Adrian Smith, Phone Home

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We’re up over 2,500 posts in the life of this website since its birth in 2004. Most of those posts go unread, day after day, and that’s fine. It’s the nature of a website like this one. But all 2,500 of ’em live somewhere in the Google-verse, so at some point, any one might end up finding a reader again one day.

Back in 2009, in a post about a WCFL radio survey from the summer of 1973, I wrote the following:

I have been able to learn practically nothing about Adrian Smith, except that she’s not the guitarist with Iron Maiden. The phrase “tiny lady, big voice” pops up in a significant number of web citations about her self-titled album, but that’s it. “Wild About My Lovin’” rode the charts at WCFL for at least 12 weeks in the summer of 1973, and it got some play on other Chicago stations as well. If you know anything more, help a brother out.

Apart from one comment that linked to an eBay listing for Smith’s self-titled album, I never learned anything else about Adrian Smith.

One morning recently, I opened my e-mail to find some scans of newspaper clippings about Adrian Smith, sent to me by Drew, who was working on a research project and googled his way to my mention of her. An August 1973 clipping from what is probably a suburban Chicago paper reveals that Smith was from Harwood Heights, Illinois; local interest helps explain why WCFL gave her airplay. The clipping also reveals that after she cut her self-titled album, MCA Records wanted her to tour with the studio musicians who had backed her. But she wanted her own touring band, so she recruited a number of Chicago-area musicians for it. After losing out on a gig with Dr. John for some reason (the clip doesn’t elaborate, as if the story had already been well-reported and any reader would know what had happened), Smith and her band opened some shows for Sha Na Na, during which they were very well-received.

Two September 1974 clips from Indiana newspapers discuss an upcoming show at Ball State University starring Richie Havens, and mentions Smith as his opener. One article describes her as “a forceful, dynamic act that employs stage antics and ‘raw emotional energy.’ She combines pop, country, gospel, and rhythm and blues into a volatile mixture of powerful proportions.” That sounds like a direct lift from a record-label or management-company press release, but it fits the “little lady, big voice” characterization. It also fits with a quote from her bass player, Mark Beringer, in the 1973 article: “You’d have to see her to believe how much voice is in that body.”

Beringer also told the reporter in 1973 that the band and would be going to Los Angeles to cut a second album. The 1974 article mentions Smith’s first album (the one with “Wild About Your Lovin'” on it), but not a second one. Drew has a theory that the 1973 interview may have had more to do with promoting Mark Beringer than Adrian Smith—that he hoped the album to be made in Los Angeles would end up being his. Drew also suggests that Beringer’s mother, who worked for one of the major Chicago advertising agencies, might have used whatever clout she could muster to get WCFL to play Smith’s record. While it’s true that radio stations frequently played records that were not and would never be actual hits, and they jiggered airplay numbers reported to trade magazines, it was usually done at the behest of record labels and not advertisers. In any event, it does not appear that the second album was ever made, with Smith, Beringer, or anybody else.

ARSA listings show “Wild About My Lovin'” got to #13 at WCFL. WBBM-FM in Chicago listed it for a while, along with a couple of other small-market stations. It bubbled under at #114 in Billboard. But the trail of Adrian Smith goes cold after that, because she’s hard to search. The world is full of prominent Adrian Smiths, not just the heavy-metal guitarist but a Congressman, a body builder, an architect, and others. The only new-to-me bit of info I found about the singing Adrian Smith was a mention in Cash Box that she was 18 when her album came out. So if she’s still out there somewhere, she’d be 75 65. (Math is hard. Ed.) But if she were still out there somewhere, some Internet music aficionado would surely have found her by now.

Thanks to Drew for reading my old piece and helping a brother out. He’s recently posted the 45 of “Wild About My Lovin'” at YouTube, and it’s great. Listen here.

11 thoughts on “Adrian Smith, Phone Home

  1. I went to Newspapers dot com – as you probably have, and as Drew probably did. Found a bunch of Midwestern gig notices from 1974-75 but that was pretty much it.
    Curious — and yet it isn’t; it makes total sense that someone who hadn’t gotten past clubs and colleges might decide to chuck it in and go do something that doesn’t get mentioned in newspapers.

