April 27, 2002
Sigman Brings His Father Carl's Catalog Back
JIM BESSMAN Billboard Writer
YORK - Michael Sigman's departure in January from his longtime perch
as president/CEO of LA Weekly has returned him to the music business
in a big way. But Sigman, who once edited the now-defunct trade paper
Record World, is now into a different sort of music publishing.
__As president of Majorsongs (ASCAP), Sigman
is lovingly re-activating the catalog of his late father, Carl Sigman.
The company owns the Sigman share of many of the composer/lyricist's
800-plus copyrights, including such oft-recorded standards as "What
Now My Love," "It's All in the Game," "Enjoy Yourself,"
"(Where Do I Begin) Love Story," "Pennsylvania 6-5000,"
and "Crazy He Calls Me" and is taking back copyrights to other
Sigman songs like "Ebb Tide" as their renewals become due.
"I've long wanted to re-activate the company, especially over the
past year since my dad's death," says Sigman, whose father was
91 when he died in September 2000. "Majorsongs was largely just
a collection house, but once I had some free time, I started exploring
the current deals we had, along with the level of performances, film,
TV spots, covers, etc., for the important songs. I found that while
there was pretty good exposure for songs like 'Love Story,' 'It's All
in the Game,' and, surprisingly, 'Buona Sera' which is a hit for every
East European rock band many of the standards were clearly in need of
a push. In addition, there are a bunch of songs that were hits once
or twice, then faded, and could be ripe for reintroduction."
__To rejuvenate Majorsongs, Los Angeles-based
Sigman is looking at several options. "My goal is to find the best
partner to work the songs with me since I probably know the catalog
better and more passionately than anyone and have my share of contacts,"
he says. "Second, I'm putting together a four-disc boxed set of
the signature versions of the most important songs, along with some
lesser-known but wonderful recordings. So for 'Enjoy Yourself,' we'll
have not only Guy Lombardo but also the Specials. For 'It's All in the
Game,' we'll have Van Morrison in addition to Tommy Edwards. For 'What
Now, My Love,' not only will we have Sonny & Cher but also Mitch
Ryder. And third, I'm contacting places like the Smithsonian, Reader's
Digest, and other institutional entities which provide exposure for
__Sigman is also contacting other owners
or heirs of comparable "legacy" song catalog.
__"I want to build alliances or coalitions
with other people who are in similar situations to me," he says,
citing two whom he's already approached. "Will Bratton, who is
married to Doc Pomus' daughter, represents Pomussongs, and Molly Hyman,
the daughter of Bob Russell who collaborated with Dad on 'Crazy He Calls
Me' and 'Dance, Ballerina, Dance' and also wrote 'Do Nothing Till You
Hear From Me' with Duke Ellington and 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother'
represents Harrison Music."
__"The music business is in such a
state of flux now with the record business hurting, but the publishing
business is a place for opportunity, and I think that having a relationship
with other legacy catalogs makes for a whole greater than the sum of
its parts," Sigman continues. "And there are tons of people
out there [involved in] the great American songbook who need help because
of the many years that have gone by and many others with expertise in
catalog who have become available in the record business."
himself, of course, has only recently become available. "I can't
tell you how much I love being back in the business and having a connection
with my dad," he says. "It's such a cliché, but he
lives on in his songs: People don't know about him, because he shunned
publicity and barely left the house except to play golf which he did
until the end. So there's very little awareness by the public that the
same guy who wrote 'Pennsylvania 6-5000' also wrote 'Ebb Tide,' 'Love
Story,' and 'Dance, Ballerina, Dance.' But they know his songs."
__Another song Sigman sentimentally notes
is "Bongo, Bongo, Bongo (Civilization)," which his father
co-wrote with Bob Hilliard for the 1947 Broadway musical Angel in the
Wings and was memorably recorded by Louis Prima & His Orchestra.
__"Elaine Stritch got her first big
break singing it in the show," Sigman says of the novelty number,
"and I recently took my mom who's a young 75 to see her one-woman
show on Broadway. Mom and Dad met in the Brill Building, when she was
Louis Prima's secretary and he was writing songs for Louis, like 'Bongo,
Bongo, Bongo' and 'Buona Sera.' Next time I'm in New York, we're going
to sneak into the Brill Building and scatter some of my dad's ashes
in the lobby, the elevator, and if it's still there suite 507: Louis'