An article written by Glyn Tucker
In 1986, long before the term “Hoff” had been coined, I was asked to record an album with a popular TV star, with a view to doing an extensive TV advertising promotion in the USA.
The partners who were funding the project had contacts in the USA who would facilitate the promotion and sale of the finished LP’s and cassettes. (CD’s were not yet fully established as the major format for music sales) A similar project had been successful in the USA with actor David Soul, famous from the Starsky and Hutch TV series, and so the partners went off searching for suitable actor/singer of similar talents. David Hasselhoff was a superstar at the time through his portrayal of Michael Knight in the hit TV series, Knight Rider. Michael Knight and his talking Kit car was a hit in 64 countries, including New Zealand, but by 1986 that series had come to an end. (much to the disappointment of millions of fans around the world) He seemed to have all the credentials, so long as he could sing. A deal was worked out with his management and my record label, Reaction Records was contracted to produce a record. I became Executive producer.
I got in touch with David and talked through possible music genres and requested a cassette of some of his previous vocal work, which included a performance with Marie Osmond at Disneyland, and a previous LP he had made called, “ Knight Rocker”. From these listening s I made a decision that we should make an album of love songs and ballads rather than rock. David had a huge female fan-base from his earlier performances on the TV soap, “The Young and the Restless”, and I was planning to exploit that market. I considered his voice more suited to this style. From there we began trawling through various songs that might suit, culminating in a long list of possibles.
I chose Bruce Lynch as the front line producer, and he in turn suggested getting Dave McRae to work with him on arrangements and do the keyboard parts. David duly arrived in Auckland a few weeks later along with his minder, Buddy, and they were accommodated in a nice house in Epsom. (thanks to Gray and Trish Bartlett) We all got together at Bruce Lynch’s home studio where a few days of “auditioning” songs, keys, arrangements took place. Once the track list was reduced to a short list, Bruce and Dave wrote the arrangement charts and prepared for recording. I booked the studio for the following week, and David took some vocal coaching lessons with local teacher Robyn Hill, to get his voice into shape. Although David was not a seasoned singer, his approach to his craft was always very professional.
As fate would have it, Gray Bartlett was touring New Zealand with the “Kit car” from the Knight Rider TV series at the same time as we were making the record. They were doing shopping malls and such, so that kids (and other fans) could sit in the car and have it talk to them. (nice trick, that) Gray arranged for Kit to visit the Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland, with David as well! He was so good with the kids, signing autographs and taking time to visit the sick children in the wards who were unable to make it down to the car park to see Kit. David was sporting an All Black jersey for the occasion; and in fact became a big fan of the AB’s.
David wanted to include two songs in Spanish, because the TV show had been so huge in South American countries. We hired a Spanish lecturer from Auckland University to sit in on the vocal sessions to check his pronunciation; it turned out to be a good move since some of his Spanish was a bit dodgy. Finally we completed the album four weeks from his time of arrival in Auckland, and masters were duly delivered to the American record company for them to ply their marketing expertise. The album was titled, “Lovin’ Feelings”.
Everybody liked David. I found him to be talented, with a great sense of humor, keen to get involved with Kiwi culture, and a pleasure to have around. He relied on Buddy to arrange his diary, book travel, and make sure he was on time for appointments. They were good “buddies”, working as a team.
The outcome of the USA promotion was disappointing to say the least. Before spending megabucks on a national campaign, it was usual to do a small test campaign on local TV to gauge the reaction. The chosen city for this test was Nashville, Tennessee, and the reaction was poor. This resulted in dumping the project in the USA. (which had been the whole focus of the recording)
I never understood why a sophisticated album of MORE love songs with two Spanish songs should be tested in Nashville, the home of country music. Regardless, we were left with a lemon, and the partners were not happy.
Although we had always targeted the USA as being our prime market, I took on the responsibility of pitching it to “the rest of the world”. I had been attending the MIDEM music festival in Cannes, France for several years (promoting NZ music) and saw this marketplace as the best opportunity to get interest from international record companies. January 1987 saw David Hasselhoff in Cannes with me, helping with the international pitch. It was an exciting week for me.
Business aside, trotting around Cannes with the Knight Rider (everybody knew David as his TV persona, Michael Knight) was akin to having Jesus as a buddy. No longer did I need to get in line at a restaurant. With Michael Knight at my side we would be ushered to the front of the line and got the best table. It was truly amazing how popular this man was in Europe. I managed to complete licensing deals with CBS Austria, and one with a Finland company, each with reasonable advances payable; and had several other interested countries that turned out to be not forthcoming with the up front money. So the Cannes trip gave us some hope of saving the project, at least in part.
On the way home I was invited to stay a few days at David’s home near Studio City LA. I met his lovely wife Catherine (since divorced), but she was mostly busy with very early-morning starts on the set of the “soap” series in which she starred. Their place had every luxury (as expected) and he was very hospitable; giving me his own Pontiac Trans Am (same as Kit) to get around LA. I took his housekeeper to Universal Studios in the Pontiac one day where they had the original Kit car on display, talking to the fans as we’d seen in Auckland. David also took me to a big-time boxing match; ringside seats at The Forum, where the place was jammed with celebrities who all knew David.
He introduced me to Sly and Frank Stallone, Floyd Patterson (ex Heavyweight World Champ), and I found myself sitting next to Michael Landon (Bonanza). It was a great night, although the local favorite, known as “Rocky” (very original) took a serious beating. David and I visited him in his dressing room after the fight. I overheard Sly Stallone telling the beaten fighter, “ You done good kid, just like Rocky!”
Over the ensuing weeks and months we continued to keep in touch whilst working on whatever promotions were currently happening in various places around the world. It was during these events that David made contact with a successful record producer in Germany. David consequently did some recordings in Germany culminating in a massive hit single in 1989, “Is Everybody Happy”. I must confess to being surprised that such a load of rubbish had made it to #1 on the German pop charts; but I was happy that David had a cracked it. Through this success, DH became an even bigger star in Germany than Michael Knight had been. And due to his popularity we managed to get few sales of our Lovin’ Feelings LP, imported from CBS, Austria.
In retrospect this was not a financially successful project for the partners, but it was a great experience for me, and my team who worked with David. And I can be proud that we made a pretty good record of it’s genre that still sounds good today.
Cheers to The Hoff.