Graham Wood wants to set the record straight.
Now retired and living in Mission, Wood was the self-described “go-to-guy in the folk scene” in Britain during the early to mid 1960s. Meaning, he was a booking agent of several folk clubs and apparently well-established within the folk circuit, knew all the players and singers. As such, he became Paul Simon’s English manager during the 18 months or so Simon lived in London.
Here is the catch and likely what so upsets Wood. In a biography of Simon, Homeward Bound: The Life Of Paul Simon, by Peter Ames Carlin, there are but three references to Wood. No mention of how Simon and Wood met, what Wood did for him, or how they parted. Wood would like a little more credit, and to fill in oversights Carlin has made.
Carlin did contact Wood but he refused to help because he didn’t like Carlin’s “pushy” attitude. Carlin made do with what he had.
In his defense, Homeward Bound is well researched. The writing is forceful and confident, often catching Simon’s moments of hypocrisy. It also spans a career of more than 50 years of which Simon’s time in England might be crucial but is a very small part of a much larger story. So, who cares about Graham Wood? Graham Wood, who would like Simon’s English period better explained and understood.
Then, too, there is the nagging feeling that, for all Homeward Bound’s veracity, there might be more mistakes, details glossed or skimmed over that would make a more complete story of a very complex man.
“I met him through a lady, Judy Piepe, who called my office and said ‘ i have a very talented American you might want to meet.'” Wood recalls.
Piepe was like the den mother of English folk with several musicians, including Simon, staying at her residence. Wood arranged an audition at Mother Hubbard’s, a club in Essex. Simon did four numbers including Leaves That Are Green.
“When the hairs came up the back of my neck I knew I was on to something.”
His interest piqued, Wood had Simon come to his office in Oxford Street and put together the deal that made him Paul Simon’s manager. He didn’t know anything about Simon, his past pop life with Art Garfunkel as Tom And Jerry, his other aliases, or the CBS album Simon And Garfunkel had made in the States, Wednesday Morning 3 A.M..
Wood got Simon more bookings and pay. Meanwhile, Piepe convinced the BBC that he do a song on her brief morning radio broadcast, Five To Ten. After a week says Wood, “I started to get smothered in calls about Paul.”
There was a demand for him but CBS England was reluctant to release Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.. Wood got Simon on a Welsh TV show, which seemed to be enough to get CBS to release extracts from the Simon And Garfunkel LP as an EP.
Wood and Simon spent a day in the recording studio simply with Simon’s voice and acoustic guitar that became The Paul Simon Songbook. It was made in January 1965 and released that July.
“The truth about the album is that Paul and I did it.”
Paul Simon’s career was lifting off. He appeared on BBC’s Ready Steady Go, got embroiled in a name-calling incident with host Cathy McGowan that didn’t hurt him, which indicated Simon was unstoppable. Wood started making plans.
Then Simon informed him that Art Garfunkel was coming to England. Wood got them some bookings as a duo.
“The more dates we did, the more we could see where it was going.”
However, record producer Tom Wilson had overdubbed drums and guitars onto Sound Of Silence from the Wednesday album and it had turned into a Stateside hit that called Simon back to the U.S..
In November, 1965, he left for the States, saying he would be back in England in six weeks. He never showed.
“He just went to the States,” says Wood, “And that was that.”
No longer Paul Simon’s manager, Wood was still involved in folk music.
Barring more mistakes or oversights, that’s it. In his time, Wood met and hung with what he calls “the cream of the folk world.” Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Donovan, Al Stewart, Gordon Giltrap, Davy Graham.
It wasn’t easy.
“The folkies were distrustful of anything to do with agents, money or commercialism.”
In his next phase, Wood struck up a friendship with Long John Baldry, opened an R&B club, worked with The Animals, Alex Harvey, Manfred Mann and others.
“I was doing so well in rock that I started to phase out folk.”
In the 70s, Wood moved to Vancouver and involved himself in music business related ventures.
If you look for his name in any English folk or rock history, you won’t find it. By design, he claims, he was content to be invisible.
“I didn’t want the limos,” he insists. “I chose not to.”
Just don’t shortchange him on the rise of Paul Simon.