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The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography:
The Atlantic Contract (1974)

by Iván Santiago

Page generated on Sep 17, 2021

Peggy Lee's Recording Career, 1974

After having exclusively recoded on just two record labels for nearly 30 consecutive years (1944-1972), Peggy Lee signed a short-term contract with Atlantic Records in 1974. The contract generated one album, released that same year, and a few singles-oriented sessions, whose resulting masters were left unissued, for the most part, until the CD era. In total, there are 14 Atlantic masters, not counting a "reprise" or edit of one of these same masters, to which the record label gave its own separate master number. Further comments about Lee's stay at Atlantic can be found in the note at the end of this page. (Side notes: in search of recommendations? For the material listed on this page, the best option is the Rhino Handmade CD Let's Love. A secondary option -- satisfactory to a lesser degree - is the Collectors' Choice that bears the same title. For details about any release of Peggy Lee's original Atlantic album Let's Love outside of the United States, consult this discography's foreign issues page.)

The Peggy Lee Look

Both above and below: this four-photo set showcases the way that Peggy Lee looked in 1974, after having lost a significant amount of weight. (The press reported a loss of over 50 pounds within a three-month period, beginning around March of 1974. By the same time next year, she had regained some of it. A hormonal condition was partially to blame, according to some of her doctors.) The second photo above was taken on the back patio of her home in Beverly Hills, those below indoors. (Her pantsuit serves as an example of the floral kind of attire that she seems to have favored during this specific period, especially in pictures taken at home. The hat was, according to a caption, made by the artist herself.) The other top photo catches Lee in the midst of a rehearsal for a concert in Toronto, Canada.

Date: 4/23/74
Location: The Record Plant, 8456 West 3rd St, Los Angeles, Los Angeles

Peggy Lee (ldr), Dave Grusin (pdr, p), Peggy Lee (pdr, v), Phil Schier (eng), Other Individuals Unknown (acc)

a. 35321Master Take (Atlantic) I Wanna Be Seduced - 2:31(Gary Tigerman) / arr: Dave Grusin
b. 35322Master Take (Atlantic) I Am His Lady - 4:00(Morgan Ames) / arr: Dave Grusin
c. 00000Master Take (Atlantic) Let's Love - 3:57(Paul McCartney, Linda Louise McCartney) / arr: Dave Grusin
All titles on:
Warner's Rhino Handmade Licensed CDRhm2 7853LET'S LOVE   (2003)
Wounded Bird CDWou 8108 — Let's Love   (2016)

The Recording Session

The apparent purpose of this session was the production of a single. However, no single was ever issued. Atlantic was probably more interested in releasing the number that Paul McCartney would be producing for the singer (see session dated first week of June 1974).

Lee's versions of "I Wanna Be Seduced" and "I Am His Lady" were not released until the CD era. Both new at the time of this 1974 recording session, the songs subsequently became known through versions by other singers. In 1975, "I Am His Lady" became a minor, #82 Billboard chart hit for r&b singer Melba Moore, who recorded the song for Buddha Records. The song made another appearance in 1976, as a track from Ernestine Anderson's first Concord Jazz album. "I Wanna Be Seduced" was recorded by Leon Redbone for the soundtrack of Richard Dreyfuss' 1978 movie The Big Fix, then sung live by Dreyfuss himself in a televised Saturday Night Live appearance. Redbone re-recorded it for his 1981 album From Branch To Branch. In more recent times, singer Mary Coughlan has also recorded and performed it.


Two photos of the 2003 Rhino Handmade CD on which this session's songs were issued for the very first time. The disc actually contains Lee's entire output for the Atlantic label (plus one song from a 1970s movie soundtrack).


1. "I Am His Lady"
2. "Runnin' Like A River"
Atlantic's record files incorrectly list "I Am His Lady" under the title "Runnin' Like A River," which is actually the first line of the song's lyric.


1. Who Composed "I Wanna Be Seduced"?
Various sources mistakenly credit Peggy Lee as the songwriter of "I Wanna Be Seduced." Gary Tigerman, the actual songwriter, was a staff writer for Warner at the time of this session. The error has made its way into the otherwise excellent CD Rhino Handmade #7853.


1. David T. Walker
The guitar work in the above-listed master of "Let's Love" strongly suggests the working hand of David T. Walker. His presence has actually been officially confirmed for the next Atlantic session (late April 1974). Therefore, the chances that Walker was also present at this April 23 date are very good. My thanks to fellow discographer James Accardi for pointing out the similarity to me.

