My name is Jeff Platts. I was born in Detroit and moved to southern California when I was about nine years old. I’m a good songwriter and I get by as a guitar player. As a vocalist I could never win American Idol or The Voice, but I’m good enough to do my own songs because nobody knows what they’re supposed to sound like in the first place. I wrote my first song when I was 9 years old. Even at age 6 I knew I could make up songs because I could anticipate the next line of songs on the radio.
I got my first guitar when I was 13. A guy up the street named Bob Peacock taught me how to strum and play a few chords. Shortly thereafter I bought a Beatles song book and learned to play all the chords and songs therein. It didn’t take me too long to realize that I would never be a great guitar player. But even so, I realized the guitar was a great tool to help me write songs, so I focused on that.
In 1970, I teamed up with some neighborhood friends and we started a band called Placebo. The band consisted of me (guitar & vocals), Steve Ballard (drums), Johnny Weaver (bass & vocals) and Bill Zubon (lead guitar & vocals). We practiced a lot, played at a couple of parties, played at a battle of the bands (which we lost) and then broke up after about a year. We played mostly our own original songs and a few covers. I learned that being in a band is a lot of hard work. We had a manager for a while and we would have band practice in his garage. I can’t remember his name, but he told us his brother was the guitar player in ? and The Mysterians of “96 Tears” fame.
After Placebo broke up, I decided to focus on songwriting. I was introduced to a guy named Frank Slay, who was the owner of Claridge Music, a music publisher in Hollywood, California. Frank was also a substantial songwriter himself, having written or cowritten several hits including “Silhouettes” (recorded by The Rays in 1957, reaching # 3 on the Billboard 100 and by Herman’s Hermits in 1965, reaching # 5 on the Billboard 100). “Silhouettes” was also recorded by many other artists, including The Four Seasons, Bob Dylan and The Band, The Diamonds, The Ronnettes, Cliff Richard, Frankie Lymon, The Alley Cats, The Nylons and The Crests. It also was featured in Jersey Boys (the Broadway musical & the movie). Frank wrote and/or produced and/or published other hit songs including “Palisades Park” (Freddy “Boom-Boom” Cannon). He was the producer of “Incense & Peppermints” by Strawberry Alarm Clock (#1 Billboard 100) and “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” by Sugarloaf (# 9 Billboard 100). Why so much on Frank Slay? Because Frank was a mentor to me and taught me the craft of lyric writing. As with most artistic vocations, there is a point where talent gives way to hard work and discipline. Frank taught me the most important lesson of my songwriting life – to never settle for a lyric or word that isn’t as close to perfect as possible.
I recorded 2 or 3 of my songs and took a cassette tape to Frank’s office. Frank liked one of my songs called “I Love The Way You Rock & Roll”. But he said that I had compromised on the lyrics in some places and I needed to keep working on it. He said I should rewrite the song and bring it back. I was a little disappointed, but on the other hand I had an actual music industry professional who liked my song and was willing to listen to it again and that was pretty exciting. So I would re-write and re-record the song and go back to Frank’s office every 2 or 3 weeks. The song was improving, but he would inevitably send me away with instructions to make it even better.
Going to Frank’s office was pretty cool. There was a lot of activity there. The lobby was always full of 5 or 6 people waiting to see Frank. I would always get escorted straight into Frank’s office, so I guess he must have thought I actually had a little talent. One day I arrived, and as usual I was escorted into Frank’s office. There was another guy sitting in there and Frank said, “Jeff, this is Freddy Cannon. Do you mind if he stays and listens to your song?” Now Freddy Cannon wasn’t the most famous guy in the world, but he’d had a number of hit records and everybody in those days knew who he was. While listening to my song, Freddy Cannon’s foot was tapping and he seemed to be getting more animated as the song got further along. When it was over he asked to hear it again. After hearing the song for the second time, Freddy said “I want to record this song. Can I record this song? Elton was supposed to let me record “Crocodile Rock”, but he changed his mind and recorded it himself. This song is going to be my “Crocodile Rock”.”
