Longtime local DJ and Arizona music historian John Dixon — best known around town as Johnny D. — recently founded the Floyd and Mary Ramsey Annual Scholarship Fund.
The $10,000 gift will benefit the Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM), which will receive the first check at a concert event showcasing conservatory students on Sunday, May 6.
The Ramseys, who were very active in the 1950s through the ’70s, owned the legendary studio Audio Recorders of Arizona, which worked with players including Waylon Jennings and Duane Eddy. The couple also owned a group of record labels and publishing entities that they sold to Dixon a couple of decades back.
The monetization of those acquisitions started happening in a big way 11 years ago when Dixon teamed up with Fervor Records.
The locally based label is owned by David Hilker and Jeff Freundlich, and has found success licensing music for TV shows, movies, and ad campaigns.
“We have had recent licensing on shows like Billions, NCIS L.A.
, and Smilf
,” Freundlich says. “That’s not all we do — we have indie bands, heritage artists, and more — but the licensing is important.”
It’s a way to get artists exposure to millions of viewers, and thereby introduce their music to potential new fans. “It’s been a really successful vehicle,” Freundlich adds.
In this case, they’re exposing a slew of bands from Arizona’s musical archives, giving them a new life.
Like Dixon, the Fervor pair is excited to honor the Ramseys.
“They were trailblazing entrepreneurs and music pioneers, and so far ahead of the curve in so many ways in the music business,” Hilker says. “Because of their insight and forethought to how to structure deals on this music, it really allows us to do all the things that we can do with it today. There’s lots of rights associated with music, and they were very smart about how they could benefit these songwriters and artists in the long run.”
Fervor and Dixon have seen a lot of success through licensing these old tracks, which got Dixon thinking about how he could give back to the arts in Arizona.
Part of this union between Dixon and Fervor includes the label taking over the management of this fund as part of Dixon’s legacy. “We think it’s a great way to give back to the community,” Hilker says, “and we’re glad to be a part of it.”
Donating the funds to the Phoenix Conservatory of Music appealed to Dixon because of the outreach they do in area schools.
“In addition to all of the programs they offer, it’s so important that they’re going into the schools,” Dixon says. “I grew up in the era when music lessons in school were part of the curriculum, and now there’s just so many cutbacks and the arts are continuously getting whacked back. I love this part of what they do, and I thought it would be a great way to invest this money.”
Dixon says he feels blessed by the success the licensing has afforded him. He also gives money from the licensing proceeds to family members.
“It’s allowed me to do other music projects,” he says, “like CD releases that I sell at local record stores and on eBay. And while I’ve been doing that a long time, I felt like it was time to honor Floyd and Mary. They were very important to the history of Phoenix music.”
The 2018 College Preparatory Program Scholarship Celebration Concert takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 6, at the Salvation Army KROC Performance Center, 1375 East Broadway Road. Tickets are $10.