Wrinkled Records originated in a conversation between award-winning Nashville artist/songwriter Sandy Knox and her dad. No stranger to chart-topping songs, Knox co-wrote three consecutive hits for Reba McEntire, including the Grammy-winning “Does He Love You?,” “Why Haven’t I Heard from You?” and the critically acclaimed song about a woman dying of AIDS, “She Thinks His Name was John.” She was a well-known and highly-respected presence on Music Row—serving on industry boards, mentoring young writers and captivating audiences with her live performances backed by a 10-piece band.
After recording her favorite songs her way and looking for an outlet to release the record, Knox then went to her father for his help in setting up the business model for a small record company. He asked her what she was going to call it, and she did what she had done her entire life: thumbed her nose at convention, and thus the idea for Wrinkled Records was born.
In the ensuing decade, Knox moved to Austin, her father passed away, she moved back to Nashville, had a heart attack and was diagnosed with colon cancer. While recuperating and recovering, she found herself wondering, “What next?” About that time, she began running into Katie Gillon, a longtime friend and 25-year veteran of the music business. Over many conversations, they mulled the possibilities. Finally, one night at the bar of their favorite neighborhood restaurant, they decided it was now or never, and over another martini, toasted the rebirth of Wrinkled Records.
Wrinkled Records is an innovative indie record label that strives to create and distribute great music with a heartbeat … providing a creative outlet for a diverse group of independent singers and songwriters. Just as the name suggests, we represent the latest wrinkle in an ever-evolving music business paradigm. Unlike other record labels, we champion the song before the single, art before commerce and unabashed artistic idealism in all its magnificent glory. Wrinkled’s goals are not bound by shareholder interests, music genre or age restrictions. We are committed to artistic development, professional excellence, customer satisfaction, playing fair, community service and enriching lives by creating the best music.
Both our staff and our roster of artists aspire to a work environment that encourages creativity and professional excellence. All of us share the commonly-held belief that through the gift of music, dreams can be realized, hope can be restored and lives can be transformed in a positive way. We are a small record company dedicated less to hierarchy of command and more to upholding standards of behavior that strengthen both the team and the artists we represent…and we like having fun, too. Here at Wrinkled Records, where the work environment is relaxed and comfortable, we have taken a firm stance against ironing!
When 11-year-old Sandy Knox told her parents she was going to be a songwriter, they probably thought it was a phase. But that wasn’t the way Knox saw it. “There was never any “go to college, get married, have kids” on my radar.”
Born in St. Louis, she and her family moved frequently for her father’s career, finally settling in Houston. She began writing songs in early adolescence, with a concentration on guys she had crushes on. Her subject material broadened as she matured, and after a compromise year of college, she was accepted into ASCAP’s Writer’s Workshop and moved to Los Angeles. “That was fun, but I didn’t care for LA so when it was over, I moved back to Houston to figure out what next.”
She pulled into Music City on August 13, 1983 with a $1500 bankroll. After a brief stint behind a cosmetics counter, she interviewed for the receptionist position at MCA Records, and was hired by office manager Katie Gillon. The job lasted three weeks before a restructuring swept out everyone but Gillon. Knox was happy to have made inroads on Music Row.
Her neighbor offered another key connection: Tree Publishing VP Roger Sovine. She dropped off a tape and shortly after, “I had my first music business lunch!”
It was a few years from lunch to her first staff writer deal, and a couple more until her first cut. But in 1993, she had two big breaks: a song on a Reba McEntire album, and a single for Dionne Warwick, “Where My Lips Have Been.”
Reba’s subsequent recording of “Does He Love You” (with Linda Davis) was a career-maker. The song was a smash, won both singers a performance Grammy, and earned Knox a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.
“Once you have that kind of song, you’re brilliant and a genius and everyone wants your time!”
It was the first of three consecutive Knox-composed singles for McEntire. “Why Haven’t I Heard From You” was inspired by an article in National Geographic about Alexander Graham Bell. The most meaningful for Knox was “She Thinks His Name Was John”, the first song to openly address AIDS, and a tribute to her brother who contracted the disease through a transfusion.
Knox became more engaged in the industry, serving on the Nashville Songwriters Association Board, and the Board of Governors for The Recording Academy.
She also decided to record an album of songs she had written, and asked her dad to help her set up a label. “My father was a business man, he loved doing that stuff. He told me to think of a name for it, and I came up with Wrinkled Records.”
