“Enigma, wunderkind, control freak, visionary, raconteur, artist advocate, shameless hustler and, in the end, kind heart, Gernhard spent four-and-a-half decades chasing recording art and blatant novelty with the same dogged determination. Gernhard’s achievements in the music business rival those of Rick Hall, Mike Curb, Phil Walden, and perhaps even Sam Phillips.”—Rodney Crowell
“DeYoung hooks Phil Gernhard’s genius, discipline, and love of music right up to the side of his self-indulgent, carny, smarmy business practices. I had no idea what a huge swath of great work he’d cut, starting right in his own backyard.”—Stan Lynch
“A great rock ’n’ roll story that’s been hiding in plain sight. It’s the last half century of American music wrapped up in the story of one man.”—William McKeen, author of Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles
“Captures one of the most unheard of and intriguing stories to come from the colorful world of American pop music—the life of Phil Gernhard, a driven hit-maker who never let anyone get in his way.”—Steve Huntington, DJ, Radio Margaritaville
A go-getting, red-headed college kid eager to break into the music business, Phil Gernhard produced a handful of singles for South Carolina doo-wop group Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. One of these songs, “Stay,” reached number one on the charts in 1960. Gernhard was just 19 years old.
Phil Gernhard, Record Man is the story of a self-made music mogul who created nearly fifty years’ worth of chart-topping songs. From a tiny office and studio in Florida, he co-wrote the Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” America’s fastest-selling single of 1966. He revived the career of singer Dion DiMucci with the ballad “Abraham, Martin and John”—a million seller. He discovered and produced hit records for Lobo, Jim Stafford, and the Bellamy Brothers. Through a long collaboration with music business icon Mike Curb, he launched to fame many others, including country superstars Tim McGraw and Rodney Atkins. In Nashville and Los Angeles, Phil Gernhard was a legend.
Yet Gernhard’s private life was crumbling. He battled physical and emotional demons that he simply couldn’t overcome, struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, and a bad past with his father. He filed for his fourth divorce just months before taking his own life in 2008.
Through interviews with Gernhard’s musicians, business partners, family members, and ex-wives, Bill DeYoung offers an intimate portrait of a brilliant yet troubled man who channeled his talent, ego, and ambition into the success of others. A true “record man,” Gernhard did it all. He lived to make records into gold, to make unknowns into stars, and above all, to make music.
Bill DeYoung is the author of Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought It Down. Nationally recognized for his music journalism, he was a writer and editor at various Florida and Georgia newspapers for over three decades.
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