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Van Temple and the Reinvention of The Producers

A personal recounting of the Atlanta band's past and their upcoming new album.

Tucker resident and thirty-year veteran rocker Van Temple is excited about The Producers' upcoming concert on Oct. 20 at the Buckhead Theatre. The band will be playing new blues tunes from their new album entitled The Producers in the Blues.

“We are back together with the [band's] original members,” Temple said about the concert.

The project was inspired by well-known Louisiana blues player Tab Benoit. Benoit invited the band to come to his home recording studio in Houma after playing a show in nearby New Orleans earlier this year.

“We threw an album together of eleven songs in [just] four days,” Temple said. Benoit is releasing the album on his Swamp Land Jam Records label. “Does that sound Cajun enough?” Temple joked. The Producers plan to release the album before the end of 2012.

Early Roots

Temple was born in Knoxville, Tenn., where his father worked as a country music DJ when Temple was young.

“I used to listen to country hits all the time,” he said.

The family moved from Knoxville to Pensacola, Florida, where Temple's father promoted the Grand Ol' Opry shows.

“I got to go to those shows and I got to see the classic country artists from backstage,” he said. “Sometimes they might bring me out while they were bowing for their encore. That influenced me to get onto the music scene.”

So Temple started playing guitar at the age of eleven and he performed in neighborhood bands and others over time. Three years into his college career at Georgia State University, Temple was offered a full-time job playing for a lounge band.

“My father encouraged me to go for it,” he said.

A Whirlwind Rise to Fame

The formation of The Producers went through several iterations prior to its current lineup. Temple met with bass player Keith Christopher in the early 1980s and Christopher introduced him to keyboardist Wayne “Famous” McNatt. The band, called 'Cartoon,' performed Beatles cover tunes. Bryan Holmes came into the fold as the drummer. Christopher left the band and was replaced by former Whiteface R&B bassist Kyle Henderson on New Year's Eve of 1980.

“Kyle sat in with us and it worked really well,” Temple said.

The Producers then began performing original material at well-known metro-Atlanta venues such as C.W. Shaw's and Uncle Tom's Tavern.

“We started getting really tight on [our] original songs,” Temple said. While playing a gig in Florida, they received a phone call from Henderson's manager, Hugh Rogers, inviting them to come to New York to audition with Sony record producer Tom Werman, who had signed Cheap Trick.

“[Rogers] was good with getting bands signed,” Temple recounted. “We dropped that job in Florida and just drove straight to New York and set up our equipment to do an audition for him."

After playing a few songs for Werman, the band was signed to a ten-record contract with Sony/CBS on Lennie Petze's Portrait label.

“He came down to see us [and] he convinced us that he could concentrate on us more,” Temple said.

The Producers hit the big time with their self-titled first album--and hit it big quickly. Their debut single hit 61 on the Billboard charts. Then the MTV experience came in August of 1981.

“We got in on the ground floor and had some of the first Sony videos on [MTV],” Temple said. Videos for She Sheila, What's He Got and Here's To You were seen by many of the MTV generation. The band was also fortunate enough to headline the second annual MTV's New Year's Rockin' Eve with other popular bands like Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls. “MTV was a big help to us and it got us to a lot of people. That was an exciting time.”

The Aftermath

After You Make the Heat was released in 1982, dissent began to form with some of the band members where promotion was concerned. Petzi told the band not to get discouraged. After forcing their hand, their recording contract was canceled.

“In retrospect, I wish we had done [a third] album,” Temple reflected. “Maybe it was a mistake giving them an ultimatum.”

The Producers didn't let the bad turn of events dissuade them. “We put a third album out on our own that we financed and recorded ourselves,” said Temple. Later, they were signed to producer Irving Azoff with MCA Records and recorded their fourth album, entitled Coelacanth, in 1985. The band was in what appeared to be a comeback when their contract was dropped two weeks before the album's release.

That year, The Producers officially broke up. Henderson moved to Los Angeles after the band's attempts at getting signed to another label. Temple began managing a record warehouse here in Atlanta.

“I was responsible for hiring and firing people and making sure orders got out on time,” Temple said. “It was stressful.”

The Reunion

The band's split didn't last for long.

“A couple of years later, we started getting offers to play [together] again,” Temple said. Even though their road to fame is a distant memory, the members keep busy and remain in touch. McNatt, while not playing keyboards with local bands or working on sound projects, can be seen driving a taxi around the Atlanta area. Holmes started his own carpet and flooring company in Jonesboro. Henderson now resides in Madison, Wis. and flies in for shows.

All the while, The Producers have remained close friends and fine-tuned musicians. Temple is happy with his life as long as he has a guitar in his hand and a microphone. “

I really like performing. It gives you a good feeling,” he said. Temple moonlights with some local bands called The Rainmen and Reason Y. “I have taught instruction in the past and might do some of that again,” he said.

Temple may not have to if The Producers' new album proves successful.

 

The Producers will perform at The Buckhead Theatre on Saturday, October 20 at 8:30 p.m. Featuring special guests Angie Aparo, Gareth Brooks and the Earthlings and Deb Bowman. Tickets are $30 (General Admission/Lower Level) and $40 (Balcony/Reserved Seating). Doors open at 7 p.m. All ages show.

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