As it turned out, Freddy had a contract with Rocket Records (Elton John’s record label). The initial contract called for Rocket Records to buy Freddy’s old masters and record new material on the Rocket Records label. So Frank had a publishing contract drawn up while I waited and we signed it that day. Frank pulled out the original publishing contract for “Incense & Peppermints” that Strawberry Alarm Clock had signed with Claridge Music to show me that I was getting the exact terms and conditions as they did. I would have signed it anyway because I trusted Frank.
“I Love The Way You Rock & Roll” was never recorded by Freddy Cannon. The musical arrangements were done, musicians hired, studio time booked, but as I understand it, Rocket Records never sent a check to pay for the recording. As it turns out, recording new material was an option on Freddy Cannon’s contract and I guess Rocket Records decided not to exercise it. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I hadn’t harbored any real hopes of the record being a hit, because Freddy Cannon was no longer a household name. But I thought at the very least I was going to get a professional songwriting credit to add to my resume and that it was a step on the ladder of success. I was so depressed about the whole thing that I gave up songwriting and guitar for over a year. As a side note, I also met Jerry Corbetta of Sugarloaf in Frank’s office. He listened to one of my songs, but didn’t seem very impressed. Frank eventually ended up selling the Claridge Music catalog to MPL Communications (Paul McCartney’s publishing company), which included “I Love The way You Rock & Roll”. In the late 1980s or early 1990s, I requested the publishing rights to “I Love The Way You Rock & Roll” from MPL Communications and my request was granted.
In the early 1970’s, I was introduced to a guy named Al Green (not the famous soul singer) by a mutual friend who knew we were both into music. Al and I wrote some songs together and did some recording at a little garage studio in Van Nuys called Shoestring Studio. The studio was run by John McFarland, a singer/songwriter/guitar player. John just had a 2 track recorder with no multi-track capability, so everything had to be done in 1 take, but the quality was excellent. Al and I recorded a song of ours there called “’All My Dreams Are You” (Al on piano, me singing). We made a bunch of cassette copies and he and and I would hike all over Hollywood trying to get music publishers, etc. to give it a listen. I always thought that the song would be perfect for Olivia Newton John because it was really melodic with some high notes that would suit her style. So we sent tapes to Olivia 3 different ways (publisher, record label and a friend-of-a-friend who said they could get a tape to her). A couple of weeks later I was with Al at his house where we were working on some songs when the phone rang. Al answered and lo and behold it was Lee Kramer, Olivia Newton John’s fiancee & manager. There was no speaker phone, so all I could hear was Al’s side of the conversation. But basically Lee Kramer told Al that “Liv “ (Olivia) really liked the song, but thought that it wasn’t quite right for her. Liv wanted to know where the song was recorded and who the singer was (me) because she really liked his voice. Al answered Lee’s questions and asked if we could rewrite and resubmit. Lee said yes and they hung up. The only problem was that we had sent the tape 3 different ways and we weren’t sure which one had found it’s way to Olivia and Lee. We should have asked where to send the revised song, but we were so excited it didn’t cross our minds. We re-wrote, re-recorded and re-submitted, but never heard anything back. We have no idea if the revised song ever found its way to them. I’ve never considered myself an impressive singer, so Olivia Newton John’s compliment was a nice boost to my ego and even all these years later serves to encourage me in times of vocal insecurity.
During the same time frame, I wrote theme songs for two radio shows. The first theme song was for a morning talk show on KABC-FM (later renamed KLOS) called The Tom Yates/Marshall Phillips Show. I wrote the song, recorded it with guitar and my vocal and mailed it to the radio station. A couple of days later I received a telegram from Tom Yates (who was also the program manager) that read “Loved the song. Would like to air it. Please call”. This was very exciting news for me and they played the song every day until the show was cancelled.
The second theme song was for the morning show at a station in Pasadena called KPPC-FM (now defunct). The host was a guy named Steve Dahl who called himself “The Kid”. I think he was only 18 years old and I was about 22. We hit it off pretty good. He would play the song every day. He went on to be a pretty big radio personality in Detroit and then later in Chicago using his real name, Steve Dahl. Whenever I’d go to KABC-FM they’d hand me a stack of albums and whenever I’d go to KPPC, Steve would give me the key to the record library, telling me I could take any albums I wanted as long as there were at least 2 copies. I didn’t receive any money for either song, but at least my album collection got a lot bigger.
