From the rock revolution to the digital revolution Dean Kay has successfully participated in the music industry as both a creator and business person.
He has been at the helm of some of the most highly respected and forward thinking music publishing companies in the world, first as COO of the Welk Music Group, a major independent company, then as President of the US division of the PolyGram International Publishing Group and now as President/CEO of his own precedent setting venture, Demi Music Corp. Kay's platform for reinventing the music publishing business and forging a new set of parameters designed to become the industry standards in the digital age.
Throughout his career, Dean has nurtured the careers of scores of songwriters, recording artists and music industry executives and has consummated innumerable acquisitions around the world including the purchase of over 100 music publishing catalogs involving more than 100,000 copyrights.
Along the way he has been the chief caretaker of the creative treasures of a diverse group of musical geniuses including Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Cole Porter, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Johnny Horton, Don Williams, Bob McDill, Wayland Holyfield, Ricky Skaggs and Rick Springfield to name a few.
Dean's creative roots, however, have always been the foundation for his business accomplishments. Prior to his involvement in publishing, he was a successful songwriter, having had many of his compositions recorded (including "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra), was a recording artist for RCA Victor Records, appeared daily as a featured entertainer on the nationally televised Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, performed live across the United States and produced dozens of phonograph records and radio and television commercials.
Dean's kinship with, and understanding of, the creative community facilitates a unique, symbiotic relationship between business and art which has been a distinguishing factor in his business endeavors throughout his entire career.
For the past several years, he has immersed himself in the workings of Internet with the intent of using his rich experience in the traditional music industry to create a bridge between the industry's past and its future. Today, Dean is a sought after speaker, consultant, and adviser regarding the use of music in the Internet space while simultaneously utilizing the ever expanding array of new technologies to enhance the opportunities of his current roster of talented creators.
Dean's daily news digest, The Dean's List, chronicles the rapid - and irreversible - transformation taking place in the entertainment industry and is read by songwriters, artists, prominent music and digital distribution industry professionals, politicians, government agencies, university students and members of the legal community throughout the world. The Dean's List and its sister web publication, The ASCAP Daily Brief (powered by The Dean's List) now reach 165,000 subscribers a day.
Dean has been a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) since 1989 and is co-chairman of ASCAP's New Technology Committee. He is also on the Board of the ASCAP Foundation. He has served on the Board of Directors of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the Harry Fox Agency, Inc (HFA), the Country Music Association (CMA), the Academy of County Music (ACM), the California Copyright Conference (CCC) and the Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP.)
Hank Jones and Dean Kay met in a bassinet in San Leandro, CA. Born 18 days apart to parents who were friends, they often found themselves sharing the same sleeping accommodation. The two remained friends while growing up ... Then, Bang! 1954! Elvis! Rock n Roll! And, the world changed! Hank gathered some high school buddies and started a band ... Hank Jones and the White Bucks ... Dean joined as 'Jerry Lee' They played high schools, prison farms, weddings, wine tasting parties... Alcatraz. But, when high school ended, real life kicked in and the band disbanded. Hank and Dean worked up an act as a folk duo to see if that might their ticket to success.
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The boys heard that Tennessee Ernie Ford was holding open auditions for a 5 day a week national daytime TV show to be shot in San Francisco. They auditioned with 1500 other Bay Area wannabes and got the gig... from then on they balanced shooting the show, writing songs, recording for RCA Victor, making personal appearances across the nation and attending college ... until ... Dean was 'asked' to join another aggregation, the US Army. The draft ended the Hank and Dean era and launched the "That's Life" era. Hank and Dean have remained best friends for life.
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On October 18, 1966 at 8:00PM, Frank Sinatra, in a tux with Mia Farrow on his arm, walked into Western Recorders on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood and greeted - and joked with - 40 musicians who were rehearsed and ready to go. 20 minutes later he took Ms Farrow by the hand and left. In between he recorded THAT'S LIFE. At 3:00AM my wife to be, Michelle, called and told me to, "Turn on KFWB" – then the hottest rock station in L.A.. And, there it was, Frank Sinatra's new single, THAT'S LIFE. Thanks to hand cut acetate dubs, a trick used often by producer Jimmy Bowen, the record spread across the nation overnight and went on to become Sinatra's fastest selling single of all time. I was 22 when I wrote the song as a personal memo to myself. Four years later I was sitting in a recording studio not five feet from Frank Sinatra listening to the playback of his recording of what I had written. The experience remains the most surreal of my life ... a life Mr. Sinatra changed - forever - in just 20 minutes.
