"A Day with Jheryl Busby "Motown & Dreamworks" Record Executive
A True Story by Chrystal Allen-O’Jon
A Los Angeles 40-year-old, Divorced mom with three young sons and working as Newspaper Marketing Director meets with Jheryl Busby of Dreamwork & Motown Records to discuss financing a business trip for his partner owned newspaper on September 9, 2001, then 9/11 happened. One meeting created inspiration.
Jheryl Busby was born May 5, 1949, and grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where he went to John C. Fremont High School. He attended Long Beach State College, dropping out after two years. His business career began at Mattel Toys, as an inventory clerk. Jheryl Busby - Wikipedia
Busby’s exposure to the recording industry was at Stax Records, where he was named head of West Coast promotion and marketing. After leaving Stax, he did promotional work for A&M Records and Casablanca Records. In 1984 Busy was hired at MCA Records where he was vice-president of the black music division building the unit largely from scratch, promoting established acts such as Patti LaBelle and helping to discover and market acts including family band The Jets, Jody Watley, Bobby Brown and New Edition. In 1988, Busby was president of the black music division at MCA, and his business unit led the industry in black album sales.
Busby moved to Motown Records in 1988 as the company's President & CEO. Busby fostered the growth of younger talent, including Another Bad Creation, Boyz II Men, Johnny Gill and Queen Latifah. He was also appointed head of the black music division at DreamWorks Records in 1998 but left DreamWorks in 2001.
Busby along with Janet Jackson and Magic Johnson were major shareholders in the nation's first African-American-owned national bank, Founders National Bank, and served on the bank's board of directors.
Sadly, Busby died at the age of 59 on November 4, 2008. He was found dead in the hot tub of his home in Malibu, the cause was later confirmed to be accidental drowning, it is believed preexisting medical conditions including "atheroscelerotic cardiovascular disease" and "diabetes mellitus may have contributed to the drowning. (Jheryl Busby - Wikipedia)
My Inspirational Experience
While working for LA Focus Newspaper in 2000 in Los Angeles, CA, where Mr. Busby was part owner with Founder Lisa Collins (Billboard Gospel Editor), a meeting was arranged to see whether, or not he thought I was ready to go to New York alone to meet with several Marketing Agencies. He asked me to meet him for lunch, to give him my sales pitch. If I got his blessing, then he'd send me to New York. Thankfully, I got his blessing. L.A. Focus, is still a current monthly newspaper spotlighting news of interest to the Los Angeles' African. - American community L.A. Focus News - On The Word (lafocusnewspaper.com).
As excited as I was to go to New York, this was a dark and very lonely time in my life. I was struggling in my faith, as it related to divorce in the church. I had three young sons, making an extremely low wage (for Los Angeles living), dealing with shared custody issues, high rent, car problems, walking at times to catch city buses until there was no tread on the heels of my shoes. Then there was the issue of unhealed grief caused by the passing of my baby daughter Sequoia due to SIDS and years of molestation as a kid. It was just a lot to process.
My direct boss, at the time, Lisa Collins of LA Focus Newspaper (a phenomenal writer) and a Billboard Columnist, called me into her office. She complimented me on my sales productivity and marketing skills and thought it was time for me to try advertising agencies in NY. The catch was, I needed to meet with Mr. Busby first (part owner of the newspaper at that time) to see if I was ready, as he was financing the trip to New York. This would be my actual first time in New York, so I was excited for the opportunity.
Mr. Busby was dealing with failing health at that time. His hair was completely white, and he had a boot on his foot from surgery due to diabetes and a recent surgery. I had only met him briefly at newspaper promo events prior to this. He was always warm and very professional. He had this charming way about him, a natural born salesperson who could put you at ease in an instant. It was easy to see why he did so well in the entertainment industry at the Executive level. He was a natural.
Jumping into my rusted light blue Toyota, I made my way over to View Park, a bit self-conscious about my car. My assumption was that Mr. Busby would take one look at my car and determine me unfit to contact ad agencies. Me doing well on this trip would bring in more company revenue. It was a beautiful day in LA. The air was crisp and sunny. As always, I turned my music on loud to get myself pumped up for the meeting, and to also handle the Crenshaw Blvd. traffic. I could feel the intimidation creeping in as I inched towards his home in View Park. I had heard a few things about Mr. Busby, but I wanted to meet him and make my own judgments. I was tired of being judged myself. Judged for “divorcing-while-in-church’”, judged because at my age I didn’t own a home, or making six figures, judged for being black but too pale, judged for being a victim of molestation and having the nerve to voice my pain. Tired! The thing is, I didn’t realize my grief was unresolved at that time. I figured, if I could survive years of molestation by a controlling, manipulative stepfather, everything else would be a cake walk.
As I arrived at Mr. Busby’s beautiful LA Mansion, I spotted a shiny Burgundy Rolls Royce parked in the driveway. It occurred to me then, that I should park my eye sore of a hooptie- car across the street. Perhaps, he wouldn’t notice it. I was already stressed out from an event that happened just the day before. One of my sons, about 9 years old at the time, convinced his other two brothers it would be a clever idea to steal balloons at Costco in Inglewood, CA near the LA Focus newspaper office I worked at. I was called by Costo Security on my job to pick up my sons due to theft. I gave them a tongue lashing all the way home and had to head back to work. I was humiliated, the office staff thought it was funny.
As I walked up to the front door and rang Mr. Busby's doorbell, I thought to myself “you got this!” I entered his home to greet him, he smiled with his natural charm and short warm embrace. Jheryl announced that he made lunch reservations for us at his favorite cafe' around the corner. Yes, I would get to take a ride in the Rolls, or so I thought. Instead, he asked if I could “drive us” to lunch, as the medical boot on his foot from surgery would prevent him from doing so. Yikes!!!
I was mortified, I’m sure my eyes got wide, as I explained that I had an incredibly old vehicle with a ripped car seat and kids' toys all over the car floor. Before I could ramble on too much, Mr. Busby stopped me and began to give me his back story. I could see in his face that he was in a very introspective stage of his life. Jheryl had a way about him, he would speak as if he’d known you all his life, like there were no strangers to him. As I unlocked my doors, moved toys out of the way and pulled the car away from the curb so he could sit more comfortably with the foot boot, he sat down and began to tell me about his early “not so comfortable” days.
Jheryl explained that there were many challenging times in his life. Times where finances were plentiful, sometimes lean, then profitable yet again. He went on to encourage me by saying, "You have nothing to be ashamed of, I've been in the same situation at times, yet here I am". So off in the hooptie we went to eat and chat.
While we ordered and ate lunch, he asked me to give him my sales pitch. What should have been an hour-long lunch turned out to be half the day. He shared more stories about how difficult his early years were and made suggestions to my sales pitch and offered advice on how to build relationships in business and more.
We were both at a point of transition in life. He, with his health and myself with divorce and my career. A brief conversation with Mr. Busby forever changed my perspective. He said, “I believe you could sell anything, you’ll do well”. Who knew that those kind words would boost my self-esteem and create new confidence in me?
Who knew that a week later, I’d be stuck at a train station in White Plains NY trying to bus and cab it back to my Manhattan hotel.
….oh but there's so much more!