If you believe in fairy tales, you will definitely believe the story of Highjohn Records. It’s the story of luck, fantasy and passion, and the point at which those things intersected. It’s the story of a mandate that appeared out of nowhere, then took on a life of its own. The entrepreneur behind L.A.-based independent record label Highjohn Records is Robert Auerbach. Highjohn has just recorded a new CD by blues legend Floyd Dixon called Fine! Fine! Thing! According to Auerbach, “based on initial critical acclaim and worldwide radio airplay this CD could turn out to be one of Floyd’s biggest.”
Most blues fans have heard of Floyd Dixon, but who is this Robert Auerbach fellow and what are his credentials?
Robert’s father was Art Auerbach, a Bay Area attorney-turned-club owner, who was at the helm of The Jazz Workshop during it’s heyday in the sixties. All the jazz greats: Wig, Monk, Miles, Bird, Diz… they all played Art Auerbach’s club at one time or another.
In fact, it was Art Auerbach that bailed Lenny Bruce out of jail in 1964 after he was arrested for the use of profanity during his comedy act at the Jazz Workshop. Lenny was back on stage later that night to report, in his usual style, the experience of having been arrested. This required Art to bail Lenny out a 2nd time that night, but by that time the club had closed so they all went home.
It may not have been that night, but one of those late nights when Art went home to his lovely wife Esther, Robert was conceived. Whatever it was about Art Auerbach that compelled him to be involved in the music business was passed on “and then some” to his son Robert. Legend has it that while Mrs. Auerbach was late in her pregnancy with Robert, the great Dizzy Gillespie rubbed her tummy while he blessed the unborn child inside.
On another occasion, at the age of 3, when Mom brought Robert to the club during the day he discovered Art Blakey’s sparkle-red Rogers drum kit still set up on stage after a sound check. Before anyone could speak he had crawled up onto the stage and started playing those drums. Thusly inspired it is no surprise that he has been a drummer, although not professionally of course, most of his adult life.
Sadly, Art Auerbach had a very short adult life. He was only 39 when he left our world, most likely called up to run Heaven’s Jazz Workshop. After a few years, Esther was remarried to a businessman by the name of Tommy Koulax. Koulax was the creator of Original Tommy’s Hamburgers, an LA-based company whose signature “Chili-Burger” has since become nothing less than world famous. Hoards of vociferous fans of the fancy fast-food now sing its praises from the rooftops. Robert would eventually take on an executive role in his stepfather’s business, contributing his various skills to the company over several decades and bringing himself into a position of considerable influence and resources.
In 1999 while attending an outdoor music festival, Big Bob, as he had come to be known, met a blues singer named Johnny Tucker. He became quite impressed with Johnny’s talents and decided he wanted to help Johnny put out a new recording. He financed the project by taking out a 2nd mortgage on his home. With the profits from that project he financed another recording, this time of a rock group named Drowning Sound. That project didn’t do as well financially, but added substantial depth to Bob’s experience base. During the same time he also managed a blind blues singer and piano player named Greg Weins.
All this turned out to be valuable educational grist for Robert’s music business mill. By the time Johnny Tucker called early in 2005 with word that Floyd Dixon wanted to talk to Bob about recording a new CD, Bob had already gotten high marks at the Music Biz School of Hard Knocks, assimilated the bulk of his Auerbach heritage, and gained the visionary perspective necessary to get a job of such import done righteously.
As he wrapped his arms around the scope of the project, Bob assembled a team of experts to help carry it out, including Joe Campbell (music director), Max Pacific (art director), Astor Morgan (photographer) and David Budge (publicist), led by Bob himself, to help bring forth a new Floyd Dixon recording worthy of Floyd’s considerable legacy. The result is, indeed, a Fine! Fine! Thing! This New Floyd Dixon CD is now available, exclusively, from the Highjohn Records web site, http://www.highjohn.com. While visiting the highjohn website we recommend you take a little time as there is lots of content inside; including photo galleries, video clips, audio clips, reviews, little-known information and even Floyd Dixon T-shrts and CDs for sale.
If Art Auerbach were still alive today, we’re sure he’d be beaming with pride.
Robert Auerbach is now in his mid-forties and lives with his two teenage sons Thomas and Timothy in Orange, California. In addition to music & food he enjoys hunting, fishing, specialty cars, sports collectibles and entertaining.