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Contact Patric J. Miller
Producer/Arranger (retired)


From "Kid's Vid" to Network TV Special and Major Label Album...
It was Christmas for almost two years straight!

The journey from Eugene to Hollywood started with a handshake agreement to do the soundtrack music for a very local made-for-video thriller by first-time filmmaker, Jim Jaqua. I wish I could remember the name of the video, but I do remember that it had a ghost in it. I did it on a lark, for no money, and just for the fun and challenge.

As often happens when you do something nice for someone, kismet stepped in at the “preview party” where everyone who worked on the project gathered to watch the film.  It turns out that the cameraperson on this project was a tall, mountain/hippy looking guy with a soft voice and ready smile named John Logue. In making conversation after the video was debuted, John mentioned that he and a friend, Ralph Liddle, had just been hired to write and produce a children’s video for Will Vinton Claymation in Portland. He further suggested that I submit something to he and Ralph, as they were looking for someone to do the music for this video.

Upon further discussion, John told me it was going to be a fun spoof on traditional Christmas carols, and the initial script had a running joke in it about pigs and dogs mixing up “Here we come a Wassailing” with waffling and wallowing.

I asked him when they were making the decision, and he told me “this coming week.”

Swell…no pressure there.

However, at the time I had an 8-track production studio I used for recording radio spots for my advertising agency (my real job), as well as creating jingles on the side, under the DBA of “The Music Factory.” So, the next day (Sunday), I went to work, turning out a couple of renditions of pigs wallowing and dogs waffling to the modified tune of “Here we come a Wassailing.”

I called Vinton’s studio on Monday, and met with John and Ralph on Tuesday.  Ralph was a small, bespectacled guy with a wry wit and sense of irony.  He kept telling me that he was surprised to be doing the project, as he and John had spent the last five years trying to get wider release for their independent film “Spirit of the Wind,” a story about dog sled legend, George Attla. Tales of winning “best picture” at the US Film Festival, with the extended problems of the business of distribution took up the better part of the first hour of conversation.

We finally put on the demo tapes, and John and Ralph both laughed excitedly…and told me “you have the job, if you can meet our budget.”  It was at this time that I got a hint of what was to come when it came to dealing with Will Vinton Productions budgets. There was a prevailing attitude at WVP in those days that anyone working on a WVP project should be happy for the experience. “It was about the art, not the money” and most everyone who worked for the studio on this project were working at what could be generously called, “intern wages.” 

The few “long time employees,” those who had been with Vinton since his Academy Award for his Claymation short, “Closed on Mondays,” and through his larger budget feature, “the Adventure of Mark Twain” and into his recent success with commercials for The California Raisin Board and Dominos Pizza, did not discuss wages. You could tell they made more…but it was obvious that nobody was living in a lap of luxury made of clay.

So, when the list of songs was floated, it included 11 cuts of music, at a flat-rate deal of $4,500. They agreed to a deposit of $1,250, with the remainder to be paid and delivered before May 1st, 1987, when I delivered the final tracks. It was March 2nd, so there was very little room for error, or loads of retakes.  I was satisfied that I could do most, if not all of the music in my studio, with my own gear, and a small number of hired voices. With a check the same day, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered…and I went a wassailing back down I-5 to my home studio to work.

The process for creating and finishing a song for this project was beyond miraculous. Their intent was to have all of the finished music done by May 1st, so their animators had a chance to animate to the basic tracks, and then all of the finishing tracks, sound effects, and voice-overs could be cut into the final pieces. Upon touring the facility, it was evident that much of the basic animation had already begun in regards to creating sets, and initial sculptures of the key characters.

For the next 6 weeks, I traveled back and forth up I-5 for several meetings with set producers, Ralph, John and Will, who seemed to have more of an “executive producer” role, not taking much "hands-on" time with the project at all. It was obvious that Ralph was the key component to the script and flavor of the piece, and John had the artistic overview of “the look” of the scenes, and overall feel of each segment.

The initial list of music included the following sequences.

