Lou Adler began his career in music in the late 1950s as a writer, producer, and manager. He went on to found several record companies and produce some of the twentieth century's most memorable music and comedic talent. He is most notably responsible for producing Carole King's wildly successful album Tapestry. He also played a major role in the careers of the Mamas and the Papas, Jan and Dean, and the comedic team Cheech and Chong.
Adler was born on December 13, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. At some point Adler's family moved to California, and Adler grew up in the largely Hispanic area known as the Boyle Heights District in East Los Angeles. His early years in the music industry found him working with the music publisher Screen Gems as well as Colpix and Dimension. In the late 1950s he became a manager, producer, and songwriter for Herb Alpert, who would later record chart-topping instrumental albums. One of their early acts was the California duo of Jan & Dean. Adler is credited with encouraging Jan Berry to pursue the surf-inspired sound that would later make Jan & Dean into music legends. Adler's work with Jan & Dean helped drive the duo to perfect their sound, which was modeled on that of the Beach Boys. Adler and Alpert also scored a hit for soul singer Sam Cooke with the song "Only Sixteen," which was written under the pseudonym Barbara Campbell.
Formed Dunhill Records
In 1964 Adler decided to strike out on his own, and dissolved his partnership with Alpert. He formed his own record company, called Dunhill Records. At Dunhill, Adler worked on singles for Shelley Fabares, to whom he was married for several years, including her hit song, "Johnny Angel." As the sound of popular music began moving away from the sweet innocence found in performers like Fabares or the breezy joy of Jan & Dean, Adler remained in touch with the direction and sensibilities of the new breed of musicians.
In 1965 Adler produced Barry McGuire's album Eve of Destruction, with its chart-topping title track. One of McGuire's contacts was a group of singers composed of Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty. McGuire brought them to the recording studio to meet Adler, and once Adler heard them perform, he signed them to record the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. Between 1966 and 1967 the Mamas and the Papas hit the top ten six times.
In 1966 Adler sold Dunhill to ABC for a substantial profit and went on to found Ode records. In 1967 Adler and John Phillips worked with several other visionary producers to put together the Monterey Pop Festival. Adler worked with Scott McKenzie to record "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" as an anthem for what turned out to be a watershed event in pop music history. The free concert featured rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, singer Janis Joplin, and the English rock band The Who. Adler filmed and recorded the festival and became a wealthy man from the royalties produced by the event.
A Tapestry of Artists
Adler worked with the Mamas and the Papas up to 1968 and their release The Papas and the Mamas. Around that time Carole King was looking for work as a solo recording artist, and Adler quickly signed her to Ode. While her first two efforts showcased her talents as both a singer and songwriter, her third album, Tapestry, would prove to be an overwhelming success. Adler sensed early on that Tapestry would be a winner. He explained to Entertainment Weekly, "Love Story was a big movie at the time, and I remember saying 'this is our Love Story,' in terms that it would be people's love stories and that it would be a success." Hits from that album included "You've Got A Friend," "So Far Away," and "It's Too Late." The album won four Grammy Awards in 1972, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year.
Adler went on to produce King until she left Ode in the late 1970s. During that decade Adler did more than produce for King. He discovered and started producing comedy records for a couple of comedians out of Los Angeles known as Cheech and Chong. Their comedy routine centered on the drug culture of the day, with a major focus on marijuana. Adler knew an opportunity when he saw it, and signed the duo. For the rest of the 1970s Cheech and Chong were the most popular stoners in America. Albums that Adler produced for them included Big Bambu, Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album, and the soundtrack for the film produced by Adler, Up In Smoke.
By the time Up In Smoke was released, Adler had already gotten some experience producing films. In 1974 he was in England when he saw the stage version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He immediately bought the American rights, brought it to the United States, and became executive producer for the film when it came out in 1975. His gamble on the off-kilter comedy paid off, with the film rising to cult status by the late 1980s and continuing to run at midnight showings in theaters well into the new millennium.
