Born 29 March 1918, New York City, New York
Dick Jacobs is primarily remembered as A&R man for Coral and Brunswick Records (both Decca subsidiaries), who helped Jackie Wilson, Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, and others bridge the gap between pop music and rock and roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Jacobs spent most of his life working in the heart of the recording business in New York City. After graduating from New York University, he worked for Bregman, Vocco and Conn, a music publishing company. He served in the Army during World War II, then returned to the city and spent several years working as an arranger for Tommy Dorsey. While working for Dorsey he became friends with Sy Oliver, another Dorsey arranger, and the pair eventually decided to form a partnership and pursue freelance arranging. Jacobs and Oliver were able to stay very busy with a steady stream of jobs working with numerous vocalists recording for New York studios. In addition, Jacobs was hired as musical director for the television series, "Your Hit Parade" in 1957-58. He cleaned out most of the studio orchestra members and replaced them with his own choices, including such stalwarts as Dick Hyman, Don Lamond, Al Caiola, and Jerome Richardson. One of the first to use an integrated orchestra on television, he made sure the producers didn't try to "shoot around" the black players. He joined Coral Records in 1953 as a recording manager and produced a number of the label's biggest acts, including the McGuire Sisters and Teresa Brewer. He also recorded under his own name, mostly light instrumentals, and had seven chart entries with his orchestra on Coral in 1956-57, the highest peaking being "Petticoats Of Portugal" (# 16, 1956). He eventually began to work for Coral's mother label, Decca, and its other main subsidiary, Brunswick, as producer, arranger, musical director, and, less frequently, performer. He produced both versions of "Early In The Morning" (Bobby Darin and Buddy Holly), with the same musicians. For the full story on "Early In The Morning" see: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Shakin_All_Over/message/11452
Jacobs was one of the first significant members of the mainstream pop music business to take rock seriously, and he helped Jackie Wilson and others achieve cross-over hits that sold well to a variety of audiences. Motown founder Berry Gordy recalls the encouragement Jacobs gave him when he brought Gordy from Detroit to help record one of his songs, "Lonely Teardrops," an early hit for Jackie Wilson. Rock purists may condemn Jacobs for bringing a large orchestral sound to Buddy Holly's solo records, but Holly himself felt it opened up a new range of sounds for him to work with. Jacobs called the pizzicato string section on "It Doesn't Matter Any- more" "the most unplanned thing I have ever written". It could be argued that Jacobs' arrangements for Holly's last recording session (21 October 1958) paved the way for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Phil Spector, and other seminal rock producers to use a larger orchestra as a basic element of their recordings. Jacobs produced most of Jackie Wilson's recordings between 1957 and 1966, frequently using an abundance of brass and string instrumentation on the backing.
By the early 1960s, Jacobs had stopped performing and functioned in a more administrative capacity in the music industry. He remained one of Decca's house arranger/conductors, and worked with many of the label's acts during this time. Jacobs left Decca when the label was sucked into the conglomerate, MCA, and produced for New York's Springboard Records until he retired in the late 1970s. He then worked on a reference book on popular songs and songwriters, Who Wrote That Song?, which was first published in the year of his death, 1988.
Dick Jacobs and Harriet Jacobs, Who Wrote That Song? 2nd ed. Cincinnati : Writer's Digest Books, 1994. A revised and updated comprehensive guide to American popular music from mid-19th century ballads of Stephen Foster to the current Top 40. Each of the approximately 12,500 listings provides the name of the song, the composer, the lyricist, the band or performer who popularized it, and the date the song was published.
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