Thursday, October 29, 2009


The Chairman of CBS Records Australia, Bill Smith, has asked me to set up and manage a new CBS Records Company in New Zealand. Before Bill can formally appoint me to the position I have to be approved by Walter Yetnikoff, the President of CBS Records. I’m asked to fly to New York the next day as an appointment has been arranged with Walter for later that week.

So off I go to New York where I’m booked into a 5Th Avenue hotel. After a good nights sleep I arrive at the CBS Head Office, known as BLACK ROCK, and shown to Walter’s suite of offices. Walter's secretary sits me down with a cup of coffee to await Walter’s availability to see me. Much later, after many coffees and having read several trade magazines back to back I’m finally directed to enter Walter’s personal office.

Walter is sitting behind his large desk and in one of the two visitor’s chairs is another man. I’m greeted by Walter with “So; you’re the guy from New Zealand?”

After I’m seated Walter introduces his other guest: “This is my friend Tommy Mottola, he manages some of our biggest artists”.

We make small talk and I’m asked to give him a brief summary of my career. This takes about three minutes and is followed by a long silence. Finally, after what seems an age Walter looks at me and says again, “So; you’re the guy from New Zealand?”

This is followed by a further long silence. Walter then jumps to his feet shakes my hand and says, “Nice meeting you” and I’m in no doubt the “meeting” is over.

I ask Walter’s secretary “What now?”

I’m informed that’s it: I can go home.

Next day I fly home to New Zealand and phone Bill Smith to ask if I got the job. Bill says, “You always had the job, Walter just wanted to say Hi.”

Several months later I’m with a group at a party during the annual CBS Records Convention in Los Angeles. The party is held on the set of a Western movie shoot at the CBS movie studio lot: the wine and beer are flowing.

Along comes Walter Yetnikoff and joins our group. Walter then looks at me and says, “Hey; you’re the guy from New Zealand: how’s it going?”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Dean Wheeler, in 1990 was a brilliant Promotions Director, working at TVNZ.

Dean's 27th Birthday was coming up on November 1st 1990 and he invited John McCready (then Programme Marketing Manager at TVNZ), JT and other friends and work colleagues to join him for a celebratory dinner at a restaurant in Jervois Road, Auckland.

We duly arrived and it was obvious to us, but not so much to Dean that the waiter was being very attentive to him and flirting outrageously. We teased Dean mercilessly.

After a wonderful meal the smitten waiter grandly delivered a birthday cake to our table. It was a most beautiful cake and it was obvious someone had taken great care in baking it.

Dean cut the cake and we dished ourselves a slice each and very quickly the cake was gone. Oh, it was so soft and delicious and everyone looked at Jt asking, "Did you bake this cake?" "No, she said"

We were curious now and did the rounds of the table to find out who did. No one claimed to the baking of this wonderful creation so we asked the waiter.
He said "As you are celebrating a birthday and a birthday cake had been delivered, I assumed it must be yours"

At that exact moment from the front of the restaurant came Peter Elliott. Peter was then, and still is, a top TV, drama actor. He stood next to the waiter who was still standing at our table and whispered to him loud enough for us to hear...
"You weren't here before when I bought in a cake I had made myself especially for my wife's birthday as a surprise. Can you please bring the cake out now?"

Monday, October 19, 2009


In 1968 John Rowles from Kawerau was having great success in the UK with two charting singles, “If I Only Had Time” and “Hush Not a Word to Mary” and we picked up the New Zealand rights through CBS. Both songs were hits in New Zealand and Kerridge Odeon decided to tour him. I joined John on tour and organised radio and press promotion as we travelled. John wanted to see his parents in Kawerau so I drove him there to meet the family. On arrival at John’s home we were greeted by a huge crowd and had to fight our way to John’s modest family home. I waited outside and eventually was noticed by John’s Dad who said to John, “Does your driver want a cup of tea?” Both John and I cracked up with laughter. A Powhiri followed at the local Marae and we shared a fantastic day.

I drove John back to Auckland to The White Heron in Parnell. Sir Robert Kerridge’s Kerridge Odeon Group, who was touring John, owned this hotel. I had organised a series of interviews with press and radio and we worked through to about 8.30PM.

John then invited me to dinner in the hotel dining room and off we went to get a table. I was dressed in a suit and tie and John in smart casual, as befits a pop star. We were greeted at the dining room desk by the maitre d’ who informed us that, "Whilst I could dine John could not unless he went and put on a tie" I took the gentleman aside and told them who John was and that Kerridge were touring him and surely this silly rule could be waived. I was informed it could not be.

