With $600 and a borrowed typewriter, Comer Cottrell entered the beauty business 17 years ago, marketing his own hair-care formula and building a company whose rapid growth once almost threatened its survival.
From a shoestring start in Los Angeles, Cottrell’s Pro-Line Corporation has expanded into a $26 million company that has 175 employees. With its headquarters now located in Dallas, Pro-Line has become the largest black-owned firm in the Southwest. It was ranked 39th in Black Enterprise magazine’s 1987 list of the top 100 black businesses in the United States.
Pro-Line’s beauty products sell well not only in the United States but also in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Saudi Arabia and the Orient.
Comer Cottrell at 55 runs an empire of creams and gels that has become the major success in his career. Nonetheless, some of his ventures over the years turned into disappointments. He struck out with a Chinese restaurant in a black section of Los Angeles, for example. And he sold his stable of race horses after he decided that the sport of kings was not for him. Cottrell has succeeded, as he puts it, in “selling hope–that’s all the beauty business is.”
Cottrell’s decision to get into the beauty business grew out of a discovery he made some years ago.
“I managed an Air Force base exchange and noticed that there were no hair products for blacks(check the hair extensions cost on hair shopping site),” he says. “Twenty percent of the people on the base were black. I talked to the authorities, and they told me there was no need for such products.” Cottrell then asked various chemical companies if their scientists could come up with products for the care of the then-popular “Afro” hairstyle. A successful formula was developed eight months later.
Since he could not afford to pay a company in advance to make the first batch of his new product, Cottrell persuaded a small manufacturing firm to gamble on him. The company made him a quantity of what he named Pro-Line Oil Sheen hair spray. He peddled his new product to black beauticians and barbers, and he paid off the manufacturer within 20 days.
In 1975, with Pro-Line then five years old, Cottrell opened a distribution center in Birmingham, Ala., but he found it hard to obtain shelf space in area stores. The Chicago-based Johnson Products Company, the market leader for black cosmetics, had all the displays.
It turned out that the Johnson company’s hard-working area manager was Isabell Paulding, who was a former Miss Black Alabama and a onetime runner-up for the Miss Black America title –and who would become Cottrell’s wife a year after they met.
In an interview in the Dallas Morning News in 1984, Cottrell said: “I got in touch with her and asked her to tell me how she did it. She wouldn’t tell me anything. I couldn’t hire her, so the only alternative was to marry her.”
By 1980, Pro-Line was running out of space for expansion of its Los Angeles plant. Cottrell looked eastward, where his major markets had been developed. He decided to move the company to Dallas–a move that he says nearly killed Pro-Line.
As production lines were being shut down in Los Angeles, Pro-Line came out with its Curly Kit Home Permanent. Sales jumped $11 million in 10 months.
“Here we were moving our equipment from California to Texas, and we couldn’t keep up with the orders,” says Cottrell. “Competitors jumped in with similar products.”
When the new $4 million, 127,000-square-foot Texas facility went into operation, Pro-Line fought back to keep its market share. It is now the fourth-largest ethnic beauty concern in the United States.
Strong competition from both general and ethnic firms has led Pro-Line to advertise on prime-time television shows such as “Dynasty” and ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” Pro-Line purchased time in 20 of the latter show’s markets around the country, says Rene Brown, the company’s marketing director, in order to advertise a new product for black men. It is a comb-through hair relaxer for those with short hairstyles.
Cottrell has a group of scientists working on new products as well as assuring the quality of those he is producing now. He is cautious, however, about expanding too fast. “We make about 18 percent profit,” he says. “We’re working on a five-year plan. We want steady growth.”
Photo: Comer Cottrell made his Dallas-based Pro-Line company a major player in the competitive cosmetics industry by creating hair-care products and beauty aids for blacks.
A wide assortment of tap pants, teddies, chemises and short petticoats should answer just about any day-wear needs presented by The Short Age for spring, say intimate apparel executives.
However, it will be equally important to offer other length options, they say, since the young, contemporary customer who might wear a very sort skirt one day would also wear a very long one the next.
