Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Elton's First Manager Wants to Make Peace

Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Sir Elton John, whose first manager reveals how he discovered the singer in the 1960s and set him on the path to superstardom - only for John to never speak to him again after a bitter fall out.

Ray Williams fell foul of the singer even though he had helped set up a gig for Elton at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles, which sent his career soaring.

Elton, known for his bitter feuds with those close to him, most notably his own mother, is currently being sued by a former bodyguard who claims he was sexually assaulted by the star who groped him and made sexually-suggestive comments.

The claims have been ridiculed by a spokesman for Elton who says Jeffrey Menninger, an ex-captain in the Los Angeles Police Department, is only after money.

But English-born Ray, 67, has spoken out against his former friend in the hope of making him realize the harm his vicious feuds have done to those closest to him.

In an emotional interview, Ray told how:

* Elton never thanked him for teaming him up with Bernie Taupin, his songwriting partner of 48 years, who helped the star create classic songs such as Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road;

* Together with Jerry Heller of Chartwell Artists he organized the historic gig at the Troubadour Club that made Elton an overnight superstar in the US but his contract was ripped up days later and he was forced to take a pay-off;

* Elton was godfather to his daughter Amoreena but abandoned her when he found fame;

* The star's enormous ego prevents him from saying sorry, he hates confrontation and creates high-profile spats with other celebrities for publicity.

When Ray read that Elton had not spoken to his mother for seven years and even snubbed her 90th birthday party he was horrified, but not surprised.

Thankfully since then, she and Elton have reconciled with Elton declaring: 'We are now back in touch.'

But as Ray sees it, the treatment of Sheila Farebrother - who was reduced to hiring an Elton lookalike for her birthday bash last year - fits perfectly into a gallery of heartache and destruction that has plagued the star's personal life.

Ray, who went on to manage Gerry Rafferty's Stealers Wheels and now is founder of a music rights licensing company called Crumbs Music in the US, has kept a dignified silence until now about his tumultuous relationship with the $450m music legend.

Today he wants to set the record straight about his forgotten contribution to one of pop music's biggest success stories.

Speaking from his home in North Carolina, Ray told Daily Mail Online: 'Elton has become a bitter, grumpy old guy.

'It's sad when you don't talk to your mother when she's 90 years old. I am beyond shocked; I think it's very sad, spoiled behavior on Elton's part.

'The tantrum s**t is bulls**t, there's no need for it. People have put a lot of effort and time into helping him, I see it. There's no reason for him to treat people around him so poorly.'

Referring to Elton's spat with his mom, Ray said: 'I liked Sheila very much, I remember her as a really charming lovely lady. She and Elton were very close.

'She was fantastic, she was encouraging, she let Bernie stay with her when they started out, brought him in as part of the family. She supported him emotionally. He will regret it more once she passes.'
Before their reconciliation, Elton's mother told how she fell foul of her son by staying loyal to two of their oldest friends; John Reid (his ex-boyfriend and manager) and Bob Halley (his former chauffeur and PA) who he had fallen out with.

Ray, 67, said: 'Maybe she as a mother was trying to make a point, "don't be cruel". Maybe he knows that he has been.

'He should have really made an effort (for her birthday) but he's more interested in his feelings then other people's feelings. I would hate to be like that, I just think he's lost all sense of reality.
'I think he finds confrontation very difficult and has a team of people that can deal with the confrontations for him.

'Instead he ignores it and leaves it to fester and it gets worse.'

Elton's mom blames her son-in-law, David Furnish, for the pair's unhealthy adoration for 'people with wealth and fame' and for orchestrating the purge of his once close friends and family from his life.
For Ray Elton's obsession with the rich and famous became all too apparent when he watched his old friend be made godfather to the offspring of several celebrities - after he abandoned the same role for Ray's daughter Amoreena.

Amazingly Elton and songwriter Bernie suggested Ray name his daughter after their 1970 song and then volunteered to be her godfathers, only to discard the plan when they became big stars.

