DONNIE AND JOE EMERSON- STILL DREAMING?

DONNIE AND JOE EMERSON-STILL DREAMING?

All parents want the best for their children. That has been the case since time immemorial. Parents want their children to have what they never had. So when children are young, they lavish them with the best in clothes and toys. As the children get that bit older, they’re given the best bikes, game’s consoles and sport’s equipment. By the time the children enter their teenage years, they’re dressed in designer clothes, have the best in laptops and iPods. Still, the parents are determined that their child should enjoy the finest things in life. However, some parents take this way too far. This was the case with Donnie and Joe Emerson’s parents. 

Back in 1979, Donnie and Joe Emerson’s parents spent $100,000 buying equipment for their two son’s home studio. That wasn’t enough. Donnie and Joe weren’t going to settle for second best. Not when it came to the equipment for their nascent studio. The synths, drum machines and eight-track recorders available were good, but not good enough for Donnie and Joe. They had their limitations.

This had been proved a couple of years earlier, when Donnie and Joe Emerson recorded and released their debut single. It was a Donnie Emerson composition Take It. On the flip-side was another song penned by Donnie, Thoughts In My Mind. These two songs weren’t recorded as Donnie and Joe Emerson, but as Don, Joe and Eldon. Once the single was recorded it was ready for release.

Donnie and Joe Emerson had two options. They could shop Take It to various record label, in the hope that one might take a chance on the single. The label would have the budget and expertise the promote Take It. There was another option, release Take It as a private pressing. This is what the happened to Take It.

Take It was released on the family record label Enterprise and Co. When the single was released in 1977, Take It sunk without trace. Surely, the Emerson family had learnt a lesson from the commercial failure of Take It? Or had they?

Two years later, in 1979, Donnie and Joe Emerson realised that their home studio wasn’t without its limitations. They needed better equipment. Especially if they were going to record their debut album.

So, Donnie and Joe’s parents made one of the biggest decisions of their life, and mortgaged the 1,600 acre family farm in Fruitland, Washington. All this was so Donnie and Joe could follow their dreams. They went out and bought the very best musical equipment money could buy. This included was much better than the synths, drum machines and eight-track recorder in their original studio. By comparison, this was state of the art. It was the perfect environment for Donnie and Joe Emerson to record their debut album.

For their debut album, Donnie and Joe had written three tacks together, Good Time, Feels Like The Sun and Don’t Go Lovin’ Nobody Else. The rest of the album was written by Donnie. Similarly, Donnie played a bigger part in the recording of the album.

At the Emerson family’s new, state of the art studio, Joe Emerson played drums and added harmonies. Donnie played bass, acoustic, rhythm and lead guitar, synths and added lead vocals. He also took charge of production and mixing the album. Once the eight tracks were recorded, the album became Dreamin’ Wild. This was almost ironic. 

After all, the Emerson brothers had been living the dream. In doing so, they’d spent a fortune, their parent’s fortune. The Emerson’s had spent $100,000 and mortgaged their future. Dreamin’ Wild had to sell well. It had to be a huge hit.

Having released their debut single as a private pressing, surely the Emerson family would try and interest record companies in Dreamin’ Wild? They had the budget and experience to promote the album. This would’ve been in Donnie and Joe Emerson’s best interests. However, the Emerson family decided to release the album privately. This wasn’t unusual. 

All across America, private pressings were being released. They varied in quality. Many were little more than vanity releases. Not Dreamin’ Wild.

It showcased two talented singers, songwriters and musicians. Dreamin’ Wild wasn’t just a case of wealthy parents indulging their son’s musical fantasies. No. Far from it. Donnie and Joe’s fusion of soft rock, funk and soul had potential. The Emerson brothers could’ve enjoyed a successful career. Especially, if they’d signed to a major label. They would’ve guided Donnie and Joe’s career. That would’ve made sense. So would bring in an experienced management team to guide Donnie and Joe’s career. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Instead, Dreamin’ Wild was released on the Emerson family’s Enterprise and Co. label. Its only prior release had been Donnie and Joe’s 1977 single Take It, and it had sunk without trace. Sadly, when Dreamin’ Wild was released in 1979, lighting struck twice. Just like Take It, Dreamin’ Wild it sunk without trace. The Emerson family’s gamble hadn’t paid off. 

