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Video to Vinyl, 1976: Debut Lisa Hartman LP on Kirshner/CBS, Produced by Jeff Barry
Mrs. Clint Black played a grown-up "Bewitched" daughter on "Tabitha," before playing TWO roles on prime-time '80s soap, "Knots Landing." But, first, she began a singing career.
Curious Similarities to Lynda Carter’s Career
Singing was actually Lisa’s first love, and it ended up being the first corner of show biz she’d give a solid shot to in the mid-’70s (which makes her an artist who went more from vinyl to video—instead of vice versa—but that’d be nit-picking).
But, it was acting most people would end up knowing her for (mostly in the ‘80s)…well, that and her marriage to a world-renowned country singer, with the two of them raising a lovely songbird, as well. Oh yeah, she and this writer also “dated” briefly in junior high!
FR&B has covered others who went from video to vinyl: Don Grady, who traveled from being a co-star on TV’s My Three Sons to heading up a wonderful ‘60s sunshine pop band, The Yellow Balloon. Plus, we took a look at TV’s Wonder Woman, who also spent her early career, like Lisa, singing, before enjoying screen success:
In fact, both ladies’ debut albums had quite a few similarities: They were recorded within a couple years of each other. They were both on CBS Records affiliates…Lynda Carter for Epic/CBS Records, and Lisa (pictured above) for Don Kirshner’s label, Kirshner/CBS Records.
Lynda had ‘60s rock legend, Vini Poncia (who with partner, Peter Anders, wrote hits for Phil Spector-produced girl groups, and was a member of The Trade Winds, with their “New York’s is a Lonely Town” hit) as a producer. Poncia also produced Destroyer, KISS’s 1979 album, after he produced the Peter Criss solo album the year before (speaking of KISS, isn’t that Paul Stanley with Lisa above?).
Lisa had living legend (and member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame), Jeff Barry, produce her album; he, too, had many ‘60s girl group hits produced by Spector!
The Lisa Hartman Origin Story
Lisa was born June 1, 1956, in Houston, TX, 15 months after I first drew breath in the Bayou City. My folks knew her folks for years, as both families were in local “show biz” circles. My mom was an entertainment booking agent, starting in the early ‘60s, working for former big band leader, Shep Fields, at his booking agency in the Shamrock Hilton Hotel.
She had her own agency from the mid-’60s through about 2010. Dad sold commercial air time as an ad exec at the then-CBS-owned (talk/news) KTRH-AM and (progressive rock) KLOL-FM radio stations. I worked at 101 for a year in ‘75.
With my brother getting into stand-up comedy and local acting gigs in the mid-’70s, and my burgeoning forays into radio, myself, the whole family had become regular subjects of the local gossip columnists as our respective career moves and highlights emerged: Marge Crumbaker of long-defunct The Houston Post, and Maxine Mesinger (with her “Big City Beat” column) of The Houston Chronicle (who blended the Post and their equipment-and building-into their operations in 1995). Maxine and her family lived for years at the Shamrock.
Needless to say, Lisa and her family also enjoyed being featured, quite frequently, in Marge’s and Maxine’s columns!
Also in 1987, Lisa was on American Bandstand touting her 4th album (on Atlantic), with this brief interview with Dick Clark:
Lisa’s dad was also a singer and actor, but her mom, Jonni Hartman, was a local public relations person (a “PR gal”, as we used to say), and the first female TV producer in Houston. In fact, Jonni’s had quite a star-studded career herself, as she had been son-in-law, Clint Black’s personal assistant for many years. Clint and Lisa married in 1991, live in Nashville, and have a 22-year-old daughter, Lily Pearl.
From Space City Club Circuit to Hollywood Glitz
Lisa, making the rounds as a singer in Houston clubs (with some gigs booked by my mom), moved from Houston to L.A. in the mid-’70s. The family knew burgeoning songwriters, Brad Burg and Dene Hofheinz (known at the time as Dene Hofheinz-Mann), and they had gathered a couple handfuls of brand new songs they wanted Lisa to use as her entrée into the record biz.
Dene (pronounced “Deanie”), it should be noted, was the daughter of Judge Roy Hofheinz, who (among many other important Houston-related things) was Houston’s mayor from 1953 to 1955, the year I was born! Hofheinz was also the dreamer and mastermind behind the creation of the world’s first indoor multi-purpose stadium, The Astrodome.
Mom, Jonni, followed Lisa to Hollywood shortly thereafter, and landed in the offices of Ruth Aarons, the longtime manager of David Cassidy and little half-bro (and fellow late-’70s pop star), Shaun Cassidy, until Ruth tragically died in 1980. FR&B has written about David, here:
and, Shaun, here:
I vaguely remember following, in real time, the between-family news of “Lisa’s got a record deal in L.A.” and “she’s got Jeff Barry producing her first album,” but can’t recall how Lisa, Burg & Hofheinz, Kirshner/CBS, and Barry actually connected. Barry, impressed by Lisa, must’ve approached his longtime friend and multi-hyphenate record mogul, Don Kirshner, and convinced him to sign her.
