Op-Ed: John S. Carter Jr. – By Bob Lefsetz

Some records you only have to hear once.

And then you've got to hear them again and again and again.

It's easy to do it just like everybody else. That requires no imagination, no risk. When you fail you shrug your shoulders and say it's not your fault. When you succeed you smile but you cringe on the inside, you know you're not worthy, it's hard walking around as a fake.

But no one believed Tina Turner could come back. Except for Carter.

Hell, she never really made it in the first place. Sure, she sang "Proud Mary" on that Stones tour, but most white folk were clueless and she'd split from Ike and she was too old.

But she could sing.

And perform.

Marry this with the right song and…

That's what a great A&R man does.

And when he gets it right, everybody nods his head and no one complains. If you hate Tina Turner I haven't met you.

It took years to make "Private Dancer". We thought it was a fool's folly. Then we heard "What's Love Got To Do With It".

The sneaky intro, with the strings, slick when that was anathema.

And then that sultry vocal. When Tina sings "the touch of your hand makes my pulse react" it's like she's put her hand on your shoulder, your arm, you tingle all over.

That's a hit.

Carter started early. Writing the lyrics for "Incense and Peppermints". Which was only a rumor back before the Internet. Did he really do it?

I saw the Strawberry Alarm Clock…

But I first learned Carter's name on the back of Sammy Hagar's "Red" album. And then met him when I was working with W.A.S.P. But we didn't become close until relatively recently, when the Internet allowed us to interact on a whim and we both had so many miles on us we could laugh. You get old enough and posturing is for pussies.

But it wasn't only Tina and Sammy. Unlike so many, Carter continued to have success as the years passed by. Paula Cole was successful with him, a stiff without him.

In the old days those with the Big C evaporated. They were alive, but removed, unreachable. But I never believed Carter would die, because he was right there, in my inbox. As recently as April 12th:

"Palm Springs? Give me an hour the next time you are here

Carter"

I answered that my mother was there for the month of February, and if she was healthy enough to return next year, I'd certainly stop by.

That's never going to happen.

Carter died.

And although this happens. Especially to those with esophageal cancer. Now that he's truly gone I just can't believe it.

Because he was so alive. A teenager in a sexagenarian's body. With that little soul patch and the twinkle in his eye. He never got old. Unlike so many who put on the suit and went straight, Carter was rock and roll until he died.

I've been looking for obituaries online. Maybe I'm just too early, I could only find one, on a music business site.

But in my Googling I came across a page for "Private Dancer".

And I was impressed once again, how great those tracks were and still are.

I pulled up Paul Brady's original "Steel Claw" in Spotify. This was before he had the success with Bonnie Raitt. But Carter knew how great Paul was. Still, Tina's take is better.

And the "Centenary Edition" of "Private Dancer" has a bonus version of Eric Burdon and the Animals' "When I Was Young".

But the song that I couldn't stop playing was "Better Be Good To Me".

Carter was good to Tina Turner.

Right now I'm listening to the original by Spider. I've never heard it before. It's intriguing, it's the same song, but it's not the same record.

It's quiet in a way Tina's take is loud.

It's cerebral in a way Tina's take is physical.

It's slow in a way Tina's take is fast.

It's controlled in a way Tina's is loose.

"'Cause I don't have no use
For what you loosely call the truth
And I don't have the time
For your overloaded lines
'Cause you better be good to me
Yes, you better be good
Better be good to me"

Carter had no time for phonies. Although he could be a team player, he was always his own man. He was far from sentimental, he was always looking for the next thrill.

It's not him singing on the records, but he's there, in the grooves. You can hear him. The swagger. The attitude.

He ran away to play in the rock and roll circus.

He won.

Amen Bob… Our last time was in New Orleans, and we were having a great dinner and someone wanted to go see a cool young band with an emerging rep and every one else was done – it was too late etc. Carter looked at me with that unmistakeable twinkle and the night was on …. Hole in my heart

John Frankenheimer

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Thanks for writing this Bob. Carter was my closest and dearest friend. We first met in 1976 when I joined Capitol to run the Publicity and Artist Development Departments. In addition to those you mentioned, He signed and produced Bob Welch… resulting in a big album "French Kiss". Also note that he was very responsible for Bob Seger's break thru with 'Night Moves". We signed The Motels together and he produced their first two albums… I believe he co-wrote their hit "Take The L Out Of Lover (and it's over).

