by Jim Harris
There’s a new artist management company in town, and it’s run by a couple of local guys with years of experience in the music business. Mega Mezuma Productions is the brainchild of Germantown born-and-raised guitarist/composer John Fitch Jr. and the multitalented keyboardist, T. Conway.
Fitch is also V.P. of operations at The Candy Factory, 5547 Germantown Ave., a state-of-the-art recording studio in the building where Asher’s Candy previously resided for over 100 years. The studio is owned by local real estate businessman Joel Harden.
“My job here,” said Fitch in a recent interview at the studio, “is to make sure everything runs right and nobody steals anything.” This was just the first of many half-serious statements from these two guys, who seem to enjoy kidding around a lot.
As I was looking at the gold records on the walls, I asked what a gold record meant. “Money,” laughed Conway, without missing a beat. When I inquired as to who was the CEO of their production company, John answered, “I am,” adding, “We flipped a coin. Next year we’ll switch.”
Fitch and Conway, who are both 67, first worked together in the 1960s playing with the popular Philly group Frankie Beverly and the Butlers. In the 1970s, Conway went to work for the legendary Gamble and Huff as a writer, arranger, producer and performer. Over the years, he worked for many of the top R&B groups, including The Temptations, The Spinners, The Trammps and The Four Tops, among others. In the 1980s, he began writing for and performing with local gospel groups.
After the Butlers, Fitch became the music director for a singing group called the Showstoppers, which included Laddie and Elec Burke, brothers of the great soul singer Solomon Burke, who died recently at the age of 70. John toured the United Kingdom in 1968 with the Showstoppers, supporting their hit single, “Ain’t Nothing But A House Party.”
While there, he met many stars, including John Lennon, of whom he said, “He was a real funny guy. We really hit it off.” Also while in England, Fitch recorded a solo single of one of his own songs, “Romantic Attitude,” which was fairly successful on the British charts.
John’s biggest success though, was “Shame,” a song he co-wrote for the singer Evelyn “Champagne” King. It was released in 1977 and went on to peak at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, according to Wikipedia. The song gained a second life when it was used as the theme song for the movie “Low Down Dirty Shame,” starring Keenan Ivory Wayans and Jada Pinkett Smith, in 1994. It was also used in the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto,” and in an Old Navy TV ad. The song was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
Between the two of them, John and Conway have played, written and recorded just about every type of popular music over the last 50 years. Now, in their capacity as artist managers, they are looking for new talent.
“New young artists can’t always be critical, objective or business- minded enough,” said Fitch. “They need experienced mentors, and that’s where we come in. We write, groom, manage, record them and look for record deals.”
Their current clients include Divinia Davis, a 23-year-old pop singer “with a dash of rock and a dash of R&B,” and Connor Hansell, a singer/songwriter, who just happens to be chief engineer at The Candy Factory. Connor is also a personal trainer for Apple Computers.
“Record companies were dead,” says John. “They were frozen. Now they have a better grip on the Internet, and they’re hoping to infuse some new talent into the industry. It wont be like the big bucks of old, but they’re opening up a little.”
But even though their company’s name, “Mega Mezuma,” translates roughly to “Big Bucks,” (it’s Yiddish), it’s not just about the money for these guys. Another one of their pet projects is an 80-year-old gospel singer. “This gentleman is a national treasure,” said Conway, “and he’s never been recorded. We need to save some of his performances for posterity.”
I asked John what he might like to do if and when he ever retires. “I can’t believe how many things I’ve removed from my wish list,” he said. “I’d just like to have a successful company, leave some opportunity for my daughters and grandchildren, and have a piece of land where I can live and take in homeless animals. I’m a sucker for animals.”
He made it clear, though, that he has no plans to retire anytime soon. “It may be late in the game,” he said, “but the game ain’t over yet.”
For more information, call at 215-844-1103. (Fitch said that a Web site is “in the works” and should be up “in a week or so.”)