"My brother decided to perform on this radio show called
Burt's Amateur Hour when he was five. He sang 'Besame Mucho'.
The audience went crazy. I still have the recording. Nick
soon started writing little parts for our accordion/guitar
duo and Dad became our manager and booker. Nick was born with
perfect pitch, so nothing got by him. He was a perfectionist.
Even then, he could be tough during those rehearsals, man.
"One day Dad had me and Nick go to where he worked.
Fisher Body was an old, dilapidated kind of place. He made
it very clear to us that he didn't want us to end up there
like him. Not to knock it, because Dad was proud of what he
did, but he wanted us to know we had a choice. My Dad loved
music. He saw music potential in my brother and bought him
an accordion - top of the line, which even in the '40s cost
a thousand dollars. Eventually, I began taking guitar lessons.
"We toured with the USO as young teenagers and got in
on the tail end of real live radio with our own show. We could
dedicate songs to our friends and they loved it. We became
popular at the school dances and performed frequently at local
talent shows and won. Music gave us a chance to establish
our identity doing something we loved. Nick got to experiment
with his writing. This was at a great station out of our hometown,
"After we'd finish our show the PD would say, 'Take it
away' to the next show, and on the other side of the glass
was none other than Alan Freed. Freed would take off his jacket,
loosen his tie and we heard this great music, rhythm &
blues. And right there before our eyes he said: 'Rock &
roll.' Within a week other DJs in town were using the term."
The phrase rock & roll was now becoming as popular as
Alan Freed, the man who invented the new beat. In the late
1950s the De Caro brothers duo expanded with Bill Krempasky
on bass and future record producer Tommy LiPuma on saxophone
to complete the group, the Mello D's. Frank remembers how
"Tommy always had a very good ear, and was great with
both the social and creative aspects of the music business,
so it's no wonder that he is one of today's most successful
producers." LiPuma's association with the De Caros developed
into one of the most successful recording collaborations,
which included twenty-time Grammy-winning engineer Al Schmitt.
Eventually, the Mello D's came off the road and took very
different paths. LiPuma decided to pursue the record business
ground level and soon moved up to promoting records in Cleveland
and New York. Nick had completed his music training at the
Cleveland Music Institute and joined the military at the same
time as brother Frank. Not long out of the service, one wintry
day in 1964 Nick and Frank received a call from Tommy LiPuma.
At the time, Tommy was in Hollywood working for the Los Angeles
label Liberty. "Guess what?" he said. "I'm
eating ice cream and it's melting on my bathing suit."
LiPuma encouraged the brothers to come out to the West Coast
and check it out. "It took us a couple of days, but Nick
and I were out of Cleveland. We had a couple of bucks, Nick's
accordion and a broken down Pontiac that looked like it could
still get us there. We threw it all in the trunk and with
my Dad's blessing we were off in the dead of winter. Route
66 all the way, man. We chugged into LA and it was sunny."
Nick De Caro's first big hit as producer and arranger was
'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me' by Mel Carter on Imperial in
1965. Frank was the featured guitar player on the hit. "Bob
Skaff, A&R Director at Liberty, brought the tune to Nick
for him to produce. It flew right up there on the charts.
Mel Carter performed it live recently on TV along with Nick's
great arrangement. It was also featured in the Mel Gibson
movie When We Were Soldiers. It sounded great. Actually, several
of Nick's recordings are featured in major movies today. It's
amazing." Nick also arranged and produced Mel Carter's
'My Heart Sings' album.
Also on the Liberty scene were Lenny Waronker, the son of
Liberty founder Sy Waronker, and future Grammy and Oscar-winning
composer Randy Newman. "Randy was juggling his schedule
as an aspiring songwriter and his studies as a pre-med student.
