go on.
Billy: There’s some sons and we’re talking about “The Sons of Motown,”we’re doing a project. We’re talking to some guys right now who are really excited about working with us. When I say us, I mean John Barnes and myself, who produced “Hold Me Tighter in the Rain” and “Serious” and we’re talking to these guys and they’re really excited. I don’t want to drop their names yet, but we’re talking about doing “The Sons of Motown” and that’s one of the projects we’re doing.
David: That sounds like a brilliant idea. I mean really brilliant. I don’t know who they would be. I could sit here and try to figure it out, but I think it would be much more exciting if we wait until it all comes together and we all find out at the same time, but that does sound really interesting. Wow. That’s something to look forward to!
Billy: If we do drop something on it, it would be great for you to talk to these guys. Let’s all get together at the studio. You can come and interview them. They’re really excited. We’re excited, and who knows? It’s the first of its’ kind. It will truly be the first of its kind to do this.
David: Well, fantastic. Well, it sounds to me that you’ve enjoyed, obviously, a really great career in music. I don’t know how you feel about your career, so let me ask you, how do you feel about your career?
Billy: You know, it’s funny, David, because I’m a historian. I love reading about people from the past. I just love it. One thing that I have is an alignment with the music as far as a life is concerned. I can’t ever leave it. I’ve tried to leave it. I’ve tried to do other things, and somehow somebody will call me and bring me back to do something, whether it’s another record of my own or producing Take That or Bad Boys Inc. or The Pasadenas, or I had my own record label in the 90’s as you know. So, my career has been musical. That’s who I am. Whether good or bad, it’s who I am.
David: I gotcha. Wow, you know what? That is the perfect note to end an interview. There’s no other question that can follow from that.
Billy: Sounds good.
David: Billy, I want to thank you, really, thank you for spending time with me today and for the readers and listeners at SoulMusic.com. Thank you for sharing your reminiscences and memories of the two albums that are being reissued, and also keeping us up to date with what you’re up to. It sounds like we’re going to have lots of exciting projects to look forward to from you, both yourself and in producing “The Sons of Motown,” whoever they may be. Okay, well have a wonderful rest of your day and we’ll be looking forward to talking to you when those projects start happening. We’ll have another excuse to catch up.
Billy: Absolutely, David, thank you very much.
David: Okay, take care now, Billy. Thanks, bye bye.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.