Jon Tiven - Live in Concert
January 3, 1955 |
New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Jon Tiven (born January 3, 1955, New Haven, Connecticut, United States) is an American composer, guitarist, record producer, and music journalist. He has produced albums by Wilson Pickett, Frank Black and Don Covay as well as a series of tribute albums paying tribute to the songwriting of Don Covay, Arthur Alexander, Otis Blackwell, Curtis Mayfield, and Van Morrison.
He was a founder of the bands The Yankees and The Jon Tiven Group. Tiven began his career as a music journalist in the late 1960s, writing for Rolling Stone, Fusion, Melody Maker, and a host of other magazines. Upon the release of "Almost Famous," Tiven's youthful writing was pilloried by Richard Meltzer in his "Third Spud From the Sun" essay. Initially an alto saxophonist, he taught himself to play a variety of instruments and became fairly adept at guitar, enough to write songs and accompany himself. After a brief flirtation with higher education at Yale University and Sarah Lawrence College (1972–74), he dropped out to pursue his musical career. In 1975 Tiven went to work for Chess Records in New York, but quickly saw that working inside a record company was not his calling, and travelled to Memphis to produce Alex Chilton's first solo album, Bach's Bottom.
Productions and projects
Upon returning to New York, Tiven licensed the Chilton masters as well as other Memphis recordings he had made to Ork Records, the first New Wave/punk rock label. He soon split to produce for Big Sound Records, where he produced records by Van Duren and his own band The Yankees, but losing faith in those running the label he became totally independent. In addition to playing on sessions for artists such as Major Lance ("I've Got A Right To Cry") and The Rolling Stones ("Jivin Sister Fanny"), Tiven honed his craft as a member of The Jim Carroll Band, as a guitarist/organist and also co-writing with Carroll the title song of the second album (Dry Dreams). Befriended by John Belushi, he formed The Tom Davis Experience featuring Al Franken with the two comedians, and had a featured acting role as well as writing five songs for their film One More Saturday Night (Columbia Pictures, 1986) produced by Dan Aykroyd.
Other artists such as Rick Derringer, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, and The Symptoms started recording his songs, and Tiven dedicated himself to primarily writing songs for other artists. In 1985 he renewed a friendship with his hero Don Covay, and they wrote, performed, and recorded together through 2001. A label approached him to make his own record, and so was formed The Jon Tiven Group who recorded two albums, Blue Guru and Yes I Ram in 1996 and 1999 respectively. The band featured Jon Tiven on guitar, Alan Merrill on lead vocals, Todd Snare on drums, and Tiven's wife Sally Tiven on bass. Tiven started having some Billboard Hot 100 chart success with covered songs recorded by Huey Lewis and the News and The Jeff Healey Band, and Tiven then submitted some songs to B.B. King to record. The sessions Tiven produced and wrote by B.B. King were parcelled out on several releases, including Here and There, a European release Lucille & Friends, and the Grammy-award winning box set King of the Blues. From that time on Tiven would distinguish himself in the soul and blues genres, writing and producing new albums by Don Covay, Syl Johnson, Donnie Fritts, Freddie Scott, and Mack Rice, among others. He coaxed Arthur Alexander out of retirement in 1990 and, in 1998, produced and co-wrote Wilson Pickett's first album in seventeen years, It's Harder Now, which won three W.C. Handy Awards and was nominated for a Grammy.
Tiven continued to have his songs recorded by other artists. Robert Cray had a top seller with the cover "24-7 Man," Johnny Winter with "I Smell Smoke," Buddy Guy with "Midnight Train," Shemekia Copeland with "Married To The Blues," Irma Thomas with "Trying To Catch A Cab In The Rain," and Australian Ian Moss with "Mr. Rain."
After the Jon Tiven Group disbanded, Tiven produced and co-wrote a series of albums with soul/blues singer Ellis Hooks. Moving from New York to Nashville in 2002, he produced a series of albums by Frank Black. In 2004 he produced and co-wrote what would become Little Milton's last recorded effort Think Of Me, which was released in 2005 and received four W.C. Handy Awards in 2006 including Song of the Year and Album of the Year. In 2006, he produced Sailover, by P.F. Sloan for Hightone Records, as well as What I Was Running From, the debut album by Indiana singer/songwriter Don Pedigo. He continued to have his songs recorded by soul and blues artists, including Billy Price, Ricky Fante, Gigi Dover, Hard Bargain featuring Arthur Canady, Rock Bottom, and Jim Quick & Coastline.
In 2007 Tiven produced and co-wrote Intuition, the first recordings in thirty-seven years by soul singer Betty Harris. He continued his work with Ellis Hooks by producing Another Saturday Morning, the sixth album by the Alabama soul-blues musician. Tiven also helmed the chart-topping American debut Sofa King Badass by Mason Casey. Touring Europe with a new band Jon Tiven & the Nashville Aces, he introduced his nine-piece outfit backing Ellis, Betty, and Mack Rice. In 2007, Tiven produced an album by former Grass Roots member Creed Bratton (also known as a cast member of the television show The Office).
In 2008, Tiven produced and co-wrote a new album by Howard Tate entitled Blue Day. Tiven also produced a new gospel-tinged album by Garnet Mimms entitled Is Anybody Out There?. He also co-produced/co-wrote a new record with Felix Cavaliere and Steve Cropper for Stax Records called Nudge It Up A Notch, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
Tiven continued songwriting, collaborating with Chuck Mead, Stewart Francke, Billy Price/Fred Chapellier and Syl Johnson for their upcoming releases. Tiven is credited as a writer on over 400 recorded songs.
In 2009, Tiven began creating a string of narrative Soul Operas. His first, entitled "I Sold Out" features the voices of James Jackson Toth, Cowboy Jack Clement, Buddy Miller, Chuck Mead, Bekka Bramlett and Felix Cavaliere. He is currently working on the follow-up, "Skin On The Wheel Of Time," sung by Ellis Hooks, Bekka Bramlett, and James Jackson Toth and featuring songs Tiven wrote with the aforementioned three plus Bob Mosley, Billie Ray Martin, Roger Reale, Charlie Feldman, Keith Reid, Joe Bonamassa, Jimmy Vivino, Wayne Carson, Al Franken, and Thomas Cain.
2010 saw Tiven producing a new blues album by Troy Turner, as well as the cowriter of songs recorded by Shaun Murphy, Guitar Shorty, Alabama Mike, Tara Holloway, Erya Lyytinen, Colin Gilmore, Kirsten Thien. He also embarked on producing new cds by Steve Cropper and the duo of Frank Black and Reid Paley a.k.a. Paley & Francis. In 2011 he performed several concerts with Steve Cropper to promote the album Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales, featuring Bettye LaVette, Dylan Leblanc, Ellis Hooks, Maxine Brown, Ben Drew (Plan B), K Flay, and Theresa & Emily of the band Warpaint.
2012 was a banner year for Jon Tiven, starting with the release of Ruthie Foster's Let It Burn album, which featured the single "Aim For The Heart" written by Tiven, his wife Sally, and Ruthie herself. Tiven formed the group YO MA MA with lyricist Stephen Kalinich, and with the help of rhythm section Cody Dickinson and Sally Tiven, guest guitarists/cowriters Brian May and Steve Cropper, and singer Willie Jones recorded a double album, Shortcuts To Infinity/Symptomology, which they produced with Mark Linett. Tiven also wrote songs with Andreas Werner, Paul Rodgers, and Mary Katherine Rowe.