The Tale of Onus Records

“I can tell you the whole story of Onus Records in two buildings,” says Tommy Globbit with a mixture of pride and resignation.

Where the original dream died.

Where the original dream died.

We walk a few blocks from the dive bar where we were just day drinking down West Hatcher Road until we are standing in a little patch of dirt, weeds and broken glass. I’m staring at a boarded up building that reads “Sunnyslope Auto Upholstery” with a couple of plastic letters missing. Ok, just one letter missing.

“This is where the dream died,” says Tommy. “This is where my grandfather Viral Globbit started the original Onus Records back in 1972. When it failed, he sold his eight-track recording machine, told the few R&B bands he’d signed they were free to go and then he lived the last 20 years of his life a bitter, twisted wreck of a man. His dreams of being the white Berry Gordy in tatters, he did what Berry Gordy might have done had Tamla Records crashed and burned in 1960. He went into the auto upholstery business.”

onus no 2I try my best to wrap my head around this incredible story. “Hold up, you have a grandfather named Viral?”

“Yes,” says Tommy, a bit perturbed. “Grandpa Viral was a great appreciator of soul music and the Bakersfield Sound too if you can believe it. After about nine failed 45 releases, he gave up trying to combine those two conflicted loves.”

In the Globbit family, music appreciation indeed would appear to have skipped a generation as Tommy’s father, the only slightly more sensibly named Abbot Globbit, became an investment broker who wanted nothing to do with music. Or auto upholstery for that matter.

“My Dad, he can’t even whistle. I guess because of Grandpa Viral’s overriding passion, music just pissed Dad off. Made him mad. Had the Onus label generated any income, Dad might’ve been happier about it. Against his approval or knowledge, I decided to take some of the insurance money I got when I was t-boned by a car with faulty brakes to realize my grandfather’s dream of starting a record label. Although the goal this time around will be to not make any money by design. Then no one will be disappointed.”

“That’s crazy,” I tell him. “You’re just gonna be a patron of the arts in Sunnyslope, an area more known for crystal meth than soul music and you’re gonna blow your settlement money on a record label that doesn’t generate any income.”

“Well, when you put it that way, I guess it does sound kind of stupid,” agrees Tommy. “But I want this. I want this for my grandfather as well as me.I can make it work. Any record company can work if you eliminate the profit motive and keep the pride motive alive.”

Tommy senses I am looking at him like a man with two heads but doesn’t seem to care.

“Look,” he says. “I can name you any number of great record labels and all of them were ruined by money. Motown killed the golden goose when it closed shop in Detroit and moved operations to Los Angeles to make movies. Stax was ruined by taking out too many loans and having to answer to bankers. Every great record label was ruined by the influx of money people who didn’t care a lick about the music. That’s why when the public got the chance to stick it to the money people who gobbled the record labels up, they drove the whole record industry to the brink of bankruptcy.”

“So who are you gonna sign to this label? Musicians who don’t care about making money?”

“I’m gonna sign musicians who love music. Musicians looking to make money are in the wrong business anyway.”

That point I have to concede. “So you’re not gonna press records?”

“No, that costs money. We’re just gonna make digital releases that we can give away and give back to the community without feeling the pinch. We’re operating with a very low overhead. And that’s where building number 2 comes in.”

Tommy reaches into his pocket and produces a glossy laser printout of his house with a ginormous neon sign that says “Onus Records”.

“The neighborhood watch made me take the neon sign down. Said it attracted too much attention to our block. Mind you, these are people who will call the police if your grass isn’t cut every Saturday. You don’t want to piss them off. But maybe after few years of doing this, if we produce enough quality music, if we put Sunnyslope soul on the map and show this neighborhood in a positive light, maybe I can get a permit to have it up on the roof again, flashing an hour or two a night. On second thought, it might be better just to wait until I can get National Historic Landmark status.”

“That might take some doing,” I say as we head up the driveway of Tommy’s house with the now-unadorned roof.

“Let me show you the recording space out back,” beamed Tommy as we walked through his yard to a little addition that could probably fit four people uncomfortably. A sign on the back wall reads “Jaula de tiburones.” I ask Tommy what it means. He says he doesn’t know, the house band put it there and it makes them laugh.

