~Every week from the vaults… a vinyl rarity which crackles, grinds, moves, grooves, hurts, or just awfully tickles…
Patrick Anson (Ned) Doheny is born into a silverspoon household in Los Angeles in March 1948. His great-grandfather Edward Laurence Doheny is the richest oil baron after Rockefeller in the 19th century and a celebrity in LA, his home base. Ned’s parents lead a comfortable life without any financial worries because of the wealth that great-granddad left them behind.
At the age of 4, Ned receives a guitar from his mother, an innocent gift with major consequences. The young boy begins to study guitar players obsessively and becomes extremely fond of blues, soul and R&R. His parents no longer get their son off the musical path, despite their soft urges to opt for a “more honorable social career”. When Ned notes a newspaper ad in the mid-60s by a guy called Jackson Browne who is looking for a guitarist, he immediately sees his chances. Doheny assumes he will be working with a black soul singer, but does not regret his decision once he meets Browne in person. Via Browne, Ned is introduced to the singer-songwriters, hippies and freethinkers in the Laurel Canyon: he immerses himself in a world of music, women and drugs. Ned develops his own singing and writing talents and plays a.o. in a band with Mama Cas (of the Mama ‘& Papa’s) and Dave Mason (Jimmy Hendrix Experience).
In the early ’70s Jackson Browne brings Ned into contact with his friend David Geffen, who has just set up a record label (Asylum) exclusively for Browne since the singer has not been able to get a contract with any other label. Van Geffen unfortunately shows little interest in Doheny: the label owner has only eyes for Browne and one other promising band, The Eagles. Ned nevertheless manages to get his debut album “Ned Doheny” released in 1973, though he has to put in $25,000 to complete the LP. It’s a (forgotten) singer songwriter masterpiece that is hardly promoted by Asylum: Ned’s flexible and pleasant voice can be heard over jazzy arrangements and smooth guitar work. Every song is catchy, the entire album is earfood. Soon after this release, Ned’s considerable ego clashes with Van Geffen’s. Doheny does not want to limit himself to soft country rock à la Eagles and wants to blend black soul and funk with his jazzy grooves into blue-eyed soul, more in the style of Bozz Scaggs or Steely Dan.
Van Geffen sees no business in Ned’s kind of music and Doheny gives him the middle finger in return: Ned tears up his contract and strays into the wider world. He is financially independent, record bosses can kiss his ass. Ned ends up in the United Kingdom, where he cooperates with white groovers from Scotland, the Average White Band. In between, he also makes a solo album (Hard Candy for Columbia) consisting of laid-back, bittersweet jazz funk, that does not appeal to a white nor to a black audience. But other artists do spot the potential in his songs and soulful approach: Tata Vega uses his frivolous song “Get It Up for Love” for her own album (Try My Love, 1978) and Chaka Khan, a fast rising star in the disco and pop scene , covers his “What Cha ‘Gonna Do For Me” on her eponymous LP from 1981. That album becomes a mega-seller.
Doheny’s own career is saved by the Japanese. Since his debut in 1973, he has gained a cult status over there, to his own big surprise. His Don Johnson look make him the favorite of the ladies and his sweet voice and guitar sounds let Japanese hearts melt. His third solo album (Prone) remains on the shelves at Columbia USA until CBS Japan dares to release it in 1979. The Japanese success leads to a request to Ned to present his own program on Japanese radio, he now has a fantastic chance to build up an even wider, loyal Japanese fan base. Doheny’s next albums are only released in Japan, but do end up on the turntables of British DJs in the 90’s as they are feverishly looking for new, unknown grooves, songs and vocals for their so-called “Acid Jazz” mixes. Doheny’s career suddenly gets a new boost in Europe, especially in the UK.
Ned divorces his American wife and falls in love with a Japanese beauty during one of his many concerts in the land of the rising sun. Japan becomes his second home after Malibu. He quickly loses confidence in his Japanese label Polystar when it suddenly releases his demos as a complete album: Polystar’s management feels Doheny is spending too much time and money to record a new album. Ned decides to say goodbye to the record business. He changes him mind in 2001 once the dispute with the Japanese label has been settled. His next release is almost 10 years later, in 2010. Ned stays true to his sunny, relaxed style of music. Feel good music. He still performs today and brings groovy blue-eyed soul of the highest caliber just like before. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but top class in its genre. His ’70s albums have become collector items!