In the late 1970s, I moved to the South Bay area of southern California to start a new job. Through my job I met a guy named Mike Osborne, who was a purchasing agent at a company called United Detector Technology (UDT). Mike was in a band called The Buffalos with 3 other guys (Roy Hardinge, Dan Strohm and Brian Vessa). I would go to clubs to see The Buffalos play and after a while Mike and I got to be good friends.
In 1982, I wrote a song called “I Caught It From A Girl”, which was a comedy song inspired by a dinner date that resulted in a bad case of food poisoning. Dr. Demento (syndicated nationally) was having a songwriting contest and I wanted to enter “I Caught It From A Girl”. I asked Mike to help me record the song and another one he and I had written together called “The Telephone Song”. He agreed and I booked some time at Dynasty Studio in Torrance, California. When we arrived at the studio, another band (Tim Weisberg) was tearing down. The recording engineer talked to me and told me that the drummer was a guy named Rick Jaeger (died 2000). He said Rick had played for a lot of big names, including the Pointer Sisters, his drums were all miked-up and ready to go and that Rick would probably lay down drum tracks for us for $50. The engineer asked Rick, he agreed, and we did the recording. Rick was a total pro. We played through each song once so he could hear how they went and then he laid down a perfect drum track the second time through. Within about an hour we had drums on both songs and Rick Jaeger was packed up and gone. Now that we had drum tracks, the scope of the project grew. Instead of just acoustic guitars and our vocals, we needed to add bass, keyboards, electric guitar, etc. We figured we needed a funny band name to go along with our funny songs, so Mike came up with Tex Strange & The One Night Stand Band. We also formed a record label called Black Sheep Records and a publishing company called Two Dreams Music. We decided to release a 45 (vinyl record) with “I Caught It From A Girl” as the “A” side and “The Telephone Song” as the “B” side.
Mike & I had 1,000 copies of the record pressed. We didn’t have the resources for a national release, so we did a regional release to all the country radio stations in California. At that time there were about 45 country radio stations in California and we managed to get on some sort of a play rotation at several of those stations. Our record also got to be somewhat of a jukebox hit in parts of the midwest. We ran out of records and had to press another 1,000, but I have no idea how many we actually sold.
While we were finishing up the recording and mixing, the deadline was closing in for entering the Dr. Demento Song Contest. We had to put an unfinished version of the song on a cassette tape and send it in for the contest. Mike and I got together to listen to the Dr. Demento broadcast where the 10 finalists and the winning song were to be played during the final hour of the show. As we were waiting for the final hour to arrive, we were very surprised to hear “I Caught It From A Girl” being played. Even more amazing was that the version being played was the final mix, not the unfinished version we had sent in for the contest. Mike called the radio station and spoke with Dr. Demento. It turned out that the version we submitted to the contest didn’t make the top 10, and Dr. Demento had never even heard that version. So how did he get his hands on our 45? We had sent a copy to KLAC-AM, a Los Angeles country radio station. The program director at KLAC had taken the record across the hall and had given it to Dr. D., at KLAC’s sister station KMET-FM. Mystery solved. We didn’t win the contest, but Dr. Demento liked our song and would play it from time to time, so in a way we felt like winners.
With a record to our credit, Tex Strange & The One Night Stand Band started adding members and began playing live gigs. The band members changed a few times throughout the years. Only 3 members were there from the beginning to the end – me (vocals & guitar), Mike Osborne (aka Mick Cleveland) (vocals and guitar) and Al Glodan (aka Hank Detroit) (drums). Other band members at various times included Kathy Reimers (vocals), Mike Belkin (pedal steel), Eric Larson (pedal steel and guitar), Bob Rosencrans (bass), Mary O’Neal (bass), Dan Strohm (bass), Kate Beddow (vocals), Steve Brower (keyboards), Mario Jojola (guitar and vocals), Jo Ellen Friedkin (keyboards), and Mike Reali (keyboards). Our first official performance was at a fund-raiser for muscular dystrophy (Jerry Lewis Telethon) held at Club 88 in West Los Angeles. Our band drew the biggest crowd that night and we raised the most money so Mike, Kathy Reimers and I got to present the check on TV during the telethon. I think we were on around 3:00 in the morning. I don’t remember much about that night, but I do remember that it was way past my bedtime. We also played other clubs in southern California, including Bullwinkles in Santa Monica, The Crazy Horse in Santa Ana and The Goldmine in Redondo Beach. Tex Strange & The One Night Stand Band broke up in 1984.
