By Ken Sharp
Most kids dream what they’ll be when they grow up. Chances are doctor, professional athlete, teacher, superhero, firefighter, farmer, lawyer, actor, builder, policeman, dancer, writer, actor, spy and/or rock star landed on your radar at one point. But Joe Reagoso’s childhood career goal was far more specific — and more importantly, one that he made come true.
“Ever since I was a young kid, catching The Beatles and The Monkees on TV, I dreamed of having my own record label,” says Reagoso, who today is president of the Friday Music label (www.fridaymusic.com).
As president of Friday Music, Joe Reagoso (right) regularly rubs elbows with rock stars, including (from left) The Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston and The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz. Joe Reagoso photo.
Reagoso is proof that if you follow your dream long enough and pour in plenty of hard work, passion, vision and patience, you can make it come true. A former record promoter with labels including RCA, MCA and Sony/BMG, he directed his decades of knowledge and experience into the 2003 launch of Friday Music. The label based in Huntington Beach, California, specializes in vinyl and CD reissues and boasts an impressive catalog packed with rock, pop, blues, R&B and jazz releases. Key titles by Elvis Presley rub shoulders with releases from Jeff Beck, Yes, Chicago, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Monkees (as well as solo offshoots by Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones), Boston, Cheap Trick, The Grateful Dead, Johnny Winter, Journey and The Cars. There’s even an album by “The Great One” himself, Jackie Gleason.
GOLDMINE: What made you want to start Friday Music?
JOE REAGOSO: Necessity. I was working for two decades for all the major labels in national promotion, helping break a ton of hit records for artists like Tom Petty, R.E.M, Boston, ZZ Top and B.B. King, and I was beginning to sense there were some real issues that were ready to screw up the industry. CD burning was the start of it all in the mid-’90s. Before you knew it, the whole collapse of music sales with the onslaught of illegal downloads forced me to rethink my longevity in the music industry. It wasn’t an overnight thing, but I can honestly tell you that while working with Yes at a reunion show in 2002, I looked around the audience and saw all ages of folks there, from 7 to 70, and it dawned on me, right there at that moment, what I was going to do, and that was to create the definitive classic rock music label.
GM: How did your background working in record promotion for many years come into play with Friday Music?
JR: Obviously, when I worked records at radio for the majors — Sony/BMG, UMG [Universal] and WMG [Warner], I became friends with a lot of my favorite bands. Many of them are now on my label. It’s that artist-friendly approach — and the fact I am so passionate about this music — that has made Friday Music one of the greatest classic rock labels of all time.
GM: In terms of releases on the label, is there a criteria for you?
JR: I like to revisit albums that meant a lot to me over the years, and many of those recordings are just as special to our audience, too. But we still hunt for some obscure releases, and that has brought a lot of fans who continue to support us with our many endeavors.
GM: What was the first release on Friday Music?
JR: We did three in one day, but the first one really would have to be “Flash” by Flash (Peter Banks and Tony Kaye from Yes). Basically, it was an extension or a tribute, if you will, to that fateful night that I envisioned the Friday Music label at the Yes concert.
GM: You’ve reissued some key Elvis Presley titles over the years. Any plans for future Elvis titles?
JR: Elvis is the “King of Rock and Roll.” We’ve been blessed to be able to release many of his wonderful classics on our label on vinyl. We reissued “King Creole,” “That’s the Way It Is,” “Golden Records Vol. One” — all with deluxe gatefold covers, 180-gram audiophile vinyl, the works! The Elvis fans really dig them. I recently gave copies of “Blue Hawaii” to our dear friends Mike Love and Bruce Johnston at a Beach Boys show, and they dug them, and rightfully so. Check out “Beach Boy Blues!” Graham Nash dug our Elvis album, too. Everybody digs The King! More Elvis vinyl titles are coming soon, like “Girl Happy” and “50 Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong,” plus we have plans for more projects that should make a lot of the fans very happy.
GM: You have released some exciting Monkees and Davy Jones releases.
JR: A big one is a 5-LP 180-gram box set titled “The Monkees in Mono;” the box contains all the original LP covers, the original first five albums in mono, and they sound incredible. I was checking out the test pressings, and all I can say is, “Do you remember listening to ‘Headquarters’ in MONO?” Plus, we are continuing to reissue the rest of the catalog in 2-CD deluxe sets like we did with “Headquarters,” “Justus” and “Pool It!” We also reissued a Micky Dolenz CD of his long out-of-print children’s records, “Puts You to Sleep” and “Broadway Micky.” You’ve got to check out his stellar version of “Blackbird;” it’s just stunning. I’ve been friends with The Monkees for many years. It really shook me up when Davy died in 2012. We had just finished mastering several Monkees releases, and I was finalizing Davy’s “Bell Sessions” CD the morning I got the call. It was a heavy loss for all of us. He was a dear guy, and he really loved being a Monkee.
GM: Year in year out, vinyl sales are going up. Why?