Focused on Children
Incredibly diversified, Adler is also the owner of the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, California. In 1974 he brought the American stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show to the Roxy Theatre. Located on Sunset Strip, the venue was once a strip club but was recast as a bar, club, and theater for plays. In 1993 he and actress Shelly Duvall started a label called Ode 2 Kids, which focused on music for children. Records released on that label included Waylon Jennings's Cowboys, Sisters, Rascals, and Dirt and Cheech Marin's My Name is Cheech, the School Bus Driver.
For the Record …
Born on December 13, 1933, in Chicago, IL; married Shelly Fabares, 1964 (divorced); married Page Hannah, 1992; children: seven sons.
Co-wrote and produced with Herb Alpert, 1957–59; managed Jan & Dean, late 1950s; formed Dunhill Records, 1964; signed the Mamas and the Papas, 1965; sold Dunhill to ABC, 1966; founded Ode Records; produced Monterey Pop Festival with John Phillips, 1967; signed Carole King to Ode, 1968; produced King albums, 1968–76; produced for Cheech and Chong, 1970s; bought American rights to Rocky Horror Picture Show, produced it in U.S. for stage and film, 1974; directed and produced Up In Smoke, 1979; directed Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, 1981; organized CHIME (Children's Hospital International Music and Entertainment) Festival, 1993; co-founded Painted Turtle Camp, part of the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, 2002; co-produced the fundraiser Ultimate Variety Show, 2004.
Awards: Grammy Awards, Record of the Year for "It's Too Late" (performed by Carole King) and Album of the Year for Tapestry (performed by Carole King), 1972.
Addresses: Business—Roxy Theatre, 9009 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069, phone: (310) 276-2222.
In 1992, Alder, who had divorced Fabares in the 1960s, married Page Hannah, sister of actress Daryl Hannah. Adler and Hannah have two sons together, and continue to be active in charities, particularly ones that benefit children. In 2002 the couple helped found the Painted Turtle, a camp that serves the needs of children with life-threatening illnesses, as well as those of their families. While still involved with music in many ways, Adler has begun to contribute much more of his time and energy to children's causes. His name will always be a part of rock and roll history, particularly associated with the time of change and experimentation that was the 1960s and 1970s.
The Jan & Dean Sound, Dore 101, 1960.
Jan & Dean's Golden Hits, Liberty, 1962.
(With Johnny Rivers) Totally Live at the Whiskey A Go-Go, EMI Records, 1964.
(With Johnny Rivers) Whiskey A Go-Go Revisited, Liberty, 1967.
(With the Mamas and the Papas) If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, Dunhill, 1965.
(Co-producer, with Barry McGuire) Eve of Destruction, Dunhill, 1965.
(With Barry McGuire) This Precious Time, Dunhill, 1965.
The Mamas and the Papas, Dunhill, 1966.
The Mamas and the Papas Deliver, Dunhill, 1967.
The Papas and the Mamas, Dunhill, 1968.
(With Spirit) Spirit, Epic/Legacy, 1968.
(With Carole King) Now That Everything's Been Said, Ode, 1968.
(With Spirit) The Family That Plays Together, Epic/Legacy, 1969.
(With Spirit) Clear, Epic/Legacy, 1969.
(With Carole King) Writer, Ode, 1970.
(With Carole King) Tapestry, Ode, 1971.
(With Carole King) Music, Ode, 1971.
Cheech & Chong, Warner Bros. Records, 1972.
(With Cheech & Chong) Big Bambu, Warner Bros. Records, 1972.
(With Carole King) Rhymes and Reasons, Ode, 1972.
(With Cheech & Chong) Los Cochinos, Warner Bros. Records, 1973.
(With Carole King) Fantasy, Ode, 1973.
Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album, Reprise Records, 1974.
(With Carole King) Wrap Around Joy, Ode, 1974.
(With Carole King) Thoroughbred, Ode, 1975.
(With Carole King) Really Rosie, Ode, 1975.
(With Cheech & Chong) Sleeping Beauty, Warner Bros. Records, 1976.
(With Cheech & Chong) Up In Smoke (soundtrack), Reprise Records, 1979.
Entertainment Weekly, May 3 1996, pp. 24-45.
Independent (London, England), October 30, 2004, pp. 26-28.
Orange Country Register, June 11, 1993, p. P05.
"Lou Adler," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (February 12, 2006).
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