    As a side note, if I were a female bandleader, I’d s*&tcan any band member who commented to the media about my body, even if it were of the sorta-innocuous “big voice, little body” variety. I’m not paying you to look at my body, bro.
    But, those were different times.

  2. mikehagerty

    JB: If she was 18 when the album came out in 1973, wouldn’t she be 65, not 75?

    Asking because if I’m wrong, I’m ten years behind on getting Medicare and Social Security.

    Beyond that, I found one more, later mention of Adrian Smith—in the January 31, 1975 issue of Radio & Records. KIOA in Des Moines added her record that week:

  3. mikehagerty

    PS: No idea what the record was, though. Was KIOA trying to jump-start “Steer Clear” 18 months later? Was there a second single on MCA? Did she release something on another label?

  4. John Gallagher

    A further search at ARSA reveals the song also was being played at WEEO in Waynesboro, PA. Interesting. That’s the only listing outside of Chicago playing the song on 22 surveys listed.

  5. mikehagerty

    …and some more answers. After her 45 and album on MCA in 1973, Adrian appears to have released a 45 (“Ellie Mae Jones”) on Buddah in 1974 and another single (“Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)” on Casablanca in 1975.

    It looks like both the Buddah and Casablanca singles were promo-only…so likely no store copies were ever pressed. Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise are listed as producers on both those singles.
    They produced the first two KISS albums. Kenny Kerner died six years ago. Looks like Richie Wise is still alive. He might know something.

  6. mikehagerty

    And, I’m with kblumenau. Three records on three labels (two of whom didn’t have the confidence for an album or store copies of the single) in two years between age 18 and 20. Despite talent and some critical nods, nothing. If the first album sold ten thousand copies (big if), she made maybe a thousand bucks.

    That’s when a lot of people call it an adventure, pull the ripcord and enroll in college.

  7. Yah Shure

    Mike, here’s some more info: The stock 45 of Adrian’s Buddah single coupled “Ellie Mae Jones” with “Last Things.” “Would You Lay With Me…” (Casablanca 822) would have to have been the record KIOA added in 1/75; Casablanca 814 – Fanny’s “Butter Boy” – charted in Billboard that same week. Not even the Directory of American 45 R.P.M. Records has a B-side listing for “Would You…”, but if a key starter station like KIOA added the record, Casablanca most certainly would have pressed stock copies. Any promotional legwork on the label’s part would have been for naught, had they not been able to back up a key station add with stock in that market. it’s quite likely that no other key starters ever added the record, which would explain why no stock copies seem to have turned up anywhere. I don’t even recall being serviced with a promo copy of the 45 at my college station at the time.

    Just a note about 45cat: when they say “Promo only 7″” for a given record, it doesn’t necessarily mean there were no stock copies made. It signifies that the pairings on that particular promo listing – typically A/A-side – differ from the A/B sides on the stock release. If they don’t have stock copies posted, like for Adrian’s Buddah and Casablanca singles, it usually means no one on the site has come up with any yet. Judging from the comments, they get rather pedantic over there at times, to the point where it makes me look normal!

    Buddah and Casablanca were significant-enough independents that they would have had stock pressed for any releases that fell within their commercial release numbering series. True promo-only 45s almost always had catalog numbers and/or prefixes that were outside of those.

  8. mikehagerty

    YahShure: Certainly not challenging your points. However, I will say, having been a Top 40 music director in ’74 at KSLY in San Luis Obispo, that more than once there were records that I liked the sound of, and in conversations with the promo people was told “It’s promo only. If you add it, and you start to see phones, let me know right away and we’ll order up a run of 45s to get stock in the stores.”

    We did have a unique situation in SLO, given that the Columbia Records pressing plant was 30 miles down the freeway in Santa Maria. My understanding was that they’d messenger a master lacquer to the plant (three hours north of L.A.), press ’em and have ’em in the stores the next day.

    I never took the promo people up on the idea. I’d read the stories in the trades of labels putting free stock copies into stores for the stores to sell at pure profit—the deal being that the stores would invent or inflate the sales figures of that record to drive it up the chart of the local station to spur sales.

  9. mikehagerty

    PS: There was also a vinyl shortage at the time, driven by the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. The actual shortage was followed by sustained higher costs for vinyl. That may have factored into the “promo only”—just-in-time approach on store copies.

  10. Pingback: Work Ethic of a Hobo – The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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