Born and raised in Portland, OR, Kent Hartman graduated from Portland State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1983 with a dual degree in Political Science and Business Administration. During his twenties he lived back east for a number of years earning an MA in international relations from Syracuse University and an MBA from Umass/Amherst. During his thirties he lived in LA, then on to Seattle, and then back to Portland in the early 2000s. Kent returned to PSU in 2006 teaching both business administration and marketing courses in the School of Business until 2011
'The Wrecking Crew' was the name of a secret cohort of musicians, coined by drummer Hal Blaine, who played the instruments on your favorite albums throughout the sixties and early seventies, taking the place of the “real” members. In the book, an LA Times bestseller, Hartman reveals the full and fascinating truth about this group of rarely credited and largely unknown studio musicians. Hartman devoted several years to research and conducted hundreds of hours of taped interviews with virtually anybody he could find who had been in the Wrecking Crew or had been associated with them. The result is a riveting, revelation packed book to thrill rock and roll fans of all ages
The Wrecking Crew has been optioned by a major film production company in Hollywood that is working with Will Ferrell and his producing partner Adam McKay to bring it to the big screen (no, it won't be a comedy!). Additionally, DeDe Harris Productions in NYC, one of the top Broadway producers, has optioned the book in order to turn it into a musical.
The PSU Alumni Association interviewed Kent about his time at PSU, the music industry, and his next book.
1. What made you choose PSU for your undergraduate studies?
In short, basketball. During the spring of 1981, I transferred to Portland State University from Oregon State University with the expectation of playing on the varsity basketball team. I had played on the JV team at OSU as a freshman, then blew out my knee just prior to fall camp sophomore year. So there was no chance to catch on with the varsity there for that season. They were also ranked in the top ten in the country at the time, so it would have been a steep climb anyway. I then talked with the PSU coach, he encouraged me to come out, and sure enough, about three weeks later, PSU dropped the men's basketball program in order to cut costs and to comply with Title IX. I don't think most people realize it today, but PSU actually had no men's basketball team for a decade and a half, from 1981 to 1996. But, in hindsight, it all worked out for the better, at least for me. Without basketball on my mind, I became a much improved student. And then as now, PSU had excellent academics.
2. You graduated in 1983, yet have also recently taught at PSU. What changes have you seen on campus?
When I attended PSU back in the day it was considered by many to be mainly a commuter school, not a place with a particularly strong sense of community or identity. Flash forward to 2006 when I began teaching in the School of Business and the differences couldn't have been more profound. Not only had the campus itself transformed into a first-rate location, but school spirit was palpable. PSU had become a bona fide destination. For many of my students, PSU was their first choice among possible colleges to attend. The Vikings had become hip!
3. What is a standout memory of your time as a student at PSU?
Academically, I would say taking a series of upper-division business law courses within the School of Business. The professor was a guy by the name of Curtis Levin, who was a CPA and an attorney. For whatever reason, that material really lit a fire under me---I loved it.
Socially? Sorry, can't tell you that standout memory!
4. How did you get into the music business? What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a similar career?
Well, the cursory answer is that I got into the music business because one day over two decades ago I serendipitously met the leader of a famous band called Tower of Power. My assent sort of snowballed from there. But the larger answer is that I have loved all things music since the second grade, back when I used to get up every morning here in Portland before school and faithfully listen to "Ninety-wonderful" KISN-AM. That set me on a course for life, though I didn't actually realize it until many years later. But if an analysis could me made of all my entrepreneurial activities, the one underlying, unifying element would be music. It has been, and always will be, my passion of passions. And that is the advice I would impart to any student: take your passion, whatever it may be, and figure out how to monetize it. Make a living from it. If I can do it, anyone can. To paraphrase lyrics from Tom Petty --- "the future is wide open!"
5. The research for your book took several years. Do you have plans to write another book?
Yes, my publisher, St. Martin's Press, has already signed me to a new deal for my next book. It's called Sound City and is the inside story of a legendary recording studio in the San Fernando Valley that existed during the '70s/'80s/'90s (sadly, now closed) that was responsible for a crazy number of hit records. It was also inside this funky, dumpy, unlikely place where a whole lot of wild stuff went on. Fantastic backstories abound about not only the stars that recorded there, but also the employees and owners, too.
6. In what ways is the music industry today different from the time you wrote about?
Oh, man. The music industry couldn't be more different today than when the Wrecking Crew were secretly playing all the instruments in place of the real stars back in the Sixties. Then, the big record labels ran everything and producers were king. The biz was a tightly-run, closed shop----very hard for aspirants to break into without knowing somebody. Today, with the availability of relatively inexpensive high-end recording equipment, the continuing decline of CD sales by the major labels, and the prevalence of high-speed Internet connections, the playing field has been leveled for musicians of every stripe. The barriers to entry are gone. You can now write, record, release, and market a pro-quality song or album from the privacy of your own home. No Capitol or Columbia or MCA required!
Interview by Jyoti Roy, PSU Alumni Association