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Op-Ed: Tommy LiPuma – By Bob Lefsetz

Mike Ginsberg turned me on to Traffic. I met him at a NEFTY week in New Hampshire. I took the train up to West Hartford and we sat in his attic and he spun the second LP, the one that started with "Feelin' Alright," long before Joe Cocker made this song so famous. And then the band blew apart.

It wasn't like it is today, there was no Wikipedia, we couldn't figure out whether Dave was in the band on the first album or a roadie and then they were three once again and Dave went on to play with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, who'd recorded before but broke through when Eric Clapton sat in and they put out the album "On Tour." And the track that got all the traction from that LP was "Comin' Home," with the soon to be Derek's guitarwork, but the standout cut was one "Only You Know And I Know," with Delaney and Bonnie trading lead vocals, but dedicated credit readers knew the song was composed by one Dave Mason, and just a few months later, in the spring of '70, Dave put out his own solo LP on Blue Thumb entitled "Alone Together."

Now we'd never heard of Blue Thumb.

Most people had never even heard of Dave Mason.

And that's where I first came across Tommy LiPuma, he produced one of the best rock albums of all time, just check it out, it starts with "Only You Know And I Know."

It's the same song as on the Delaney & Bonnie LP, not a radically different arrangement, but it's in the pocket, a hit in a way its predecessor is not.

Now "Alone Together" was a paragon of packaging. With panels that folded out to reveal a portrait of Dave in front of rocks that you could hang on the wall, with a hole for a pin or nail on top, and encased in the pocket was a record that looked like an hallucination, as if rocky road and vanilla and strawberry had all run together and… It resembled nothing so much as one of those spin paintings you make at the elementary school carnival.

And then you dropped the needle.

Now they made records differently back then. Stereo effects were in, as was separation, how something sounded was key, because we were all buying new stereos the way people bought new computers in the nineties, but rather than want to commune with our brothers online we wanted to bask in the tunes.

And "Alone Together" is the first LP I played when I heard Tommy LiPuma died last night.

Now this is completely strange. Because for the last couple of years it was Tommy weighing in on the deceased. Most recently with Leon Russell. Weird when the chronicler disappears, it leaves a vacuum, and I don't think I can fill it.

But I knew him.

Mostly in e-mail.

In person at MusiCares.

And most people get old. Or they try too hard to be young. But Tommy… He was aged in years, but in spirit he was still in the pocket, he knew about the technology, but first and foremost he knew the music, he'd been bitten by the bug way back when.

As were we.

It's hard for the younger generations to understand, what music meant to us. The Beatles were our Facebook.

Only bigger.

FM radio was our internet.

Everybody bought a guitar, everybody played.

And we knew who everybody was.

Which is why Tommy LiPuma stood out. He was not one of the usual suspects, one of the producers du jour, not Felix Pappalardi from Cream, not George Martin from the Beatles, but he birthed an album so exquisite, with each track playable, that you knew he was gonna be a legend.

And he became one.

Now Dave Mason got in a snit over money, where there's a hit there's a writ, and he decamped from Blue Thumb for Columbia, where he ultimately had a big radio track, 1977's "We Just Disagree," but he never reached the heights of "Alone Together" again, because he didn't work with Tommy.

And the thing about Tommy is he didn't have a signature sound, all his productions sounded different.

Prior to Mason, Tommy produced "Guantanamera" for the Sandpipers, a boomer classic if there ever was one, one they knew by heart, as did their parents.

And after Dave he produced not only Barbra Streisand, but eight tracks on Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable."

And then he made Diana Krall a star.

And most people still have no idea who he is.

But they know his productions.

And what more can you ask for?

"Only you know and I know
All the love we've got to show"

And I'm showing it for Tommy right now.

"So don't refuse to believe it
By reading too many meanings"

That was the era, you were supposed to lay back and take it all in, not only were nerds not lauded, aggressive business people like Mark Zuckerberg were decried. It was not about making money so much as searching for truth, and disseminating it when you found it.

"'Cause you know that I mean what I say
So don't go and take me the wrong way"

So far from today's duplicity. We're a divided country unsure of what's right but there was no debate way back when, you just listened to the music.

"You know you can't go on getting your own way 'Cause if you do, it's going to get you someday"

The ethos of a musician is different from that of you and me, they're not competitive, awards are b.s., it's about the tunes and the journey. And if you disobey the laws of the universe you're gonna pay someday.

