An edited version of the following article was published in the Dec. 2022 issue of American Motorcyclist magazine. Click HERE to read the AMA digital article starting at page 56. Below is the complete and unedited version in its entirety. Additional info regarding Sally Stevens' newly published book is included at the end of the article.
“Chasing Echoes of Dreams”
“Over my shoulder through the dust I’m calling”, writes the lyricist. “Run wild and catch me if you can. Free as the wind, faster than time, reason and rhyme are running behind. Tasting the sun, feeling the earth, knowing my worth and freeing my mind.” She continues writing, “Screaming inside of me, and laughing out loud I'm losing contact with the ground, I'm flyin'. The lyricist accentuates, “On Any Sunday, like the tail of a kite, Flying and dancing in the wind. I'd like to break the string and drift out of sight I may not pass this way again.. I'm Flyin'”. Those brilliant verses depicting the mindset of bikers enjoying life with their motorcycles on any Sunday are gifts to their souls from one of the most wonderfully talented gems of Hollywood’s musical circle, the enduring and remarkable Sally Stevens.
Whether using her vocal skills to back up Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Sonny & Cher, Neil Diamond or Wayne Newton (just to name a few) Sally Stevens was always there recording alongside the giants of the musical industry. She was there to sing on numerous and memorable American television programs that entertained millions, like The Carol Burnett Show, The Danny Kaye Variety Show, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Virtually every single person on this planet has probably heard her extraordinary voice. From major corporation commercials (for McDonald’s, United Airlines, Mastercard, etc.) to mega-hit shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy (yes, that’s Sally’s voice during the opening of The Simpsons you’ve been listening to for 30 years).
(Below) Sally Stevens singing backup vocals for Elvis Presley: "Live A Little, Love A Little" (March 7th, 1963). Some of her work with the avid motorcycle rider and King of Rock n’ Roll included songs like: "Edge of Reality", "A Little Less Conversation" and "Charro", not to mention his famous NBC 1968 Comeback Special.
Through the 70’s and 80’s Sally could be found supplying her vocals to TV favorites like The Love Boat, Happy Days, Diagnosis Murder, and countless others. She’s either sang and/or been the mega-maestros’ go-to liaison for vocal talent; and when I say mega maestros, I mean mega, mega: John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars, Indian Jones, Jurrasic Park, E.T.), Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of The Apes, The Omen, Star Trek, Alien, Rambo), Lalo Schifrin (Dirty Harry, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Enter The Dragon), Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once upon A Time In The West, The Untouchables) and many others. She’s worked on major classic motion pictures such as Dr. Zhivago, and The Sound of Music. Remember Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s montage sequence with Katharine Ross in Bolivia in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Well that sequence was driven by the Ron Hicklin singers (a group of Los Angeles studio singers put together (organized and contracted) by Ron Hicklin.
Ron’s group provided the vocal music behind everything from Batman, Flipper and Love American Style and were the real background singers on many shows like The Partridge Family; and yes indeed, Sally Stevens was a key member in that exclusive group. It’s Sally’s vocals (with Hicklin’s team) under the supervision of composer Burt Bacharach’s “South America Getaway” score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that contributed to the film’s garnishing an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1970, as it did the same at the Golden Globes that year.
Ron Hicklin’s relationship with Sally was a simple one, as he expressed the following to me over the phone on Tuesday, the 14th of July 2020 at 2:32pm PST: “I wasn’t liked by everyone back then,” explains Ron. “You see, I was passionate to do my very best at every session and so I only contracted the best people. I couldn’t make every singer happy in terms of employment as I only focused on the most talented vocals I could find. So as for Sally, well look at it this way, all through the mid 60’s and late 60’s there were only 2 women that I always called on for every session; Sally and Jackie (Robin) Ward. Sally and I ended up spending a lifetime together in the studios, decades. That’s how talented she was and is”.
As previously stated, and it needs to be emphasized, Sally Stevens has not just been a solo-artist and session singer for decades, but a writer of music and published poetry as well. She’s also a vocal contractor and photographer who has simply done it all in the world of music and entertainment, from performing in Las Vegas in the early 60’s, to performing on memorable vocal tracks in feature films like Klute starring Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Roy Scheider. From writing lyrics for superstar composer/producers like Burt Bacharach and having her written songs sung by superstars like James Taylor, to singing and vocal contracting for such mega-hit films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sally Stevens is a giant in the industry. But, her talents and contributions to the entertainment industry didn’t just lie within the creative field.
