Don Kirshner is one of the key figures in American pop history. Starting as manager of Bobby Darin in the 50s, he went on to become the king of the Brill Building and the inventor of The Monkees; even into the 70s he was still making his presence felt with the discovery of Kansas. A less documented episode in his career was his journey to Britain at the beginning of the 70s to set up what he hoped would be a British song-writing hit factory. Establishing a joint venture between his ScreenGems company and ATV Music, one of his first signings was Ron Roker, a song-plugger who thus far had scored only one writing success with his theme to the TV series Rupert the Bear (a Christmas hit for Jackie Lee in 1970).
Ron was also asked if he knew any other budding songwriters who might be interested in joining the new venture. He brought in Lynsey Rubin - with whom he wrote 'Storm in a Teacup' for The Fortunes, and who scored her own hits under the name Lynsey de Paul - and his then brother-in-law, Barry Green, subsequently known as Barry Blue. (If you ever see Barry Blue's Top of the Pops performance of 'Dancing On A Saturday Night', Ron says he's the one miming badly on the balilika next to Chris Rae.)
Even more significant he brought Gerry Shury, who was to have an enormous impact on British pop over the next few years. Together Roker and Shury wrote 'Guilty', a hit for The Pearls in Britain and covered by First Choice in America, and were behind Sweet Dreams' version of the Abba song 'Honey Honey' (Ron actually sang the male vocal on that record, dueting with Polly Brown, formerly of Pickettywitch). They also wrote and produced 'Stone Cold Love Affair', a fantastic 1975 single by The Real Thing, which came damn close to being a TransAtlantic hit.
Gerry's most successful work was as an arranger for Biddu, and his premature death was a huge blow to the emerging British disco scene. It was also a terrible personal loss for Ron, who was not only Gerry's business partner but also his closest friend - 'We were like Sid & Solly,' he says. They were also, alongside people like Pip Williams and Ken Gold, amongst those who were trying to encourage the development of British soul.
Ron is still working in the music business, though a lot of his time is spent nowadays in America.
the late genius of British soul