He had no desk in his office, just an old beat up wooden drafting table over which hung a huge vintage circus poster advertising "Carter The Great'. Other furnishings were a stuffed two headed calf, a large bottle of extracted teeth and a four seat 'row' of theater seats. He had a rubber stamp with the word 'Hobby' on it… if he didn't like a demo he'd return it to the sender with that stamped across it.

What a fantastic character…

Bruce Garfield

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Carter was a giant to me. Not only because he was a great A&R man and producer, but because he was a rebel in the Capitol/EMI system when no such thing existed. He made his choices based on his gut instinct (like all great A&R men) and he would listen to me as I rambled on about Ahmet, John Hammond, Al Bell, Chris Blackwell, Barry Gordy and the like. I would grill him about producing records and play him almost everything I was interested in working on. In typical Carter fashion, he was dead honest, with a direct opinion and that twisted, sometimes evil sense of humor, for which all who knew him loved him more.

When I wanted to sign three skinny kids living on park benches in London called the Stray Cats, I had to convince the EMI hierarchy that their policy of signing talent for the world ONLY was outdated. I could not live unless we signed them with North America being the only territory available. I was banging my head against the wall, trying to fight an uphill battle, when THE Carter came to my aid. He didn't even like the group, he just liked that I was a snotty little kid bucking the system. We signed them, it all worked out well and policy was changed.

Just for the record, it was Bob Welch's "French Kiss" album that endeared me to Carter's talents. I was a big fan of Fleetwood Mac's "Bare Trees" and "Future Games" and to me the fact that Carter saw the potential in Bob solo, recut "Sentimental Lady" into a monster hit and made that album just taught me so much.

It is just so weird to be at a place where people you know intimately in our industry die and it hurts so deeply. I guess none of us know how one will be remembered on passing, but for me, Carter was a GIANT amongst the rest of us.

It was a day when the music mattered more then anything else and Carter loved every damn minute of it.

With love and respect,

Gary Gersh

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Carter called last Friday and invited Lauren and me to to a party he was having for himself on June 11th at his house in Palm Springs. Said we had to go, no exceptions…there were going to be a lot of notable people there…and I shouldn't miss it. It was totally out of character for him to talk like that. I knew it was his birthday as its the same as my mother's, June 14th. We talked for quite a while about his "thing". Is it possible that he knew?? You have to know Carter to understand that. The best thing about Carter is that he was thoroughly original and genuine, rye and dry, up until the very end. No exceptions. He will be missed.

-Owen Husney

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Hi Bob.

Thanks for giving Carter his Props!

One of Carter's calls resulted in my playing guitar on "Steel Claw", with Jeff Beck, on "Private Dancer"

Carter taught me "Don't Bore Us, Get to the Chorus"

R.I.P. Carter

Richie Zito

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Carter was the manager of eels when we formed in 1995. He taught me about the "mythology" of the music business. I didn't realize it at the time but that was exactly what a young musician needed to hear. It was an invaluable lesson.

Thanks for writing about him.

Tommy Walter
Abandoned Pools

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Was told yesterday…hard to replace this MAN!!!

Bob Fead

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Carter was an extraordinary guy in every way. Very sad that he's exited the picture. Ralph Simon and I were together all day Tuesday when we learned of Carter's passing and the death of Nick Ben Meir's son, Gabe. We could not speak, but only be sad, shake our heads, and be grateful for every day. Both Carter and Nick were great dads too. Moreover, they embody integrity in a business where that's as rare as vinyl. One is now gone…the other carries on with a broken heart. Pray for them and kiss those close to you.

–Tim Sexton

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Thanks for the Carter. He was truly one of a kind. I first meet him when he was working as the local promo guy for Atlantic in the early '70s around San Francisco, but he was no ordinary promotion man. He happened to hear a demo tape on the local radio by Sammy Hagar, fresh out of Montrose, and jumped on it. The first album he produced was Sammy's first album.