Masters, Dating And Cross-references

1. "Let's Love"
This master of "Let's Love" (the earliest of three) is not listed in Michel Ruppli's catalogue of Atlantic masters, which is one of my main sources for Lee's Atlantic sessions. Information about the master comes only from Paul Grein's liner notes for Rhino Handmade CD #7853: "Lee and Grusin also produced a version of Let's Love that is slower and more languid than the one that [Paul] McCartney oversaw. They recorded it in April, before they were sure that McCartney would be able to find time to produce the song."

Notice that Grein's quote gives the month, but does not give the exact day on which the song was recorded. Until more specific information comes along, and thus as a temporary measure, I have incorporated this Lee-Grusin version of "Let's Love" in this April 23 session. For the other two versions of "Let's Love," see session dated first week of June 1, 1974.


Preserved in Peggy Lee's sheet music library are the arrangements for the three above-entered numbers. In all of them, Dave Grusin is identified as the arranger.

Date: Late April, 1974
Location: The Record Plant (8456 West 3rd St.) & Westlake Audio (possibly 7265 Santa Monica Boulevard), LA , Los Angeles

Peggy Lee (ldr), Dave Grusin (pdr, con, p, fen, snt, per), Peggy Lee (pdr, v), Phil Schier (eng), Erno Neufeld (ccm), Pete Christlieb (f, ts), Jerome Richardson (ss, as, bar), Charles "Chuck" Findley (t), Frank Rosolino (tb), Vincent DeRosa (frh), Gene Cipriano (o), Dennis Budimir, Dan Ferguson, Lee Ritenour, David T. Walker (g), Chuck Rainey (b), Unknown (str), George Gaffney (p), Dick Borden (d), Harvey Mason (d, per), Bobbye Hall (cng), Jim Gilstrap, Joe Green, Marti McCall, Jackie Ward, Edna Wright (bkv)

a. 29426Master Take (Atlantic) He Is The One - 4:24(Melissa Manchester) / arr: Dave Grusin
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 14933 - P 14934 — Basic Music Library [5 songs from LP Let's Love]   (1974)
b. 29427Master Take (Atlantic) Easy Evil - 4:36(Alan O'Day) / arr: Dave Grusin
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 14933 - P 14934 — Basic Music Library [5 songs from LP Let's Love]   (1974)
c. 29428Master Take (Atlantic) Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight - 4:04(James Taylor) / arr: Artie Butler, Dave Grusin, Peggy Lee
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 14933 - P 14934 — Basic Music Library [5 songs from LP Let's Love]   (1974)
ATLANTIC CS/LP/CD81706 / Box 81712 [CD Box rel. in 1990] — [Various Artists] Singers ("Atlantic Jazz" Series)    (1986)
d. 29429Master Take (Atlantic) Always - 3:51(Irving Berlin) / arr: Dave Grusin
ATLANTIC 453215 — {Let's Love / Always}   (1974)
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 14933 - P 14934 — Basic Music Library [5 songs from LP Let's Love]   (1974)
e. 29430Master Take (Atlantic) You Make Me Feel Brand New - 5:55(Thom Bell, Linda Creed) / arr: Dave Grusin
f. 29431Master Take (Atlantic) Sweet Lov'liness - 3:53(Max R. Bennett) / arr: Dave Grusin
g. 29432Master Take (Atlantic) The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - 3:04(Dave Grusin, Peggy Lee) / arr: Dave Grusin
ATLANTIC 45(France) 10545 — {Let's Love / The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter [not released in USA singles]}   (1974)
h. 29433Master Take (Atlantic) Sweet Talk - 3:24(Don Sebesky) / arr: Dave Grusin
i. 29434Master Take (Atlantic) Sometimes - 2:25(Henry Mancini, Felice Mancini) / arr: Dave Grusin
Armed Forces Radio Service 12" Transcription DiscP 14933 - P 14934 — Basic Music Library [5 songs from LP Let's Love]   (1974)
All titles on:
ATLANTIC 8-track/LPAtl Cs 18108 & Tp 18108 & Sd 18108 — Let's Love   (1974)
Warner's Rhino Handmade Licensed CDRhm2 7853LET'S LOVE   (2003)
Collectors' Choice Licensed CD2077 — Let's Love ("Hepcat" Series)    (2009)
Wounded Bird CDWou 8108 — Let's Love   (2016)

The Let's Love Album Sessions (Cross-references)

Dates: Late April and early June 1974.


Above: serving as promotion for the Peggy Lee album Let's Love, this ad was placed by Atlantic Records on music trade magazines. Also in view is the front cover of the LP itself. (The album contains all the songs listed under this present, all-encompassing June 1974 session.) Below: front covers of three of the items discussed under the Collectors' Corner section.


