Denny Randell was born in New York City and at an early age exhibited the musical talent that has powered his successful career. He played piano and accordion and had the ability to pick up and play a variety of other instruments, from the bass to the trumpet and trombone, guitar to the drums.
Denny spent his high school years in Silver Spring, MD and during that time played and sang in one of the most popular local bands. Always into music and records, by day he was spending whatever time he could in the school band room and at night he performed at dances and shows. His band was managed by a popular local deejay who also played his tapes on the radio. Still in his teens, he began writing his own songs and was also into arranging, skills that would become an important entrée to his professional career.
In the early ‘60’s Denny wrote, arranged and produced a record on which he was also the artist. The record became a regional hit and caught the ear of New York music publisher Shapiro Bernstein who brought him on board as a staff songwriter. In addition to working on his own songs, he was soon arranging and producing tracks for the company’s other writers and artists.
This led to an introduction to Bob Gaudio of the super-hot Four Seasons by Al Kasha, a production partner of Gaudio’s and an A&R man and record producer for CBS Records, who heard Denny’s songs and musical arrangements. Gaudio asked Denny to arrange and conduct for the Four Seasons’ and introduced him to writer/producer Bob Crewe, the Seasons’ producer.
Denny arranged and conducted a number of sides for the Seasons during this period. These included much of the Rag Doll album, the big band rendition of the TV theme song “On Broadway Tonight” and the group’s hit singles “Big Man In Town” and “Save It For Me”. And he arranged and conducted a last minute live version of Rag Doll when President Johnson’s daughter Lynda Bird asked the Seasons to sing at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City.
Denny’s work with Bob Crewe on these Four Seasons records was also the entrée to the successful songwriting collaboration between Denny and Crewe, both as a twosome, as on the later written “Swearin to God” and other chart songs including the Disco Tex hit “I Wanna Dance Witchoo”, and also with lyricist Sandy Linzer, as on “Let’s Hang On”. Denny and Linzer had also been introduced by Kasha who thought the two might hit it off as collaborators.
Denny’s collaboration with Linzer led to a number of hit songs, including such worldwide classics as “A Lover’s Concerto” and “Workin My Way Back To You” and also such songs as “Opus 17 (Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me)”, the Top 5 follow-up to “Workin”, “Betrayed”, their first Seasons recorded song, and songs recorded by a number of other well-known artists.
As Denny’s own writing and production efforts began to take off, he became less interested in arranging for others and was more focused on his own projects. Since then the musical arrangements he’s done through the years have been primarily for his own songs and productions. He did later arrange the Four Seasons’ hit version of “And That Reminds Me” after Gaudio heard the concept Denny had created on a cut for one of his own groups.
In the late 60’s Denny worked with Don Kirshner at Screen Gems Music and with Epic/CBS Records as a producer/A&R man. While with these companies his songs included the hits “Keep The Ball Rolling” and “Baby Make Your Own Sweet Music” by Jay and the Techniques, the former also hitting the charts by New Orleans jazz trumpeteer Al Hirt, “Breakin Down The Walls of Heartache”, #1 record in the UK, and songs on the Monkees Gold and Platinum albums and TV show.
In ‘69, Denny moved to L.A.
“I had spent time in LA and recorded some sides there with Don And The Goodtimes for Epic and the sounds and vibe felt fresher there to me at that point”.
In the 70’s Denny’s background in jazz and big band were an asset in writing for the dance music of the decade at a time when the hottest Pop records were one and the same with the Dance music of the day. During that time he wrote hits ranging from the camp Disco Tex “I Wanna Dance Wit’Choo” and much of the hot Disco-Tex dance album to the suave solo sound solo of Frankie Valli’s “Swearin To God” and Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker”. On the other end of the musical spectrum Denny’s rock and roll chops also served him well during this period.
Not long after coming to LA, Denny was asked to join the A & R staff of RCA Records where he remained for approximately a year before trading in the corporate experience to return to his own writing, production and publishing activities, which he felt gave him the opportunity to do projects freely with many different labels.
Back on his own, Denny’s scoring abilities led to his work on a “musical adaptation for theatre” of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” starring Teddy Neely in the early 70’s and as the musical director of the stage production at the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles and he was glad to know first hand that the Who were very happy with his score. (Denny was motivated to score the show by his love of the “Tommy” opera.)
Soon after, Frank Zappa asked Denny to handle the A&R and production activities for the “Pop” division (as Frank called it) of his Warner/Discreet Records. Denny did so while continuing with his own projects.
While with Warner/Discreet, Denny produced Tim Buckley’s Billboard charted “Sefronia” album. Denny considered Tim to be a special talent. Frank felt (and Denny concurred) that Tim needed to record a more radio-oriented album instead of the folkish and eclectic direction he had taken on past efforts. Based on Tim’s promise to allow Frank and Denny the room to go in a more commercial direction, Frank agreed to go ahead with the project and was a big fan of the resulting album and what he felt was a positive move for Tim, although many of Tim’s longtime fans were incensed. But Frank and Denny knew it was not in Tim’s interest to continue with the styles of songs and records Tim had been successful with years earlier.
After Buckley, Frank asked Denny to produce the second Mercury Records album for his pet group “Ruben and the Jets” at a time when Frank was leaving for a European tour. Frank had produced the first one. Denny told Frank “it’s always good to do a little doo-wop” and took on the project and produced the “Con Safos” album. (Ruben and his trumpet appeared in the Cheech and Chong classic movie “Up In Smoke”.)
In the mid 70’s Denny brought the Four Seasons to Curb Records where they remained for several decades. The deal at that time allowed Frankie Valli to remain on Private Stock Records as a solo artist while recording with the Four Seasons for Curb.
In ‘74, Denny and Bob Crewe got together to begin writing for some upcoming projects, including Frankie’s next session for Private Stock. It was then that Frankie’s hit “Swearin To God” was written as well as the songs for Disco Tex, a crazed dance DJ played by Johnny Carson Tonight Show favorite Monte Rock. Denny also wrote a number of arrangements for the album.
“We cut the Frankie Valli and Disco Tex music tracks in New York. Once back on the West Coast, we wanted to create the feeling on the Disco Tex album of a live show recorded in front of a stadium-sized crowd. We also wanted it to be like a nonstop mix set with no pauses between the cuts. To do this, after finishing all sweetening and vocals, we lined up all the cuts, rented a drum set and I played a drum groove in-between each of the cuts to connect them together so that the groove never stopped and the dancing never had to. Then Bob put on three or four wild parties in the studio and we recorded it all.”
While recording Frankie and the Disco Tex cuts in the Apple, Denny got into the new musicians, sounds and studios of the NYC dance scene. Once back in LA he took Bob to the studio Zappa had turned him onto a few years earlier where they mixed these ultimately successful records were mixed. After finishing these projects Denny made plans to go back and get into the New York energy.
Denny’s return to his home city was the inspiration for his song “Native New Yorker” The song, a hit in the U.S. and internationally by Odyssey, was part of their successful first album that included a number of his songs. Denny’s involvement from the inception of the project, as head of A&R Mike Berniker told him, was the motivation for RCA to sign the act, even before he had written any of the songs for the project.
Other successes during that period included “You Keep Me Dancin” by Samantha Sang, a song Denny gave her from the Odyssey album after her Bee Gees hit “Emotion”.
Denny was also a writer/producer for the Bee Gees’ artist Terri DeSario.
Although the Bee Gees had already started her project and the single “Nothing’s Gonna Keep Me From You” was already on the charts, they needed to turn their attention to following up their “Saturday Night Fever” album. Denny worked on DeSario’s album project in Muscle Shoals and then at Criterion Studios in Miami. >
“We had the overdub/mixing room at Criterion booked 24 hours a day. The Bee Gees and Carl and Albee would do 12 hours on ‘Eagles Having Flown’ then I’d do 12 on Terri DeSario. Every 12 we’d pass and then crash except one afternoon we all tried to edit down the then current Bee Gees/Terry DeSario single but it wouldn’t cooperate. So we called it and moved on.”
