Rock legend Bruce Johnston recalls his buddy Terry Melcher & working on songs from Doris Day’s latest album “My Heart”
Published: September 9, 2011

We feel immensely privileged to be able to bring to you now an interview with Rock legend Bruce Johnston who is a member of The Beach Boys, an accomplished producer and solo artist, as well as a GRAMMY award-winning songwriter – best known for having penned “Disney Girls” and Barry Manilow’s #1 hit “I Write the Songs”. Johnston alongside his buddy Terry Melcher (Doris’ son) also produced the 1980s recordings which now feature on Doris Day’s new album “My Heart“. Well enough of the introductions we’ll let Bruce tell you all!

 

Q&A

When/how did you first meet Doris’ son Terry Melcher? What are your memories of  your early days working together?

Back in 1958, the independent record label owned by Doris Day and Marty Melcher (Arwin Records) released a top ten single by Jan & Arnie (my high school friends) and the song “Jennie Lee” went to number eight on the Billboard & Cash Box charts in the US. I thought that it might be a good idea to ‘see’ what was going on at Arwin Records and somehow I was able to audition an original song of mine for the head of A&R, Joe Lubin. I was fifteen years old at the time and I knew nothing about songwriting! Mr. Lubin turned my song down but encouraged me to keep on writing. Arwin Records was located in the same office complex in Beverly Hills as all the other Doris Day businesses and that’s where I met Terry Melcher. Terry and I became friends a year later.

During the mid-1980s Doris made a return to the recording studio. How did this come about and how did you become involved?

Terry and I were young record producers at Columbia Records in the very early sixties and we always seemed to work on music together for the rest of his life. Terry was able to interest Doris in recording a few songs and I ended up co-producing part of the “My Heart” album. Terry and I wrote three of the songs together (“My Heart”“The Way I Dreamed It” and “Happy Endings”). The album also contains two of my songs that I wrote the words and music for: “Disney Girls” & “Heaven Tonight”.

You wrote a number of new “original” songs for this project. What inspired you when writing these and which out of all of them is your favourite?

Actually, knowing that Doris ‘might’ be recording again created an opportunity for Terry and me to finish some songs that we were ‘slowly’ working on. I really like our “My Heart” song and Terry and I wrote a lot of “My Heart” at Paul Francis Webster’s home two doors down from Terry’s mom’s house in Beverly Hills. [FYI: Doris was living in Carmel at that time and Paul Francis Webster had recently passed away.]

What was the preparation before rehearsals with Doris?

Usually Doris used to rehearse with Bill Miller before recording many of her great Columbia Records albums but I think Terry worked alone with Doris on the “My Heart” album songs before she recorded them. As Terry and I are the producers of what Doris was about to record, we worked out the correct song keys with Doris beforehand and then created the backing tracks.

Did Doris get involved with the actual creative process of this project i.e. with arrangements, song choices etc?

Luckily for Terry and me, Doris was deeply involved in all aspects of her “My Heart” album. Say no more!

What was it like working in the studio with Doris? Do you recall how long it took for Doris to complete her vocal work?

Because of knowing Terry all those years ago, I was able to be a young ‘fly on the wall’ at Doris Day sessions at Radio Recorders and Columbia Recorders and I was amazed at how prepared Doris was when the orchestra began playing in the studio for the run-through of the song(s) about to be recorded. Her seemingly effortless vocal recording was astounding and so natural sounding. When we recorded the “My Heart” songs, the vocals were recorded smoothly and quickly. Doris is such a pro!

What was the highlight for you of this entire project?

To know that Doris was pleased with the songs, the arrangements, and her recorded vocals.

Do you have any idea why the songs never got a “commercial” release during the 1980s?

I never thought about it other than someday these recordings would be released and shared with her worldwide fans.

As you will likely know this project is significant as it was Doris Day’s last to be completed as a recording artist. How do you feel knowing that your songs have now been given an “official” release by Sony Music UK?

I’m very proud to have contributed some of my songs to the legacy of such an important international recording artist.

In 1993, you were part of the “Doris Day Best Friends” charity event what was that experience like?

I really enjoyed watching Doris talking to her old friend, Les Brown, at the event. I only wish she could have sung one song with Les’s band (It was the Les Brown Band for the “Doris Day Best Friends” charity event). [See the above photo of Doris with Bruce taken from the 1993 event ]

Terry was a very talented man. How will you best remember him?

Terry was my best friend and he (along with Doris) encouraged me to write songs. I owe them my songwriting Grammy! Also, Terry always made me laugh a lot! Terry was a great record producer, songwriter, arranger, and he had a fantastic voice.

 

 

What did you think when you heard Doris was to get The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award?

What an honor & well deserved…..Doris Day’s singing still stops me in my tracks!

Our readers would love to know what projects you are currently involved in. So please do tell us what does the future hold for Bruce Johnston?

As a very long time member of the Beach Boys, I still spend most of the year in concert worldwide but I do plan to put a great deal of focus on writing songs for television & movies over the next ten years.