December 26th, 2015

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Mike Theodore and I first met singer/songwriter/guitarist Rodriguez through Harry Balk. Harry hired us to do two arrangements on him for his Impact Record label. The record did not sell so Harry dropped him from the label. Later Mike got a call from Rainy Moore, the manager of Rodriguez. She let Mike know that Rodriguez was no longer signed to Harry and was looking for a new record deal. She told us he was performing at a place in Detroit called The Sewer so we decided to go there and check him out.
The Sewer was a funky bar located in downtown Detroit on the Detroit River. We could hear the sound of the big freighters going up and down the river as we entered the parking lot. The place was full of cigarette smoke. When we finally spotted Rodriguez, he was singing and strumming his guitar with his back to the audience. We thought that was pretty strange but it did make us focus on his music. Once we heard a few songs, we realized we were listening to an urban poet who was writing songs as good as Bob Dylan. Mike convinced Clarence Avant, the president of Sussex Records, to sign him up and we recorded his first album “Cold Fact”. Rodriguez was so shy we had to record the first four songs with just him and the guitar. Later we went back into the studio and overdubbed musicians around what he had recorded. I played guitar and bass on those songs too. Finally Rodriguez agreed to record the rest of the album with a live band. That is me playing bass on “I Wonder” and me playing my guitar through a Vox Tone Bender on “O

“Cold Fact” was released and didn’t sell so Clarence agreed to send Rodriguez to London to record a second album with producer Steve Rowland. That album was called “Coming from Reality”. Mike and I had a few songs on that album but it didn’t sell either. Many years went by and Rodriguez worked in construction with no record deal or live shows.
In the late 90s, Rodriguez was discovered by the South Africans and the Australians and had hit records in both countries but he was still unknown to anyone in the US. Then something amazing happened. A film director called Malik Bendjelloul called me one day and told me he was doing a documentary on Rodriguez and asked if he could interview me. I agreed and he came over my house with his lighting assistant and began filming. I even got John Colbert, the owner of Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, to open up on a day they were closed so we could shoot some footage there.

The next thing I heard was the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” had won an Academy Award and Mike Theodore and I were also featured in the film. Rodriguez was now a super star. The fame that had eluded him for so long had finally materialized. People worldwide now recognized him for his artistry.

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Dennis Coffey