The next Saturday Brian Chapman was sitting in the theater again watching the boy who he hoped would become the anchor to the TMR label. When the practice was over, Teddy walked down to Brian who was holding out some papers. He explained the contract and the percentages as well as what he expected from making a deal with Teddy. It was all good according to Brian.
"Well Teddy? This sound like something for you?"
"Yes sir I think it does. Wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't take a chance"
"Okay then Teddy, just sign here, here and here and we can get started."
Brian watched with pleasure as Teddy affixed his signature to each of the blanks that was indicated.
"So, when can I expect you in West Plains?"
turned and looked at Al who had been witnessing the signing of the
contract. Al had a stoic look on his face. He knew he had just lost
one of the prizes of the Hogey. He looked at the anxious face of the
young man and finally waved his hand.
"Go Teddy. We'll reset the show. Go and make us all proud."
nodded his head at Al then turned to watch Brian walk away. Sudenly
Brian stopped and turned around looking at Teddy seriously.
"Hey Teddy, you play guitar?"
"Not much, just what I know from messing with the guitars around here."
"You got a guitar?" Brain asked as he started making his way back to Teddy pulling a wad of cash from his pocket.
"No sir, pretty much stick to the piano."
well do me a favor before you come to West Plains." Brian handed Teddy
forty dollars. "Head into town and get a used guitar. The older
looking and rougher the better. Learn some chords on it. Nothing fancy
just some basic chords. Might come in handy down the road." And with
that Brian turned and exited through the back doors.
afternoon Teddy went into the Branson pawn shop and started looking at
the guitars on the wall. The man behind the counter watched the kid
stand and stare at the instruments on the wall.
"Lookin' for a guitar son?" the man asked with a smile. "How much you want to spend?"
answered without taking his eye from the wall, "Yes sir, looks like I
may be needing one. I figure I got around forty dollars for one."
for forty you can have this one here." the man said as he took a nice
looking guitar off the wall.. "She's in very good shape, has a nice
tone to it. Want to try it out?"
"No thank you, "Teddy
said as he wandered on further down the wall until he saw it. It was a
small guitar and looked like it had seen some rough times pan handling
or something. There were scratches almost everywhere he looked. In a
few places words or initials were carved into the face of it.
"How much for this one?" Teddy asked as he reached up to take the old guitar off the wall.
one?" The man asked with a surprised tone in his voice. "You got
forty and this is what you are looking for? Well, I don't know, guess I
could give it to you for about twenty." he said expecting a counter
offer from the young man but Teddy just held the guitar and looking it
over finally answered the man.
"Okay twenty. Does it have a case?"
some might call it a case. I call it a cardboard box shaped like a
guitar with a handle on it. I'll throw that in for nothing"
"All right, I'll take it."
The man who ran the shop shook his head and went in the back room to get the case for the newly purchased guitar.
"There ya go son. Good luck with that old thing."
"Thanks" Teddy said as he picked up the guitar and walked out into the street.
Teddy drove back by the theater, he saw Al coming out and getting into
his old station wagon. He waved but Al did not seem to see him. At that
moment in time, Teddy did not realize it would be the
last time he would ever see Al. He spent the next week wrapping things
up and getting his parents ready for his departure. The next Friday
night, Teddy got on a bus headed to West Plains, Missouri.
The TMR recording studio was outside of the town of West Plains and sat on a gravel road next to a large cornfield. At one time it had been an old radio station but Brian had bought it and converted it to a studio. Teddy could hear the music from inside as he approached the building and he began to get a little nervous. He stepped into the studio to find Brian sitting at the console leaning back in his chair watching and listening to the musicians intently. When Brian heard the door close he jumped up out of his chair.
"Teddy! Really good to see you made it. Come on in and I'll introduce you to your new band."
Brian led Teddy through a door with a glass window in it and introduced each performer to him. Two guitars, a bass and a drummer.
"Okay guys, I want you to play with Teddy now. We'll start off with songs Teddy knows and see how you all sound together. I see you got you a guitar, Let's have a look."
Teddy opened up the old wore out case and pulled the old beat up guitar out and handed it to Brian.
"Perfect. This is exactly what I was hoping you would get. Beat up guitar makes it look like you been around a while. Phil, stay let over the next few days and teach some basic chords on this thing to Teddy, okay?"
