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Ivan Ulz (born May 4, 1944 in Los Angeles, California), he grew up in a nursery school. At 19, he left home to pursue a songwriting career, starting in North Beach, San Francisco. In 1980, he moved to New York City where he rediscovered his roots teaching music in local preschools. Now returned to his native California, Ivan continues to perform for families, sharing his uncanny musical connection with youngsters in person and on the radio.
After writing and recording his first song, A Letter to Hayley (released as a 45 rpm single by Bruce Belland's LarBell label) in 1962, Ulz decided to pursue a songwriting career. He spent the next couple of decades in and out of the folk-rock scene, living in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oklahoma and Alaska. Although Ulz did not achieve lasting fame as a folk singer/songwriter, he did make some notable connections, including introducing Lowell George to the music of Rickie Lee Jones by singing him "Easy Money" over the telephone (thereby creating an alliance which eventually led to Ms. Jones's recording contract with Warner Brothers), and giving an unknown comic named Steve Martin a spot in the open mic that Ulz was running at Coffee and Confusion in San Francisco. When living in "The City", Ulz befriended Michael Clarke, a young itinerant bongo player on the streets of North Beach, brought him home to feed him, and introduced him to some friends from Los Angeles, who subsequently became The Byrds. Ulz has also been linked to another Byrds member, Gene Clark, with whom he penned several songs in 1964. None of the song co-written by Clark and Ulz were ever recorded.
Ivan the Ice Cream Man, Ulz's only album of original songs for adults, was released in 1970 on Stanyan Records, a label owned by self-styled poet Rod McKuen. Some of the supporting musicians who performed on Ice Cream Man went on to have successful careers of their own, including Jackson Browne, Lowell George, Roy Estrada, Jimmy "Guitar" Smith, and Dick Rosmini. Although he did not perform on the album, legendary blues guitarist Steve Mann co-wrote two of the tracks on Ice Cream Man: "Beginning to Find My Way" and "Circles Under Squares."
In 1980, Ulz moved to New York City and changed his focus from folk rock to children's music. From 1997 to 1999, Ulz lived in Arroyo Grande, California, where he recorded an album of children's music and hosted a children's radio show called Treasure Ivan. Today Ulz splits his time between Greenwich Village and California's Central Coast, performing for toddlers and their families.
To date, Ulz has written around 200 songs, some of which have been recorded by Hoyt Axton, Glen Yarborough, Suzy Bogguss, Valerie Carter, Rod McKuen, and others. Ulz has co-written songs with Hoyt Axton, Lowell George, Steve Mann, and others. Ulz's most famous song is Heartache, co-written with Lowell George and recorded by Suzy Bogguss in the 1990s. Bogguss's version of "Heartache" had considerable success on the country music charts. Most recently, Ulz's song Fire Truck! was published as a Sing-And-Read book by Scholastic. Fire Truck! is the only song that Ulz has written for children so far. Penned in 1990 on a red IBM Selectric typewriter, the song has become an underground anthem among preschoolers across the nation.
Ulz is a BMI writer, and is also a performer and recording artist. He has released the following recordings:
- A Letter to Hayley, 45 rpm Single, LarBell, 1962
- Ivan the Ice Cream Man, LP album, Stanyan, 1970
- Songs From the Old School, CD & cassette, Ivan Ulz Songs, 1999
A Letter to Hayley
Ulz's first song, A Letter to Hayley, was dedicated to the young English actress named Hayley Mills who starred in "Tiger Bay," "Whistle Down the Wind," and various American movies made by Disney during the 1960s. In 2004, Ulz was finally introduced to Mills.
- Hayakawa, S. I. "The Quest for Instant Satori," Etc.: A Review of General Semantics. San Francisco, December 1965.
- Eden, Dawn. "Pop-Sickle: Ivan the Communist Ice Cream Man," New York Press. New York, 1994.
- James, Billy. Necessity Is: The Early Years of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. SAF Publishing, Ltd., 2001. Page 144.
- George-Warren, Holly. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll (Revised and Updated for the 21st Century). Fireside, 2001. Page 508.
- Brend, Mark. Rock and Roll Doctor-Lowell George: Guitarist, Songwriter, and Founder of Little Feat. Backbeat Books, 2002. Page 32.
- Walker, Jesse. Rebels on the Air. New York: New York University Press, 2001. Page 232
- Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up. New York: Scribner, 2007. Pages 7 & 8 (note that Ulz is misspelled as Ultz.)