In 1986 I entered a songwriting contest in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Pasadena, California’s city-hood. The contest was put on by Ken Minyard & Bob Arthur, the hosts of the number one rated morning radio show in Los Angeles, called the Ken And Bob Company on KABC (AM 790). The contest was to write a song that would become the official centennial song for the city of Pasadena, California. My song made it into the top 10 finals. The top ten songs were performed live in late June at an event held at Barnsdale Park, the park that surrounds the Rose Bowl. The live event was hosted by Ken Minyard & Bob Arthur and the judges included Rick Monday Jr. (Los Angeles Dodgers), Claude Akins (actor) and the Pasadena police chief. All of the song performances were accompanied by the LA City College Band. My friend Mario Jojola (Mario & The Magnetics) helped me out with guitar riffs and vocal harmonies. My song, “Not Just Another Pretty City, Pasadena” took first place. After the contest, I was asked to perform the song at the Rose Bowl during the annual Fourth of July event. My friend, Mike Osborne accompanied me that night. There were more than 40,000 people in attendance at the Rose Bowl that summer night, which didn’t scare me half as much as I thought it would.
A month or so after winning the Pasadena song contest I was contacted by a weekly local television show (KCBS) called Friday At Sunset. Friday at Sunset was an Emmy winning show that aired Friday evenings in place of Two On The Town, which aired Monday through Thursday. They were doing an episode focusing on Pasadena and asked if I would meet them there and play “Not Just Another Pretty City, Pasadena” for the episode. I met the crew there and they worked out a little skit where the host (Howard Stevens) said something like “hmmm, I wonder if we can find someone to sing a song about Pasadena?” at which point I am shown walking up the sidewalk. Then Howard Stevens stops me and asks, “Sir, can you sing us a song about Pasadena?” to which I respond “Well I could if I had a guitar” and suddenly a bodyless arm from off-camera thrusts my guitar at me. I sang the song right there on the sidewalk. It all seemed kind of silly to me, but when I saw the episode on TV I was surprised to see how well it actually worked. My appearance was toward the end of the show and about halfway through the song they started rolling the credits over my lovely face and closeups of me strumming the guitar. I taped the episode on VHS, and I’m sure I still have the tape somewhere.
The first prize for winning the Pasadena Centennial Song Contest was a trip to Pasadena, Texas to perform at Gilley’s Club. Gilley’s Club was the world’s largest honky tonk and was also the setting for the movie Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta. I assembled a new version of the One Night Stand Band to to accompany me to Texas, including Mike Osborne (guitar and vocals), Dan Strohm (bass), Daryl Smetana (vocals, steel guitar, banjo & guitar) and Steve Ballard (drums). Our entire entourage, including family and friends was about 20 people. Our performance took place on a Saturday night in October. We were the the opening act for headliner Johnny Paycheck (“Take This Job And Shove It”). The audience seemed to like us, so I guess it went okay.
I was a finalist in another song contest, this one to write the centennial song for the city of Orange, CA. I think I got a plaque or something. I was also a finalist in a contest to write a song about the Berlin Wall coming down. For the Berlin Wall contest all 10 finalists went on a dinner cruise in LA Harbor with Ken Minyard from the radio station along with a few celebrities. My wife and I were seated at a table next to the actor McLean Stevenson (Lt. Colonel Henry Blake on the TV series MASH) and his wife Ginny.
