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Johnny Cymbal

Johnny Cymbal

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Johnny Cymbal was a Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 born American songwriter, singer, and record producer
Record producer
A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording of an artist's music...

 who had numerous hit  records
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

, including his signature song
Signature song
A signature song is the one song that a popular and well-established singer or band is most closely identified with or best known for, even if they have had success with a variety of songs...

, "Mr. Bass Man".

Overview


During a career that spanned four decades, from the time he was 15 until he died in 1993, Johnny Cymbal made a meaningful impact on popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

 worldwide as a songwriter, singer, performer and record producer
Record producer
A record producer is an individual working within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording of an artist's music...

. During those years, in addition to his rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

 anthem, "Mr. Bass Man", he was responsible for hit records including: "Teenage Heaven", "Cinnamon", "Mary In The Morning", "Rock Me Baby" and "I'm Drinking Canada Dry".

In 1963, with his smash hit "Mr. Bass Man" all over the top of the charts from the United States to Asia, Johnny Cymbal was recognized as a teen star. While continuing to record, he toured the US, Europe and Japan performing as both a solo headlining act and in rock and roll package shows. Later, as a songwriter and record producer, he found success in New York City, Los Angeles, and Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

.

First and foremost, Johnny Cymbal thought of himself as a songwriter; throughout his life he kept diaries of ideas and notes for future use. Though he was an excellent vocalist with a wonderful stage presence, he believed his greatest talent was composing
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

. By 1966, having married and started a family, he no longer wished to be on the road as a performer so he committed himself to songwriting. Thereafter, although he continued to make records as a singer throughout his career, most of those recordings were released with the names of others (such as his brother, Derek) or pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

ic "groups" as the artist.

A prolific composer, Johnny has a catalog of over 200 published songs. During his career he wrote alone and with many partners, including: CMA Hall Of Famer Charlie Black; Austin Roberts
Austin Roberts
Austin Roberts was a South African zoologist. He is best known for his Birds of South Africa, first published in 1940. He also studied the mammalian fauna of the region: his work The mammals of South Africa was published posthumously in 1951...

 of "I.O.U." fame; Mark Sameth; multiple CMA award winner Gene Pistilli; legendary Nashville writer David Malloy
David Malloy
David Ernest Malloy is an American Country Music and Pop songwriter, record producer and A&R executive with 41 Number One Billboard Hits. He has received multiple Grammy nominations, as writer and/or producer, and has worked with many artists and projects including USA for Africa, superstars Tim...

; Bill Holmes
Bill Holmes
William Orser Holmes was a Canadian ice hockey centre who played in the National Hockey League for the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Americans....

, Peggy Clinger; and with Michael Rashkow as his co-writer, he penned the 10,000,000+ seller and BMI Million Performance Award Winner, "Mary In The Morning." With that song, John attained a lifetime ambition - to have one of his compositions recorded by Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

.George Tobin who together with Cymbal wrote and produced Cinnamon his biggest pop production. George Tobin was a staff producer for Musicor Records and he and Cymbal formed a writing and production partnership that lasted for 5 years and included the GenePitney UK hit Somewhere In The Country and all of the California based production during that period.As a staff producer for A&M Records Tobin signed and produced all of his A&M releases.
As a singer, Cymbal had releases on numerous labels, including MGM, Columbia
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

, Musicor
Musicor Records
Musicor Records was a New York City based record label, active during the 1960s and 1970s. The label was founded by songwriter Aaron Schroeder and distributed by United Artists Records...

, Kapp
Kapp Records
Kapp Records was an independent record label started in 1954 by David Kapp, brother of Jack Kapp . David Kapp founded his own label after stints with Decca Records and RCA Victor Records. Kapp licensed its records to London Records for release in the UK.In 1967, David Kapp sold his label to MCA Inc...

, Roulette
Roulette
Roulette is a casino game named after a French diminutive for little wheel. In the game, players may choose to place bets on either a single number or a range of numbers, the colors red or black, or whether the number is odd or even....

, Bang
Bang Records
Bang Records was created by Bert Berns in 1965 together with his partners from Atlantic Records: Ahmet Ertegün, Nesuhi Ertegün and Jerry Wexler...

, Curb
Curb Records
Curb Records is a record label started by Mike Curb originally as Sidewalk Records in 1963...