1. Frog Band Intro
to Here we come a Waffling
3. We Three Kings
4. Carol of the Bells
5. Here we come a Waddling
6. 12 Days of Christmas
7. Walrus Dance (Angles we have heard on high)
8. Here we come a Wallowing
9. Oh Christmas Tree
10. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
12. Here We Come a Wassailing

Again…it is important to remember that this was meant to be a children’s Christmas carol video, much like the kind that Will’s wife, Susan Shadburne was producing in the “Wee Sing” series (in production around the same time). I saw it as a fun project, with a little money on the side.  Little did I know what the next few months had in store for me.

Within the first month, the script had been rewritten to be more of a spoof, featuring Herb and Rex, two dinosaurs fashioned loosely on movie critics Siskel and Ebert. Two songs had been scrapped, “The 12 Days of Christmas” and “It came upon a midnight clear” to make room for dialogue. It was at this point that things made a change toward the “hip” and away from the kiddy video that was the original intention.

John and Ralph asked me to come up with a unique take on “Joy to the World.”  Joan Gratz, who had been nominated for an Academy Award for her beautiful clay painting short film “Creation” was supervising a clay painting sequence for “Joy” and wanted something different. Everyone was vague on details, but wanted something that melded a variety of ethnic musical styles together with a rock undertone. OK. Sure. Sounds simple.

The worst part of doing music for hire, is that everyone’s opinion is subjective at best. Nobody hears the same piece the same way as others. I had horror stories in the advertising world of doing music and sound effects for ad agency wonks who could only describe things in an extremely ethereal manner. “Could you make the sound of that hammer more blue?” was one of my favorites. 
Or listening to an ad creative director make a poor, elderly man with a wonderful unique voice do 47 takes on the line, “Dairy Mart, convenience that is right in you neighborhood,” because he couldn’t seem to hit the correct inflection on the word, “right.”

So, to say that doing an original version of a traditional song, with several styles of music in it was challenging, daunting…and as it turned out…fun. I figured I had nothing to lose, and decided to just do something that I liked.

It began with a huge, blasted pipe organ, playing the opening refrain of the original song…but as the opening note sustained, a basic Afro/Latin beat began underneath. A blues harp came in to let you know that this was no longer going to be anything resembling the original song…and we were off.

On the next meeting I played the track for Ralph and John and was told to wait while Will listened to it. Upon being summoned to Will’s upstairs office, there was a change in attitude and interest by everyone in the room. “What do you think about redoing some of the other music to make them cooler, and hipper…like this song you just did?”

My enthusiasm for their universal adulation of “Joy” overrode the business side of my brain, and I simply said, “Sure! Sounds like fun!”

The next song to be remodeled was turning “We 3 kings” into more of a romp, with a battle of styles between the camels and the kings.  I was admittedly getting swept up in the creative energy of WVP and the staff that worked there. It was amazing to be part of the process, and see the incredible creativity and detail that went into every set, vision, and story character.

We didn’t talk money, it just didn’t come up…even though I realized that I was in essence going to be redoing almost all of the work I had already completed. Furthermore, it all had to be done on an even tighter timeline, as the animation process to render even a single frame of film at 24 frames a second, could take hours, and my music was the basis for the initial animation.

Street Scene from Claymation Christmas Celebration
With Herb and Rex

Raisins from California Raisins TV Commercial

Watching the process unfold over the course of the coming weeks was amazing. Each set, each character, and every move of the cast in each scene was done by the slightest of moves in each frame of video. When you have a crowd scene, with a camera doing a "flyover" of the village, the number of moves each piece of the action must make, ALL IN CLAY mind you, staggers the imagination. Like so many aspects of the modern digital world, claymation is an artform that has been bypassed for the most part by the power of computer graphics. But, there is something visually stunning about actual three-dimensional characters, with natural light, coming to life under the careful and patient touch of a stop-motion animator.

