Star-Maker: Interview with Richie Stanley Becker
Richie Stanley Becker is the man with a plan who did not take no for an answer. As clichés as it sounds, one would smile and understand that his story fits the description perfectly. His perseverance led to groundbreaking music, developed new genres, and paved the way for many artists. Not many people in the industry hold the title, “Star-maker” as Richie Becker does.
This is his story:
“It all started at a record shop in New York called “The Colony Record Shop” after the shows closed at night all of the stars would come into the shop. I went to work there because all of the famous people were there. These two songwriters came to the shop. They always liked what I shared with them. One day they came over to me and said, “We like you, we think you’re going to be a success some day.” They recommended me to Johnny Marks. Johnny Marks wrote the songs “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” (To name a few). I sent all of the Disc Jockeys these albums in NYC. When the job was over, he recommended me at 19 y/o to Shapiro & Bernstein Music Publishers. I promoted their songs and scores for motion pictures, many of the songs ended up in films like “Guns of Navarone” (1961) and “Walk on the Wild Side” (1962).
I was sent to go on the road and my first stop was Nashville, Tennessee, the Country Western Capital. While I was in Nashville I contacted a disc jockey named, Noel Ball who was the Dick Clark of Nashville. When he met me, he said, “I am looking for a guy just like you to start a publishing company, you look like a real hustler.” I went to business with Ball while I worked for Shapiro & Bernstein Music Publishers. I felt becoming a partner and working with somebody I could make more money and there were more opportunities than just being a worker. Noel was the head of A&R for the Southern Division of Dot Records. I knew I was getting in business with the right people and took my chances.” Said Richie.
Richie and Noel Ball had two gentlemen; Rick Hall and Tom Stafford come into the office with a record. “We listened to the record and we said, ‘We think this is a hit record.’ We found out everyone in the business turned this record down. Not only did we like the song so much, we loved the artist. The name of the song was, “You Better Move On” and the Artist was Arthur Alexander. Noel Ball got Dot Records to put the record out. Ball got them a royalty deal with Dot Records. I bought half of the publishing from Stafford and bought half of the management for Arthur Alexander. At the time I was still with Shapiro & Bernstein Music Publishers and went on the road to promote my stuff with their stuff. I got the record to play everywhere. When I came back, the general manager of Shapiro & Bernstein Music Publishers came into the office and fired me. Then, I got in touch with Dick Clark and got Arthur Alexander on Band Stand. The record became a huge success and “You Better Move On” was the first hit recorded and started the Muscle Shoals Sound.
During that time I needed someone to handle the foreign publishing rights in Europe for, “You Better Move On.” I was not equipped to do it myself. I took the record and played it for Mike Stewart in NYC who later became the president of United Artists Music. He heard the record and said it was a smash. He sent it to his representative in England who was Noel Rogers. Noel Rogers got the Rolling Stones to cover Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On.” It was their debut EP and was what got them their first record album. It went to #1 in Europe and became a Gold record in America. In the interim, Arthur Alexander recorded another song called, ‘Anna Go to Him.’ It went to #10 in R&B. I needed someone to handle the rights in Europe for me so I went back to my old employees, that fired me (Shapiro & Bernstein) and said, ‘Let bygones be bygones and be friends. I want you to hear this record by Arthur Alexander, “Anna Go to Him” They loved it. I asked for us to be 50/50 partners and they agreed. They gave me an office, this time with a secretary and they sent the record to a man named Cyril Shane. Cyril Shane landed The Beatles on “Anna Go to Him”. It was on their first album, Please, Please Me. “Anna Go to Him,” was the first song they covered on that album. The album went to #1 in the UK. It was on the charts for 30 weeks at #1. Last year, it made the Guinness World Book of Records for being at the top for 30 weeks.
I got a call from my banker that there was a minister and top gospel singer songwriter in Newark who is in financial trouble and might lose his home. I met with Alex Bradford and got the bank to help him keep his home and we became business partners. He wrote a musical with additional music by Micki Grant called, “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.” Vinnette Carroll was a director and through her connections we spoke with Gian-Carlo Menotti who started a festival called, The Festival of Two Worlds. He liked the show so much Menotti got the Italian Government to commission this show in Spoleto, Italy. The show went to Italy and became a huge success. The top music critic of all time, Clive Barnes wrote a terrific review and said the show should come to Broadway. We got ahold of all the big producers on Broadway and they all turned the show down.
A woman named Frankie Hewitt (husband Don Hewitt from 60 Minutes) was the artistic director of the Fords Theater in Washington DC. She said she would like to see the show. She came up to NYC to see segments of the show. She was moved and wanted the show in the Fords Theater. Through her efforts, the show made history because it was the first time she got the board of the Fords Theater to sponsor the show. They had the world premiere there and remained for 7 months at the Fords Theater. Then she put the show on the road — everywhere it went it sold out. We then brought it to Broadway with all unknown people. Dolores Hall won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.
We discovered a girl and opened the show again with Jennifer Holliday. Through my show, she became the star of Dream Girls. After that, we opened the show again with Al Green (Recent 2014 Kennedy Center Honoree) and Patti Labelle. These shows sold out even in 1982 on its third Broadway opening since 1976 at the Alvin Theater (Renamed the Neil Simon Theater). No other musical revival opened on Broadway as many times as it did in such a short period of time. Revivals usually happen every 15-20 years. Due to demand, it just kept coming back. This show made people into stars. Teddy Pendergrass made his stage debut in this show as the preacher in 1996 with Stephanie Mills and BeBe Winans at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia. Teddy made his comeback and they added a song called “Truly Blessed.” That is now the name of his biography. The show was brought back to Newark, NJ with stars like Cissy Houston (Whitney Houston’s Mother) & Melba Moore. Vinnette Carroll and the late Jerry Moore were responsible for casting many of these stars into our show. My story goes on, because as we speak we are in talks of a revival. I have many side projects taking place. I am excited to share my journey with you.