Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Who is Peter Tevis: Part II

Last month, I posted a message from
Bob Cumbow
regarding American singer/songwriter Peter Tevis, who influenced the sound of the spaghetti western through his association with Italian composer Ennio Morricone. Bob forwarded the post to Peter, who responds with his own take on the story. With
his permission, I am posting it here.

Here's the true story of "A Fistful of Dollars." I was working at the Teatro De Opera as a stereo stage manager at about 24 years of age in 1961, when I was introduced to an Italian lady who had established herself by helping singers get started. She made an appointment for me to go to RCA, to meet Pierrot Ricordi. I remember putting my foot on his desk and singing my own rendition of "Pastures of Plenty." He offered me a contract of two singles. He also made an appointment for me to see Morricone. We cut the record and I was lost for a while.

At this time, Sergio Leone needed a score for his film Per Pugno di Dolari, better known to us as A Fistful of Dollars, and he didn't like any of the ones Morricone had written so far. While trying to find something that was "different" and could work for Leone's film, my single "Pastures of Plenty" happened to get played. At this point I had developed a bombastic way of playing guitar. From what I've heard, when Leone heard the single he cried out, "That's it!" and thus was the score to A Fistful of Dollars born.

At about this time, I went to the movies in Italy and heard my song played as the background music for the opening sequence. Except, they had removed my voice and the lyrics to the song, and replaced them with the whistling we hear when we see the film today. I went to RCA claiming that I was going to file a suit, but according to them there's an Italian clause that says "The injured party must gain something from the other party" and so they asked me what I wanted. I said I'd like to make an album with Morricone, and so I got my wish and he and I made the Fistful LP record. My original "Pastures of Plenty" was suppressed, otherwise that first single would have appeared on the LP.

As naïve as I was, I had no idea that it would become one of the biggest films in cinema history. I felt that Ennio was under pressure to produce a cheap soundtrack as he had no idea how the movie would do either. I often wonder what happened to all those 45's containing my "Pastures of Plenty."

Endnote: Thanks to Bob for the original message and to Peter
for the follow-up. For more on Morricone, I recommend "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" in the 07/06 Sight & Sound. About the song, Guido Bonsaver writes, "A couple of notes from the whistled melody for Fistful of Dollars (1964) brings the entire tune to mind, but a second listening reveals the piece's sophistication. While the light-hearted tone chimes with Leone's demystification of the Western tradition, the use of non-orchestral sounds such as whipcracks and church bells demonstrates Morricone's own interest in experimentation." Image from Wikipedia.


Anonymous said...

Ciao Kathy,

Non so se Lei è italiana o inglese (americana) perche questo sito internet è italano... però, scrivo in inglese.
I'm actually American, and Peter Tevis is my uncle (my mother's eldest brother). I just moved to Italy a few days ago which got me thinking about my uncle. I haven't seen him since his funeral, but being here provokes many reminders. I decided to look him up online in efforts to find photos of him in the romantic comics he used to star in, but instead I came across your blog. I was wondering how you heard about Uncle Peter and if you know anymore... something had gotten me curious about his life here.
Anyway, if you get this message and have any more info, please email me at littlelady141@hotmail.com

grazie a lei,

kathy fennessy said...

Thank you for your comment, Lili. I have passed your message on to Bob Cumbow, so that he can put you in touch with Peter's wife. I hope you enjoy your stay in Italy!