The sources at my reach give different dates to the nine songs listed in this session:

July 17, 1974
This is the one date assigned to all twelve album masters in Atlantic's masters file. My source for the date is not the file itself but Michel Ruppli's book Atlantic Records: A Discography (Greenwood Press, 1979). Lee's recording of so many songs on the same day is highly unlikely. Instead, the 17th may have been the day on which all performances were assigned a master, and/or were sequenced for the album. Another possibility, albeit an unlikelier one: July 17 could have been the first of various consecutive days during which the sessions took place.

April 1974
This is the date given in the booklet of Rhino Handmade CD #7853. Both the discographical notes and the essay in the booklet identify April 1974 as the recording period. I assume that the creators of Rhino Handmade CD #7853 retrieved this dating from an Atlantic file different from the one consulted by Ruppli.

In the absence of any further specifics or additional sources, I have chosen April over July. Given the circumstances already explained, my choice should be deemed tentative.

Location And Masters

1. Remixes
This session's performances were recorded at the Record Plant Studio, then remixed at Westlake Studios. The exact studio on which the remixing took place is unknown to me. If in existence at the time, Production Suite would fit the bill best. In current times, the suite is advertised as "perfect for vocal tracking, songwriting, overdubs, and mixing." The location appears to be 7265 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, which also encompasses studio C, D, and E. (The address for studios A and B is 8447 Beverly Boulevard, LA). Also unknown to me: whether Lee attended the remixing sessions. The likelihood that she did is heightened by her credit as a co-producer of the album.


1. Erno Neufeld
Erno Neufeld arranged and conducted the of strings only.

2. Dick Borden
3. George Gaffney
The two above-listed musicians played only on "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and "Always."

4. Background vocals
Background vocals are heard on "He Is The One," "You Make Me Feel Brand New," and "Sweet Lov'liness" only.

5. Vocal Overdub
On "Sweet Talk," and in the main, titular line of "Easy Evil," the female serving as background vocalist seems to be Peggy Lee herself, her voice overdubbed.


1. "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight"
"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" was adapted by Peggy Lee and Dave Grusin from an arrangement by Artie Butler.

2. Dave Grusin
The back cover of the LP Let's Love identifies Dave Grusin as the arranger (or, in the case of "Don't Let Me Be Lonely," co-arranger) of all the performances in the album, except for "Let's Love." Furthermore, the album's scores are extant in Peggy Lee's sheet music library; all of them indeed credit Grusin as the arranger.

Collectors' Corner

1. Amemos [LP]
A Peggy Lee album by the title of Amemos is actually a Spanish pressing of the LP Let's Love. Although I myself have not come across physical copies of this Spanish pressing, I have seen photos of its cover online. Except for the title in Spanish, the cover is identical to the American original. The catalogue number that I have seen for it online (Gemma Gx 01 750) is probably erroneous; perhaps it points to an auction at the music website Gemm.

2. Atlantic #3215 [45]
A collectible photo of Peggy Lee graces the front cover of Atlantic single #3215. Although it is the same photo featured in the cover of the album Let's Love, this shot is at a closer range, and thus offers viewers a better look at the singer's face and at the microphone that she is holding.

3. Atlantic #10545 [45]
4. Atlantic #105727 [45]
Generally, this sessionography omits foreign singles which have an identical American original counterpart. (I have listed all such 'omissions' under the Miscellanea section of this discography.) In the case of French Atlantic single #10545, I have entered it in this sessionography for two reasons. The main one is that, although it does feature the same song ("Let's Love") as its American counterpart on one side, on the flip side it features a different number.

The second reason pertains to its sleeve: it is different from the American one, and thus collectible. The front features no photo; it is just a blue background, blank except for the singer's name in white and the words "let's love" in pink. The back includes, on the other hand, the same photo used on the front cover of the LP, though reprinted in very small size. (For a look at a reproduction of this French sleeve, front and back, see the booklet of Rhino Handmade CD #7853.)

I have also seen online photos of German Atlantic single #105727. It shows no significant variations from the American counterpart.

5. Atlantic P 1347A [45]
Another collectible of potential interest to fans of both Lee and McCartney is the Japanese Atlantic single P 1347A: its back cover shows a photo of Peggy Lee and Paul McCartney at the piano. That photo is not found in the American and French counterparts of the single. Otherwise, aside from the photo on the back and the language on the sleeve, the Japanese single shows no major differences with the American original.

