December 1966, London
What a way to end my year, speaking to Aretha Franklin who has signed a new contract with Atlantic Records in November. Using my Christmas bonus at Soul City is to call a favourite American R&B artist, I dial the overseas operator who dials the Detroit number at the bottom of the CBS publicity photo of Aretha.. ‘Hello, may I speak with Miss Franklin?’ I ask. Ted White, husband-manager responds, ‘Who’s calling?’ I reply, ‘David from London…’ Ted covers the phone, ‘Aretha, call from England!’ The next voice, the soft, quiet tones of a young woman who will play a major role in my life for the next 50+ years: ‘Hi,’ she says as I introduce myself as David, who had written to her months earlier. ‘I called to wish you a Merry Christmas,’ I say, nervously. Aretha, ‘I’ve never spoken to anyone in England before!’ she states. ‘You know, I just signed to Atlantic Records…’ I tell her that I read about it in Billboard. ‘I’m getting ready to record in January!’ I let Aretha know that I can’t wait to hear her new music and she adds she’s hoping to get to England soon… We wish each other season’s greetings, neither of us knowing that just a few weeks later, Aretha’s life will change forever and that the music she’s about to record will change mine too…and, that a demo of the songs she’s preparing for her Atlantic debut will be something I find on a tape reel In the Atlantic tape vaults 39 years later!
Photo is of Atlantic executive Jerry Wexler, Aretha’s manager/husband Ted White and Aretha Franklin, November 1966