I talked with Carter last week and he went over with me how proud he was of the Tina Turner thing, how nobody else believed him, how long it took, how he was the Lone Ranger on this. He also said that Roger Davies, Tina's longtime manager, had not spoken to him for 20 years after Carter assembled a Tina box set for Capitol, but was back on the phone after he heard Carter was ill like it hadn't been a week since they talked.

Carter was called by his last name by everyone, including his parents. He told me he had 48 addresses in his life and that he moved so often, somewhere along the line he started saving the moving boxes. His daughter was his greatest love and his last wife, Christi, was his favorite.

I always cherished Carter. He was brilliant, an actual intellectual, and utterly devoid of bullshit. When I first contacted him about writing a book with Sammy, he told me straight up that he thought it was a terrible idea, a waste of time and had no possible upside. After Sammy overruled him, as he did so often, Carter joined the team as the project's number one supporter, cheerleader and behind the scenes mastermind, a role at which he always excelled. While I was writing the book, he was my secret audience, the one person I was writing it to.

He and Sammy spoke many times every day. Sammy is a little on the irrepressible side and Carter was the only one who could keep him between the gutters. He was the quiet, sardonic voice of reason, implaccable and irreverent.

The record business once attracted people like Carter — not that anyone was really like Carter — people who were unique, people who were truly hip and creative, people who were their own greatest creations. There are so few left and most of those few have been marginalized and bypassed. There are so many I miss, but there are none I will miss more than Carter. Thanks for taking note. He was really someone very special.

Joel Selvin

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Thank you so much for writing about Carter. I had the pleasure of getting to know him and working with him the past two years on my Chickenfoot DVD. Carter was the first person I met with regarding this project and the one who fought for me to get me the job. For him it wasn't about "who knows who" or "politics"- it was all about "who is the right person for the job". He believed that it was me and went to bat for me.

I enjoyed my many dinners and late night phone calls with him and will never forget the countless hours of free advice he gave me.

Throughout his entire battle with Cancer he continued to work and not let it slow him down. More importantly, he kept his spirits high and never wanted anybody to feel sorry for him or worry about him. Only a week ago we were e-mailing back and forth about a TV commercial we made for Palladia and our Chickenfoot Special. Never once did he mention to me how bad he was getting. This was the Carter we all loved. It was never about "Him", it was about the Artist. He didn't want any credit or the spotlight. That was for the band. In fact, I had to fight him to take a well-deserved Producer credit on our DVD and TV special. You have to respect a guy who has done so much in his career and wants only what's best for the Artist. I loved that about him and wanted to be more like him. The Music Industry lost one of the "good guys" this week. He will be missed, but for those who knew him, his spirit will live on.

Daniel Catullo

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Didn't carter also manage eels?

Loved your piece,

best wishes
Susan Collins

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I used to hang with Carter a little back in the Capitol days – he was a true "song man." A real mentor for record geeks. He had warned me against accepting a deal from Capitol at the time because "they would probably shelve the record." How many company guys would be so honest?

One of his truly inspiring teachings was to remind songwriters to use nouns. Nouns were objects that triggered images. When chained together expertly, nouns got us emotionally involved in the song. "Love" should not be considered one of those nouns, not the way it had been over-used in songs. His advice was not lost on Tori Amos (listen to "Silent All These Years").

One time we got together for lunch, Carter was driving his Porsche, playing a cassette of a David Cassidy record he was working on. He was so into grooving on the music that he sailed through a newly posted stop sign on Venice Way, with a newly posted Cop waiting for such an event to nail him with a moving violation. Oh, the sacrifices made for music!

Lee Curreri

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Yes he always knew Carter did and where ever he may be that swagger & twinkle will still be there…..God bless him!

Val Garay

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Carter was a great guy. I first met him at Capitol in LA back in 1974. You nailed it. He knew songs and he knew charisma and he knew a good groove. He could feel it instinctively. And if you could too, you were his friend. You only skimmed the surface!

