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Tiger Lily Records: The wild story of the tax scam label run by the notorious Morris Levy (Part II)
04.16.2018
11:43 am
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Morris Levy and Tiger Lily
 
Recently, Dangerous Minds shined a light on the shady Tiger Lily Records, the tax shelter label owned and operated by the infamous Morris Levy. We explained that the albums released by the company were meant to lose money, resulting in higher tax breaks for investors. We also told readers about some of the musicians who willingly signed deals with the label. Part two of our Tiger Lily exposé will focus on the artists who were wholly unaware—for decades—that an album of their material was released by the company. In each instance, just a few known copies of each LP are known to exist. Why so few? Well, that’s one of the mysteries surrounding the label, but it’s believed Levy shipped the majority of the Tiger Lily stock to the local landfill.

In record collecting circles, one of the biggest stories in recent years was the eBay listing for one of the rarest and coveted of all the Tiger Lily LPs. The 2014 auction of the album, credited to a little-known group by the name of Stonewall, ended with the winning bid of $14,100 (no, that’s not a typo). Incidentally, the seller found the record at a Goodwill store in New Hampshire; the purchase price there was $1.
 
Stonewall cover
 
Stonewall were a heavy rock quartet from New York City. The band members were Bruce Rapp (lead vocals/harmonica), Bob Dimonte (guitar), Ray Dieneman (bass), and Anthony Assalti (drums). Assalti recently did an in-depth interview with the magazine, It’s Psychedelic Baby, in which many of the unknowns surrounding the band were revealed. As Assalti tells it, in 1972, Stonewall were put in touch with Jimmy Goldstein, the proprietor of a Manhattan recording studio. Goldstein offered the group free studio time, if they’d be willing to record after normal business hours. Before the evening sessions, the Stonewall guys would smoke a ton of hashish, then show up to the studio, where they’d smoke even more with Goldstein. Then, with Goldstein on keyboards, they’d start recording.

Stonewall and Goldstein would jam for hours, then use the best sections as the basis for songs. After half a year of experimenting and recording, Goldstein and the band’s manager took hold of the tapes, telling the group they would shop them around to prospective record companies. Eventually, Goldstein told them there were no takers. The band would soldier on for a period before breaking up.

Years later, after Assalti had relocated to Florida and started a family, he received a phone call from a European collector who had questions about the Stonewall album—which Assalti hadn’t known existed. He was stunned. “It’s kind of sad,” Assalti confessed during the magazine interview last year. “We were four young guys that were ripped off and never got the recognition I believe we deserved.”

Jimmy Goldstein is credited as the copyright holder of the tapes—a strong indicator he was Tiger Lily’s source. The Stonewall LP came out in 1976, the only year the label issued records.
 
Stonewall Side One
 
So, what does a $14,000 record sound like?
 
Find out, after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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04.16.2018
11:43 am
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What’s Up Tiger Lily?: The wild story of the tax scam record label run by the notorious Morris Levy
04.06.2018
08:55 am
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Morris Levy
 
Last April, we told you the story of Richard Goldman, the singer/songwriter who found out that albums of his songs were released without his knowledge or permission. The LPs were issued as part of tax shelter deals, a common practice from 1976-1984. Albums of this sort were ostensibly designed to fail; vinyl collectors later dubbed them “tax scam records.” This article is the first in a two-part examination of the label that set the standard for issuing tax shelter albums. It’s a company that was started by one of the most infamous figures to ever make a buck in the music business.

Morris Levy was born in New York City on August 27th, 1927. As a teenager, Levy started working in nightclubs which were controlled by the mob. In 1949, he opened Birdland, a venue that would go on to become one of the most beloved jazz clubs in the world. In 1957, he founded Roulette Records, a label that subsequently issued a number of hit records, including “Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee and the Starliters, and “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Levy learned early on the value of music publishing, and would often add his name to songwriting credits, even though he didn’t have a hand in their creation and had no musical talent.
 
Levy credit
 
In his book, Me, the Mob, and the Music, Tommy James says Levy never paid him royalties, despite the fact he had recorded quite a few hits for Roulette. James does concede that he was given artistic freedom, which he wouldn’t have had if he’d signed with another label.
 
Hanky Panky
Tommy James and the Shondells, Morris Levy, and a Gold record for “Hanky Panky.”

