Al Hoffman was my great Uncle. He died before I was born, and I knew nothing about him growing up other than he co-wrote "Mairzy Doats" and "I Apologize".
Five days after 9-11, Mrs. M and I were driving over the Brooklyn-Queens expressway. You could see the smoke over the burning pit in Manhattan. Two men on our block had been killed in the Twin Tower attacks.
We tuned the car radio to WFUV-FM and heard deejay Rich Conaty announce an evening of Hoffman music on his Big Broadcast show. That was a surprise and a shock. I'd never heard Al's name spoken by anyone except members of my family.
I tuned in the following Sunday and heard happy, happy tunes, a stark contrast to the death and destruction that was in the air during that time. I learned that Al had written hundreds of songs, among them standards recorded by Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Django Reinhardt, Chet Baker and literally dozens of others beginning with his first hit, "That's What I Call Sweet Music" recorded by Sophie Tucker in 1929, right up to "La plume de ma tante" by Homer and Jethro in 1959.
I contacted Conaty, explained who I was, and he graciously sent me three cassettes containing his Hoffman broadcast. After repeated listening, I decided hat I'd agressively pursue information about Hoffman. I discovered a Seattle cousin had two boxes of Al's personal papers, magazine articles, correspondence and such as well as 300 78 and 45 RPM records.
The boxes were sent and I found some eyeball-shattering family dirt as well as much about Al. I sat on the floor and gaped at his photo for the first time, one of dozens documenting Al's life in New York City from 1928 to the year of his death, 1960---and beyond.
Al Hoffman and his mother Rose, 1932
With the help of Nick Max, I had the records transferred to MP3, boiled it down to 12, and decided to record.
Through phone calls to ASCAP, I discovered Music Sales Group, a world-wide publishing company with offices in Manhattan, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Berlin and elsewhere had bought most of Al's copyrights in recent years. (I also discovered Paul McCartney's MPL owns 3---none hits.)
I called Music Sales and asked to speak to whoever handled Hoffman. Got the right guy, introduced myself, and asked if the company would be interested in a new full-length CD if and when.
To my surprise, he didn't yea yea me---they took me quite seriously, and said sure.
It did not hurt that the man I spoke to likes cars.
Took me a while but I raised the dough to hire the best musicians, arranger, producer and studio I could afford.
I finished the disc, brought it to Music Sales and left it there. Within a day, they called offering to sign us to an exclusive publishing deal, aggressively seeking to place the songs in film, television, radio, videogaming and "new media", whatever that means.
The disc is called "The Maxes Sing Al Hoffman".
You can't buy it---yet---but you will, soon, as soon as we plot the next move. We're also in the process of planning a series of videos in conjunction with last year's "The Maxes" and this year's "The Maxes Sing Al Hoffman".
Now, about the signing. Obviously, it was a sweet day, 7 years in the making.
I put on my signin' clothes---tight black jeans, bright blue Armani shirt, black polished loafers, and up I went to the Office.
I thought the final version of the contract would be on parchment, printed in italics, and a gold seal affixed. It was not--it was printed on Staples paper.
Three copies were offered, three were signed, three of us stood and said, "Here's to a long and prosperous relationship." Ok, I said it. But they smiled and said, "Yes!"
Welcome to the music biz, kid, I sez to the mirror later on.
You might want to check out some of the musicians who played on the sessions: