Monday, September 17, 2012

Out of the Chute with James Williams

Back in March, I had the amazing opportunity to connect with James Williams. We hadn’t spoken in over twenty-five years. I first met James as part of the group, James and Michael Younger (they were The Younger Brothers then before legalities forced them to modify their name to James and Michael Younger), at a place called Texas Dance Hall (Baton Rouge LA) in 1982. Their single, Nothing But the Radio On, was climbing the charts. I spent six years following the career of James and his brother Michael, Don Faires, Tommy Kotzur, Keith Medley and Jim McCord before life interfered and we lost touch. Since their two LIVE cassettes are a staple in my truck (and sorely in need of replacing and yes, 25 years later I’m still playing them- that’s quality!)  I never stopped wondering what happened to them. I knew each of them had gone their separate ways. Through periodic internet searches I finally came up with a hit, leading me to this moment.  
Thanks Val for your help. I couldn't have done it without you!

 Over time, I’ll introduce you to everyone and a special group called The Playboys of Edinburg. But today is all about my friend, James Williams.. of Williams Productions and Promotions.

How much time elapsed between 87/88 when James and Michael Younger Disbanded and you moved into what you’re doing now?
We quit the road in 1988 and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought about going back out on the road as a single.” But as chance would have it, something else came along for James Williams. His first promotions gig was with a twins duo from extended family. He worked with them from the beginning. When asked to carry his involvement into promotion, James said ‘well, I guess I could. I could give it a shot. Probably do as good as some other people that we hired to promote us’.” 

“I remember sitting on the bus telling Michael ‘You know if we could find one guy who does what he says he’s gonna do, he’d be worth his weight in gold’. So about ten years ago I decided that I might be doing this for a long time so I’d better get serious about it. So I’m pretty ingrained in what I’m doing and working with a lot of good acts.”

Aside from doing what you say you’ll do, what do you think are some of the similarities in the way you guys were handled and what you offer?
It was easier back then to get a record on the billboard charts. You could have about five stations and have a record on the charts. It’s not as easy now. There’s a whole lot more records that released. There’s not as many independent promoters here in Nashville as you might think. There’s only about 15 or so that are out there all the time. Of course, on the labels, they have their in-house teams and stuff. I work with a lot of independent acts. 

It’s relationships. It’s always been relationships. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of DJs out there and industry people. When I’m working your record we’re going to get you ads. I can’t guarantee #1s but I can guarantee they’re going to get played and they’re going to hit the charts and move up. And however it does is based on whatever it’s compared to at the time. Use to be a record would last 15 weeks. Records are lasting 30 weeks now. They’re getting their money’s worth.

How do you define your artists’ music?
Every artist is different. Some are more contemporary. Some are more traditional. Oriented. Some more rock. It just depends on the age of the artist. Your older artists are going to be more traditional. That’s where there heart is.

Do you think Nashville is sacrificing it’s roots for the numbers?
That’s a good question. We talk about that with DJs every day. Whether they ought to have a contemporary chart and a traditional chart. So many fall in the cracks. It depends on the artist. If enough of those artists would cut that kind of stuff, radio would play it because they’d have to. I think the pendulum swings back and forth. I’ve seen it swing both ways, and you have too, where it’s more contemporary like the Garth Brook Days. How do you define Taylor Swift’s music? It’s not country, it’s not pop. She’s communicating with every girl out there. And they’re playing it on country and they’re playing it on pop. 

If you were to record and tour again, what would you do differently and why?
What would I do differently? You know, I think first and foremost I would have a great business manager and money/ investment in place to take care of you so you can do your craft, do your business, and be an artist instead of trying to make a living. Write and do the best recording you can do and surround yourself with the best musicians you can get and support. Just go out there and try to keep a pulse on what’s happening. You don’t want to be behind but you don’t want to be too far ahead either.

And you don’t want to lose your self-esteem at the same time
Right. Go out there and compete and be relevant to what’s happening in country music. But you have to have your business together. We never had the correct management to get us where we needed to go. That’s crucial. I realize that now in retrospect. Having correct management and investment. Any major artist that’s happening out there nowadays, to start, has had an investor. It’s a business. I try to tell people, you don’t get a KFC franchise just because you’re a good cook. It’s a business and you have to have money to make money. And you have to treat it as a business.

We always did things, the right things,  as far as treating radio good and being accessible and trying to be a good show. But that’s not all of it.

Do you miss touring and performing?
Every once in awhile… probably 10 years ago or so, I felt like it would be fun to do it again. But as time goes on you realize the sacrifice… when the sacrifice is greater than the reward it’s time stop.

After the James and Michael thing, did you think about going back to Texas? 
It’s a strange thing. Ever since I moved here, I’ve never felt like it was permanent. Now all of my kids are here. All of my (immediate) family is here – five kids and five grandkids. I have a brother and sister still in TX around San Antonio. So that’s my only connection to Texas now. I’d like to go back to visit. But I don’t think I’ll ever move back.

NOTE:I want to thank James for an unforgettable afternoon. For me, our visit was more about reconnecting than the questions I asked. This post is a small part of our long conversation. I covered a lot of material that day and will be sharing it over a period of time. Today was all about James Williams – the Promoter. Please check out his website. He represents some talented people in the business. If you’re looking for someone who will do right by you in this business, give him a call. 

Aside from his promotional work, James still keeps in touch with the roots of his music, the band that started it all … The Playboys of Edinburg. That article is for another time. However, I do want to give you a sneak peak at an awesome YouTube video compiled from a reunion concert in South Padre Island, TX on June 23, 2012 . The original members of The Playboys of Edinburg got together with approximately 300 of their family and friends for an unforgettable bash marking nearly fifty years of music.

Country Blessings!

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