But even as they monitor the developments in the designer collections, veteran lingerie executives assure the 25-inch petticoat, which hovers near the knee, will still the volume seller for spring, no matter how strong the extremes may be as fashion trends.
On the dilemma of how to deal with hemlines, Carole Hochman, president of Chevette, observed, “It’s a problem we haven’t had in years.”
For spring, Chevette has added an 18-inch petticoat in its Christian Dior division, widening the range of lengths which goes to 29.
The short petticoat represents an alternative to tap pants as well as additional business, said Hochman, noting “young people involved in fashion” and women “with great figures” will probably be the ones to endorse the new short skirts first.
“We are ready for The Short Age,” and Norma Reinhardt, vice president in charge of merchandising at Intimage, adding the firm is ready for the season’s longer hemlines as well.
“I think we should always try to do new things,” said Reinhardt, adding that, from a fashion point of view, the trend has to be established by the ready-to-wear designers.
For spring, Intimage has added a 15-inch skort in all-3ver lace as a fun fashion item.
However, said Reinhardt, tap pants will still be a much more important item and the chemise, “which has been hanging in there,” could be the item of the season.
At Vassarette, Dorothy Pollack, vice president in charge of marketing and general merchandise manager, noted, “We have always been all over the lot from 20 inches to 34 inches and down to the ankle.
“However, when you get up to a certain point with a petticoat, it gets down to the size of a hanky,” she said, noting a teddy or tap pants then becomes more practical.
“I think it’s going to be fun ared,” she said, adding the new short rtw lengths may be a breath of life for the teddy and tap pants business.
At Barbizon, which offers a range of petticoats from 21 to 29 inches, Claudia Larsen, vice president of daywear, noted the volume seller will continue to be at 25 inches. “Women who are going to business certainly aren’t going to be wearing the real short look,” Larsen said, adding, “Whenever lengths are real short, you see tap pants becoming more important.”
As far as any other daywear needs consumers may have as a result of spring’s short looks, Larsen noted it is “another aspect of the business; it’s just going to be plus business.”
At Vanity Fair, which, like other manufacturers, has a range of petticoats from 20 to 30 inches and down to 37 inches for eveningwear, Peter Velardi, president, is still seeing demand for longer-length petticoats, which have been important through the summer and early fall.
Velardi noted the impact of short lengths on intimate apparel will depend largely “on how quickly the trend hits mainstream U.S.A.”
He noted he doesn’t see a need for the 18-inch petticoat yet since “we feel the 20-inch petticoat covers every inch of what we’ve seen in the couture collections.”
At Natori, Josi Natori, president, said, “We are considering doing the 23-inch length, but I think it’s going to be very small.”
Noting that the 25-inch length will continue to be most important for sales, Natori said “as far as people wearing the very short skirts, those people will not wear a half-slip.” However, she noted, “We might see more business on tap pants.”
The key is to offer a range of choices, since consumers are wearing a range of lengths in their sportswear and rtw, said Natori.
Burrito Deluxe has established themselves as one of the top country rock bands working today. Esteemed Music Row critic, Robert K. Oermann says of their latest album; “Absolutely essential listening – sounds like an instant classic.” And All Music Guide recently called Burrito Deluxe “A country music supergroup.” Chances are, you’ve been listening to these guys for a good part of your life, possibly, without realizing it. Their combined resumes read like a “Who’s Who” of popular music.
Carlton Moody and Walter Egan combine their amazing musical and vocal talents to create the magical sound at the heart of Burrito Deluxe. Moody, of the multiple Grammy® nominated Moody Brothers is featured on guitars, mandolin, and lead vocals. He has performed at such prestigious settings as the White House and the Grand Ole Opry. Egan, best known for the 1978 million-selling single “Magnet and Steel,” shares the electric guitar work and adds lead and harmony vocals. He has performed with Jackson Browne, Spirit, Wanda Jackson, and Linda Ronstadt.
Burrito Deluxe was founded in 2000 by Moody and “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, pedal steel guitar legend. “Sneaky” Pete was also the co-founder of the Flying Burrito Brothers along with Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Chris Ethridge. The Flying Burrito Brothers innovative California-style sound heralded the arrival of country rock and influenced a whole generation of later bands, including the Eagles, Pure Prairie League, Poco, and many others. Burrito Deluxe has a long history of featuring legendary musicians in the band, including, Garth Hudson, the keyboard genius from The Band, and the amazing Richard Bell, who worked with Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, The Band, Bonnie Raitt, and Ronnie Hawkins.