Ray recalls: 'My wife was pregnant, they [Elton and Bernie] said, if you have a little girl, we've got a name because we're going to write a song, so we want you to name her Amoreena, so we had a little girl and we called her Amoreena.

'They were going to be the godparents, and that's one of the sad things that never really happened, but that was very much part of the plan of the day.

'They were pretty close to us, and it was cool because they had named her, it was perfect.'
The song Amoreena is track eight on Elton's third album Tumbleweed Connection.

In the album sleeve it says: 'Amoreena, a regretful love song on which Elton was backed for the first time on record by his longtime rhythm section of Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson, is also the name of Elton's goddaughter.'

However instead of keeping his promise, Ray says, Elton has the girl pretty much since she was six months old and has gone on to be a doting godfather to Sean Lennon, Brooklyn and Romeo Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley's son Damien.

Just last month Brooklyn put a photo of him and Elton at a fashion event in LA in his instragram account, captioning it 'with the coolest godfather'.

Amoreena, now 44, is currently recovering from breast cancer after having a mastectomy operation.
Ray said of Elton: 'I think he's so wrapped up in his world. If you're famous and you've got someone you want him to be a godfather to, he's your man.'

As for Amoreena she has just one memory of Elton - when he ignored her at a charity five-a-side soccer tournament when she was seven.

Ray said: 'We were playing in a charity five-a-side football [soccer] match at Wembley [in London] and I was playing in a team with Eddy Grant and Elton was playing in his team.

'Amoreena was there and she asked for his autograph. She went up to him and said "my name's Amoreena" and he just walked past with all the other players going off at half time. Maybe he didn't recognize her. She was very disappointed.'

Recalling the incident, Amoreena says: 'I was very young at the time, around six or seven. But I certainly remember going up to Elton to say, "Hello, I'm Amoreena, Ray's daughter". I was one on one with him and he heard me loud and clear. He just blanked me and turned his back.

'At that age being knocked back like that was horrible. I was extremely upset. I don't remember if I was in tears or not. Possibly. It definitely left a scar though - what kid at that age wouldn't find it deeply hurtful?'

Amoreena, now a mother of two, continues: 'I find it all very sad really. All my dad deserves is acknowledgement for what he has done for Elton.

'Of course you make your own success in life to a large degree, but you shouldn't forget where you started and who helped put you there.

'I'm not sure what my father has done for Elton to treat him so shabbily. He's disappointed by it all and needs closure.'

Elton's cold treatment of Ray and his family is baffling considering he may never have made it without him.

However, Ray's story of why they fell out gives a unique insight into why Elton is so hard to get on with.

It was June 17, 1967, when Ray, just 20 and already head of European artist and repertoire at Liberty Records in London, put an advert into the New Musical Express, a British weekly newspaper which was the music world's bible.

It read: 'Liberty wants talent. Artists/composers/singers/musicians to form a new group.' He got thousands of applicants.

Elton - then going by his real name Reggie Dwight and in a bar band called Bluesology - applied.
Ray recalled he was 'a bit fat, a bit forlorn-looking' when he walked into his office the first time they met.

Ray said: 'Elton came along. I always remember a sentence that he used: 'I feel lost'. He just didn't know what to do. He was frustrated very much by the fact he was only a backing singer and a piano player. I had a piano in my office and asked him to go and play. He had a great voice and he was a great piano player but he couldn't write, he had no ability to write lyrics.'

Ray encouraged Elton to record a demo at Regent Sound in Denmark Street and loved it, but despite telling his bosses to sign him he was unable to persuade them he had found the next big thing.
So Ray gave Elton some lyrics that he had received from another hopeful applicant that had caught his eye - a self-described poet from Lincolnshire called Bernie Taupin.

