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Long lost Steely Dan music surfaces

Local’s research uncovers forgotten collaboration

Linda Hoover – unwittingly created the Steely Dan prototype
Linda Hoover – unwittingly created the Steely Dan prototype

Time to Shine There’s an unreleased Steely Dan album finally seeing the light of day after languishing in limbo for 52 years. Its gestation and suppression is a fascinating tale of how Linda Hoover, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Oakland, New Jersey, won a talent contest with her girl-next-door charms and bell-like soprano. Winning the contest led her to cut an eleven-track LP in the spring and summer of 1970 in New York City with producer Gary Katz and fledgling composers and musicians Walter Becker and Donald Fagen — the duo who would soon become best known for co-founding fusion superstars Steely Dan.

When future Steely guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter were enlisted to flesh out the studio ensemble supporting Hoover, four-fifths of the original Steely Dan unwittingly created the prototype for the sublime musical enterprise that Becker, Fagen, and Katz would develop and expand over the next ten years, producing seven now-revered LPs between 1972 and 1980.

Most would agree that it’s an incomparable body of work, and few have ever been aware that it all began with Linda Hoover’s prizewinning project, titled I Mean to Shine, which has remained unheard for more than half a century.

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Back in 1970, when Gary Katz first made the rounds among various record labels on Linda Hoover’s behalf, it was Morris Levy, president of Roulette Records, who was impressed enough by Hoover’s talents to provide a “modest recording budget” in order to track her debut album. Katz knew exactly which musicians he wanted to enlist for the project, as Hoover recalled for me.

“I met Donald and Walter in the Brill Building, and they chose the songs I ended up recording; ‘In a Station’ by Richard Manuel, ‘4+20’ by Stephen Stills, and ‘City Mug’ by Kenny Vance.” In addition to those three titles, the recording sessions also included five Becker and Fagen compositions, along with three of Hoover’s original songs.

Work on the album was finished and cover photos were taken by famed Jim Morrison photographer Joel Brodsky. However, Morris Levy at Roulette Records reportedly threw a tantrum after discovering he couldn’t own Hoover’s album publishing rights, and he decided to shelve the entire project rather than releasing it. History hasn’t recorded whether Steely Dan’s subsequent success caused him any regrets (assuming he later noted Hoover’s backing players). This musical tragedy has now been corrected five decades later, with rights to the album reverted back to Linda Hoover, finally allowing Omnivore Recordings to release her collaboration with the embryonic Steely Dan. The album is now available online and at music retailers.

“The most significant thing I have learned over the 52 years post-I Mean to Shine is that giving up on a dream will never accomplish a thing, other than to keep you down in the pit,” says Hoover. “Being positive is a choice we have the power to make. When we are young, we sometimes tend to think we have all of the time in the world.

“But that is not the case. The music business is like all businesses. If you don’t take care of your work and do what needs to be done, regardless of your ‘feelings,’ your business will not survive. Almost everyone who is successful will tell you that they have been knocked down a time or two. I turned the shelving of I Mean to Shine on myself.”

Hoover is just as impressed with the players who evolved into Steely Dan as the rest of the world eventually became. “My point in all of this is to encourage people to forget all of the stupid stuff and just play.

“Do it because you love it and have a gift to share. We have all heard of ‘mood-altering’ substances. For me, music is a mood-altering gift. We all have music that brings us up when we hear it. Steely Dan brings me up every time because it is so musically delicious and lyrically spot-on. I have to keep moving forward or I will miss the adventures ahead. I am determined to play and sing as long as I possibly can, because it makes my life better, and hopefully, will touch someone else in a positive way.”

The unexpurgated tale of Hoover’s surreal odyssey with the founding members of Steely Dan will be published in Volume Two of Encyclopedia Walking: Pop Culture & the Alchemy of Rock ‘n’ Roll, due for release on January 1.

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Linda Hoover – unwittingly created the Steely Dan prototype
Linda Hoover – unwittingly created the Steely Dan prototype

Time to Shine There’s an unreleased Steely Dan album finally seeing the light of day after languishing in limbo for 52 years. Its gestation and suppression is a fascinating tale of how Linda Hoover, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Oakland, New Jersey, won a talent contest with her girl-next-door charms and bell-like soprano. Winning the contest led her to cut an eleven-track LP in the spring and summer of 1970 in New York City with producer Gary Katz and fledgling composers and musicians Walter Becker and Donald Fagen — the duo who would soon become best known for co-founding fusion superstars Steely Dan.

When future Steely guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter were enlisted to flesh out the studio ensemble supporting Hoover, four-fifths of the original Steely Dan unwittingly created the prototype for the sublime musical enterprise that Becker, Fagen, and Katz would develop and expand over the next ten years, producing seven now-revered LPs between 1972 and 1980.

Most would agree that it’s an incomparable body of work, and few have ever been aware that it all began with Linda Hoover’s prizewinning project, titled I Mean to Shine, which has remained unheard for more than half a century.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Back in 1970, when Gary Katz first made the rounds among various record labels on Linda Hoover’s behalf, it was Morris Levy, president of Roulette Records, who was impressed enough by Hoover’s talents to provide a “modest recording budget” in order to track her debut album. Katz knew exactly which musicians he wanted to enlist for the project, as Hoover recalled for me.

“I met Donald and Walter in the Brill Building, and they chose the songs I ended up recording; ‘In a Station’ by Richard Manuel, ‘4+20’ by Stephen Stills, and ‘City Mug’ by Kenny Vance.” In addition to those three titles, the recording sessions also included five Becker and Fagen compositions, along with three of Hoover’s original songs.

Work on the album was finished and cover photos were taken by famed Jim Morrison photographer Joel Brodsky. However, Morris Levy at Roulette Records reportedly threw a tantrum after discovering he couldn’t own Hoover’s album publishing rights, and he decided to shelve the entire project rather than releasing it. History hasn’t recorded whether Steely Dan’s subsequent success caused him any regrets (assuming he later noted Hoover’s backing players). This musical tragedy has now been corrected five decades later, with rights to the album reverted back to Linda Hoover, finally allowing Omnivore Recordings to release her collaboration with the embryonic Steely Dan. The album is now available online and at music retailers.

“The most significant thing I have learned over the 52 years post-I Mean to Shine is that giving up on a dream will never accomplish a thing, other than to keep you down in the pit,” says Hoover. “Being positive is a choice we have the power to make. When we are young, we sometimes tend to think we have all of the time in the world.

“But that is not the case. The music business is like all businesses. If you don’t take care of your work and do what needs to be done, regardless of your ‘feelings,’ your business will not survive. Almost everyone who is successful will tell you that they have been knocked down a time or two. I turned the shelving of I Mean to Shine on myself.”

Hoover is just as impressed with the players who evolved into Steely Dan as the rest of the world eventually became. “My point in all of this is to encourage people to forget all of the stupid stuff and just play.

“Do it because you love it and have a gift to share. We have all heard of ‘mood-altering’ substances. For me, music is a mood-altering gift. We all have music that brings us up when we hear it. Steely Dan brings me up every time because it is so musically delicious and lyrically spot-on. I have to keep moving forward or I will miss the adventures ahead. I am determined to play and sing as long as I possibly can, because it makes my life better, and hopefully, will touch someone else in a positive way.”

The unexpurgated tale of Hoover’s surreal odyssey with the founding members of Steely Dan will be published in Volume Two of Encyclopedia Walking: Pop Culture & the Alchemy of Rock ‘n’ Roll, due for release on January 1.

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