Toby Mamis

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Carter was a special guy. I am sorry to hear he checked out. I am regretting not reaching out to him sooner, as I've been meaning to since hearing he had cancer. He signed me to A&M Records and we stayed in contact sporadically through the years. He was an original. This makes me sad.

Glen Burtnik

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I worked with Carter at Chrysalis. You pegged him. The eternal teenager.

Carter wore the Santa Claus costume at the Chrysalis Christmas party.

Mike Bone

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Carter's best work was the Bob Welch stuff…name a better '70's single than "Sentimental Lady"! Lush and timeless…

Thomas Helmick

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Here's the page of my PRIVATE DANCER at 25 tribute where Carter starts talking:
video

Best,
Christian John Wikane

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Those of us who knew Carter were privileged to know a REAL "record and song guy." They just don't make them like that any more. Long live Carter!

Here's an interview I did with him in the mid 90s. Straight up Carter, like no other 🙂
Interview

Warm regards,
Michael Laskow

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Thank you Bob, you really GOT Carter and I so appreciate your words. For all of us who did get him, telling others about him seems important and yet a hollow victory. They missed something amazing. How can they possibly understand.? He wasn't for everyone. Unless you were no bullshit, brutally honest, clever, he didn't have time for you. His friendship over 27 amazing years was my reward for getting him and worth the sadness I feel now. He wasn't much on goodbyes and don't think there was ever a phone call where I said 'talk to you later' before he had already hung up. He managed his friendships carefully and it is comforting to realize how many friends he had. That means more people got to appreciate him. He was as much an artist as any he ever worked with. Nobody had more passion or integrity. No one had a sense of humor quite like Carter. I shared his love of music, architecture, art, cars, sports, food, literature and the macabre. He influenced me in ways I will still be discovering for the rest of my days. And I will be reminded of him every time I hear a great song, see a Porsche or a mannequin with a TV for a head.

John Brodey

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I had the privilege of working with Carter over a year-and-a-half period in '80 – '81, when he was a staff producer for Capitol-EMI Los Angeles. Bruce Fairbairn had left Prism, recently signed to Capitol, so they sent their man up to Vancouver to sort us out for a new album. But instead of a staff cop, Carter stepped off the plane and handed us a copy of the latest Talking Heads album with, "Check this out, man. Very cool." Instantly we were all kids in the basement, enthusing about records and bands.

We made our record "Small Change" at Sunset Sound in LA. Carter would enter the studio in Hawaiian shirt and shades with, "Let's make a raackord, man!" like a Kim Fowley or Shadow Morton. Carter didn't "go Hollywood" – he had fun with it.

Bobby Colomby would come down from the round tower to ensure we were behaving. Carter described his role as "Prod" by stating, "We're all playing a hand here, but I'm holding the Aces." He called himself "Mr Demo", pulling endless cassettes of song submissions from his pockets, like Harpo Marx's stolen flatware. Demos of friends like Davitt Sigerson made fans of us all. Session extras were all Carter's friends: Norton Buffalo, Randy Hansen, Shirley Matthews ("she was an Orlon, man!") all became kids in Carter's basement. It was a great hang. Sammy Hagar would show up late at night, and the session would move to the lounge. Carter constantly re-wrote lyrics, even during vocal takes. "I read about your blues. Got it? Red…"

I moved into his home for a month, the historic Samuel-Novarro house in the Hollywood hills. But his heart was down on the street. It was the art of the hang.

In early '82, long after the album was done and we'd all gone home, my phone rang. Carter's voice said, "We did what we said we were gonna do. We're on the radio, man."

Some took his deadpan manner as dour, or assumed it was the Acapulco Gold. But Carter was the hipster, the perennial teenager with the company keys.

Thanks Bob,

Al Harlow

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I worked at Capitol from 76-81, in the A&R dept. I was based in NYC, then LA. My first day on the job, I reported to the LA office to spend a month, to see how they did what they did. Rupert Perry was my boss. His first order of business was to put me with Carter for a few days. I walked into his office, and what an office it was. There were stuffed Siamese twin sheep, a mason jar filled with teeth (complete w/exposed nerves, mercury, blood—he had all his friends send their teeth as they were extracted), a bass drum head signed by Charlie Watts, the keyboard that had been hacked off the piano from closing night at the Fillmore West (the irony was that I PLAYED the Fillmore on closing night with the Spencer Davis Group, and I was the pianist), a frog in formaldehyde, and too many other things to list….it was a potpourri of weirdness, and a feast for the eye.