Frank Sinatra first heard "That's Life" on his car radio performed by O.C. Smith. Frank stopped the car, called his daughter, Nancy, and told her to find the publisher because he wanted to record it. Nancy did ... and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over 200 Artists - Worldwide - Have Recorded "That's Life."
That's Life made the soundtracks of dozens of films and hundreds of TV shows over the years from "A Bronx Tale" to "The Big Short" - from "American Idol" to "Saturday Night Live" with several National TV commercials thrown in along the way to keep things interesting.
The legendary Twyla Tharp included "That's Life" in three magnificent productions featuring songs recorded by Frank Sinatra:
"Once More Frank" (1976), which she performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov at an American Ballet Theatre gala "Nine Sinatra Songs" (1982), and the Broadway smash "Come Fly Away" (2010).
Ms Tharp's interpretation of "That's Life" was also performed when she was recognized for her life long, brilliantly inventive, contributions to the choreographic arts by The Kennedy Center Honors.
"Come Fly with Me" Review:
Up and Down, Over and Out, That's Sinatra and Tharp
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For 18 years Dean Kay was the COO of Lawrence Welk's music publishing companies during which time he built Welk's copyright holdings into one of the largest, most respected and highly successful independent music publishing companies of all time. Chances are no matter how you consumed music during the 70's and 80's you couldn't go a day without hearing at least one - and more than likely - many songs published by Lawrence Welk. Standards, pop, R&B, country, rock 'n' roll, adult contemporary - you name it - songs owned by the maestro - and written by the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century - came at you via radio, TV, movies, Broadway, concert halls, boom boxes, home stereo systems, elevators, grocery store ceilings and everywhere else music was presented.
The Lawrence Welk Show was on national television for 27 years. The last new show aired February 24, 1982. His shows remain popular on PBS to this day.
Home base for Welk's music publishing empire was Santa Monica, CA. But, as the company grew, it became more and more apparent that a New York outpost was needed to promote the ever expanding catalog and provide more opportunities for a growing roster of exclusive songwriters. Welk's first New York City office was opened in the world famous Brill Building, the epicenter of east coast rock 'n' roll.
With the acquisition of music publishing legend Bill Hall's publishing company, Welk made a major commitment to country music. Bill stayed on to run the Welk's Nashville division as did the amazingly prolific group of writers who had been the corner stone of Hall's success in Nashville ... Bill Rice, Jerry Foster, Dickey Lee and Bob McDill, who, during his unprecedented career, produced at least one number 1 hit song (and many times more) for 25 years in a row!
William G. (Bill) Hall achieved success as a music producer, promoter and publisher. He began his music career in Beaumont, TX, opening a recording studio and working as a booking agent for such artists as George Jones and Benny Barnes, eventually becoming Jones' manager. Hall also had hits with J.P. Richardson's "Chantilly Lace" in 1958 and Johnny Preston's "Running Bear" in 1960. Later, he joined with Sun Records engineer Jack Clement, to form the Gulf Coast Recording Company, working with artists such as Jerry LaCroix, Johnny Allen, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Roger Miller, Bob McDill and Tex Ritter. The two later formed one of the most successful country music publishing companies in Nashville, Hall-Clement (BMI) / Jack and Bill (ASCAP) which they eventually sold to Lawrence Welk. Known affectionately as the "Colonel," Bill was one of the last great 'characters' on Music Row. He passed away in 1983.
In fact, so successful was the Welk Music Group in every genre of popular music that one year the company received the "Publisher of the Year" award at every major music industry event that recognized such endeavors.
As Welk's Nashville operation expanded its roster of songwriters, artists and producers, Welk's Real Estate Division decided it was time to build a building in the middle of Music Row to house its incredibly successful sister company. The building featured a state of the art recording studio as well as offices for its writers and staff. The interplay between the creative and promotional staffs catapulted the Nashville Division to even greater heights.
The expansion of the catalog, once again, called for the expansion of Welk's promotional footprint. Opening an office in London was the next logical step. John Merritt was chosen to head the office and Iqbal, whose organization, IQ Music Ltd., oversaw the administration of the Welk catalogs.