“Pushing 40, Never Married, No Kids” was the label’s aptly-named first—and for more than a decade only---release.
By 1998 she had tired of the business end of the music business; she moved to Austin, taught songwriting through the University of Texas’s continuing education program, and spent time with her parents in Houston.
When her father passed away, she felt the tug back to Music City. “I hadn’t been there once in eight years. I hate to fly; I would rather give birth to a flaming porcupine. A friend offered to drive back with me and my dogs. I was ready to return to my tribe.”
Her second arrival in Nashville was September 16, 2006; she was happily resettled when in the spring of 2008, she had a heart attack and was diagnosed with colon cancer.
As she healed and recovered, she repeatedly ran into old friend Katie Gillon. “We saw each other in every grocery in town. Finally, instead of spending 20 minutes yakking in the produce department, we started having lunch and dinner. I told her about Wrinkled Records and my thoughts on re-activating it. She was the perfect person to help me get it done.
“One night over martinis I said, ‘We need to stop talking about this and just do it.’ So we ordered another round of martinis and toasted to the re-launch of Wrinkled Records.”
“I am looking at this label as my second career, for this phase of my life. I think we can make the business end of the music business just as much fun as the music.”
Other interesting and fun facts about Sandy: Along with Reba McEntire, other artists who have recorded some of Sandy's songs are: Dionne Warwick, Neil Diamond, Patti Labelle, Liza Minnelli and Donna Summer. On YouTube you will find Kelly Clarkson and Martina McBride and a slew of unknown singers also performing songs that Sandy has written. When she was 20 years old, she was invited to "hang out" at a recording session in LA. She sat at the mixing board next to a very nice, distinguished British gentleman for hours while he worked... She did not know at the time that his name was George Martin. Sandy has also been thrown in a swimming pool by the above mentioned Neil Diamond and once, in her wild and crazy youth, she got drunk with David Hassellhoff...but hey, who hasn't?
Vice President/General Manager
“Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, my older brother had a big collection of 45s, and played in a band, but I didn’t even know a “music business” existed. It never occurred to me that was a career choice.”
After college, she moved to Georgia to teach high school English, and her college boyfriend moved to Nashville to be a songwriter. When he proposed, she joined him there and they married. A new acquaintance passed along a tip about a seasonal shipping job at Dot Records.
“I walk into this record company, and people were wearing blue jeans and listening to music as part of their job! I thought, ‘Oh my God, I love this place!’” Gillon was in exactly the right place at the right time. Her attitude, smarts and drive got the attention of the label president; when his secretary left, he moved Gillon to the desk outside his office.
The entire label only had six employees, so everyone pitched in on everything, which proved to be an invaluable education. On top of being the president’s assistant, Gillon was made office manager. She took on A&R budgets, production credits and coordinating art for releases with the LA office.
When a new regime took over corporate headquarters in Los Angeles in 1984, it swept out everyone in the Nashville office except Gillon and the mailroom/maintenance man. She was summoned to meet with infamous Music Row maverick producer Jimmy Bowen, who was taking over the country division. "Bowen said to me, 'Woman, you have eight jobs over there. Which one do you want to keep?’”
After nearly a decade at Dot/ABC/MCA, she gained her first official title: Director of Production. Her hard work, dedication, meticulous attention to detail, graciousness and innate gift for expert multi-tasking, propelled her ascent to Sr. Vice President of Creative Services and Production. She developed all the visuals for the label’s marketing, promotional and PR campaigns for a roster that included George Strait, Reba McEntire, Loretta Lynn, Trisha Yearwood, Steve Earle, George Jones, Vince Gill, Wynonna, Bill Monroe and Lee Ann Womack.
Simultaneous with her duties on MCA’s executive team, she fulfilled many leadership positions in Nashville's music community, including two terms as President of the Nashville NARAS Chapter, and eight years as a National Trustee. She was President of Leadership Music and is an alumnus of Leadership Nashville. Inarguably, her most personally rewarding role was parenting three daughters as a single, working mother.
In the wake of corporate takeovers and mega-mergers, Gillon transitioned out of the label end of the business by the end of 2002. Reassessing her personal priorities and professional goals, the skilled organizer and motivator created her own company, The Gillon Group, offering a specialized yet diverse range of services including artist management, public relations, art direction, product packaging, label liaison and career consultation. She was contracted to oversee the actualization of a vision long-held by Music Row leaders: a country music retirement community. In that capacity, she served as Executive Director of the Crescendo Music Community Fund.