The 80’s came in with the Spinners hit record of “Workin My Way Back To You”.
Over the next few years Denny signed a number of artists and writers to his publishing and production companies and engaged in a variety of new projects for which he was now actively involved in packaging and deal making.
For RSO Records, he wrote dialogue and music for George Lucas’ Star Wars Christmas Album, “Christmas In The Stars” (Story by George Lucas), publishers including George Lucas, Robert Stigwood and Denny.
“One night at the Power Station recording studio during the production of the Star Wars Christmas Album, I, Meco and my company’s then affiliated writer Maury Yeston were on a conference call with George Lucas going over story points. George was concerned with the Wookie’s actions when R2 is under the mistletoe and the Wookie, according to one of the Christmas present making droids, kisses him. George at first felt that this behavior might be out of character for the rather gruff Wookie. We reminded him of how at the beginning of his “Star Wars, Episode 5″ the Wookie weeps for Hans Solo who is feared lost and probably frozen when stranded outside in that planet’s intense cold and snow. George thought about this Wookie behavior in his then current movie, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and concurred that, in fact, the mistletoe kiss was “something the Wookie could be capable of.” “This story point remained in the production, including Wookie sounds, and is heard during the title song by Yeston, ‘Christmas In The Stars’ “.
For Polygram, Denny and Yeston wrote four new songs for the “American Werewolf In London” album to go along with the songs and underscoring from the movie.
During this time Denny also did a number of projects with Clive Davis. The first was the hit album and single “Pop Goes The Movies” by Meco, now signed with Denny’s company. Denny brought the concept to Clive and made the deal. Another was Kenny G’s debut album, the beginning of Kenny’s stellar solo career with Arista, after Denny’s advising Clive to record Kenny G (Kenny Gorelick) then a member of the Alan Lorber band, as a solo artist.
“Coming off ‘Pop Goes The Movies’ I suggested to Clive we look at ideas for a pop-jazz cross over project and asked if I could check out artists that could be good for that idea.Clive thought for only a minute and asked if I would take a look at Kenny Gorelick, sax man in the Kenny Lorber Band [on Arista], and let him know if I thought he could be viable as a solo Artist.”“I jumped on a plane to LA and went to see the Lorber band at a club in Redondo Beach. I felt Kenny Gorelick was an exceptional player with a fresh, jazzy yet commercial quality who when he played his horn commanded the stage and created an electrifying charisma, and was worthy of a solo shot.” “I went back and told this to Clive who was immediately positive about making Kenny Gorelick’s (Kenny G’s) debut album and gave me the go ahead to organize and move ahead with it. I got in touch with Kenny G, Kenny Lorber and their managers, brought in Meco, worked out the deals with everyone and our deal with Arista. We recorded the album in the Santa Monica Mountains. The rest is history.”
Also during this time Denny A&R’d the selection of songs for Richie Havens leading to Richie’s artist deal at Elektra Records and a production deal on his “Connections” album. “Here’s A Song” written by Denny and Richie, is in this album.
And on another Elektra project, with the labels President Bruce Lundval, Bob Crewe and Denny got together again to co-produce a Pop/Symphonic version of John Williams’ “Themes from ET” and several of their own songs by Denny Randell & The Rockophonic Orchestra.
On the theatrical front, Denny and Yeston during this time were involved in the score to the Tommy Tune directed off-Broadway hit show ”Cloud 9” and was a producer of the recordings of the score used in the show.
After the Rockophonic Orchestra and Cloud 9, Denny headed back to LA, and shortly after, served as a sound and mixing consultant on episodes of the “Hart to Hart” TV series.
By now the synthesizer revolution was in full swing. Denny decided it was time to rethink his MO and reorganize. For a writer/producer, doing the work was now beginning to include and (he could see) require having one’s own equipment and some kind of a personal production studio.