"I don't mean to mislead you
It's just my craziness coming through"

Mama, we were all crazy then. Now no one admits it, now image rules.

"But when it comes down to just two
I ain't no crazier than you"

You're no better than me, the Woodstock Generation knew it was all in it together, we were all brothers and sisters until Reagan legitimized greed and if you don't believe that you probably thought the Vietnam War was a good thing.

"But it's hard to believe in
When you've been so mistreated"

That's the story of the twenty first century, the wealthy and powerful lord their position over us, tell us they know what's right while they rip us off and leave us behind. And that's the damn truth, that's why Hillary couldn't win the election, because of all that money she made selling books and giving speeches. How about us, who's gonna look after us?

Certainly not the musicians looking to follow in the footsteps of the techies. Scratch today's superstar and you'll find someone invested in startups. The music just ain't enough.

But it used to be.

When legends like Tommy LiPuma walked the earth. Bridged the gap from what once was to what became, from jazz to rock and roll and back again.

Because not only is it only rock and roll.

It's only music.

And I mean what I say.

And when I listen to "Alone Together," all I think of is this guy who did not change his ethnic name, who cared not about image, but delivering the truth of the artist on wax, back when producers were footnotes, literally, that we unearthed and read like Dead Sea Scrolls, and it's been nearly fifty years and "Alone Together" remains and sustains. Will the best work of Max Martin achieve this goal?


"Only You Know And I Know":

Spotify link

Dear Bob,

I'm Gill, Tommy's (long time) wife.

Jamie Krentz forwarded your beautiful tribute to him to me. Thank you.

Although Tommy was sometimes angry, no, infuriated, by some of your articles, he always respected the fact that you were out there unafraid to express what so many in the business were truly feeling.

And you certainly "got" him…his sensitivity to both the artist AND the music.

Tommy and his talent are going to be missed. Wait 'til you hear the new Diana album!

Once again, thank you,

Gill LiPuma


It was my great pleasure to work with Tommy, not just as a great producer, but as one of the truly good people in this crazy assed business. I feel that it’s also important to recognize that there are 2 other people involved in the making of that album that are stiil with us, Al Schmitt, and Bruce Botnick also with amazing track records.

Thank you for the recognition.

Dave mason

Very sad. Tommy and his sidekick at Blue Thumb, Bob Krasnow, both gone within months of each other.

I have the original Alone Together vinyl, prized, in mint condition. Listened to it recently and you’re absolutely right – still a gem, resonant, as it edges nearer to 50 years of age. Made a mental note, still not acted on, to compare its recording location and time to the first Eric Clapton album. They were close time-wise , and there was overlap in some of the musicians. And they both shared a certain very palpable spirit – play "Let It Rain" back to back with "Only You Know and I Know."

And as much as I revere Steve Winwood and Traffic there’s no denying Dave Mason’s essential contribution to those early years.

Thanks for saluting Tommy Bob. So very well deserved.

Kim Cooke

Dear Bob,

The Mason album was special to me too.

My fave song from the album was, "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave"..

A six minute song that just wasn't long enough it was that good..

Kindest Cheers,
Jeff Laufer

Tommy's records had the purity of the artist speaking. Yes on Dave Mason, but so many other "discoveries" whose careers needed Tommy's launch pad. George Benson of course, an amazing well known guitarist to the jazz cognoscenti who knew his work with organist Jack McDuff. But Tommy was the go to producer for the hippest MOR act ever, Michael Franks. And when the world rediscovered one of the greatest forgotten singers, Jimmy Scott, who else but Tommy LiPuma could produce him? So many great records and achievements, preserved in plastic, memorialized in our experience.

Seth Greenstein

Bob, Alone Together holds up after all these years and I still have it in rotation every few months. I just was listening to it last week. Use to have the marble disc.

I did have the pleasure of working Dave's albums while I was at Columbia. I just heard "We just disagree" on some tv show recently.

I remember working that song so damn hard.

Sorry to hear about Tommy.

Alan Oreman

Thank you.

But with all due respect, obviously you didn’t know Tommy.

Alone Together was a blip on Tommy’s career.

The A list of artists he produced is staggering. Look it up in Wiki(too many to list).

After Blue Thumb, Herb and Jerry gave him his own Jazz Label, Horizon.

In 1974 after producing Streisands "The Way We Were”, Mo hired him and then made him the Head of Jazz at WB. Along with his buddy Bob Kkrasnow.