Date: June 3-5, 1974
Location: Studio C, The Record Plant, The Record Plant, 8456 West 3rd St, Los Angeles, Los Angeles

Paul McCartney (pdr, p), Alan Parsons, Pat Stapley (eng), Other Individuals Unknown (acc), Unknown (str, wds), Peggy Lee (v)

a. 29425Master Take (Atlantic) Let's Love - 2:58(Paul McCartney, Linda Louise McCartney) / arr: Paul McCartney
ATLANTIC 453215 — {Let's Love / Always}   (1974)
ATLANTIC 45(France) 10545 — {Let's Love / The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter [not released in USA singles]}   (1974)
ATLANTIC 453215 [promo] — {Let's Love}   (1974)
ATLANTIC©WEA LP(Germany) 48 008 — [Various Artists] 20 United Stars Of America   (1976)
b. 29435[EditOf29425]Master Take (Atlantic) Let's Love (Reprise) - 1:20(Paul McCartney, Linda Louise McCartney) / arr: Paul McCartney
Both titles on:
ATLANTIC 8-track/LPAtl Cs 18108 & Tp 18108 & Sd 18108 — Let's Love   (1974)
Warner's Rhino Handmade Licensed CDRhm2 7853LET'S LOVE   (2003)
Collectors' Choice Licensed CD2077 — Let's Love ("Hepcat" Series)    (2009)
Wounded Bird CDWou 8108 — Let's Love   (2016)

The Let's Love Album Sessions (Cross-references)

Dates: Late April and early June 1974.


The sources available to me offer two possible dates for this session's masters (and also for all masters on Atlantic LP #18108): early June 1974 (according to Rhino Handmade CD #7853) or July 17, 1974 (according to Michel Ruppli's Atlantic Records: A Discography). I have chosen the date offered by the Rhino Handmade CD, in which liner annotator Paul Grein states: [Paul] McCartney produced the backing track for "Let's Love" at Abbey Road studios in London on May 18. The first week of June, he recorded Lee's vocal at the Record Plant. Atlantic invited some press people to a photo and playback session.. The CD's discographical notes give the early June dating as well.

One of Grein's sources is clearly an article titled "The Generation Bridge," published by Zoo World magazine on July 18, 1974. Len Epand, the article's writer, mentions that Lee and McCartney were producing the song one day the first week of June. Within the Beatles fan community, experts in McCartniana have pinpointed the dating more specifically, circumscribing it to one of three possible days -- the third, fourth, or fifth of the month of June. I can add that a June 8, 1974 article in Radio World magazine states that "Pal and Linda McCartney will arrive in los Angeles June 3 to begin a series of meetings. While in Los Angeles, McCartney expects to pay a visit to the studios where Peggy Lee is currently recording her new album."

For further details about the date not chosen, see notes under session dated April 1974. Note that such a date (July 17, 1974) is much too close to the publication date of the aforementioned magazine and testimonial (July 18, 1974).

At The Recording Session

According to a Lee assistant who attended this session, McCartney and Lee's cordial relationship became momentarily tense. As retold by the Lee biographer who interviewed the assistant: "[o]n April 23, 1974 [sic], McCartney arrived at a Hollywood recording studio. He had brought along Linda and a finished back up track for Let's Love on which he played piano. Lee still didn't like singing to a pre-recorded band ..."

The biographer then adds that the assistant "saw the singer's stifled annoyance when McCartney directed her, within full earshot of everyone, 'Peggy, do that again. You didn't do it right. I think it would be better this way. She didn't like that.' But she sang [the] song with a broad smile in her voice, and at the end of the date Lee was in her glory as she and McCartney stood by the piano and led a teeming press conference."

The biographer's retelling might contain a slight conflation of two related events -- the recording session and the gathering that possibly took place either shortly afterwards. Allowing for that assumption is the aforementioned Zoo World testimonial from journalist Len Epand. To quote: "after a day's work ... Paul ... and Peggy ... held a mini press conference/photo session around Studio C’s grand piano. In high spirits, they casually sang a couple of songs together, elaborated on their surprising collaboration and then took the small mob into the control room to hear the finished track." The phrase after a day's work can certainly be taken as an implication that Lee and McCartney had spent the earlier hours of that day either recording or remixing the song (or so Epand had understood).

On the matter of Lee's momentary, alleged exasperation at McCartney's instructions, her perceived reaction rings true to character. There are several other accounts of the female singer's mortified reaction whenever somebody, usually male, tried to tell her how to sing at one of her own sessions. But the moment of exasperation must have been fleeting. Asked about McCartney in 1975, during an interview with the magazine Record World, she responded, "[h]e couldn’t be nicer. And Linda’s a doll too. They’re really very nice, nice people

Those of us who are fans of both McCartney and Lee are fortunate that she acquiesced in this instance, thereby giving us the version of the song that he wanted ... but not before having already waxed for us the version of the song that she preferred. For her more individualized, bluesier take, consult session dated April 23, 1974. Thus we count with both artists' perspectives on the same notable number.


