Snuff Garrett was an A&R man and a record producer in the 50's and 60's. Although his name may not be well known to those who enjoy the pop music of that era, many of the records that he produced and the people with whom he worked are quite well known.
He was born Thomas Garrett in Dallas, Texas in 1939. He worked in the music business in various locations around Texas and in various capacities, beginning when he was a teenager. At 15 he worked for a record producer in Dallas. By age 17, he was in Lubbock working as a disk jockey. It was there that he met Buddy Holly. Garrett had a TV show and a teenage night club in Wichita Falls. Somewhere along the line he picked up the nickname Snuff, most likely from a brand of tobacco product called Garrett. In 1958, while still in his teens, Snuff moved to Hollywood and began to work at Liberty Records.
At that time Liberty Records was probably best known as the home of the Chipmunks. Producer Ross Bagdasarian, also known as David Seville, had experimented with speeding up tapes and named his three characters after Liberty executives Alvin Bennett, Theodore Keep, and Simon Waronker. Bagdasarian met with a great deal of success. Snuff Garrett's formula was to use the snappy tunes written by the Brill Building songwriters in New York, and to make sure that the words on the songs were intelligible. By 1961 Garrett was the head of A&R at Liberty. He hired Phil Spector to produce songs for Liberty in New York City. In Los Angeles, Garrett produced songs by singers such as Johnny Burnette (You're Sixteen), Gene McDaniels (A Hundred Pounds Of Clay, Tower Of Strength), and Bobby Vee (Take Good Care Of My Baby, Run To Him, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes). On a number of productions, the Johnny Mann Singers were involved as backup singers. Garrett's influence on pop music in the 60's was considerable.
He produced a series of albums throughout the 60's that featured guitarist Tommy Tedesco, called 50 Guitars Of Tommy Garrett. In the mid-60's, working with arranger Leon Russell at Liberty, Garrett managed to produce seven straight top ten hits with Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Among these were This Diamond Ring, Count Me In, Save Your Heart For Me, and Everybody Loves A Clown. Lewis was drafted into the army, and Garrett left Liberty to strike out on his own.
This time working with Jimmy Bowen, Garrett formed his own Viva label. Unable to come up with a huge hit song, it met with little success and was sold. Garrett became less and less active in the music business. In the 70's he worked with Sonny & Cher, and in somewhat of a comeback produced some hits on the Kapp label including All I Ever Need Is You and A Cowboys Work Is Never Done. In the mid-70's Garrett purchased the cassette rights to the old RKO and Republic films at a very low price, at a time when video movie rental was just getting started. Within five years his investment was returning over $2 million a year. He spent his later years in Tucson, Arizona, where he died of cancer on December 16, 2015 at the age of 76.
Snuff Garrett had a knack for recognizing what could become a hit record, and he is one of the producers that brought us some of the great sounds of the 60's.
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