He said: 'I can recall his letter saying "I'm essentially a poet, but I think my lyrics could work with music". So I sent back a note saying come and meet me. In the meantime we had made some demos with Elton and then I gave Elton his lyrics, they were just abstract and I didn't quite understand them but Bernie had something.

'They ended up communicating and writing.'

Bernie then came down to London where Ray set up a meeting for him with Elton.
Soon afterwards Bernie and Elton were taken on as general songwriters by Dick James, then famous for being The Beatles publisher.

Elton's talent was soon obvious and he was offered his own record deal, with Bernie as his songwriter, and it wasn't long after that Elton decided he wanted Ray - the man he had to thank for being recognized - to be his manager.

Ray, who by then had left Liberty and had gone on to manage Jeff Lynne (later of Electric Light Orchestra fame) and his early band Idle Race, said: 'I lived near Chelsea at the time and Elton and Bernie came by, it was just a nice surprise to see them, we went to the pub, the Duke of Wellington and Elton said 'I want you to manage me'.

'I gave up everything I was doing at that time to manage him.'

Ray signed a co-management deal with music publisher Dick James entitling him to half the management commission and he began to get promotional TV shows for Elton and the band around Europe.

Recalling the first time he saw Elton have one of his famous tantrums, Ray said: 'It was really weird I remember we did a BBC radio show which wasn't sexy but it was quite important for exposure.
'I remember telling him we had booked this radio show down in Piccadilly [in central London] and he went ballistic, he nearly broke the office door off…and he wasn't even famous yet. I guess that was a sign of things to come.'

With the world at their feet and success in Europe, Ray was then tasked with getting them noticed in America.

He organized Elton a week of gigs at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles where he would play in front of a star-studded audience and America's biggest music critics.

This August it will be 45 years since Elton and Bernie left the bunk beds they still shared at Sheila's north London maisonette for LA - a trip that would change things forever.

Also on the trip were drummer and bassist Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray, music publisher Steve Brown, art designer David Larkham and roadie Bob Stacey.

An old photo shows them all being greeted at LAX airport by a double-decker London bus provided by an American publicity company.

Recalling the 1970 gig, Ray said: 'The Troubadour gig was massive. Neil Diamond introduced, Leon Russell was in the audience as was Michael Jackson's arranger Quincy Jones and his family. Once the vibe had gone out everybody wanted to be there.'

Elton blew the crowd away, received rave reviews and one of the biggest stars in pop history was officially born.

'They were unbelievable. It felt great, it was euphoria,' Ray said of the gig he had worked so hard to organise.

He had no idea that on their return to the UK Elton would abandon him and his family forever.
Just like his feud with his mother, Elton's decision to cut his friend out of his life can be traced to what can only be described as one of his epic tantrums.

In the few days of free time they had before the Troubadour, Ray had organized a trip to Palm Springs with the rest of the group and some girls he knew - but Elton refused to go.
Ray said: 'I remember he and I had an argument because of the trip, but we were mates and I didn't think it was a big deal.

'We were in LA, we had two days off and there wasn't anything to do.

'Everybody was in the same boat and nervous in one way or another and this was a bit of light relief that people probably needed after a long journey. It was great fun.

'Elton was the only one that didn't want to go and we thought 'fine' stay. In retrospect it was probably completely the wrong thing to do.'

The trip to Palm Springs turned out to be incredibly fateful for other members of the band.
Bernie, then 21, met his first wife Maxime on the trip and went on the write the hit Tiny Dancer about her. Artist and designer David Larkham also met his first wife Janice on the trip.

For Ray things didn't turn out so rosy. When they saw Elton at breakfast the next day he was furious.
Recalling the tantrum, Ray said: 'I remember Elton was in a foul mood. He said, 'I'm not doing this gig, I'm not doing this gig, I'm going back to London'. He was shit scared, he was nervous. I said 'yes you are'.

'He had a huge tantrum and it all kicked off. What I hadn't realized at that point is he'd rung Dick James and Dick took advantage of it and started to sew seeds of doubt (about Ray).'