All the pictures above were taken at the aforementioned press conference and playback session, during which Peggy Lee and Paul McCartney entertained music journalists with their performance of two songs (according to Len Epand), along with cordial answers to many of their questions. In addition to the two singing artists (seen in all four shots), the two photos right above feature producer Dave Grusin (sporting an eyeglasses-plus-mustache look) and two other men whose identity has not been revealed to me. (The man by the door looks like Alan Parsons. If his identity were to be confirmed, there would be room to speculate that the sitting man is the session's other engineer, Pat Stapley.) Below: amply disseminated photos of Peggy Lee in performance in 1974. Month, site, and occasion are unknown to me. Part of her attire seems to be the same one that she wore at the press conference with McCartney. It is thus possible that these pictures come from either that press conference or any event which might have taken place during these early days of June. Some of these photos were included in the press kits for Lee's next albums, as well as in her touring books.


1. "Let's Love"
As already mentioned, Lee's vocal was sung to a track pre-recorded by Paul McCartney on May 18, 1974 in London's Abbey Studios.


1. "Let's Love" In The Music Charts
The song "Let's Love" was Peggy Lee's 73th entry in the American singles charts. It was also Lee's last chart hit during her lifetime. She had made her debut with "I Got It Bad" in 1941, when she was a 21-year-old canary with The Benny Goodman Orchestra. As a solo artist,- Both dating from 1945, her earliest chart entries had been the self-penned #11 hit "You Was Right Baby" and her first top 10 hit, "Waitin' For The Train To Come In" (#4, according to the valuations from the Joel Whitburn book Pop Memories, 1890-1954).

During the week of November 2, 1974, the 54-year-old singer took "Let's Love" to a #22 peak in Billboard's Easy Listening chart . (At number one was John Denver, with "Back Home Again.") "Let's Love" also charted in the Pop Music Playlist of Canada's RPM Weekly, where it peaked at #41 in its third and last week (December 21, 1974 issue).

While "Let's Love" was Lee's last song to chart during her lifetime, a few more of the singers numbers have posthumously made the charts, the most notable of them was "Similar," which peaked at #2 in Billboard's Jazz Digital Songs Sales chart during the week of April 14, 2017.

2. "Let's Love (Reprise)"
This so-called reprise, actually an edit, consists of a couple of choruses plus the closing line from master #29425.

3. "Let's Love" (Cross-references)
For an earlier performance of the song "Let's Love," see session dated April 23, 1974, including notes.


1. Paul & Linda McCartney
All issues containing the song "Let's Love" list Paul McCartney as its sole author. However, ASCAP lists both Paul and his first wife, Linda McCartney.

The aforementioned article by Epand indicates that the song was originally brought to Lee by the couple as a dinner present while she was in London. In another article ("Peggy Lee: A Consummate Artist," published by Record World Magazine on December 27, 1975), Lee retells the story, but links the writing specifically to Paul: "When he got to the hotel he said that rather than bring champagne or roses, he was writing a song for me. And it was almost complete, maybe two bars left to write. Then they [i.e., Linda and Paul] came to California and they were at my house for dinner, so he played it for me."

I have chosen to trust ASCAP's online database in this instance, even though detection of several errors in a few other instances have made me wary. Hence Linda McCartney's name has been added to the list of songwriters above. (I'd rather err not on the side of omission, but on the side of addition. Corrections from anyone better informed on this matter would be appreciated.)

Date: 6/7/74
Location: The Record Plant, The Record Plant, 8456 West 3rd St, Los Angeles, Los Angeles

Peggy Lee (ldr), Dave Grusin (pdr, p), Peggy Lee (pdr, v, spk), Other Individuals Unknown (acc)

a. 35563Master Take (Atlantic) The Nickel Ride - 4:48(Dave Grusin, Peggy Lee) / arr: Dave Grusin
Warner's Rhino Handmade Licensed CDRhm2 7853LET'S LOVE   (2003)
Wounded Bird CDWou 8108 — Let's Love   (2016)


More takes from the same photo shoot that generated the picture on the back cover of the album Let's Love. The second of these graced the front cover of the gay-oriented magazine After Dark (June 1974 issue).


1. "The Nickel Ride"
This song comes from the 1974 Twentieth Century-Fox movie The Nickel Ride, which was scored by Dave Grusin. However, Lee's lyrics are not heard in the movie soundtrack. Perhaps she wrote them after the movie had been already produced, or perhaps she did write them for inclusion in the movie, but they were not used.


As is the case with previously entered Atlantic sessions, two possible recording dates are in contention for this session: June 7, 1974 (the date found in Michel Ruppli's Atlantic Records: A Discography) and April 1974 (the month on which, according to Rhino Handmade CD #7853, Lee recorded all her Atlantic numbers, except for the McCartney-produced song "Let's Love").

