Mitch Miller, then head of A&R (Artists and Repertoire) for Columbia Records, gave my dad a shot. As a result, and thanks to my dad's research on song hooks, he arranged such hits as "Chances Are" and "Just Walking in the Rain" (the whistle on the Jonnie Ray recording is my dad's). This evolved into a solo career, calling himself Ray Conniff and the Singers. He went on to be one of the most successful pop bandleaders, arrangers and writers, recording more than 100 studio albums and touring internationally until he was 84.
But he never forgot those ditches in Reseda. I have taken the principles of positive thinking and applied them to my life. Without this lesson, I would not have walked into the Billboard offices in 2004, full of positivity (though I was frightened), and become the brand's chief editor—the first woman and youngest person to ever hold the post.
I have recounted my dad's tale to many friends and musicians down on their luck—and I swear it works. These moments define us.
I look forward to sharing the stories of other musicians who have found wisdom in everyday life over many columns to come.
Tamara Conniff is a former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Billboard and was named one of Crain's New York Business 40 Under 40. Most recently, she starred as a judge on Mark Burnett's P. Diddy's Starmaker on MTV.
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