Jerry Heller, Eazy E & NWA (Part 1)

I had the privileged of being born the cousin of Jerry Heller.  Jerry’s dad and my mom were brother and sister.  When I was in high school in Columbus Ohio going into my senior year, I spent a couple of weeks staying with Jerry on Palm Drive right off the Sunset Strip. He was the talent agent at that time for The Animals, Guess Who, Grass Roots, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd and he booked Elton John for his first US date at The Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd.

He took me to the Whiskey a Go Go as it was called then and I was sitting in a booth with Jerry, Eric Burden and Hilton Valentine, the original guitarist in the Animals.  Poco was on stage and it Blew My Mind! I was never the same and knew eventually I would come out to California to live.  In Columbus I was already playing guitar and performing in Jr. High and High School  California Dreaming, California Girls and all the west coast music.

In the mid 70’s I was performing at a big three story night club called Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon on the Ohio State Campus. Country Rock was very big back then and this place Rocked.  300 capacity and packed all the time, even lined out of the door.  I was a solo artist and the band that ruled central Ohio was McGuffey Lane.

I called Jerry from Columbus and told him how great they were and he flew in from LA to Columbus to check them out.  He loved the group,they were a lot like the Eagles and a few weeks later he flew the lead singer Bobby Jean McNalley to Los Angeles to try to secure them a record deal. This was the first time Bobby had ever been on an airplane, he was very “country” and the trip blew his mind.  Jerry took him around to all the major labels but the deal never happened, until a year later when the group signed with Atco Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records.  McGuffey Lane is still a big draw in Ohio but three of the band members, Bobby Jean, Tebes & Dickie Smith all died way to young, but those are stories for another Blog.

Years later after I moved out to Los Angeles in the mid 80’s and Jerry was managing the most dangerous group in the world led by Rap Icon Eric “Eazy E” Wright and that group was NWA  “Niggaz Wit Attitudez.”  I was managing my first act, a heavy metal band at the time called Hurricane and Jerry would bring over cassettes of “Straight Outta Compton, Fuck Tha Police & Boyz-in-Da-Hood” before they were pressed up.   I thought he was crazy, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I told him you can’t say “Fuck The Police” on record and no DJ will play it and 4 or 5 other reasons why it wont work.  He said calmly “This group is going to be the biggest rap group in the world”.  These are the Rolling Stones of the new generation, This will take over Rock & Roll, and I saw the whole thing happen.

Well Hurricane was the first band I ever managed. I got them a record deal, publishing deal, talent agent and I got two of my friends who happened to be two of the biggest producers in the world to produce their second album for a fraction of their rate. Mike Clink just got done producing Guns & Roses ‘Appetite For Destruction” and Bob Ezrin produced Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lou Reed and  The Wall for Pink Floyd. We were touring all over the U.S, selling albums, lot’s of MTV views, it was all going great.   As the group was ascending and every thing was going great the band fired me and went with Rod Stewart’s managers.

I was so pissed I called Jerry and he said fuck those guys, come work for me and help us co ordinate the first Eazy E/ NWA  American  tour. I had had 10 years of road experience at that time and I needed a job so I jumped on board.  I was not into rap, especially west Coast Gangsta Rap. I was and still am a 60’s Beatles, Eagles, Motown classic rock kind of guy.

Jerry wanted me to meet the group. Eazy had some ideas of staging, lighting & sound and he wanted me to put it all together.  He told me to meet them at Factors Famous Deli on Pico. Lot’s of our meetings were at deli’s.  Well I got there first, not sure what to expect. In walks some of the scariest looking guys I had ever seen.  Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DY Yella and the entourage, Laylaw, Big Ron, Mark “Big Man” Rucker & a couple other  gigantic bodyguards.

I met all the guys and told them a little about myself, my road & production experience and then Eazy grab’s a napkin and magic marker and proceeds’s to  draw exactly what he wanted……..police tape across the front of the stage, 2 garbage cans with fire coming out of them, chain link fence with graffiti behind them, two 12’ risers for two go-go girls, and white chalk outline of dead bodies on the floor. He knew exactly what he wanted. And I knew what I wanted, to go to work for Jerry & Eazy, this was some brand new cutting edge shit, and I got thrown right in the middle of it.

(To Be Continued…..)