In Terry Cashman’s life, it was always the choice between baseball and music

Originally published in Goldmine Magazine – By Tom Prestopnik

I recently picked up a CD titled “Passin’ It On, America’s Baseball Heritage in Song” by Terry Cashman. The music included “Opening Day’’, ”The Ballad of Herb Score,” “Baseball Ballet,” “Third Base Coach,” and seventeen other baseball-related songs, including, of course, “Talkin’ Baseball.” All Baseball, all the time. This is a CD that belongs in every true baseball and music fan’s collection. Listening to the songs made me wonder what Cashman has been doing since 1981 when “Talkin’ Baseball” was released. I decided to find out.

Besides being a great baseball fan and player, he played professional baseball in the minor league with the Detroit Tigers organization in the 1950s, he had a career as a singer with bands the Chevrons, Buchanan Brothers, Cashman, Pistilli & West. Cashman & West, and, AND, was instrumental in the career of the great Jim Croce.

Goldmine: We’ll go back to where it all started. Terry Cashman was born in New York City in 1941 as Dennis Minogue. Why the name change, and where did Cashman come from?

Terry Cashman

Dennis Minogue is my given name, and after I gave up playing baseball, I got a job at ABC Records, and one of the things they said to me was, “I hope you’re not here to write songs like all these other people who work here.” I was working for the publishing company, and I was writing songs. But I had to use different names so that when songs came through that were being published by them they wouldn’t see Dennis Minogue. My aunt Agnes was married to a guy named Jimmy Cashman, and Terry was the name of my nephew.

GM: What was your main job at ABC Records?

TC: I had done some things at ABC, and the higher-ups had noticed me, and I became the professional manager. They allowed me to hire younger writers because ABC, at the time, they were kind of old-fashioned. Their acts were people like The Barry Sisters and Frankie Laine, and they weren’t up to date as to what was going on in music. They hired me to hire younger artists and to record contemporary music. I hired a very talented young songwriter named Gene Pistilli. He and I started writing together, and we wrote a song, “Sunday Will Never Be the Same,” which I was positive would be a hit. My job was to go to producers of not only ABC but other record companies. And I didn’t want to try to promote a song with my name on it, Dennis Minogue, because they would think that I was promoting myself.

GM: What were some of the artists that you promoted or some of the early songs that you promoted?

TC: A guy who had an office at ABC was Pete DeAngelis, and I got a song, “Mary In the Morning,” and presented it to Pete, and he got it to Al Martino, and it became a Top 30 hit in 1967. That song was written by Johnny Cymbal and Mike Rashkow (aka Mike Lendell). Another song about that time that was in the Top 20 country chart for Eddy Arnold was “But for Love,” written by Gene, Tommy West, and me.

GM: I’m thinking that you can break your career into three distinct parts — the early years singing solo, with Pistilli and West (also known as the Buchanan Brothers, gaining chart success with the No. 22 hit “Medicine Man” in 1969), and the No. 27 hit in 1972 with Tommy West, “American City Suite”; The second part would be the Jim Croce years, and finally the “Talkin’ Baseball” years since 1981. What are your fondest memories of the early years working with Pistilli and West? Did you do a lot of the rock and roll TV shows, like American Bandstand, Midnight Special, etc.? Any interesting stories about those TV shows, hosts, or performers?

TC: Actually, it was a funny story. I was in a group called the Chevrons, a doo-wop group. We did an album for TIME Records, and it had a lot of cover songs on it. One of the songs that we did was the Del-Vikings record of “Come Go With Me.” In some areas that was more successful than the Del-Vikings version. We were booked to go on American Bandstand, and at that time, I was playing baseball, and I was signed by the Detroit Tigers, and spring training that year conflicted with the group going on Bandstand.

GM: You had to make a choice, baseball or music.

TC: At the time, I was only 19 years old, and baseball was a big deal. You don’t get many chances to play professional baseball very often. What happened was that nobody really knew the Chevrons, and when you went on, you lip-synched. So the other four fellas went on the show, and I went to Florida for spring training. The viewers didn’t know that I wasn’t there. Dick Clark introduced the band and then said, “The lead singer isn’t here because he’s in spring training with the Detroit Lions.” I didn’t go on Dick Clark because I was playing baseball.

GM: I’m guessing that Dick wasn’t a big baseball or football fan. A few of my other songwriting friends have told me a bit about songwriting royalties they receive from ASCAP or BMI. Everybody knows what a great song it is, “Sunday Will Never Be the Same,” from Spanky and our Gang, which went to No. 9 in 1967. Do you want to share what kind of songwriting financial benefits you still get from that song all these years later?