, and Scepter. His recording pseudonyms included "Brother John", "Derek", "The Eye-Full Tower", "Dallas" and "The Non-Conformists", among many others.
Those who knew him best say Johnny was an extraordinarily intelligent, unpretentious, affable person who had a great sense of humor and a head for business. His friend and writing partner Austin Roberts said, "Johnny was always the fastest wit in the room--taking on and demolishing all comers because, wherever he was, he was definitely the funniest guy on the block."
Cymbal's songs have been recorded by numerous artists: Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

, Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
Glen Travis Campbell is an American country music singer, guitarist, television host and occasional actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as for hosting a variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS television.During his 50 years in show...

, Gene Pitney
Gene Pitney
Eugene Francis Alan Pitney, known as Gene Pitney , was an American singer-songwriter, musician and sound engineer. Through the mid-1960s, he enjoyed success as a recording artist on both sides of the Atlantic and was among the group of early 1960s American acts who continued to enjoy hits after the...

, Al Martino
Al Martino
Al Martino was an American singer and actor. He had his greatest success as a singer between the early 1950s and mid 1970s, being described as "one of the great Italian American pop crooners", and also became well known as an actor, particularly for his role as singer Johnny Fontane in The...

, The Partridge Family
The Partridge Family
The Partridge Family is an American television sitcom about a widowed mother and her five children who embark on a music career. The series originally ran from September 25, 1970 until August 31, 1974, the last new episode airing on March 23, 1974, on the ABC network, as part of a Friday-night lineup...

, Spencer Davis Group
Spencer Davis Group
The Spencer Davis Group was a mid-1960s British beat group from Birmingham, England, formed by Spencer Davis with Steve Winwood and his brother Muff Winwood...

, Frankie Ford
Frankie Ford
Frankie Ford is an American rock and roll and rhythm and blues singer.He is the adopted son of Vincent and Anna Guzzo, who named him Francis Guzzo. He was born in Gretna, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, where he still lives...

, The Flying Burrito Brothers
The Flying Burrito Brothers
The Flying Burrito Brothers was an early country rock band, best known for its influential debut album,The Gilded Palace of Sin . Although the group is most often mentioned in connection with country rock legends Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, the group underwent many personnel changes.-Original...

, Eddy Arnold
Eddy Arnold
Richard Edward Arnold , known professionally as Eddy Arnold, was an American country music singer who performed for six decades. He was a so-called Nashville sound innovator of the late 1950s, and scored 147 songs on the Billboard country music charts, second only to George Jones. He sold more...

, Ed Ames
Ed Ames
Ed Ames is an American popular singer and actor. He is best known for his pop and adult contemporary hits of the 1960s like "When the Snow is on the Roses" and the perennial "My Cup Runneth Over." He was part of a popular 1950s singing group called The Ames Brothers.-Early life:Born in Malden,...

, Adam Wade, Aaron Tippin
Aaron Tippin
Aaron Dupree Tippin is an American country music artist and record producer. Initially a songwriter for Acuff-Rose Music, he gained a recording contract with RCA Records in 1990...

, Mike Curb
Mike Curb
Michael Curb is an American musician, record company executive, NASCAR and IRL race car owner. A Republican, he served as the 42nd Lieutenant Governor of California from 1979-1983 under Democratic Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr...

, Jan and Dean
Jan and Dean
Jan and Dean were a rock and roll duo, popular from the late 1950s through the mid 1960s, consisting of William Jan Berry and Dean Ormsby Torrence...

, Trini Lopez
Trini Lopez
Trini Lopez is an American singer, guitarist and actor.-Career:Lopez was born in Dallas, Texas, on Ashland Street in the Little Mexico neighborhood. He began his entertainment career in Dallas playing at the Vegas Club, a nightclub owned by Jack Ruby...

 and David Cassidy
David Cassidy
David Bruce Cassidy is an American actor, singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is best known for his role as the character of Keith Partridge in the 1970s musical/sitcom The Partridge Family. He was one of pop culture's most celebrated teen idols, enjoying a successful pop career in the 1970s, and...

, among others. He wrote songs for and produced records for the legendary Mae West
Mae West
Mae West was an American actress, playwright, screenwriter and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades....

, and also placed material in movies such as Tender Mercies and the TV shows Catanooga Cats and Barnaby Jones.

In his career and his personal life, Johnny Cymbal encountered both fame and misfortune. He had success as a youngster, but struggled through difficult dry periods between hits. He was married and divorced three times. In the 1970s, he lost his soul-mate and writing/performing partner, Peggy Clinger, to a drug overdose. Shaken by that tragedy, he conquered his own addictions and rediscovered his Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. Starting over, he left the West Coast
West Coast of the United States
West Coast or Pacific Coast are terms for the westernmost coastal states of the United States. The term most often refers to the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Although not part of the contiguous United States, Alaska and Hawaii do border the Pacific Ocean but can't be included in...

 and soon established himself as a writer of consequence in Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

. Then, with ten solid years of creativity in Nashville, he suddenly died just two years before his 50th birthday. With his first wife Carol (known as "Cubby") whom he married in his late teens, he fathered two children: a girl, Kimberly, and a son, John, Jr. He maintained a close relationship with both throughout his life.

