Guy Webster photo
Brewer and Tom Shipley began their careers
separately on the
coffee house circuit. After meeting in 1964, they crossed paths over the next couple of years. It
was three years later, when both ended up in California attempting to make it
in the emerging folk-rock music scene, before their first collaboration
was the first to
and he tried his hand in the short lived duo
Mastin & Brewer.
The duo quickly landed a record contract with Columbia Records, but
despite their early promise, Mastin & Brewer dissolved suddenly when Mastin
inexplicably split. Their Columbia Records debut
single essentially complete, was released without Mastin's vocals as a Brewer
& Brewer single.
Around this time,
Mastin & Brewer’s man at
Alan Stanton, left Columbia to take a job with a new record company being
formed by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss called A&M Records. With
Brewer failing to take off, Stanton took Michael with him to A&M and he was hired as a staff songwriter.
Tom Shipley arrived in L.A. and rented a house
around the corner from Michael’s. Tom recorded a single with
Ruthann Friedman for A&M released as
Club. Tom was collaborating with Friedman
who was writing "Windy" for The Association," and also collaborating on
songs with Michael. Soon Tom was also
hired by A&M as a songwriter. Michael recalls, "Tom looked me
up and rented a house near mine. We started hanging out and writing, and it
clicked. Since we had the same folk background, it wasn't hard to come
up with stuff."
So in 1967,
three years after they first met on the folk curcuit, Michael Brewer and Tom
Shipley's first partnership was as
staff songwriters for A&M Records' song publishing subsidiary, Good Sam
Michael and Tom
immediately began earning their keep as staff songwriters. In
1967 and 1968, Michael & Tom’s songs were recorded for seven different
singles and six album cuts by a diverse group of
artists including The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Poor, Glen Yarbrough, Noel
Harrison, The Afex (UK), H.P. Lovecraft, and Bobby Rydell.
their ability to write songs for others, Michael & Tom didn't
enjoy the corporate songwriting process. Michael recalled: "A&M
signed us as songwriters. They wanted us to go into an office and crank out
songs, like a regular office job, but that wasn't our cup of tea. In fact,
it made us hate tea. I had a large closet in my house with a window and
a sawed off tree stump table. We wrote all the songs for our first album
songwriting required them to record demos for the songs to be pitched to
It was also something they never felt comfortable doing. Tom recalled:
ourselves as singer/songwriters and performers in the model of Vince Martin
and Fred Neil. We wrote a lot of the songs but never had much luck pitching
them. We were very stylized and never figured out how you go about pitching
that Michael & Tom had developed their own unique sound, someone at A&M had the good sense to green-light them to record
their own songs for an A&M record album.
The former folk singers turned staff songwriting
started recording their debut album,
Down In L.A.,
and began performing in clubs together, officially beginning the duo of Brewer & Shipley.