A number of mafia figures were regular visitors to the Roulette building, including Gaetano “Corky” Vastola, a New Jersey gangster and one of the owners of the label. Tommy James also frequented the company’s office, observing enough to learn why Levy had a reputation for using strong-arm tactics.

It is always reported that there are five major crime families in New York—Gambino, Genovese, Colombo, Lucchese, Bonanno—and that’s mostly true. But back in the sixties, there were six families. All of the above and the Roulette family. It was not for nothing that Morris Levy was called the Godfather of the music business. People from all over the industry called him or came to him to sort out problems. If somebody from Atlantic Records or Kama Sutra found out that their records were being bootlegged, they called Morris.

It seemed like once a month Morris would grab [his associate and bodyguard] Nate McCalla and a few baseball bats, which were in his office, and take off for somewhere in New Jersey or upstate New York. It was a ritual. “KAREN,” he would yell out to his secretary, baseball bat in hand. “Call my lawyer.” And off they would go. (from Me, the Mob, and the Music)

 
Logo
 
There were a number of subsidiary labels connected to Roulette, including Tiger Lily Records. The company was incorporated in 1976, and released over 60 albums that year. Levy gathered content from seemingly anywhere he could find it, using such cast-offs as demos, outtakes and live recordings for the Tiger Lily LPs. He even reissued a handful of albums that originally came out on the Family Productions record label, which wasn’t affiliated with Roulette. The majority of the artists on Tiger Lily would be unknown to the general public. In my view, this was done, in part, to ensure a plausible deniability if the I.R.S. was to come calling. “Tax scam records” were meant to bomb, giving investors the maximum amount they could deduct on their taxes, while spending as little cash as possible. By putting your money into an artist that showed promise, a case could be made that, ‘Hey, we took a chance, but nobody bought it.’ This also meant that the label looked for artists that exhibited a certain level of talent, resulting in a number of Tiger Lily albums by obscure acts who had exceptional material.

One of the easiest (and cheapest) Tiger Lily albums to acquire is L.A. Jail, a collection of Richard Pryor stand-up recordings. There has been much speculation about whether Pryor authorized this release, and there are a couple of clues that he was, at the very least, aware of the LP’s existence.
 
L.A. Jail cover
 
In the December 24th, 1977 issue of the influential trade magazine, Billboard, there are three chart listings for Pryor noting that Tiger Lily contributed to sales of his records. This leaves little doubt that Pryor knew about the album. It also implies that L.A. Jail sold well, which is odd, considering how Tiger Lily seems to have had little interest in promoting or circulating copies of their other records.
 
Pryor label
 
Another indication of Pryor’s involvement comes via another major publication, Variety, and a Morris Levy interview that appeared in a spring 1978 issue of the magazine. It’s also the most fascinating. Levy’s admission of releasing a Pryor LP for tax shelter purposes provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the label.

He [Levy] said he did one tax shelter deal, with Richard Pryor tracks, and made money, adding “I wouldn’t go into a tax shelter deal unless I was in the record business.”

Much more follows after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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04.06.2018
08:55 am
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The strange tale of the unauthorized albums of the Beatles Christmas recordings
12.15.2017
09:39 am
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The Beatles
 
In the early 1980s, two albums of rare Beatles recordings were released with little fanfare. Consisting of the Christmas messages the Fab Four distributed to their fan club in the 1960s, these LPs weren’t authorized by the Beatles, and it appears the reasons they were put out in the first place had, oddly, little to do with financial gain—in the traditional sense, that is. There was also a third album of this material in the pipeline, and though its release was challenged in court, copies eventually made their way into the world.

Back in April, we told you about the tax shelter record labels of the 1970s and 1980s. These companies offered investments in master recordings, which would be used as the basis for albums. Tax shelters aren’t illegal, but those that focus on the tax benefits, rather than, say, the success of an album being bankrolled, are considered fraudulent by the I.R.S. Many of these labels were found to be just that, while others are believed to have been shams. In such a scenario, a record that failed to sell resulted in a significant tax credit for investors.

The tax shelter labels existed as a means to exploit the U.S. tax code, but they also exploited artists, who, more often than not, had no idea their work was being issued in such a manner. All sorts of material—demos, outtakes, rarities, etc.—was issued with little-to-no promotion. In recent years, collectors came up with a colorful descriptor to identify such LPs: “tax scam records.” Some of these albums are amongst the scarcest slabs of vinyl ever pressed.
 
