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Friday, June 7, 2013

Bob Esty Part 3: Martha Wash and Raquel Welch

Montage courtesy of Jandry
Bob Esty is truly a legend in his own time. A producer, songwriter and arranger who worked with Casablanca Records from 1977 to 1980, he has collaborated alongside major divas like Donna Summer, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Martha Wash, Raquel Welch and many more. It is my sincerest pleasure to have spoken with Bob over the phone when he generously consented to give me the following, exclusive interview. I have divided it into parts for easier reader consumption and digestion because it is such a delicious treat. 

In Part 3, we talk about eBay, Roberta Kelly, the Sharon Tate murder guest house, his association with The Weather Girls (on Columbia Records) and, especially, the divine, beloved club diva, Miss Martha Wash, as well as Raquel Welch. 

* * *

Bob Esty: I moved to Beverly Hills in 1975 in the guest house of the Sharon Tate murder house. It was owned by Rudy Altobelli, my manager at the time. And I discovered eBay, so I could gather some things I'd lost over time. And a friend of mine has a big, famous vinyl store on Hollywood Boulevard, As the Record Turns. And he would give me back some of my own records.

DJ Buddy Beaverhausen: Wow, so hard to imagine you on eBay trying to buy back your own stuff!

BE: Yeah! But I was able to get my recordings back together [that way].

When I returned from Munich, I had the tracks and vocals from Roberta [Kelly]. Still had to orchestrate the tracks and record the gospel choir. Sent it to Giorgio and side one, I guess, he didn't like my mix. He muted some of the orchestration. He put some synthesizers on the first side, which I hated originally but who cares!

DJBB: Now, is it true that "It's Raining Men" was originally written for Donna Summer? And that "Bad Girls" was written for Cher, but she passed on it?

BE: Yes on "Raining Men." I'm not sure on the second song because I wasn't yet acquainted with Cher at that time. But, basically, Paul Jabara wrote every song for Donna. The demo we made of "It's Raining Men" was for Donna Summer. [Bob supplied the guide vocals a'la Donna! ~~ DJBB]

DJBB: I read on your Facebook Page that you had a great time working with Martha Wash and Izora Armstead.

BE: Yes. But Paul didn't come down to the session because he didn't really know The Weather Girls; he wanted Donna. I saw Martha & Izora in San Francisco, performing the previous year, maybe '78.

DJBB: Was that with Sylvester or after?

BE: With Sylvester! Paul Jabara called to say, "Somebody called and wants us to try out Two Tons of Fun for 'It's Raining Men.' But I don't know this group and never saw Sylvester.'"  But I said, "Wow! They're perfect!" Paul thought they were so-so, so I had to go to the studio without him. (Obviously, I did a lot of things without him anyway!)

Now, when we were recording "It's Raining Men," Martha Wash happened to stumble on her way out of the studio control room. Izora was cackling! "What you doin', child?" Izora Whitehead yelled out, "We've got a song to do!" And Martha started laughing also.

DJBB: Have you heard Martha Wash's new album, by the way?

BE: No, I've heard just one track.

DJBB: Do you know which one that was?

BE: I don't remember.

DJBB: It's really an exceptional album. I play it constantly now. By the way, I actually got to meet and kiss Ms Wash on the cheek, after her show at BB King's, in New York last year

BE: She is a marvelous woman and terrific singer and very strong and opinionated. She was a little difficult to work with in some ways but she had such a great sense of humor! I know she's gotten easier over time. Did you hear "We're Gonna Win (One World)"?

DJBB: Love that song.

BE: Martha Wash sang that at an event in Northern California and Randy Jackson, who was producing that (and who just produced the musical about Janis Joplin that is fabulous)....

DJBB: I know that show's hot, out on the West Coast, and I hope it comes this way....

BE: Martha sang that song ["One World"] with a choir.

DJBB: I had, maybe, a little insight into what you say about her feisty yet sweet personality when I kissed her after her show at BB King's. My friend was supposed to snap a photo of my kissing her after she signed my cd, on my cell phone. She very generously agreed to this and I explained this was for my blog.

So, my lips were glued to her cheek. And my friend couldn't quite get the phone to take the picture at first. So, she was shouting out, "Werq it!" to him. It was an uncomfortable moment all around! But good humored, really.

[Bob laughs.]

DJBB: He did manage to take our picture right after she said that!

BE: Well, of course! She's Martha Wash after all!

DJBB: Now, the song, "Hot Love," that Cher did for the Foxes soundtrack, sounds like "Hot Stuff" mixed with "Bad Girls"....

BE: Because, I think, it was written by Donna.

And, by the way, going back to Thank God, It's Friday, I would just like to say that I did two tracks with D.C. LaRue, two tracks with Paul [Jabara] and "Last Dance." And I went to that movie's set to see a couple of set-ups. I met Jeff Goldblum, who was not only very nice but can play amazing jazz piano. So, it was very much fun to go to the filming but it was a low-budget disco film and Saturday Night Fever was already out, so the distributor just slapped it out there.

DJBB: Though it's now quite a cult favorite.

Want to talk a little bit about Raquel Welch and "This Girl's Back in Town?"

BE: Ok. Also written for Donna Summer. I have cassettes of her vocals and mine as well as my guide vocals for Raquel.

DJBB: Over the years, Raquel Welch's number has become quite a cult hit internationally.

BE: Well, you have to know this history. Paul Jabara wrote a musical, Rachael Lily Rosenbloom, that was produced in 1973 and starred Ellen Green, though Paul was hoping to get Bette Midler, but she turned it down at the last minute. It was about a Barbra Streisand wannabe from Brooklyn.

DJBB: That's so funny because I recently saw I'll Eat You Last on Broadway, starring Bette, and a lot of that show revolves around Barbra Streisand.

BE: Yes, of course! Everything does! [Laughs.] Paul was involved in the original production of Hair, and Donna was later in the German production, so that's how he knew her.... That's the reason he had more of a personal relationship with her. Now, Barbra and Neil Bogart and Cher and Aaron Russo (who was a monster) were in "the colony".  I was living in New York at the time, before moving back out to L.A., which is when I met Paul Jabara. There was an audition for Hair, which Ellen Green was about to star in, and I went because we had the same manager. And I met Paul, and he explained the story of Rachael Lily to me.

Now, the legend of Rachael became Raquel [Welch] for Paul when he met her while co-starring in the movie, with Honky Tonk Freeway [in 1981]That's how he imagined her. So, I had set up my tracks in Paul's living room, once I'd moved back to L.A. Raquel had her choreographer with her, who was going to work with her in Vegas, but who really didn't want to work with her, obviously. So, he spent the whole time basically battering Raquel verbally during rehearsal, making her cry every day, so she would fire him. Those were the circumstances under which I met Raquel!

She loved what I did on "This Girl's Back in Town," and at the time always wore black granny glasses with a long, black coat. She looked beautiful but tried to hide that, I think. And Paul was there, with the guide vocal we did, acting out the part for her for the video in his mind, pitching the song! And after she saw that, she whispered to me, as I was walking her to her car, "I hope you're producing it; not Paul. I mean, I know Paul and he's wonderful but he's drunk now."

I told her, "I just co-wrote it."

Below, Bob & Raquel, extended mix:

More to come with Part 4, the final chapter of my Bob Esty interview....


  1. Once again, GOOD JOB Dj BB! I always enjoy your Interviews......keep-up your great work!

    Luv' 'ya!


  2. Delicious dirt & dish! Can't wait for the Part 4 Finale!