Burrito Deluxe continues to feature individuals who have illustrious musical pedigrees. And, true to that, Moody and Egan hand-pick outstanding musicians and vocalists to join Burrito Deluxe in the studio and in concert, including, “Supe” Granda, one of the founders of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils on bass guitar and vocals, Joy Lynn White, an outstanding Country/Americana vocalist, and Marty Grebb, on keyboards and vocals, who has worked with Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, and many others. Together, they create a formidable sound that is winning fans across the U.S. and in Europe.
Burrito Deluxe has released three albums: 2002’s Georgia Peach, a tribute to Gram Parsons, 2004’s The Whole Enchilada, and their latest and best, the critically acclaimed Disciples Of The Truth, recorded for Luna Chica Records with producer Greg Archilla (Matchbox 20, Neil Young, Santana, Collective Soul). The CD also contains the historical final studio recordings of “Sneaky” Pete.
One listen to Burrito Deluxe proves that these musical trailblazers are still finding inspiration and new directions in the sound they helped create.
I TRAVELLED down to the Soul Café in Maidstone, Kent to interview Carlton Moody and Jeff “Stick” Davis of Burrito Deluxe. For the benefit of our UK readers who may not know of them I asked them a few questions.
MA: How was the band formed and where did the name come from.
CM: The band was formed about five years ago. We recorded an album called Georgia Peach, which was a tribute to Gram Parsons. We had “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, (who was a co-founder of The Flying Burrito Brothers), Tommy Spurlock and myself. The three of us really started the band. We wanted to get Sneaky out playing a little more, as he had not been playing a lot. He had been working on his film career. Sneaky actually named the band after the 1970 Flying Burrito Brothers album, Burrito Deluxe.
MA: Was the band formed with any specific brand of music in mind.
CM: We first started, playing some good Country Rock Music, Americana, is just a mixture. Pete was a big influence on that in the early years. He gave us the chance to make a record and go start playing some gigs.
MA: Are you all original members of the band, or do you employ guest musicians from time to time.
CM: We do use guest musicians from time to time. For example on our new record. Disciples of the Truth, Sneaky Pete plays steel guitar on some tracks. We also used four other steel guitar players on it.
MA: What instruments do each member of the band play and who takes the vocals.
CM & JD: This is Carlton, I’m the lead singer or one of them, Walter Egan is also a lead singer. I play banjo, mandolin and some guitar parts, both Acoustic and Electric. Walter plays Electric Guitar and as I said he takes lead vocals and also harmony vocals. Stick plays bass, both stand up and electric and he also does harmony vocals as well. Bryan Owings plays drums. Unfortunately our keyboard player, Richard Bell, fell ill right before we left. He has a very serious illness. He’s a great keyboard player and has been playing with us for about a year, since Richard Manuel passed away. We wish him all the best.
MA: A lot of people in the UK will be familiar with the name Carlton Moody as you have toured over here with the Moody Brothers. Have any other members of the band toured over here with other bands.
JD: I certainly have, about fourteen years ago, I did three or four tours with Billy Joe Spears, played “Blanket on the Ground” many times. I spoke to her not long ago to see if she felt like coming back. Also I’m from a band, The Amazing Rhythm Aces. We have toured a few times. I have been over a few times playing blues tours. I have also been over several times with different artists. That also goes for Bryan Owings our drummer. He’s been over a few times with different artists. He’s toured with Delbert McClinton, Buddy Miller and the Rhythm Aces. Walter Egan has also been to England several times. We all like to come across the pond and play a little country music now and then, very appreciative audiences over here.
MA: I understand you have a new CD out, is this tour to promote this CD in Europe.
CM & JD: The album, entitled, Disciples of the Truth, has not been officially released yet, not even in the States, so this tour is more of a promotion, just to touch base and get back to letting people know we have a new album, that’s out, but not officially, this is a sort of preview.
