Friday, 20 October 2017

Burt's a Singer

Burt Reynolds: 70s sex god, all-round macho man and seemingly, aware of his shortcomings. ‘I was an asshole,’ he once told the Mirror’s Rod McPhee. ‘I made some stupid mistakes and I haven’t been the nicest guy in the world about keeping my mouth shut about women’. It’s not just his mouth he should be guarded about, as the former women in his life who have talked openly about domestic violence and spousal abuse would no doubt agree.

Reynolds is an actor who gets that the whole notion of celebrity is faintly ridiculous… as ridiculous as that wig he insists on wearing (which, unlike some actors and singers we could mention, at least he acknowledges). Still, celebrity he is… and we all know what that (potentially) means.

Yes, in 1973 Burt, still riding the crest of a wave of fame brought about by his starring role in the film Deliverance the previous year and his appearance as Cosmopolitan magazine’s first nude male centrefold, made a record. He was nominated for Academy Award for his performance in the movie, but it was the Cosmo spread that turned him into a bone fide celeb. After more than a decade beavering away on TV and in low budget movies, he was a star; a star who was about to launch his singing career. The thoroughly dreadful record in question contains eleven cuts of vaguely-country flavoured schmaltz, ‘sung’ by a man who cannot sing. Not that it should surprise any of you that I was going to hate Ask Me What I Am, as the whole project was masterminded by that arch fiend Bobby Goldsboro.

It’s catastrophically bad. Goldsboro’s songs are as sickly sweet as you’d expect and he pulls every trick out of his albeit limited bag: there are songs about children and childhood, relationships, spoken word pieces and, oh dear lord, there’s even one of his trademark religious epics in There's A Slight Misunderstanding Between God And Man. Burt tries his best, God love him, but the whole album is dreadful and There's A Slight Misunderstanding Between God And Man is every inch as awful as you’d hope.

Accompanied by a pull out poster featuring the oh-so hairy gentleman clad from head to toe in baby blue polyester, Billboard liked it, calling the album a ‘good personality-as-singer package with lots of Burt beefcake photos’, and claiming that the ‘actor actually has pleasing, pro-quality voice’. Evidence, as if you needed it, to believe in the old maxim ‘don’t believe everything you read in the press’, as Burt’s voice on this album is paper-thin and as fragile as sugar glass. This record is easily as bad as anything Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner produced.

Despite everything Burt and Bobby remained friends. The same year the album was released Goldsboro and Reynolds appeared on the TV special Burt Reynolds’ Late Show and the following year the pair were brought together on a US telethon, helping raise money for people with cerebral palsy. In 1993 Goldsboro would provide the music for Burt’s hit TV comedy Evening Shade.

According to the engineer on the sessions, Ernie Winfrey (writing on YouTube) ‘I have to give Burt credit for having the balls to even try it. My boss, and his friend Buddy Killen, got together with Goldsboro and decided that, considering Burt's huge popularity at that time, they would sell tons of records based solely on his fame.

‘I know that Burt knew in his heart that he didn't really have the chops to bring it off but he may have expected me to perform miracles on his voice. I know this because when I was out adjusting his mic he whispered “Ern, please help me sound as good as you can”. As you can see I have only so much control over that; all the effects in the world will not make a bad singer sound good.

‘But the most important thing to me was how humble he was and how down to earth he was. After we finished recording all his vocal tracks Buddy invited him to go out and eat. They left and I was putting all the tapes back in the boxes and I heard “Hey Ern!” Burt stuck his head in the door and said “Come on man...We can't forget our engineer.” That’s the type of guy he was. I understand that it was the stunt men and crew that Burt hung out with on his movie sets.

‘The most endearing thing that Burt did was to call Dinah Shore (who he was dating at the time) every night after that days sessions were over and play her the results holding the phone up to the speakers. I kept his vocal down in the mix so it was hard to tell how really bad it was. But he seemed to be so proud of his shot at being a recording artist. Although Burt will never be that recording artist he wanted to be, I can truthfully say from my observation that he is one of the nicest, most humble guys I've ever worked with in the studio. It kills me to see the problems he’s gone through the past few years.’

The problems that Ernie Winfrey alluded to include divorce from wife Loni Anderson and her revelations of his abusive behaviour, bankruptcy (in 2011 his 153 acre ranch, where many of the scenes for Smokey and the Bandit had been filmed, was seized), addiction to prescription painkillers (which he began taking after an on-set accident), back surgery, and a quintuple heart bypass in February 2010. Reynolds, who apparently was once in the running to play James Bond (producer Cubby Broccoli went with George Lazenby instead) and Han Solo in Star Wars, is now a frail 81 year old. He’s a fighter though and he’s still acting, appearing in five movies this year alone.

This would not be the only time that Burt flexed his tonsils. Apart from singing on a number of TV variety shows (including the Dinah Shore Show) he also sang the song Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial on the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit 2. Here’s a brace of tracks from Burt’s 1973 album Ask Me What I Am, Room For a Boy and the title track.


Download I Am here

Download Room here 

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea this existed ... thanks so much for bringing it back to life.


WWR Most Popular Posts