His first album for us was George Benson’s Breezin, which sold close to 5 million albums.

Ask artists like Diana Krall(millions of albums sold), Natalie Cole, Bob James, or execs, if they were alive, like Bob or Bruce Lundvall, they’s say Tommy was the greatest Jazz Producer of all time.

Ask his peers and co-workers and they’d say he was far and away the nicest, kindest, most generous person they’d ever known.

I appreciate your piece, but he was so much more than Dave Mason.

Stu Cohen

I did the same thing last night. "Alone Together" is in my personal Top 10 of all time. I distinctly remember the high school party where I first heard it and saw the record on the turntable, where it looked like those small paintings you would make at the boardwalk or carnival by shooting a spinning canvas with different colored, paint filled condiment bottles.

Tommy LiPuma's name on that album inspired me to investigate a diverse and wonderful range of music over the years that also bore his name.

All the Best,

Mike Marrone
Program Director
The Loft

AND he was one of the kindest men I have ever known. The world is a little less bright, what a loss.

Mary Turner Pattiz

I was totally shocked last night when I heard Tommy LiPuma was gone. We just saw him within the last couple months when he came out to one of our (Take 6) shows with The Manhattan Transfer. You're so right, he was always so "in the pocket" in every conversation, and in every musical way.

Many years ago we worked with Tommy on a Joe Sample recording. Tommy was masterful in the production chair, and a joy to work with! We stayed in touch and always talked about working together again. He was old school, and honestly… that's what we liked about him:)

He'll be sorely missed

Claude McKnight

Wow Bob,

That euology was beautifully expressive.

"Alone Together" was and remains a landmark album. Tommy 's LiPuma's Name was new to my credits list but soon his name showed up more and more.

Dave wasn't quite the same after that split.

Jay Jay French

Another milestone record that Tommy produced is the Mac Rebennac record (I assume you know Mac is) with all the strings. A lot of the New Orleans diehards didn't dig it but the arrangements, the performance, and the sound of the record can never be questioned. If you don't know it, here's a cut.

A lot of syrup, but Lipuma balances it out with the rasp of the good Doctor as well as his piano riffs that add a hip vibe to material that many might think is corny. This record, among many others are the mark of of a great producer who actually KNOWS the artist. So many of these supposed hotshots out here now just want their stamp on a player. Ears before ego.

Keep 'em coming,
George Kilby Jr

Thanks for this, he was one of my life-long mentor peeps!!!

Mike Greene

Amen, brother. R.I.P. Tommy LiPuma. What an amazing career. I had that Dave Mason album that you describe. That copy with the swirl-art disc was a first run. After that, they went to black vinyl. Also, the album cover wasn't cut-out around Mason's top hat. Also, it was impossible for disk jockeys to find the tracks. It became a collectible. But my copy was worthless because I wore it out on my fancy turntable. That record had a special and wonderful sound. Mason has had a nice career but never made a record anywhere near that again.

Richard Arfin

Great words to honor a great man. I worked for Tommy for a couple of years and he emitted magic and enthusiasm. A beautiful soul


Godspeed to journey…or a great and glorious one most importantly.

And thanks for the perfect chronicle, Bob.

I was transported back to my old living room and that fantastic album…

Thanks Tommy…for all of it. All your work.

Alice Barstow

Sad passing of this genius!

U worked with him at A&M Horizon Records in 77.

Another legend GONE

Same Dave Mason vibe going on in my house too. btw

hope you are well..

Michael Plen

Tommy truly was a one of a kind. He had a great set of ears and great concentration in the studio.. he understood the whole art of making a record, from the songs to the recordings and Tommy always used the best of the best musicians,arrangers..As an executive signing Miles Davis to Warners was a brilliant move and he had the album TuTu to prove it when it globally exploded right out of the box.

He knew how to get the best out of the musicians and artists by making the studio environment a great place to work in. He also set the tone knowing the way to a musicians heart is through their stomachs and Tommy used to make eating great Italian food a fine art..he turned me onto Tuscan food and the new Italian restaurants back in the 1980's..if you walked into Peppones in Brentwood there were 2 pictures hanging on the wall as you walk in…One was president Reagan and the other was Tommy….Tommy owned the room and many of us learned valuable lessons from him…another one of the elite record guys has left's hard to believe he's gone….RIP Tommy

Jason Miles

Beautiful tribute Bob. I was reviewing Mr. LiPuma's credits the other day and I was amazed at how much good music he was involved in. Even things I hadn't thought of in years like the 1966 Chris Montez hit "The More I See You," a record I've always loved. I was also taken by the number of lovely tributes on Facebook from people who knew him and loved him. Read his obituary in his Cleveland hometown newspaper to see how important he was to his community. A life in music, well lived.