Unbelievable." Newman was impressed with Nick's arrangements
and his ability conducting the 45-piece orchestra on a Liberty
Strings project: "I was an aspiring arranger at 20, 21,
and watching this guy who was not much older than myself doing
this thing with 45 guys
lots of horns, strings. Very
fancy stuff, very good." He suggested to the decision-makers
at Liberty/Imperial that Nick should do his own record. (Later
Nick would arrange 'Rollin'' and 'Marie' on Newman's 'Good
Old Boys' LP.) "We were a block away from Sunset Boulevard,
so Randy came up with the name. So the 'Sunset Strings Play
The Roy Orbison Songbook' was recorded. Man, what a record!
It was Nick's first foothold. He blew away everybody there."
Nick also wrote, produced and arranged 'Think It Over Baby'
and 'I'm Gonna Make It' by the O'Jays. 1965 was a good year.
In 1967, the De Caro brothers became a major part of the
catalogue of A&M, the label founded by Jerry Moss and
Herb Alpert. Along with the Tijuana Brass, Chris Montez, Claudine
Longet, the Sandpipers, the Baja Marimba Band (of which Frank
was a member) and the Carpenters, the De Caros soon achieved
success in the AOR era of the '70s. From 1967-1970, Nick,
"The Hit Maker", produced and/or arranged six albums
for Claudine Longet, four for Chris Montez and six for the
Sandpipers. He also produced and arranged 'Love Story', 'Honey'
and 'Born Free' for Andy Williams.
At Warner/Reprise, Nick came together again with Randy Newman,
Tommy LiPuma, Lenny Waronker and Joe Wissert on the making
of recordings by the group Harpers Bizarre, five middleclass
kids from Northern California, including Ted Templeman. Produced
by Waronker, Nick arranged several tracks with Newman writing
some of the material. "The first release 'Feelin' Groovy'
was a smash hit. I was on the road with the Baja and really
didn't know too much about it, but it turned out great for
Ted Templeman, who became a major producer over at Warner
Brothers with the Doobies and so many more."
In 1969, Herb Alpert gave Nick a shot at making his own LP,
'Happy Heart with Nick De Caro and Orchestra', produced by
Nick and Tommy LiPuma. Highlights included 'I'm Gonna Make
You Love Me', Brian Wilson's 'Caroline No', 'Hey Jude' and
Nick's own song 'Love Is All'. With Nick as producer, arranger,
songwriter, musician and vocalist there was much anticipation,
especially as the title track began to climb the charts. At
that time, Nick received a phone call from Andy Williams,
who had acquired the rights to do 'Happy Heart' with a lyric.
He wanted Nick to produce and arrange, but Nick declined and
the rest is history. "Nick was really crushed,"
recalls Frank. "He wanted no part of it, since his own
record of 'Happy Heart' was just starting to get recognition
on the charts. Nick felt he would've been competing with his
own record. What really hurt him was that they used his arrangement
on Andy's record. There was also some mention of a bet between
Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert regarding the expected success
of Nick's 'Happy Heart' LP. It pretty much took my brother
a year to recover, since Andy's record was a smash hit. It
was not a good time for him."
Nick gave his solo career another try in 1974 with 'Italian
Graffiti'. His musicians on the album included David T. Walker
and Arthur Adams on guitar, Wilton Felder on bass, drummers
Paul Humphrey and Harvey Mason, Plas Johnson on alto sax,
Tony Ortega on tenor sax, Jim Hugart on upright bass and flautist
Bud Shank. From the pop bossa tempo of Steven Bishop's 'Under
The Jamaican Moon' to the obscure 'While The City Sleeps'
by Randy Newman and one of Nick's favourites, 'All I Want'
by Joni Mitchell, on which he alters the lyric "I want
to knit you a sweater" to "I want to lift your sweater",
and a surprise ballad arrangement on 'Tea For Two', which
includes the verse, it's all Nick De Caro - lush string arrangements,
great upbeat pop with a Jersey edge wrapped in Nick's vocal
harmonies and sometimes haunting solos.
