I watched a video yesterday of Steve Jobs telling the 2005 graduating class at Stanford, “You’ve got to find what you love. ... Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.”
Almost everyone who comes to Popejoy Hall to perform seems to be following that advice, so thoroughly involved in their art are they, but one man, coming to Popejoy next week, embodies that viewpoint so well.
Except for the time warp factor, Jobs might have been talking to Tim Hauser. More than 40 years ago, Tim quit his job as a copywriter for an ad agency, drove a cab to pay his rent and set about forming a singing group.
“I had this idea of starting a vocal group that sang different styles,” Hauser told me when I interviewed him last year, “which was never done before. When you listen to The Drifters, they’re a rhythm and blues group and that’s what they do. When you listen to the Hi-Los, they sing standards. I wanted a group where we could do all of those things, and I thought ‘Why not? There’s no rule that says you can’t.’”
One day, Laurel Massé stepped into his cab. She signed on. Another fare took Hauser to a party where he met Janis Siegel. Third member. Laurel’s boyfriend played in the pit band of the Broadway musical Grease, in which Alan Paul was performing. There it was: The Manhattan Transfer.
After two years, the Transfer was the number one performing group in New York City. Then Ahmet Ertugun signed them to an Atlantic Records contract. With the release of “Operator” from their debut album, they took off nationally.
Hauser remembers a special moment leaving a Hollywood party, driving behind a friend. She stopped, jumped out, ran back to Hauser’s car, and told him to switch on a particular radio station. He did, and heard “Operator” spinning out of the speakers. “It was the first time I’d heard ‘Operator’ on the radio” Hauser said, “That was a thrill, just to hear it on the radio. I never got over that.”
In 1978, Massé was injured in a car accident and decided to bow out of the group. Cheryl Bentyne auditioned and became the newest member of the group (she still is).
Their very first album with Cheryl gained them immense notoriety. Extensions featured the disco hit “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone,” and what has become a signature tune for them, “Birdland.” Originally recorded as an instrumental by Weather Report, The Manhattan Transfer recorded it with lyrics by Jon Hendricks and an arrangement by Janis Segal. The song earned them two Grammy Awards.
With 28 albums to date, The Manhattan Transfer is widely celebrated as one of the best vocal groups ever. They’ve won ten Grammys through the years and became the first group in history to win Grammys in two different categories from the same album. “Boy from New York City” won for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket)” won for Best Jazz Performance, Duo or Group. Both songs were on their Mecca for Moderns album.
Forty years after it all began, Tim Hauser is still doing what he loves. He and his group The Manhattan Transfer comes to Popejoy Hall April 7 for their first performance in Albuquerque since the 1980s.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: Tim Hauser in performance with The Manhattan Transfer