by Tony Johnson
1985 Epic released Jak’s album “I Go Wild” and the single under the same name was a Top 100 on the Billboard R&B chart (#88). I remember purchasing the album because I thought he was one of Prince protege’s being that I was a huge fan of Prince at that time.
Got a chance to discuss his ups and downs in the music business, Soul Divine, and his new project in the makings.. Check it out
Jak: Had to get past dealing with a death in my family which is a natural thing but everything’s cool just mixing down my new project.
TJ: I send my condolences bro.
Jak: Appreciate it man
TJ: I’m sure many people reading this article may be scratching their heads saying ‘Who in the HELL is Jak?” so PLEASE introduce yourself and let blackamarillo.com know how did you get your start in the music business.
Jak: (Laughing) Hi, I’m Jak Bailey. I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Started playing guitar at the age of 7. Later as years went on I started playing more instruments and began songwriting making demos to send out to record companies but unfortunately they were getting rejected because record companies didn’t listen to unsolicited material without proper management representation so a close lady friend of mine moved out to California and asked if I could send some of my music for her to shop around, figuring I had nothing to lose I said “Why Not” within the next week I got a call from a guy named “Pete Kelly” who had an association with Rick James. Pete said that he was really digging my demo tape and would like to get acquainted by flying me out to California to help get me a record deal with expectation of becoming my manager. I said, “cool”. So he flew me out and come to find out Pete had a cousin who was a secretary at CBS records (CBS is now Sony Music Entertainment (SME)) and they were able to present my demo to Larkin Arnold who was the CBS senior vice president and next thing I was signed. I was 21 yrs old, young and naive at the time but that’s how it all started out for me.
TJ: Cool, you always had a mystique that made me think you were associated with Prince because I remember going into a record store called “Sound Warehouse” seeing your album on display and without hesitation I bought it because I was a big Prince & Jesse Johnson fan which was around 1985.
Jak: Thanks Tony but I had no association with Prince. When I got signed to CBS Records (Epic) in 1984 Prince was hot and they were looking for their own Prince type-guy. It was never my intention nor did I wanted to be a Prince prototype but it was during the time when the Minneapolis sound and image was really hot so I was the chosen one for the label plus I produced, arranged, composed & performed all of my songs just like Prince did.
TJ: “I Go Wild” was released as your first single. That was a tight jam.
Jak: It charted #88 on Billboard Hot R&B which we thought was impressive because I didn’t have a video out on that song you see during that time the video age had just started so if you didn’t have a video to promote your stuff you were kind of “dim in the water” per se. the record company just didn’t promote it like they should. My promotion mainly came from DJ’s and word of mouth.
TJ: Did you fulfill your obligations with CBS Records before parting ways?
Jak: Well I signed a multi album deal but my manager was very upset about the lack of promotion on the album, So when I had went back to Albuquerque in between recording to visit my family I received phone calls from friends that saw my manager on a news station in California basically putting the record company on blast discussing payola’s and other deceiving methods about the music industry shortly afterwards I was released from CBS (Epic) and virtually BLACKBALLED out of the business.
TJ: “Blackballed” meaning NO other record company would take a chance on signing you?
Jak: Correct to a certain degree because I had 2 other chances to get record deal once I got out of my management contract with Pete Kelly. I signed with another manager and had a meeting with John McClain who was the vice-president of A&R at A&M Records because he showed strong interest in me but back then I was a wild looking cat, I’d say I was a combination of R&B and 80’s Rock. I had a vision on how I wanted to present myself because I was actually trying to get away from that Minneapolis image. I wanted more of a punk rock look with the long hair, black finger nail polish, Motley Crue type of stuff so when I walked into the meeting they all looking at me like “Wow!…this dude is wild, I don’t know if black people are ready for this!” but I said “Why is it all about black people…I’m just trying to reach everybody I can with my music.” but they were looking for a niche to market me even though John understood my guitar playing on the first album he just didn’t feel the guitar thing would go over well with black people so instead he suggested that I cut my hair, put on a suit and get a back up band to present me in a different kind of way but I refused so that was the end of that. My next opportunity came with a meeting I had with the late Jheryl Busby who was then the vice-president of A&R at MCA Records and he was real excited about signing me. He told me when he signed Jody Watley people were saying that she was just a Janet Jackson wannabee but she’s very different and unique so don’t worry about people trying to compare you to Prince, I’ll help you overcome that. My manager and I were excited about making the deal but honestly Tony, I don’t know what happened all I know my manager called me up and said MCA passed up the deal so I always had a sneaky feeling that it had something to do with CBS thing and the possible blackball although I’m not 100% for sure but I always suspected it.
TJ: The music business is such a shady business. Now let’s talk about your stint with “Soul Divine”
Jak: Well after my music career took a turn for the worse I came back to Albuquerque and in 1999 me and some friends of mine were jamming out for fun and decided to start a band playing old school cover tunes but during that time if you weren’t playing blues or rock you basically couldn’t work in this town so what we were doing was pretty risque but we had good musicians and a helluva lead singer and we just took off plus we had a large female audience to support us also at that time club owners were paying let’s say a 3 piece band $200 and a beer to perform but we created such a following that after a 1 1/2 years of playing we were able to command decent money or we would take our show to a club that gave us a reasonable wage. I think we were one of the bands that was very instrumental in getting a pretty decent pay in this city where before it just wasn’t happening. Fun times indeed plus “Soul Divine” was 1 of 2 bands that started this old school thing in Albuquerque. We definitely rocked this town. (Laughing)
TJ: Soul Divine released a Cd back in 2003. I’m definitely feeling the song “Mad Love”
Jak: Yes it was all original music personally I thought the production was left a lil’ to be desired but it wasn’t my project so to speak. I was just trying to be one of the pieces in the puzzle by not trying to take over the project even though there are some things I would have done differently with the project but overall I think it was an okay effort as for “Mad Love” it was written by me.
TJ: In the beginning of the interview you said you’re working on a brand new project.
Jak: Yes I’m in the process of mixing my new project hopefully it will be finished by the first week of June. I can’t wait to get it out on the internet for people to have and get some feedback since its been years since I released anything although I have hundreds of songs that nobody has heard but it will be interesting to see people make the leap from “I Go Wild” to what I’m doing now.
TJ: Don’t forget to send me a copy to review
Jak: You’ll be the first one to get a copy for sure.
TJ: Apprecate it bro and thank you for giving me your time, I’ll let you have the final say as we wrap up this interview.
Jak: Shout out to everybody that has supported me through out my career. Shout out to you Tony for taking the time to look me up even though it’s not like I was ever on a super huge scale like a “Michael” or “Prince” so I’m very flattered that you took an interest in looking for old cats like me. (Laughing)
Copyright 2013 – Tony Johnson. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.