Unfortunately, the Blue Thumb label began to have serious
financial problems. Nick discovered the depth of the problem
during a promo trip to his hometown, Cleveland. "Nick
appeared on a live radio interview with several tracks from
the album being played. It all sounded good, real positive,
except for one thing. At the 'Italian Graffiti' promo party,
the label was unable to pay for the event and approached Nick
to cover the total cost. My brother couldn't believe it."
Soon after the incident, the financial backers (Gulf Western)
called a meeting and took control of the label. "For
Nick, this was the straw as they say. This record had all
the elements of success, the tunes, the players and Nick,
but with no promo money, it didn't have a chance. I don't
think it even got a single review. The label failed to live
up to its commitment."
Nick continued to move on to the next to last phase of his
amazing career as prominent arranger and or producer to Grammy-winning
artists. To mention but a few LPs: James Taylor's 'Gorilla'
and 'In The Pocket', Gordon Lightfoot's 'If You Could Read
My Mind', 'Don Quixote' and 'Sundown', Little Feet's 'Time
Loves A Hero', Neil Diamond's 'Beautiful Noise', George Benson's
'Weekend In LA', Maria Muldaur's 'Maria Muldaur', Helen Reddy's
'I Don't Know How To Love Him', 'No Way To Treat A Lady',
'Music Music' and 'Imagination', Dolly Parton's 'Here You
Come Again', 'I Will Always Love You' and 'Heartbreaker',
Barbra Streisand's 'The Way We Were', 'Barbra Joan', 'Songbird',
'Wet' and 'Superman', the Baja Marimba Band's 'Fresh Air'
and Rickie Lee Jones' 'Rickie Lee Jones', 'Pirates', 'Girl
At Her Volcano' and 'The Magazine'. Many projects were also
recorded with brother Frank as music contractor and A&R
director of Charles Koppelman and Gary Klein's The Entertainment
One of the most notable recordings of the '70s was Dolly Parton's
'Here You Come Again' with Nick as arranger and vocalist.
This album is still considered to be one of her best ever.
Also, the Livingston Taylor album 'Three Way Mirror' exemplifies
Nick's overall capacity to simultaneously produce, arrange,
play accordion and provide vocals. Whether the recording is
James Taylor's 'Shower The People', Barbra Streisand's 'The
Way We Were', Helen Reddy's career breaking record 'I Don't
Know How To Love Him' or the Gordon Lightfoot hit 'If You
Could Read My Mind', it is all "pure" Nick De Caro.
"And with Nick it was all about the music." Throughout
the '70s and '80s he appeared on at least 50 recordings playing
the accordion and or concertina for everyone from Prince to
Arlo Guthrie, the Stones to Randy Newman, Neil Diamond to
Carly Simon, Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash, Livingston Taylor
to James Taylor, Maria Muldaur to Glen Frey and many more.
"Then one day in the late '80s Nick told me he wanted
to go back to being a recording artist, which totally flabbergasted
me at the time. I had been trying to get him to do this for
15 years. Furthermore, he told me, in essence, Japan came
to him. They came to Hollywood. They wanted to do 'Italian
Graffiti 2'. He was very excited, very upbeat in his own quiet
way. He asked me to assist in the negotiations and he seemed
pleased with the results. Also, Nick learned that something
like 10,000 copies of 'Italian Graffiti' had been sold in
The album recorded was 1991's 'Love Storm', which is a collection
of songs, written mostly by Japanese star Tatsuro Yamashita
and Alan O'Day, along with two originals written by Nick.,
'Silent Night, Lonely Night' and 'Love Magic'. Although this
album was not a collaboration, songs were suggested by Yamashita,
who was a huge fan and had been following Nick's career since
the '60s and the 'Hold Me, Thrill Me' hit. Tatsuro had the
chance to finally meet Nick in 1990, around the time Nick
recorded 'Love Storm'. It must have been a dream come true
for the Japanese artist to finally meet his American music
idol, whose first solo album since 'Italian Graffiti' includes
several of his songs. Tatsuro was aware of Nick's work with
A&M Records, and albums by Ben Sidran and Rickie Lee Jones.
