Roger Meltzer

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Roger is the Founding CEO, and Director of Artists & Repertoire (A&R) at Capsicum Records, as well as the driving force behind bringing the Hartford, CT-based indie label to life. Now globally recognized, its Reggae-In-Fusion sound -- blends of r&b, funk, pop, rock, country, gospel, folk and smooth jazz genres with reggae rhythms -- was his creation, a unique amalgam of Roger's eclectic influences and training. A former staff writer-producer-arranger at The Sound of Philadelphia/Philadelphia International Records, Meltzer was the recipient of the 2016 Tropicalfete Award of Excellence at a ceremony at the Brooklyn School of Music last December.
 
He co-wrote 10 of the songs on the inaugural "Reggae-In-Fusion Album#1" co-produced 11 of the songs, and tirelessly promoted our music and our artists in the US, Jamaica, and around the world, including giving scores of radio interviews every month and co-sponsoring the 2010 Excellence in Music and Entertainment (EME) awards in Kingston (sometimes called the Jamaican Grammys) where he also presented the Female Vocalist of the Year Award to Cherine Anderson. As Director of A & R, Roger works to attract new artists to the label, match artists with the right songs, authorize production budgets, and schedule release dates for all recorded product. He is also responsible for obtaining copyright protection for all original repertoire, or mechanical recording license rights to all previously published repertoire, as well as securing "sync deals" and performance rights licensing royalties for airplay and live performances.
 
While other white kids his age were listening to the early rock and pop sounds of the ‘50s and ‘60s, Roger grew up listening to Stax-VoltMotown, and The Sound of Philadelphia. That raw edgy rhythm and blues music gloved in silk on the right-hand side of the AM radio dial fired his imagination and touched his emotions, eventually becoming his first love, transcending its historic connection and structure from Afro-Cuban rhythms, the call and response shouts and hollers of slaves, and the choirs of the Black church to reach into his own latent musical soul. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising that when Roger began to express himself musically, that the genre he first chose was R&B. With the exception of his parents’ classical, opera, religious music and Broadway record collection, R&B was, in fact, all he knew. It was nearly 20 years before Roger expanded his taste and experience to include other genres.
 
"When I started writing song lyrics in the mid- '70s, it was just to see if I could do it; I had no idea what I would do with them or where that might lead."
 
A close friend and devoted fan for many years of the late South Philadelphia’s renowned Buddah recording artist Davy Morris, one night Roger showed Morris a few original song lyrics he’d written.
 
“I asked him to tell me straight up if I should be writing songs or selling insurance. I promised to abide by his critique. And I would have, too. But Davy read them over during a 20-minute break between sets and asked me if he could take a shot at composing them. I was dumbstruck and flattered he thought they were even worth his time, and even more so the following week when we cut five songs together and then ‘sold’ three of them from the little piano and 4-track vocal demos we did at home. I was in complete disbelief and hooked at the same time"
 
Walter Kahn took two pieces for some artists he was producing for Casablanca Records at his studios in Queen Village, and Davy’s boyhood friend, Billy Paul, who’d won a Grammy for “Me and Mrs. Jones,” sat in one night at Pavio’s in Bustleton where Davy was performing, and he took one, too.
 
"It wasn’t just Davy. Some guys I met who wrote for the Trammps (Alan Felder andBunny Harris) and another guy who did strings and horns arrangements for LTD(Bobby Martin) also told me I had a natural gift."
 
When initially invited by his idol Kenny Gamble (now Luqman Abdul-Haqq) to join the staff of Philadelphia International Records in 1977, first as a staff writer with Mighty Three Music and later as a staff producer-arranger with Gamble-Huff Productions. Roger was almost exclusively a lyricist.
 
“I have rhythm, but I am not a musician. When I started there, I didn’t know the difference between a bass line, a chord progression and a melody. I either wrote words to be composed, or sometimes I wrote words that someone else’s chords or melody notes put in my head. But back then there was a virtual line down the middle of my mind that, as a non-musician, I thought was impossible to cross. My lyrics had rhythm - but they wrote the music – a complete enigma to me. I had all this music in me, but no way to play it, demonstrate it, explain it. So every day I’d ask these ‘how high is up?’ questions like: ‘how does adding the seventh change the feel of the chord? why does flatting the third make it a minor chord? why does playing the fourth in the bass give it that jazz feel? why does flatting the fifth make it bluesy?’why does going back and forth between major and minor chords create a musical tension? -- I mean hundreds of them every day. I was so hungry to learn my craft; I knew some guys would see me coming down the hall, duck into a writer’s room and lock the door, but they just knew so much. How would I ever learn it? I'm sure I drove them crazy. Guys like Bill Bloom should be sainted for their patience.”
 