“Do you know some of our recording sessions, we’ve had up to six people and an engineer cramped in here,” he laughs. “They started calling this “The Shark Cage” because of the bars on the windows. As you can see it’s not soundproofed. or anything. We’ve got to record during the day when everyone in the neighborhood is at work.”

“So you have a house band, then?”

“It wouldn’t be an old-fashioned record label, if we didn’t have a house band,” laughs Tommy. “Know how I found these guys? You know when you need some carpentry or someone to put up a drywall? You drive down to Home Depot and get a bunch of guys who’ll work for cheap? Well one day I drive by Home Depot and what’s the harm in asking? I ask if any of those guys could play. And sure as I’m standing here, my word to God, I got myself a rhythm section. A killer rhythm section!”

“Wait! You have illegals working at your record label?”

“No, they’re legal. And they still needed the work. I had to break them from wanting to play Tejano music though. Sometimes I think if Onus Records just released Tejano music, we might even make a profit. But I have to catch myself.”

Onus Hit Record Formula Revised!

"Yes, but is it dumb enough?

“Yes, but is it dumb enough?

Our crack writing department (no jokes please) sat down, examined all the hit-making algorithms out there and streamlined these tenets to illustrate what Onus Records are looking for in a song:

1. Songs should be in a major key with an average of 135 beats per minute. 80% of the Billboard Hot 100 number one singles from 1960-2010 adhered to this formula and 2010 is probably the last time you bought a record also.

2. Songs in a minor key should end with a major chord.

3. All songs should take place is the present tense for more immediacy. Berry Gordy told that to Smokey Robinson upon signing him to Motown. This will insure we won’t have any sucky Bob Seger songs about remembering when he was a teenager.

4. All songs should be under 3:30 for today’s ADD audiences. Yeah, it’s a hard one to follow when you’re doing a slow number. But ask a friend if they thiink you are being over indulgent. Which you probably do on a regular basis anyway if this is a good friend.

5. Every song should have either a cowbell or a slide guitar to insure it appeals to the south.

hit26. Every bridge should transform the verse that follows it. If you don’t have a bridge, then at least consider a sax solo to keep the boomers interested that they are listening to the “music of the streets.”

7. The melody must be easy to whistle. Burt Bacharach adhered to that idea. If you can’t whistle a melody, you don’t have one.

8. A song can borrow from a pre-existing hit song as long as the borrowing is a blatantly obvious tip of the hat.

9. All songs should have background singers that are obviously not the lead singer. This one isn’t totally necessary. Marvin Gaye did multiple backgrounds all over his own records but if you’ve seen 50 Feet From Stardom, you don’t want to see Darlene Love cleaning other people’s houses again, do you?

10. Autotune must be featured somewhere in the song to insure the inauthenticity that today’s music listeners require.

11. Every song should have one easily recognizable dumb feature to keep things honest. Phil Spector used to ask flunky Sonny Bono “is it dumb enough” whenever playing back a new recording. But you want to stay at just one. You don’t want to overdo it andend up with a song that sounds like The Five Man Electrical Band wrote it. Huhhn!

12. Avoid the words “society,” “fantasy” and “badonkadonk.”

There. We hope we’ve inspired you to MAKE MUSIC NOT MONEY.

Audition scripts for SWIMMING IN THE HEAD

swimThank you for auditioning for this original musical. We’ve enclosed pdfs with brief passages by four of the main characters and the narrator. We ask that you practice this scene or scenes and work out a song which you think captures the mood of the scene and your singing ability at its best.

If you wish to fill a minor role as either an extra or a member of the chorus, please prepare a brief spoken or sung piece.

The  Male Leads

John “Scottie” Ferguson

Gavin Elster
gavin scene

The Female Leads

Madeline Elster/Judy Barton
judy madeline

Marjorie “Midge” Wood
midge scenes

Narrator (Male or female)

The 2015 Heavy Metal Television Awards

You are receiving this heads up because Heavy Metal Television is coming  on its third anniversary as the First Internet Television Network and the only 24/7 outlet for the World’s  Greatest Music .

You have been chosen to be one of the recipients of a Heavy Metal  Television Award because you have helped us some substantial way in 2015. This is a private party by invite only and will take place on November 14 in Mesa. When you and your guest R.S.V.P. , we will send you all the details and the undisclosed locaion in Mesa, which is where Heavy Metal Television first began.