Si Siman

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Si Siman
Si Siman.jpg
Background information
Birth name Ely E. Siman, Jr.
Also known as Si Siman
Born (1921-01-17)January 17, 1921
Died December 16, 1994(1994-12-16) (aged 73)
Genres country music, pop music
Occupation(s) music producer, talent manager, broadcasting executive
Associated acts Chet Atkins
Porter Wagoner
Wayne Carson Thompson
Ronnie Self

Si Siman (January 17, 1921 – December 16, 1994), born Ely E. Siman, Jr., was an American record producer and country music executive who helped transform the sound of music in the Ozarks after World War II and into the 1970s. He discovered Chet Atkins and Porter Wagoner, among others; and was a key figure behind Ozark Jubilee, the first network television series to feature America's top country music stars.

Biography[edit]

Siman was born in Springfield, Missouri on January 17, 1921, and was a batboy for the Springfield Cardinals.[1] He graduated from Drury College and served in the US Navy during World War II. He then rejoined Ralph Foster's KWTO, where he had worked as a teenager, and became vice president of Foster's RadiOzark Enterprises, Inc., which produced nationally syndicated radio shows from Springfield hosted by such performers as Tennessee Ernie Ford, George Morgan, Smiley Burnette and Bill Ring.[2]

An ear for talent[edit]

Siman discovered Chet Atkins and Porter Wagoner in the early 1950s. He was Wagoner's first manager; produced his first hit, "A Satisfied Mind", in Springfield; and signed him to an RCA Records contract in 1951. He told Atkins his given name, Chester, wouldn't make it in country music,[3] and he helped Atkins and The Browns land contracts with RCA. Siman, in partnership with Foster and John B. Mahaffey (Foster's nephew), established the Earl Barton Music, Inc. publishing company. The firm obtained copyrights for national country hits including Little Jimmy Dickens' smash "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed" (1950) and Johnny Mullins' novelty tune "Company's Comin'" (1954).[4]

From 1954-1961, Siman and Mahaffey were managing vice presidents of Foster's Crossroads TV Productions, and co-executive producers of ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee, the first popular country music series on network television. In April, 1954, Siman lured Red Foley to Springfield to host the program over a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.[3] Simon also handled booking most of the show's performers.

Siman and Mahaffey were also co-executive producers of the show's spin-off, NBC's Five Star Jubilee (1961); as well as The Eddy Arnold Show (1956) and Talent Varieties (1955), both ABC.

Hits in the 1960s[edit]

Siman in Nashville in the 1960s

In 1963, Foster, Siman and Mahaffey formed Tele-Color, Inc., which in 1964 filmed color segments for ABC's Wide World of Sports and other programs.

Siman's biggest successes came in the late 1960s with songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson, known for "The Letter", "Always On My Mind" and "Soul Deep" (The Box Tops); and he helped such local artists as Ronnie Self and Johnny Mullins ("Blue Kentucky Girl") chart nationally. From 1967–1969, he worked with songwriter Bob Millsap at KWTO.

In the late 1970s Siman advised Tim Nichols, who later co-wrote Tim McGraw's smash hit "Live Like You Were Dying", and in 1980 urged him to move from Springfield to Nashville.[5]

Later years[edit]

In 1970, Siman established the Red Foley Memorial Music Award at Berea College. The annual award is presented to students there in recognition of their musical contributions to the campus.

Silver anniversary envelope label

He was active with the Shriners and was appointed chief aide in 1980.

When he retired in 1987, Siman sold Earl Barton Music and the rights to a catalog of nearly 2,000 songs to Rolf Budde Musikverlage of Germany.[6] In 1991, he donated his papers to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In January 1994, Siman helped found Ozarks Pictures Corp. to produce family films. Its first feature was 1995's A Place to Grow, shot in southwest Missouri and starring Gary Morris, Wilford Brimley and Boxcar Willie.[7]

Siman died of cancer in Springfield on December 16, 1994.

Family[edit]

His son, Scott Siman, is an entertainment executive in Nashville who has managed country music singers Tim McGraw, Julianne Hough and many others.

Posthumous recognition[edit]

  • A scholarship for students pursuing music business studies was established in Siman's name at Middle Tennessee State University.
  • In 2008, the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau honored him with its Pinnacle Award, noting that "The impact of the [Jubilee] and Siman’s efforts are still felt by Springfield’s tourism industry."

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Booher, Kate "'I want People to feel like this is their Team'" (June 5, 2005), Springfield News-Leader, p. 8D
  2. ^ Terry, Dickson "Hillbilly Music Center" (February 5, 1956), St. Louis Post-Dispatch "The Everyday Magazine", p. 1
  3. ^ a b Sylvester, Ron "100 Ozarkers: 'Si' Siman Impacted Country Music" (October 10, 1999), "Progress," Springfield News-Leader, p. 8H
  4. ^ Hoekstra, Dave "Sounds from the Heartland in an All-American Festival" (June 28, 1992), The Chicago Sun-Times, "Show", p. 1
  5. ^ Brothers, Michael A. "A Songwriter's Journey to the Top" (February 13, 2005), Springfield News-Leader, p. 1C
  6. ^ Update; Lifelines; Deaths, E.E. "Si" Siman (January 14, 1995), Billboard, p. 59
  7. ^ Butler, Robert W. "Screen Notes" (January 22, 1995), The Kansas City Star, p. J4

References[edit]

  • Ozark Jubilee Souvenir Picture Album (first edition, 1955)
  • Terry, Dickson "Hillbilly Music Center" (February 5, 1956), St. Louis Post-Dispatch "The Everyday Magazine", p. 1
  • "Hillbilly TV Show Hits the Big Time" (March 10, 1956), Business Week, p. 30
  • The Ozark Jubilee starring Red Foley (1956), Radiozark Enterprises, Inc.
  • Ozark Jubilee Souvenir Picture Album (second edition, 1956), © Ozark Jubilee's Crossroads Store
  • Country Music Jubilee Souvenir Picture Album (third edition, 1957)
  • "The Death of TV's Jubilee" (September 18, 1960), Springfield Leader & Press, p. D4
  • Hoekstra, Dave "Sounds from the Heartland in an All-American Festival" (June 28, 1992), The Chicago Sun-Times, "Show", p. 1
  • Spears-Stewart, Rita (1993), Remembering the Ozark Jubilee, Stewart, Dillbeck & White Productions, ISBN 0-9638648-0-7 .
  • Update; Lifelines; Deaths, E.E. "Si" Siman (January 14, 1995), Billboard, p. 59
  • Butler, Robert W. "Screen Notes" (January 22, 1995), The Kansas City Star, p. J4
  • Brothers, Michael A. "A Songwriter's Journey to the Top" (February 13, 2005), Springfield News-Leader, p. 1C
  • Sylvester, Ron "100 Ozarkers: 'Si' Siman Impacted Country Music" (October 10, 1999), "Progress," Springfield News-Leader, p. 8H
  • Booher, Kate "'I want People to feel like this is their Team'" (June 5, 2005), Springfield News-Leader, p. 8D
  • Eng, Steve (1992), A Satisfied Mind: the Country Music Life of Porter Wagoner, Rutledge Hill Press, ISBN 1-55853-133-5 .