How Van Morrison Gave Van Halen Producer Ted Templeman His Start
Templeman -- also known for collaborations with Aerosmith, the Doobie Brothers and others -- said he was nervous as he manned the desk for Morrison’s 1971 album Tupelo Honey, and remained grateful for the singer’s patience and the way Ronnie Montrose kept spirits up during sessions.
“I was working as a listener at Warner Bros. Records,” Templeman told Billboard in a new interview. “A&R ace Lenny Waronker, along with WB general manager Joe Smith, had helped me sign the Doobie Brothers, and we were co-producing their first record. One day Joe told me I should take a trip to San Francisco with him to learn the ropes. … We drove to Fairfax, Calif., to see Van Morrison. He and Joe talked about his next album.
“Van was quiet, polite and self-effacing, and I took an immediate liking to the guy. His Irish brogue was hard to understand sometimes, but I could tell he was a super-smart cat. We talked for a while, then Joe and I headed back to Burbank. A week later, Van called and asked me to come up and listen to some tunes. He played new song ideas, and we listened to records, and found we had a common interest in jazz. … But I was completely surprised when he said, ‘Wanna work on a record with me?’”
Templeman said Morrison had heard “nothing” of his work to date and chose to “give this young rookie a shot.” “I was nervous, but he was understanding," he recalled.
"He’d stop and say, ‘So, Ted, are we getting a good sign in there?’ In his Irish brogue, he was saying ‘sound.’ He sang every track straight through, live with the band. That's how he captured the spontaneity. That's an important lesson I learned from him. I used that approach in all my future projects. Never burn out the band doing take after take ... just get the little parts ironed out before hitting the record button.”
He added that it had been a “godsend” to have Montrose present. “He had a sense of humor that would make Van laugh, and that's an important thing," Templeman noted. "He was the guy who kept the fucking session alive, and I'm not joking, because I was too serious. I was scared. I was nervous, and he kept things light and happy.”
During those sessions, Templeman’s wife was pregnant, and Morrison even joined him in the hospital as doctors decided to perform a cesarean. “I was so out of sorts, worried that I didn't know what to do,” he admitted. “Van and I went up to my house, and he was doing James Brown impressions and dancing and trying to keep me from worrying. That's what a sweetheart he is. He's a very sensitive cat. He was there for me in a time of need. And he gave me my first hit record. I'll never forget that. Van gave me my start in the music business.”