I Owe Richard Marx $1400 – The Flint Story His New Book Missed
This isn't a book review per se, but I highly recommend a new book called 'Stories to Tell' by songwriter Richard Marx.
The memoir (Simon and Schuster, released July 6) is a candid and sometimes self-deprecating look at Marx's 40-year career in the music business and includes numerous stories of collaborations and encounters with big names in the music business like Keith Urban, Barbra Streisand, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, and Kenny Rogers, who changed two words in the song 'Crazy' that Marx had written and then took 50 percent of the writing credit.
"The producer says, 'Let me change a line or two'
And a little bit of something can look awfully good to you."
That line from Marx's debut song 'Don't Mean Nothing' was actually a veiled reference to the Kenny Rogers story, with Richard pointing out that he still has the utmost respect for the superstar.
There's very little dirt in the book, but Marx does take us through an on-again, off-again (and then back on-again) friendship with Kenny Loggins and an encounter with country singer Brad Paisley that left a nasty taste in his mouth. If you're easily offended, this book may not be your jam because the dude has a mouth. The very first word in the prologue is the F-Bomb and there are three swears in the first sentence. Personally, that cracked me up and I found that it set the tone for a book that was an enjoyable, easy read that genuinely represents his voice.
The Flint Story That Didn't Make the Book
Dropping $12.99 on the Kindle version of Richard Marx's book was a no-brainer, especially since I stiffed him on his fee when he did a show in Flint about 20 years ago.
Cars 108 had the opportunity to bring Richard to town to do a charity show for the Whaley Children's Center in December of 2000. His music still got a lot of radio airplay at the time and his appearance at the Holiday Inn Gateway Center was a pretty big draw that sold a lot of tickets to Flint's annual 'World's Greatest Office Party.'
Our then-promotions person Maggie Meadows (now with sister station Banana 101.5) and I worked to make the arrangements. At that time, cellphones weren't commonplace, and my plan -- I kid you not -- included 14 free minutes per month. Needless to say, I went over by quite a bit that month, at 35 cents per minute.
His tour manager said Richard would be happy to donate his time and performance to the charity but we would have to cover travel expenses. The cost to charter a flight from Chicago (his hometown) to Flint would be $1,400, and the station agreed to cover that out of our promotions budget.
Rock Stars Usually Have Demands
We figured we'd need to rent a limousine to transport a rock star to and from the airport and assumed we'd spend most of the day buying expensive wine, picking red M&M's out of a 10-gallon vat, and finding whatever ridiculous items were on the artist's 'rider.'
There were no such trappings. He simply asked that we have a plate of cookies and some bottled water in Richard's room and said we could pick the two of them up in our personal vehicle. My wife had just baked Christmas cookies, so we put together an assortment. Our boys were almost three, so Denise and I took the car seats out of the minivan and vacuumed up the French fries and animal crackers.
The show happened to fall on my 36th birthday, so I got to drive Mr. Marx and his manager around Flint in our Oldsmobile minivan on my birthday. For as long as we owned that car, we'd tell people "That's where he sat." A few years later, 'Right Here Waiting' came on the radio and my son David asked, "Am I sitting in the seat where that famous singer sat?" "Yup."
A Great Night for Whaley
Everything went as planned. The crowd enjoyed the show and it was a lucrative night for the Whaley Children's Center, one of our favorite local charities here in Flint. After the performance, my wife and I whisked Marx and his manager back to the private airstrip on Bristol Rd. and off they went.
The plane wasn't in the sky 30 seconds when I realized I never gave them the $1,400 to reimburse them for the flight. It was purely an accident that it stayed in my pocket. I figured I'd get a call the next day and we'd arrange to send a check. That call never came.
A Perfect Ending
It would be a perfect, poetic ending if I told you that we immediately donated the money to Whaley.
Unfortunately, that's not how it played out. The cash had to go back on the books, later to be used to buy t-shirts, gas cards, and other promotional items.
I'm sure the statute of limitations has long run out so I'm not afraid of getting an angry letter from his management company. So maybe I can encourage a few people to buy Marx's new book (it's a great read), in order to make up for that time when he played a little show in Flint and I stiffed him.