The early years


Johnny Cymbal was born in Ochitree, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 on February 3, 1945 and named John Hendry Blair. His mother's maiden name was Jean Hendry. He had an older brother and sister, Andy and Sylvia Blair. People often thought Johnny Cymbal was a stage name, but that was not the case. At a young age, he was adopted by his mother's second husband, Nick (possibly Nikolas) Cymbal, who was a Polish
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 national and a member of the Free Polish Forces stationed in Scotland during World War II. John, who always spoke of Nick as his father, took that surname, and thereafter was known as John Hendry Cymbal. He also had a younger half-brother Derek, and half-sister Helena, issue from the marriage of Jean and Nick.

When Johnny was seven or eight years old, the family moved from Scotland to Goderich, Ontario
Goderich, Ontario
Goderich is a town in the Canadian province of Ontario and is the county seat of Huron County. The town was founded by William "Tiger" Dunlop in 1827. First laid out in 1828, the town is named after Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, who was British prime minister at the time. The town...

, Canada, and later to Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

. Nicky Cymbal was a miner
Miner
A miner is a person whose work or business is to extract ore or minerals from the earth. Mining is one of the most dangerous trades in the world. In some countries miners lack social guarantees and in case of injury may be left to cope without assistance....

 by trade, and at the time both those locales had thriving mining industries. Growing up outside Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 and then Cleveland, during the genesis of rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

, Johnny (who was a fan of, and heavily influenced by, Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

) became fixated on music and quickly taught himself guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

. He began writing his own songs and singing at the age of 13.

While the chronology of his early music business years is problematical, it is said he was discovered by the Cleveland music entrepreneur
Entrepreneur
An entrepreneur is an owner or manager of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative.The term was originally a loanword from French and was first defined by the Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon. Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to...

, Sid Lawrence, who (with the legal consent of John's parents) put Johnny under contract. Lawrence, wanting to promote Johnny's career, brought him to the attention of the well-connected Philadelphia radio personality
Radio personality
A radio personality is a person with an on-air position in radio broadcasting. A radio personality can be someone who introduces and discusses various genres of music, hosts a talk radio show that may take calls from listeners, or someone whose primary responsibility is to give news, weather,...

, Jack Gale. According to Gale, this took place via a phone call from Lawrence telling him about a "fifteen year old who played great guitar, sang terrific and wrote wonderful teenage songs."

Then, as Gale recounts, "... Johnny and Lawrence flew in to Philly" with some of John's tapes. That history may or may not be accurate. According to Johnny, the trip was made on his own initiative (but with his mother's blessing) alone at the age of 14, "...on a Greyhound bus from Cleveland to Philly" where he then waited by himself all night on Gale's doorstep to make sure he would not miss the appointment.

However he got to Jack Gale, it was a valuable journey because Gale quickly negotiated a recording contract for Cymbal with MGM, and in 1960, at the age of 15, Johnny did his first two sessions, in Nashville, singing his own compositions, with Jimmy Vienneau (who had worked with Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty , born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, was an American country music artist. He also had success in early rock and roll, R&B, and pop music. He held the record for the most number one singles of any act with 55 No. 1 Billboard country hits until George Strait broke the record in 2006...

, Donna Fargo
Donna Fargo
Donna Fargo is an American country music singer-songwriter, who is best-known for a series of Top 10 country hits in the 1970s...

 and later Hank Willams, Jr.) producing. The two A-sides were "Always Always" (MGM 12935) and "The Water Was Red" (MGM 12978). After those two releases failed to chart, Johnny's contract option
Option contract
An option contract is defined as "a promise which meets the requirements for the formation of a contract and limits the promisor's power to revoke an offer." Restatement of Contracts § 25 ....

 was not picked up by MGM.

At that time, according to Gale, "... (I) got a release from Lawrence, and with written documents from his parents in Canada ... became both Johnny's manager and legal guardian." It was decided it would be best if John went to live with Jack Gale and his wife, Lovey, in Philadelphia.

Gale was empowered by, and responsible to, the Surrogate Court for handling John's financial affairs and as Gale relates, "had to get approval for every purchase of a shirt or a suit for performances." John himself stated that he also "worked in a shoe store" as a salesman during this time, while he continued writing songs and Gale sought another recording deal.

