SOLANA BEACH — In the last five years, Malcolm Falk has become one of the North County music scene's most prominent movers and shakers.
As talent buyer for the Belly Up Tavern, he has turned the Solana Beach nightclub into North County's top showcase for national and local talent. Aside from that, he runs his own recording studio, production company, talent booking agency, music publishing company, merchandising firm and radio syndication service.
"Quite frankly, I'm going nuts," Falk, 34, said one night in his cluttered office at the Belly Up Tavern, which serves as the unofficial headquarters for all his various enterprises. "But after harboring all these ideas for years, it finally dawned on me one day that it would be much better to try to put some of them into effect rather than keep them floating around in my head.
"So lately, that's what I've been doing, and even though I rarely have a free moment anymore, I'm having a lot more fun than I'd ever had before--and on top of that, I'm seeing a lot more rewards than I'd ever thought possible."
The biggest reward, to Falk, is the ever-growing success of the Belly Up Tavern. Throughout the late '70s and early '80s, the Belly Up was a run-of-the-mill nightclub distinguished only by its periodic offering of concerts by nationally known blues legends like John Lee Hooker and the late Big Mama Thornton.
But once Falk took over booking chores in early 1981, the club began pulling in standing-room-only crowds seven nights a week with a diversified booking calendar based on a strictly formulaic approach.
"I've instituted a very exact program in which a different type of music is featured every night of the week," Falk said. "For example, on Sundays we feature Dixieland jazz, followed by a nationally known concert act. On Mondays we usually have oldies groups like the Mar Dels; on Tuesdays we feature reggae music, and on Wednesdays we experiment around with a variety of new bands.
"Thursdays are reserved for our main concert nights with more popular national acts. And on the weekends, we book local dance bands like Private Domain and Four Eyes.
"And the object is to showcase enough diverse types of music so that people can get used to coming to the Belly Up on a certain night and seeing their favorite brand of music. No one crowd can support a club of our size--the blues fans can't, the rock fans can't, the new music fans can't.
"But all together, they can--so from a business standpoint, a little bit of everything, spread out during the week, makes a lot of sense."
Also rewarding, though perhaps not on as grand a scale, are the various other projects Falk has become involved with in the last five years.
His recording studio, Third Ear Recording, has recorded live albums, demonstration tapes and radio broadcasts by the likes of Etta James, the recently revived Byrds, and Black Tie, a new group consisting of Eagles founders Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, former Bread guitarist Jimmy Griffin and Billy Swan, whose solo hit, the organ-heavy "I Can Help," topped the pop charts in 1974.
His production company, Third Ear Productions, won a bronze medal in 1982 from the New York Film Festival for its "Three Generations of the Blues" video, featuring performances by Sippie Wallace, Big Mama Thornton and Jeannie Cheatham and produced in conjunction with local public broadcasting affiliate KPBS-TV (Channel 15).
In December, Falk and fellow North County music entrepreneur Kevin Morrow formed a booking agency (Falk and Morrow Talent) that is already arranging club dates for such acts as Smokey Wilson, Hollywood Fats and the local Paladins in clubs around the country.
At the same time, Falk organized a music publishing company that handles new material by veteran songwriters Jack Tempchin (who wrote "Already Gone" for the Eagles) and Dean Smith of Captain Beefheart fame.
In just the last month, Falk has started a merchandising and marketing company to sell T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers by a variety of upstart bands, as well as a radio syndication service--run in conjunction with Jim LaMarca, program director of oldies station XTRA-AM (69 XTRA Gold)--for radio station jingles and half-hour artist profile specials.
"When I first got involved with the music business, it was as a musician--I play piano, trombone, tuba and electric bass," Falk said. "But I soon realized that's not where the money is; the money lies with other aspects of the industry.
"And in the race against poverty, I feel the only way to win is by getting involved in as many of those aspects as I can, in the hopes that one or more of them will eventually click."