Phil nodded his head without expression and the musicians watched as Teddy took his place at the piano that had been set up in the middle of the recording room. It was a nice piano, a baby grand and was in pretty good tune and had a rich tone. Teddy played a bit by himself to get use to it and then started playing an old Hank tune. It didn't take the band long to recognize the song and they jumped in along with Teddy one by one until the sound became tight and clear.
"Teddy," Brian yelled over the music, "Teddy, start singing into that mike right there." and he did. Brian headed back into the other room and listened and a smile came over his face. The sound was good, by far the best that this studio had heard in a long time.
For two weeks Teddy and the band played old classics and worked on a few of the songs that Teddy had written. He learned a little guitar and every once in a while Brian would have Teddy sing one of his soft ballads while using his new knowledge to accompany himself on the old beat up guitar. Brain was becoming more excited almost daily as the band grew tighter and learned Teddy's style and how to play with him. The boys liked Teddy's own tunes which helped a lot and every one was enjoying the daily sessions together.
One day while they were playing a man walked in and sat to talk to Brian. After awhile, both of them came into the studio.
"Okay guys, you all know Buddy. Well I guess Teddy doesn't, Buddy Goren, this is our piano player Teddy Senner. He is good and will add some sound to your recording." Brian then went back to addressing all the musicians. "Okay guys, Buddy is going to record another album over the next few days. We'll practice on it a couple of days then record it on Friday. Buddy, their all yours." and Brian turned to walk back into the booth to listen to what Buddy had brought with him.
Buddy Goren was one of the few acts that Brian had signed and was the most successful artist on the TMR label. Even though he was the best TMR had to offer, he had been a disappointment to Brian and had failed to bring the label into the spotlight. He had recorded five albums and released six singles. Only one of the singles had broke the top twenty and a second one had made it into the top forty. The rest of them had made a small splash then faded from the airwaves. Of the albums only one had broke into the top twenty while the rest of them had ended up in bargain bins across the midwest. This new album would be the last one Buddy would be required to do under his contract with Brian and Brian had no intention of extending the contract unless this release really took off. In reality both Brian and Buddy knew this was his swan song. It would probably be the last the world would hear from Buddy Goren.
After a few days of practice with Buddy, Friday came and the band sat down to do the best they could at recording with Buddy. They recorded the whole album, nine songs, on Friday and late Friday afternoon, Buddy Goren walked out of the studios and back in to the world.
Brian then disappeared for three months. He had gone to a studio in Springfield and cleaned up the tapes and had one single pressed as well as the album. Brian had then been on the road handing out Buddy Goren's latest to radio stations within a two hundred mile radius. During his absence the band continued to meet at the studio daily and Teddy had written a few more songs. The band took to one of the songs and they all loved it. They decided they would play it for Brian when he returned.
Brain did return to the studio one hot afternoon. He walked in hearing the band play an old country classic and sat in his chair. The trip and not gone well. Not many stations were impressed with Buddy Goren anymore and a very few of the stations agreed to try to push it for a week. Brian knew that Buddy Goren was finished. He had failed to capture the attention of even a small regional area.
While Brian was running the Goren situation through his head he suddenly became aware of a song the band was playing. He had not heard it before but it sounded really good. Teddy was pounding on the piano, the boys were all right there with him giving it a tight sound and Teddy's voice sounded strong. The music itself was very upbeat and had a slightly different sound to it. When Brian started listening to the lyrics, he just sat in amazement. When the band finished the song, Brian jumped up and ran into the studio.
"What was that?" he asked in wonderment.
"Just a song Teddy wrote while you were gone." Phil spoke up for the group. "Personally, me and the boys think you got a record here. This is a hot song Brian."
"Let's hear it again," Brian said in anticipation.
The band played the song again and Brian made the decision to record it the next day.
"Listen guys, work up a b-side for this thing and work on the new song tonight. I want to get this out there."
The guys agreed and so they worked on it, making tweaks here and there to bring the song together. The next day, Teddy sat at the piano and went recorded it with the boys three times until Brian was pleased with the outcome. They then recorded the second song in just one take and the next morning Brian was off to his radio station rounds to pitch a new artist on the TMR label. It was the birth of a new artist and Brian knew it.
While Brian was out on the road trying to get radio stations to play Teddy's record, Teddy and the band were busy trying to book themselves gigs in small bars and clubs around the area. They were somewhat successful and soon found themselves in demand as word spread of this new artist from the area.
By the time Brian returned just before Thanksgiving things were already moving. Teddy's song had taken off like a rocket from the first time it was aired on the rural stations in the midwest. The demand for the record became high enough that Brian had to enter into a deal with a major studio to do the pressings for him. Soon Teddy's song "One for Two" was starting to spread across the country. In a mere three weeks time, Teddy Senner was in the top ten on the charts with his first record peaking at number seven.
