KJS: What and who were your inspirations to become a singer and songwriter?
Marge: According to my mother, I was singing from the day that I was born! In reality, I've been singing all my life and it was not any one person that inspired me to sing. It's inherently part of my personality to sing since the day I could speak. My parents, seeing that I had been gifted with the ability to sing and their being obsessed with listening to music, bought me a phonograph and a small child's piano. I listened to all the Rogers and Hammerstein albums [Carousel, Oklahoma, The King & I etc.] and other various classical musicals along with popular music of the time.
I was inspired by everything musical. At about the age of 5, on my little piano, I can remember composing music, but it was all in my head. I had a 78RPM record of The Platters song "My Prayer", released in 1956. I taught myself how to vocally belt by singing the ending of "My Prayer", over and over till I was able to perfectly duplicate it. I was 8 yrs. old. Any opportunity I could get to entertain people I took! I can remember singing "Climb Every Mountain" at school assembly on the stage leading the entire auditorium. Personally, I thought that everyone could sing. It was hard for me to comprehend that everyone didn’t sing music like I did. It was during that time, while I was in 3rd grade, that a report card came home stating to my parents that I was musically gifted. That is when I was told I had something that my friends and the majority of the population didn’t have.
KJS: Please tell us about your early career?
Marge: I was discovered singing on a street corner in Brooklyn, New York. Back in the 60’s there were several acapella singing groups in the neighbourhood. One in particular used to sing on my street corner. They sang at night and I would listen from my window. One day I got the nerve to go up to them and say I know all your songs and can sing them. There were never any girls singing. The guys said "OK lets hear you!", most likely thinking I would make a fool of myself. I would sing the top note [first tenor]. They were impressed and so there I was singing with them. Because I was a girl, they didn’t really let me sing lead vocals. I had a couple songs they let me sing lead. One was, “My Vow To You” by The Students. We would draw big crowds, listening to us. One day a man stopped in his car, listened, approached us and said, I want to bring you up to the Brill Building. You sound great. We go to the Brill Building [this is around 1964] to Coed Records. As we were doing a live audition, the President of the company says, "I want to hear the girl!" [I was singing background vocals, not lead]. He asked me if I could sing "Baby Love" by The Supremes.
I sang the very beginning of the tune and right there and then he said, "Marge is the lead singer and you will cut a record!". I was signed to Coed Records as Margie and The Formations. The single was "Sad Illusion" and "You Better Get What Goes For You". Northern Soul is always playing it to this day. That was the beginning of my recording career. I was about 15 years old. I also did a lot of demos at the Brill Building as a session singer for many of the songwriters there. I had to get permission from my parents to miss school and work. I was in high demand because, unbeknownst to me, I was able to learn a song quickly and record it in one take. It wasn’t until later in my career that I realised why I was in such high demand. Time is money! And I was able to produce quickly and sing exactly what they wanted to hear.
|SuMagNa sharing the stage with Mel Gale, Jeff Lynne and Kelly Groucutt ...|
Marge: Ellie knew of SuMagNa. Susan introduced me to Ellie. Ellie would listen to us sing. She loved us. When Ellie got the call from Record Plant that Jeff Lynne was looking for a girls group sound, who else but Ellie Greenwich would be contacted. She is the Queen of Pop Music and of the girls group sound. She called on SuMagNa and that is how we got the gig. She is sorely missed.
|Marge [circled] with the FTM version of ELO ...|
Marge: Basically it's the same answer as the previous question. Ellie Greenwich got the call from Jimmy Iovine who she knew. Jimmy was an engineer at the Record Plant Studio in New York City. Jeff Lynne wanted a girls group sound for his album. Jimmy Iovine called Ellie, who is the Queen of Pop music and she called us [SuMagNa]. The rest is history. Two days of recording and before we knew it, it was on the radio!
|Marge is credited on the "Face The Music" liner sleeve as Margaret Raymond ...|
Marge: The man is a musical genius.! A lovely personality and all around musical prodigy. Jeff Lynne had explicit parts he wanted on his songs. He was open to suggestions on "Down Home Town". I came up with a couple of arrangements and he liked them so much that he said “record it” and that is how I got the small solo on "Down Home Town". A good musician always wants to hear what other musicians might hear. Jeff Lynne being the great producer that he is, is from the school of record it, then decide what to use when you mix it. Better to have it, than not have it.
|Marge [far left] and SuMagNa with Jeff Lynne and Kelly Groucutt ...|
Marge: Don Arden was very professional in all the times I met him.
KJS: You had the privilege of working not only with Jeff in the studio but also interacting with what many consider the classic ELO line-up of Jeff, Bev Bevan, Richard Tandy, Kelly Groucutt, Mik Kaminski, Melvyn Gale and Hugh McDowell. What are your top memories of that particular magnificent seven?
