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MR. FRED FOSTER “THE THREE BELLS” AND MONUMENT RECORDS – by Dick Flood

 

MR. FRED FOSTER “THE THREE BELLS” AND MONUMENT RECORDS

 

(c) by Dick Flood for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

 

It
was October of 1959. By now the Dean Show had been off the air for
more than a year, and I was camping in the mountains of my home state
of Pennsylvania on the ten acres of raw Mountain land that I had
purchased with my mustering out pay from the army. My dog ‘Lem’ was
with me. He was part Lab, he was still a puppy, he was fun and he
was great company. To make sure that my little friend would be warm
I had given him my fur lined parka for his bed. And just before I
crawled into my warm and woolen sleeping bag for the night I wrapped
him up in it.

But
I remember waking up several times during the night and finding that
Lem was sleeping soundly but out from under the wraps of my parka.
So I’d get up and out of my warm and cozy sleeping bag into the now
freezing cold night air and wrap him up again. I must have done that
a half a dozen times before I finally came to realize that he was not
a little child and with his fur coat he did not need to be wrapped up
in my parka like that. And what a fool I’d been for getting out of
the comfort of my warm and toasty sleeping bag to do it so many
times.

It
had snowed all night. Up in those mountains that was not unusual for
the month of October. Early the next morning as I was out shoveling
the snow away from my pup tent I heard Lem barking at something down
where the dirt road ended. Then I thought I heard a car horn begin
honking and someone down there yelling.

Since
it was over a hundred yards away I could not understand what was
being said. So I hurriedly put my pants and snow boots on and walked
on down that way to see what was up.

I
was glad I had put my pants on because it was the daughter of a dear
friend of mine. She had come to tell me that I had a phone call at
their house, and that the man on the phone most desperately wanted to
talk to me.

So
I ran back to my camp and quickly grabbed my heavy fur lined parka,
hollered at Lem to “Come on!”, and ran down the mountain to
where she was waiting. She drove Lem and me to her parent’s home
which was about two miles away.

When
I arrived at her house I picked up the phone and the man who wanted
so desperately to talk to me was still on the other end waiting. He
had been waiting for almost an hour. And it was none other than Mr.
Fred Foster owner and CEO the brand new but rapidly growing Monument
Recording Company! By that time even though the company was still
considered in its infancy, Mr. Fred Foster and Monument had already
produced several giant hits; “Only the lonely” and “Crying
Over You” with Mr. Roy Orbison, and “Gotta’ Travel On”
with Mr. Billy Grammar.

What
did Mr. Fred Foster want? He wanted me to drive back home to
Arlington Virginia immediately, pack a few things and catch a plane
with him to Nashville. What was the hurry? He said he’d tell me when
I got there.

Mr.
Fred had been to Nashville on numerous occasions and had made a lot
of friends there. He had been at RCA Victor’s Recording Studio often
because at the time he was using their great sounding studio to
record Mr. Roy Orbison, Mr. Billy Grammar, and several others. Mr.
Chet Atkins was the head A & R man for RCA’s Nashville’s
recording acts and because Mr. Fred thought he was talking to a
friend he confided in him and told him several of his ideas. Mr.
Fred had even shown Mr. Chet certain songs he planned to create hits
with.

One
of them was a popular French folk song that (Vlad(Gills)-Reisfield)
had endorsed American lyrics to. The song? It’s American name is
“The Three Bells”.

And
this is what Mr. Fred now explained to me; He had just found out
that RCA Victor had released a recording by a little known brother
and sister country music act known as The Browns that within its
first week was climbing the charts more rapidly than any country
recording in RCA’s history! And discouragingly enough for Mr. Fred
the name of the song was “The Three Bells!”

Fred
was furious about it, and rightfully felt betrayed by someone he had
confided in as a friend. And he made up his mind that he was not
going to lose out on his master plan of recording “The Three
Bells” on Monument Records. His original plan had been for me
to record it and it had been on the back burner for the time being.

Knowing
that The Brown’s version was already in the charts and climbing fast
did not stop Mr. Fred Foster. He had gone to great lengths to find me
in my mountains, and I hurriedly drove back home to Arlington
Virginia to meet him. We caught the next plane to Nashville.

On
the airplane he explained to me more in detail what had happened and
why the rush, and he handed me a copy of the lyrics to”The Three
Bells”.

When
we arrived at the airport in Nashville we took a cab directly to the
Owen Bradley Studio. I was totally amazed at the crowd of musicians
and singers Mr. Fred had rounded up ahead of time. Believe it or not
the entire Nashville Symphony Orchestra was there.

But
that’s not all; Both the Anita Kerr Singers, and the Jordanaires the
two most famous and talented choral groups in country music were
standing by. Miss Millie Kirkham was there. Mr. Grady Martin and Mr.
Hank Garland two of the best and most well known guitar players in
town were there. Mr. Floyd Cramer was seated at his piano. Mr. Bob
Moore was ready with his big bass fiddle. Mr. Buddy Harmon was there
by his drums. And Mr. Ray Eddington had his rhythm guitar tuned up
and ready to go. And I am sure that there were others present that I
am just not recalling at the moment. To my knowledge it was at that
time the largest country music session ever assembled in the history
of country music.

Mr.
Fred had hired Ms. Anita Kerr to write out the violin and other
orchestral parts. And after we went over all the chord changes with
our rhythm section and choral background group we began recording Dick
Flood’s version of “The Three Bells”. And it was a
beautiful recording indeed.

Through
London Records within the record time of less than two weeks Mr. Fred
was able to get my recording produced and distributed to the radio
stations all across America and the entire world.

By
that time the Browns’ version was almost a month into the charts and
rapidly heading for number one. Mr. Fred and I both were on the
phone almost constantly talking to radio station owners and disc
jockeys trying to swing them over to playing our version.

And
although it is not generally known my recording of “The Three
Bells” was one of the first cover records that ever rode the
Billboard and Cashbox charts separately from the original version.
It was also the first time the Nashville Symphony Orchestra was used
on a country session, and the first time the Anita Kerr Singers and
the Jordanaires ever sang together as a choral background.

The
Brown’s version did reach all the way to number one in both the pop
and country charts. While my recording rode separately and topped
off at number twenty-three in the Cashbox charts.”

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