TC: We don’t own the publishing rights for that song. Gene (Pistilli) and I wrote that. It was published by Amco Music, which is now Universal Music, and every six months I get a check for sales that are reported to Universal. If $1,000 comes into Universal, they take $500, and then Gene gets $250, and I get $250. When he was alive, I’m sure that the money now goes to Gene’s children. It’s an ASCAP song, so I get royalties from ASCAP about eight times a year.

GM: You had early success as a songwriter for several Partridge Family songs such as the memorable “She’d Rather Have the Rain.” That was my favorite of all the Family music. Did you ever get a chance to work directly with the actual musicians, not necessarily the actors, who were the Partridge Family? Did you interact with David Cassidy directly? The Wrecking Crew?

TC: We never worked with Cassidy or any of the musicians. We knew Wes Farrell, who was the producer and songwriter. He asked us if we would write some songs for The Partridge Family, and we wrote six songs for them. “Only a Moment Ago” was a very good song. “She’d Rather Have the Rain” should have been a single, but Wes was the producer, and he chose the songs to be released.

GM: When Bruce Springsteen started his meteoric rise to stardom, I felt that he was almost a clone of Jim Croce. I’ve not read that anyplace, but has that comparison been made before?

TC: Jim was just a normal guy except for his tremendous talent. His manager Elliot Abbott said to him, “Just be yourself, when you go onstage, just dress the way you would dress normally.” They didn’t want to put him into any Elvis costumes.

GM: How did you originally get together with Jim Croce?

TC: I met Jim through Tommy (West). They were best friends and went to school together. They were in a class together with Tim Hauser, who went on to become the leader of the musical group The Manhattan Transfer. Don McLean was also in that class. They had some very talented people there at that time.

GM: You obviously had a great influence on Croce’s career. On his albums, he wrote about 90 percent of the songs. As a successful and competent songwriter yourself, why weren’t some of your songs included on his albums?

TC: Jim wrote his own songs. We produced an album with Jim and his wife, Ingrid, that went nowhere. After that, Jim met Maury Muehleisen, and they together wrote “Time in a Bottle,” “I Got a Name,” “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song,” and “Operator.” The records were selling, and there was no reason to mess with something that was so successful.

GM: In other words, you didn’t want to mess around with Jim.

TC: Yeah. (laughs)

GM: Maury Muehleisen seems to be an important part of Croce’s success, yet we hardly ever have heard of him. Can you tell us about him and his influence on Croce’s music?

TC: Maury was an artist who came to us, and Tommy, and I did an album with him on Capitol Records titled Gingerbread, and we put Jim with him as his backup guitarist, and then Maury went out on the road. Maury’s album didn’t do very much, but he and Jim became friends, and they switched roles. Maury became Jim’s backup guitarist, and when that happened, all these great songs came out of Jim. Maury had some influence on the writing of those songs, and his guitar parts were absolutely fabulous. Maury died in the plane crash with Jim.

GM: Lastly, I want to talk about baseball. I grew up about 35 miles from Cooperstown, New York, and have visited the Baseball Hall of Fame many times. I know that you are honored at the Hall, rightly so, alongside Abbott and Costello for “Who’s on First” and John Fogerty for “Centerfield.” That’s quite an honor. How did it all come about? I’m guessing you didn’t knock on the front door and ask to be let in.

TC: I had a relationship with the people at Cooperstown, at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The lady in charge was a friend of Rusty Staub, who was one of my very good friends, so when I wrote “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke,” they invited me to sing at the induction ceremony in 1983 when Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron were inducted.

GM: Knowing your love of the game, it must have been one of the highlights of your life.

TC: They asked me to write a song about Cooperstown, and I wrote the song “Cooperstown (The Town Where Baseball Lives)” and I sang it at the induction along with “Willie, Mickey and the Duke.” On the 30th anniversary of the song, they asked me to come to Cooperstown where I was given the honor.

GM: Goldmine likes to know what people are currently working on. Do you have a biography in the works? Going on tour? New music in production? Where is Terry Cashman?

TC: In this environment, there’s nothing going on. Before this, we had a Jim Croce movie in the works and that’s been held up. And I was working on a Broadway Musical that I wrote called “Passin’ It On,” but most recently, the name has been changed to “Once Upon a Pastime.”

GM: I’m assuming that it will be using music from the CD “Passin’ It On”?

TC: No, it will be all new songs. Except for “Opening Day” and “Passin’ It On.”