Craig E. Palmer’s History as a Performing Musician and Composer since 1962:
In 1962, when I was 18 years old I became music director for the San Diego Regis Philbin Show working on live TV with the biggest stars in the world at that time. I continued this position till I was 21 when Regis went on to become Joey Bishop’s sidekick.
Around this time, Stan Ross, owner of Goldstar Studios in Hollywood, home to Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” offered me free studio time to come up with a hit record. Goldstar was also home to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who is still my musical god to this day.
Another person who was interested in my music career was the Hollywood studio drummer Hal Blaine whose career has been highlighted in the movie “Wrecking Crew” and has played on more hit records than any studio drummer on earth.
Also during this time my San Diego band, The Esquires was being managed by Roger Hedgecock and our bari sax player Tony Beradini. Roger and Tony also became exclusive promoters for Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish and Canned Heat. Roger went on to become mayor of San Diego and is currently a local radio talk show host and Tony became an executive with Elektra Records.
Through Roger and Tony, The Esquires opened twice for The Doors, The Jefferson Airplane and Sky Saxon and the Seeds at Golden Hall in San Diego. After becoming San Diego’s number one band, The Esquires relocated to San Francisco and started working in local clubs.
In 1969, I teamed up with an entertainer named Joey Gallo whom I came to know when I was working with Regis Philbin. Joey and I formed a duo and performed at Rueben’s Restaurant on Harbor Island in San Diego. Reuben’s had a beautiful view of downtown San Diego from across the bay. I would start off the evening playing solo piano on a seven foot Yamaha grand, and then together with Joey, perform musical duets, comedy schtick and “Mini Musicals” such as “Camelot”, “Man ala Mancha” and “Fiddler on the Roof”. We were the talk of the town.
Later an incredibly talented singer, actress Donna Soto joined Joey and me. Donna sang, played guitar and performed the female parts to the mini-musicals. We quickly became the number one act in San Diego and remained so for many years performing to wall-to-wall crowds of San Diego’s foremost professional and political elite every night of the week as my piano playing became a San Diego legend.
Donna went on to earn her Phd in Music and Dramatic Arts from Cambridge University and is currently the head of the Music and Dramatic Arts Department for the Royal Scottish Academy for Music and Dramatic Arts in Glasgow, Scotland. Donna recently told me that I am “still the best musician she has ever worked with, bar none”.
One day, one of my bass students, Cary Tjader who played bass in a very successful San Diego band called “Gary Puckett and the Union Gap which performed nightly at the Quad Room in the Claremont Bowl, brought me a 45 to listen to. It was “Woman, Woman” which the Union Gap had recently recorded. “Woman, Woman” instantly shot to number one in the country followed by “Over You”, “Young Girl” and others. Since Gary had played guitar on my Don Costa sessions in Hollywood, we had become good friends.
Craig also was music director of one of the first live staged productions of the rock opera “Tommy” by The Who at Grossmont College in 1973. Many of the Espinosas were cast in Tommy. Margie’s brother Jack Butler played guitar. Paul Espinosa and Margie Butler are co-founders of the Celtic Band Golden Bough. Jack is still a major player on the SD Music scene as per Private Domain and The Beat Farmers. Jack often mentions me on his Facebook posts.
In 1974, Gary invited me to go to the Philippines to co-star in a movie called “Dynamite, Live and in Concert.” My character was named “Ty” who was the comic relief. Gary was the star. His character was Joey, the leader of a successful world-renowned rock-star band called “Dynamite.” After returning to the states, Gary formed yet another band and has relocated in Florida. To this day Gary is doing 100 concerts a year.
In 1977 my friend Tom Dinoto started a San Diego production company called Tuesday Productions of which I became Music Director. Tuesday Productions brought the Budweiser account from New York to San Diego with one of my signature Craig Palmer Budweiser arrangements with Grambling University Style marching band music and foxy cheer leaders. Me and Tuesday Productions made a lot of money for a lot of San Diego musicians. There is a movie made about us called “Beer” starring Loretta Swit and Rip Torn.
Then in 1979, Tom Dinoto teamed up with Robert Skomer to start Network Music Production Library. I became (according to The History of Production Music for the year 1979) “the principal composer of many of the successful early cuts, which feature string and French horns on top of a modern drum beat, with Timpani and brass accents.
“One Craig Palmer composition — entitled “Energy” — practically defined the genre of 1980s production music. Early “Network” cues and themes often were used on TV network sports shows and syndicated US TV shows such as “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, and behind national commercials. Network becomes a successful US-owned production music library for this style of music.
“Craig Palmer definitely ruled the late 1970s and the entirety of the 1980s as far as creating awesome library production music is concerned. APM/KPM/Bruton were probably the dominant and foremost libraries during that era, but Network Music surely managed to provide them with impressive competition, especially when it comes to Palmer’s works”.
In May of 2001 BMG Entertainment took over Network Music and the production work was given to “Killer Tracks” in Hollywood. To this day, Killer Tracks continues to market my over 400 Network compositions on every TV and Radio Station on the planet. Recently Universal Music Publishing has come into the equation as Universal Films has also started using my music.
In 2002 I moved to Nevada City, CA. Currently, it is with great pride that my main musical focus is with the legendary western swing band, Nevada City’s own “Cousin Cricket”, a band of puppeteers who came from New York City to the San Juan Ridge in 1974 and whom I joined in 2003.
Cousin Cricket consists of local actor and guitar player Kenny Miele from Garden City, Long Island and Doug Cohen from Manhattan. Kenny and Doug grew up together along with another puppeteer Craig Marin who now owns a “Puppetoon” company in New York City called “Flexitoons”.
Lou Valentine Johnson is a local classical guitarist composer who I started working with in 2010. I composed various instrumental accompaniments for Lou’s guitar compositions. I have composed pieces for Guitar and Piano, orchestra, string quartet, viola and violin. Through Lou I came to have the honor of having the opportunity to work with Richard Altenbach, a Hollywood Studio violinist. Currently we are completing a succession of moments, which are reductions of Lou’s main work, “The Peace Concerto”.
Lou knows some of the finest musicians in the world. He has recently returned from Cuba where he toured from one end of the island to the other performing with Cuba’s finest classical guitar players.
Recently I had the honor of working with the local theatrical company “Synthetic Unlimited” founded by local actors Jimmy McKinnen and Grace Fae, composing music for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe”, starring Kenny Miele, Trish Adair and Grace Fae, and Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “12th Night”.
For the first time since the 70’s my solo piano career has been revived as I now perform with much success at local piano venues in Northern California. I am currently completing a piano CD of my music.
I have come to know Monroe Lovelady who is on the Board of Directors for In Concert Sierra. In Concert Sierra presents world class classical performers at The Seventh Day Adventist church in Grass Valley. Recently they presented Joshua Bell. As usual Monroe had an after concert event at his beautiful house in Penn Valley. There I came to know Joshua Bell’s piano accompanist Sam Haywood.
Recently through Monroe I came to know a world class classical piano, Spencer Myers who gave a local house concert with Sean Chen.
When I return to San Diego, CA I will be seeking a solo piano gig at one of their many, many excellent working piano venues while continuing to survive off the royalties I have been receiving since 1993 from BMI, foreign and domestic, and Universal Music Publishing.