Until further information becomes available, I am choosing the more specific date (June 7, 1974) over the collective one (April 1974). My choice relies chiefly on a presumed correlation between dates and master sequence: since the master number for "The Nickel Ride" is higher than the numbers assigned to Lee's other Atlantic masters, there is a good chance than this performance was recorded much later than the others. In any case, this session's dating should be deemed tentative.


1. Dave Grusin
Dave Grusin's arrangement of "The Nickel Ride" is extant, under his name, in Peggy Lee's sheet music library.

Peggy Lee With Dave Grusin At Atlantic Records

Contracts, Mergers, Movers And Shakers

Two years after parting ways with Capitol, Peggy Lee signed a deal with Atlantic Records. On its May 4, 1974 issue, Cashbox magazine announced the arrangement as follows:

"Peggy Lee has joined Atlantic Records under an exclusive, long-term contract, according to Nesuhi Ertegun ... Deal for the singer ... was concluded by [managers] Peter Dean and George Scheck with Ertegun. Ertegun said that negotiations have been finalized with west coast producer-composer-arranger Dave Grusin to co-produce with the performer her first LP for Atlantic. The recording sessions are underway in Los Angeles. In addition, Paul McCartney will produce one side with Miss Lee, which will be included in the album and also released as a single. McCartney composed a new song, Let's Love, for the artist, and he will work with her on this song, also the title of the LP."

Nesuhi Ertegun

Around this time (mid-1974), promotional material sent out to the press also stated that "Atlantic Executive Producer Nesuhi Ertegun ... signed Miss Lee to the label after years of being a fan of hers." The brother of one of the label's co-founders (Ahmet Ertegun), Nesuhi Ertegun is best remembered for his extensive, life-long involvement in the jazz scene. At Atlantic, he ushered the transition from the single to the LP era, and infused a jazz strain into a label that was originally more oriented toward rhythm & blues. According to Atlantic's other founder, Jerry Wexler, “Nesuhi opened that whole [album marketing] area for Atlantic --everything from recording to packaging was done under Nesuhi’s guidance.”

But Nesuhi did not limit himself to the handling of jazz albums and jazz artists. He also produced a sizable number of soul and r&b artists, including Ray Charles. Come the 1960s, the label would also become known for commercially successful rock music, sponsored primarily by brother Ahmet.

Subsequently, Atlantic went into a state of structural flux. In 1967, concerns over the independent label's long-term financial stability led to the sale of stocks to Warner. (The concerns had primarily stemmed from Wexler.) Warner was in turn officially sold to the National Kinney Corporation (1969), which then added the Elektra label to its acquisitions (1970). After the ensuing merger (1971) of all three labels, Nesuhi was promoted from his former vice-presidential position to chief executive officer and president of the merged entity, known as Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA) International. As for brother Ahmet also continued to be part of the record label, serving as its chairman, and concentrating on the signing and development of rock musicians.

It is thus during this post-merge period that Nesuhi Ertegun signed Peggy Lee to Atlantic -- or, more precisely, to WEA. We do not know if it was the label or the singer's management that made the initial approach. Theaforementioned description of Nesuhi as a fan of Lee carries the implication that he would have been interested in signing her to the label. However, the source for this claim is promotional material, whose accuracy is always prudent to question. (I have come across no other references to Nesuhi's alleged fanhood.) We do know that he was the Atlantic man in charge of dealing with the newly signed pop-jazz artist: he is listed as the executive producer of all her Atlantic sessions.

The McCartney Chip

During the initial negotiations with Atlantic Records, Peggy Lee's main bargaining chip was probably her possession of a song that Paul McCartney had just written for her, and which he had tentatively offered to produce. We might speculate that, using the McCartney song as a stepping stone, Lee and her associates talked Atlantic into endorsing the making of an album, as well as a couple of singles.

The genesis of this collaboration between McCartney and Lee dates back to the last week of November 1973, when she flew to his country. The songstress was scheduled to guest-star on a Julie Andrews Christmas TV special, and to perform at the London Palladium. Shortly before the trip's date, however, Lee suffered a minor accident. She slipped in her bathroom at home, suffering a concussion. the event alarmed her doctor enough to demand a substantial reduction in performing activities. (He was also taking into consideration the fact that the vocalist had been making daily use of a breathing machine since 1961, after having contracted pneumonia and pleurisy during her first trip abroad, also to London.) Following doctor's orders, concert plans were cancelled, but not her participation on the TV special, whose filming still necessitated Lee's sojourn to the United Kingdom.

