Interview with Arthur Godfrey
[When we first met, I didn't recognize Arthur. People frequently don't look like their press photos. He excused himself, as he had a stamped addressed postcard to his wife that he was walking over to the reception desk to have added to the morning post. Although never on stage, Arthur does stutter somewhat in one to one conversation. We handled that without any ado, and began a fast friendly discourse. He was very warm, and diffidently engaging, with a strong Boston accent.]
Arthur Godfrey: I was lucky in November, I found out that I had placed second in the Billboard International Song Contest in the Country/Folk division. It was with a song "Danielle," from the East Side of Town CD. This contest stipulated that entrants could not have made more than ten thousand dollars that year from songwriting. Not from gigging, but publishing. By contrast, the Lennon contest was open to everyone, regardless. I believe that contest to be hundreds of thousands strong. In the Billboard contest, there are eight categories. The Folk and Country categories are combined, for instance. They take the top three winners from each category, and they appear at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, which was a thrill for me. The biggest deal for me was that all 24 winners are placed on the Billboard CD of the Year, which went out to 500 of the biggest Music Reps in the business, from radio and press to management and booking. And I liked the way they treated the first, second, and third place finishers equally. It was an amazing year. I only entered two song contests this year; I won one and placed second in the other. And I entered each of them a day or two before the deadline.
The Lennon Contest had twelve categories, but only the top finishers won prizes. We all got a contract with EMI [with a 5k advance], Yamaha recording gear, and a $2000 cash prize. We all go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in June for a big ceremony, and Maxell presents an additional $20,000 prize to the song they consider the overall winner. [Lennon contest website is www.jlsc.com] The judges in the Lennon contest include celebrities like Elton John and Billy Joel. Yoko started it five years ago in John's memory. You get a letter from her agency embracing you into the family that says, "It is our goal now to help you achieve your dream of being a songwriter, in John's memory."
Yoko came through the Monterey [CA] area last year with a lot of John's paintings, and 15 of his songs that he had handwritten, and made a thousand prints of each one, beautifully framed. Before the prints, they made 24 total proofs. [We go through a rather long ordering process with our waitress, and Arthur returns with full attention to the spot where he left off, as if no break had occurred.] They had stuff ranging from a $500 scribble of John's to very expensive paintings. I love the song "I'm So Tired," and they'd already sold 987 of the thousand prints of that song, since they'd been to many cities on the tour. I explained to the lady my love for John and his work, and she made it possible for me to purchase one of the 24 proofs, the one for "I'm So Tired," which I have on my piano at home. So I'm looking at this amazing document, signed by John and Yoko, when the call comes in about having won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Maybe that sounds corny, but it was surreal.
Puremusic: When you got the call, was it out of the blue, or had you some warning?
AG: Well, I'd just hit the Billboard thing, and I had a good feeling. About a month ago, I received a call that said I was in the running, that I'd made the final 25. So I just wanted to place. They said the winners would be going up on the Internet at midnight, I think, it was going to be 9 p.m. California time. It was a couple of weeks ago, on a Tuesday. I checked the web at 9:01, and it said "Grand Prize Winner: Arthur Godfrey." You just go into shock, you know. continue