Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 9 July 1929, Mannford OK; d 4 August 2007, Henderson NV) Singer, songwriter, producer. Son of an oilman, attended Southern Methodist U; after Korean war service he became a country disc jockey in Phoenix in 1953. Experimenting with session guitarist Al Casey, they put echo on country sounds, etc; then wrote and produced 'The Fool', with vocal by Sanford Clark and backing by Casey for a top ten hit on Dot in '56. Hazlewood co-founded Jamie Records '57 in Philadelphia with Lester Sill and Dick Clark, using it (and Clark's TV show) to sell hits by minimalist guitarist Duane Eddy. He formed Gregmark with Sill, hired Phil Spector (who was influenced by Hazlewood’s electronic and other tricks) and had hits with the Paris Sisters '61-2 (a trio from San Francisco).

He threatened to quit the business in disgust when American pop was swamped by the British Invasion; instead at the request of Jimmy Bowen he produced hits by Dino, Desi and Billy on Reprise '65 (the offspring of Dean Martin and Desi Arnaz, with schoolfriend Billy Hinsche). With a foot in the door at Reprise he then reached the top with 'These Boots Are Made For Walkin'', no. 1 for Nancy Sinatra '66. She had made a series of flop singles for her dad's label, begging Mo Ostin to let her record something more rockish; it was Hazlewood who pulled it off. Her 'Sugar Town' was no. 5 same year; they duetted on 'Jackson' (no. 14 '67); LPs included Nancy And Lee, Nancy And Lee Again. Meanwhile he produced an album on Gram Parson’s International Submarine Band '67 for his own LHI (Lee Hazlewood Industries); the story is that when Parsons then left to join the Byrds, Hazlewood complained that Parsons’s voice was under contract to him, whereupon Columbia wiped his vocals from Sweetheart of the Rodeo. His own blues-tinged LP Love And Other Crimes on Reprise included good sidemen such as James Burton; duet with Nancy 'Did You Ever' was no. 2 UK '71 (title song from an album), but his solo LP Poet, Fool Or Bum received a one-word verdict 'Bum' in UK's New Musical Express. During the '70s Hazlewood released several albums up to Back On The Street Again '77, but got fed up with the music business and had moved to Sweden. Later, he produced a Casey album called Sidewinder in Phoenix in 1995 that was released on Germany’s Bear Family label; four years after that on Smells Like Records came the first Hazlewood album in over 20 years, Farmisht, Flatulence, Origami, ARF!!! and Me...

His earlier successful pop career was not without its reverberations. In September 2002 Hazlewood and Casey were touring Norway when they heard about a band that tours that country doing nothing but Hazlewood songs (the band has a Nancy, too, and is named after a Hazlewood/Sinatra duet hit 'Some Velvet Morning'). The cover band was putting on a gig in a funky club in Oslo after Hazlewood’s show, and Lee must have been in a good mood; he took the whole entourage to see the cover outfit, got a kick out of what they were doing and climbed up on stage himself for a while, with a chair for Casey, whose legs weren’t so good anymore. It was Christmas for 250 screaming Hazlewood fans.

Studio wizard Alvin W. Casey (b 26 October 1936, Long Beach CA; d 17 September 2006, Phoenix, AZ) had a few minor chart hits of his own in 1962-3. He should not be cionfused with Al Casey the Fats Waller sideman.