She also found time to reconnect with old friends, among them the receptionist she had hired at MCA in 1984. Sandy Knox went on to become an exceptionally successful songwriter. As she began to seriously mull the idea of launching an independent record label, she repeatedly turned to Gillon for feedback and advice. “The more Sandy and I talked, the more excited I got. The way Sandy is approaching this reminds me of why I fell in love with the music business in the first place."
Notable recording artists which Katie Gillon has worked with include: Vince Gill, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, George Jones, Wynonna, The Judds, Gary Alan, Lee Ann Womack, The Oak Ridge Boys, Don Williams, Barbara Mandrell, Clint Black, Lee Greenwood, Little Big Town, Earl Scruggs, Mark Collie, Josh Turner, Marty Stuart, Mark Chesnutt, Dolly Parton, Joe Ely, Rodney Crowell, Allison Moore, Jerry Clower, Olivia Newton-John, Jimmy Buffett, David Lee Murphy, Todd Snider, Bill Monroe, The Mavericks, Conway Twitty, Delbert McClinton, Steve Earle, Ray Stevens, Patty Loveless, Kelly Willis, & Brenda Lee.
As the last of nine kids in his family, Leighton was born into a rich musical heritage. He got a guitar for Christmas when he was 14 and has been passionate about anything “guitar” ever since. In remembering his childhood, he says, "Most of my favorite family memories are music-related. I was incredibly fortunate to have such a great circle of family and friends."
While in high school, Leighton was very involved in music and student government. Following a two-year mission in Atlanta for his church, he enrolled at BYU-Idaho and received a degree in jazz studies. While attending BYU-I, Leighton worked as the guitar player/arranger in a house band at the Bar-T-5 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Although this was a great exposure for yodeling in five-part harmony, he wanted to head to a big city with a big music scene. So he applied for and received an internship at CMT in the Music Media and Licensing Department. He packed his truck and headed to Nashville!
CMT was a great introduction to the music business and to the legal work that goes on behind the scenes. While at CMT, he enrolled at Belmont to study jazz guitar under John Pell. After CMT, he worked for a variety of projects including: CMT Crossroads, CMT Awards, CMA Awards, Musicians' Hall of Fame Awards, Nashville Star, artist management, a radio promoter, and as a touring-company musician. He was constantly balancing music performance and the music business. But for Leighton, everything changed when he met one of Nashville's most respected entertainment lawyers, Bob Sullivan.
Bob was an entertainment-law instructor at Nashville School of Law and he encouraged Leighton to think about going to law school. "At first, law school did not interest me at all. I just did not want to argue for a living." When Bob informed him that many lawyers hardly ever see a courtroom, and after a few lunches with Bob and a tour of the school, Leighton's mind was made up. He was going to hang up his guitar for a few years, take the LSAT, and take a shot at law school. Bob continued to help Leighton by connecting him with some other lawyers which led to a legal internship at SONY/ATV.
In the meantime, Leighton also worked at Green Hills Restaurant, where he met his future bosses. While Katie and Sandy were laying the ground work for a new record label, they would often come into Green Hills and would hold the label meetings there.
One slow day, Sandy and Katie decided to sit at the bar rather than at their regular booth. After an hour or so of questions and laughter, Sandy gave Leighton a Wrinkled Records T-Shirt they had just ordered! They were impressed with his work ethics, educational goals, and, of course, his martini and cocktail skills. With martinis and music in mind, they decided to bring him on board to help with their new record label.
In the spring of 2012, everything in Leighton's life took a giant leap towards accomplishing his dreams. He got engaged to a beautiful girl named Melissa Monday, started law school, and started working for Wrinkled Records. The summer of 2012 was probably his busiest period of life, ever! Working on law school, the wedding, and Wrinkled Records stretched him in a challenging yet very rewarding way. In September, he and Melissa got married and moved into a new house in West Nashville.
He continues to work for Wrinkled Records doing promotions, handling social media, recording meeting notes and anything else to help lighten the burdens of running a small indie label. "Sandy always tells us that this record label is the ‘little label that could’ and I try to always keep that in mind." He loves the family-like working environment at Wrinkled Records where "we work long, work hard, and laugh a lot." Leaving his family back in Idaho, he looks forward to continuing to make music-related memories with his new family...his beautiful bride, Melissa, and Wrinkled Records.