Phil Gernhard Record Man
Phil Gernhard was Florida’s most successful record producer. While at college at the University of South Carolina, he made “Stay,” the iconic rhythm ‘n’ blues single by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – the first of his two career Number Ones. Back in Florida, working out of a modest St. Petersburg office, he produced “Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron” and a string of “Snoopy” novelty records for the Royal Guardsmen, along with Dion’s revered recording of “Abraham, Martin and John,” and numerous hits for Kent “Lobo” LaVoie (“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,” “I’d Love You to Want Me”) and Jim Stafford (“Spiders and Snakes,” “Wildwood Weed”). He scored his second chart-topper with the Bellamy Brothers’ “Let Your Love Flow.”
Through interviews with Gernhard’s artists, writers, fellow music business executives and family members (including three of his four wives), a portrait emerges of a prodigiously talented man whose shady business practices, obsessive secrecy – and chronic alcoholism – kept him essentially friendless for most of his life. Gernhard went on to even greater success in Nashville, where he engineered the careers of country superstars Tim McGraw and Rodney Atkins, but happiness always eluded him. His life ended tragically in 2008.
DeYoung hooks Phil Gernhard’s genius, discipline and love of music –– right up to the side of his self-indulgent, carny, smarmy business practices. I had no idea what a huge swath of great work he’d cut, starting right in his own back yard. Much like every music executive, just when you start to love Phil, you want to beat him with a rake.
Stan Lynch, founding member of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Enigma, wunderkind, control freak, visionary, raconteur, artist advocate, shameless hustler and, in the end, kind heart, Gernhard spent four and a half decades chasing recording art and blatant novelty with the same dogged determination. Gernhard’s achievements in the music business rival those of Rick Hall, Mike Curb, Phil Walden, and perhaps even Sam Phillips.
Rodney Crowell, singer-songwriter
Published by University Press of Florida