As a campus supervisor at Carmel High, Don Perry is known for his humor and his smile. As a music supervisor in Hollywood, he was known for his integrity and innovative approach to production.
Now Perry is adding yet another accomplishment to his expansive life résumé, with the Feb. 25 release of his autobiographical book, titled “Don Perry Produced the Music: My Journey Through the Golden Years of Rock And Roll.”
The book chronicles Perry’s experiences in the music industry, first as aspiring singer-songwriter and then as record producer, concert promoter and music supervisor. Perry’s goal with the book was to provide a blueprint for aspiring young artists as well as record that time in his life for friends and family.
In 2012, Perry wrote several online articles about his career, and the idea for the book was born when a friend suggested he expand them. For the next three years, the one-time singer dedicated what time he could to compiling his countless stories and life lessons for the book.
“Every once and awhile, I’d be on the golf cart [around campus] and an idea would come, and I’d write it on the back of the daily bulletin,” Perry reminisces.
I sat down with Don Perry on a Wednesday afternoon to talk about his new book, and in our interview, the music business veteran described his writing process as intermittent. He talked of having to revisit old memories and rekindle old relationships, as well as research the numerous projects he’d worked on over the years.
As music and film evolved, the San Francisco native adapted to each changing stage, whether it was from rock and roll to R&B or mono recording to stereo, and his many talented brothers were often there with him.
For those interested, all film and music credits Don has to his name are compiled in the back of his book. Just the list of artists he promoted in concert is impressive: Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, The Jackson Five and The Temptations, among many others.
The hardest part, he told me, was putting it all in chronological order. But having read and enjoyed his book, I can confidently say it was hard to put down, with a delightful combination of personalized music history, anecdotal stories and observant aphorisms as only Don can tell them.
Take the following excerpt: “In a business where friends constantly compete with each other for jobs, composers for films, producers for artists, artists for songs [and] actors for parts, it’s hard to maintain a balance.”
If anything, that balance is something Perry has achieved not only in life but in his new book, with both humorous moments—like trying to get Stevie Wonder’s attention by waving at him from the side of the stage—and sobering ones, such as a Texas airport detaining Wonder’s manager for being black.
Perry ended up self-publishing, and interestingly enough—as if we don’t see his commitment to the community everyday on campus—the book’s cover was designed by a CHS graduate.
“The bottom line…[that] I try to convey in the book is [that] a guy can follow the dream,” Perry says with a grin. “I literally dreamed I wanted to be in the business, and somehow [was] lucky enough to work 30 years doing something that I love doing, that I would’ve done for nothing.”
And while writing and editing were often difficult, Perry is pleased with the end result.
“It’s a great feeling.” He smiles. “I thought I’d do a lot of things in my lifetime, but I never thought I’d write a book.”
“Don Perry Produced the Music” can be found online at Amazon.com or bought directly from the publisher, Outskirts Press. Perhaps one day a film adaptation will be out there, too.
And of course, Don is always available to talk.