Once the first release peaked at number seven, Brian had Teddy record a second single which would have one of his guitar ballads on the a-side and a full sounded country hit on the b-side. This time Brian did not need to travel around to get the record air time. Stations were more than happy to be on the list to receive a copy of the new single and to play it for their listeners. The soft ballad went to number twelve and the b-side made a splash in its own right by peaking at number fourteen.
After watching the success of three Teddy Senner records breaking the top twenty, Brian and Teddy sat down to pick out songs for his first album. Brian wanted most of the cuts to be covers of country classics with the four songs included from the first two singles. A lineup was made of the songs and in three days Teddy and his studio band recorded "The Teddy Senner Album". The album was an immediate hit in the midwest and by springtime it had gone nationwide. Teddy's first album peaked at number nine on the charts nationally. Teddy Senner had arrived on the scene.
The album spurned a quick concert tour. In small venues Teddy and the band would play by themselves while at other times, if they were close to a big city where one of the legends of country music was performing they would be asked to open the show. It seemed like everywhere they went they were well received and praises came from the headliners as they began their set after Teddy had left the stage. Things were about to move very quickly for Teddy now and his life and memories would become a blur.
Teddy continued to record and write and his songs and albums seemed to always land in the top twenty, many of them crossing that top ten line. Then from his ninth album "Heading To The Top" the first single released hit number one while the album crested at number three. It was the peak of his career and everyone at TMR celebrated. The once studio band had becomes Teddy's regular band although he was billed as a solo act. He worked four or five of his guitar songs into each set while the rest of the concert would be full sound country pop music. He was on the road every summer touring for four months while taking the winters off. Even though he played a few stadium concerts as an opening act, the band preferred to perform in venues of ten thousand or less. Teddy felt more comfortable with the smaller crowds and felt they could feel his music better than a crowd in a stadium. As time went on, the sell out concerts would start to dwindle just a little bit, but were still pulling in a lot of fans that made it all worthwhile.
Teddy's twenty fourth album was a double live album followed by the twenty fifth album that was a double greatest hits collection. This was the point that Brian had been working towards. He had a label in TMR that was well known, he had an artist that was constantly in the top twenty and the label was becoming more attractive of an option to new artists just breaking out. Brain sat one night thinking about all of this. He thought of all the years Teddy had given the label and what Teddy meant to it as well as to Brian. Brian began to think that maybe it was time for a change.
It was at the Christmas party one year that Brian gathered all the employees and artists of TMR together for a major announcement. He called everyone around him and waited for the room to quiet down. Standing next to Brian was his son Eddie who had been involved with TMR since he was twenty years old. Eddie knew the business and followed his fathers every move. Finally Brian cleared his throat to speak.
"I just wanted to tell all of you here at TMR thank you for your dedication and hard work to make this label a success. It has been a long time coming and I feel the label finally has the respect it deserves from the industry. Thank you all so very much."
The crowd applauded while Brian held up his hand for silence.
"I have decided that it is time for a change around here. I have been here a very long time and I feel like it is time for me to step down and retire." The silence in the room was deafening as people processed what Brian was saying. "So, as of the first of the year, Eddie here will be taking over the helm of TMR. There won't be any changes, no one is going to lose a job or anything, it will just be a new name on the paychecks and the contracts. Eddie is more than capable of keeping TMR heading in the direction that it currently is. Eddie, say a few words?"
Eddie Chapman stood up and straightened his tie while clearing his throat.
"I know this may seem strange to a lot of you. You all have been with my dad for many many years and have made this company what it is today. I have been one of you for a long time. Like you I have watched in wonder as my dad built this label up to what it is. I am not sure I can be quite as good as dad, but all in all having him as a mentor is about the best thing that could happen to me, to all of us. So let's lift our glasses and toast a very fine man, my father."
Eddie lifted his glass and looked out to be sure everyone was ready.
"Dad, thank you from all of us for your years of dedication and loyalty to each of us over the last several years. You have done a fantastic job and we appreciate it. You have worked hard and you deserve to rest easy in your retirement. So, thank you ... good luck ... and well wishes for you."
And with that everyone lifted their glass and drank to Brian Chapman. It marked the end of an era at TMR. Teddy stood silently as he absorbed the news that Brian would no longer be around. He made it a goal for himself to continue to perform and record for Eddie as he had done for Brian. Brian deserved that from him. He would continue to do his best.
