By Deems Tsutakawa
For The North American Post
The late great Cedric James was a dear friend and colleague. His real name was Mel Odom but he changed his moniker to mark his career as a lifetime disc jockey. Mel was also a dynamic masters of ceremonies for concerts, a promoter and a music aficionado to the max. Cedric the DJ was extremely talented as an “on the air personality” and had an incredible sense of how to smoothly sequence the song order to make a flowing transition between the music selections. At times, he was also his own worst enemy.
Cedric was very strong minded and seem to make a habit of telling his bosses at the various radio stations what they should be playing.
There were actually times when he would deviate from the corporately controlled pre-determined play lists and play whatever he thought was cool. This was of course deemed un-cool by his superiors.
I met Mel before the rise of the Smooth Jazz format and hired him to do national radio promotion for my company J-Town Records. Before the internet was built, the “bible” of the music advertising industry was a printed book called Standard Rate and Data. It was the size of a large telephone book and listed every radio station in the United States. The SRDS book is only available online now. Along with the address and phone numbers, they stated the musical format of each station.
Mel and I would meticulously go through the book and find all the jazz stations. We would then physically package 33 1/3 vinyl albums complete with photos, cover letters, and promotional materials and mail them to all the jazz stations coast to coast, which numbered in the hundreds. We would then call each and every station and send follow up letters to the program directors and music directors. It was an arduous task but being young and full of spit and vinegar we were determined to change the world.
Amazingly it turned out that just about every station we contacted loved the sound of my records and invariably ended up playing my music. The so called “Wall Street Journal” of the music industry was a company and publication called R & R or Records and Radio. The fact of my records attaining national airplay led to my albums charting well on R & R. Records & Radio has since been bought out by a global firm called VNU.
Mel had the gift of gab and would always tell the radio people, “you should be playing Deems,” and they always responded to him. It was an exciting time for us, and I will always remember Mel for his boundless energy, enthusiasm and salesmanship.
Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.