'Italian Graffiti' for Tats though is "The end all. In
major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, import album stores
began to spring up and through the stores 'Italian Graffiti'
became a hit record. Even today, it has a cult like status."
Nick De Caro followed up with a promo tour in Japan sponsored
by Kirin Beer. The Nick De Caro All Star Band consisted of
LA's top studio musicians, including Neil Larson, David T.
Walker and the Yellow Jackets' Jimmy Haslip on bass. Other
acts on the bill included James Ingram and Ramsey Lewis. In
his first solo performance Nick was in the spotlight, front
and center at the grand piano, lush string arrangements, pure
Nick vocals and his All Star Band in the opening song 'Love
Storm'. The video reflects the pure delight and admiration
on the faces of the entire orchestra. "My brother must
have been terrified or extremely courageous. Probably both."
Nick also performed and recorded with singer Agawa Yasuko.
He conducted and arranged for her live concert recording 'Live
At Orchard Hall', which received rave reviews. During this
busy time, Nick was bouncing back and forth between the US
and Japan. He recorded 'Bolero California' with Katoh Kazuhiko
in the US and recorded with Tori Amos, whose 'Little Earthquakes'
required Nick's guidance with a 40 piece orchestra. The piano
and vocal tracks were laid down first. Everything else was
built around them with layers of orchestral sweetening. The
result was a hit album which featured Nick's stunning arrangements
on both 'Mother' and 'Winter'. This would be his last work
in the capacity of arranger for any artist other than himself.
On Nick's second Japanese album, 'Private Ocean', engineered
by Al Schmitt, he insisted on complete creative control. Frank
recalls, "Nick was adamant about picking the tunes for
this album. I remember at the meeting how he made it very
clear that he wanted to record his own songs." As a result,
Nick recorded several of his own songs, including one he had
intended for Frank Sinatra, 'Reach Out, I Won't Be There'.
The personnel on the last two solo albums read like a who's
who of LA's studio session players. They were David T Walker,
Alex Acuna, Michael Landau, Jimmy Haslip, Neil Larson, Harvey
Mason, Dean Parks, Eric Marienthal, Abe Laboriel, John Robinson,
Tommy Morgan and Sid Page. The final solo recording, produced
by Nick and Tetsu Hoshika, embodies the true essence of songwriter,
musician, vocalist, producer and arranger extraordinaire Nick
And so from the shadows of the recording studio the somewhat
introspective producer stepped into the spotlight once again
to pursue his solo career. Nick toured Japan twice, did TV
and performed, arranged and produced several Japanese artists
and projects. During the last two years of his life he was
embraced by an audience who had applauded his work for decades.
Although 'Italian Graffiti' was not well received in the USA,
it clearly became a major force in establishing Nick De Caro
as an international pop icon.
Nick De Caro passed away on March 4th, 1992
at the age of 53. Funeral services were held at St Jude's Catholic
Church in Westlake Village, California and in Cleveland, Ohio, where
Nick is laid to rest with his father Nick Sr and mother Margaret,
who passed away when Nick was 2 years old. He is survived by his
brother Frank, sister-in-law Denise, nephew Nick and nieces Julianne
NICHOLAS JOSEPH De CARO
(June 23, 1938 - March 4, 1992)
I think of you and island night times
Other lifetimes, and wonder why
Heated glances, moveless dances
This romance will never do
But I won't cry as you fly away
To someone else who waits for you
'Cause it's easy saying "Hello"
But it's hard saying "Goodbye"
C'est facile de dire "Hello"
Mais difficile de dire "Adieu"
It's so hard
(from 'Saying Hello' from 'Private Ocean', written by Frank and
Denise De Caro)
The De Caro family wishes to thank family and music friends from all
over the world who continue to celebrate the music genius of Nick De Caro.
Gentle and kind music giant, you will never be forgotten. Your melodies and
lyrics will live on in our lonely hearts forever.
All in the family . . .
