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The Story of Charlotte O'Hara and Bonnie & The Treasures
PART ONE: CHARLOTTE'S DEBUT
by Al Hazan
Charlotte Matheny was a talented young singer and a very dear friend of mine in the sixties and it happened that I produced her on a song I wrote entitled "Daydreams". The way that particular session came about is rather interesting and unusual. My friend Stan Ross, owner of Gold Star Recording Studios, asked me to produce a record for him so he could show the members of a social club he belonged to how records were made. He said that he would donate all of the studio expenses and that he felt sure that the musicians we usually used would be happy to help for free. So the cost of producing the record was Zero. This was such a wonderful opportunity for everyone. We had no 'angel' to worry about or any big record executives to look over our shoulder. It was just the gang and I making a record for our own enjoyment.
I asked Charlotte to sing the lead vocal and decided to use myself on piano. Rounding out the group of musicians was Ray Pohlman on Fender Bass, Tommy Tedesco on guitar and Hal Blaine on the drums. Stan invited all the members of his club to the session and they crowded into the recording booth as we began to rehearse the rhythm track. Our 'audience' seemed totally interested as we went through the usual process of having each instrument play individually and then blending them all together for balance. The session went along smoothly and it didn't take long before the basic track was completed and the musicians were able to leave.
Now it was Charlotte's turn to sing her lead vocal while I overdubbed the background voices. I remember Charlotte never being completely satisfied with her performance and asking for just one more try. Actually, her vocals were all wonderful and I finally had to tell her she had performed great and it was enough. The whole session took about an hour and a half to complete and everyone involved seemed pleased with the results. I could tell that Stan Ross was especially pleased as he presented me with the master tape to do with what I wanted. What a fun and creative night that was.
The day after the record was finished, I took it over to a new company owned by Fred Astaire called Ava Records (named after his daughter). Jackie Mills, who was the executive head of the company, liked it so much that he asked me if I would join them as their A&R man in charge of their Top Forty department. Up to that time they had been recording mostly jazz groups like the Pete Jolly Trio and fine artists such as Elmer Bernstein and Carol Lawrence. This was costing them a lot of money and not making much in return, so I guess they felt maybe some young blood might be needed to turn things around. Besides, working for Fred Astaire held a certain glamorous appeal for me.
As it turned out, Charlotte became the first session I produced for Ava Records, since we immediately needed a second side for "Daydreams". With her permission, I decided to change Charlotte's last name. We all agreed that the name Charlotte O'Hara had a good sound and would be more appropriate for a recording artist. I got the idea from the character Scarlet O'Hara in the movie 'Gone With The Wind'. After that, I chose a song entitled "What About You", by a writer named Bodie Chandler, to go on the other side of "Daydreams". It was always my policy to record the best song available for a particular artist, whether or not I was the writer, and I really liked "What About You".
The record turned out very well and got great reviews. Charlotte seemed to be on her way but, for some reason, the people at Ava decided not to put her under contract, so there was no follow up. It wasn't long, however, before she was chosen to record with other producers such as Jerry Riopelle (under the direction of Phil Spector) and her career once again appeared to be starting to accelerate.
Charlotte and I had lost contact for a while after that until suddenly I started receiving postcards from her from all over the world. I thought that she probably was taking an extended vacation and having herself a great time. I never realized until many months later that Charlotte had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She knew she was dying and wanted to see as much of the world as she could. It wasn't long before her condition became terminal and eventually she died. Her premature death was a shock to all of us who knew and loved her. It was truly a tragedy and a loss to the music industry as well.
by Martin Roberts