Looking back on Elton taking the States by storm in 1970, it's inevitable
that Russ Regan's name would come up. After all, he was the president of
the first American record label the pop vocalist was accepted by. The music
mogul also set up some of Elton's most memorable concerts. He recently
spoke with EJW about this as well as about his long and rewarding career.
EJW: A number of record labels turned down Elton before you signed him to
Uni, claiming he sounded too much like José Feliciano. How did you feel
RR: I liked his voice, but didn't think Elton sounded like him.
EJW: How did the idea come about to have L.A.'s Troubadour Club be the
first American venue that Elton would play?
RR: I figured that Neil Diamond had performed there and hit it big, so why
EJW: After shows in California, Elton headed east. But you were getting flack for spending too much on the singer. How come?
RR: In Los Angeles, it was mainly industry people who attended and his album hadn't yet made a commercial impact. That
changed at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, where he jumped on and off the piano, and fans went crazy. After this, his record really started selling. Like I
say, it's the consumer who makes the music business, not the executives.
EJW: Weren't you once a songwriter yourself? Why did you change your
RR: It was Sonny Bono's idea. He was a very good friend of mine and told me
I had the personality to get into promotions.
EJW: Aside from helping Elton, what else do you consider to be among your greatest achievements?
RR: Working with Barry White and the Alan Parsons Project at 20th Century Fox Records. And being the
Music Supervisor for four Academy Award-winning songs from the films The
Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Flashdance and Chariots of Fire.
EJW: What are some other movies you've been involved with?
RR: I produced All This And World War II, a 1976 musical documentary with
Beatles songs performed by other musicians, and featuring World War II
newsreel footage. The idea actually came to me in a dream.
And I'm still doing movies: I'm the music supervisor for the sci-fi picture,
Dominion, coming out next year.
EJW: In 2007, the Hit Parade Hall of Fame was launched, which you're a
member of--and where Elton was inducted in 2008. And in 2011, you received
a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Temecula Valley International Film and
Music Festival. More recently, you've started a new record company. What
sort of artists are you interested in?
RR: I'm interested in pop, and have signed December Rose, a young lady from
Canada. . . . It's the sixties all over again! By the way, I've worked with Dan
Hill, who is also from Canada.
EJW: Have you continued to follow Elton's career?
RR: Yes, of course. I've probably seen around 40 concerts in all. And I like the fact that he gives back, with his AIDS foundation.
See a photo of Russ with Elton and Neil Diamond at his company's Web site,