MA: I have not heard the CD as yet, could you tell me a little about the songs on it, which ones are your favourites and who wrote them.
JD & CM: There are several great songs on there, some came from within the band and also some from great Nashville songwriters. We have a co-write amongst us in there, it’s called, “All Right on the Wrong Side of Town”. It’s a three quarters slow kind of song but it has a lot of energy in there and it’s fun to play. As we said there are a lot of great songs on the album. Carlton has written a couple of them and Walter has written several. As we said we do have some great songs from the Nashville songwriters that we brought to the table, these are all originals, no covers.
MA: Are you thinking of releasing any of the tracks as a single.
CM & JD: We have one out right now, called, “Midnight at a Red Light”, written by George Hamilton V, who’s a friend of ours. Yes that’s our new single for Europe and it’s out there as we speak.
MA: What else can you tell me about yourselves.
CM & JD: We just enjoy what we do. We love touring the world, taking American music styles to different countries, people seem to enjoy it and we’ll keep on doing that until something else comes along.
MA: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me, I hope you have a brilliant tour of the UK and Ireland and I also hope the new CD does well for you. I hope to see you over here again in the future.
I would recommend that everybody in the UK, goes to see Burrito Deluxe when they are next over here, they are absolutely brilliant. If any fans are looking for canvas art of band and music, try cheapwallarts.com, they have a large number of discount wall art online. Both of them have good price and customer service.
Fans “Freaked,” Gurus “Geeked,” Faces “Featured,” Tunes “Touted,” and “Righteous” Music Was Made by the “Disciples of the Truth,” Burrito Deluxe at CMA Music Fest 2007!
Fan Fair was a blast! We signed autographs at our booth, shook hands and kissed babies (or was that “babes”? ….well, babes of all ages!).
And we made some great music while almost 200,000 fans ate, drank, sweated, rocked, waited in long autograph lines, and generally had the time of their lives at the biggest gathering in Country music in Nashville, June 7-10.
One fan named Paul “Freaked” out when he learned that we had a connection to the Flying Burrito Brothers, and he spent some time with us at the booth recalling how he had seen the ‘Bros. in the early ‘70s, and practically every other County Rock band that was influenced by “Sneaky,” Gram and the boys at the time. Many other fans made the connection, but Paul wins the “Breakfast Burrito” award for being the most excited about it. Possibly decaf may be in the cards…. Just kiddin’ Paul – you Rock, dude!
Rhapsody Music Guru, Eric Shea, “Geeked” out with Carlton and Walter in an in-depth audio interview that will be posted on their website soon. Eric has to be the most educated media person about all things Burrito. What a cool guy!
Walter delighted Eric with many stories of his early days in D.C. spent with Gram and his muse, Emmylou Harris, and about the song he wrote for them, “Hearts on Fire” which was waxed as a beautiful duet by the pair on Gram’s Grievous Angel album. Carlton talked about “Sneaky” and why he was one of the most sought-after session steel guitar players that ever lived: “When “Sneaky” played, he went for it – you never knew what you were going to get — but you knew it was going to be great!” Carlon exclaimed. That is why everyone from John Lennon to the Bee Gees invited him to be part of their albums. Carlton also talked about one-time Burrito member, keyboard genius, Garth Hudson, and his amazing skills on the ivories, and his studio wizardry. Anyway, Eric is one straight-up guy.
We got lots of super “ink” during the week. Just in time for Fan Fair, the Nashville Music Guide “Featured” Carlton and Walter’s faces on their cover, and had a wonderful story about Burrito Deluxe in the June/July issue of the magazine. Thanks to Brad Fischer and Dan Wunsch for helpin’ us to spread some ”Burrito” love around town!
Country Weekly gave ‘Disciples of the Truth’ a hearty thumbs up, “Touting” our tunes with a 3 ½ star CD review in the June 18 issue. Thanks to Chris Neal and Larry Holden for getting the word out around the world!
We had 3 super live shows during the festival. The first one, on Friday morning at 10:30 am (is anyone really awake at this hour?) was at the Chevy Stage by the Nashville Arena.
