Margo Guryan

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Margo Guryan
Birth name Margo Guryan
Also known as Margo Guryan Brookmeyer
Margo Guryan Rosner
Born (1937-09-30) September 30, 1937 (age 76)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Origin Far Rockaway, New York, U.S.
Genres Baroque pop, sunshine pop, jazz
Occupations singer, songwriter, composer, lyricist, arranger
Instruments voice, piano
Labels Bell, Oglio

Margo Guryan (born September 30, 1937) is an American songwriter, singer, musician and lyricist. As a songwriter, her work was first recorded in 1958, although it was for her 1960s song "Sunday Mornin'", a hit for both Spanky and Our Gang and Oliver, that she is perhaps best known. Her songs have also been recorded by Cass Elliot, Glen Campbell and Astrud Gilberto, among others.

As a performer, she is best known for her 1968 album Take a Picture, the sole album release in the initial phase of her career. The album was re-released in 2000, and followed by a compilation entitled 25 Demos (2001). In 2014 the American record label Burger Records released another compilation named 27 Demos on cassette.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Margo Guryan grew up in the suburbs of New York City. Her parents met at Cornell University, where her mother majored in piano, and her father, also a keen pianist, in liberal arts.[1] Guryan wrote poems from an early age, and moved on to writing songs soon after being introduced to the piano in childhood.[2] Initially interested in the popular music of the time, as well as the classical music she was studying, Guryan became interested in jazz at college.[3] She studied classical and jazz piano at Boston University, idolizing musicians such as Max Roach and Bill Evans, and switched from piano to composition in her sophomore year in order to avoid performing.[4]

While still in high school, Guryan was sent to Frank Loesser's Frank Music, whose Herb Eiseman sent her on to Atlantic Records, where she performed her songs for Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, who signed her up to song contracts, and had a demo session with Tom Dowd.[1][5] She was signed by Atlantic, initially as a performer, but her initial attempts at recording were not successful, due in part to her inexperience and in part to a range break in her voice[1] (as Guryan stated, "I couldn't damn sing!"[6]). The label instead retained her as a writer.[3]

Jazz singer Chris Connor recorded her song "Moon Ride" in 1958, while Guryan was still at university, and would later, in 1962, record "Lonely Woman" with Guryan's lyrics.[7] Another early recording of her work was by Harry Belafonte, who recorded "I'm On My Way to Saturday" for The Many Moods of Belafonte (1962). She attended the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959, where she met and worked with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry,[3] and was taught by Bill Evans, Max Roach, Milt Jackson, Jim Hall, John Lewis and Gunther Schuller, among others. Following this, Lewis and Schuller signed her to MJQ Music.[4] She was primarily a jazz musician in this period, married to jazz trombonist and pianist Bob Brookmeyer[8] and writing lyrics for jazz pieces by composers including John Lewis, Ornette Coleman and Arif Mardin. Songs of this period, with her lyrics, were recorded by Chris Connor, Freda Payne, Nancy Harrow and Alice Babs, among others.[9]

"Think of Rain"[edit]

Popular music passed Guryan by until, after her divorce from Brookmeyer, her friend Dave Frishberg urged her to listen to the song "God Only Knows" from the album Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. According to Guryan,

"I thought it was just gorgeous. I bought the record and played it a million times, then sat down and wrote 'Think of Rain.' That's really how I started writing that way. I just decided it was better than what was happening in jazz."[10]

Guryan played Creed Taylor, for whom she was at the time working as a secretary, a tape of some of her newer songs, and he pointed her in the direction of April-Blackwood, the publishing arm of Columbia Records. At April-Blackwood she met David Rosner, who would become not only her producer but also her husband. Rosner signed her up, and suggested she double-track her voice on demos, to compensate for the difficulties she had had previously and produce a better sounding vocal. "Think of Rain" was recorded by Bobby Sherman, Jackie DeShannon and Claudine Longet in 1967. The Cyrkle and Nilsson also recorded versions[11] although neither was released.[3]

"Sunday Morning" was recorded by Spanky and Our Gang as "Sunday Mornin'". Released in December 1967, it reached No 30. Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell sang it as a duet in 1968.[12] Also in 1968, Marie Laforêt released "Et Si Je T'Aime", a French version of "Sunday Mornin'" with lyrics by Michel Jourdan. Oliver also released a version of "Sunday Mornin'" which reached #35 in the US charts in 1969. "Sunday Mornin'" was listed as one of the "102 most performed songs in the BMI repertoire during 1968".[13]

Carmen McRae and Julie London both released versions of two songs by Guryan: McRae performing "Can You Tell" and "Don't Go Away" on Sounds of Silence (1968)[14] and London releasing "Sunday Mornin'" and "Come to Me Slowly" on Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (1969).[15] Tommy LiPuma commissioned Guryan to write a Christmas song for Claudine Longet, and the result was "I Don't Intend to Spend Christmas Without You", a 1967 single. Saint Etienne later covered the song on a Christmas fanclub release.[10]

Take a Picture[edit]

Guryan signed to Bell Records as an artist, recording an album, Take a Picture (1968), full of light, jazz-tinged pop melodies, produced and arranged initially by John Simon, then when he became unavailable, by John Hill, both overseen by David Rosner. The musicians on the record included Hill on guitar, Kirk Hamilton (flute, bass), Phil Bodner (oboe), Paul Griffin (keyboards) and Buddy Saltzman (drums).[16]

