Buzz Knight [00:00:00] I’m Buzz Knight, the host of Taking a Walk Music History on Foot. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or you can also follow us on the podcast Playground dot com. Today’s episode, we have an icon of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, an unmistakable voice of our generation. We remember the Righteous Brothers. The songs still ring true today. Amazing songs. They’ve been the soundtrack of our life. Join us with Bill Medley, co-founder of the Righteous Brothers, next on Taking a Walk. Welcome to taking a walk. Bill, how are you?
Bill Medley [00:00:40] Oh, I’m fine, thanks. Thanks for having me. Thanks for taking me for a walk.
Buzz Knight [00:00:44] I know I’m doing one in my backyard here in Carlisle, Massachusetts, just to try to keep it real. And I believe you’re out in California, aren’t you?
Bill Medley [00:00:53] Yeah, Right now I am. I think we leave on tour out there where you are. I think we leave Thursday and we are going to be out there for about a month and or somewhere or somewhere for a month.
Buzz Knight [00:01:10] So what inspires you to this day to sing your amazing songs in concert?
Bill Medley [00:01:17] Absolutely. It’s it’s the audience. You know, they that’s really the reason to be out there. And they just they just make everything feel, you know, brand new. I mean, the minute you go in the loving church singing, lovin feeling is you watch. You know, couples start to hold her hand or snuggle each other. So it’s it’s absolutely the audience. And we’re we feel very blessed that they’re still there for us.
Buzz Knight [00:01:53] How badly did you miss it these last few years?
Bill Medley [00:01:57] Oh, man. Well, the COVID thing really, really, really hurt. You know, I mean, I’m pretty much a one trick pony. I’m a you know, I’m a singer. I’m a performer. And boy, when they said stay home, and we all thought, well, it’ll be about a month. This to be a couple of years. It was a it was really very painful because, you know, going on stage for me is the medicine of life, you know. And but yeah, it was it was really tough.
Buzz Knight [00:02:35] So you really first learned the joy of performance while you were singing in a choir, right?
Bill Medley [00:02:43] Yeah. I mean, I, I grew up, you know, actually Presbyterian, but I sang in the choir and I sang in the, you know, junior high and high school choirs and just loved to sing and loved it. And then I heard Little Richard in 1955, and I said, Wow, I really love that. And so I became a songwriter and not really it wasn’t didn’t feel like I was going to be a singer, but I wanted to write. And but it was, you know, it turned out pretty good for me.
Buzz Knight [00:03:26] I would I would say so. And this Little Richard guy, boy, he was he was quite an influence on so many people. Do you think he got his just due in the day?
Bill Medley [00:03:42] I know he did. I know he did. In the industry, you know, all of us, anybody that sings, sings rock and roll is influenced and loves Little Richard. He you know, he and I think he didn’t go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right away. To me, he should have been probably the first guy in heaven, Elvis. I mean, he’s just he was he influenced a world, The Beatles, everybody. And no, I don’t think he got the right due. But but in the industry, he was considered, you know, brilliant.
Buzz Knight [00:04:22] And you had the opportunity to cross paths with Little Richard, I would imagine, didn’t you?
Bill Medley [00:04:29] Oh, sure. Yeah. Work with Richard a few times. And he was always fun and really great with us. And it took me a little while to get comfortable around him because I was so such a fan, you know, And but he was a great guy. We worked with him two or three times.
Buzz Knight [00:04:51] And how about Elvis Presley? You must have crossed paths with him.
Bill Medley [00:04:55] Yeah. Elvis became well, even from from the early sixties, before Lovin Feelin, we had about a two or three year career just in rock and roll, and we were having West Coast hits. Little Latin Lupe Lu, My Baby, that kind of stuff. And he would he would come to control all the clubs when we were working up in L.A. and he just became a good friend. And I was I was on my own at the end of the sixties and seventies, and I went to work at the show. We were Elvis was. I think Elvis got me the job. But yeah. And so we became pretty close there. And just a really good guy, Great talent, great guy, probably probably too much to handle for anybody, you know? But as I’ve always said, I don’t want to be in the fast lane. I don’t want to be in the slow lane. I just want to be in the middle lane, I think. I think you can hang around longer.
Buzz Knight [00:06:07] And the girls liked him. It’s my understanding, huh?
Bill Medley [00:06:10] Oh, boy. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, well, Bobby and I went on the first American Beatle tour, and so we kind of got used to young girls screaming and crying and, you know, yelling at me or with Elvis. Elvis’s was more women than young girls, you know, And and, you know, I guess Elvis handled that pretty good. I mean, the Beatles really had a problem with the kids not listening to what they were doing. They were busy screaming. And that that would be cool for about a week And then calm down. Can you want to listen to these songs or not? But yeah, no, Elvis was he handled all that really well. He was a very polite gentleman and just a good guy. I love him a lot.
Buzz Knight [00:07:16] In that Beatles tour. Yeah. For you guys, it was Jackie DeShannon was on the bill and somebody called the Bill Black Combo and the Excitons and must have been kind of a mixed bag experience for you guys because you were with the Beatles and you got to know them. But all that darn screaming, right?
Bill Medley [00:07:39] Oh, man. Well, they were they were screaming while we were armed, but they were screaming, We want the Beatles. So we got used to that. But yeah, it was well, it was I mean, it was kind of distracting. Well, obviously very distracting to even the Beatles. And but, you know, after a couple of years, we sort of figured out that, wow, man, we got a front row seat to history.
Buzz Knight [00:08:07] And you got to know the boys, the young lads, right.