Just at that moment Sir Robert himself arrived with a few friends for dinner so I took the opportunity to ask him for a moment. On explaining the situation Sir Robert also confirmed John could not be admitted to dine without a tie. I then got angry (my short fuse again) and told Sir Robert I thought his rule, stupid, unrealistic (in a show biz hotel) and that he should re-think a poor decision that made him and his company look bad to a major star.

Sir Robert then called the maitre d’ over and in a loud voice informed him “Mr Rowles is invited to join me for dinner and this rude young man must leave my hotel immediately.” I left, happy that John had been looked after.

Back in Philips in Wellington the next day Sir Robert’s complaint about me had already reached top management. After explaining to MD Dirk Hudig and Commercial Director, Bruce Garden what had happened, we all had a good laugh as they, like me, knew of Sir Robert’s autocratic style.


1974 and I'm working in London as Director of A&R for Phonogram UK. I get a call from our Marketing Director, Ken Maliphant, who has heard a whisper, that hot Irish folk band The Chieftains are out of contract and could be available to sign. We arrange an appointment with the group’s leader Paddy Moloney in Dublin for later in the week.

We fly over to Dublin early in the morning and are at Paddy’s office on time for our morning meeting. The secretary welcomes us and says she will let Paddy know we are here. “Would you like a cup of tea, Mr McCready and Mr Maliphant?” says the lovely lady. We have tea and we wait: we wait and we wait.

“Mr McCready; Mr Maliphant, would you like another cup of tea”, the lovely lady inquires again after about an hour and several requests by us as to “Where’s Paddy?”

We are then informed that, “Regrettably Paddy has been unexpectedly tied up with an urgent problem. Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant why don’t you go and have a bite to eat and Paddy will be delighted to see you at 3pm.”

At 3pm we are back. “Paddy shouldn’t be long” the secretary says, “Would you like a cup of tea while you wait, Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant?”

So: more cups of tea, more waiting but no Paddy. Around 4pm the secretary comes over; “Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant” she says, “Paddy has gone off to the Guinness office and is unlikely to return today. Would you mind coming back to meet with Paddy at 10am tomorrow, Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant?”

We organise a hotel for the night and change our return flights to London for the next evening.

Next day promptly at 10am we arrive and are greeted by the lovely secretary “Good morning Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant, would you like a cup of tea while you wait?”

So, more tea and we wait, but still no sign of Paddy!

At around 11am the secretary says “Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant, regrettably Paddy has gotten himself delayed at another appointment; but he will be here to see you at 2pm, if that’s convenient, Mr McCready: Mr Maliphant.”

We graciously admit defeat and go to the airport and get a flight home to London.

On the aircraft Ken turns to me and in his Scottish accent says “McCready: it’s a strange place that Dublin,”

We never did get to have a conversation with Paddy or sign the band.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


In 1972, Chris Bourne, a TV producer and a friend, was producing a talent show called New Faces and phoned me, all excited. “John, we have a young schoolgirl we have just auditioned and I think she is great; you have to come and have a look”. I raced down to the TV studios where Chris played me Shona Laing’s audition, a song called “We’re Gonna Change the World”. 

This was a folky protest song, written by Shona and on hearing the song and Shona's performance, my internal music antenna was sending me strong signals. In my view Chris was right to be so excited about this young and talented artist.

I phoned Shona, introduced myself and told her I was interested in offering her a recording contract: I followed this up with a formal letter.

Some time later, the shy school girl arrived at my office, guitar in hand. After a general “get to know each other” discussion in my office, we moved to our record library/studio where I had a Revox tape recorder. I had Shona perform what she liked from her own compositions and I was stunned by the beautiful and meaningful songs sung with heart and feeling.

After a dozen or so songs Shona fell silent. I said, “Have you anymore?” “No” she replied; then after a long pause said “I have one more, but you would hate it.” “Sing it anyway,” I said.
Shona launched into singing "1905"

WOW! What a song. 

When she finished I told her that in my view that was her best song and if we agreed a record contract I would want that to be the single. We agreed a recording and songwriting contract.

Shona went on to reach the final of New Faces singing “We’re Gonna Change the World” (I believe it was this and not "1905" as all bios of Shona I have read say, but I may be wrong.)

Realising that Shona was a passionate artist who saw me, as a “suit”, I had to find a producer who could make her feel comfortable. I decided Dale Wrightson was the right person, given his rare combination of being a fine musician, having a commercial savvy and already a successful advertising producer.