As Teddy was leaving the party, Brian and Eddie were at the door to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Teddy shook Eddie's hand without a word and then leaned in and hugged Brian.
"Thank you Brian. Thank you for everything you have done for me. I will never forget you."
As Teddy walked out to the parking lot he felt a tear form in his eye. There was no way it would be the same without Brian.
Things did change once Brian left. Eddie did not care much for country music and had decided to widen out the genres of music that TMR would be releasing. More and more Rock and Roll acts came into the studio and Teddy found it increasingly difficult to get studio time to record. When he did record, Eddie seemed to put releasing a new Teddy Senner album on the back burner to get more of the popular music out because it brought in more money. Teddy began to see his record sales slip and his songs were not charting as high without the promotional backing from the front office.
Teddy had a forty album contract with TMR and he was closing in on completing the deal. He had recorded thirty eight albums for the label and had just two left to go when Eddie called him in to the office around the first of November.
"Teddy, I guess you know you are about to complete your contract with TMR?"
"Yes sir I do, but I got plans and songs for anther ten albums easy. I got some songs...." Eddie held up his hand to quiet Teddy.
"Teddy. I want you to know that I realize without you, this label never would have taken off. I know that. Dad knows it. TMR is THE Teddy Senner label. But Teddy, listen, your sales have been slipping pretty bad. Country music is changing and you aren't changing with it. Your sound is old and frankly most of your followers out there are getting up in age."
Teddy thought quick. "Eddie, let me tell you, I have noticed the sound changing and I think I got a few songs that make that change. I can record them for you if you...."
Again Eddie raised his hand.
"Teddy, we have decided not to renew your contract after the fortieth album. The label is heading in a different direction. We are moving to a younger audience, a rock audience. TMR just isn't a country label anymore. You understand Teddy?"
Teddy felt a lump in his throat, "Well to be honest, not really Eddie. Don't understand it at all. I can still sale records if I get a little promotional help. I got some..."
"Teddy. You won't be on TMR. I am going to tell you something that is coming out next week. RCA wants to buy TMR records and to tell the truth, it is a deal I can't pass up. Now the good thing for you is that RCA does record country music so they might find a place for you in their library. If you do record again, you'll be on another label, but not TMR. It could work out to be a good thing for you."
Teddy sat in the chair slumped back staring at the floor.
Eddie ended the awkwardness, "Teddy here is what I want from you. I want you to leave TMR with a big bang. I want number thirty nine to be a gospel album and then number forty to be a Christmas album. You have never recorded either one of those in all the years you have been here. I think they will be big sellers and get you to RCA on a comeback roll. I think RCA will like it."
"Always wanted to do a gospel record," Teddy said quietly as he continued to process what was happening. "So this is it. Just like that I am out of TMR?"
"Teddy ... trust me, I got your continued success in mind. It will be good to get with a bigger label like RCA. TMR is just going down a different road is all. It isn't nothing against you and I am not making a statement about your abilities and talent. We all know who Teddy Senner is and what you have done. Just a different path is all. Are we okay now?
"Yeah I guess we have to be," Teddy sighed as he got up from the chair and turned towards the door. "I'll work up those two albums. I'll have them ready for you by Thanksgiving so you can release them. Good bye Eddie."
"Oh Teddy, We''l see each other before the contract runs out." Eddie said as he walked towards the old singer with his hand held out. Teddy refused to take the offer of a handshake though and looked Eddie straight in the eye.
"I am not sure about that Eddie. I'll get the albums done for you." Teddy walked out the door and out to the parking lot where he sat in his car for a long time thinking about things. He felt like he was back to where he was when he was fourteen. Just a musician loving music and looking for a break.
The last two Teddy Senner albums were released with high praise from the critics. While neither album broke into the top forty and there were no singles released from either of them, Teddy knew in his heart that his long time fans would be buying them and loving them. He had fulfilled his promise to Brian to continue doing the best he could and the two albums made Teddy proud.
After recording the last song for the Christmas Album, Teddy walked
slowly to his car and drove off the TMR property for the last time.
After RCA looked at the charts for Teddy's last two albums they decided not to give him a contract for recording, but they did agree to promote him on small tours now and then. Teddy had turned them down thinking he could do it himself. He had experienced more than his share of success now he would use that to keep playing music for the people who loved his songs. Teddy was independent now. He would be a true solo act. Just him, his piano and the guitar for the ballads.