Gale was able to get Johnny several one-shot releases on various labels and he soon charted with "Bachelor Man", a demo released in 1963 (Vee Jay 495). Shortly thereafter, having had, according to Gale, "contract offers by several labels including RCA
RCA
RCA Corporation, founded as the Radio Corporation of America, was an American electronics company in existence from 1919 to 1986. The RCA trademark is currently owned by the French conglomerate Technicolor SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Technicolor...

 and Columbia
Columbia Records
Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company...

", he chose to place Johnny on Kapp Records
Kapp Records
Kapp Records was an independent record label started in 1954 by David Kapp, brother of Jack Kapp . David Kapp founded his own label after stints with Decca Records and RCA Victor Records. Kapp licensed its records to London Records for release in the UK.In 1967, David Kapp sold his label to MCA Inc...

. Kapp was a hot label at the time, releasing top artists like Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

, Ruby and The Romantics, Jack Jones
Jack Jones (singer)
John Allan "Jack" Jones is an American jazz and pop singer. He was one of the most popular vocalists of the 1960s.-Overview:...

, etc.

Kapp gave Johnny an album deal and put him together with top producer/arranger Alan Lorber
Alan Lorber
Alan Lorber was the leading arranger in the USA in the early 60s having created hits for many of the top artists of the day which amounted to 60 million dollars in sales. He is also a prolific music producer and composer. He was especially active in the 1960s and produced a wide variety of music....

, who had been successful with Neil Sedaka
Neil Sedaka
Neil Sedaka is an American pop/rock singer, pianist, and composer. His career has spanned nearly 55 years, during which time he has sold millions of records as an artist and has written or co-written over 500 songs for himself and other artists, collaborating mostly with lyricists Howard...

. On December 14, 1962, at Mirasound Studios in NYC, John recorded his self-penned, "Mr. Bass Man" (Kapp 503), with Ronnie Bright
Ronnie Bright
Ronnie Bright is an American R&B and doo wop singer of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.-Biography:...

 from The Valentines
The Valentines (doo-wop band)
The Valentines were one of the most highly regarded American Doo Wop groups from the mid 1950s. Their records are highly sought by collectors....

 doing the bass voice. "Mr. Bass Man", released in January 1963, became an instant worldwide smash, going to #16 in the US, #1 in Japan and Argentina, Top 5 in England, and charting in every country where charts existed; it was recorded with French lyrics by Henri Salvador and released in France as "Monsieur Boum Boum"; with different french lyrics, it was released as "Monsieur La Basse" by Gilles Brown in Quebec, Canada. "Mr. Bass Man" is Johnny's signature song—it is a rock and roll anthem and continues to receive radio airplay and sell records after 40 years. John was soon signed by The William Morris Agency
William Morris Agency
WME is the largest talent agency in the world, with offices in Beverly Hills, New York City, Nashville, London, and Miami. WME represents elite artists from all facets of the entertainment industry, including motion pictures, television, music, theatre, publishing, and physical production...

 and began personal appearances throughout the Northeast and then to Europe and Japan after completing his first LP for Kapp. He was 18 years old and had become a teenage idol.

"Dum Dum De Dum" (Kapp 539), the July 1963 follow-up release to "Mr. Bass Man", did not do well, stopping at #77 in Billboard. The next single, "Teenage Heaven" (Kapp 524) made it to #58 in the US (but to #1 in Sweden). Subsequent releases (including "There Goes A Bad Girl" (Kapp 576), written by Bobby Darin
Bobby Darin
Bobby Darin , born Walden Robert Cassotto, was an American singer, actor and musician.Darin performed in a range of music genres, including pop, rock, jazz, folk and country...

) failed to chart. Kapp had Johnny record the title song for the 1964 movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a 1964 Techniscope science fiction film retelling of the classic novel by Daniel Defoe. It was directed by Byron Haskin, produced by Aubrey Schenck and starred Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin and Adam West...

, but it was not included in the film and the released record (Kapp 594) received little attention. The inability to maintain his initial level of success was naturally discouraging to Cymbal, who "...would lock himself in his room for hours", according to Jack Gale.

New York


Soon thereafter, Gale's radio career took him to Cocoa Beach, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 and John returned to live with his parents, who had moved from Cleveland to Chico, California
Chico, California
Chico is the most populous city in Butte County, California, United States. The population was 86,187 at the 2010 census, up from 59,954 at the time of the 2000 census...

, and he began to write again in earnest.