Carter took me under his wing for those few days, to show me the "record company ropes." It was the beginning of a friendship which could only have ended, as it did so sadly, by one of us passing.

There are too many stories to tell…..I remember Carter calling me in the NY office, and telling me to book a flight to Nashville. I arrived at the old Spence Manor hotel, and we spent a few days visiting publishing offices, looking for songs. He and I were about to start co-producing a band from Alabama called (appropriately) The Crimson Tide. His power of observation, and his comments to the songs being submitted to us were poignant, funny, insightful…..3 of the best words I could use to describe Carter. We then blasted off to Alabama, to meet with the band. They had not done their homework, and were ill prepared for the meeting. Carter read them the riot act, without raising his voice, but they knew they were in hot water with him. So, my Rock n Roll friend, with all the wacky stuff in his office, took his corporate responsibilites quite seriously.

I always admired that Carter, who was a Rocker deep at heart, had respect for most of the other formats of music. It was Carter who encouraged me to check out the Country roster. He loved Juice Newton's voice before anyone knew who she was. I wound up having my first real successes with her, partially thanks to Carter. Rupert Perry offered her to me for production, and I went to my devil's advocate for advice, and he told me he thought it was well worth my while….a life changing sentence, as I wound up making 7 albums on her, and resigned Capitol to manage her.

I have lived in Nashville for the past 21 years, and it's been good to me. I have few regrets about moving here….but one of them is that I didn't get to spend much time with Carter. He visited me here when he came in to see some band. We spent a few hours at my house, and then he was off again, all too soon. A couple of years later, he asked me to go see Paula Cole, early in her career, when she was playing a club in Nashville, and he couldn't make it into Nashville….after the gig, I walked up to her, introduced myself, and handed her my mobile phone….on the other end was Carter, and her face lit up, as I knew it would. We spoke semi-regularly, and it was always entertaining.

I was in LA this Feb. Carter was already diagnosed….I called him to see if I could visit him in Palm Springs. When he turned me down, I knew things were serious.

This has been a tough year. I lost my Mom on Feb 28, and now, Carter. The proverbial "ton of bricks."

Thank you for what you wrote. I'll save it, and re-read it whenever necessary….. and it will be necessary.

Regards,
Richard Landis

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Hi Bob,

I was a close friend of Carter's for over 35 years. I knew him when he was at Capitol, A&M, Island, Restless, and after he left to become a manager, we co-managed several bands. He was among the smartest A&R guys in LA, a brilliant lyricist and visionary producer, but more importantly, he cared about the music and was the best friend any artist could have in this messed up business. He knew what really mattered and always pushed you to make that song just a little better. He always told you what he really thought, not just what you wanted to hear. And he remained excited and passionate to the very end.

I first met Carter in 1975. We were both songwriters on the first Kingfish album. He and Tim Gilbert wrote "Jump For Joy" and "Asia Minor" and I co-wrote "Home to Dixie" with Bob Weir, Matthew Kelly and John Perry Barlow. A meeting about the publishing splits brought us together, and Carter told me he liked my song. We immediately hit it off, and once he discovered that I was a singer and guitarist, he began to take an interest in my career. We've been in and out of each other's lives ever since. I know all my records are better because of Carter's influence.

There are plenty of fair weather friends in the music biz, but Carter was different. Carter was solid. He believed in talent and trusted his own judgement. If he liked your work, he didn't need validation from others. If he thought you had a great track and you couldn't get in to see someone important, he would make the call to open those doors. He didn't take credit for the work of others and he never made it about himself. He taught me many great lessons, but maybe the best was when he said: "Big talent collaborates and small talent fears collaboration". I live by that mantra to this day.

