David Peck checks the company footage from The Merv Griffin Show, which they gained control of in 2012.
“We feel very strongly how important footage is and why it needs to be preserved,” says David Peck, president of local Reelin’ in the Years. Founded in 1992, Reelin’ maintains and licenses over 30,000 hours of music footage and more than 7000 hours of interviews spanning 90 years (including The Merv Griffin Show and The Tonight Show), as well as representing television stations and independent archives in the U.S. and overseas. Among his San Diego rarities are clips from a December 1969 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert at Balboa Stadium filmed by famed rock photographer Henry Diltz.
Peck earned an associate producer credit on the recent HBO Bee Gees documentary How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, for which Reelin’ in the Years licensed material. “I was heavily involved in guiding them in the direction of footage, not just in my archive, but others... and [I] gave advice on historical accuracy as each cut developed. In the documentary, there is an incredible amount of home 8mm movie footage from the Bee Gees’ own archive, and I know a lot about how they should look when they are properly transferred. These Bee Gees films were transferred many years ago and, when I saw them in the earlier cut of the film, I practically begged them to re-transfer them, which they did, and the results are night-and-day.”
The new music-themed streaming service The Coda Collection, launched February 18 on Amazon Prime, features Reelin’-curated content, including the company’s American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966 series, which earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Long Form Music Video. “It has always frustrated me to see how YouTube has allowed bootleg versions of concerts and TV appearances by music’s greatest artists to be readily available to millions of viewers with no compensation to the rights holders. What I truly appreciate most about the way The Coda Collection has approached this music video channel is their respect for the artists and the footage rights holders.”
Reelin’ in the Years was heavily invested in putting out DVDs. Their first platinum seller (100,000 sales) was 2006’s Marvin Gaye – The Real Thing In Performance, a rare DVD sales benchmark also attained by a release featuring The Temptations. The next few years saw archival concert DVDs starring Pete Seeger, Quincy Jones, John Coltrane, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Hollies, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, a Jazz Icons series, and the only known 1958 footage of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan and Benny Golson.
However, Peck has mostly abandoned physical media for streaming services such as the Coda Collection. “Since DVD is, for all intents and purposes, now a dead market, this platform allows us to share our unique content with the music-loving public in a fair and equitable way, a way which not only benefits my company and clients, but which will revolutionize the way music video is consumed.”
Peck’s greatest finds include 30 minutes of home movies from the 1950s. Shot on 16mm color film, performance footage and candid clips include Hank Williams singing at a disc jockey convention in Nashville, Marty Robbins playing guitar on a front lawn, Kitty Wells standing in front of her tour car, and Merle Travis preparing to board a small plane.
His most important discovery was an archive featuring thousands of hours of American jazz, blues, rock, and folk performances dating back to the ’50s. However, it never would have happened if he hadn’t annoyed Baby Spice of the Spice Girls while trying to arrange a green room autograph for his nine-year-old niece backstage at The Late Show With David Letterman. After getting booted by Baby to a different green room, he chanced to meet Rolling Stones/Allman Brothers keyboard player Chuck Leavell, who was thrilled to find that Peck had rare footage he’d been seeking, sparking a new friendship.
“That summer, I was in Amsterdam to see the Stones, and I was backstage with both Chuck and [Stones drummer] Charlie Watts. They introduced me to a friend of theirs from Belgium, who had a large library of material. It was through that friend that I became aware of the Belgian TV station RTBF, which subsequently became my first client.”
“So, were it not for pissing off a member of the Spice Girls, I would probably not have the company I do today.”