When Gale returned to the Northeast as a deejay at WMEX
WWZN
WWZN is an AM radio station licensed to serve the Boston media market. Its programming is a time-brokered mix between progressive talk radio during the daytime , sports talk and religious programming in the overnight hours...

 in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Cymbal moved back in with the Gale family. Working with John's new material, Gale was able to get John another shot with Kapp. Cymbal cut two sides, "Little Miss Lonely" and "Connie" (released together on Kapp 614), with Jack Gale producing and Bert Keyes as arranger. Gale says, "Kapp did their best to promote the record, but the Beatles had arrived and changed the face of music-—the Kapp deal was over."

This was a tough period for Cymbal and Gale says, "He became more and more withdrawn and hardly spoke. I flew to New York for another try [with Cymbal's material] and ran into Gerry Teifer
Gerry Teifer
Gerald Emmett Teifer was a songwriter, music publisher, recording industry executive, and entertainer.-Biography:He was born in Muskegon, Michigan and moved to Chicago, then in 1956 he moved to New York City....

, who was running April-Blackwood Music and Teifer suggested I call Don Costa
Don Costa
Don Costa was an American pop music arranger and record producer, best known for his work with Frank Sinatra.-Career:...

 who was in New York working with Ed Ames." Costa was considered a major player, a producer/arranger who had worked with Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

, Connie Francis
Connie Francis
Connie Francis is an American pop singer of Italian heritage and the top-charting female vocalist of the 1950s and 1960s. Although her chart success waned in the second half of the 1960s, Francis remained a top concert draw...

 and others, "...so when I called him and mentioned Johnny", remembers Gale, "I was a bit surprised that he said 'yeah, Mr. Bass Man', come on up to my hotel, and with little negotiation offered me a very generous recording and publishing deal for Johnny."

It was 1965 and Costa had his own label, DCP, distributed by United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

. He liked a new song Johnny had written, "Go VW Go" (DCP 1135), and asked Gale to put John back with Alan Lorber and the same crew that had done "Mr. Bass Man." Gale writes, "One month later, the record was [released] and immediately started getting good play and orders from distributors—it was like "Mr. Bass Man" again. Then Murray Deutch, who ran United Artists at the time, called me and gave me the bad news—-UA had a falling out with Costa and they were killing the label and the record. The DCP deal was history and Costa left for California."

John continued as a signed writer to Costa's publishing company for a period of time and Costa produced John on one more record, "Jessica,", a timely Viet Nam era Cymbal composition released on Columbia in 1966 (Columbia 43842), but the record did nothing.

While still with Costa, Cymbal became friends with Michael Rashkow, a recording engineer at Costa's studio and "would-be" songwriter, who coincidentally had recently been signed to the writing staff at Pamco Music, the BMI wing of ABC/Paramount. As soon as the term of Cymbal's contract with Costa was concluded, Rashkow brought Cymbal to ABC and Terry Cashman
Terry Cashman
Terry Cashman is a record producer and singer-songwriter, best known for his 1981 hit, "Talkin' Baseball." While the song is well recognized today, it was all but ignored by typical Top 40 radio during its chart life, making only the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.Cashman was the lead singer...

, who was then the Professional Manager of the music publishing division, put him on staff at ABC (Terry would later produce Jim Croce
Jim Croce
James Joseph "Jim" Croce January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973 was an American singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and 11 singles...

, among many others). This change reinvigorated Cymbal's career.

Within a few months, Cymbal and Rashkow had written "Mary In The Morning", which when recorded by Al Martino
Al Martino
Al Martino was an American singer and actor. He had his greatest success as a singer between the early 1950s and mid 1970s, being described as "one of the great Italian American pop crooners", and also became well known as an actor, particularly for his role as singer Johnny Fontane in The...

 became a substantial hit record and was quickly covered by several top artists and became a semi-standard. It was included on Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
Glen Travis Campbell is an American country music singer, guitarist, television host and occasional actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as for hosting a variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS television.During his 50 years in show...

's double Grammy Award-winning "Gentle On My Mind" LP, which sold over 5,000,000 copies on vinyl and tape and later was covered by Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 and included in his film That's The Way It Is
Elvis: That's the Way it Is
Elvis: That's the Way It Is is a documentary movie directed by Denis Sanders about Elvis Presley that was released on November 11, 1970. The film documents Elvis' Summer Festival in Las Vegas during August 1970...

