I first met Nancy Wilson in the 1960’s when I was working as the Musical Director for The Vocals . By that time, Nancy was already a successful artists and entertainer. She had recorded many jazz albums and had her own award winning TV show.
With the goal of broadening her audience beyond jazz, I was asked to produce Nancy Wilson’s 25th Anniversary album. She was always one of my favorite singers so it was an easy fit. Nancy embraced the idea and was game to try something new. I called upon writers Fritz Baskett, an original member of The Vocal’s and Lani Groves who was touring with Stevie Wonder. (Listen Here)
The album title was MUSIC ON MY MIND. In other words, music for music’s sake. All of the songs were originals. We started the process by sitting around the piano and coming up with life stories that reflected Nancy’s sentiments and aspirations. That’s how we wrote, “I’m a Balloon,” a song about her desire to remain free to soar. It was a 6/8 waltz-time song filled with hopes and dreams. Other songs on the album included “He Makes Me Feel Good ‘Bout Myself,” and “I’m In Love” a fun, pop groove. Producer 9th Wonder and singer Erykah Badu used it for her 2008 hit “Honey”.
When it came time to record, we did it the way Nancy preferred, live! That meant more than 40 people coming together in Capitol Records Studio A. We assembled a first rate orchestra and a rhythm section comprised of LA session heavyweights Earl Palmer (drums), Mitch Holder (guitar) Leo Nocentelli (guitar), and Sonny Burke and myself on keyboards.
The night before the recording, my friend Stu Levin, CVO called to say he finished his project early and would bring over with his crew to film the session!
There was nothing better than a live orchestra and singer recording at the same time. The energy and interaction of human beings is special. To capture that experience on film was beyond my dreams.
It was 2 intense days of recording. We were scheduled for 3 but the orchestra and rhythm section exceeded expectations that the 3rd day turned into a party.
We wrapped up the session with an album and video. We presented the concept of packaging and selling the 2 together. Unfortunately Capitol Records did not believe music videos had a viable market, at that time, so the film was never released.
As a producer and writer, this was a pivotal time in my career. It was a sink or swim moment and thanks to Nancy and a great team, it was a success.
In 2002, three songs from MUSIC ON MY MIND made their first digital appearance on ESSENCE Of NANCY WILSON: FOUR DECADES OF MUSIC CD box set. Nancy personally chose the songs for disc 3, including “I’m a Balloon.”
In 2013, the entire album came into the digital age when SoulMusic Records released a 2-CD set that featured Music On My Mind and Live, Love and Harmony.
To this day, Nancy Wilson remains one of the most exemplary vocal stylists.
1. Prior to calling themselves, the group The Fifth Dimension had several names including The Vocal and Hi-Fi’s.
2. Nancy Wilson won an Emmy for the series, “The Nancy Wilson Show.”
3. “I’m a Balloon,” “He Makes Me Feel Good ‘Bout Myself,” and “I’m Gonna Let Ya,” were included in THE ESSENCE OF NANCY WILSON: FOUR DECADES OF MUSIC”