Sally is also the creative founder and director of the Hollywood Film Chorale and has assisted as choral director for the Academy Awards for over 20 years and has also sung for the Emmy Awards and contracted the singers there too. And you can add the Grammys to that list as well.
In the administration world she’s served on the local level, as well as the national level on the boards of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) for over 40 years, and on the board of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) for 20 years. To truly express the collection of work that Sally Stevens has been involved with would be never-ending as she has made her mark in hundreds upon hundreds of prominent musical ventures and maintained a work ethic in Hollywood that would truly classify her as the hardest working person in show business. But for the motorcycle community, nothing fully captures their hearts and minds more than her melodic creation and execution of the main title song for director Bruce Brown’s 1972 Academy Award nominated motorcycle documentary, On Any Sunday.
To describe the spiritual, emotional and physical reaction bikers have had listening to Sally Steven’s song On Any Sunday is startling. It sends chills through our bodies every time. She not only sings to us, but speaks to us in a manner which we fully understand. On a personal level I can say it gives me goosebumps and transforms me to another time and place where everything is whole and good, a place where humanity and two wheel machines are fully alive, youthful and dancing as one within a place of freedom and happiness. Stevens was remarkably able to capture exactly what the film’s director Bruce Brown needed to finalize and mold his film with, which motion picture fans and viewers from around the world have described as “Perfection”, “A Masterpiece,” “An Epic,” “Timeless,” and “Magical”.
With moments of excitement, drama, humor, passion and reflection, director Bruce Brown (The Endless Summer) is literally responsible for an entire generation of new bike riders because he simply produced the most significant motorcycle film in the history of motion pictures. It was a movie that had a seriously profound effect on American culture during the 1970’s, helping to label that period as the “decade of the motorcycle”. No longer were motorcycles looked upon as chariots for evil drugged-up gang members, or 2-wheel transportation for police departments, or even machines used to perform daredevil stunts over busses. Bikes were now presented as part of the culture, and as American as apple pie.
To produce On Any Sunday Bruce Brown needed funding. After reaching out to fellow biker and superstar actor Steve McQueen, to financially back his independent production of the film, Bruce convinced Steve that he had the whereabouts and vision to do something special since he understood motorcycles well enough, to translate the diverse world of motorcycling to audiences in a way that would entertain, thrill and inspire. So, with the help of McQueen’s production company, “Solar Productions”, Bruce grabbed some of his 16mm film cameras and went shooting. Note, because he was using smaller 16mm cameras, he was able to devise some groundbreaking camera techniques while developing the “helmet cam” for POV (point of view) shots where the riders would wear the cameras on their helmets.
(Below) Bruce Brown’s innovative creation for On Any Sunday that today is a staple in sports coverage, the “helmet cam”.
So, with a budget of around $300,000.00, Bruce headed off to start shooting tons of film at motocross events (road races, the flat track circuit, dirt bike rallies, Speedway and so-forth) without knowing exactly where and how it was all going to end up. But his creative vision of motorcycles was to be honest and raw to such an extent that it should captivate the world.
To find someone who could match that level of artistic aspirations with musical talent to contribute and accentuate his vision, Bruce went to composer, arranger Dominic Frontiere (The Outer Limits, Hang’Em High, Freebie and The Bean, The Stunt Man). It was through Dominic that Sally Stevens found herself involved with On Any Sunday. And it’s to Sally Stevens herself that we needed to speak with to learn more about this amazing song and its creator.
Joe: Sally, you do realize your song perfectly conveyed to the world what motorcycling was all about.