. The song Rashkow and Cymbal wrote as the follow-up was "Julie On My Mind", but Martino turned this tune down. Subsequently, contractual issues prvented them from writing together. Rashkow began writing and producing with Ellie Greenwich
Ellie Greenwich
Eleanor Louise "Ellie" Greenwich was an American pop music singer, songwriter, and record producer. She wrote or co-wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas ", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep, Mountain High", among many others...

 and Cymbal forged a partnership producing with George Tobin
George Tobin
George Tobin is a record producer who has produced albums for a long list of musical artists including Robert John, Smokey Robinson, Kim Carnes, Kicking Harold, and PC Quest. He is best known, however, for discovering, managing, and producing the teenage singer Tiffany and showcasing her in malls...

 at Musicor while remaining on staff at ABC. During this time Austin Roberts
Austin Roberts
Austin Roberts was a South African zoologist. He is best known for his Birds of South Africa, first published in 1940. He also studied the mammalian fauna of the region: his work The mammals of South Africa was published posthumously in 1951...

 who later wrote the smash "I.O.U. " for Lee Greenwood
Lee Greenwood
Melvin Lee Greenwood is an American country music artist. Active since the early 1980s, he has released more than twenty major-label albums and has charted more than 35 singles on the Billboard country music charts....

 among many other hits was also writing at ABC and Cymbal began a long and fruitful writing and singing partnership with Roberts.

With Tobin, John did some sides in 1968 under the name "Milk" for Buddha (the song "Ochiltree" by Cymbal and Tobin was written about Johnny's birthplace in Scotland), which didn’t fly. But soon after hooking up with Tobin, John co-wrote, co-produced, and was lead vocalist on "Cinnamon", which was released on Bert Bern's BANG label (Bang 558). For the release, John used the alias "Derek
Derek
Derek is a male name derived from the same root as the Old German Theodoric, meaning power of the tribe or ruler of the people. Variants recently revived are Deryk, Deric, Derak, the Dutch form Dirk, popularised by the actor Dirk Bogarde, and the Low German Dirk...

", the name of his younger brother. A band was put together, including James Craig Leitch on bass and Leonard Kovner on guitar, and "Derek" went on the road performing the new hit. "Cinnamon" reached #11, and it being John's third major hit gave him solid credentials and a great many more opportunities. Johnny also recorded as "Derek" for "Back Door Man", the Bang follow-up to "Cinnamon" (Bang 566).

California


During this period in NY Cymbal remained busy writing and producing records for a number of artists, including Gene Pitney
Gene Pitney
Eugene Francis Alan Pitney, known as Gene Pitney , was an American singer-songwriter, musician and sound engineer. Through the mid-1960s, he enjoyed success as a recording artist on both sides of the Atlantic and was among the group of early 1960s American acts who continued to enjoy hits after the...

 and Terri Gibbs
Terri Gibbs
Teresa Fay "Terri" Gibbs is an American country music artist who was born blind. Between 1980 and 1990, she recorded seven studio albums, including four for MCA Records and one for Warner Bros. Records...

 (who had a big country crossover hit with "Somebody's Knockin’"). In early 1969, as the New York recording scene slowed dramatically, Cymbal and Tobin moved their base to California. Initially, Austin Roberts who was a very good singer as well as a writer stayed in New York, but soon after they were settled into the West Coast, he joined them in L.A. With the entrepreneurial Tobin running the business and Johnny and Austin Roberts creating the music, they were making what Roberts describes as "the record of the day"--they'd write a song during the day, then head into the studio to record it that night—with either Cymbal and/or Roberts voicing it. The next day, according to Roberts, "Tobin would go sell it to three different labels." That may be an exaggeration, but they surely made a lot of music recording under names such as "Taurus" on Tower and "Brother John" on A&M.

It's uncertain in which order the following events took place, but in 1969 John acrimoniously ended his partnership with George Tobin, met and fell in love with Catherine (Peggy) Clinger, and became active with the Wes Farrell
Wes Farrell
Wes Farrell was an American musician, songwriter and record producer, who was most active in the 1960s and 1970s...

 Organization and their label, Chelsea Records.

Cymbal and Clinger forged a complete relationship; writing and recording together as well as becoming romantic partners. This was a watershed period for Cymbal. Johnny had a 1973 solo release on Chelsea, "Boulder, Colorado" (Chelsea 158), which garnered attention but did not hit. On his own and with Clinger as co-writer, Johnny had songs recorded by Wes Farrell-produced artists including The Cattanooga Cats and The Partridge Family
The Partridge Family
The Partridge Family is an American television sitcom about a widowed mother and her five children who embark on a music career. The series originally ran from September 25, 1970 until August 31, 1974, the last new episode airing on March 23, 1974, on the ABC network, as part of a Friday-night lineup...

, as well as solo recordings by Partridge lead singer, David Cassidy
David Cassidy
David Bruce Cassidy is an American actor, singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is best known for his role as the character of Keith Partridge in the 1970s musical/sitcom The Partridge Family. He was one of pop culture's most celebrated teen idols, enjoying a successful pop career in the 1970s, and...