It was preceded by a single entitled "Spanky and Our Gang", a tribute to the band who had had a hit with "Sunday Morning", backed with her own version of "Sunday Morning".[17] The single was included on the Japanese reissue of "Take a Picture". Take a Picture was praised by Billboard, who remarked on Guryan's "fine sound" which it characterised as "commercial" and said "should insure strong sales".[18] However Guryan refused to tour, having been married to a jazz musician and having seen "too much - performing required an agent, and a manager and a lawyer and a booking person and... you got owned by these people - they told you where to go, how to look, how to dress, what to say, and I didn't want that! [...] I guess I had about enough 'daddy' when I was five, and I just didn't like being told what to do." As a consequence of this, the label ceased promoting the album and it thus failed to make an impact.[6][19]

Resigned to this, Guryan withdrew from performing, although she continued as writer for April-Blackwood for several years afterwards, and worked with Rosner producing records for other artists. Taking classical piano lessons after this led her to becoming a piano teacher herself, and producing music books for students.[20] In 1994, Hal Leonard published The Chopsticks Variations, a set of 14 variations by Guryan on Euphemia Allen's well-worn "Chopsticks". Gunther Schuller described it as a "charming set of variations on the famous tune: clever witty, at times tender and elegant, at other times punning and ribald".[citation needed]

Resurgence[edit]

Interest in Guryan's recordings underwent something of a revival in the 1990s, particularly in Japan. British band Saint Etienne covered "I Don't Intend to Spend Christmas Without You" for a 1998 fan club single. Linus of Hollywood met with Guryan in 1999, and as well as covering two of her songs on his Your Favourite Record album, reissued Take a Picture on his Franklin Castle Records imprint (in conjunction with Oglio Records). Trattoria Records (Japan) and Siesta Records (Spain) also reissued the album. A collection of demos entitled 25 Demos was also released. An alternate version entitled Thoughts, released by UK-based RPM Records, has the 25 demos, plus two recordings of Guryan singing songs written by others. These tracks were also compiled by Burger Records on a 2014 cassette entitled 27 Demos. In 2006, the song "Take a Picture" was used in a TV advert for mobile camera phones.[citation needed]

In 2007, Guryan released a new single via British label Pure Mint Recordings, entitled "16 Words". The song referenced then US President George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, in particular the phrase "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa", which forms the entirety of the lyric. Other songs were attempted in the same session but not completed.[2] The b-side was "Yes I Am", "an angry little ditty that I wrote for Nixon".[6]

In 2009 Oglio Records released a CD of Guryan playing The Chopsticks Variations.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Singles[edit]

  • "Spanky and Our Gang" (1968)
  • "16 Words" (2007)

Songs recorded by other artists[edit]

As songwriter[edit]

Guryan wrote two pieces on Lenox School Of Jazz Concert 1959, an album credited to Ornette Coleman/Don Cherry/Kenny Dorham.[21]

As lyricist[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Leech, Jeanette (May–June 2009), "Twenty Questions", Shindig!: 18–20 
  2. ^ a b Interview with songwriter Margo Guryan; accessed May 14, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Q&A with Margo Guryan", musictimestwo.blogspot.co.uk; accessed May 14, 2014.
  4. ^ a b http://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/margo-guryan/id3692657
  5. ^ MARGO GURYAN: INTERVIEWED BY NOBODY (07.20.10)
  6. ^ a b c "Iain Lee's Best Bits". 2010-10-13. Absolute Radio. http://www.absoluteradio.co.uk/podcasts/Iain-Lee-s-Best-Bits/2010-10-13.
  7. ^ Profile, allmusic.com; accessed May 17, 2014.
  8. ^ From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life by Bill Crow
  9. ^ Profile, mjqmusic.com; accessed May 14, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Broom, Eric (September 2001), "Margo Guryan profile", Mean Street, retrieved 2012-07-24 
  11. ^ A&B Signs Margo Guryan, Billboard, January 27, 1968, p. 8
  12. ^ Bobby Gentry and Glen Campbell (LP). Bobby Gentry and Glen Campbell. Capitol. 1968. 
  13. ^ Billboard, June 7, 1969 (full-page BMI ad, page 30)
  14. ^ Sounds of Silence (LP). Carmen McRae. Atlantic. 1968. 
  15. ^ Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (LP). Julie London. Liberty. 1969. 
  16. ^ Profile, tangents.co.uk; accessed May 14, 2014.
  17. ^ Top 60 Pop Spotlight, Billboard, 6 Apr 1968, p.63
  18. ^ Billboard Album Reviews - Special Merit Picks, Billboard, October 19, 1968, p. 72
  19. ^ Wolk, Douglas (August 9–16, 2001), "Taken Pictures - The Margo Guryan Revival", The Boston Phoenix, retrieved 2012-07-24 
  20. ^ Amazon.com: The Collection (9780769239651): Alfred Publishing, Margo Guryan: Books; accessed May 14, 2014.
  21. ^ "Lenox School Of Jazz Concert 1959 (CD, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. 1959-08-29. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 

External links[edit]