Ken Shane

Sad news about Tommy LiPuma. He was a giant. I immediately thought of this Everything But The Girl track "Driving." I was living in London at the time and knew about them. Tommy lifted their music (and Tracey's amazing vocals!) to a much higher artistic level with his deft touch. And he produced one of my all-time personal favorite albums, Neil Larsen's "Jungle Fever".


Robert Bond

Youtube Video

You talk a lot about "those moments" here, and I'm hoping you've had the chance to see this video.

If you step back and look at this, you've got Derek & The Dominoes with the Stones horn section and Rita Coolidge as the backup singer. And while it's pretty amazing when you realize that's George Harrison (playing 'Rocky', the Magical Mystery Tour Strat), they save the best for last when you see Billy Preston tucked away on the far other side of the stage.

Really, what better supergroup has ever existed, without sounding like it was clearly a one-off, underrehearsed moment? The Dirty Mac? Bangladesh? None of them touched the level of playing you get to see here.

When this tour hit LA on 2/22/70, Leon Russell played too. Wow.

Jesse Lundy

Bob, very depressing to see these legends dropping like flies. (Also gone but not forgotten…Leon Ware and the great flautist Dave Valentin.) You mentioned how Tommy LiPuma worked multiple music genres. He put Michael Franks on the map with "The Art of Tea" LP in '76 on Sinatra's record label (with help from Joe Sample on piano.) I was working at Earth News Radio then at Crossroads of the World on Sunset. I remember hearing "Popsicle Toes" coming from the health food restaurant that was below our radio studio. No Shazam then, so I went over and asked the owner who it was that was playing over his speakers. I went to Tower that night, bought the album and digested the credits. Had to buy a 2nd copy after wearing out the 1st one. That was the first I'd heard of Lipuma. Looked for everything from him after that. Like Dave Mason, I don't think Franks, as great as he is, was as successful on subsequent albums sans LiPuma. R.I.P.

Jeff Hillery
Austin, Texas

I’d never met Tommy during my actual music bix years, until somebody recommended me to him about 5 years ago for the Dean position at Tri-C (Cuyahoga Community College) in Cleveland, for the Performance Center that he seriously helped finance; it was connected to the R’n’R HOF Archives, which I got an amazing private tour around. He was so into it, and after one long conversation all about music and my time in higher ed. he really supported/pushed me for the gig with the academic leadership at the place. I made the final 3, but didn't get it, in the end…but his having my back was enough.

What a lovely man.

Hugo Burnham

I worked for Tommy LiPuma briefly when I was twenty years old. I was at GRP when he became President and relaunched Impulse and Blue Thumb Records. One morning, shortly after he'd joined the staff, I went outside for a smoke, he was out there hanging with the other smokers, talking shop, being Tommy LiPuma. I was pretty intimidated by him, so was too shy to join them. I went around the corner and smoked by myself. Later that morning, one of the other smokers who I spent a lot of time with said to me, "Tommy asked me why David Wallace never says hello to him. Is he unfriendly or something?" I was amazed. Not only did he know my name (he'd been there less than a week), he was thinking I was the asshole. Turns out, I was. I never let an opportunity to chat with him pass me by after that. He used to show me all the shit he'd collected over the years in his office. Talked to me about working with Miles Davis. He'd ask if I needed an "attitude adjustment" which was Tommy's code for smoking a joint. Great guy. Super humble. Super talented. When I left the company to go back to school, he was supportive, wished me well, thanked me for my time. He'll be missed.

David Wallace

Tommy also produced Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks legendary recordings; we got to celebrate his 75th BD with him at Montreux Jazz Festival where they honored him with a concert of his fav artists he'd ever produced, chosen by him. These included: Joe Sample, Christian McBride, Lewis Nash ( our rhythm section), Dr.John, Randy Crawford, George Benson, Leon Russell, Diana Krall, Dan Hicks, David Sanborn, and more..
He also attended Dan's memorial here last year, and shared stories. He came to see us whenever we were nearby. As far as I know he's still producing some of the best records in the world..