Once we propped our eyes open with toothpicks and the adrenaline kicked in, we proceeded to rock the enthusiastic crowd of “early birds” with some “Righteous” music. We were joined onstage by “Deluxe” players, “Supe” Granda on bass (many of you know him from his great recordings and on-stage antics with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils), Bryan Owings on drums (check out his great grooves with Americana sweethearts, Buddy and Julie Miller, and on our own ‘Disciples’ CD), Marty Grebb on keys (he’s one great and talented man – folks like Eric Clapton and Stevie Nicks think so too), and steel man Tony Paletta. Afterward, Carlton, Walter and Marty signed autographs at the booth.
Friday night, we rocked at the Music Row haunt, On The Rocks, where we were joined by the multi-talented Justin David, who opened for us, then jammed with us on the fiddle for the whole night.
Wow! What a super guy. Watch for him on tour with Roy Clark, and at his own shows. Old friends and collaborators joined us for an evening of fun. Rick Schell sang with us on a tune (Rick was part of the groups Poco and Pinmonkey), and Earl “Bud” Lee (who wrote the barroom anthem, “Friends in Low Places” for Garth) brought some fun and laughter with him, and hoisted a toast to us. And lastly, but certainly not leastly? (is that a word?), Pittsburg, Pennsylvania songbird, Susan McCloskey, joined us onstage for a powerful duet with Walter of the previously mentioned “Hearts on Fire.” Wow!!! How about them apples? Too cool Susan!!! Did anybody have a recorder on?
Saturday night it was time to get down to business on “Lower Broadway” for an 8:00 o’clock show at Cadillac Ranch. The packed house really dug our grooves, and Susan joined us again for a reprise of the killer duet.
Eric Shea “hung” out and dug the scene, and many friends and well-wishers came to enjoy our tunes.
By the end of the festival on Sunday, we were exhausted – but happy to have met so many great people, and to have had the chance to make lots of new fans. We wish to thank our great “behind-the-scenes” Burrito Deluxe team for everything: Michael Montana for putting together such an awesome booth for us! You da’man, Michael.
Our new fan club President, Sidney Walls, for all of your hard work to keep the fans happy (and also to Jackie for helping us in the booth). Our publicity man, Clif Doyal, for all the ink that we got during Fan Fair. Our manager, Brenda Cline for making sure that everything happens – when it needs to happen! And finally, to our Luna Chica Records label head, “King Burrito,” Paige Cofrin, for making all of this possible – we love you man!
Well, until next time, “Keep it between the ditches,” and thanks for all of your support! You fans are the reason we do this!!!
Beloved Keyboard Player for Janis Joplin and The Band Will be Remembered on Sunday August 26 at Lyrix
(Nashville, TN) August 21, 2007 — Renowned Canadian keyboardist, Richard Bell, who played with Janis Joplin and The Band, will be remembered by fans, friends, and colleagues, in a “Celebration of Life” service at 2:00 p.m. this Sunday, August 26, at Lyrix Music Bar and Cafe, 94 Peabody St., in Nashville.
Bell, who passed away in Toronto on June 15, began his professional career in the ‘60s as a member of Toronto band, the Last Words. He joined rockabilly artist, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks as a keyboardist in the mid-‘60s. In 1969, he was approached by Albert Grossman, Janis Joplin’s manager, and was recruited for her Full Tilt Boogie Band. He played on her final studio album, Pearl. Bell joined The Band in 1991, performing on their albums, High on the Hog, Jubilation, and Jericho, for which he penned “Caves of Jericho.” An accomplished musician on piano, organ and accordion, Bell played on over 400 albums during his career, and performed with Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Joe Walsh, Paul Butterfield, The Cowboy Junkies, Bruce Cockburn, and Bonnie Raitt. In addition, he produced a number of albums and worked on several film soundtracks.
At the time of his death, Bell was a member of the country-rock group, Burrito Deluxe, performing and contributing songs to their recent CD, Disciples Of The Truth. He also had been continuing his work on stage and in the studio with long-time collaborators, Colin Linden, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and Pork Belly Futures.
For more information, please contact: Colin Linden @ 615.594.7377 or e-mail: email@example.com