A decade ago, I went through a particularly rough patch in my professional life. I had put 5 years into producing and managing a young nu-metal band from San Francisco. I had taken them from playing small clubs in the Bay Area to headlining The Fillmore and opening for Korn at the Oakland Arena. I had landed them a record deal with an indie label in Japan, but that major label deal that seemed so all-important back then, kept eluding us. You see, this band featured a female lead singer and there were no female lead singers in nu-metal at the time. A lot of A&R guys saw their potential, but were afraid to take the chance on an untried formula. Not Carter. He kept encouraging me to stick with it and wait until the right offer came along. After repeatedly shopping demos and relentless gigging, I finally signed the band to a good deal at Sony in 2000. Two weeks later, in an effort to secure major management, the band turned around and unceremoniously fired me…a very old story. I was devastated and my phone stopped ringing. Over the next few years as I crawled my way back, many people wrote me off. Not Carter. He called and encouraged me to get back to work. He'd been fired by more than one artist and knew that there was no time to wallow in self pity.

That was the spirit Carter brought to everything he did. He was brave and real. He took chances. He faced cancer with courage, but knew the odds. The last time we spoke was last week. He was his usual self, full of good humor, talking about everything from the new Chickenfoot album to Barack Obama's handling of OBL. And now he's gone. I can't believe it. I can't imagine the world without him. He was a friend. He was a mentor. He was one of a kind. And yes, you are right, Bob…Carter was rock and roll.

Bill Cutler

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Bob, I would appreciate you relaying this in tribute to Carter, because it could save someone, I hope.

Thank you for writing about my dear friend of many years.

I was fortunate to have promoted Tina Turner prior to making the album that Carter recorded, at Dooley's in Tempe, Az, in the early 80's, not all that long after splitting up with Ike. I did about 1000 people out of 1500 over the 2 shows of 750 each. Whata great time in music, what a club, and what a show! Paid Tina $7500. LOVED her and the girls, and we chanted for good things before and after the show.

I had been shakkabookood by Herbie Hancock and Billy Dee Williams in 1975 after Miles played the Troubadour during a comeback. We chanted for everything we wanted and got it every time. At that time, Herbie got a great sound track called Death Wish, that we stayed up in his studio all weekend, watching the movie on and old reel camera (this WAS 1975, after all) while he composed. Then we went to the Nichrien Shoshu Academy in the valley on a Sunday in January, and they gave me my gohunza, and that's where I met Tina, for the first time. She had a LOT to chant for.

and then some years later, Carter came to visit our show in Tempe. We had a great time. Chanting DOES work, you can get anything you want by doing it. Just ask Tina. She got Carter.

I just spoke with him about 6 weeks ago after his Chickenfoot manager, Mick Brigden, told me of his plight. I was going thru several crisis of my own, of a different kind, but as serious. Fortunately for me things worked out, this time. You don't want to talk a lot, to almost anyone, when going thru this, so never take it personal when someone seems to blow you off. But always call them and let them know you care. People get stupid when this happens, they don't know what to say. Say "I love you, I am pulling for you." And then let them rest and get their shit together.

He was very happy under the circumstances, having just had his surgery. He was animated and talking about his favorite guy, Sammy, and his #1 book, and how busy he was with everything. He had lost a lotta weight, but was in great spirits and happy to hear from me, booming with that great full warm voice of his. He wished me so many good things as I re-embark into the infested waters of the concert promotion field to the point that I called him my good luck charm. I will keep this charm close to me forever.

When you come from the Cancer Survivor Club, you bond together at times like these and try and ease the struggle and encourage the fight back. He was trying to help ME out, which is a great thing you can do for people who are NOT sick. Keep up a good mental attitude and do everything your expert advisors tell you to do with the plan and you will get thru it. But the demon can't be too far along or you are sunk. But you still keep that chin up and move forward because you CAN beat this true thief of life.

Cancer goes undetected for too much time, too often. You have to pay attention to the signals, as small as they can be. And get them checked immediately. It usually isn't just a stomach ache that persists, in my case, or a cough and sore throat, in his case.

In my case, the doctor said, "haven't you noticed you are shitting thru the eye of a needle?"

I was told at that time I had Stage III colon cancer, with a decent chance of surviving.

Decent? Not the word I was looking for there.

