As a top executive associated with Mike Curb and Curb Records for the past 46 years, Harley Hatcher has been involved in the careers of an amazing array of recording talents. During this time he’s also built up a resume as a songwriter and producer, scoring several chart-topping singles and major film credits. Eighty songs written by Hatcher are featured in motion picture soundtracks and television shows. Hatcher has achieved his decades-spanning success the old-fashioned way, through a commitment to quality work and an ear for the outstanding song.
Hatcher has earned the respect and friendship of peers in Los Angeles, Nashville and elsewhere. “Harley is a wonderful record man,” says former Capitol and MGM executive Eddie Ray, a friend of his since the 1960s. “I know from working with him that he’s a guy with tremendous integrity and extremely knowledgeable in all areas of the record business. And he has the kind of personality that builds strong and lasting relationships.”
Of all his professional associations, Mike Curb has been Hatcher’s most enduring business associate. Mike and Harley have released charting records in just about every popular music genre since 1964. Through Sidewalk Productions, MGM Records and Curb Records, they’ve helped guide the careers of several generations of pop, rock and country artists.
Harley Hatcher developed his passion for music while growing up in Georgia, listening to rhythm & blues on late-night radio. In 1951, at the age of twelve, Harley purchased a mail-order guitar for $12.00 and taught himself to play. He also learned to play piano by ear. It was during Harley’s senior year of high school that he began writing songs and playing rhythm guitar for a rock ‘n roll group called The Moonlighters.
When Harley graduated from high school in 1957, the military draft was in effect and Uncle Sam ordered Harley to duty. Before enlisting, Harley chose his field of education and duty in the Army. He attended the Signal Corps Microwave Communications School at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey for one year, and then served in Europe for two years to complete his Army duty. Although Harley was qualified to attend the Army’s Officer Candidate School, he chose to stay enlisted as a Regular Army soldier so he could complete his military obligations within three years and then focus on his budding professional music career.
Harley’s introduction to the music business came in 1960 while serving in the U.S. Army 102nd Signal Battalion in Kaiserslautern, Germany where he met fellow soldier and successful record producer Richard Podolor. Podolor, who had found success as a producer for Sandy Nelson, (and later, Three Dog Night, Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf) was a performer in an All-Army Entertainment Show. Harley’s group also appeared in the show performing a song Harley had written. Impressed with what he had heard, Podolor asked to hear more of Harley’s songs and invited him to come to Hollywood for a recording session.
At the age of 21, Harley made the trip to Hollywood to record four songs with Richard Podolor. Two of the four songs, “The Twirl” and “Thief In The Night” were published and released as singles. While his songs and vocals were not immediately successful, Harley continued songwriting and worked as a production assistant at Podolor’s American Recording studio. To support himself, he also worked as a shipping clerk at a national drapery hardware company. Despite a quick promotion to general manager of west-coast operations, Harley desired to devote his full-time efforts to the music business.
In 1964, he joined with 20-year-old record producer and songwriter Mike Curb to form Sidewalk Productions, where he signed as an exclusive songwriter and Sidewalk’s artists recorded many of his songs. In 1965, Harley began producing records and oversaw the construction of the company’s new recording studio, Continental Sound Recorders Producer’s Workshop. Sidewalk experienced early success with “Apache ‘65” by Davie Allan & The Arrows (with Harley playing acoustic guitar) and the movie score and soundtrack album from The Wild Angels starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra.
In August of 1968, at the request of entertainment industry icon Dick Clark, seven songs written and produced by Harley were included in the score of Killers Three starring Diane Varsi, a film produced by Clark. Harley also wrote songs that were featured in ABC-TV’s Super Saturday Club cartoon shows Cattanooga Cats and Hot Wheels. In 1969, Harley formed Pendulum Productions and Leo The Lion Music Publishing to record and publish his songs and soundtracks. By 1972, Harley had composed and produced the musical scores for eight motion pictures including Burt Topper’s The Hard Ride which featured the title song sung by Righteous Brother Bill Medley.
Harley’s soundtrack success doesn’t end there. Overall, eighty of Harley’s songs are featured in more than fifteen motion pictures. He is the co-writer of the BMI award-winning song “All For The Love Of Sunshine” featured in the MGM motion picture Kelly’s Heroes starring Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland. “All For The Love Of Sunshine”, performed by Hank Williams, Jr., topped the Billboard Country chart on September 19, 1970 and is noted by Billboard Charts historian Joel Whitburn as the biggest hit in the long and distinguished career of Hank Williams, Jr. Some of the other films that have included Harley’s songs are: 20th Century Fox’s Brubaker starring Robert Redford; Paramount’s Switchback starring Dennis Quaid and Danny Glover; MGM’s The Walking Stick starring David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar; Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern; and Quentin Tarrantino’s Hell Ride starring Larry Bishop, Dennis Hopper and David Carradine. Harley’s music has also been featured on Saturday Night Live’s The Falconer sketch.
In addition to Hank Williams, Jr., Harley’s songs have been recorded by Solomon Burke, Terry Stafford, Merle Haggard, The Paris Sisters, The Hondells, Steve Holy, Mike Clifford, Jerry Naylor, Paul Delicato, Barbara Pittman, Dick Curless, Kay Adams, Davie Allan & The Arrows, Thelma Comacho, Morton Downey, Jr., Donny & Marie Osmond, The Mike Curb Congregation, and many others.
