L.A. producer developing doc, narrative on pioneering Gary label Vee-Jay Records

Scott McLain is doubly committed to bringing the story of Vee-Jay Records to large and small screens. The Los Angeles producer is developing two films, a narrative and a documentary, about the pioneering black-owned Gary, Ind. music label that introduced the Beatles to America.

“A friend introduced me to the story and I fell in love with it,” McLain said. “Vee-Jay does not share the place in history that it should. It’s kind of a tragic story, with great historical significance to the birth of rock’n’roll and its social impact in terms of the civil rights struggle.”

From its founding in 1953, Vee-Jay was the most successful black-owned label prior to Motown, and one of the first to bring blues and R&B artists to the mainstream market, releasing records by Curtis Mayfield, the Staples Singers and John Lee Hooker among many others. Vee-Jay folded in 1966, just two years after releasing the Beatles’ first records in the U.S.

McLain began researching a fiction script based on the Vee-Jay story two years ago. “It became obvious, why not do a doc to tell the real, cold, hard truth,” he said. “You know the Hollywood version is going to get changed at some point.”

He’ll be in town this December to raise funds and shoot a trailer for his untitled, under $1 million doc. He plans to begin principal photography in late winter and finish in time for the American Film Market next November.

Don Pedro Colley will narrate Endless Sky’s Vee-Jay Records documentary.

Don Pedro Colley (“The Dukes of Hazzard,” “THX1138”) has signed on to narrate. Jack Winch of Dreampost is co-producing.

Meanwhile McLain is shopping the script “One More Mile: The True Story of Vee-Jay Records,” around Hollywood, where he said he’s garnered interest from major actors and production companies.

Richard Payne and Rene Spencer of San Ramon, Calif. wrote the script based on McLain’s story. McLain is also developing Payne and Spencer’s “The Hula Girl Murders,” which won the Imagine Entertainment Screenplay Contest this year.

A Minneapolis native, McLain was assistant manager of Energy Park Studios there. After a stint crewing in Dallas, he moved to L.A., where he was office manager for B-movie fixture David Heavener. McLain produced the short “Thomas Gray’s Rainy Day,” which premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose last March.

McLain is on the lookout for information on the whereabouts of anyone involved with Vee-Jay or their families. Reach him at vj@endless-sky.com or see www.endless-sky.com.

– by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com