Sally: You know Joe, people have said the song kinda captured the freedom of riding. But, it’s funny because I never rode a motorcycle, at least by myself. But, my brother, Charles (Charlie Clarke) had a motorcycle and so I rode on the back of his. And during college I did date a vice cop for a short time who also had a motorcycle, so I had experiences riding those ways. When the On Any Sunday project came up, because I really wanted to feel the experience riding and understand the details to have those thoughts about it, I asked my brother to take me on a ride again. We grew up in Tujunga, CA and so we took off from our folk’s house and rode around for about an hour through La Tuna Canyons and around the hills there. So the writing was from what I felt. But I did have to dive a little deeper and find some expansion of those thoughts and be creative about it. The whole process was very special to me, Joe. You see, that was the first opportunity I had to write lyrics for a film. So On Any Sunday was and always will be very special.
Joe: To us too. So, let me ask, how did you actually meet Dominic Frontiere? How did you land the gig to work on the film with him?
Sally: Well since the early 60’s I was a session singer. So up until this time of On Any Sunday, I was involved with projects and had been part of the “Ron Hicklin Singers”. And Ron Hicklin in the mid to late 60’s and mostly through the 70’s was a busy vocal contractor in town, so I had met and worked for Dominic Frontiere as a singer that way, so I think I may have sent him a couple of songs that I wrote at the time. I don’t believe he had a lyrist that he was working regularly with, and the film was a very independent project. Since it wasn’t a big budget movie, I guess on an impulse he gave me a chance to try it. And, evidently he liked what I wrote. Dominic Frontiere was just a dear.
Joe: I had read a quote from him on a motorcycle blog where someone stated that he said, “I knew the lyrics Sally Stevens wrote for my theme was ‘the’ one when I read her line, ‘On Any Sunday I'm A Flyin' Man’”. Although I read Dominic didn’t ride motorcycles, he did fly airplanes and so those lines I think probably resonated with the pilot in him. I actually found the quote on a website devoted to finding out who sang “On Any Sunday”. No one knew who you were or any of the singers on the soundtrack.
Sally: Aw, you know in this case with the music on this film, the Ron Hicklin singers did the backup vocals and I did the lead. I had done solo cues for movies like Klute, and The Fox with Lalo Schifrin and we just never got screen credit for what we did back then, so it was always mysterious to who that was, singing off camera.
“Most of my career I was always mostly invisible, and for the most part might be why I lasted so long in the industry” ~ Sally Stevens.
(Below) An example of comments throughout the internet from people admiring Sally’s work and searching her out over her song On Any Sunday.
Joe: Right, so that it not be a mystery to us, where were you physically back in 1970, 1971 when you actually sat down to start writing the lyrics for On Any Sunday? In a busy restaurant? In a quiet yard?
Sally: At the time I was living in a house in Benedict Cyn. I remember Dominic coming over and I have this picture of us in my mind sitting on my couch talking about this project. So, I’m pretty sure I wrote the lyrics right there at the house at the piano with Dom’s music in front of me.
Joe: Oh, was the music already composed and you filled it with the lyrics?
Sally: It’s so hard to remember but I think for this project it was a coming together of the words and the music. Come to think of it, I’m sure I sent him the lyrics. I think this song might have started with the lyric. Joe, you know he might have written the beginning phrase or something and then it kind of grew from there. I honestly can’t remember fully.
Joe: Okay, so it was sort of a calibration in a sense?
Sally: Yes, I think it was. Sometimes the song is all laid out there and you fit the lyric to it, which I’ve done with most of the composers and sometimes it starts with the lyrics. I just can’t remember. But I have a feeling Joe, thinking back about Dominic that the music was probably pretty well together and then I wrote the lyric to the music. And then if there was a phrase that worked really well, he might have repeated that in the arrangement and laid it out.
Joe: How long did it take to write the lyrics from beginning to end? Did you do it in one night, a week?
Sally: Hard to tell you for sure, Joe. But I think I wrote it in a day or so maybe. Since the film I believe was all done, and Dominic was writing the score and wanted to have the song, I would think it was a matter of a couple of weeks before it was all finalized. That would be my guess. I believe it all came together pretty quickly.
Joe: The opening version in the film has an exciting cheery upbeat pace while the closing end version is soft, dreamy, and sentimental (thought-provoking and reflective). Did you realize at the time when you were writing the song that it would work both ways, fast and slow?