.

By 1972, Cymbal and Clinger's writing success led Farrell to produce Cymbal and Clinger on an eponymous LP of their own material using the cream of studio musicians in the Los Angeles area, including: Hal Blaine
Hal Blaine
Hal Blaine is an American drummer and session musician. He is most known for his work with the Wrecking Crew in California. Blaine played on numerous hits by popular groups, including Elvis Presley, John Denver, the Ronettes, Simon & Garfunkel, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, and...

, Tom Scott
Tom Scott (musician)
Tom Scott is an American saxophonist, composer, arranger, conductor and bandleader of the west coast jazz/jazz fusion ensemble The L.A. Express.-Biography:Scott was born in Los Angeles, California...

, Larry Carlton
Larry Carlton
Larry Carlton is an American jazz, smooth jazz, jazz fusion, pop, and rock guitarist and singer. He has divided his recording time between solo recordings and session appearances with various well-known bands...

, Michael Omartian
Michael Omartian
Michael Omartian is an Armenian-American singer-songwriter, keyboardist, and music producer. He has been a participant in over 350,000,000 albums and CD’s sold worldwide, as a producer, arranger, artist or musician, during a career that has spanned over 38 years...

, Joe Osborn
Joe Osborn
Joe Osborn is an American bass guitar virtuoso, notable for his work as a session musician in Los Angeles and Nashville during the period from the 1960s through the 1980s. Osborn's work is widely admired by fellow musicians.Osborn began his career working in local clubs, then played on a hit...

 and the rest of the "A" team players. Singles from that effort failed to chart, and though John and Peggy toured to support the release, including one gig at the Hollywood Bowl opening for Sly and The Family Stone, the LP did little to enhance the career of either Cymbal or Clinger. But David Cassidy's recording of the Clinger/Cymbal song "Rock Me Baby" (featured on the Cymbal & Clinger LP) which failed to make much noise in the US went #1 in the UK and then Top 5 in Australia for another artist, John Farnham
John Farnham
John Peter Farnham, AO, formerly billed as Johnny Farnham , is an English-born Australian pop singer. He was a teen pop idol from 1964 to 1979, and has since forged a career as an adult contemporary singer. His career has mostly been as a solo artist although he briefly replaced Glenn Shorrock as...

.

Subsequently, according to newspaper reports, Peggy Clinger died of a drug overdose at her home in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder, Colorado
Boulder is the county seat and most populous city of Boulder County and the 11th most populous city in the U.S. state of Colorado. Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of...

. Of Clinger, Austin Roberts said, "...she was a beautiful person and she and Johnny were just totally in love with each other." Although Johnny and Peggy had broken up as a couple before her death, his discouragement at their LP's failure and his depression at the news of Clinger's passing sent Cymbal into an emotional and physical decline for several years during which he drifted into the Hollywood drug culture ultimately hitting bottom. Fortunately, he went into rehab, and with the assistance of his former wife, Carol, he rediscovered his Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, obtained professional help, and over the next few years was able to overcome his addictions and make a complete recovery.

By 1978, Cymbal was back on his feet and living again in Cleveland, working outside the business with his former brother-in-law Peter Perri. Seeking a path back into music, Cymbal hooked up with former writing partner Mike Rashkow, who was at the time, an advertising copywriter in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

. The pair got together for writing sessions in both Cleveland and in New Jersey. They quickly wrote a number of songs which Rashkow says, "Are absolutely the best work we had ever done."

They recorded some demos in New York and pitched a Johnny Cymbal solo LP to Mercury Records
Mercury Records
Mercury Records is a record label operating as a standalone company in the UK and as part of the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group in the US; both are subsidiaries of Universal Music Group. There is also a Mercury Records in Australia, which is a local artist and repertoire division of Universal...

 based around the new material. Mercury passed, but the Wes Farrell office in New York picked up one of the songs, "Words and Music." It was immediately cut by Julie Budd for Tom Catalano
Tom Catalano
Tom Catalano is an American producer, most notable for his long-time collaboration with Neil Diamond.-References:...

's Tom Cat label. As Rashkow recalls, "It was a big over-the-top arrangement and production by Herb Bernstein
Herb Bernstein
- Professional Life :Bernstein arranged and produced records for many artists in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. These artists include Laura Nyro, John Denver, Joel Grey, The Four Seasons, Bob Dylan, The Monkees, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, The Happenings, Julie Budd, Lainie Kazan, Frankie Valli,...

, and there was a lot of enthusiasm about the record", but Tom Cat either went out of business or chose not to release the record. Wes Farrell later cut the tune with a girl group for a TV show ??Cattanooga Cats?? and it was released as a single [??on Chelsea??], but went nowhere.

