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Dudgeon’s Former Manager Talks About The Producer And The Rocket Man.

It has been two decades since Gus and Sheila Dudgeon were killed in a car crash. The former was a producer who was the subject of a tribute album last year: Gus Dudgeon: Production Gems. John Kaufman, who was the Englishman’s manager, spoke to EJW about what his client was like, and about his own record company’s intriguing range of artists.

EJW: Murray Dudgeon has said he was influenced by his brother. ”Gus’s success made me realise you should follow your dreams,” he told EJW. As the producer’s manager and executive producer of Production Gems {which includes Sixty Years On and a couple of other John/Dudgeon collaborations}, you must also have been inspired.

JK: I have to share this story with you. . . . When I was 16 or 17, I left school and desperately wanted to work in the music business. I was what was then known as a ‘vinyl junkie.’ I’d spend all my Saturday jobs’ money on records.

So I wrote to numerous record labels asking for a job, even if was for the tea boy or post boy position. Even to get a letter of rejection from a record label was a major result; at least they acknowledged my existence.

Sadly, nearly all the record labels failed to respond. Apart from two, one of them being Rocket Records.

Wind forward to 1999: I was now working with Gus Dudgeon, and by chance, during preparation for my house move, stumbled across that very letter from Rocket Records. I pulled out the letter and read it again for the first time in over 20 years and two my astonishment, it was from and signed by Gus! So, at my next meeting with him, I said, ”I have a bone to pick with you” about that note, and Gus asked, ”What letter? What are you talking about?”

I said ”this one” and handed him the envelope, and he was just as astonished as I was! I then added, ”It’s because of your letter. I’m in the music business and now I’m managing you!”

His letter, all be it a rejection, was kindly, and did encourage me to keep trying–that I would be successful. I finally made it into the music business in 1983, working for Albion Records, a London based punk label.

EJW: A portion of the tribute disc goes to the foundation in his name. Do you work with the Gus Dudgeon Foundation?

JK: I support them with fund raising, but am not directly involved.

EJW: Madman Across the Water, which Gus worked on, has been in the news lately. In June, an expanded version was reissued for its 50th anniversary. On Billboard’s album charts–dated June 25–the set made its debut in the Top 10 on both Top Album Sales and Vinyl Albums. What do you think the producer would have made of all this?

JK: Yes, I have the new pressing. It’s always been one of my favourite Elton/Gus albums.

Gus would have been delighted and humbled with all the re-issues and their public/media attention again.

I remember back in the day, I’d meet Gus regularly at Abbey Road Studios (it was not too far from my office) as he was digitally remastering Elton’s records for Universal. He’d got a big kick at listening to all the original multitrack tapes again as if they were ‘old friends’ and lovingly upgraded them with the use of the new digital technologies. He was even surprised himself, at how good the tech aspects were of these albums, considering the basic studio technology of the ’70s were compared to the ’90s.

EJW: You launched Right Recordings in 1995. The company has released Matt Backer’s music and the guitarist’s CV includes a familiar name. Do you know if he worked on one of Elton’s albums or appeared in concert with him?

JK: Matt has worked with Elton a few times. This includes when Elton and Marcella Detroit performed {Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing at the 1994 Top of the Pops show}. Matt also joined Elton and Plan B onstage {at the Radio 2 Electric Proms in 2010 for a rendition of I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues}.

EJW: What other projects has your company been involved with?

JK: Here’s a few: Marcella’s album; Prince‘s single, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World; Kool & the Gang albums; releases from Kiki Dee, Sam Moore and Jimmy Cliff; and M‘s hit Pop Muzik. I also worked on Live Aid in 1985.

You can see Elton, Matt, and Marcella here:

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