Sally: No, I really didn’t. And, I probably didn’t know the layout that he worked out until we got to do the vocal session. You know, I’m pretty sure that we did the vocals at United. And we were in our little vocal booths and I wouldn’t have seen the vocal music before the session because that’s just how it worked. As session singers we’d walk in and we’d read the sheet music and that was it. Obviously I knew the song, but I didn’t know exactly how he was going to treat it within the score.
Joe: Did you have any competition in terms of other writers submitting their work to Dominic for the movie?
Sally: Not that I was aware of. I suspect that he had reached out to maybe people who had written lyrics for him before, but I don’t know that I was conscious of those details at the time.
Joe: Did you get to see a rough-cut of the film to help you along with the lyrics? I mean how much did you really know about what Bruce Brown was doing?
Sally: I didn’t. I mean Dom and I talked about it and I knew that it was about motorcycling. I also knew that it obviously involved Steve McQueen. I knew it was about that biker community and their experiences and had to have that sentiment, but I don’t think I ever saw a rough-cut of the picture. Dom would have because he had to score the music to the film but I don’t think I ever saw a screening of it until it was finished and I saw the movie.
Joe: Well, that’s really incredible. I mean the song meshes so well with the film and fits so perfectly as if they were always meant to be together. I mean it’s like a dog and its owner… spending years together, they eventually ended up looking like each other in a way. I would have thought you had seen the movie over and over to get the exact details that you did because it just fit absolutely perfect.
Sally: Well, as I said, Dom and I talked a lot, we communicated a great deal about it. He understood the spirit that it needed to have and he probably conveyed all that to me. I’ve since written lyrics for several films and I’ve yet to see the screening in advance. The composer does because he writes to the timings, but I’ve never actually seen screenings in advance.
Joe: Right, well speaking of screenings. Did you ever get a chance to go to the premiere and meet Steve McQueen or Bruce Brown?
Sally: I don’t think I did meet Steve. I had met Bruce Brown and we reconnected considerably later at a tribute evening at The Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. And there was a reunion that I went to with my brother Charles and his wife that celebrated the film and acknowledged the music but I think all that was after Steve had passed away. So, I don’t think I actually ever met Steve. I can’t tell you for sure, but (amusingly) it seems like something I would have remembered if I had met him.
Joe: How was it meeting Bruce?
Sally: Very sweet. And he was very cordial. He has since passed away but I had met him at one or two of these celebration events and he was just always so kind and friendly.
Joe: Well, (humorously) shame on Steve for not finding you out and thanking you for helping boost his career and taking the movie to a whole other level not possible by anyone else but you.
Sally: Well, that was Dom. He was a genius. He’s written so many different kinds of music. I think I remember him saying once that his problem was that he could write in any style of music. So, there wasn’t an identifiable sound of Dominic Frontiere. He was such a good musician that he could adapt to any visual. It wasn’t like somebody who has a style that that’s what you think of when you hear his name.
(Below) Sally Stevens and composer Dominic Frontiere collaborated and created the soundtrack for the motion picture, On Any Sunday.
Joe: I think I understand. Because when I hear John Williams music, I’m hearing John Williams. But to get back to On Any Sunday, I’m curious if you did the vocals for the second track on the album called “The End of Love?” The reason I’m asking is because there are parts in the music where I simply can’t distinguish if I’m hearing human vocals or a musical instrument.
Sally: Yep, yep, that was me.
Joe: That’s simply wonderful. Your voice is projecting a sound that seems like it’s coming out of a precision instrument.
Sally: That’s the kind of vocal that I do when I do chorale stuff. I’ve done some solo’s for composer Danny Elfman and other composers up in that range, or when I’m part of a choir, you know, in that range. So, yes that was me on “The End of Love” track.
Joe: By chance did you ever save any of your notations or paperwork regarding the work on the film?
Sally: You know at that time, even though I had written the lyric, I didn’t think of myself as all that important so I never took lead sheets home. I wasn’t the guy in charge so I don’t think I have any copies of the arrangements from that session. It would be nice if I did.
Joe: Yeah, to me I feel it’s kind of historical in a sense. That song is very special and particularly influential to bike riders. I mean I road my motorcycle cross country through hundreds of miles of barren roads in states like Texas and Oklahoma and the time just flew by listening over and over again to you sing that song. While traveling it simply transported me to a place of wonder as I was visually taking in the countryside.