While still early in this midi and digital revolution, he realized that staying current meant developing a whole new way of working and big changes in the creative process. He saw that his arranging and playing abilities could be used to great advantage in synth programming, which was now becoming central to contemporary songwriting and production.
“Feeling more introspective, LA seemed like the place I wanted to work out of again, including the chance to cool out and regroup. I was reflecting on new directions for my songwriting and recording and now wanted to find new collaborators, new projects and tap into some new energies”.
Biddy Schippers, a Los Angeles songwriter, and Denny teamed up in the late 80’s after being introduced by a music publisher. They pooled their then modest arsenal of synths, midi and sound equipment of the day and together delved deeper into the electronic bag.
They soon found a direction for their songs and programs that they themselves began to perform and felt a freedom to do music and records they would not have done for other artists. Biddy had never been a recording artist before and was concentrated on her writing. Denny loved her sound and wanted to record her. (Over the years Denny had been with a number of labels, including, Cameo/Parkway, United Artists, TK and Elektra).
The first Randell & Schippers record the two wrote and sang and Denny produced was “Let’s Go For It”. Originally released on their own newly founded record label, Ear Candy Records, the cut got immediate response at New York City dance clubs and mix radio and then across the country. This led to a record deal for them with Scotti Bros/CBS.
DJs from many different formats seemed to take to R & S’s distinct, yet often unclassifiable style and sound (which they themselves describe as a little camp mixed with zany and a little jazz mixed with theatre, pop and R&B). Radio and club play ranged from urban to MOR and “house” to pop.
By 1990, the two, now married, had put together a working studio in their house, from which their self-programmed and engineered creations would then be dumped and mixed at top outside studios.
In 1992 Randell & Schippers released, “Love Jam”, a fourteen-minute dance cut with shorter dance and radio versions included, which became a high charter at dance clubs and mix radio in the U.S. and the UK. (Britain’s “Blues and Soul” mag called it “A masterpiece for the 90’s” and said “at times [the 14 minute version] seemed too short”). Having sold their Ear Candy label to a BMG involved organization, “Love Jam” was released on their new label, Music Avenue Records.
But, with a hot record, a new record deal in the offing and an invitation to perform at the upcoming National Dance Music Convention (a huge annual event at the time with top acts and the most exciting up & coming ones selected to perform), “Love Jam” was to be their last release at that time.
“We appreciated the invite to perform at the ‘92 National Dance Music Convention. But, as we had additional writing and studio projects in progress at that time we didn’t perform there and it was then we made the decision to, unless and until further notice, hang up our recording artist shoes and retire the act with a possible later return in favor of our continuing these other projects. We felt good with how our Randell & Schippers records had been received, but as songwriting is our first love, we also wanted to take on these other projects and artists and new opportunities for our songs”.
Over the next few years and several studio incarnations, the technology exploded at light speed and Denny and his partner kept on the cutting edge of it all with their writing, programming and production activities.
In the mid 90’s new international publishing affiliations were under way. This led to a European tour to visit the various offices of Warner Chappell Music and meet their staffs who were handling a new worldwide administration agreement for Denny Randell’s and Biddy Schippers’ song catalogues and their publishing companies’ other writers.
In 1998 Denny’s song “Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby” from the movie “Can’t Hardly Wait” was a hit by Smash Mouth and in their triple platinum album Astro Lounge. Also at that time, Denny had several international hits with “Working My Way Back To You” by top European group Boyzone and “A Lover’s Concerto” with Kelly Chen throughout Asia.
In the 2000’s the new millennium started off with “Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby” featured in a Tiger Woods “Buick Open” commercial in 2001. And in ’02 “Pass The Courvoisier” Busta Rhymes’ hit single with P. Diddy (from his platinum album on J Records), in which Denny is involved as a writer/publisher, reached # 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Meanwhile, Denny and Biddy were writing new songs and producing new recordings, and with activity happening on both coasts, they set up their East Coast operations in Orlando FL, which included their full in home recording studio.