Lawrence Welk decided to go into the music publishing business when, in 1958, his manager, Sam Lutz, suggested he purchase Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing Co. the owners of "I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad," "Bird In A Guilded Cage," "When My Baby Smiles at Me" and many more early 20th Century favorites. Lawrence was sold on the idea when Sam told him that he would receive performance royalties every time he played one of those songs on his show. Once in the business, Lawrence and his board of directors soon realized how valuable owning copyrights could be and set out to acquire other available works whether they were good for the Welk Show or not. Over the next 31 years, that decision led to the purchase of over 100 music publishing companies and over 100,000 copyrights which included a broad array of every conceivable genre of popular music. Estate planning led to the sale of the company in 1989 to PolyGram's publishing division. Lawrence passed away in 1992.
The name Lawrence Welk, to this day, still evokes his personal commitment to honesty, integrity, hard work and living the American Dream. He worked on his parents farm in North Dakota until he was 21 when he left home, virtually penniless, with his accordion and a dream of becoming a band leader. He spoke only German until he left the farm. The path he followed to success has been well documented. His television shows are still among the most highly rated PBS offerings today. Many of his music and non music related business ventures continue to prosper under the Welk brand.
Overlooking Santa Monica Bay in Southern California stand three monuments to Lawrence Welk - three buildings he built during his career that testify to the tenacity, perseverance and belief in himself that led him to become, arguably, the most successful American big band leader of all time. Two of the buildings, one at either end to the triad, included, among their tenants, the offices of Lawrence Welk and his various enterprises including the home base of his music publishing company. The center building, a luxurious condo complex, is where Lawrence and his wife Fern enjoyed their years in retirement. I can't deny that it became a little difficult to concentrate on the music publishing business on summer afternoons when hundreds of sail boats sailed out of Marina Del Rey and onto Santa Monica Bay or on those days when dazzling sunsets were too spectacular to go unnoticed. But, business got done and wonderful memories remain. I'm reminded of Lawrence, and all the great people that worked for him - and for me - every time I visit Santa Monica or anywhere along the coast where the buildings are visible - and every time I fly out of LAX.
For 18 years as COO of the Welk Music Group, Dean was the caretaker of the entire creative output of Jerome Kern, The Godfather of the American musical. In 1985, Dean hosted parties in New York, L.A. and London celebrating the 100th anniversary of Jerome Kern's birth. As part of the celebration, Dean worked with Congress to secure the issuance of a Commemorative US Postage Stamp in Kern's honor. (First class postage at the time: 22¢).
The Godfather of the American Musical
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"Ol' Man River" Jerome Kern - Oscar Hammerstein II-Paul Robeson(Showboat - 1936)
All The Things You Are" Jerome Kern - Oscar Hammerstein II- Ella Fitzgerald.
"The Song is you" - Jerome Kern Oscar Hammerstein II -Frank Sinatra.
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" Jerome Kern - Otto Harbach -The Platters
"Pick Yourself Up" Jerome Kern - Dorothy Fields-Diana Krall (Live)
"Jerome Kern Medley" From the 1946 musical "Till the Clouds Roll By".
Andy Williams' BARNABY MUSIC CORP., joins our music publishing family.
December 3, 1927- September 25,2012.
Rest in peace, my friend.
December 23,1933 - March 5, 2017
Let’s talk about me ...
With Michelle gone I feel like I’m back to where I started over 50 years ago … I’m the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz ... before he met the wizard ... If I Only Had a Brain ...
I also know that when I walk into some event without her glittering exuberance on my arm I’ll melt into the crowd and be just another tall guy in a tuxedo.
And, now what am I going to do, I haven’t bought a piece of clothing – right down to my tighty whities - for 49 years.
Michelle and her bothers John and Chris were born in Chicago to Greek parents who immigrated to the US in search of a better life. Unfortunately, by the time she was 14, both parents had passed.
John was old enough to strike out on his own, but Michelle and Chris found themselves in separate foster care situations … As soon as she was old enough, she packed up her belongings, said goodbye to Lake Michigan winters and moved to Southern California ...
When Chris was old enough she drove cross country – alone - to bring him to live with her in California – the fact that the car caught fire on the way back is another story for another time ...
John eventually moved to Southern California where the three raised their families and spent the rest of their lives.
Everyone who knew her knows she was gregariously outgoing. What most people don’t know is that she was guardedly private … On occasion that was an enigma waiting to happen.
I loved everything about her dearly. … even those things I may never know.
