In 1972, Paul Nelson was promoted from publicity to East Coast head of A&R at Mercury Records. His first real signing was Blue Ash, a band from Youngstown, Ohio. The group's 1973 debut album, No More, No Less, earned a place on several critics' best-of-the-year lists but, as these things often go, didn't make a connection in the marketplace. Blue Ash's MySpace page remembers it this way:
In July of 1972, the group signed a contract with Peppermint Productions of Youngstown and began recording and sending out demos. In October, legendary A&R man and rock writer Paul Nelson from Mercury Records flew to Youngstown to see Blue Ash "live" and immediately began signing procedures. They started recording their first album No More, No Less in February 1973 with Peppermint's John Grazier producing and with Gary Rhamy engineering. Executive producer Paul Nelson introduced them to a never-before-published, never-before-recorded Bob Dylan song called "Dusty Old Fairgrounds" and suggested they record their version of the Beatles' "Anytime At All" both of which appear on the lp...Thirty-four years later, No More, No Less has finally been released on CD. As Blue Ash's bassist and vocalist, Frank Secich (now of the Deadbeat Poets), recalls in the Cd's liner notes, "In June of 1974, Blue Ash was dropped by Mercury Records (under heated protest from Paul Nelson) for lack of sales. Paul was subsequently sacked from the label, too, in large part for signing Blue Ash and the New York Dolls."
On May 15, Mercury released the first Blue Ash 45 "Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)" b/w "Dusty Old Fairgrounds" On May 25, No More, No Less was released. Rave reviews and feature articles followed in Rolling Stone, Creem, Crawdaddy, Zoo World, Circus, Phonograph Record, New Times, Record World, Billboard, Rock Scene, Fusion and many others. That summer they began touring and opening for acts like Bob Seger, Iggy and the Stooges, Ted Nugent, Nazareth, Aerosmith and more. Blue Ash along with Raspberries, Big Star and Badfinger became "critical darlings" of a new sound later to be called power pop. Despite the good press Blue Ash was not getting much national radio airplay or sales...
While that has indeed been the legend of Paul's departure from Mercury, it's not quite that simple. Reasons for leaving seldom are.
Blue Ash and friend in 1973 (left to right): Frank Secich, Jim Kendzor,Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
Bill Bartolin, Paul Nelson, and David Evans. Photo by Geoff Jones.