JR: More folks have realized that they are missing the warmth of vinyl — the feel, the sound, the smell, the non-fatigue factor, the way it spins and looks so beautiful on your turntable. Friday Music is friendly to all formats of music, physical and digital. Our consumers demand their favorite recordings, and our aim is to give them the best music ever made in multiple formats.
GM: Where do you see the state of vinyl records in say five years?
JR: It has always been here. In five years it will still be here. We are all about the quality, or we wouldn’t be where we are today. It is not an overnight process; it takes months to get these to the marketplace, sometimes longer. But in the end it’s a very cool thing.
GM: Any wish-list titles for Friday Music?
JR: Let’s just say I love gifts, and the gift of music is surely something we pray for around here every day. You will see more great titles from Chicago, Elvis, The Monkees, Santana, Johnny Winter, The Moody Blues, The Grateful Dead, Heart — a lot of classic masterpieces are on the way.
GM: What would be the Holy Grail vinyl for you?
JR: Maybe a pristine copy of “Surfin’’“ on X records by The Beach Boys? Some Elmore James on Trumpet. The Beefeaters single on Elektra.
GM: Is there a record that you regret getting rid over the years?
JR: Yes, a mint copy of “Fresh Cream” in mono, years ago in high school. But the fellow traded them to me for three rare Animals albums, of which I truly love to this day, as well, so it’s all good. Eric Burdon is one of my favorite artists. I promoted a number of his records over the years, and I worked on the Animals reunion tour in 1983. It was absolutely one of the greatest moments in my life when he called this girl I truly wanted to date at the time and asked her to go out with me. She’s my wife to this day! Thank you, Mr. Burdon.
GM: For those who don’t know, Friday Music recently released a new Cliff Richard CD.
JR: Yes, it’s his 100th album, and it’s called “The Fabulous Rock ’N’ Roll Songbook.” It’s a fine album that features Cliff teamed up with some great folks, like Vince Gill, plus some really hot young players in Nashville, as he covers tunes by Elvis, a powerful version of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” and my favorite, “Sealed with a Kiss.” It’s already hit the top of the charts overseas … it’s very thrilling times for Cliff Richard and Friday Music. Cliff called me a week ago — Sir Cliff — blew me away. I was always a huge fan of this cat. I told him I played a few of his songs in a band back in college, and I actually had my mother cut the sleeves off of my jacket a certain way that resembled his “I’m No Hero” LP cover; I also had my hair cut like his, so it’s amazing that he’s on my label now, considering how important his music is and the effect it had on me as a kid all those years ago.
GM: What’s the first record you ever bought?
JR: My family was buying records for me from age 1. But when I was 4, I remember my mother and I walking into a J.C. Penney store on 69th Street in Philly and bought the Freddie and the Dreamers “I’m Telling You Now” LP. When you think about it, look who was really on the album: Heinz (with Ritchie Blackmore most likely on guitar); The Four Just Men (brilliant stuff); The Toggery Five; Mike Rabin — just great early Mersey Beat stuff. I’ve bought the singles on Parlophone and Tower over the years to make up the LP in 45 form for myself. Poor Heinz; a real tragic story on that brilliant artist.
GM: How about a favorite record store growing up?
JR: Jerry’s Records in the Bazaar of All Nations in Westbrook Park, Pennsylvania. I remember going in there and dropping a lot of money on records every time I made a few dollars, and a lot of those albums are now on Friday Music vinyl or CDs. I remember sitting on the floor and listening to “Abbey Road” the day it was released. I had no money, but the sales girl played the record for me and a friend because she knew my brother. Funny stuff: The manager later came in and tossed us out of the place. I was 8 years old.
GM: Share your best memory related to records.
JR: Records have been a big part of my life since the beginning. My late brother, Jim, gave me his Ray Charles albums when I was 4, and that turned me on to the blues. My sister gave me — or should I say I “borrowed” — her Beatles albums; my other brothers and relatives were always buying me records for birthdays or as Christmas gifts. I got the first Doors album when I was 8. There are a lot of memorable times that I can relate with almost every record I own. Throughout most of my life, I always carried a bag of records to radio stations every day of the week, throughout the ’80s into the new millennium. I wish that feeling of breaking hit records and the excitement of hearing it on the radio was still within everyone’s reach, but it’s almost gone. I was with the great Al Jarreau recently. We re-released his “L Is For Lover” CD, and we added his No. 1 single, “Moonlighting” to the disc. I was relating a story to him about originally working the tune at radio in 1987. I was so busy promoting the 45 that I never sat back and really listened to the simplicity and beauty of the lyrics. He stopped me right there and said, “Joe, you said something that both of us were very fortunate to be a part of: a hit record at radio; we were ‘working’ a record.” Truly “working” a record is a luxury gig these days, and that element of fun is missing from our business. But Friday Music is always working to deliver the goods on a daily basis, and I know it brings a lot of folks enjoyment so who could ask for more than that? We’re truly blessed, and I thank God every day for the gift of music. GM