Snuff Garrett

Last updated

Snuff Garrett
Birth nameThomas Lesslie Garrett
Born(1938-07-05)July 5, 1938
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
DiedDecember 16, 2015(2015-12-16) (aged 77)
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
  • Disc jockey
  • Record producer
  • Singer

Thomas Lesslie Garrett (July 5, 1938 – December 16, 2015) known as Snuff Garrett or Tommy Garrett, was an American record producer whose most famous work was during the 1960s and 1970s.


Early years

Garrett was born in Dallas, Texas, United States, [1] and attended South Oak Cliff High School, dropping out in the 10th grade. [2] In 1976, he returned to Dallas to receive a special high school diploma that conferred an "honorary music degree." [3]


At seventeen, Garrett was a disc jockey in Lubbock, Texas, where he met Buddy Holly. He is often still mentioned on the Lubbock oldies station KDAV on a program hosted by his friend Jerry "Bo" Coleman. Garrett also worked in radio in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he performed on-air stunts. On February 3, 1959, Garrett broadcast his own tribute show to Holly after he was killed (along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper) in a plane crash in Iowa. [4]

In 1959, Garrett became a staff producer at Liberty Records in Hollywood at the age of 19, after having joined the label to work in the promotions department. Although not a musician, Garrett showed he had a knack for finding hit songs, going on to produce a string of hits and becoming the label's head of A&R until he left Liberty in 1966. His first job as producer for the label was on Johnny Burnette's "Settin' the Woods on Fire" on July 9, 1959. Among Garrett's roster of artists were Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Gene McDaniels, Buddy Knox, Walter Brennan, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, and Del Shannon. [5]

Garrett was invited early on to produce the Monkees before they had become a major selling act, but a test session did not go well, with the Monkees preferring to work with Boyce and Hart, writers of "Last Train to Clarksville" and the Monkees' theme song.

He was also responsible for hiring Phil Spector for a short period as an assistant producer. Many of Garrett's hit singles came from songs by the Brill Building songwriters in New York City. Others who worked closely with Garrett include future recording star Leon Russell, who often arranged his productions, [5] and Lenny Waronker, Liberty co-founder Simon Waronker's son who became a producer in his own right and eventually president of Warner Bros. Records. Later, after leaving Liberty, Garrett worked with Cher and Sonny & Cher and had his own record labels, Snuff Garrett Records and Viva Records, which the catalog was licensed to Warner Bros during the 1980s. [5]

Between 1961 and 1969, Garrett produced The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett, a series of over 25 instrumental albums on Liberty Records featuring solo guitar work by Tommy Tedesco, six of which appeared on the Billboard Top LPs chart. [6]

In 1966, Garrett produced an album by singer-songwriter Sonny Curtis on the Viva label, The 1st of Sonny Curtis, which contains some of Curtis' most popular tunes, including "Walk Right Back" (an Everly Brothers hit). Other tracks that came out of this session are "My Way of Life", "Hung Up in Your Eyes", and "I Fought the Law and the Law Won".[ citation needed ] In 1966–67, Garrett and J. J. Cale co-produced A Trip Down the Sunset Strip (attributed to the Leathercoated Minds), a compilation of psychedelic covers, together with four instrumentals of Cale's own composition. [5]

In addition to his hits with Sonny & Cher for Kapp Records and MCA Records in the 1970s, Garrett also produced Vicki Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" for Bell Records (a song written by Lawrence's then-husband Bobby Russell), and Tanya Tucker's "Lizzie and the Rainman" for MCA. Both of these songs had been intended for Cher; but her husband and manager at the time, Sonny Bono, thought it might offend Cher's Southern fans. [7] Other artists produced by Garrett in the 1970s included Brenda Lee and "singing cowboy" Roy Rogers. These recordings and others marked a shift by Garrett away from pop-rock toward the easy-listening "countrypolitan" sound.[ citation needed ]

Garrett worked regularly with the Johnny Mann Singers and the Ron Hicklin Singers on many projects, and was responsible for the new sound of the Ray Conniff Singers in the early 1970s (which employed the Hicklin Singers), producing two albums with Conniff. Garrett also produced several tracks by Nancy Sinatra in the mid-1970s that were issued by Private Stock Records. In 1976, Garrett set up a sublabel of Casablanca Records, Casablanca West.[ citation needed ] The label released just one album and two singles before folding. In 1978, Garrett produced the country-oriented soundtrack of Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way but Loose , which appeared on Garrett's latter-day label, Viva Records.

