Born Richard Allen Podolor, 1940, California
Richard Podolor has had a long and successful career in the music industry, most notably as a guitarist and producer. Podolor was schooled in classical piano, but later switched to classical guitar, becoming a protégé of Vicente Gomez. In 1956 he was signed by Fabor Robinson (owner of the Abbott, Fabor and Radio labels), initially as a session guitarist, and in that same year, he played on his first hit record, Bonnie Guitar's "Dark Moon". In 1958, Radio released one of the few vocal records by Podolor, the self-penned ballad "She's My Baby", which was coupled with the rocker "I Love You Girl" (Radio 116, credited to Dickie Podolor).
Singing was not his forte, though. Richie preferred to play guitar and welcomed the opportunity to become a member of the touring version of the Pets, a group of L.A. session men that included Plas Johnson and Earl Palmer, who had an instrumental Top 40 hit with "Cha-Hua-Hua" on the Arwin label.
The Podolor family was impressed by young Richard's foray into the music business and they sold their used car business to open a studio they called American Recording Company, which was at first operated by Richie's brother Don Podolor. It was in this studio that a demo of "Teen Beat" was recorded, featuring only the drums of Sandy Nelson and Richie's guitar. The demo was offered to DJ Art Laboe, who also owned the Original Sound label in Hollywood. Laboe was intrigued by the instrumental, but he knew it needed a lot of work to become a hit. Podolor's guitar contributions were becoming less prominent with every new take, while Guybo Smith's bass guitar (tuned down to the same pitch as the drums) and Barney Kessel's overdubbed guitar riffs gave the final version of "Teen Beat" its "bottom". The record was an instant hit, peaking at # 4 in Billboard in October 1959. In the end, writing credit on the label did not go to Nelson - Podolor, but to "A. Egnoian - S. Nelson" (Arthur Egnoian was Laboe's songwriting pseudonym), to Richie's great disappointment. Sandy Nelson tried to make it up by making Richie co-writer on a lot of later things they worked on. Nelson made a spectacular comeback in late 1961 with the Nelson-Podolor composition "Let There Be Drums", recorded at Richie's Hollywood studio and featuring powerful guitar work by Podolor.
Not content to be just a sideman, Richie released ten instrumental singles and three albums on Imperial in the early 1960s under the nom de plume "Richie Allen" (and one vocal single as "Dickie Allen"). The first of these singles, "Stranger From Durango" (Imperial 5683), went to # 90 on the Billboard charts. When surf music became popular, Richie started to concentrate on that genre. The LP's that came out under the name "Richie Allen and the Pacific Surfers" featured L.A.'s top session men : Rene Hall, Tommy Tedesco, Plas and Ray Johnson, Lincoln Mayorga, Ray Pohlman and Sandy Nelson among them. Two of these Imperial albums, "The Rising Surf" and "Surfer's Slide" were reissued on CD by Sundazed in 2006.
Further solo recordings came out on Era (1961) and Tower (1966, as Ritchie Allen). As a session man, Podolor played on many other surf sides, including those by the Hondells and most of them produced by Gary Usher. Throughout the 1960s Richie found himself in the studio either as an engineer or as a musician with such acts as the Monkees, the Turtles, the Electric Prunes, the Grateful Dead and Donovan. He got his first official producer's job at the dawn of the 1970s with Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night. This last group had already scored five big hits when Podolor took over production duties from Gabriel Mekler. The first Three Dog Night single that Richie produced, Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not To Come", went to # 1in mid-1970. This was followed by 13 further Top 20 singles and two more number ones for Three Dog Night, all produced by Podolor.
In 1970, he was ranked by Billboard as the # 4 producer in the country. Other acts that he worked with include Blues Image, Iron Butterfly, the Dillards, John Kay, 20/20, Black Oak Arkansas, Phil Seymour and Billy Burnette ("Try Me" album, 1985). Along with his lifelong friend and engineer Bill Cooper, Podolor has kept American Recording Company (in Woodland Hills, California) and his production career humming along until his recent retirement.
Acknowledgements: - Eric Olsen, Paul Verna & Carlo Wolff, The Encyclopedia of Record Producers (Billboard Books, 1999), page 634-636.
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