Thursday, August 21, 2008

Buying Jimmie CDs (reply to fan letter)

Hi all:

The following email inspired me to upload a long overdue post at the Jimmie blog.


Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 17:38:02 -0400

For some reason, out of the blue, after all these years, I found myself wishing I could listen to Jimmie Spheeris again. So, I did a search, and found your site.

Thanks by the way....

In case of the very remote chance you are not aware of this, Jimmie's music seems to be available again (or in some cases soon will be.)

Both links are the same, only one's tiny for easier pasting.

Tom's link one

Tom's link two

Greensboro, N.C.


Thanks for writing, Tom. I really appreciate it. Sorry for the reply delay... I can't seem to keep the avalanche of incoming mail under control. I'll post your links on the Jimmie blog.

I knew that Amazon was selling used CDs but was unaware that the work may have been re-licensed. It's possible that Sony has released the work to a third party (since they owned the rights to the catalog when it was originally licensed to Johnny Pierce and Rain Records in 1998). I honestly don't know the status of the catalog.

Sony contractually required Johnny to manufacture the original CDs at their facilities and eventually pulled the license after Johnny had spent approximately $150,000.00 on the project (manufacturing costs, licensing fees, remastering costs, engineering and promotional fees and related expenses for all six albums). When K-Tel (the distributor chosen by Sony) went bankrupt in 2000, the entire stock of manufactured CDs disappeared into their vaults and Johnny was out of the loop. He was beginning a battle with the cancer that eventually took his life and never recouped his investment.

As for me, I never billed Johnny or Sony a penny for restoring the original LP cover art. The restoration process is an interesting story... you can read it on the website. See:

Isle of View cover art restoration


Ports of the Heart cover art restoration

The project also included countless hour tracking down and restoring rare photos, related research, writing and designing CD liner inserts, trying hard to give all credit where credit was due, hosting the memorial site out of pocket (which I'm still doing), proofing art with Sony's printers, and creating pieces of original art (for example, the "mini-poster" on the "Evening With Jimmie Spheeris CD insert). Based on my regular fees for this sort of work, I gave Sony a free ride to the tune of about $80,000.00. If Jimmie's catalog has indeed been re-licensed, I wonder if Johnny and I are even listed in the credits.

The original 1970s master recordings were disintegrating and action had to be taken immediately to preserve them. Ellen Fitton -- the engineer who remastered "Ports of the Heart" -- called me from New York late one night to say that when she pulled the original 24-track master out of the Sony vaults and opened the box, brown oxide dust drifted out... a sure sign that the oxide was separating from its mylar backing. She said that in a few more years, the tape would have been unsalvageable... and that was back in 1999.

It's crucial to note that Johnny and I did this project as a tribute and labor of love for our friend and his fans. There is a certain party (who shall remain nameless) who is under the impression that we embarked upon this crusade for our own profit and fame. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the entire project became a giant black hole attached to our bank accounts. Given the way Jimmie was used by the record industry while he was alive, this feels to me like a fitting and sad epitaph. Friends tell me I have every reason to be bitter. I'm not and I'd do it all over again.

Well, there's some backstory, Tom. Probably a lot more than you expected (smile). I'm glad you wrote... a bunch of stuff bubbled up when I read your letter and it felt good to revisit and reply. Catharsis is in the air today at Art101. Jimmie's gone, Johnny's gone, I'm going, but the work is preserved. In the end, that's all that matters. Plus, you inspired me to post something on the Jimmie blog. Way overdue. So, thanks again.