Bryndle broke up in 1970, quite discouraged by a bad experience with A&M records. So many stories start this way. Kenny Edwards and Andrew Gold went to work with Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonoff retreated to writing songs (some for Linda) and I kept making music, with Chuck Plotkin as my producer. He had negotiated a lease on a cool studio down on Santa Monica Blvd, Clover Recorders, which was owned by some old jazz guys, drum makers, and mighty users of contraband.
Their deal was that every Thursday was for them. The rest of the time, we made records. We were prescient, I think, because we were tracking songs with no record deal and no prospect of one, but at the time (ironically just like I am today) we were music first, business hopefully later.
In 1972, Maria Muldaur released a solo album on Warner Brothers, then the “Cadillac” of all new record labels. The label was headed up by Mo Ostin, and the head of A&R was the brilliant Lenny Waronker, who also produced Maria, Randy Newman and others. Warners in those days - it’s like looking back on Camelot. Artists of extreme merit, sales not figuring into the equation - were signed there: Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Maria, Frank Zappa on his affiliated label, Captain Beefheart, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Carly Simon, America, The Doobie Brothers, the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Alice Cooper, Rickie Lee Jones, Black Sabbath and more. I remember then vice president of Warner Brothers, Joe Smith, telling me one night, “Black Sabbath is paying for all of you.”
Maria Muldaur had discovered my songwriting, and she included, on her first multi platinum record, two songs of mine, “Mad Mad Me," and “Vaudeville Man.” We had recorded these tunes at Chuck’s studio on Santa Monica Blvd, and we recorded a few more as well. Maria went on to record other songs of mine on subsequent records, and a few other artists picked up on some of my music as well, Judy Collins recording “Pirate Ships” at that time.
We took this half an album to Lenny Waronker at Warner Brothers, and he signed me to a deal, giving us money to finish the album. We were able now to assemble an all star cast of players on this album, not only my great colleagues Kenny Edwards, Andrew Gold, Karla Bonoff, the marvelous and not well known Steve Ferguson, but also Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, the great bassist Wilton Felder, violinist/arranger David Campbell, and the fabulous horn section consisting of Jim Horn, Jackie Kelso, and Chuck Findley. We had a few other wonderful singers on this project too: Maria Muldaur, Greg Prestopino, and my old colleague Carmi Simon on mandolin too.
Chuck pushed me to write string and horn parts, which of course, I’d never done. I did so on several tunes, with Jim Horn circling the unnecessary parts in red pencil: “Lee’s Traveling Song,” “Love Has Got Me,” “Can’t Come In,” “Old Time Love,” and “Waiting for the Rain." But Chuck also convinced me to ask my father, Fred Steiner, much admired composer of the Perry Mason Theme and other iconic music—to write arrangements for “Pirate Ships," “Thinking of You," and “Gringo en Mexico."
It was an eclectic but completely natural, honest record. It was unlike anything else coming out of LA at that time because of the orchestral, almost jazz-tinged side of things - it sold extremely well, for example, in Boston where such music was readily acceptable. I was very young and green, but I was quite determined when it came to the music. Truth, I was probably too young to be putting out records then, but that’s how it was in those days.
This album set the stage for my entire life: It was released in the fall of 1973, and to my amazement, Rolling Stone featured it as its big spread, calling it the “Singer Songwriter Debut of the Year” in a generous and detailed piece written by the great music/film critic Stephen Holden. Though it’s true that I never became a “pop star,” the acceptance of my music at a critical level, and the fan base that really got it - have carried me to this day, and I have never stopped writing nor working. Because I didn’t become an overnight sensation, I was and have been forced my whole life to continue searching, studying, trying, playing different positions on the team, and trying to stretch. All in all, I owe this entire career to Love Has Got Me, and the great team that supported it.
One last note in this lengthy discourse: The original Bryndle had recorded an album on A&M (unreleased) of some interesting, if immature work, with our cool vocal harmonies. To hear exactly what we sounded like with our rhythm section (as opposed to just the four of us), “Train Song” on Love Has Got Me is the original Bryndle.