that lovin' feeling
By Rose Botkin-Beuck & Jules E. Beuck Photos by Rose Botkin-Beuck
Quick! What comes to mind when you hear the term "blue-eyed soul?" How about "Ebb Tide," "Unchained Melody" or "(You Are My) Soul And Inspiration"? If you said the "Righteous Brothers," then you win. Give that person a kewpie doll! We caught up with them in Las Vegas, where they were being feted for having the number one most played song on the radio and a career spanning over 25 years. Following, are some highlights and details of our chat with Bill Medley, the taller and deeper-toned voice of the famous duo.
When we inquired how it was determined who sang lead on which songs, Medley or his partner Bobby Hatfield, Medley explained that it really just depended on the type of song. If it was a raspier or gutsier tune, he sang lead; if the tune was in a higher range, then Hatfield would carry the lead. This led us to Medley's influences and thoughts on today's music.
Medley does not get to listen to the radio very often. And although he hears music he likes, he doesn't know the artists behind the tunes. In the past, Medley enjoyed Bryan Adams and Mariah Carey. Some of his own earlier influences were Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. When he hit about the age of eighteen, Medley was inspired by the likes of blues' greats B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland and, of course, Ray Charles.
We found it curious that in the early days of the Righteous Brothers Phil Spector produced their singles, while Medley produced their albums and that it seemed as if they had signed away the rights to many of their songs. We wondered if Spector had been influential in that as well. Medley said that, indeed, some song rights had, in fact, been signed away around 1972, but the Righteous Brothers had left Spector around 1966, so that he had not been a factor in that. Medley feels they did okay with Spector royalty-wise.
As for the way that the production duties had been split, this also was done sensibly. In those days, it took Spector so much time and money to produce a single, that he told Medley to do the albums. This worked to the satisfaction of everybody involved.
As every Righteous Brothers' concert is a treat to be remembered, we inquired if any shows particularly stood out in Medley's memory. Medley said that some shows are good, some bad and some ugly. Some of the strangest and most difficult concerts were when the duo opened for the Beatles' first American tour. In contrast, one of the most fun shows, had been in 1966 or 1967 when they opened for Jack Benny. Medley said that it was enjoyable doing Benny's comedy monologue along with him. Benny's show must have made quite an impression on them, as the Righteous Brothers, who are not really blood brothers, have been together for thirty-eight years.
We are very glad to report that the Brothers do not foresee retiring in their immediate future. As Medley put it, they will "keep working as long as the wives keep shopping." It's a good thing they enjoy performing so well, as the singers spend about seven months out of the year on the road. They do not have any recording projects scheduled, but are not opposed to the idea. The duo considers recording to be another entire career. Consequently, they are not looking toward getting back in the studio, but they will record the "right" song if it happens to come along.
We also discussed health during the interview because we heard that Medley was suffering from a sore throat. He informed us that it was just a little cold and he was trying to just take it easy and speak softly. We then discussed Hatfield's wife's who has Lupus. Every year Hatfield holds a charity fundraiser with the proceeds going to the Lupus Foundation. We will tell you about the next one when it is announced.
Before concluding the interview, we asked Medley if he wanted to make any last comments "for the record." He asked us to tell his fans how much they are loved and appreciated for supporting the Righteous Brothers all these years- the fans have been wonderful. Medley says that Righteous Brothers' shows are put together to please and thank their fans. That they do - and guys, you are welcome. The Righteous Brothers definitely still have that lovin' feeling.
The Righteous Brothers will be displaying their "blue-eyed soul" at Anaheim's Sun Theater on Sept. 9th and at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas September 13-24th.
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