Back in London Ray was backed in to a corner and agreed to stand down as manager - being replaced by John Reid.

At a lunch meeting with Elton the singer broke the news to Ray but agreed to honor the commission he was due to earn for his first five albums and US tours contained within their agreement.

'The one thing we did agree was to remain absolute friends and to honor that agreement,' Ray recalls.
Elton and the band then left for America and Ray was called to Dick James's office and unceremoniously dumped.

Ray recalls: 'Dick said 'I'm tearing up your agreement, sue me'. He said 'I'm offering you £500, a lot of money'. I said boll***s.'

However Ray, who had a young family and bills to pay at the time, was persuaded by his then wife Annelie to take the offer, which went up to £1,500, just £750 after expenses).

At current values, £1,500 the sum is likely to be worth somewhere in the region of $100,000.
Unable to reach Elton on the phone in the States, Ray began to realize things weren't going to work out as his 'friend' had promised and he felt deeply betrayed.

Ray says: 'I tried to call Elton and of course there was a smokescreen of getting through to him. I think Dick did the dirty and Elton just avoided the issue because he had other stuff on, and that's been the same thing all his life, he's been able to avoid quite a lot of stuff.
'And it's dealt with by other people.'

Despite feeling harshly treated Ray had always given his friend the benefit of the doubt, blaming Dick James' ruthlessness more then his young friend who had a lot on his plate at the time.

However Elton soon disappeared from his friend's life, only reappearing when he needed Ray's help.
Ray was even ask to step in during 1982 when Elton fell out with Dick James and sued him for royalties and copyright he said were unlawfully taken from him.

Ray helped Elton and his lawyers gather together a string of witnesses who helped him to victory.
Then in 1991 there was the 'Two Rooms' album/book and TV project that Ray agreed to take part in, when the contract arrived for Ray's appearance there was a fee for five pounds.
Ray wrote to Elton in December.

A few months later Elton responded to the letter and the pair met for dinner in Paris.
Ray said: 'He said to me, 'you were treated very shabbily' and said he wanted to be friends again. '
But sadly for Ray that friendship never materialized and despite a few more chance meeting at events the pair never saw each other for years.

'That was it. It was all talk and no action,' he said.

In 2011 Ray was reading an interview Elton gave to Rolling Stone magazine and realized the low regard his once good friend had for him.

Telling the story of how he first met Bernie, Elton referred to Ray as simply 'a guy' that handed him an unopened envelope of Bernie's songs.

Upset Elton appeared to now be diminishing his role in music history, Ray again wrote to the star - and was even less happy with the response.

It was a letter from Elton's lawyer and manager Frank Presland. Ray recalls: 'Frank sent me a very rude condescending letter.

'It basically said, 'really Ray you had very little to do with Elton, it was a serendipitous moment, a happy thing, and we're very sorry you've had no success in your career'. It was such an arrogant letter.'

That was the last time Ray heard from the man who was once his daughter's godfather.

Ray - who has more than 70 film and television music score credits including Oscar-winner The Last Emperor - is resigned to never being given the credit he deserves in Elton's career.

But he said generously: 'I'd never regret what happened to Elton, I think it's marvelous. 'He has been a brilliant artist, I am very proud to have been involved in the beginning of his career.

'I am proud that I introduced Elton and Bernie and all those great songs came out of it. I can always say if it wasn't for me those songs wouldn't have been written, if it wasn't for me they would never have sung Candle in the Wind at Diana's funeral.'

Ray says it's 'sad' that Elton can't face up to his mistakes and make amends with people.
'I just find it sad that somebody ends up doing stuff like not talking to their mother, firing people, these random things. He's still having his tantrums.'

He added: 'Elton is very clever, very bright, very witty, but some of the stuff he does is just sad. I wonder if he knows that and probably that's what troubles him. I think he probably is a tortured soul.'

A spokesman for the singer declined to comment.

- Daily Mail

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