In 1976, when home video was in its infancy, Garrett bought cassette rights to the old RKO, Republic and Hal Roach (Laurel and Hardy) films for what United Press International termed "a pittance." By 1980, the 800-title library of his company, The Nostalgia Merchant, was earning $2.3 million a year. "Nobody wanted cassettes four years ago...It wasn't the first time people called me crazy. It was a hobby with me which became big business", Garrett told UPI. [8]

Garrett lived in Bell Canyon, California, in a ranch built for himself. [9]


Garrett died of cancer in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 77. [10]


Garrett was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame on November 14, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johnny Burnette</span> American musician

John Joseph Burnette was an American singer and songwriter of rockabilly and pop music. In 1952, Johnny and his brother, Dorsey Burnette, and their mutual friend Paul Burlison formed the band that became known as the Rock and Roll Trio. His career was cut short on August 14, 1964, when he was killed in a boat crash at age 30.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liberty Records</span> US and UK record label

Liberty Records was a record label founded in the United States by chairman Simon Waronker in 1955 with Al Bennett as president and Theodore Keep as chief engineer. It was reactivated in 2001 in the United Kingdom and had two previous revivals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sunset Records</span>

Sunset Records was a record label started in 1965 as the budget album subsidiary of Liberty Records to reissue and issue material originally recorded for Liberty, Imperial, Minit and other Liberty subsidiaries as well as leased material from other entities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buddy Knox</span> American musical artist

Buddy Wayne Knox was an American singer and songwriter, best known for his 1957 rock hit song, "Party Doll".

Lenny Waronker is an American record producer and music industry executive. As the president of Warner Bros. Records, and later, as the co-chair of DreamWorks Records, Waronker was noted for his commitment to artists and his belief that "music, not money, was still number one."

Jackie Ward, better known as Robin Ward, is an American singer, regarded as a "one-hit wonder" of 1963 million-selling song "Wonderful Summer". However, using her real name she was highly accomplished and successful singing in groups. Ward's voice is heard in U.S. television series, motion pictures, advertisements, and pop records. She is one of the real singers of the hits attributed to The Partridge Family.

<i>Chér</i> (1971 album) 1971 studio album by Cher

Chér is the self titled seventh studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released in September 1971 by Kapp Records. For this album, Cher left her husband Sonny Bono to produce the album, and for the first time she collaborated with Snuff Garrett and with Al Capps for the arrangements. The album was retitled after the success of the single of the same name. It received positive reviews from critics, and the RIAA certified it Gold on July 2, 1972. The album was her first and most successful album of the 70s. Two singles were released from the album, "The Way of Love" and "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves", both reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

<i>Foxy Lady</i> (Cher album) 1972 studio album by Cher

Foxy Lady is the eighth studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released in July 1972 by Kapp Records. Following the commercial success of the previous album Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, Cher again collaborated with Snuff Garrett (producer), Al Capp (arrangements) and her then-husband Sonny Bono (co-producer). Foxy Lady was also the second and last record for Kapp. The album was also promoted on Cher's successful The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour show. After its release, it was well received by critics, but unlike her previous effort Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves, had only moderate chart and sales success.

<i>Half-Breed</i> (album) 1973 studio album by Cher

Half-Breed is the tenth studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released in September, 1973 by MCA. For the production of the album Cher returned with Snuff Garrett and Al Capps. Half-Breed was her second record for MCA and was promoted on her successful The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour television show. After its release, the album faced mixed reviews from critics, and the RIAA certified it gold on March 4, 1974. The album was her second solo album to receive a certification by RIAA.

<i>Dark Lady</i> (album) 1974 studio album by Cher

Dark Lady is the 11th studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released in May 1974 by MCA. Cher again collaborated with Snuff Garrett as a record producer, and with Al Capps for the arrangements. Dark Lady was the third and final studio album for MCA. It was also the last record promoted on her successful The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour show. After its release, the album received positive reviews from critics but, unlike her previous record produced by Garrett, was only moderately successful.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dark Lady (song)</span> 1974 single by Cher

"Dark Lady" is a pop rock song recorded by American singer-actress Cher, and the title selection from her eleventh studio album, Dark Lady. Written and composed by John Robert "Johnny" Durrill and produced by Snuff Garrett, it was released as the album's first single in early 1974. The song became Cher's third solo U.S. #1 hit on March 22, 1974.

