by Isaiah Hinsley
On October 20, the University of West Georgia Department of Music partnered with the Department of History to celebrate 50 Years in the Music Industry. UWG students, faculty, and staff members gathered in the Kathy Cashen Recital Hall to listen to music industry legends Harold Shedd and Stuart Yahm. Shedd was the head of Mercury Records and produced records for Alabama, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, Billy Ray Cyrus, and many others. Yahm served as head of Artists and Repertoire (A&R) for Capitol Records and worked with top headliners, including B.B. King, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, and Marilyn Monroe. During the talk Yahm and Shedd shared their experiences in the music industry.
Before Shedd became the head of Mercury Records, he was a student at Buchanan High School in Bremen, Georgia. When Shedd graduated, he immediately chased his passion for music.
“I grew up around Bremen, and we were farmers,” said Shedd. “I left Bremen the year I finished high school, and two weeks later left on the road with a band. The first stop was Little Rock, Arkansas.”
Shedd had to put music on hiatus for two years because of the military, but when he came back, he began working with radio stations, which continued to inspire his career in music. Then in 1979, he met rising country band Alabama at a club in Nashville. Shedd offered to help them record their music so it could be played on local radio stations. Alabama and Shedd eventually recorded 17 consecutive number one hits and 21 overall.
That same year, Shedd help build the Music Mill Studio in Nashville with business partner Donnie Canada. The studio became a huge success with in-house writers, artist, producers, and publishers. By the late ‘80s, he became the head of Mercury Records. At Mercury Records, Shedd continued to produce hit records from Alabama and other country superstars such as Kentucky, Billy Ray Cyrus, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, and other artists.
Yahm was raised in Bronx, New York and started his career as a standup comedian. At the age of 21, he had the opportunity to travel overseas to Tokyo to host a show for army troops that featured singer and actress, Marilyn Monroe. When Yahm returned to the United States, he went to Hollywood for a lead role in a television series, but the show canceled. Then one day in Hollywood, while Yahm was relaxing at his apartment complex’s pool, the branch manager for Liberty Records introduced himself to Yahm. The manager suggested that Yahm should pursue a career in music promotion because of his personality and likeliness to persuade radio stations to play records. Yahm immediately applied for a job at Capitol Records and MGM Records, and both record labels wanted him. However, Yahm decided to work with Capitol Records because the potential future of rock music.
“In show business, the music business in particular, you will not succeed unless you are all in,” said Yahm. “You will have a lot of ups and downs, and it will take a long time to get there. You just can’t quit.”
While working with Capitol Records, Yahm recalled helping the Steven Miller Band rise to radio mainstream and prompting their hit single “The Joker.” He also recalled prompting Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon on their tour in 1972.
“Every record has it’s own kind of promotion,” said Yahm. “Who’s the artist? What do they look like? What’s their dream? You never know a marketing strategy until you know the artist.”