Denise Mainelli De Caro's "Love Always" and "My Foolish
each featuring 'Nevertheless', which is sung as a duet with Nick,
and 'Give Me A Sign', which Nick wrote for her.
Denise's "De Caro Sings De Caro" project is currently
Artists or groups with whom Nick De Caro worked as (mostly) arranger,
(sometimes) producer, (very occasionally) songwriter or (*) session-player
Agawa, Alessi Brothers, Gregg Allmann, Tori Amos, Herb Alpert, Paul
Anka, Ashes, Baja Marimba Band, Shirley Bassey, Marc Benno*, George
Benson, Bonnie & the Treasures, Brewer & Shipley, Jorge Calderon,
Glenn Campbell, Roberto Carlos, Vicki Carr, Mel Carter, Johnny Cash*,
Cecilio & Kapono, Blondie Chaplin, Beth Nielson Chapman, Chunky,
Novi & Ernie, Judy Collins, Ry Cooder, Rita Coolidge, Crackin',
Randy Crawford, Credibility Gap, Patti Dahlstrom*, Dancer, Mac Davis,
Denise DeCaro, Martin Denny, Jackie DeShannon, Neil Diamond, Michael
Dinner*, Dion, Doobie Brothers, Lorraine Ellison, Everly Brothers,
Fleetwood Mac, Glenn Frey, James Griffin, Flo & Eddie, Flower, Michael
Franks, Jane Getz, Larry Groce*, Arlo Guthrie, Paul Hampton, Harpers
Bizarre, Goldie Hawn, Murray Head, Heat, Levon Helm, Dan Hicks &
His Hot Licks, Amy Holland, Engelbert Humperdinck, Paul Humphrey*,
Tommy James, Tom Jans, Al Jarreau, Pete Jolly, Rickie Lee Jones,
Kazuhiko Katoh, Michael Katakis, Barbara Keith, Clydie King, Kris
Kristofferson*, Bill LaBounty, Cheryl Ladd*, Neil Larsen, Nicolette
Larson, David Lasley, Albert Lee, Gary Lewis, Gordon Lightfoot,
Little Feet, Claudine Longet, Donna Loren, Kate & Anna McGarrigle,
Harvey Mandel, Larry Marks, Dave Mason, Steve Miller, Yoshitaka
Minami, Liza Minnelli, Adam Mitchell, Mojo Men, Chris Montez, Montrose*,
Peter Moon Band, Michael Martin Murphey, Maria Muhldaur, Navarro*,
Randy Newman, Roger Nichols & a Small Circle of Friends, O'jays,
Ami Ozaki, Ozark Mountain Daredevils*, Tom Pacheco*, Gaby Pahinui,
Parade, Gene Parsons*, Dolly Parton, Paul Pena, Poco, P.J. Proby,
Bonnie Raitt, Willis Alan Ramsey, Helen Reddy, Righteous Brothers,
Jerry Riopelle*, Rolling Stones*, Ruby and the Romantics, Leon Russell,
Samantha Sang, Sandpipers, Kathleen Saroyan, Harriet Schock, Seemon
and Marijike*, Del Shannon, Bobby Sheen, Sheila E, Ben Sidran, Carly
Simon*, Nancy Sinatra, Spirit, Phil Spector, Dusty Springfield,
Starland Vocal Band, Starwood, B.W. Stevenson, Barbra Streisand,
Sunset String, Gabor Szabo, James Taylor, Tommy Tedesco, Nino Tempo
& April Stevens, Livingston Taylor, Danny Thomas, Irma Thomas, Allen
Toussaint, Tanya Tucker*, Turtles, Phil Upchurch, Bobby Vee, Ventures,
Wendy Waldman*, Jennifer Warnes, Jim Weatherly, Andy Williams, Robin
A complete Nick De Caro Discography would include at least 315
albums and/or sessions. More difficult to document would be his
early work for Liberty and other labels during the mid-1960s.
PRESENTED BY THE SPECTROPOP TEAM