MOVIEGOER: Victor Wood’s ‘payola’ expose’ gave rise to OPM

Published April 29, 2021, 4:00 AM

by Nestor Cuartero

Victor Wood

He was a fighter, a crusader to whom Filipino singers today owe a debt of gratitude.

More than a string of hit songs, Victor Wood will be remembered for a crusade he fought with fellow singer Julius Obregon in the mid- 70s at the peak of his career.

Together, the two singers exposed and questioned an industry practice known as payola whereby radio announcers resorted to play-for-pay as they made their playlist.

In a Face book post, Julius reminisced how he and Victor fought for the rights of Filipino recording artists at the expense of their careers in the 70s.

He said: Without our “crusade,” there is literally no OPM music, KBP, and PARI today.

The expose created a dent in Victor’s career, although by then, he had scored a number of hit songs, among them, Eternally, Mr. Lonely, Carmelita, etc.

Some of his vernacular hits were Kay Lupit Mo, Pag-ibig, Bintana ng Puso, Inday ng Buhay Ko.

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It’s interesting how Victor Wood happened to be a part of what was to become a major industry scandal that impacted later on the growth of Original Pilipino Music.

Norma Japitana, veteran entertainment writer and publicist, wrote in her book, The Superstars of Pop, that fast events affected Victor after his participation in the payola expose.

She calls it The Fall.

Norma recalls that at that time, Victor was the king of them all.

He was the big wheel in Vicor, where Norma was publicity director, when he decided to transfer to Zodiac Music, which offered more money.

While with Zodiac, Victor was asked by his old friend, Oskar Salazar, to join the campaign against payola in radio. The big star that he was, Victor ended up at the forefront of the advocacy.

Norma wrote: ‘’The move was quite ironical to insiders, who felt that Victor himself, his popularity and the success of his records, were actually pushed by skillful manipulation through payola. The fact that Victor was now with a small recording company with no ‘’airlane property’’ got people to suspect his motives, which were good but unrealistic.’’

Following the expose, Victor’s career slid on a downhill. Radio stations refused to play his songs.

The singer-actor, an American mestizo, then flew to the United States where he took on odd jobs not related to music.

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Despite the payola expose, it was difficult, however, to ignore Victor’s singing talent and his ability to create hit songs. He was, after all, already the Jukebox King.

He had millions of fans, who swore by his good looks and unique singing style. His voice would break (piyok) as he hit the high notes, though it sounded like it was all part of his act.

His producer, Vic del Rosario, was quoted as prompting Victor to break his voice more often to create more hit songs.

Victor Wood, who passed April 23 at 74, scored his first hit, “I’m Sorry, My Love,” in 1970.

More hits followed: A Tear Fell, Teenage Senorita, One More Chance, Sonata of Love.

Victor started as a bit player in movies. Around 1968, he acted in a few films at Sampaguita Pictures, which signed him to a contract.

He left behind an unfinished biopic.

“Jukebox King: The Life Story of Victor Wood” stars Martin Escudero, produced by EBC Films, directed by Carlo Cuevas.

Nevertheless, his music lives on to this day and perhaps, Eternally, as one of his hit songs puts it.

 
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