Broadway Eddie’s Big Grammy Moment
Camden New Jersey was a burnt out shell of a city across the river from Philadelphia ever since I was a little kid, and I’d guess it still is, although it’s been decades since I’ve been there. Think of “The Wire” TV series, and you get the picture. “Lock your doors”, my mom would say whenever we went over the Ben Franklin Bridge and drove to Cousin Izzy’s furniture store on Broadway. Most folks gave the city a wide berth when driving over to Jersey, sticking to the main roads littered with adult bookstores, liquor shops and motels renting rooms by the hour. It was nasty. And home to Campbell’s Soup, which I’ve never liked all that much although their beans were pretty good, and RCA Victor.When I think of Camden, my mine flashes to an episode of COPS…any episode, it doesn’t matter which one.
Eddie Warhoftig, may he rest in peace, was a short roly-poly man who opened a record store deep in the heart of the Camden ghetto called the Broadway Record Museum in 1966. A pretty sharp business man, it evolved into Broadway Eddie’s Records & Tapes, Broadway Eddie’s Clothing, Broadway Eddie’s 99 Cents store, and Broadway Eddie’s Food Court, sprouting along the entire block from the first record shop.
I met him in the early seventies soon after he managed to save the store from round two of the race riots when most of the city was torched. Every morning he’d drive down Broad St. in Philly before crossing the bridge to pick up his daily orders. Back then you had Chips/ABKCO, Universal (where I worked…and not the same Universal as today), David Rosen’s, Sid William’s and Eastern…all distributors or wholesalers of records and tapes that ran up and down a one mile stretch.
In late 1977 the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was released, and from January to July in 1978 it sat at #1 on the Billboard charts. Beyond that, it stayed on the Top 200 until March 1980. Sold 25 million copies, although back then the accounting was more hocus-pocus than reality, so nobody except probably Robert Stigwood really knows. It was the ultimate tribute to the disco phenomenon of the times, and most of us who were around back then usually associate it with the Bee Gees, as they dominated the hit singles that came from the movie. But there were others too, like “Disco Inferno” by the Trammps and “A Fifth of Beethoven” from Walter Murphy.
One track used in a key scene was an instrumental from MFSB, the house band for Gamble and Huff’s Philly International label. (Later, after a money dispute, MFSB switched labels and became the Salsoul Orchestra.) The song “K-Jee” was written by Harvey Fuqua, founder of the 1950’s vocal group the Moonglows, and Charlie Hearndon. Originally recorded by the Nite-Liters in 1971, MFSB redid it in 1975 and it was included on the SNF soundtrack.
And the producers of that version? Bobby Martin and Broadway Eddie.
Now Eddie was a close friend of Kenny Gamble, so as a producer its possible he sat in the studio twirling dials. Or, as producer credits were often handed out, its more likely he may have fronted some money, brought in several heavyweight radio music directors for airplay, was listed as favor or repayment of debt or who knows what. But regardless of his efforts, large or small, he was and is credited as a producer. (It used to be common for disc jockeys of the day to be listed as co-writers, like Dick Clark and Alan Freed often were. After the payola scandals, a production credit was more believable and often passed out when it was called for.)
One day Broadway Eddie got an invitation in the mail to attend the 1979 Grammy show, and he almost threw it away. But the soundtrack was nominated and he ended up going. Earlier in the night, the Bee Gees had won three or four awards. When the announcement was made that SNF won the 1978 Album of the Year, about 20 performers and producers made their way up to the stage to accept their award. Obviously, the Bee Gees were the big guns and sales drivers, with five hit singles, and it was expected they would be the ones to make the acceptance speech.
I remember watching at home on my TV as short roly-poly Broadway Eddie was the first to jump out of his seat, literally push aside the Bee Gees and run up to the stage. He grabbed the award and got in front of the microphone to make his acceptance speech. He said a few words, mostly incoherent as I recall, until some taller people gently pushed him to the side and back, and let the Gibbs take front and center. But Eddie clutched his Grammy and brought it back to Philly for all of us to check out, and to his store in Camden.
Can’t tell you why this story comes to mind today, but I always thought it was kind of funny. An unscripted moment in a world filled with rules, procedures and protocol. Barely a footnote in the annals of rock n’ roll.
Here’s the song.