By Deems Tsutakawa For The North American Post
My first full length vinyl LP entitled Deems was recorded over a two year period starting in 1980 and was released in December of 1982. It was also the year Jean and I were married. All of the tracks were recorded live at the old Kaye Smith Studios in Seattle to 2 inch 24 track analog tape at 30 IPS, or inches per second.
The studio had state of the art equipment and was very expensive. The tape alone was almost $200.00 for a single roll plus hiring an engineer and renting the studio. Based on this high overhead, I would rent out the studio about once every two months and then save up my money for the next session.
The following year after much fanfare and a plethora of promotional engagements, my album was selling like hot cakes at all the local record stores. We received good reviews and got airplay on stations coast to coast.
It was around that time when I first met Mr. Jack Shue, who was the head of WEA International of the Pacific Northwest.
WEA is the acronym for Warner Brothers, Elektra and Atlantic Records. Jack happened to have dinner and drinks
at a nightclub, where I played.
And when he told me who he was, my response was “what is WEA?”
So naturally, I gave Jack a record and proudly told him that it had sold over 1,000 copies at the Tower Records Store on Mercer Street. Of course he didn’t believe me, and the next day, Mr. Shue called the store and asked them if they ever heard of me, and the Tower told him Deems is one of the best-selling albums out right now.
Jack was very surprised, and so happy he called me up and took me to lunch. When I went to his office down in Tukwila, I saw dozens of Gold and Platinum Records lining the walls. All of them said, “Thank you Jack Shue.”
This blew my mind. Jack told me that he would try to get me a record deal with one of the major labels and that if I got signed he wanted to be my personal manager.
Over the next few weeks, Jean and I had dinner at his house, met his wife and kids and had lots of great food too. Although I never got the contract with one of the WEA companies and never made a ton of dough from that record, I have no regrets, just many great memories.
[Editor’s Note] Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at deemst@ deemsmusic.com.