Roberta Donnay

Sad to see we lost another GREAT

I only met him once I found him to be just like you said Bob "All About The Music"

Kevin F. Sutter

One of the true greats. I first listened to Alone Together in my dorm room fall of 1970 and have never stopped listening. And it is the production value that is so astonishing. Only You Know and I Know is an incredible listen with headphones – Dave Mason’s guitar work is incredibly clear and present. All of it. And Tommy’s cuts on Natalie Cole’s record are so lush and evocative of a different era of music – her father’s era.

So glad you highlighted Dave Mason’s album. One of the very best rock album’s of all time – still in my top five after 47 years. I saw Dave last October at Westhampton Beach PAC doing the Alone Together tour. I was blown away by the quality of his voice – better than ever – and the musicianship of his 4 piece band, including Johnne Sambataro of Firefall fame.

David Murphy

I'm indeed sorry to hear of Tommy LiPuma's passing. Since I ran the Elektra PR dept. back in the mid-80s, Bob Krasnow one day introduced me to Tommy.

He was quiet, polite and reserved.

It was an honor to meet him since I was a long-time fan of "Alone Together". Krasnow ran Blue Thumb in that period of time. I recently repurchased the album although I still have one of the original multi-colored LPs in my collection.
Thank you for heralding his achievements – his productions last and sound better even by today's standards.

George Dassinger

Alone Together was and still is one of my favorite albums. I was proud to have one of the colored LP versions of Alone Together. But then the album warped and when I played it, the needle flew across the album like it was in a downhill race, skipping tracks, etc. Sadly, the classic LP had to be tossed.

Tommy LiPuma's versatility was amazing! RIP. Thanks for the rich background, Bob.

John Shaker

Nice words. He was one of a kind.

Jim Urie

Nice Job on Tommy Bob. I have forgotten about his work with Dave Mason. "Alone Together" sure sounded good this morning. Still holds up well after all these decades. Soon I found myself listening to "Welcome To The Canteen." I saw Traffic twice, once with Little Feat & once with The Faces. I remember those shows! Winwood has still got it too, catch him if you can, as he is out in the USA now. LiPuma was a great producer. Thanks for the nod, as his mark on music is unmistakable, even if he remains an unknown to most.


I only met Tommy LiPuma once but it had a profound effect on me. What struck me most was his kind demeanor and genuine curiosity. Bruce Lundvall brought him to see the Wood Brothers at a small club on the lower east side in 2007. The show was terrible, it was in the very early days of the band and everything that could have gone wrong did, and I was incredibly nervous to meet the great producer. We were introduced after the show and he was so kind, he looked me right in the eyes, never looking over his shoulder for someone more important. He asked questions and he listened intently. I came away from our conversation feeling a genuine sense of connection. Now I don’t know him at all, but this encounter made an impression on me. Our undivided attention is a wonderful gift.

Liz Penta

Damn. Can’t believe this news. He still had the energy and spirit of a teenager. What a kind and classy man.

Dave Kaplan

Just read your piece on Tommy LiPuma and Dave Mason. I've followed Dave for years – he is still tourning extensively and in fact has done a series recently where he played "Alone Together" in its entirety. I've managed to miss his show every time but am hell bent on seeing it. But what I really wanted to note is that Tommy also made George Benson a star by producing much of his Warners output in the 70's beginning with the classic "Breezin'" album which featured his vocal version of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade." Tommy's productions were always clear and bright, great to listen to no matter which genre he was involved in. He'll be missed.

Eric Pedersen

I knew the name Tommy LiPuma, but never dug into his stuff until you mentioned his passing.

I even missed his 80th birthday at Tri C in Cleveland, an hour's drive from me.

So wikipedia lists the artists on Blue Thumb. Holy Shit! I listened to Ben Sidran, The Crusaders, Hugh Masakela, Ike and Tina Turner, Pointer Sisters, Dave Mason, Mark-Almond, and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. Geez, every one of the "underground" acts I liked as a young man were on Blue Thumb! In those days it was a badge of honor to find great music that wasn't on the radio and you could call your own and turn your friend on to.

Not to mention his work with George Benson, Eumir Deodato, Diana Krall, and God knows how many other great musicians I have enjoyed listening to.