The process for each song/segment became standardized. They would give me a rough idea of the length of the piece, and then provide me with copies of their “animatics,” which were cartoon renderings of the storyboard for each piece. This gave me an idea of the action, and the approximate time that each part of the action hit in the timeline of the extended piece.

I would then compose and produce a rough track with scratch vocals, that gave them something to work with in regards to animating to the song. Sound effects, and final voices and musical hit points were added upon getting a copy of the final version on VHS tape.

Now…here is the amazing part, for any of you who understand current production techniques with computer music rendering and video/film conversion.  This was all before there was a standard time code in place for digital production. For the most part, people would use one channel of the recording camera to lay down a 60-cycle tone, that they could lock together with the audio source. So, when you see someone doing the “clap board” before there is “Action!” yelled onthe set, they are setting a visual cue that could be locked to the audio that was being recorded separately. Hit and miss at best…

Actual animatics used for Walrus Dance to
Angels We Have Heard on High

At about the same time that I got the contract with WVP, I met an amazing computer genius named Robert Keller. Robert had created a 48 track MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) computer program, that allowed you to play music with a MIDI keyboard or drum pad, and it would record the notes as digital events that could then play back the song on the keyboards attached. The things that made Robert’s 48 track sequencer unique, was that it not only had 48 tracks, but that the resolution of each event was 1/300th of a second in accuracy. Other programs were typically at a clock rate of 64 pulses per quarter note, which had a tendency to make drum parts, or parts played “outside the beat” (as much of blues and jazz is), to be replayed in a rigid “quantized” manner.  But the key to this program’s value for me, was that it allowed it to be locked to a SMPTE time code…the new digital time code that was just starting to be used by high end movie production studios in Hollywood. 

This meant that I could create a piece of music- and then be able to manipulate it to specific hit points for video cues, without it sounding cut, or edited.  Before this time, soundtrack composers had to use something called “The Book,” which was nothing more than a huge list of math/music equations that gave them an idea of being able to write a song in a certain time signature to meet a specific length of time in the action of a film. I hated math. Robert Keller was a lifesaver.

He was also one of the most eccentric geniuses I have ever met (including the staff at WVP). He rented a house down by the campus of the University of Oregon, so he had a place to work on his computer programming. He wanted to save money, so he never turned on the heat. Ever. Plus, as he explained, “it helped keep his heavily modified computer cool.”  I can tell you that on several meetings, I could almost see my breath.

Robert was key to the success of this initial project, and the extended project. Unlike buying a product off of the shelf (and there were only a few basic products on the market anyway), Robert was more than open to suggestion on what would make his program "the best." I would give him a call, asking about some need that had come up, or some feature that would be nice in regards to organizing the music, or adding flexibility to the production process, and he would call the next day to tell me to “come by and pick up a new floppy disc update.”  Amazing.

Around the end of April, shortly after dropping off “Joy” and starting the reworking of some new pieces, I got a call from Ralph. “We sold it to CBS…it’s going to be on television. We have to redo some music, and cut it down to 24 minutes.”

Yay!! Oh crap.

The Raisins jump on board

I was blown away by the prospect, to say the least. Suddenly, the fact that this project really anchored on my music, and the music was going to have to be redone again, was daunting. Luckily for me, I had a steady income from a handful of advertising clients for my advertising agency, and for the most part, the workflow was just “one more thing to record” on any given week. Most of the radio spots were done prior to the weekend, and so that pretty much was a single day of production and delivery of spots. This left the rest of the week, and the 24-hour cycle of time, to create, produce and drive up and down I-5 (4 hours of travel round trip).

I was about half-way into re-cutting and reworking the music, when I got another call from Ralph that Will wanted to meet with me.

When I got into his office, he told me how pleased he was with my work, and that he realized that the entire flavor of the project had changed several times, due in part to my music.

Flattering. OK…so?

”We are bringing the Raisins into this, and I’d like to have them do the Temptation’s version of “Rudolph.”  Would you be open to going to Hollywood to help negotiate the song rights with Motown?”

The excitement of the concept once again overwhelmed my common sense…and I said, “Sure! When do we leave?” 

