Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin won’t end up penniless, like Stephen Foster
Last week The Eagles album, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) made history by becoming the best selling U.S. album of all time. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) announced that greatest hits collection released in 1976 reached the 38-million mark, displacing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which had held the top spot for 30 years.
Singer/guitarist Jack Tempchin, an Encinitas local since the ’70s, has always been humble about his songwriting success. He has songwriting credits on two of that album’s ten hits, “Already Gone,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” It is sometimes true that songwriter royalties are more valuable than royalties given to band members who actually played on the album but who had no songwriting credits.
“It’s a miracle, and it’s wonderful,” says Tempchin about his connection to the historic Eagles compilation. And while he never talks specifics, he remains committed to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) the performing rights organization that makes sure his intellectual property is duly compensated.
Not everyone likes ASCAP or the other music licensing companies. The owner of the Ramona Mainstage called ASCAP and similar companies “scum suckers.” But Tempchin is thankful ASCAP exists.
“Stephen Foster [“Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races”] was America’s first major songwriter,” Tempchin explains. “But he was poor. When he died he lived on the street. After that, congress thought it was a good idea to start paying people for their intellectual property… The only reason I could make a living was because of ASCAP.”
Tempchin doesn’t agree with the Ramona Mainstage owner. “When people open a bar with live music, they don’t think they should pay the music makers anything. They think they should get the music for free.”
Tempchin was a bar owner himself, operating the much-loved Stingaree music honky tonk in Encinitas from 1976 to 1978 (now the 1st Street Bar). The Stingaree hosted Rosie Flores, Lee Barnes, and himself on stage. “I think [ASCAP fees] are a very fair amount. Music is part of what the bar is offering. It’s not like it’s incidental.”
Besides, Tempchin says royalties are crucial to musicians. “How else are musicians going to make a living? Since digital downloads, there are no record sales any more. New cars don’t even have CD players. Records are free now as long as you pay $10 a month to Spotify or Apple. And unless you are one of the biggest [artists] you don’t make money on the road. In fact you lose money on the road most of the time.”
Tempchin co-wrote ten songs with the late Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey used on Frey’s solo projects. He also penned “Slow Dancin’” which was a hit for Johnny Rivers. While he let Pepsi use his “You Belong in the City” for TV commercials, he says he draws the line with “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”
“I don’t permit the use of that particular song [for TV ads].” Tempchin says he turned down lucrative offers for “Peaceful” including one from a well-known golf company.
Tempchin is now signed with L.A.-based Blue Elan Records, which released his own best-of compilation last year, Peaceful Easy Feeling: The Songs of Jack Tempchin. He embarks on a tour with Celtic Thunder singer/guitarist Keith Harkin later this year.
- Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 7 p.m.
471 South Coast Highway 101,
“I have a show at the La Paloma in December,” says Tempchin who played that historic Encinitas theater a number of times during its '70s/'80s days as a concert venue. “I played a lot of shows there with [The Band’s] Rick Danko and the Mark-Almond Band. It’s a fabulous place.”
Tempchin says that show will be a fundraiser for the La Paloma itself. “It’s been here since the '20s. It was the first place that had talkies [movies-with-sound]. Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby would come down here for premieres.”