Do what must be done. Go get a colonoscopy, if you haven't, when you are 45. That means NOW for many of you. They say by 50. I think 40. So let's split it. Girls go to gynecologists when they are 12 or so. We wait till 50 to get prostate and colon check ups. I think way too late.

I was 48. They found it, cut this hand grenade of a tumor out that was a few inches to the left of my naval, and followed with 6 months of serious chemo, that I thought was going to kill me itself. You really find out where the center of your world is during that time (the bathroom and your ass, to be brutally frank). But you do it. Chin up. You CAN win. I am still here. I survived cancer and all of the opportunities that followed (I was with Clear Channel at the time"¦they couldn't have been more supportive, the radio people and all of my great concert promoter friends).

I am happy to say I am alive and rarin' to go!

We will miss Carter but never forget him. a nice man with a great ear, and a good friend. He shall be missed. Don't YOU be missed. Take the modern pre-cautions and get an appointment TODAY. For you. For your family. For Carter. Spread the word.

Danny Zelisko

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Carter, the legendary A&R man, producer, songwriter, manager, and lifelong fighter for songs with proper bridges (and, where possible, proper nouns) died on May 10 in Palm Springs. He was 65.

Born John S. Carter in Oklahoma, he grew up moving around the West and Midwest, the only child of an oilman and an indefatigable Arthur Godfrey fan.

Carter's career began in 1967, when he wrote the lyrics to "Incense And Peppermints" by the Strawberry Alarm Clock – a group he renamed by picking words from song titles on the week's Hot 100 chart. He subsequently became a radio promotion executive for Atlantic Records in San Francisco, where he hired his favorite winos from the Mission District to hand-deliver the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street to local radio programmers.

Recruited to the A&R department of Capitol Records because of his reputation for spotting hits, Carter worked with Bob Seger and Steve Miller during the periods of their commercial breakthroughs; he also signed – and co-wrote and produced – landmark albums for Sammy Hagar, Bob Welch, and The Motels.

His outstanding creative gifts were taste, language, and wit; above all he was a maker of memes, known on the street as hooks. He collaborated fully with artists, but only contributed to a composition when he sensed a failure to surrender its essence. Fixing a chorus, refurbishing a lyric, adding the telling detail (not infrequently a proper noun) or coming up with an album title or visual image that triangulated with sound and singer to create the ineradicable tattoo of a hit: that was Carter's calling.

He was, as reported earlier, a stickler for bridges (typically, the new melodic and lyrical information that comes after verse and chorus have repeated a few times). Formal purity was not what drove him, rather the desire to hear every song matter. Unless it was on the level of a "Louie Louie," Carter believed, any song that wasn't flush enough to demand a bridge probably didn't deserve to handle the dice.

In 1983 he overcame powerful corporate opposition to sign an apparent has-been, Tina Turner. He A&R'd her first Capitol album, Private Dancer, and produced several of its tracks, including the title song. The album launched Turner's years as a global superstar, selling more than 20 million copies.

Carter went on to work at A&M, Atlantic, Chrysalis and Island Records. Yet despite his track record, he often struggled to find colleagues who believed in the artists he loved. When faced with skepticism, Carter leaned on the Ouija and made transformative decisions for fragile careers. He nurtured the songwriting of Tonio K; fought inside battles for David & David and Tori Amos; got Melissa Etheridge a publishing deal with A&M's affiliate when the label refused to let him sign her.

Carter discovered that he was better able to fight for the talents he revered by working independently as an artist manager. His discoveries include Mark Everett, who records as the Eels, and Paula Cole.

Throughout a life in music that spanned more than forty years, one of Carter's achievements stands out for its rarity: he has retained the love and respect of nearly everyone he ever worked with, both on the commercial and creative sides of the business. Take as evidence his professional reunion with Sammy Hagar: after decades of unbroken friendship, more than thirty years after they made "Red" together, Hagar invited Carter to manage him. Together with Joe Satriani, and his manager Mick Brigden, they created the group Chickenfoot. It continues to thrive, along with Hagar's solo career.

Carter is survived by his life partner, Christy Benz, and by his daughter, Crosby Carter.

Davit Sigerson

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