It wasn’t until Ralph and I had time to talk about the project on the plane ride to Burbank, that I started connecting some of the business dots. I realized that I was going to have to re-cut and re-edit everything again, to now make room for the Raisin’s piece, and I was still operating under the original $4,500 contract.

Ralph was very up front about budget restraints, but told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to renegotiate my “deal.” Especially since this had gone from a low budget kid's video, to what was now going to be a nationally broadcast, major network television special (with an obviously larger budget and payoff). Staffing was being added, expectations were rising, and I was still working within a budget that basically was going to pay roughly $375 per finished piece. OK then…

Upon getting to Burbank, Ralph and I were ushered into Barry Gordy Junior’s outer office, where we waited…and waited and waited. Two very white guys…in a setting completely filled with black workers, musicians, and executives. We stood out.

Finally we were ushered in, the basics of the deal were pitched and agreed upon within about 10 minutes, and we were back on our way to Portland.  As it turns out…the song, and the entire “California Raisins franchise” became a point of contention that hounded the project in later months and years. But, at the time, we were just happy to have the deal done.

Without going into detail, and avoiding any chance of slander regarding the subsequent budget negotiations, I scheduled a meeting with the business director, David Altshul. Every creative type needs a David Altshul.  A guy like David allows the “star,” in this case Will Vinton, to be happy, jovial, fun, and full of creative energy, while all of the details, negotiations, and “Scrooge tendencies” fall to the business guy.  When Will said, “talk to David about that,” it meant “I don’t want to tell you the bad news…I have a guy for that.” 

Suffice it to say, that I renegotiated a deal that was a little more than twice the original contract, for about 8 times the amount of work I had to do. I did get enough money out of the “bump” to be able to get a new keyboard, a new mixing board, and one of the new Fostex 16 track ½” tape recorders, along with one of the first Sony 501 digital mastering recorders (it recorded to VHS tape) in the country.  But, I made it clear, that any recording studio time at an outside studio that had to be done on the “big budget production number” for the Raisins, was going to be paid directly by WVP.  I’m glad that part was included in the contract, as the bill for final mixing at Spectrum Studios ran into the thousands.

Add to all of this, that we were in the process of moving to a home in the country, and I was in the process of converting a portion of a gigantic 4,000 sq. foot farm outbuilding into a recording studio. No worries…who needs sleep?

The last recording done in our home in Eugene, was to lay down the final tracks on “Joy” including the amazing vocals by Ron Tinsley, as well as the equally amazing sax solo by Portland jazz great, Warren Rand.  Warren blew so loud and intensely, that I couldn’t record him in the same room, but didn’t have an isolation booth. So, we strung cables down to the laundry room of the house, and Warren, the trooper he was, performed amongst the laundry and cleaning products of the Miller household.

Finishing the studio construction enough to get all of the new equipment wired before the final cuts of music needed to be produced was a chore and a minor miracle. My Dad, a carpentry wizard with the patience of a saint, came down for a weekend and helped me frame in the studio, control room, and isolation booths. I sheetrocked and insulated for three straight days, and then built custom cabinets to fit the gear.

The Claymation production, even with added staff and long extended hours, was taking far longer than anticipated, and even with an airdate of late December, it was looking like it was going to be a push. As often as three times a week, I was making the trip up and back to WVP. The modifications and cuts were for the most part finalized by mid August, with a guide track for the California Raisins parts in place and being animated. However, one small detail remained… I needed someone to SING the Temptations part.

I auditioned several NW a cappella singing groups and narrowed it down to a Eugene group, “The Tones,” and a Portland group called the “Street Corner Singers.” Both groups had female leads, something that the Temptations or the Raisins lacked. In the end, I chose the Street Corner Singers, because they had a better handle on the “Motown sound” and recording time was booked at Spectrum Studios, with Mike Moore engineering.