Sally: That’s very sweet to say. Well, I just loved this particular project and will be forever grateful to Dom.
And we, Sally, will be forever grateful to you. The music you brought to the motorcycle world through this film has brought everlasting joy to so many. Riders and fans alike appreciated Sally so much that she has been invited to attend several celebrations for On Any Sunday gatherings and charity events. One of the contributing organizers to these celebrations dedicated to the Boys Republic (troubled youth program) is Mr. Don Ince, a Steve McQueen and Motorcycle Historian who, when first meeting Sally 5 years ago in 2015 stated the following, “Sally was so sweet. We appreciated her so much and I can’t say enough about her. She is not only a wonderful singer, but a fabulous human being.”
(Below) Don Ince, with The Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show extends his appreciation and gratitude to Sally Stevens for supporting the "On Any Sunday" events and the Boys Republic (a private, non-profit, nonsectarian community for at-risk children for both boys and girls ages 13 through 17).
Boys Republic is an organization where Steve McQueen himself spent time as a 16 year old teenager in 1946. For more info about them and/or next year’s event please go to: https://stevemcqueencarshow.com/ or https://boysrepublic.org/
From the entire biker community who Sally Stevens helped to inspire and advance the sport of motorcycling with her music, we sincerely thank her.
For more information on Sally Stevens, please look for her recently published autobiography, I SANG THAT: A Memoir from Hollywood.
This wonderful read is about Stevens’ very long singing career and personal journey behind the scenes of the world of music-makers, the legends who created the film scores, television music, sound recordings, commercials and concert events over the last sixty years.
and other places where books are sold.
Or visit her website:
or to discover her brilliant work as a professional fine art photographer, please visit her website:
(Below) On Any Sunday’s Bell Records Soundtrack released in 1971 includes the following creative talents who put the music together:
Composed By, Conducted By, Arranged By, Producer –Dominic Frontiere
Lyrics By – Sally Stevens (tracks: A1, A4, B6)
Chorus – Sally Stevens, Ron Hicklin, Gene Moreford, Jackie Ward, John Bahler, Sara Jane Kane
Bass Guitar – Carol Kaye
Drums – Larry Bunker
Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Piccolo Flute – Tom Scott
Guitar – Dennis Budimer, Tommy Tedesco
Harmonica – Tommy Morgan
Organ, Piano – Mike Melvoin
Percussion – Emil Richards
Rocksichord – Dominic Frontiere
Trombone – Dick Nash
Trumpet – Buddy Childers, Conte Condoli, Pete Condoli
Art Direction – Beverly Weinstein
Design – Leo Bestgen
Graphics – The Music Agency
(Below) Exquisitely constructed lyrics for On Any Sunday by Sally Stevens.
OPENING Title: (Upbeat)
On Any Sunday stretching up, reaching high
Leaving my Monday world behind
I fire my rockets and explode in the sky
Kick up my heels until I find, I'm Flyin'
Over my shoulder through the dust I’m calling
“Run wild and catch me if you can”
On Any Sunday I'm a flyin' man
On Any Sunday looking back on the crowd
From the far out place I found
Screaming inside of me, and laughing out loud
I'm losing contact with the ground, I'm flyin'
Over my shoulder through the dust I’m calling
“Run wild and catch me if you can”
On any Sunday I'm a flyin' man
Free as the wind, faster than time, reason and rhyme are running behind.
Tasting the sun Feeling the Earth, Knowing my worth and freeing my mind...
On Any Sunday, like the tail of a kite,
Flying and dancing in the wind.
I'd like to break the string and drift out of sight
I may not pass this way again..
Over my shoulder through the dust I’m calling
“Run wild and catch me if you can”
On Any Sunday I'm a Flyin' Man
CLOSING Title: (Slow and reflective version: substitute opening verse with):
On Any Sunday, chasing echos of dreams
I touch the yesterday anew
Something inside of me goes back through the years....
And I'm a kid I used to know
(Contributing assistance to this article by Aaron Zimmerman)
Photos of Sally Stevens used by permission.
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