(born January 3
in New Haven
) is a composer, guitarist and record producer. He has produced albums by Wilson Pickett
, Frank Black
and Don Covay
as well as a series of tribute albums paying tribute to the songwriting of Don Covay, Arthur Alexander, Otis Blackwell, Curtis Mayfield, and Van Morrison.
He was a founder of the bands The Yankees and The Jon Tiven Group
Tiven began his career as a music journalist in the late 1960s, writing for Rolling Stone, Fusion, Melody Maker, and a host of other magazines. Initially an alto saxophonist, he taught himself to play a variety of instruments and became fairly adept at guitar, enough to write songs and accompany himself. In 1975 Tiven went to work for Chess Records in New York, but quickly saw that working inside a record company was not his calling, and travelled to Memphis to produce Alex Chilton
's first solo album Bach's Bottom
a.k.a. The Singer Not The Song
at Alex's request.
Productions and projects
Upon returning to New York, Tiven licensed the Chilton masters as well as other Memphis recordings he had made to Ork Records, the first New Wave/punk rock label. He soon split to produce for Big Sound Records, where he produced records by Van Duren and his own band The Yankees, but losing faith in those running the label he became totally independent. In addition to playing on sessions for artists such as Major Lance
("I've Got A Right To Cry") and The Rolling Stones
("Jivin Sister Fanny"), Tiven honed his craft as a member of The Jim Carroll Band
, as a guitarist/organist and also cowriting with Carroll the title song of the second album ("Dry Dreams"). Befriended by John Belushi
, he formed a The Tom Davis Experience featuring Al Franken
with the two comedians, and had a featured acting role as well as writing five songs for their film One More Saturday Night
(Columbia Pictures, 1986) produced by Dan Aykroyd
Other artists such as Rick Derringer
, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
, and The Symptoms
started recording his songs, and Tiven dedicated himself to primarily writing songs for other artists. In 1985 he renewed a friendship with his hero Don Covay
, and they wrote, performed, and recorded together through 2001. A label approached him to make his own record, and so was formed The Jon Tiven Group
who recorded two albums, Blue Guru
and Yes I Ram
in 1996 and 1999 respectively. The band featured Jon Tiven on guitar, Alan Merrill
on lead vocals, Todd Snare
on drums, and Tiven's wife Sally Tiven
on bass. Tiven started having some Billboard Hot 100
chart success with covered songs recorded by Huey Lewis and the News
and The Jeff Healey Band
, and Tiven then submitted some songs to B.B. King
to record. To his surprise King's manager asked him to produce B.B. The sessions Tiven produced and wrote by B.B. King were parcelled out on several releases, including Here and There
, a European release Lucille & Friends
, and the Grammy-award winning box set King of the Blues
. From that time on Tiven would distinguish himself in the Soul/Blues field, writing and producing new albums by Don Covay
, Syl Johnson
, Donnie Fritts, Freddie Scott
, and Sir Mack Rice
to name but a few. He coaxed Arthur Alexander
out of retirement in 1990 and in 1998 produced and cowrote Wilson Pickett
's first album in seventeen years, It's Harder Now
, which won three prestigious W.C. Handy Awards and in addition was nominated for a Grammy.
Tiven continued to have his songs recorded by other artists--- Robert Cray
had a top seller with the cover "24-7 Man," Johnny Winter
with "I Smell Smoke," Buddy Guy
with "Midnight Train," Shemekia Copeland
with "Married To The Blues," Irma Thomas
with "Trying To Catch A Cab In The Rain," and Australian Ian Moss
with "Mr. Rain."
After the Jon Tiven Group disbanded, he was not content to rest on his laurels, so Tiven busied himself in the new millennium by discovering, producing and cowriting a series of albums with soul/blues singer Ellis Hooks
who was heralded as following in the tradition of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and James Brown. Moving from New York to Nashville in 2002, he produced a series of well-received albums by Frank Black
, previously best known as lead singer and songwriter with the band Pixies. In 2004 he produced and cowrote what would become Little Milton
's last recorded effort Think Of Me
, which was released in 2005 and received four W.C. Handy Awards in 2006 including Song of the Year and Album of the Year. In 2006, he produced Sailover
, a welcome return by legendary singer/songwriter P.F. Sloan
for Hightone Records, as well as What I Was Running From
, the debut album by Indiana singer/songwriter Don Pedigo
. He continued to have his songs recorded by soul and blues artists, including Billy Price
, Ricky Fante, Gigi Dover, Hard Bargain featuring Arthur Canady, Rock Bottom, and Jim Quick & Coastline.
Tiven began 2007 in style by producing/writing Intuition, the first recordings in thirty-seven years by legendary soul singer Betty Harris. He continued his body of work with Ellis Hooks by producing Another Saturday Morning, the sixth album by the Alabama soul/rock hybrid. Tiven also helmed the chart-topping American debut Sofa King Badass by blues/soul singer (and harmonica player) Mason Casey. Touring Europe with a new band Jon Tiven & the Nashville Aces, he introduced his nine-piece outfit backing Ellis, Betty, and Sir Mack Rice. Later in 2007 Tiven produced an album by former Grass Roots member Creed Bratton (who has distinguished himself more recently as a cast member of the television show The Office).
2008 saw Tiven producing and writing a new album by legendary soul/blues singer Howard Tate entitled Blue Day, a critically acclaimed return to form for a man who was out of commission for over 30 years. Tiven also produced a new gospel-tinged album by soul innovatorGarnet Mimms entitled Is Anybody Out There?. Without missing a beat he coproduced/cowrote a new record with Felix Cavaliere & Steve Cropper for the Stax label called Nudge It Up A Notch, embraced by the critics and public alike as a wonderful combination of two singular talents.
Tiven continued his illustrious songwriting career collaborating with Chuck Mead, Stewart Francke and Syl Johnson for their upcoming releases, as his list of recorded songs exceeded the 400 mark. He also began work on a narrative Soul Opera entitled "I Sold Out" featuring the voices of Howard Tate, P.F. Sloan, Buddy Miller, Chuck Mead, Frank Black and Felix Cavaliere.