If you’re into music at all, you’ve likely heard stories about people who’ve hit the financial jackpot by writing that one song that became a huge hit. Being the coin operated guy that I am, I tried my hand at songwriting only to find that Itsy Bitsy Spider had already been written.
Another story for another time. I will say this, though. My tale of woe would’ve have never happened had I read Randy Poe’s (Wait! Woe. Poe. I think I’ve got an idea for a great song!) book, Stalking the Red Headed Stranger.
Before I share my thoughts about this great book, let me tell you about Mr. Poe.
Besides having an uber-cool first name, Randy Poe has an incredibly impressive resume. He has been president of the legendary Leiber & Stoller Music Publishing (writers of such iconic hits as Jailhouse Rock, Stand By Me, Yakety Yak, and many, many others) for 27 years. He’s also the former president of the California Copyright Conference and has authored Skydog: The Duane Allman Story; Squeeze My Lemon: A Collection of Classic Blues Lyrics and the winner of the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award, Music Publishing: A Songwriter’s Guide. He’s also on the advisory board of the publication Sing Out!
So, as you can see, Mr. Poe knows some stuff about some songwriting stuff so you’ll want to buy this book and take his words to heart.
Oh, about the book: First of all, the title is actually: Stalking the Red Headed Stranger or How to Get Your Songs into the Hands of the Artists Who Really matter Through Show Business Trickery, Underhanded Skullduggery, Shrewdness, and Chicanery, as Well as Various Less Nefarious Methods of Song Pluggin: A Practical Handbook and Historical Portrait.
I have no earthly idea why the publisher’s press release says it “is the hippest, funniest, longest-titled how-to book you’ll read this year” but I’m sure it will dawn on me eventually. I will say that the title has nearly doubled the usual length of my reviews but that’s okay.
So, the book’s main focus is the history and fine art of “song plugging”. Poe covers this skill from a variety of perspectives: how and why it began; how some hits of the past came about through the efforts of song pluggers; and (very important to you budding songwriters) how songwriters can pitch the songs that they have written. That last bit of help is worth the price of the book a thousand times over and, with many Boomerocity readers being musicians and songwriters, I know that you'll want to order the book now just for that reason.
Threaded throughout the book is the incredibly funny and enlightening story of how Poe chased Willie Nelson (via planes, ferryboat, taxis and cars) across Canada to pitch one song to Nelson . . . and what happens on Willie’s bus doesn’t stay on Willie’s bus. Just ask Toby Keith.
The song? Ah! Well, you’ll just have to buy and read the book to find out the answer to that question.