It was there, among other projects, that they completed and released the ‘Charmed and Dangerous album, by their vocal group Soul Tempo, which got much attention at clubs and radio, including national dance chart action and included new songs of theirs and covers of several of Denny’s earlier songs, including ‘Swearin To God’, which hit the U.S. national dance charts.
And adding to a great opening of the 21st century, in 2005 ‘Jersey Boys’, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, debuts on Broadway with 3 of Denny’s Four Seasons hit songs, “Let’s Hang On”, “Working My Way Back To You” and “Opus 17” (Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me”) in the show. Winner of the 2006 Tony Award for best Broadway show, ‘Jersey Boys’ has gone on to become one of the top musicals of all time.
“The level of success of Jersey Boys was a wonderful surprise to all of us and a great gift for all involved. But on the other hand during the time we were all part of that incredibly creative and happening scene at Bob Crewe’s Genius Inc, including the red hot Four Seasons, it already seemed like a movie, larger than life, and there’s part of me that is not surprised that the music, the story and, with it, the magic of that era have gone on to become all that it is. And for me, as Bob Crewe and I talked about, and he feels the same, you can not put into words what it feels like seeing part of your life coming back to you from the stage, as I do every time we go to see ‘Jersey Boys’.
And after a decade since the release of a recording of their own, they wrote and recorded “Alice In Wonderland”. The single, also the title cut of their iTunes pick hit album, became a national dance and mix radio hit and the music video, released the following year, also became a hit, reaching Top 10 on the Yahoo Video charts, remaining in that position for many months.
In 2008, having returned to the West Coast 2 years earlier, Denny and Biddy took a place in Las Vegas where, while working on several production projects, including their Dance/Mix Radio hit “All The Kings Horses” by their group “Soul Tempo”, they also began putting together a live show.
Soon after, Randell & Schippers were invited to perform their recent ‘Alice In Wonderland’ hit on the 2009 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which they did in a medley along with some of Denny’s prior hit songs. For that live annual telecast, broadcast from the South Point Hotel and Casino, they are backed by some of the top Las Vegas musicians they assembled for the performance.
Also that year Denny and Biddy again hit the national dance charts with their song and production of “Let’s Dance The Night Away” by Denny Randell and The Pop Revolution, featuring Soul Tempo.
And in November 2009 Randell & Schippers debuted their new project and company GI Jams ®. The project and its website GI Jams.com, dedicated to supporting and promoting the original songs and performances of active and veteran members of the U.S. military, opened to much excitement from musical military artists at home and around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan who, upon joining GIJams.com, can post their original songs plus pictures, bio and writings. The site also welcomes supporters who can download the music and communicate with the artists. GI Jams pacts with Rhino (Warner Music Group) and EMI Music have created additional opportunities for its members.
In 2012, working with Las Vegas artists and performers and in recording studios there, Randell and Schippers produced Penn Jillette’s recording of “Clay Aiken By Penn Jillette”, which they wrote with Penn about his appearance that year as a cast member on Celebrity Apprentice. The song’s music video also includes cameo performances by Teller and many of Penn’s fellow cast members.
And later that year, in time for Halloween, Denny and Biddy’s song, production and video “This Time Got It” by The Great Tomsoni and Co. was released. The video, produced and filmed in Las Vegas, also features Randell & Schippers, members of the ‘Jersey Boys’ cast and a cameo appearance by Penn and Teller. It has received much airplay on music video networks and programs around the country and overseas.
Denny’s career continues to ride the wave of technology. His ability to play many instruments and to feel at home with various musical styles has been incorporated into his midi programming and studio engineering. His music and productions have traversed the spectrum from mono recording and echo in the one-time Columbia Records building stairwells to his and Biddy’s current midi and digital state of the art Pro Tools studio
What’s next? No one including Denny knows for sure – but, with new projects underway, stay tuned to the stage, the radio and the web sites. And stay tuned to the Music.