All throughout my life I considered myself a Christian, but it was a back-burner sort of thing. But in the mid 1990s, when a close friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I suddenly found myself more interested in things eternal. So I started reading the Bible. If it was truly God’s word, then I wanted to be sure I read every single word so I’d know I hadn’t missed anything. The only way I could think of to do that was to start at the beginning and read it to the end. It was a truly awesome experience, giving me deep insights into both the old and new testaments. The Bible I read was the New King James version, which has a lot of the old English and it took me about 6 months to read the whole thing. After that, I bought a copy of the New International Version (NIV) Bible and read that cover to cover. The NIV translation is in plain English, so it’s a lot easier to read and understand. Then I read throught it a third time.
It seemed to me that the main talents I had been blessed with were music-based, so I started writing Christian songs. At some point I decided to completely give up non-Christian music, something I’ve since realized was unnecessary. The truth is that the songs I wrote and played before I got serious about Christianity were a part of what made me into the person I am today. I don’t spend much time these days on my non-Christian songs, because they just don’t seem as important as my Christian songs.
A little before lunch time on April Fools Day 1999, I fell off the roof of my house onto the concrete driveway. I shattered my left elbow, which required 6 hours of surgery, fractured my left orbital (the bone under the eye socket) and 2 of my front teeth were bent back at a 45 degree angle. Before I hit the driveway I can remember thinking “this is going to screw up the rest of my day”. After I crash-landed I rolled onto my back and reached my right hand to my left elbow. I felt the bone protruding and warm blood. At that moment a Bible verse came into my mind, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). The day of the accident was also Maundy Thursday (the day of the last supper & the day before Good Friday), which is celebrated as a Holy Day by some Christian denominations. I was in the hospital until the following Tuesday, which included Good Friday & Easter. I had a 6 hour surgery the day of the accident and a second surgery early Easter morning. My elbow was so badly damaged that my orthopedic surgeon and I both thought that my guitar playing days were probably over. He had done the best he could to piece my elbow back together, but I only had (and still have) about 6 inches range of motion and limited rotation. I did not want to give up music, but realistically, I had to come up with a plan B.
I had always enjoyed the process of recording and mixing music, so plan B became to have my own recording studio. I had a friend build about two thirds of my garage into a studio. I purchased a 16 track digital recorder, mics, stands, etc. I needed a name for this new endeavor. It seemed like something related to the cause of this new direction would be suitable, so I checked and found out that the domain name brokenelbow.com was available, so Broken Elbow Records was born. As time went on I tried playing the guitar again and found that it was great therapy for my elbow. As unbelievable as it may seem, I am now a much better guitar player than I was before the accident (I guess it isn’t really too unbelievable, because I wasn’t all that good in the first place). If you ever see me play live, you may notice that I dip my left shoulder sometimes, which is the only way I can get my hand around the guitar neck far enough to form certain bar chords.
My friend’s terminal cancer and the elbow-breaking incident were both life-changing events for me. Both events also seemed on the surface to be largely negative, but in the end, God’s will was done. One of the main things I’ve learned is that you have to trust God with everything that life brings (the good, the bad and the ugly), which is easy to say, but not so easy to actually do.
By 2015 I had written about 40 Christian songs, but I hadn’t done much with them. Many of my songs are what I call “looking in the mirror songs”, wherein I’m singing a song that sounds like it’s about someone else, but it’s really about me. Some of these songs chastise the listener for not doing enough with the gifts given to them by God. These songs are written about me, so don’t be offended. So I’m now on a mission to “do something” with my Christian songs. I don’t know exactly what that will look like when it’s finished, but I trust that God does. So, I’m doing the things I know how to do and I’ll leave the rest of it to God. There’s a new Broken Elbow Music website (brokenelbow.com). I will get my songs recorded and I am practicing daily in anticipation of opportunities to do live performances.
Outside of music, I worked in the semiconductor industry most of my life. In 2006, I started my own consulting business, which is called C-TPAT Security Services. I have been married to my beautiful wife Linda since 1983. I have 3 grown sons, Richard, Chris & Nick, my lovely daughter-in-law Eva, my future daughter-in-law Sarah and my wonderful grandchildren Jack and Emma. I reside in Kuna, Idaho.
- 01 With The Eyes Of My Heart 5:16
- 02 Everlasting 4:26
- 03 A Train Called Grace 3:19
- 04 My Lord Blesses Me So 4:41
- 05 One Day Closer 3:46
- 06 Everybody Say Amen 5:50