The session began by dumping my original 16 tracks of backing music onto the 24 track. We then added sleigh bells, replaying the bass part to fill it out, and then replaying the high hat and snare parts, because Will (who was in the control room at the session) insisted that it sound EXACTLY like the Temptations version, and I had deviated from the very straight 16th notes, to something with a little more syncopation. Again… the boss is the boss…so we took an hour (at $150 an hour) redoing the part.

When the Street Corner Singers arrived, they were excited and nervous. Anita, their beautiful and talented lead singer, was confident that they could make it work, even after I asked her to “sing like a guy if you can.”  She was more confident that the rest of the group, who seemed put off that they had to match the Temptations note for note, and were not able to put their own distinctive sound on the tracks .
The Street Corner Singers were talented, and up to the task, once they got a handle on the parts and harmony. Anita, Steve, Willie, Sunni, and Richard really should have better acknowledgement on the record and the television credits, but their manager and the group, were insistent on being credited with the group name. I can’t find their full names anywhere in my records, even though I know releases were signed. One of those little things that bugs me, every time I see the credits roll.

Upon the playing of the final mix at around 2am in the morning with a session that started around 7pm, we were all pleased with the result.

After the “Raisin Session,” most of my time was spent on minor tweaks and modifications of the music, right up until the week before the airdate. While we had all seen bits and pieces of the work as it was completed and shown to the staff, nobody had seen a final cut. Will had become far more “hands on” as the completion date loomed. There was obvious friction between Ralph and Will, as Will insisted on using his own voice on some of the characters, and ended up adding computer digital effects which many (including myself) beleived to have diminshed the impact of the clay painting for “Joy” that was done by Christina Sells Tooke.  But, Will was prone to leave his personal thumbprint on the production (even including an attempt to play the hi-hat part on Rudolph…which he abandoned after Mike and I had to be blunt, regarding his random time keeping).

I didn’t witness this strange penchant first-hand, until we were in the final mix of the sound, music, and film at Pace Video, three days before the show was to be aired for a national audience. During the final mix of the Walrus Dance to “Angels We Have Heard on High,” there is a part where the male walrus falls into a snow bank.  Will thought it would be funny to litterally bump the master two-track music deck, to make the heads wobble.  I thought is was hack, juvinile, and sounded like an editing mistake.  You can imagine who prevailed…and to this day, when I hear it, I grit my teeth.

The Press/Original Air Date

The press running up to the special airing was extensive, both locally and nationally. The national previews gave it high praise, and there was an extensive interview for "Home Recording Magazine." Locally, I had my 15 minutes of fame, with interviews on a local TV talk show, a feature story in the "Register Guard", as well as one in What’s Happening,” a local entertainment magazine.

All fun, but I knew that when I did the math, this project probably netted me around $.09 an hour. The slave wages paid to Nike employees in Cambodia looked good in comarison.

But, it was a great opportunity, and a wonderful experience for the most part.  You simply don’t get to work with such creative, fun people, often. The staff was a bit of a family, including a company picnic over the summer, and a softball game where I hit two home runs (there were no fences…and they played like animators) off of Will, who was of course, pitching.

We watched the first airing, like most of America, in our home, surrounded by friends and family. We had a 24” color TV…and as you can imagine, as fast as 24 minutes flies by, in a room full of excited people, the end result was fun, if anticlimactic in regards to the almost full year of my life that went into it..

When the ratings came out the next week, we had not only won our time slot, but were the top-rated special of the season, even beating out the highly promoted and touted “Little Match Girl” featuring “The Cosby Show’s” Keisha Knight Pulliam. Ha! Take THAT Cosby!  

CBS was thrilled! We were thrilled! Everyone was floating on a river of hope and promise- and slight letdown- as we realized that this was the end of a huge project and a lot of fun.

CBS followed up by agreeing to run the special for another 4 years, and ordering two more specials, one for Halloween, and one for Easter.

The Album…

It was mid-April. I had settled into my daily routine of living in Eugene, and was in the process of working on a music production library for sale to radio stations. The Raisins where not on my mind- I had moved on for the most part, knowing that I may have a part in the upcoming specials, but also knowing that there would be a ton of folks vying for a chance to do music for WVP, including Cal Scott and a couple of others who had done music prior to me.