Dale and Shona hit it off immediately and went off together to work on the album. It was a beauty, titled “Whispering Afraid”. It sold well and spawned two top ten singles, “1905” and “Show your love”. We spared no expense on the cover art and Dale hired top photographer Sal Criscillo to do the pictures.

That year Shona deservedly won two RATA awards, “Best New Artist” and “Recording Artist of The Year”.

                   Shona and Dale at HMV Studio Wellington

From Yamaha Tokyo I received an invite to enter one of our artists in The Tokyo Song Festival and I decided to send Shona. In discussion with her we came up with the idea of combining two of her songs into a concept work and this became “Masquerade”, her Tokyo entry. Shona won the major prize.

The following year I was transferred to head A&R at our UK company, so "Whispering Afraid" was the only Shona Laing project I was involved in. I was delighted that the company in New Zealand went on to have further success with this very talented artist.

 Below, Shona Laing (holding her awards) and John McCready at the 1973 RATA Awards


Demo of Whispering Afraid recorded as part of process in selecting songs for Shona's first LP


Saturday, October 17, 2009


In 1963 as a young up-and-comer in the music business I received a sample single from Columbia Records USA of a new singer-songwriter they were enthusiastic about. It was “Blowing in The Wind” by Bob Dylan. I just loved it and later his album “The Freewheeling Bob Dylan”. I became an avid fan and worked hard to promote his recordings.

Now in 1978 I’m head of CBS New Zealand (Columbia’s NZ company) and Bob Dylan and band will be playing at Western Springs Stadium. We work hard to promote the gig and Bob’s wonderful catalogue of recordings.

The day before the gig is rehearsal day and I get a phone call from the tour’s PR man Mr. Wassermann. “Bob wants to meet you,” he says. They send a limo to pick me up and I’m delivered to the back stage area at Western Springs where Mr. Wassermann is waiting for me. He tells me I will meet Bob after rehearsal and meantime would I follow him. I am led out to the middle of the Western Springs grassed area, just in front of the sound techs booth. “Bob would like you to stand here,” says Mr. Wassermann; who then leaves me there all alone and marches off backstage.

Bob Dylan and band then come on stage and begin to play. After a couple of songs they stop and Bob goes to the side and has a discussion with Mr. Wassermann. Out comes Mr. Wassermann to the grassed area and heads over to me. “Bob would like you to move a little to the left,” he says. I move a little to the left and off goes Mr. Wassermann back stage and Bob Dylan begins to rehearse again.

I’m treated to over an hour of classic Bob Dylan.

The rehearsal finishes so Bob and band leave the stage. Mr. Wassermann comes out and collects me and I’m lead to Bob’s dressing camper van. I am introduced and Bob, with a sweaty limp hand, shakes my hand and says, “Pleased to meet you”. He turns away and I’m lead back to the limo and driven back to the office.

It was a very strange but very wonderful afternoon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


London 1974 and I am A&R Director for Phonogram UK.

We have a gold disc presentation for Rod Stewart. It is held in a very special restaurant in the Covent Garden area. Being new to the country and company I have not been involved in the organising, but as the senior A&R guy I’m expected to work the room and PR; plus it is a good chance to get to know Rod and his group. Our MD AJ Morris is not there for some reason so Ken Maliphant, as Marketing Director and function organiser, is in charge.

It is a wild night with the wine and beer flowing freely. Late in the evening more and more people arrive to join the fun. They appear to be friends of Rod’s. I’m starting to worry about how much this is all going to cost but at least it is Ken’s problem not mine. Or is it? Where is Ken? He has gone!

I decide enough is enough and it is time to scarper. I make excuses to go to the loo, which is downstairs and close to the restaurant entrance and from where I can slip away unnoticed.