Marge: They were all gentleman and brilliant musicians. When I sang the background vocals in the studio, it was only Jeff, Richard, Kelly and Bev that were there. It wasn’t until I toured did I meet the string section. Everyone was brilliant!
|Marge was a familiar sight with her tambourine ...|
Marge: It was a great tour. Every venue was sold out. I think I remember the Philly Spectrum Arena [it no longer exists]. Richard always had his keyboard backstage and we would warm up. That night, we were in the dressing room of the Philadelphia Flyers Ice Hockey team. A huge dressing room with showers. Coming from an acapella group I immediately said, "The showers have great echo!" [when you sing acapella, you are always looking for great acoustics and echo]. So we went into the shower and we all sang acapella. It was amazing. We would all sing backstage everything and anything. This holds true with so many groups that I've sung with. We had a lot of fun. I remember the band gave us carnations. The lost "Face The Music" photos which emerged 35 years later, show me wearing a carnation on my lapel. It was from the band.
|SuMagNa with Mik, Bev and Jeff ...|
Marge: That question is too hard. All of them.
KJS: Marge, please tell me about your career after your ELO involvement?
Marge: My career started before ELO and has continued non-stop right up to today. I have a very long biography, so I will only post highlights. Prior to ELO, I was signed to Coed Records as Margie and The Formations. I was a Brill Building demo singer for songwriters that wrote huge hits. I joined SuMagNa who were signed to Don Kirschner Entertainment. Paul Shaffer was our music director. SuMagNa toured with the New Riders of The Purple Sage and we were in demand as session vocalists. We had an incredible tight vocal harmony. I was signed to a major label, RCA for two albums with Flame. I am a published songwriter with Warner/Chappell. I sing on two Humble Pie albums with the late Steve Marriott. I was signed to the huge management of Leber/Krebs that managed Aerosmith, AD/DC, Def Leppard and Ted Nugent.
I toured with Aerosmith as their opening act with my band Kicks. I became the lead vocalist of Renegade, which was the line up of Aerosmith minus Steven Tyler. It's in all their biographies. During the 80’s, I was with a heavy metal band called Proton. We recorded an album that never got released because one of the members died and I didn’t want to continue without him in the line-up. I switched direction in my music and joined the esteemed Collegiate Chorale and was the backup chorus for Luciano Pavarotti. I was with them for 4 years and sang at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall. I got to meet Paul McCartney, and sang in the chorus for his Liverpool Oratorio at Carnegie Hall, NYC. I have been with Generation Gap entertainment for the past 25 years. We work continuously at weddings, corporate parties, outdoor concerts, clubs, etc. I continue to record and arrange music. I am also a guest artist for many other bands.
KJS: Can folks purchase your releases and, if so, how?
Marge: Unfortunately, the Flame albums are out of print. I'm sure you can find them on eBay.
KJS: What is Marge Raymond doing next and how can folks keep tabs on your good self in 2014 and beyond?
Marge: I am always singing somewhere or recording. I am also a tour guide for the Historic Green-Wood Cemetery. I sing a tribute to Leonard Bernstein by his memorial. I burst into song at various times. You can check out my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/margeraymond and my web site at www.margeraymond.com. I want to write a book about my long career.
KJS: Finally, here is the question that I always ask next when interviewing for ELO Beatles Forever. What are your personal favourite ELO, Jeff Lynne and/or Beatles tracks, and why?
Marge: Ah, I have no favourite, I love them all! The group I sing with, Generation Gap, have over 100 Beatles songs that we sing.
I do like singing "Oh! Darling" by The Beatles because I get to put my rock 'n' roll style on it. When I was singing in the chorus for Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio, I approached him and told him how much I love his work. I went on to tell him that I sing "Oh! Darling" with one of my bands. He said, "Do Ya? How do you sing it?" I told him I sing it a bit more rock 'n' roll. Right there and then he asked me to sing it for him! I was mortified, but sang the first verse and chorus for him in the lobby of Town Hall where we were rehearsing. He loved it. I don’t think he ever heard a woman sing it before. Especially as I was singing classical music at the time as a first tenor and before breaking out into my rock 'n' roll voice! He gave me his autograph. Now that is a day I will never forget!
Yours Truly KJS wishes to thank Marge for both her time and participation in this interview. ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] recommends Marge Raymond to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO, Jeff Lynne, The Move, Roy Wood, The Idle Race, 'Brum Beat', The Beatles and related artistes.
Until next "Time" in the ELO [and related] Uuniverse ... KJS ... 14-Jan-2015