Bill Medley [00:08:11] You’re a little I mean, you know, the it was pretty frantic for them, but we were all on the same plane going from town to town. So we were on the plane, you know, we would all sit around and talk and they were good guys, really good guys. They were they were probably more amazed what was going on than anybody. You know, it was pretty pretty radical.
Buzz Knight [00:08:35] Do you ever wonder sometime, you know, with the untimely passing of John Lennon going way too soon, would he have really had a formidable career, you know? Well, through the nineties and beyond.
Bill Medley [00:08:51] I think he would have if he wanted it, you know, as long as he is, as long as he stayed in. And I mean, he was a great writer and made great records. And at some point you have to like really love what you do. And I think I think John really did love what he did. So I think he would still be around in one shape or form, like Paul McCartney. Paul’s still still out there. And I, you know, just grew and grew. And so I think John would have done the same thing.
Buzz Knight [00:09:26] And then, of course, the Beatles world intersected your world with regard to the work you did and the historical significance of the work with Phil Spector, of course. Right.
Bill Medley [00:09:42] Yeah.
Buzz Knight [00:09:43] What eccentricities that I may not have heard about, about Phil Spector, could you share with us?
Bill Medley [00:09:50] Well, yeah. Every time somebody asked me about Phil hung over there waiting for a horror story, and we really didn’t have a horror story with Phil. So when we work with Phil, I think he was just winding down and he was, you know, doing all girl groups, you know, The Crystals and Darlene Love and all those girls. And Bobby and I were just kind of a couple of street guys. And so he treated us. He treated us really, really good. He worked as hard. But every time he would work as hard, the songs would get better. So we were happy with. So I don’t really have you know, I think I think maybe when when we were with him, he was trying to make people think that he was real eccentric. And the truth was, is he wasn’t. But but in the later years, I think he talked himself into it.
Buzz Knight [00:10:56] But what a masterpiece that he was part of. With you on You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling. I mean, it’s a perfect, perfect song, Bill.
Bill Medley [00:11:07] Yeah, it’s. Yeah, well, he was brilliant. I mean, just brilliant. I mean, to certain studio and watch what he did and Lovin Feelin was on like two or three, four, three or four track machine. And you listen to that record, my God, that wall of sound and how, how he did that, I don’t know. But he was, he was just, he was a genius. He was that anyway, just brilliant.
Buzz Knight [00:11:37] And it must really be a special feeling when you see the song live further on in, you know, Top Gun as an example, that must really tickle you.
Bill Medley [00:11:50] Yeah. I mean, it’s it’s yeah. People used to say, Boy, wonder when somebody else does your song, does that make you mad? I said, no that’s, that’s a real honor anger and for them to put our our music into a into a movie especially in our Top Gun. My God, that was a that was expected to be a big, huge movie. And so to have our have our song in there and the way they did it, it was just it was just really cool. I wish I wish they would have put it in in the new Top Gun on, but they didn’t.
Buzz Knight [00:12:35] But we we will never forget that song that’s like the the song of our of our lifetime for sure. Tell me about the meticulous work being involved with the Wrecking Crew.
Bill Medley [00:12:49] Well, the Wrecking Crew at least were still, you know, Phil were just working really hard. I mean, just the rhythm section, I think, was in the studio for six or 7 hours, just doing the same the same thing, because he had about four guitars and like four pianos in the and so we kind of had the mix them all together. And so I brought The Wrecking Crew. All those guys were incredible musicians and like, they could pull off whatever whatever you asked them to do, they could do. And they had a good sense of what you were talking about and just wonderful guys.
Buzz Knight [00:13:34] Do you ever go back and check out on YouTube things like some of the Shindig performances?
Bill Medley [00:13:42] Well, I don’t I don’t I don’t go back to try and playing, but other people do. And they say, boy, if you ever seen this show, an old shindig and I don’t even remember that guy that was a was six years ago. But but now it is kind of fun to go back and see that and and you can kind of step back a little bit and analyze the Righteous Brothers or what how or why. You know, we did what we did. And you go back and look at the early stuff and you can kind of tell, well, I can see why people enjoyed that.
Buzz Knight [00:14:23] Back in the early days. What were those Rolling Stones like? I hear they were they were kind of ruffians.
Bill Medley [00:14:32] Well, they certainly were more street than the Beatles. We we did the first the first American Rolling Stone tour, too. And and they hadn’t made it yet, but we were on tour and I think the next weekend they made it huge. But they were big. Now they were just compared to the Beatles. They were just just a little more street, you know. But I think they were great guys. I mean, Keith is your a friend and and but yeah, they were they were they were closer to where Bobby and I were coming from, you know, than than the Beatles. But so now why didn’t they maybe they were a little rough around the edges, but. But in a good way, I think.
Buzz Knight [00:15:27] Well, in closing, when you look back at your great career and the fact that you’re still working it and still enjoying it, any. Regrets there, Bill?
Bill Medley [00:15:39] Not really. I mean, life as life as life. And there’s been a lot of lows and some amazing highs. You know, looking back, you realize that this down with the high better and this and that. So I don’t think there’s certainly I wouldn’t there’s nothing I would change musically I mean privately or in my private life. There’s a couple of things I wish didn’t happen but but did.
Buzz Knight [00:16:09] Well, I salute you for this tour coming up and for your heart and blue eyed soul and amazing music. And we’re so grateful for it. And I’m grateful that you were on my Taken a Walk podcast.
Bill Medley [00:16:23] Oh, man, It was my pleasure. I appreciate it.
Buzz Knight [00:16:26] Thank you. Bill Medley. Taking a Walk with Bob Knight is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.