<i>With Love, Chér</i> 1967 studio album by Cher

With Love, Chér is the fourth studio album by American singer-actress Cher, released on November 1967 by Imperial Records. The album was a moderate commercial success and reached number 47 on the US Billboard 200

<i>If I Could Turn Back Time: Chers Greatest Hits</i> 1999 greatest hits album by Cher

If I Could Turn Back Time: Cher's Greatest Hits is the fourth U.S. compilation album by American singer-actress Cher, released on March 9, 1999 by Geffen. In January 2000, the album was certified Gold by the RIAA for selling more than 500,000 copies in the US. Billboard stated in November 2011 that the album had sold 955,000 copies in the US.

<i>Backstage</i> (album) 1968 studio album by Cher

Backstage is the fifth album by American singer-actress Cher, released in July 1968 by Imperial Records. This album was her first commercial failure, failing to chart. The album is by-and-large a covers album.

<i>Cherished</i> 1977 studio album by Cher

Cherished is the 14th studio album by American singer-actress Cher released in September 1977 by Warner Bros. Records. This album, like several other predecessors, was a commercial failure and failed to chart.

<i>Greatest Hits</i> (Cher album) 1974 greatest hits album by Cher

Greatest Hits is the third greatest hits compilation by American singer-actress Cher, released in October 1974 by MCA Records. The album was released to close Cher's contract with MCA, her record company since 1971. This release follows the greatest hits albums Golden Greats (1968) and Superpack (1972). The album peaked at 152 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The Ron Hicklin Singers were a group of Los Angeles studio singers contracted and organized by Ron Hicklin. They are mostly known as the real singers behind the background vocals on The Partridge Family recordings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves</span> 1971 single by Cher

"Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" is a song by American singer and actress Cher from her 1971 seventh studio album Chér. Kapp Records, a division of MCA Records, released it as the album's lead single on September 1, 1971. The song was written by Bob Stone, and produced by Snuff Garrett. Since Sonny Bono's first attempts at reviving Cher's recording career had been unsuccessful, the record company recruited Garrett as her producer and he chose Stone to write a song specifically for Cher, in order to cater to an adult audience.

<i>All I Ever Need Is You</i> (1971 Sonny & Cher album) 1972 studio album by Sonny & Cher

All I Ever Need Is You is the fourth studio album by American pop duo Sonny & Cher, released in 1972 by Kapp/MCA Records. The album reached number 14 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold for the sales of 500,000 copies.

<i>This Diamond Ring</i> (album) 1965 studio album by Gary Lewis & the Playboys

This Diamond Ring is the debut studio album by American band Gary Lewis & the Playboys, and was released in 1965 on Liberty Records, LRP-3408. It is the first of three charting albums released by the band in 1965.


  1. "Snuff Garrett, 76". Classic Images (488): 46. February 2016.
  2. "Snuff Garrett Covets Diploma". Del Rio News Herald. Texas, Del Rio. December 2, 1976. p. 11. Retrieved February 24, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  3. "Suff Garrett gets diploma". Texas, Corsicana. Corsicana Daily Sun. December 16, 1976. p. 19. Retrieved February 24, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  4. "Rock Radio Scrapbook: 1959 airchecks". Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 946. ISBN   0-85112-939-0.
  6. Whitburn, Joel (2006). Joel Whitburn Presents The Billboard Albums (6th ed.). Record Research Inc. p. 400. ISBN   978-0898201666.
  7. Bronson, Fred (1988). "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia". The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. New York: Billboard Books. ISBN   978-0823076772.
  8. Scott, Vernon (October 11, 1980). "Nostalgia King". United Press International.
  9. Home of the Day: Bell Canyon ranch built for record producer Snuff Garrett,, Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  10. Roberts, Sam (December 23, 2015). "Snuff Garrett, Record Producer Who Made a String of Hits, Dies at 77". The New York Times .