Nashville


Cymbal returned to Cleveland from New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and within a few months moved to Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

. Over the next few years, he established himself as one of a small group of "outside" writers who were accepted by the Nashville music business community and wrote with the cream of the Nashville composing corps. He was first signed as a staff writer at Famous Music, later he was on staff with BMG Music. During the Nashville years, he had many songs recorded by artists such as David Frizzell
David Frizzell
David Frizzell is an American country music singer. He is the younger brother of country music legend Lefty Frizzell. His career first started in the late 1950s, but his biggest success came in the '80s, 30 years into his career....

, Frankie Ford
Frankie Ford
Frankie Ford is an American rock and roll and rhythm and blues singer.He is the adopted son of Vincent and Anna Guzzo, who named him Francis Guzzo. He was born in Gretna, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, where he still lives...

, Tompall and The Glasers, Aaron Tippen, The Shoppe
The Shoppe
The Shoppe was an American country music group from Dallas, Texas, composed of Mark Cathey , Kevin Bailey , Roger Ferguson , Clarke Wilcox , Mike Caldwell , Jack Wilcox , and Lou Chavez ....

 ("Doesn't Anybody Get High On Love Anymore?") and in 1982 he had a solid US hit and a Canadian smash with "I'm Drinking Canada Dry" by The Flying Burrito Brothers (Curb 3023).

In the early 1980s, with these successes under his belt, John and his good friend and writing partner Austin Roberts formed "The Cymbal Roberts Band."

They were quickly signed to a recording and publishing contract by Barry Beckett
Barry Beckett
Barry Edward Beckett was a keyboardist who worked as a session musician with several notable artists on their studio albums...

 who had established Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was formed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,in 1969 when musicians Barry Beckett , Roger Hawkins , Jimmy Johnson and David Hood left FAME Studios to create their own studio...

 and, with his partners, had a reputation for making great records for people like Etta James
Etta James
Etta James is an American blues, soul, rhythm and blues , rock and roll, gospel and jazz singer. In the 1950s and 1960s, she had her biggest success as a blues and R&B singer...

, Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett was an American R&B/Soul singer and songwriter.A major figure in the development of American soul music, Pickett recorded over 50 songs which made the US R&B charts, and frequently crossed over to the US Billboard Hot 100...

, Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Louise Franklin is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Although known for her soul recordings and referred to as The Queen of Soul, Franklin is also adept at jazz, blues, R&B, gospel music, and rock. Rolling Stone magazine ranked her atop its list of The Greatest Singers of All...

, Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Frederic Simon is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.Simon is best known for his success, beginning in 1965, as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, with musical partner Art Garfunkel. Simon wrote most of the pair's songs, including three that reached number one on the US singles...

, Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart
Roderick David "Rod" Stewart, CBE is a British singer-songwriter and musician, born and raised in North London, England and currently residing in Epping. He is of Scottish and English ancestry....

 and Bob Seger
Bob Seger
Robert Clark "Bob" Seger is an American rock and roll singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist.As a locally successful Detroit-area artist, he performed and recorded as Bob Seger and the Last Heard and Bob Seger System throughout the 1960s...

. Beckett had a distribution deal for his MSSS Productions with Capitol Records
Capitol Records
Capitol Records is a major United States based record label, formerly located in Los Angeles, but operating in New York City as part of Capitol Music Group. Its former headquarters building, the Capitol Tower, is a major landmark near the corner of Hollywood and Vine...

and The Cymbal/Roberts Band was among the first artists Beckett chose to record under that logo imprimature.

This opportunity was recognition of Cymbal's talent as a writer and singer and offered the pair the chance to jump start his singing career under the guidance of one of the best producers in the country. They went into the studio with The MSSS team and cut a group of sides which, unfortunately, were never released because Beckett's deal with Capitol fell apart very rapidly. These recordings remain unheard by the public.

What effect this latest disappointment had on Cymbal is not known. Over the next decade his music regularly graced the country music charts. He also placed songs on the movie soundtracks of Tender Mercies (1983) starring Robert Duvall and in the movie Tough Enough (1983) starring Dennis Quaid.

During his years in Nashville, Johnny Cymbal was twice married and twice divorced. He was alone when he died in his sleep of a heart attack on March 16, 1993 at the age of 48. At his wish, he was cremated and his ashes were spread at Lake Radnor in Nashville.

In 2008, a two CD set compilation of previously unreleased material written by
(most were also performed by Johnny) was released by Darn Good Records. It is available on CDBaby as well as numerous other music sites. The first review follows:

External links