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Drummer, producer, songwriter and owner of Cazador Recording, Jimmy Hunter is likely best known for his session work and the early days of his career drumming with keyboardist Ray Manzarek in Nite City and with the Village People, but his most recent claim to fame is connected to a few obscure but serendipitous recording sessions with Cher 40 years ago. “I was drumming with the Village People and we got a chance to go to New York with [producer] Jacques Morali, who wanted to produce Cher,” Hunter says. “Everyone brought their songs in, and I had one I wrote for my girlfriend called ‘Rootie Toot.’ They said, ‘That’s good, let’s just dress up the chorus.’”
Now the song “Rudy,” which initially appeared on Cher’s 1982 album I Paralyze, has gone double platinum on 2013’s The Very Best of Cher and is on the verge of triple platinum at the time of this writing. “I never thought that experience would lead to this,” Hunter says of his recent accolade.
Since the 1980s, Hunter has now produced some 5,000 songs across the genres and worked with countless artists, which has taught him a lot of lessons in production over the years. “I’m not big on the ‘less is more’ philosophy with production; I like a lot of stuff going on, but I’m very careful to not walk on the vocal,” he says. “My biggest advice to anyone in the studio: stay off the vocal. That’s paramount. The things I try to teach to my understudies or assistants is to look for timing, pitch, interpretation, conviction and vibe. I want ‘10s’ in all those categories. If you can get that, then you’ve loved the listener.”
Now, Hunter’s new goal is to land songs from his own vast catalog in films and television, which has required him to navigate more of the business side of the music industry. “I don’t enjoy the business aspect of music; I’d rather be at the creative desk 24/7,” he says. “But the best advice I’ve received from mentors is to get all your metadata in order for all your mp3s, and get your copyrights in order. If you don’t have all that together, you’ll get left by the wayside.”
Photo by Jimmy Steinfeldt