In 1960, “Stay” reached number one on the charts. The song was impossible to get out of your head: ‘Stay―aaah―just a little bit longer.’ The innocuously catchy R&B single was produced by Phil Gernhard for South Carolina doo-wop group Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. At just 19 years old and with no formal training, Gernhard was a go-getting, red-headed kid from Sarasota, Florida, eager to break into the music business. “Stay” was just the beginning of a career that would span nearly fifty years’ worth of charting songs.
Phil Gernhard, Record Man is the story of a self-made music mogul who dropped out of law school to open a tiny office and studio in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, and went on to produce hits that would rock the airwaves and resonate throughout the country. He co-wrote the Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” America’s fastest-selling single of 1966. He revived the career of singer Dion DiMucci with the ballad “Abraham, Martin and John,” which has become an enduring classic. He discovered and produced hit records for Lobo, Jim Stafford, and the Bellamy Brothers – all native Florida artists.
Through a long affiliation with music business icon Mike Curb, he launched to fame many others, including country superstars Tim McGraw and Rodney Atkins. In Nashville and Los Angeles, Phil Gernhard was a legend.
Yet Gernhard’s private life was crumbling. He battled physical and emotional demons that he simply couldn’t overcome, struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, and an emotionally strained relationship with his overbearing father. He filed for his fourth divorce just months before taking his own life in 2008.Through interviews with Gernhard’s musicians, business partners, family members, and ex-wives, Bill DeYoung offers an intimate portrait of man who channeled his considerable talent, ego, and ambition into the success of others. A true “record man,” Gernhard did it all.
Phil Gernhard, Record Man is available now from University Press of Florida. Amazon link
Bill DeYoung is the author of Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought It Down. Nationally recognized for his music journalism, he was a writer and editor at various Florida and Georgia newspapers for over three decades.