“Pat, can you come up and have a meeting with David and I tomorrow?”

It was Will…and he sounded insistant, excited, and nervous. Interesting combination.

When I arrived at Will’s office, I simply walked up the stairs to find him. I was long past the formality of waiting in the main lobby, and waiting to be ushered in.  I had roamed freely around the production facility halls for months prior, and always checked in with some of the friends I had made during the production. I considered Will a friend…but also knew it was in many cases a friendship of convenience for both of us. He rarely let his guard down- but, I understood the nature of being famous, and successful, and running a business- even if I had not experienced any of it myself.

Will and David were in the office with a six pack of beers.

”I am flying to New York next month as the guest of Ahmet Ertegun, to attend their 40th Birthday concert.”

”YES!!” My mind raced…but, wait…this is Will. There’s a catch.

“They want to do a record based on the show. Are you up for it?” Will says gleaming, with David bobbing his head along like a Cheshire Cat bobble head.

Again…common sense, and my business sense are in two separate rooms…and I relply quickly to the affirmative.

Without taking this story to the extreme (which many would say has already happened), I will do as they say in Hollywood, and “cut to the chase.”

A deal was reached. It wasn’t a great deal (again, this is WVP), but I did get enough budget to make a record, using the players I wanted to use, and retaining my publishing rights when the record came out.  I would take a minimal advance ($10K) by record label standards, so it would take fewer pieces to recoup the advance out of royalties, and thus, have a shot at actually making some money on the project.

Here was my reasoning…wrong or right.

In the midst of the California Raisins flash in the pan, Priority Records, a small independent label, had secured the rights from the Raisin Board (the people who promote raisins to the world…the edible kind), and had made an album of cover songs, featuring Buddy Miles. For reasons that only the gods of pop culture could begin to understand, the album had gone platinum (a millon copies shipped and distributed). If we, with the success of the TV show as a catapult, could capitalize on the same concept with a major label behind us, we should be able to do at least half of those numbers, even if it was a Christmas record with seasonal shelf life.  Atlantic told Will that they were going to “press gold,” which meant they could ramp it up if it was successful. 

All good.

By taking a small advance, just enough to cover actual production costs, and not the lavish lifestyle of the average rock star (which is where a lot of advance money usually gets wasted), I was couching my bet to spend short, and collect long over the lifetime of an album that would be supported by at least 4 more showings on CBS.

What could go wrong?

Oh…silly, silly producer boy. So…many…things.

But foresight is not hindsight, and looking back I couldn't have predicted the future...or something like that. In any case, I jumped into year two, of Claymation Christmas Celebration Music.

I fleshed out my studio with a few more pieces of gear, and started calling up all of my favorite NW music artists to seek their participation on the project. There would be little or no royalties associated with the project for performers, because the album was considered a soundtrack, and the “artist” was WVP, so to speak.  Any royalties earned would be from publishing/performance for the composer (me) and split with WVP and Atlantic (standard in that day).

So, the only thing I could promise the singers and players for this project was union scale of around $75/$125 a session, and some fame/exposure on a major record label.

Nobody balked at the offer, even though I always felt bad explaining the details.  When I told them I was making nothing up front (true) and was mostly spending the advance on equipment and studio time (also true), people jumped on board with the spirit of simply having some fun, and singing some unique versions of christmas carols.

I threw myself into creating music for the album at a pace that was crazy even by my standards.  It was determined that only a handful of songs from the TV special would translate well onto an album. The songs were selected, and while I battled to keep “Oh Christmas Tree” on the record, because it featured the voices of my daughters Joni and Amy (11 and 9), I was overruled and the "Carol of the Bells" was selected in its place, with an overdub of my voice, explaining the action that the listener couldn’t see.