1963
The Beatles first holiday record, 1963.

Between 1963 and 1969, the Beatles taped Christmas messages specifically for their fan club. The recordings were pressed on 7-inch flexi discs, housed in unique artwork, and shipped to fans, free of charge. The first year they established what would be the standard format: holiday greetings and year-end updates mixed with parodies of holiday classics, and the sort of tomfoolery the group was known for. As the Beatles began to stretch musically, the messages became another outlet for experimentation. By 1967, their fan club records were downright avant-garde.

 
1966
Cover of the 1966 flexi.

After the Beatles broke-up—and just before the 1970 holidays—Apple Records sent the Beatles’ US and UK fan club members an album of the full run of Christmas discs. Again, there was no fee.
 
1970
 
A decade later, in 1981, a selection of the Beatles holiday greetings appeared on an LP called Happy Michaelmas. The title is taken from a section of the 1968 message, in which Paul McCartney is singing a little ditty and playing off the phrase “Happy Christmas.”
 

 
SO MUCH MORE after the jump..

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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12.15.2017
09:39 am
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‘Almost Famous’: Artist discovers his music was released by shady record companies in 1977 (Part II)
04.11.2017
11:16 am
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Richard Goldman on stage, c. early 1980s
 
Yesterday, we told you about “tax scam records,” and the incredible story of Richard Goldman, the exceptional singer-songwriter who made the shocking discovery that two versions of an album—largely made up of his tunes—had been released without his knowledge. But that’s not the end of this strange tale. Decades had gone by, when Richard happened upon yet another LP of his songs, the vinyl pressed up by a similarly mysterious record company. How did this happen—again?
 
Sweethearts
 
Sweethearts was released by Granya Records in 1977. The album was comprised of studio demos Richard recorded between 1971 and 1974. Sweethearts was distributed by Album World, a division of International Record Distributing Associates (a/k/a IRDA). Based in Hendersonville, Tennessee, IRDA was formed in 1974 by Hank Levine and Mike Shepherd, two record industry veterans. The year they opened for business, the pair told Billboard magazine that IRDA was an “association of small independent labels, with the strength and distribution of a major label.”
 
1975 clipping
Billboard magazine clipping, 1975.

By 1977, IRDA was manufacturing tax shelter albums for a variety of labels, many of which seem to have been established solely to take advantage of the tax credit. Levine and Shepherd were responsible for creating the finished product and then distributing the records via their Album World and Album Globe subsidiaries. It isn’t known how many tax shelter albums Levine and Shepherd distributed, but it’s estimated to be well over 100 titles, including LPs of Beatles and Led Zeppelin material.
 
The Fantastic Dena Carrol
‘The Fantastic Dena Carrol,’ Lanark Records, 1977. Distributed by Album World. The cover art recalls both Marilyn Monroe and a certain Lou Reed LP. Note the price tag.

The conventional wisdom among collectors of “tax scam records” is that Levine and Shepherd sold tax shelters to investors and then created new, fake record labels for each release. But that wasn’t the case. What happened was, the labels—companies that were often established for one-time only tax shelter albums—came to Levine and Shepherd. In the tax shelter orbit, it was known that they could do the required work.

I spoke with Jack Millman, one of the biggest players in the tax shelter game. Millman had a trove of master recordings—obtained through various connections in the music industry—which he would sell to individuals who wanted to create a tax shelter album. He told me about the people in his circle, and that included Levine and Shepherd. As part of a 1985 federal case—in which the investor in a tax shelter record was denied tax credits related to said album—the court noted Millman had recommended the services of IRDA to the investor.

Album Globe distributed the tax shelter record comprised of Christmas messages recorded by the Beatles, but Levine and Shepherd were removed enough from the equation that neither they nor their companies are mentioned in the lawsuit filed by the group’s lawyers.

Granya Records was likely just another tax shelter label hipped to the professional services of Levine and Shepherd. Sweethearts is the only known Granya release. Who exactly was behind Granya is still unknown, though I have a hunch.
 