I am standing at the urinal completing my business when someone joins me a couple of cubicles along: I look up and it is Rod, He looks at with a grin and says “I’m off too; I’m not getting caught with paying for this lot”. We go out of the restaurant together, shake hands and say goodnight; he gets into his waiting Rolls and I go off to find a cab. I never did find out how much the it cost and who organised payment.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It is 1969 and in Australia a marketing phenomenon was taking place. K-Tel was marketing compilation albums by using TV advertising and was having success. The marketing costs were high but they were selling volume. As then Marketing Manager at Philips Records this method of selling records got me really excited, so I sat down one evening at home with a calculator (no spreadsheets in those days) and worked out a budget. I calculated that we would need a TV budget of $30,000 over three weeks to cover the TV programmes I thought our target audience would be watching. $30,000 was, in those days, a very large advertising spend and TV had never been used in New Zealand to market a record album.
As I completed my graph excitement spread through my veins: break even at 30,000 sales was high but once sales went over that number the profit margin grew rapidly. If we could sell 50,000 a really healthy profit would be ours. This was a high number but I was convinced it could be achieved.
I took my project to my boss Willie Morton but he was not convinced the rewards were worth the risk and I was given a NO. I kept at him continually over the next few months but he was not willing to take the punt. Although disappointed I understood.
However, Willie was promoted to be Manager of the Philips Consumer Products Division and I was promoted to Manager of Philips Records. My time had come.
I enjoyed Willie as a boss as he was always supportive and more than anyone at that time he was responsible for my growth. But the time had arrived for me to put my own stamp on the company; I wanted to sign more New Zealand artists and I wanted to get into the marketing of compilation albums by TV advertising before any other company got a hold on that market.
K-Tel had set up in New Zealand and was now approaching us and other companies for hit tracks to be licensed for their compilation albums. It was time to take the plunge and put out our own compilation LP. Once more I did the numbers and then took them to my immediate boss at Philips, Bruce Garden, the company’s Commercial Director. Bruce listened to my pitch and then said, “I'm not prepared to take this risk, but if you want to you should go ahead. If you fail no one, including me will be supporting you. If you are a success though, be assured, I will be alongside you in the photo. So John, are you going to have a go?” I thought Bruce was great to let me take responsibility for my own decisions and immediately replied “YES”.
I had been in discussions with HMV’s recording boss Graeme Feasey (“Graeme’s the name records is my game”) to license HMV hits for our album. Graeme was not convinced about giving us, his biggest rivals, HMV tracks for my proposed venture. Graeme was leaning towards supplying K-Tel. I learnt that he would be at a Directors meeting and having forecast HMV’s earnings if we reached that magical 50,000 sales number I had finance write HMV a cheque for that amount and had it delivered to Graeme at his board meeting, along with a note giving a deadline for acceptance of our offer. After the meeting Graeme phoned to say “OK the tracks are licensed to you; once my board saw the size of the advance royalty cheque I was advised to go ahead”.
Next step was to get the marketing plan and record production underway. I set up a meeting with our Marketing Manager Brian Pitts and Dale Wrightson (who now had his own advertising agency January Productions) to discuss the name of the LP, the sleeve art and the TV campaign, we decided on calling the album 20 Gold Hits. But I was not happy with that and further discussion took place. I said to Brian and Dale that whilst it was just OK, the name was not solid enough for me. Dale said, “OK, what about 20 Solid Gold Hits?” And that’s what we called it. Dale went off to get the cover art designed and to produce the TV commercial. Dale also had to book the TV time. Brian went off to organise production and to enthuse the sales team.

Dale came back quickly and informed me that TV time was totally booked for months ahead. Shit! I had a friend Warwick Woodward, who besides being a jazz buff with one of New Zealand’s largest collections of Jazz LP’s, had his own advertising agency. Warwick had been at me for month’s to get our advertising account so I phoned him and gave him details of the sort of TV time we were after. I told him (and Dale) that if he got us the TV time he and Dale’s agency would share the commission. In a few days and after a couple of long lunches with TV executives, Warwick phoned to say he had the TV time and it was booked.
We advised the retail shops of our forthcoming campaign and sought advance orders. Retailers were not keen and did not see our venture being a success; in fact they were totally negative. As I had ordered the pressing of an initial 30,000 albums I was getting very nervous. I told Brian it was important we had good stock in shops when the TV advertising started and made the decision to put the stock in shops on a sale or return basis. Now if this failed I was really toast.
On the Thursday of the 20 Solid Gold Hits first advertising spots airing I was at a reception in an Oriental Bay pub for Chuck Berry’s band (Chuck would not come). The band included the legendary trumpet player Blue Mitchell and both Warwick Woodward and I were keen to say hello to him. I hadn't much to drink but on arriving back at the Philips' car park I was so wound up and nervous I drove my company car straight into the wall. The next evening (late night shopping) I toured the main record outlets to see how (or if) 20 Solid Gold Hits was selling. My first stop was at James Smith in Cuba Street and on arriving there I witnessed crowds fighting to get served at the record counter. They were all buying 20 Solid Gold Hits.
20 Solid Gold Hits Vol 1 went on to sell 90,000 copies and subsequent volumes even more. We had created a monster hit series that almost single handily turned what was then the smallest division at Philips into its most profitable.