As a fellow baby boomer, I'm with you in that what will today's kids be listening to when they are over 60? Today everything is so fragmented, there are no hits that everyone knows like in the heyday of top 40 radio in the 60s and 70s. And FM was ours, screw that top 40 AM shit. Culture and life moves on, and hopefully someday music will regain the impact it has lost in this new modern world.

Dale Janus

And you completely missed Tommy LiPumas single handed changing of "Jazz" to "mainstream" with his producing my wonderful former Boss – George Bensons "Breezin" record…. For shame….

John Mooy
Guitar Technician for Mr. George Benson 09' to 2015

Alone Together was one of my two favorite LPs (the other being Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing At Baxters also engineered by Al Schmitt, Tommy's good friend). My favorite track was "Just A Song" which was to only cover tune I used in my live acoustic sets back in the 90s.

Larry Green

I like his taste: love these artists…

"Outside of music, LiPuma collected 20th Century American Modern art. Works from his collection, featuring pieces from artists Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Arthur Dove and Alfred Maurer,"

And do you remember that I always had the "Alone Together" cover hung — from that pinhole — on my dorm room walls?

John Hughes

I recently saw Dave Mason do his Alone Together tour in which he played the album in its entirety to open the show. It was brilliant and Dave's still got it. I took a friend who came of age in Berkeley in the 60's who didn't know Dave Mason. But that album was somehow steeped into his consciousness as he knew (nearly) every song yet had no clue who Dave Mason. Great producers make great albums.


Tommy called me one afternoon in ’93- of course I knew who he was but didn’t believe it was him-

He was producing an artist for whom I cut a live piano vocal 2 years prior. Remember the days…… the 11pm call the night before from a publisher (carla berkowitz) "Dawn has written an amazing song and we need to record it immediately"- as in 9am the following day. One pass through on a sat morning and its still one of my fav pieces of music.

When Tommy signed Dawn to EMI and started the record- they had a hard time capturing the same vocal in a *produced* track and he loved that vocal!

Tommy decided he wanted me to build the track off my live DAT recording – see…. he paid attention to things like vocals in a way that was spectacularly nuanced- and if that meant building the album from a live 2 track- thats what he was going to do. Within a week I found myself in the studio with Bruce Swedien and Tommy – they were working on something for Anita Baker. Tommy wanted to make sure I had good mics- so they packed up his Telefunken 251 and some pre-amps he used on the “Unforgettable” album and sent me on my way. He called me every afternoon to check in and then at night when they were finishing up in the studio- as a kid growing up on Miles “a kind of blue” with a father who was a jazz guitarist- that was really special-

He liked to talk about “tempo” and how it was the most important thing to setting up the track- “….. find the tempo that allows the melody to breathe”…… I ended up finishing the record with him as executive producer- pretty cool for a kid from Minnesota.

I mention this because he had really great taste- and with the music business of today- there is no way for a “Tommy Lipuma” with really great taste to get paid or even hired. He wasn’t a writer, didn’t really engineer, didn’t play on the records he produced, didn’t own a studio- didn’t do any of the things producers have to contribute today to make their time valuable or get hired……

He sat in a chair and listed to things other people couldn’t hear; and the older he got…. the more he heard.

the project lasted maybe 2 months – and colored everything i touched moving forward

Joe Pasquale

I woke up this morning and checked my emails like I always do, saw your headline and knew without reading the rest. And I just started to cry.

Tommy was a very dear friend. But my favorite story is this: we had a house up in Connecticut not far from Tommy and Jill. The town in between is Kent Connecticut. About 20 years ago I walked into a record store in Kent. It was all CDs except for one rack all the way in the back that had vinyl LPs. As I started thumbing through them I smiled and turned to the kid behind the counter and said "were these your parents college records?". And he answered "how did you know?" And I said "because I have all the same records". As I was going through the rack I found a copy of "alone together" for five dollars, and another copy right behind it marked for $25. I thought to myself could this be one of those rare copies of the original pressing? And sure enough it was. I bought it and the next day brought it into the office and showed it to Tommy. His face lit up. He told me that he didn't even have a copy. I said to him you can't have this one because I want you to sign it. He said if I sign it it will lose all value as a collectors item. I said do you think I will ever part with this? He then said would you like to know how this happened? And I was all ears.