They had bet the bank on their talented sons. Not only were they $100,000 lighter, but there was a mortgage on their 1,600 acre farm. Dreamin’ Wild must be the most expensive private pressing ever. 

The copies of Dreamin’ Wild that had found their way into record record shops, soon found its way into the Dollar bin. They were just the latest of thousands of private pressing that were released each year. Many were vanity releases, that deserved to find their way into the remainder piles and Dollar bins. Not Dreamin’ Wild. It was a cut above most private pressings. Maybe if the Emerson brothers had belatedly shopped the album to a record company, they might have taken a chance on it. However, by then, it was too late.

Following the commercial failure of Dreamin’ Wild, Joe decided to concentrate on the family farm. For Joe the dream was over. Reality seemed to have hit home. Maybe Joe realised that they were never going to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim by releasing private presses? Things might have been different if they had been signed to a record company. So Joe decided to concentrate on helping run the facility farm, while  music would become a hobby, something he did to relax. Donnie wasn’t willing to give up on his dream.

Still, Donnie believed he could make a career out of music. Maybe even with his brother? So while Donnie continued to chase his musical dream, he wrote and recorded with Joe when his brother had some spare time.

Over the next two and a half years, they wrote and recorded seventy songs. Not only were the Emerson brothers prolific, but the quality was consistent. What differed was style. They recorded everything from FM rock, power pop, and new wave. That was part of the problem.

The Emerson brothers continually flitted between musical genres. They couldn’t be marketed as pop, rock or new wave artists.  This would’ve made it difficult for a record company to market the Emerson brothers. Their versatility had, in fact backfired. They would’ve been better advised to concentrate on one particular genre. However, that never happened, as the Emerson brothers didn’t seem interested in working with a record company. Instead, it seemed, they wanted to do things on their terms. That was all very well, but had already proved expensive. Despite this, Donnie never gave up his musical dream.

Throughout his life, music has been a constant. It was his passion, and how he once hoped to make his living. Sadly, Donnie Emerson never made the commercial breakthrough, and was never able to make a living out of music. However, at least he had the opportunity to follow his dreams. His parents made sure of that.

They spent $100,000 buying equipment for their two son’s home studio. That wasn’t enough. Donnie and Joe weren’t going to settle for second best. Not when it came to the equipment for their nascent studio. The synths, drum machines and eight-track recorders available were good, but not good enough for Donnie and Joe. They had their limitations. So, their parents mortgaged the 1,600 acre family farm in Fruitland, Washington. All this was so Donnie and Joe could follow their dreams. Sadly, this gamble didn’t pay off. 

This wasn’t because Donnie and Joe lacked talent. Far from it. Instead, it was a case of making a series of bad decisions. The first was spending a small fortune on a home studio for two teenage boys. That was indulging two boy’s dreams. In doing so, the Emerson family risked everything. Their second mistake was not trying to get a record company interested in Dreamin’ Wild. Maybe then, Dreamin’ Wild would’ve become a commercial success. By releasing Dreamin’ Wild on their own label, the Emerson family weren’t able to promote the album sufficiently. So, it’s no surprise that Dreamin’ Wild sunk without trace. That’s a great shame.

The Emerson brother’s were both talented singers, songwriters and musicians. Joe cowrote three tracks, played drums and added occasional harmonies. Donnie wrote the rest of Dreamin’ Wild; played most of the instruments and sang the lead vocals. He also mixed and produced the album. Dreamin’ Wild was very much his baby. 

It seems that Donnie was the driving force behind the Emerson brothers musical partnership. Maybe music played a different part in the two brothers’ lives? For Joe Emerson, maybe music was a hobby and if anything came of it, that was an added bonus. By comparison, Donnie Emerson’s life seemed to revolve around music. He was determined to make a career out of music, no matter what. This included letting his parents spent $100,000 and mortgage their farm to pay for a new studio. This allowed Donnie and Joe Emerson to record their debut album Dreamin’ Wild. At last, Donnie Emerson was living the dream, and when their debut was released was still dreaming. Alas, it was ultimately all for nothing. 

The dream soon became a nightmare when the album Dreamin’ Wild failed commercially. Despite this, Donnie Emerson continued to dream, and who knows, maybe even today, is still dreamin’ of making a career as a music, like he was when he released Dreamin’ Wild.

DONNIE AND JOE EMERSON- STILL DREAMING?

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