Tag Archives: Terence Coen

Remembering Terry Coen

Musicians and music-lovers in Westport — and around the country — are mourning the death of Terry Coen.

The longtime resident — a Staples High School graduate, whose Soundview Avenue home (with a recording studio in the basement) was a gathering place for artists like Meat Loaf, Billy Joel, the Remains and many more, and who with his wife Gail Cunningham was an integral part of his Compo Beach neighborhood too — died July 28 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

He was 73 years old. Terry spent his final days doing what he loved most: listening to music.

Trevor, Davis, Gail and Terry Coen, with Michael Jackson

Terence was born on June 10, 1947 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lived throughout the South before he relocated with his family to the New York City area. He was awarded a scholarship at the San Francisco Art Institute, and also attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

His passion for music emerged early, and he was a witness to some of the most iconic performances of the last century: from the Fillmore West, Avalon Ballroom, and Golden Gate Park, to the East Village jazz venues, the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, and other seminal musical events of the era.

In the early ’70s, his love for music led him into a lifelong promotion career in the recording industry. At a time when exposure to the listening audience through radio airplay was a major factor in the success of a project, promotion was a key ingredient.

During the 20 years working with Warner Brothers and Epic Records, he had an active role in the success of recordings by varied artists, including George Benson, Pat Metheny, Fleetwood Mac, Foghat, The Doobie Brothers, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Van Halen, U2, ZZ Top, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Jackson, Spin Doctors, Cheap Trick, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Queen, Foreigner, Mountain, REO Speedwagon, Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross, Living Colour, Gloria Estefan, The Radiators, The Allman Brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In 1992 he moved into the jazz arena with Palmetto Records, where he helped build and develop a deep artist roster, including Dr. Lonnie Smith, Andrew Hill, Will Bernard, Bobby Watson, Fred Hersch, Frank Kimbrough, Larry Goldings, Chico Hamilton, Ben Allison, Matt Wilson, Javon Jackson and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

He then created Soundview Jazz Promotion, established himself as an independent promoter and continued to work with Jazz labels and individual recording artists.

A modern-day renaissance man, Terence was a prolific artist, songwriter, and photographer, with many of his works being displayed at galleries over the years.

His warm, relaxed personality, and encyclopedic knowledge enabled him to easily connect and build an immediate rapport with musicians across all genres. He was a trusted mentor to both established and aspiring artists who regularly sought guidance on their latest recordings and career direction.

Terence’s home was a frequent haven for decades of music luminaries and provided a welcoming space that nurtured their creative spirits. With a knack for forging relationships at all levels of the industry, he was generally regarded as one of the most gracious and approachable people in his field.

The Coens’ house on Soundview was a frequent gathering place for many famous musicians.

Terence received numerous national awards and honors during his near half century in the music business and left an indelible mark through his efforts.

He was an avid record collector, vintage auto enthusiast, multi-instrumentalist, and loyal Yankee baseball fan. Also a devoted husband and loving father, he cherished holidays and any occasion for gatherings with family and friends.

He is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 51 years, Gail Cunningham; son Trevor (Julie); son Davis (Julia); granddaughter Lily Claire; sisters-in-law Sheila C. Perry (Bob) and M. Blithe Dotson (Fred); as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his mother Elynore Stinson Coen. father Robert Joseph Coen, and brother Robert Joseph Coen, Jr.

Burial was private. Donations may be made in his memory to Jazz Foundation of America, 247 W 37th Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10018, or The Blues Foundation, 421 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103.

A celebration of life will be set at a later date, when it is safe for all to gather.

Putting The “Sound” In 17 Soundview Drive

Ginger Baker sent a drum set to the house. Peter Frampton lounged on the front deck. Carly Simon wanted to buy it.

Those are just a few of the musical memories associated with 17 Soundview Drive. It’s one of the most handsome homes lining the Compo exit road, drawing admiring glances from walkers and sunbathers for its beachside gracefulness.

If only they knew the musical history hidden throughout the property.

17 Soundview Drive.

17 Soundview Drive.

It was built — like the rest of the neighborhood — as a summer house in 1918. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students designed it, ensuring harmony with the beach environment.

Francis Bosco — current owner Gail Cunningham Coen’s grandfather — bought it in 1928. A Sicilian immigrant and lover of opera, he tuned in every Saturday to NBC Radio’s live Met broadcasts. For years the voices of Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, Robert Merrill and others soared from the living room, under the awnings and onto the beach, thrilling neighbors and passersby.

In 1982 Gail and her husband Terry Coen bought the house. She’s a musician and music teacher; he’s a songwriter and music promoter. Over the past 32 years they’ve lavished love on it. It was one of the 1st Compo homes to be raised, to protect against storms. It’s been beautifully renovated inside. The Coens also added a secluded rooftop deck, and flower and vegetable gardens.