A couple years after producing Lisa’s debut album, Barry co-wrote some songs with FR&B key contributor, singer/songwriter/guitarist/actor, Stephen Michael Schwartz. To hear one of those songs (fully-produced by Jeff Barry), and hear about the creation of the song in Stephen’s own words:
In fact, Stephen’s collabs with the rock legend might help us understand how Lisa, the Burg and Hofheinz songs, and Barry got hooked up with Kirshner’s CBS-affiliated label in the first place! As Stephen told FR&B:
“Jeff heard some of my new songs and liked them enough to want to go into the studio and produce a few tracks with me with the idea of getting me a record deal with himself as the producer. He also suggested we write a song together as one of the tracks we record!”
So, if we follow Barry’s shrewd and enviable “playbook,” he likely took the Burg’n’Hofheinz songs to Kirshner (along with a Lisa-recorded demo of one or a few of the tunes), and offered the label a self-contained package of brand new singer, original songs from a bright, new writing duo, and himself as a proven and highly-respected “ear-forward” record man to produce—a package completely irresistible to a cost-conscious label!
Unsurprisingly, Barry had little trouble gathering the cream of L.A.’s session crop to lay down the tracks for the eager 19-year-old Lisa!
Backing Vocals – Dene Hofheinz, Julia Tillman, Maxine Willard (Tillman and Willard sang back-up on Nicolette Larson’s 1982 LP that featured “Nathan Jones”), Lisa Hartman, Polly Cutter (the year before, the veteran session singer sang the theme song to the One Day at a Time sitcom—”This Is It,” written by Jeff Barry and his wife, Nancy)
Bells, Marimba – Brad Burg
Guitar [Guitars] – Art Munson, Ben Benay, Lee Ritenour
Keyboards – Clarence MacDonald, Tom Hensley, David Foster (Foster and Lee Ritenour, with rare, exclusive in-studio pix, were featured on 1975 sessions for FR&B’s Stephen Michael Schwartz, accessible by clicking here)
Percussion – Jeff Barry
Saxophone [Sax Solo] – Nino Tempo
Engineer-Earle Mankey (former Sparks guitarist, and engineer for several Beach Boys albums)
Barry must’ve liked the songs, and appears co-credited on three of them (feeling they must’ve needed some “punching-up”), while also contributing a solo-penned tune (“Room Without a Door”), perhaps to fill the album out to an even ten songs.
This song features several positive aspects about Lisa’s voice: Her range and strength, as well as her intimate and expressive “breathiness.” In fact, I recall several mentions of handlers, at the time, wanting to position her to perhaps be “the next Olivia Newton-John,” who spent a career perfecting the kitten-ish, breathy “purr” on her hits.
One of the album’s most successful songs (at least right out of the gate) was the Burg/Hofheinz/Barry collab, “Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye”:
While not a single for Lisa, a cover by Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius was released in November 1976 as a single from their RCA album, I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You. Their version peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. It also reached #1 on Canada’s RPM Magazine Country Tracks chart.
Lynn Anderson covered “He Ain’t You” in 1977, and got it to #19 on Billboard’s Country chart. One single that was released from Lisa’s album was the Burg/Hofheinz composition, “Kentucky Rainbows,” which seemed to scream “country cover,” but never was. I’m hoping some creative DJ somewhere segued Elvis’s “Kentucky Rain” (penned by Eddie Rabbitt and Dick Heard) with Lisa’s “Kentucky Rainbows”!
The only Hofheinz/Barry collab (sans Burg) on the album is “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” which, again, highlights Lisa’s range and vocal power:
In 2011, re-issue label, Wounded Bird Records (under license from Sony), re-released Lisa’s ‘76 debut, but added three bonus tracks. That expanded edition is above, but what should be 13 tracks, now, is only 12. I’m guessing CBS/Sony wouldn’t grant Spotify the rights to it, as it had ties to (production company) Columbia Pictures Television’s rights to the show.
Tabitha (with Lisa playing the grown-up Bewitched daughter) lasted but half-a-season on ABC-TV (12 eps, including the May ‘77 pilot), from September 1977 to January 1978. Here’s the opening credit sequence, with expository voice-over, with Lisa singing “It Could Be Magic,” the Jeff Barry-penned theme:
Lisa recorded four solo albums between 1976 and 1987: Two for Kirshner Records (her second, 1979’s Hold On), one for RCA Records (1982’s Letterock), and one for Atlantic Records (1987’s ‘Til My Heart Stops). RCA took full “Video to Vinyl” advantage of Lisa’s starring role in Dallas spin-off, CBS-TV’s Knots Landing (she was on the show from 1982-1986), by plastering her Letterock LP with this hype sticker:
In 2020, Clint and Lisa performed as The Snow Owls on The Masked Singer:
And, Clint, Lisa, and Lily Pearl have just finished a successful two-year tour together on their “Mostly Hits and the Mrs.” Tour:
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