It seems that Tommy and Bob Krasnow were on their way up to the manufacturing plant to check out the mother for the new album. And as Tommy put it, let's just say they were in an "altered state". When they got there they saw a number of these colored wax donuts that are used in the stamping process for making vinyl records. The manufacturer said we can make these in any color. Tommy said can we mix the colors? The manufacturer said, Gee I don't know but let's try. After many hours of playing around, they came up with the kaleidoscope record that you mentioned below. The manufacturer then said "you know we also have this new concept for a kangaroo pouch to store the record and we could do a diecut as a third flap." Tommy and Bob loved it and they said said go for it.

As Tommy tells it, a few days later he got a phone call from the Warner CFO, who was screaming at him at the top of his lungs. "Do you know what you guys have done! This record is going to cost us 3 to 4 dollars just to make!" (Remember, back then top retail price for a new album was about $4 to $5, so manufacturing cost should've been about at least half of that). "We're going to lose money on every record we sell. Change this immediately." So after a relatively small initial run all of the other copies of "Alone Together are on black vinyl in a simple sleeve type pouch. As Tommy told me, that was his last experiment in new packaging.

Tommy was always the youngest old guy in the room. Whether it was up at the house in Connecticut or at his favorite restaurant on the upper East Side, he just always lit up a room when he walked in with that great big smile on that beautiful mustache. He was a wonderful wonderful source of life for everybody around him. And he will be sorely missed.

Oh, and in all of the other things he's done, let's not forget that he won a Grammy for one of the great jazz records of all time, George Benson's "Breezin".

There will never be another like him.

Michael Reinert

Hey Bob,

Sorry to hear about Tommy LiPuma although I didn't know him, I definitely knew of his work.

Glad you mentioned Dave Mason! Here's a funny (odd) story about how I came to be familiar with Alone Together.

When I was in 9th grade and just starting to get serious with my "basement rehearsing hoping to play a high school dance" rock band, I went to see a rival band at another High School's dance. You see in the early 70's we not only had those Friday night dances still in Southern NJ, but we also had about 5 or 6 rock bands that were comprised of kids my age (14) or a bit older. One of those ( the rival band I saw) was called "Arnie Farkus" which to this day is still the coolest band name I ever heard.

They were a bit older and came from a more populated part of town so their song list was much "cooler" than my band, playing "Bowie, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin " while my little group were working out "A Good Feeling to Know" by Poco ( not the tunes that attracted the young ladies).

One of the tunes they played that caught my ear was a song called "Pearly Queen"

The next day I was in my favorite small record store and came across a Dave Mason LP called "Headkeeper" which included a version of "Pearly Queen". At that point I didn't realize it was originally a Traffic tune or that Mason was part of that band…or any band for that matter, to me he was a brand new artist.
After I brought the LP home and listened front to back the entire weekend, I went to school and bragged to another music loving friend that I "discovered" this great new artist called Dave Mason and he should check him out if he wanted to be "in the know".

My friend just chuckled and said " stop by my house after school I want you to hear something"

I stopped by after school and he went over to his extensive (courtesy of his college age older brother) record collection and pulled out a copy of Alone Together, handed me that totally awesome album cover and dropped the needle on side one…I was blown away!

The LP still resonates with me today and it's one of those along with the first Manassas album that I monthly go back to for inspiration.

He then proceeded to give me the inside info on Mason and his musical exploits up to that point. Needless to say I was humbled by also thankful for the introduction.

Thanks for letting me tell ya a long memory Bob, thanks for writing about not only this LP but the others you write about!

Tom Gillam
Austin Texas

Mr. Lefsetz-

This is from my uncle Herb in regards to Tommy who had been a life long friend of both my uncle and Jerry Moss. I think you know that Tommy started as Herb and Jerry's first staff producer in the mid 60's when they moved to the A&M Lot. Tommy was a kind, warm and gentle soul. As a young kid growing up on the A&M Lot I learned so much from him in the way he treated both musicians and the people around him. He personified the kindness, love and humaneness that was A&M.

We posted this letter on to Herb's FB page and I suggested to Herb that we send this to you..

Best Regards,
Randy Alpert


I miss you already, Tommy.

Tommy LiPuma had you at hello – He was as nice and real as any person I ever met. Always talking about things that interested him like art, wine and, of course, music. He had a flair for choosing great songs to record as a producer and he loved jazz. Miles Davis and Tommy became friends when he co-produced one of his albums. He leaves a trail of wonderful and thoughtful music that he produced with passion and love. He will be missed by the people who knew him and appreciated by the artists he worked with and the people he touched with the music and the kindness he left behind to emulate….

Herb Alpert