Ignored Obscured Restored
Have you ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye?
I didn’t think so. But you should know about him because he had a very successful career in the music biz.
First of all, he was the producer on Gene Clark’s best solo album (IMHO), No Other. If that was his only accomplishment, he would be noteworthy. But there is so much more!
In the late 50s, while still a teenager, he hooked up with Scepter/Wand records. Through the early 60s there, he wrote and produced material for The Shirelles and several notable soul artists. He also produced ? and the Mysterians; possibly even on their big hit “96 Tears”, though that has been a subject of debate.
In the 70s he worked with Clark, produced “Dead Skunk” for Loudon Wainwright III, co-wrote the Three Dog night hit “One Man Band”, and produced the Dr. John, Mike Bloomfield, John Hammond Jr. super session called Triumvirate.
Of special interest to me is his association with all of the cats at ABC/Dunhill records that were producing (Gary Katz) and playing on Steely Dan records – including Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
This led Kaye to release two solo albums in the early 70s that allowed him full access to those great artists. The first eponymous disc is almost a Steely Dan backed record. Becker, Fagen, David Palmer, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and, Victor Feldman all make contributions, with Katz producing.
His second solo release, First Grade, even included two Becker/Fagen penned obscurities that they never recorded for Steely Dan. “American Lovers” is today’s SotW.
“American Lovers” was recorded around the time that Steely Dan was working on Pretzel Logic. While I wouldn’t claim that Becker and Fagen gave away their best song, it has the chord structure and lyrical intelligence we’ve come to expect from the boys.
Becker plays bass on this number and Jim Gordon pounds the traps. Backing vocals are provided by Dusty Springfield, Clydie King and Shirley Matthews!
Kaye died in 1994 in Warwick, NY, just a few miles from my hometown of Newburgh.
So the next time someone asks if you’ve ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye you’ll say – “Hell yes!”
Enjoy… until next week.