Side A
 
Through my research, I learned that Granya, Incorporated was established in 1975, listing a post office box in San Marino—a city in Los Angeles county—as their address. The owner of the company is also the CEO of a real estate agency in Southern California. I called the agency, and left messages requesting an interview on the CEO’s personal voicemail, but have yet to receive a response.

In 1977, the year Sweethearts was released, Granya, Incorporated was the only registered company in the United States using the name “Granya.”

But who provided the tape of Richard’s songs? Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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04.11.2017
11:16 am
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‘Tax Scam Records’: Artist discovers albums of his songs were released by shadowy companies in 1977
04.10.2017
12:41 pm
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Richard Goldman in loft above Hollywood Blvd
 
“Tax Scam Records” is a phrase that was coined by collectors to identify albums that are believed to have been manufactured for the sole purpose of—get this—losing money. From around 1976 until 1984, a number of record labels were established as tax shelters, with investors putting their money into albums. A financier would invest, say, $20,000 in an LP, and if it tanked, the backer could claim a loss on their taxes, based on the assessed value of the master recording. Technically, the practice was legal, but to maximize the write-off, the appraisal was often grossly inflated—as high as seven figures.

The I.R.S would come to question the legitimacy of some of these labels, and accuse those promoting shelters that focused on tax benefits—rather than the music being bankrolled—of perpetuating fraud.

Anything was seemingly fair game for a tax shelter album, including LPs previously issued as private press records, demo tapes by aspiring artists, and studio outtakes by name acts. Some labels were so brazen, they released albums using material by groups as big as Led Zeppelin and the Beatles.
 
Happy Michaelmas
Album of Beatles Christmas messages, 1981

Another issue that caught the attention of the I.R.S., was how little to no money was put into marketing these releases. Over time, collectors came to realize that relatively few copies of individual tax shelter albums had made it into stores. It’s believed that most of the LPs went directly to a warehouse or were simply destroyed. Many of these records are so scarce that only a handful of copies are known to exist.

Sometimes the artists knew about the release and were compensated, but more often than not, they had no idea. The singer-songwriter Richard Goldman is an artist in which the latter applies. Though getting ripped off isn’t unusual in the music business, his story is a fantastic one—even in the strange universe of “tax scam records.”

In late 1970, with dreams of making it in the music business, a 20-year-old Richard Goldman moved from his hometown of New Rochelle, New York to Los Angeles. “I wanted to be Jimmy Webb,” Richard told me recently (other inspirations include witty songsmith, Harry Nilsson; alt-country pioneer, Gram Parsons; and pop titans, the Beatles). His goal was to be a behind the scenes figure, thinking he would have a longer career as songwriter, rather than as a performer, as they tended to have shorter lifespans. But he wasn’t averse to playing his songs in public.
 
Keenly Susceptible
 
Richard became a fixture of the weekly open mic night at the Troubadour, then the hottest venue for singer-songwriters. After one such a set at the club, he was approached by an impressed member of the audience, Sam Weatherly, who became Richard’s manager and producer. Weatherly paid for demo sessions, which enabled Richard to record studio-quality versions of the songs he had been writing. For a session that took place at Sunset Sound, Weatherly brought in a musician by the name of George Clinton to play piano on a few tracks. Yep, the George Clinton.
 
Richard Goldman in studio
 
Weatherly, who was older, “wasn’t just my manager,” Richard says today. “He was like a parent.” Richard would head over to Weatherly’s house often to have dinner, watch football, or play the board game Risk. Weatherly and his wife were like Richard’s west coast family.

In 1975, Richard recorded at the famed Sound City Studios. He’d actually recorded there a couple of years prior, and was invited back by one of the owners, Joe Gottfried. The engineer for the sessions, Fred Ampel, had taken on the managerial role in Richard’s career. By this time, Weatherly and Richard had drifted apart, though the circumstances are now unclear. Richard was thrilled to be recording again at Sunset Sound. “You knew you were in a very cool place.” Fleetwood Mac were right across the hall, and Lindsay Buckingham caught a playback of one of Richard’s songs, “Sinatra’s Car.” Buckingham expressed his admiration for the tune, noting that the bridge sounded Beatlesesque. He even lent a hand, overdubbing a bit of bass for a particularly tricky section of the track. “It was a thrill to watch,” remembers Richard. “He was ripped on pot but absolutely flawless on bass.”
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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04.10.2017
12:41 pm
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