You can see the water from nearly every room in the house. This is the living room.

You can see the water from nearly every room in the house. This is the living room.

But the professionally designed, fully soundproofed music studio is what really rocks.

It — and the chance to hang out privately, yet in the middle of all the beach action — has made 17 Soundview a home away from home for 3 decades of musical royalty.

Ginger Baker spent many evenings talking about the birth of British rock, touring with Eric Clapton, and his childhood in England during World War II. He also recited some very bawdy limericks. In return, he gave Ludwig drums to Soundview Studios.

Ginger Baker, and his drums. (Photo/Wikipedia)

Ginger Baker, and his drums. (Photo/Wikipedia)

Peter Frampton brought his young family. They loved the warm summer breeze, and being able to sit anonymously just a few feet from the hubbub of a beach afternoon.

One summer day, Carly Simon said she was thinking of buying a beach house. #17 was her favorite, because it reminded her so much of Martha’s Vineyard.

Meat Loaf played Sunday morning softball at Compo. After, he headed to the Coens’. One day, he played his next single on the roof deck. No one on the beach could see he was there — but they heard him. At the end, everyone applauded.

The Remains reunited for the 1st time in decades in the studio. (Full disclosure: I was there. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.)

Eric von Schmidt loved to sing by the fireplace, and joined jam sessions in the studio. One day, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott rambled over with him.

Other regulars included Jimi Hendrix’s bass player Noel Redding; Corky Laing and Leslie West of Mountain; former Buddy Miles Express front man Charlie Karp; Eric Schenkman of the Spin Doctors, and guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar.

17 Soundview - roof deck

The rooftop deck is a great place to watch fireworks. It’s also where Meat Loaf played his next single, to the unknowing delight of a Compo Beach crowd.

Some of those musicians — and plenty other great ones, though less known — were guests at the Coens’ annual July 4th fireworks parties. The food and drinks were fantastic, capped off by watching the passing parade on Soundview.

But the real action happened when the fireworks ended. Everyone piled into the studio, and jammed till the sun came up.

From Caruso to the Spin Doctors, 17 Soundview Drive has seen it all. If only those walls could talk (or sing).

It’s on the market now, ready for the next gig. For Westport’s sake, I hope the new owners understand the home’s history. I hope they realize how the place has sheltered so many artists, and helped their creative spirits grow.

And though Brian Wilson was one of the few musicians not to hang out at 17 Soundview Drive — well, I don’t think he did — I hope whoever buys this beautiful, wondrous property will “get” its longtime, way cool and very good vibrations.

(Interested in buying the house? Click here for details.)


Terry Coen Remembers Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s death evoked a wide range of reactions around the globe.

Westporter Terry Coen recalled the “King of Pop” with admiration and awe.

That reaction is personal.  For a decade — during Jackson’s most fertile creative period — Coen was near the center of all the fervor.

He joined Epic Records as a promotions director in 1983, just after “Thriller” was released.  That album — the biggest seller in history — spawned 7 Top 10 singles.

He worked with Jackson on the “Bad” album, and the later Jackson Brothers tour.  Coen dealt with radio stations, MTV, contest winners, concerts — you name it, he did it.

Did such a mega-star really need promoting?

“He was a very astute businessman,” Coen says.  ” He understood the importance of promoting and marketing.  He knew that every album had to go to number one.”

Trevor, Davis, Gail and Terry Coen, with Michael Jackson

Trevor, Davis, Gail and Terry Coen, with Michael Jackson

Coen calls Jackson “very quiet and wonderful — he was a sweetheart of a guy.”

And a spectacular performer.

“Gail and I saw Hendrix, Otis Redding and James Brown in concert,” Coen says.  “But there was no one like Michael Jackson.  He put on the most fantastic, incredible, exciting show I’ve ever seen.  Charisma is too mild a word.”

Coen, his wife Gail and their then-young sons, Trevor and Davis, went backstage at the Meadowlands.  Gail invited Jackson to take a break at their beachfront home in Westport — as hordes of famous musicians have.  He thanked her profusely, but could not carve out the time.

Back in Westport, Trevor did the moonwalk in elementary school.

“Michael helped inspire them to be musicians,” Coen says.  “They really responded to his music, and to the adulation he got.”

Working with Jackson, Coen says, was “one of the most exciting periods of my life.”

Jackson’s troubles came later.  “He’d made so much money, he didn’t have to work anymore,” Coen says.  “That may have been part of his demise.  It’s unfortunate his stardom has been tainted.”

But, Coen adds:  “There was Sinatra, Elvis and the Beatles.  Michael Jackson was bigger than everyone.  It was a thrill to work with him, to see him and to know him.”

Terry Coen is proud of his memories of their association.  Whenever he needs a reminder  he can glance at the platinum “Bad” record, hanging on his Westport office wall.