It was while staying at the Oliver Messel Suite in London's Dorchester Hotel that Peggy Lee chanced upon Paul and Linda McCartney on the street, and invited them for dinner at her suite. The ensuing events have been repeatedly recounted by both McCartney and Lee. From an interview published on the 27 December 1975 issue of Record World, here is one of such recountings, this one by the female vocalist: "they came that evening. When he got to the hotel he said that rather than bring champagne or roses, he was writing a song for me. And it was almost complete, maybe two bars left to write. Then they came to California and they were at my house for dinner, so he played it for me then ... He couldn’t be nicer. And Linda’s a doll too. They’re really very nice, nice people." And so, from this cordial get-together, the Let's Love collaboration was born ... and Peggy Lee's entry through Atlantic's pearly doors was ensured.

The Grusin Touch

Also left unsaid in the extant data is how and why Dave Grusin was enlisted for the project. The likeliest scenario is that Lee herself sought him out, as she clearly admired his work. Nowadays justly celebrated especially for his film scoring (The Graduate, On Golden Pond, The Fabulous Baker Boys, etc.) the major in piano studies was enlisted by Lee at a relatively early stage of his professional career, which is generally deemed to have started with his recruitment as Andy Williams' conductor in 1959, and the release of his own debut album A Jazz Version Of The Broadway Hit 'Subways Are For Sleeping' (1962). His numerous arrangements for Peggy Lee date back to at least 1964, and in 1966 he also conducted an album of hers (Guitars Ala Lee). A fair share of those arrangements ("Talk To Me Baby," "Big Spender," "When In Rome") brim with a groovy approach which clearly appealed to Lee.

Around 2003, liner annotator Paul Grein asked Dave Grusin about the experience of recording Let's Love, and about his working relationship wit Peggy Lee. Grusin responded as follows: "I remember having such a wonderful time with Peggy. She was always so game about trying stuff. If she didn't understand it, she let you know, but I think she enjoyed doing stuff she hadn't done before. It was the middle of a R&B infusion, with The Stylistics and Roberta Flack and Quincy Jones and that wave, and we were looking for some of those kinds of grooves for that project. I think that was somewhat new for her. So, musically. we were in a contemporary place. The material was a little more soulful." Soulfulness was most probably the musical vibe that Lee was after, soul the then-fresh genre with which she probably wanted to experiment.

Soul And Love

Once Lee agreed to (or made clear that she would be) recording contemporaneous tunes in a soulful style, Atlantic must have felt that the prospective album had commercial potential. Thanks to acts such as Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, the soul genre had proved very successful for the label. Also under contract with the label at this time were Hall & Oates, whose 1973 album Abandoned Luncheonette evinced the brand of blue-eyed soul (aka pop soul) for which they would become better-known in later years. (The more rock-oriented War Babies, their third and last Atlantic album, would be released in the same as part of the same fall schedule as Let's Love.) Thus Lee's work for Atlantic could perhaps be deemed part of the label's experiments in pop soul.

Termination Of The Atlantic Deal

Notwithstanding the early notices of a "long-term contract" printed in the music trade press, Peggy Lee did not record any further material for Atlantic after 1974. Her contract was probably for one album and a couple of singles, with the label's option to ask for more, and thereby sign Lee for a longer period. Since the McCartney single had only moderate success, and since Lee's album made no dent in the charts, Atlantic had no commercially viable reason to extend the contract. Following Lee's 1974 deal, similar pattern appears to have held true for her peers Mel Tormé in 1975 and Sylvia Syms in 1976: each did one fine album (Live At The Maisonnette, Lovingly) for the label on their respective years, with no ensuing activity thereafter. (Tormé was actually a returnee, having recorded a couple of albums for Atlantic back in the 1960s.)

Naturally, there are other reasons for the non-renewal. During an interview with Eliot Tiegel in 1990, Lee seemed to attribute the closure of the relationship to the same kind of corporate shake-up that she had previously seen happen at Capitol: "The last album I did for Capitol, Norma Delores Egstrom From Jamestown, North Dakota, got lost in a new management shuffle and wasn’t distributed properly. Then I went to Atlantic to do Let’s Love and Paul McCartney wrote the title tune, and you can’t get much better than that. Just about the time it was going to be shipped I called Atlantic and the lady answered the phone and said, ‘Warner/Elektra/Atlantic,’ and I thought, ‘Oh-oh, the wrong number or I’m in trouble again.’" (For what is worth, Lee's album bore just the Atlantic logo when it was first issued, back in 1974. Ads in the press identified it as a release from "Atlantic Recording Co., A Warner Communications Company.")

As already discussed, Atlantic had been undergoing corporate changes since the late 1960s. Lee was perhaps blissfully unaware of such circumstances. While no significant merging affairs might have been happening around the time of the album's release, the post-merge years might have not been too kind on any newly arriving old-guard artists who did not show immediate, significant success. Understandably, development strategies would have been focused on the up-an-coming, fresh talent, and contract renewals would have been meant primarily for the established roster of hitmakers.