In 1972, as part of a deal in which MGM Records acquired the administration rights to Harley’s Leo The Lion music publishing company, Harley became head of Special Projects at MGM. He later was appointed Vice President of Country Music where he worked with an all-star roster of Eddy Arnold, Mel Tillis, Hank Williams, Jr., Ray Stevens, and Kenny Rogers. Harley also produced records with MGM artists Sheb Wooley, Jerry Naylor, Chick Raines, and pop/rock legends The Hilltoppers featuring Jimmy Sacca.
As a producer, Harley has worked with top session musicians such as James Burton, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Jay Graydon, Emory Gordy, Jr., Glen D. Hardin, Ronnie Tutt, Larry Knechtel, Jim Horn, Herb Pedersen, Randy Mitchell, Tom Hensley, Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn, Al Casey, Harold Bradley, Bob Summers, and Hargus “Pig” Robbins. Many of Harley’s sessions were engineered by award-winning engineer and producer Humberto Gatica.
In 1974, Harley established Artists Of America Records with his brother Jimmy. With a roster of artists including Rufus Thomas, Paul Delicato, Robert Goulet, Richard Roundtree, Lorne Greene, Johnny Desmond, and Morton Downey, Jr., Artists Of America enjoyed immediate success with “Ice Cream Sodas & Lollipops And A Red Hot Spinning Top”, a song penned by Harley and performed by Paul Delicato. The song quickly became a Billboard Top Ten record peaking at #7 in October of 1975. Its nostalgic lyrics made the song very popular on Adult Contemporary radio stations during America’s bi-centennial celebration of 1975 and 1976. Delicato enjoyed further success with six Billboard charting records including his biggest hit, “Cara Mia,” which peaked at #5 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. All of Delicato’s recordings were produced by Harley and released on Artists Of America Records.
One of Harley’s songs was the focal point of a memorable meeting between Harley and former President Richard Nixon. Harley’s song told the story about Nixon’s appearance as the guest of honor at the opening of the new Grand Ol’ Opry building in March of 1974. During his visit on opening night, Nixon was invited by Roy Acuff to come up on stage where Acuff coaxed the president into playing an old piano. After playing a song, Nixon clowned around with the country music stars by playing with a yo-yo.
The opening night ceremonies were broadcast live on many country radio stations, including KLAC in Los Angeles where Harley heard the show. He immediately wrote a song about the events that had transpired. During the fall of 1975, Harley produced “He Played A Yo-Yo In Nashville” with Morton Downey, Jr. on vocals. In December, the song was heard by Nixon’s chief of staff Colonel Jack Brennan who invited Harley and Morton down to the Nixon estate in San Clemente, California to present the new 45 rpm record to the former president. During the forty-five minute meeting, Nixon listened and commented that he enjoyed the song. “The beautiful thing about country music is that it tells a story the way it really happened,” the former president said. Harley’s song had captured the unique moment when a president, surrounded by the turmoil of Watergate and the pain of a serious illness, still found a moment to have some fun. The ex-president, who said “I really enjoy listening to country music,” said his spirits were lifted by the good-time feel of “He Played A Yo-Yo In Nashville.”
In 1978 and 1979, Harley found the time to write a book about some of his experiences while serving in the U.S. Army. The book,
Elvis Disguised, tells of a series of impromptu jam sessions Harley engaged in with an army buddy. The book was published in 1981
as a limited edition, and Harley is currently at work on an updated new edition of the story.
In 1987, Harley re-joined forces with Mike Curb and Curb Records at the time the company was expanding into a global record label. During the ensuing years, the Curb Records roster featured such artists as Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Wynonna, LeAnn Rimes, Sawyer Brown, Hank Williams, Jr., The Judds, Natalie Grant, and Selah. Harley’s duties at Curb included serving as Senior Vice President of Curb Records, Inc from 1987 to 2005, during which time he was in charge of music publishing and the Greatest Hits Catalog releases. Harley and Mike Curb have been business associates for 46 years dating back to 1963 when they began writing songs and producing records together. Since 1987, Mike and Harley have worked together on the release of greatest hits compilation albums for more than 400 legendary recording artists including Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Andy Williams, The Four Seasons, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone, The Kingston Trio, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, The Everly Brothers, Sonny James, and The Righteous Brothers.
Currently, in addition to his duties as Senior Consultant at Curb Records, Harley serves as an Adjunct Professor at Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business where he teaches Music Business Strategies. Harley is a member of Broadcast Music, Inc. as a songwriter, and BMI and ASCAP as a music publisher. He is also a member of the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music, and the Gospel Music Association. Harley enjoys all genres of music, but his great love is listening to the past and present legends of Southern Gospel music. Harley has a library of over 60 videos of Bill Gaither’s gospel Homecoming concert series. During his high school years at Thomasville, Georgia, Harley was a standout basketball and baseball player and he continues to be an avid sports enthusiast. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has played in numerous basketball and softball leagues and tournaments. Harley lives in Los Angeles with his wife and family.