Sami Jo Cole- Lady With the Powerhouse Voice – Page 4


Last Update: 2007
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In the spring of 1975, with MGM slated to become Polydor Records the following year, Jimmy Bowen suddenly left the label and moved to Nashville, leaving Sami without one of her strongest advocates. As a result, her recording career stalled until 1976, when she was moved over to the newly-formed Polydor, to record two singles, God Loves Us (When We All Sing Together), which was released in May of that year and went to # 91 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles Chart, and the languid Take Me To Heaven. By this time, Sami’s various handlers and the new powers-that-be at Polydor Records thought that it might be best to redirect her as a country artist rather than as a singer of glossy pop songs. Sami was also back working with Sonny Limbo and Mickey Buckins on these sessions.

“Being back in the studio with Sonny and Mickey was something I had looked forward to and I loved every minute of it, “said Sami. “Unfortunately, Polydor didn’t do very much to promote those two songs, which I honestly don’t understand. God Loves Us…was a great song and very well produced, but the label didn’t seem to have any interest in me once Jimmy Bowen left. It was like they just dumped the singles out there without much thought, which is really not fair at all.”

After Take Me To Heaven was released in September 1976 and only went as high as # 67 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles Chart, Sami’s recording career hit another dry spell. Still, she continued to be a big draw at many major hotels in Vegas and Lake Tahoe throughout the late 70s. She performed in the main rooms at The Playboy Club, Harrah’s, The Hyatt Regency, The Flamingo, The MGM Grand and The Sands, and opened shows for everyone from Bob Hope to Kenny Rogers.

“I wish I could say I had some exciting or naughty stories about these guys, but honestly, they were all wonderful to me. They treated me with the utmost respect and tried to help me any way they could.”

During this period, Sami was still hoping to get her recording career back on track and in doing so, try to recapture the magic that Tell Me A Lie’s success had brought her. In April 1979 it was reported in Billboard magazine that she would be recording her third album that July, with the proposed first single being a blues song called Trouble Is…Amazingly, though Sami hadn’t had any new product in the marketplace for three years, she had somehow held on to her deal with Polydor, though she was now part of its Mercury Records roster. But sadly, this association, like all the others before it, wouldn’t last. Both the single and the album Sami recorded for Mercury were later shelved.

“I recorded some wonderful songs for the label, but they never saw the light of day” said Sami. “It’s a very unfortunate thing but it happened to me, and to a lot of other people in the business, too. In fact, I’m not sure if the average music fan out there knows just how often it does happen.”

After a two-year break from recording, if not performing, in 1981 Sami came back as ‘Sami Jo Cole’ and was signed to Warner Brothers-owned Elektra/Asylum Records in Nashville. “By then it was decided that maybe it would be better, professionally, if I used a last name, so I took my son Tony’s middle name, Cole, which everyone seemed to like.” Sami’s former producer and mentor Jimmy Bowen was now the vice-president and general manager of Elektra and he was eager to work with her again. “It was another singles deal,” she said. “After cutting two albums for MGM, it was like starting over from scratch, but Jimmy Bowen said he had a lot of faith in me and believed we could find a hit together.”

At the time, the combined rosters of Nashville’s Elektra and WB Records country divisions totaled a whopping 54 acts—with everyone from Hank Williams, Jr. and Nancy Sinatra to Conway Twitty and K.T. Oslin vying for radio time. Despite the label’s being ridiculously overloaded with artists and the very real possibility that she would once again be lost in the shuffle, Sami said that Bowen made her feel he was intent on grooming her for bigger things. “Jimmy was always patient and kind and very positive as to what he thought we could accomplish.”

The first 45 out of the chute for Sami at Elektra Records was a striking, MOR-flavored ballad titled One Love Over Easy, co-produced by Bowen and his wife at the time, Dixie Gamble Bowen. It was an extremely powerful piece of material, both lyrically and musically, and was certainly one of Sami’s most brilliant recorded performances. Yet, despite the record’s excellence, and its getting several rave reviews by journalists like Kip Kirby at Billboard magazine, the single only went to #76 on the charts. Sami attributes its lack of success at the time to a puzzling lack of promotion at her label. “There was just too much product (at Elektra) and only a certain number of available slots. Without any real promotion behind it, a record doesn’t stand much of a chance.”

Sami Jo with Eddie Rabbitt in 1982Despite the single’s failure to become the chart hit it should have been, Sami continued her hectic touring schedule. In those days, her agent was Marty Beck at The William Morris Agency and she was pulling in over 200 show dates per year. During this time, she also began touring a lot with labelmate Eddie Rabbitt, whose longtime manager Stan Moress had signed Sami to MGM South and had remained a steadfast supporter of her career. Eddie, too, would later claim that Sami was among his favorite female singers.

“My memories of Eddie Rabbitt are nothing short of fabulous,” Sami revealed. “He was supportive and wonderful to me and I could never explain how much he meant to me. He was such a gentleman and so talented and I feel fortunate to have shared many good times and conversations with him. I was so sorry when I heard of Eddie’s illness and his death later on came as a shock to me. It broke my heart…”

Sami’s camaraderie with Eddie was evident when she chose to redo one of his earlier hits, I Can’t Help Myself (Here Comes The Feeling), as her next single for Elektra. Although Sami gave the song a fresh and unique interpretation and Jimmy and Dixie Gamble Bowen were again at the helm, the record fared even less successfully than its predecessor, and only went to # 82 on the charts. Still, there was a certain hoopla surrounding the song—not in the States, however, but in Korea, of all places. “I had the privilege of performing Eddie’s song at The World Music Festival in Seoul. I was asked to represent the United States in the competition, and amazingly, I won first place with that song. I was on cloud nine…even though my winning was never even announced here in the States.”

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