But in becoming a songwriting protégé of Gamble, with daily mentoring to hone his craft from Thom Bell, Bruce HawesSlim (Sherman) Marshall, and Gene McFadden & John Whitehead, along with input from Bill Paul, Jerry Butler and Lou Rawls, Roger was soon asked by other creative staff with not too thinly-veiled resentment, “Why don’t you go write pop or country songs -- this is our thing; we can’t go to Nashville; why come here and take the food off our plate?” Time and again he would explain to those he had admired for years (but whom he now battled daily for that hit single, that “B side” or that album cut on a roster artist), that he didn’t know any other way to make his songs come out except how he heard them in his head, and how he heard them in his head was in R & B.
 
“I didn't even realize that you could produce the same song in almost any other genre. Looking back at it now, of course my stuff sounded like theirs,” Roger explains. “We were all using the same MFSB studio musicians, the same Sigma Sound Studios engineers, and I was simply emulating what I ‘knew’ – unconsciously or deliberately. The bass lines were melodic. The drums and percussion were samba-like. The strings first entered in the second verse or the lift. An oboe could be counter-point to trail the lead. The horns were punctuation. They had been shaping my tastes and my instincts for years.”
 
Like Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell, though, John Whitehead was truly color-blind when it came to talent. As Roger notes, “Billy Paul stepped forward very early on my behalf and told Leon Huff he wanted to record something I’d written with Davy Morris -- I think it was “While There Is Still A Little Time” -- but, even though I’m rarely at a loss for words – what lyricist is? -- John’s life and senseless murder years later touched me in ways I can’t begin to explain.
 
“In my early days at PIR, when I was virtually shunned by almost everyone but KayGee, and with Thom Bell almost always out in Seattle, it was John who would put a buzz in the ear of one artist or another, and say, “You really gotta get with Meltzer and listen to his stuff. The guy can write. He knows your voice. He’ll get you a hit. These other guys all hold back their best stuff waiting for the artists who already ship platinum. He’s not like that. He’ll give you his best songs and just write new ones for the next project they put up on the board. Go on, check him out.”
 
Eventually Roger won them over, his resolve strengthened by the struggle. But unable to get the prolific volume of material he wrote recorded, he left on amicable terms at the end of 1979, going independent, growing musically, and collaborating again with Davy Morris and ever since with a variety of R & B (including with many other former TSOP staff), pop, country rock, union, Christian contemporary/gospel and reggae singer-songwriters to broaden the market for his hooky lyrics and melodies, repeatedly hitting various charts, including Billboard – over 60 times -- in all these genres. Over time, a lot of artists in different genres have “checked him out” and liked his songs. Roger also learned the business side of the music business first from Gamble and then by going independent. With the advent of the internet and the development of music sites and music downloads, he saw the potential to exploit this new way of selling music. 
 
Along the way, he met reggae icon Bob Marley, fell in love with reggae music, and found reggae allowed him to incorporate the other sounds he loved. From these elements Roger started Capsicum Records and its Reggae-in-Fusion sound from which the iconic DJ Richie B later coined "roots on the bottom, and pop on the top."
 
"Reggae is not some ethnic niche genre. It's not polka. Reggae is pop music. Reggae a like an' peas, mon. It a go wit' er'ryt'ing." Meltzer says with a smile. "Yeah, mon, mi a chat inna patois."
 
Among his greatest “influences and inspirations,” in reggae Meltzer cites Marley, Dennis BrownGarnet SilkDavid Hinds (Steel Pulse) and Maxi Priest; in pop, Neil DiamondPaul SimonBilly Joel, John LennonAlan and Marilyn BergmannSandy Linzer; in blue-eyed soul, Hall & Oates, Wayne Cochran, and Bill Medley (Righteous Brothers); in country, George JonesGeorge StraitGarth BrooksLonestar andRascal Flatts; in jazz/rock-funk Santana, Sly and Hendrix. “In R & B, the list is so long; but obviously coming from Philly it includes Kenny Gamble, Thom Bell, Linda Creed, Jerry Butler, Sherman Marshall, McFadden & Whitehead, and Bruce Hawes. But I can’t forget Otis ReddingMarvin Gaye, Philippe Wynn (Spinners), Lamont Dozier, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, the Iseleys, James Brown, Bobby Womack, Bill Withers, Latimore.
 
"I’m unashamedly old school, and they ARE still real music to me.

 

         

Roger Meltzer and Joseph Everton                  Roger Meltzer and

 "Reality" Weekes                                              "Ifield" Joseph