Part 82: Riley Shepard's Top Songs
On Friday, February 18, 2022 an obituary appeared in The New York Times for songwriter Beverly Ross, she was 87. Ross started out young, hung out at the Brill Building in New York, and wrote the hit song “Lollipop.”
In 1960, she struck up a working friendship with then unknown aspiring songwriter Phil Spector. Beverly, or Bev as she was known, introduced Phil to many players in the industry. According to Ross, after they’d worked together for a while, Phil Spector ended up taking one of her songs and using it without telling her, then ghosting her as if they'd never met. After she heard the riff from the song “Spanish Harlem” with Ben E. King on vocals, (later it became a hit for Aretha Franklin) it became clear that Phil Spector had used the song without giving her credit. The men who got credit: Phil Spector and Jerry Leiber. Boo. Boo I say!
I wonder if sketchy people are drawn to industries that allow for this behavior, or do people become sketchy because “everyone is doing it?" Plagiarism and outright theft of creative material runs rampant in the music industry.
Every now and again, someone pleads the case for my father that perhaps he actually believed his investors would eventually make the money back, but if that's true, why would he move and not tell them where he went? Why did he stop taking calls? Sometimes this excuse comes from people who knew my father, other times someone comments on the Hidden Brain podcast or on my Riley Shepard Facebook page. Even my mother wondered if Riley believed his own lies. After reading his journal and letting it all sink in to my divided brain, I feel pretty confident that Riley knew what he was doing. There’s ample evidence in those lost boxes (stored by Ted Enslin and his son, Steve for all those years) that he planned these grifts. There are letters, fake contracts he wrote up, and even confessions in his written journals, as well as testimony from his ex-wives and the children he left behind.
"Trauma breeds further trauma, hurt people hurt other people." --- Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Early on, Riley might’ve been the one who was ripped off, who knows? As I’ve said in previous blogs, he told me he wrote the song “Blue Christmas” and he told many other people he wrote that song, including the families he had before I was born. It could be that he wrote songs he wasn't given credit for, but later realized that is just how things "work" and began plagiarizing others, who knows.
The more I think about Riley's entire life and upbringing, there's a big possibility that he went through a phase of being impulsive as a kid, lying and stealing. That unfortunate phase might've passed (I don't know, maybe not) but his grandmother Martha Amelia Merritt Tindal sent him to that horrible boy's prison in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he was sexually assaulted, place in solitary confinement, and left alone with older boys guilty of worse crimes than stealing, all from age 12 to age 15. I don't really think he stood a chance after that trauma.
Last week, friends called to tell me about a podcast created by Andrew Hickey "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs." Andrew Hickey is from Manchester in the UK, his voice addictive, each episode jam packed full of details and snippets of ground-breaking riffs, and Hickey adeptly addresses the behavior of some of the artists. Riley wasn't alone in his multiple marriages, babies left behind, lying and swindling. I reached out to Hickey on Twitter, and he'd heard of Riley's encyclopedia of folk music. He also recommended this podcast, "Cocaine & Rhinestones. Link here. I'll let you know. In the meantime, here's the link to the podcast. "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs."
Each year, my sister and I get a royalty check for my father's songs. I call it "boot money" because that's what a woman at Peer Music called it. Not enough for much, but perhaps a new pair of boots. On sale. Thankfully, when Riley got old and frail, he filled out all the ASCAP paperwork, so what he promised us verbally became a legal reality. Here are Riley Shepard's most popular songs:
Honey, be My Honey Bee (Foley, Clyde, Shepard)
Blue Tail Fly (Shepard, Richard Riley)
I'm Gonna Tear Down The Mailbox (Horton, Vaughn/Shepard, Richard Riley
You Never Said You Loved Me (Shepard, Richard Riley)
If there's a way to make these songs more popular, I'd like to know the way. I'd be a fantastic rich lady. I really would. The songs are much more popular in the UK. I wonder why that is? He also has a song in the Disney Film "The Fox and The Hound" and in a Jack Lemmon film called "Cowboy." (See photo below.)
Above: A note Riley left about a song he wrote. I'll get back to Oxnard soon.