JIM VIENNEAU

Born 18 September 1926, Albany, New York

Jim Vienneau was a producer for MGM Records. This record company, one of the six majors in the fifties, was formed in Hollywood in 1946, as a subsidiary of Loew's Inc., the movie and theater giant. MGM had been guided at first by industry veteran Frank Walker, who had signed Hank Williams but had otherwise relied upon movie soundtracks. The company showed little interest in rock 'n' roll until a new A&R team was brought in circa 1956, with Arnold Maxin at the helm, whose adroit moves included signing Connie Francis as an artist and Jim Vienneau as a producer. Vienneau worked out of MGM's offices on Broadway in New York, but commuted to Nashville for sessions. According to Colin Escott, Vienneau turned down Conway Twitty, but was overruled by Maxin. Vienneau would produce all of Twitty's MGM sessions (1958-1963, all in Nashville) and also all of Marvin Rainwater's sessions for the label (from "Whole Lotta Women" onwards, which was recorded in December 1957). Though Vienneau was the rock 'n' roll A&R man at MGM, his specialty was devising epic arrangements for over-blown ballads of torment and distress. Roy Orbison later became the master of this kind of record, but he must have been impressed by the two # 1 MGM hits that Vienneau produced : "It's Only Make Believe" by Conway Twitty (1958) and "Teen Angel" by Mark Dinning (1960).

 
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