The Album's Promotion

Peggy Lee seems to have thought that the album's chances of commercial success could be improved through a more intense promotional push. But we do have evidence of a fair promotional effort on Atlantic's part -- e.g., the placement of the full-page trade ad pictured under one of the sessions above. And, far from hiding Let's Love from the public view, the label integrated it to its fall 1974 release, listing it among that season's nine offerings, which included new discs from The Rolling Stones (It's Only Rock 'n' Roll), Dave Brubeck, Herbie Mann, and the J. Geils Band, among others. According to Cashbox's description of the label' plan of action, "[t]he Fall release will be backed by a major merchandise and ad campaign initiated through all the levels of the company. Atlantic regional's directors will be having meetings to present all WEA sales and promotional personnel with the September release. Specific campaigns, tailored to each artist's individual needs, will be discussed, as well as mutual give-and-take discussions with salesmen concerning album product. From that point detailed advertisement and promotional strategy will be mapped out. This very large campaign which will cover a wide spectrum ranging from extensive merchandise aids to a large scale TV advertising concept will not only establish musical precedents but also many marketing distribution and merchandising procedures."

The Album's Critical Reception

In assessing Let's Love's commercial success (or lack thereof) the bottom line is a buying public who was not receptive to old-guard albums cut in the genres of the younger market. As jazz critic Leonard Feather comments on an article for the February 8, 1975 issue of Billboard magazine, "Ella Fitzgerald made a couple of albums a few years ago in an attempt to catch the youth rock market; but the concept didn't work. Her manager, Norman Granz, frankly conceded that 'if the kids want to play those tunes, they'll buy the versions by people in their own age group. Sarah Vaughan, after five years completely off the record scene, cut a series of LPs for Bob Shad's Mainstream label. Her album featuring Michel Legrand songs was the most expensive, elaborate and pop-oriented, but it never stayed very high or very long in the pop charts. Other great ... singers such as Joe Williams and Carmen McRae seemingly have been content to achieve moderate sales without any overt effort to step across the line."

From Lee's perspective, though (and, really, from the self-preserving standpoint of most other recording acts with big-label record contracts), there is a lot more that a company can do to improve any album's chances. She must have been confident about her album's chances not only because of McCartney's presence but also on account of its largely positive critical reception. Admittedly, there was at least one qualified exception to the complimentary criticism -- a largely adverse review from the New York Times, quoted by one of Lee's biographers. The Times reviewer takes both Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee to task for singing contemporary material that, in his view, does not suit them, and which they can't satisfactorily handle, with Lee even sounding "lost" in an otherwise "first-rate" album release. Leaving that review aside, the other professional reviews at my reach are more positive and enthusiastic. In addition to the trade write-ups pictured right above, there are two lengthier critiques, one by Morgan Ames for High Fidelity and the other by Peter Reilly for Stereo Review. Here is an excerpt from Ames': "... this is a lovely album. I don't know how Ms. Lee does it ... but she keeps on happening. Along with a cast-iron talent, she has always had the brains to surround herself with the best musicians. In this case that means Dave Grusin ... To this day, Peggy Lee can sound comfortable in any style she wants to." And from Reilly: "... there is really very little different here from Lee's work for the last decade. She ... still brings to bear on every piece of material she records her musical elegance, her dramatic sensibility, and her uniquely stylized voice."


Top: the two shots featuring Lee in a brown dress were presumably taken at a public event, about which no information is available to me. Moving on to the remaining picture, we catch sight of Lee in the company of Joan Crawford at a promotional party thrown by the two artists' PR firm, John Springer Associates. The firm was celebrating the publication of the book They Had Faces Then: The Superstars, Stars And Starlets Of The 1930's, co-written by the company's founder., Mister Springer . (The party was also said to honor then-ailing Rosalind Russell, whom the Public Relations firm had designated as one of the night's two nominal hostesses, the other one being Crawford). The site for this event was the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, the date September 23, 1974.

Next row: Nesuhi Ertegun (1917-1989), as he looked in 1935, 1948, and 1970. The last picture finds him in the company of 1970s premier soul singer Roberta Flack, shortly after her signing of a contract with Atlantic Records (August the 4th).

Third picture row: Dave Grusin (born 1934) across the years. The first image is the front cover of his 1962 debut album, on Epic Records. The second probably dates from around 1978, when he co-founded the GRP record label. The third and last was used for the front cover of a 2002 GRP anthology CD.

Next: Cashbox and Billboard reviews of the album Let's Love, both from October 1974 issues.

Below: supplementing those seen at the top of the page, these closing shots further showcase the way that Peggy Lee looked around 1974, after having successfully followed a slimming diet. I do not count with dates, location or other specifics for any of them.

Sessions Reported: 4

Performances Reported: 15

Unique Songs Reported: 14

Unique Issues Reported: 10