She certainly was the Wizard of our family and the financial wizard of both the family and our music publishing business … she was a shrewd investor and rarely purchased household goods that weren’t on sale, or that she didn’t believe would produce some long term positive return on investment … like some of the furniture in our house which she believed would become antiques … and which we rarely allowed anyone to use … including ourselves.
In 1985 she allowed me to buy her a Mercedes 380SL for her birthday AND Christmas present because she believed it would become a classic …. It is currently sitting in our garage, has under 25000 miles on the odometer, is showroom fresh ... and is probably worth more than we paid for it.
She’d been right about cars before, in fact I married her for her '57 T-Bird and her 1963 Buick Riviera!
She loved those Bed, Bath and Beyond mailers that gave her $5.00 off if she purchased $15.00 worth of merchandise … They came frequently. We went frequently … She never spent more than $10.00 and we came home with something she thought she needed at a 33 1/3% discount.
She loved talking to John LoFrumento, Hal David and her broker, Joe Cefalu about investments. She watched the market, read everything she could about investing and made many very shrewd moves throughout our life together.
To say she was tenacious is an understatement. When it came to family matters, the results of her tenacity were generally positive – though, as with all families, there were some rough patches … With her close friends her tenacious loyalty was no less than undying … with her health it saved her life - twice.
17 years ago I came downstairs where she’d been ironing to say goodnight. I found her on the floor with the hot iron pressed against her cheek. She’d had a stroke … 911 got her to the hospital in time to save her life but she was completely paralyzed on one side and the section of her brain that allowed her to form speech was completely destroyed.
Linda Gasson, a brilliant speech pathologist from Providence, St. Joseph’s Hospital here in Burbank, spent untold personal hours working with her to develop other parts of her brain that would allow her to speak again.
They had long conversations, where Linda would help her regain the ability to say words she could no longer form ...
On her own, Michelle read everything she could get her hands on - out loud – to learn how to form the words and to rebuild her vocabulary. And, together with Linda’s help and encouragement, she eventually rebuilt her ability to communicate verbally to nearly 100%.
Linda is here today … a great family friend … and Michelle’s, “take no prisoners” guardian angel for the several times she found herself back at St. Joes ...
Simultaneously with relearning how to speak, Michelle undertook a rigorous exercise regiment that eventually allowed her to overcome 90% of the effects of her paralysis … she exercised religiously until her final illness made it impossible for her to get back on her treadmill.
Several years after recovering from the stroke her doctor determined that she needed what should have been simple gallbladder operation ... Unfortunately, she developed a bacterial infection while in the hospital which forced the hospital to put her into an induced coma for four weeks while they tried to determine what actually caused the infection. They never found out the actual cause but through the amazing dedication and perseverance of the ICU team they brought her back from the edge.
And, through her tenacity and perseverance, once again she powered herself back to almost full physical capacity.
Through all of this, her mental capacity was never diminished … She could remember in minute detail everything that happened in her life ... Sometimes that incredible memory didn’t play to my particular benefit.
I like New York in June, how about you? ... She loved New York in June ... especially Bloomy’s, Rockefeller Center, window shopping, our wonderful New York friends, the hotel we loved and the Viand coffee shop 61st and Madison.
Cy Coleman introduced us to Viand. They make the greatest turkey sandwiches in the world - made with turkey cooked fresh every day right in the store. We made it a tradition every year to feast on mile high fresh turkey sandwiches, a Greek salad and French fries.
See also loved the worldwide travel our business afforded us, and the extra perks “That’s Life” and the aura of Frank Sinatra added to our visits anywhere we went. You really get the feeling of how global music is when someone in France who only speaks French sings the lyrics to your song to you in English.
It was our wonderful friend, Dr. Ramilla Doshi, not a travel agent by trade, but the greatest creator of travel itineraries in the world … for friends only …who put together the most exiting trip we ever experienced … our last great international adventure in 2013 … an amazing trip to Africa.
You may have noticed the elephant backdrop used in the opening slide show (put together by our grandson, Michael, by the way) and wondered about the significance… Michelle loved elephants ... there are references to elephants all over our house. In fact, she refused to marry me until I promised to buy her an elephant and keep it in the vacant lot across the street from our home. … as you might have guessed, I reneged on that promise ... So, instead of bringing an elephant to her, we brought her to the elephants … hundreds of them.