The full-length version of “Joy to the World” was on the roster.  This pleased me, because the TV version had been edited for time limitations. “We Three Kings Bop” made the cut, as it worked pretty much intact without editing. An editing feat of tying together the four versions of Wassail, Waddle, Wallow, and Waffle into a cohesive story and single cut was achieved. And of course, the “franchise team” of the California Raisins would lead things off with “Rudolph.” 

This left a TON of space on a record--even in the days of vinyl and cassette, which called for at least another seven cuts to round out the album contract length of at least 35 minutes of music. 

I pulled out the original book of children’s Christmas carols that I had used, as well as looking at the original titles of the TV special, and took a long drive (my mind is most creative when driving or in the shower...go figure) with a cassette recorder by my side.  As I sung each of the songs, I searched for new phrasing, and polyrhythms.  I thought about popular music of the day that was catching my ear…the danceable grooves of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and the creative, ethnic synthesizer work of Peter Gabriel.  And then I started trashing tradition…

I go into more detail on each cut on the “Album Music Section” of this site- but I would like to add some overviews and special memories.

First- my family was completely cool with Dad being buried in his studio day and night for weeks. My daughter Katie, who was not even two at the time, would be my frequent visitor. By the time the project was finished, she knew how to operate the basics of most of the gear in the studio.  She loved the dance grooves, and would sit at the back of the studio in her own chair, listening to the songs come to life.

I got to work with some of the most talented musicians in the Northwest, and their contribution to each track is what makes them special.  Terry Robb, John Koonce, Marilyn Keller, Don Latarski, Linda Hornbuckle, Jeff Homan and Calvin Walker were but a few of the players and singers who took my strange, creative arrangements and made them their own.

Bill Barnette of Gung Ho ( studios in Eugene, became a backup set of ears when we moved much of the vocal tracking and mixing to his state-of-the-art, yet homey, backwoods studio.  He was invaluable when it came to rounding out the final sound, as well as making last minute suggestions on finding phone numbers for singers and players, most notably, Marilyn Keller, the amazing singer for Don Latarski’s jazz trio.

Marilyn had the unbelievable ability to walk into the studio cold, and add layer upon layer of perfect, beautiful backing harmonies to anything I threw at her. Ron Tinsley could do the same, and when brought together, they became the defacto album “gospel choir.”

Ron is one of my favorite singers I have worked with, in my entire lifetime of singing and playing. He is laid back with a Zen quality that brings peace and calm to any session. His voice is as smooth as silk, with a combination of Motown, Gospel and Jazz that makes him versatile.  He carried the lead vocals on Joy, Hark!, Good King Swing, and the lead camel on We Three Kings Bop.  His stacked vocals with Marilyn on the final cut, Angels We Have Heard on High (with lead vocal by Lea Jones of “the Tones), is something to which I never grow tired of listening.

One of my almost lifelong friends is legendary blues guitarist Terry Robb.  An Oregon Music Hall of Fame recipient, and winner of “Best Guitar Player” for the “Muddy Blues Awards” from the NW Blues Association so many times that they finally barred him from the ballot, he is simply the best guitar player I have ever been around.  From the first time I met him, when he blew me away by playing Robert Johnson lick for lick…at age 12... to everything he has done since… I simply smile with joy at every note he plays.

I ended up being proud of the project, and had the most fun taking basic mixes home for Debbie to hear, as we drove around listening to them on the car stereo to get a feel for the overall mix. It is still a recording project that was unique, and much of it holds up today (while some sounds extremely rooted in the 80s to me). 

I could go on and on about my impressions of the record, and the experience of recording it, but the fact is, it was a project that brought as much disappointment as it did pleasure. And that is completely on my own shoulders.

The Emmy, The Release, and Leaving it all behind…

Unlike the television project, which I did almost entirely on the basis of "being a team player helping to make a great product for the sheer sense of art and pleasure," I went into the album project with mercenary intent.  And as it turns out, the universe is funny about slapping you down when your intent is wrong.

