McCartney Times

Ken Mansfield

Ken Mansfield

Ken Mansfield

Ken Mansfield is the former U.S. Manager of Apple Records, a high-ranking executive for several record labels, songwriter, the author of five books and a Grammy and Dove Award winning album producer.

Since the 1960s, Mansfield has been associated with an array of notable performers including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Waylon Jennings, James Taylor, Roy Orbison, Don Ho, the Imperials, Tompall Glaser, Harry Nilsson, Glen Campbell, Buck Owens, Lou Rawls, Andy Williams, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Eric Burdon, Badfinger, Jackie Lomax, The Four Freshmen, Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, David Cassidy, Nick Gilder, Claudine Longet, and Jessi Colter. In the 1970s, he helped popularize the Outlaw movement in country music by producing Waylon Jennings’ number one album, Are You Ready for the Country as well as the crossover number-one hit “I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter. In 1990 he entered the Gospel Music arena and produced the legendary Imperial’s Big God album and in 1991 produced Homecoming, the Gaither Vocal Band’s Grammy and Dove Award-winning album. Then in 2000, the former record executive-turned-producer embarked on a literary career with The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay (Broadman & Holman). His follow-up, The White Book – The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era (Thomas Nelson), was released in 2007. Mansfield’s third book, Between Wyomings, (Thomas Nelson), was released on June 9, 2009. His fourth book, Stumbling On Open Ground (January 15, 2013), is also a Thomas Nelson Publication. Book number five, Rock and a Heart Place (May 1, 2015), is a Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC publication.

Mansfield was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Idaho, the son of a sawmill worker and housewife. The remote area in the northern Idaho panhandle was called the “Banana Belt” because of the comparatively moderate weather. Soon after graduating from high school, he joined the Navy to leave his small town roots behind.

Upon his discharge from active duty, Mansfield enrolled at the University of Idaho eventually transferring to San Diego State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. His first job was doing computerized cost, budget, and program analysis for the Saturn and Surveyor space programs in San Diego. At the same time, Mansfield sang with a folk group called The Town Criers and opened a nightclub in San Diego’s suburb of La Mesa. The popular club, called The Land of Oden, was La Mesa’s former City Hall. He also managed the band The Deep Six

Through his music contacts, Mansfield learned of a job opening at Capitol Records in Los Angeles. Armed with his marketing degree and a borrowed suit, he was interviewed and then hired in January 1965 as the company’s District Promotion Manager West Coast, making him one of the youngest executives with the firm.

Mansfield was promoted quickly and was one of the first young American executives the Beatles worked with since their ascension to stratospheric stardom. Up until then, everyone they met in the executive world outside their isolated and insulated realm was a Lord of EMI (the parent company that owned Capitol Records), a corporate chairman or a high-ranking executive. Mansfield’s age made him more accessible to the Beatles, who soon invited him to become a member of their inner sanctum.

In addition to the Beatles, while at Capitol, he was also responsible for overseeing the recording careers of the Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, The Band, Bobbie Gentry, Lou Rawls, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, The Steve Miller Band, Bob Seger, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service.

In 1967 when the Beatles decided to form their own corporation, they turned to Mansfield to run their record division and named him the U.S. Manager of Apple Records beginning in 1968. Mansfield joined his four new bosses setting up the worldwide launch of Apple Records and the U.S. management of subsequent projects such as The Beatles (aka The White Album), Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, Let It Be and Hey Jude. In addition to the Beatles, Mansfield looked after the careers of Apple artists such as James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Badfinger and Jackie Lomax.

At the time of the Apple debut, everyone agreed that the Beatles first single on the new label had to be a smash. The group was stymied on whether to release “Hey Jude” or “Revolution” as Apple’s first single. “Hey Jude,” which clocked in at an unprecedented 7:11, was the obvious choice. However, it was still the era of the less than three-minute record and Top 40 stations gained listeners by playing the most hits in an hour. Mansfield came up with the solution by bringing an advance copy of the two songs from the UK to America and playing them to a few trusted radio station managers, who were unanimous in their decision that “Hey Jude” was the hit. They were right. When the song was released in September 1968, it topped the Billboard charts for nine weeks and became the Beatles’ best selling single of all time.

In his position as an Apple executive and personal liaison for the Beatles between the UK and US, Mansfield was among a handful of eyewitnesses to join The Beatles as they performed their legendary last-ever gig on the rooftop of their London headquarters on January 30, 1969, which was captured in the Academy Award-winning documentary, Let It Be. Mansfield is easy to recognize as he was the only one on the roof that day wearing a white coat.

When the Apple empire began to crumble, Mansfield turned down an offer by businessman Allen Klein to stay despite the promise of his salary being tripled. Mansfield saw the writing on the wall and moved over to MGM Records as its vice president in charge of marketing and artist relations. Two years later he was hired by Andy Williams to be the president of his CBS record company, Barnaby Records in 1971 – an artist roster that over the years boasted Ray Stevens, Jimmy Buffett, the Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, Lenny Welch, and Claudine Longet.

Mansfield’s tenure with Barnaby lasted two years (1971–73) chiefly because he wanted to take the label heavy into the emerging contemporary country market, which evolved into the exciting “Outlaw” movement. Williams saw things differently and Mansfield resigned over the dispute.

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