[Incidentally, the central picture above was taken in 2013 for her passport.]
She loved to dress up and go to events ... she hated rubber chicken.
She loved her brothers Chris and John and missed them dearly when they passed. She loved her nieces and nephews, her grand nieces and nephews, her close friends, and, I’m very lucky to say, she loved me too.
She had a very special love for our grandson Michael ...
But, she loved our daughter, Lisa, most of all.
To say I will miss her is an understatement. The fact is, I will never truly be me again without her.
My mother was a remarkable lady. Beyond her obvious beauty, elegance and brilliant mind, she was the truest example of a warrior.
Extremely private, she silently and fiercely fought her cancer diagnosis in Oct 2015 with treatment and then surgery not telling a soul outside of immediate family. (Even that was limited)
Her passion, devotion and loyalty for her family & close friends has always inspired me.
She was a complex women.
Controlled and timed when giving guidance; she was firm with her convictions, impatient and non-budging with how she expected the outcome to be.
Contrary was her free spirited and patient side.
An example of this existed in her love of gardening and planting.
I will always treasure the memory of the excitement in her voice and her ear to ear smile while showing me her first full size pineapple grown from the scraps of a pineapple top she had planted almost 3 years prior.
She was my dearest friend & strongest critic. Our lifetime of smiles, tears, laughter and struggles connect our souls forever.
She will be missed every day and loved always and forever.
Michelle was special.
I remember her warm smile and great personality.
I believe that GOD sends very special people into our lives. Michelle was that person for me. She became a special friend.
Michelle was loving and kind. She had a great sense of humor. We would laugh together over the great e-mails and cartoons she would send to me, and stories about her pet monkey.
I also remember how excited she became over her gardening and growing her first pineapple on her terrace.
I felt empty since I learned of her passing , but I'm getting through by reminding myself of the love my dear friend, Michelle , left behind and the many lives she touched in her lifetime.
I hope you will join me in remembering and celebrating my dear friend Michelle today and always.
Michelle Kay was my friend.
Sometimes God puts people in your life and you don’t know why. But it is not a coincidence.
They are simply – a gift from God.
Michelle was definitely God’s gift to me.
We met because of both our relationships with the ASCAP Board of Directors. Neither of us were on it (we should have been), but there we were. Together for no apparent reason. With some people you just have an instant heart connection – that was Michelle and me.
Everything about Michelle was bigger than life… Her husband… Her closet… Even her diamonds!
She loved diamonds. They were an extension of her personality brilliant, sparkling and on fire. But… she would lose them regularly.
I can think of 3 or 4 times (or maybe 5 or 6) that we crawled around the floor of various ballrooms because Michelle had dropped a bracelet, a ring or a necklace. That was Michelle.
I remember one trip to NY when Dean and Michelle and I were on the same plane. We met in baggage claim and as I picked up my one bag for the 3 day trip, I watched as bag after bag after bag of Michelle’s Louis Vuitton luggage (covered in plastic protectors) got loaded onto a luggage cart. I stared in awe. How could a person whose clothes are the size of a postage stamp possibly fill 5 giant pieces of luggage with clothing for 3 days?... I confronted her about it. She gave me that look … and said, “Well, I have to have choices!”
Dean only had one bag...
Then Michelle had her stroke - and I went into prayer gear. And for some reason, those prayers bonded us and cemented our friendship. Lunches here and there. A little shopping. And lots of talking. Always lots of talking – and laughing – and joking and having fun! She had a devilish sense of humor, never mean, but on point. She was kind, generous and caring to everyone. With me, she put my well-being above her own – grilling me about my health, finances, love life, wardrobe, jewelry... Just like a mother a sister, a friend.
Michelle impressed and inspired me. This smart, impish little itty bitty blonde was a force of nature. Fearless, courageous, undaunted by circumstances. Any circumstances.
She fought to walk again. To speak again. To make her brain coordinate words with her mouth. She insisted on being well. On being whole. She was tough. She was a fighter.
And then, she got sick again. This time, cancer. And she fought it like hell. She chose life every time there was a choice and a chance she could get better. This little ball of fire was not going down without a fight. I watched her bravery, her resolve, her joy. Throughout it all she continued to smile, make jokes and laugh.
When I think of courage, tenacity, fearlessness, generosity, kindness – I think of Michelle. I loved her. I loved everything about her.
She was the epitome of life and I will miss her.