We needed to deliver the product to Atlantic before mid-August, and the deadline was met.  At about the same time, the Emmy Award nominations came out, and we were nominated in the category of “Best Animated Program.” As you can imagine, months of working on a project with little or no money coming in from my advertising agency to supplement the income, I was not too happy to hear that I was welcome to go to the Emmy Awards with Will and Company, as long as I paid my own way.

Classy. The project was 75% music…my music…and I had to pay my own way?

OK then.

But, I went.

I won’t belabor the point further- but if you would like to read an irreverent account of the trip I wrote back in 2005,
you can find it here

The highlights were:
1. We were in the untelevised part of the awards, and it was obvious that the presenters didn’t want to be there.
2. It was held in what was essentially a convention center warehouse.
3. We were the first award of the night, so we had to sit there anticlimactically for the rest of the night.
4. Will Vinton only paid for a limo to take us to the awards- we had to pay our own way back to Hollywood from Studio City.
5. Will’s idea of celebrating the "apex of our careers," was to buy a case of wine coolers and try to convince me to play Motown favorites on the baby grand in his suite.
6. As I sat alone in the hot tub later on at the Sunset Marqui, missing my wife…I heard gunshots in the neighborhood, and realized I was “done with Hollywood.”

 “Nuf said.

This was a perfect prelude to the fact that the record release was delayed for almost two months, due to a legal battle between the use of the Raisins on the cover of the album- as Priority and Motown had strictly prohibited such by Atlantic, and Atlantic and WVP had chosen to ignore.

This lead to late shipping of a holiday record, with a short, seasonal shelf life. Suffice it to say, it did not “ship gold,” and while there are significant  questions revolving around the number of units sold, the number of units reported, and the number of units that actually showed up on anyone royalty reports (welcome to the record business, kid…), by this time, I felt like I had sold my soul to the devil, and was acting as such…including checking record sales reports on Christmas Eve.

Argh. Bad Daddy.

The following couple of years were simply one big list of frustrating events. We never got an accurate accounting of actual records sold, and I never recieved a nickle from Atlantic. Not a dime.

Almost 4 years later, I followed up with ASCAP about the possibilty of trying to see if they had any sales numbers that had been reported since I gave up trying with Atlantic. They told me that none had been reported...HOWEVER...If I was "The Patric J. Miller" that had done the music for the original broadcast, they had been trying to find me.

The final "Christmas Surprise" to this long chapter, was that they had collected, and were holding performance royalties from the television broadcasts, as well as foreign broadcast of the special, that came to a figure that was several times what I had collected from either WVP or Atlantic. The timing could not have been better, as the three years following the release of the album, were some of the hardest we faced as a family.


So much time has passed under the bridge that almost (almost…) all of the bad memories of the album are fading, and I am left with putting the album on the CD player once a year and saying, “Hey…that is pretty damn original stuff!” 

By the number of people who seem to be trying to find copies on Ebay, Amazon, and other collector sources, I would have to say that Atlantic would be wise to make it available again.  But, in the absence of common sense…
I will, as one of the legal publishers listed with ASCAP, make it available (for listening file sharing please!) on the pages following.

In the end…it was just a chapter in my life. Fun, crazy, entertaining as hell…and unique. Like so many things in this life, it is a chapter that served a purpose, but was only a small part of a life well-lived. Looking back now, it was amazing to accomplish what we did, with the equipment and budgets I was using. We got every ounce out of every dollar invested no doubt about it.

But, like so much of what we think was "state-of-the-art" then, is just another relic sitting in the basement of someone's life.

Case in point...while I can't bring myself to part with my old analogue Fostex E-16 recorder, the 40 channel mixing console or the stack of master tapes from that era, as at the time, they were worth tens of thousands of dollars, and were the life blood of my professional and musical existence, today...they are just taking up space. Even more to the point...the new self containted, 24 track digital recording studio I recently purchased, that includes ten times the features of my entire studio "back in the day," cost less than ONE of the microphones I used on this project.

It's an amazing world... the tools are there...the creativity is boiling's time for old guys with failing ears (from too much loud music) to step aside for the next generation.

I'll see you on the golf course!