“You can either be healthy,” he says, describing the multiple offerings in the breakfast room “or not healthy, or both.”
This is life at Stonover, a bed-and-breakfast that’s less than a half-mile from Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home. Stonover is also a long way from Los Angeles, where Werman became “the most successful producer of metal records in the business,” according to a 1987 Los Angeles Times article.
In those days, Werman’s job was to translate Ted Nugent’s live energy to vinyl and coax hits out of Motley Crue, a group fueled by enough illegal substances to power a fighter jet.
At Stonover, he and his wife, Suky, took a crumbling, 10-acre estate and turned it into a luxury inn. Suky runs an art gallery in the barn, where the couple also host weddings. Werman takes special pride in blending nature and convenience. He loves the duck pond. But he will also offer TV and Wi-Fi to his guests.
One thing you won’t find much of at Stonover: Knicknacks from Werman’s former career.
His office is lined with framed LPs and photos of some of his favorite bands. But Stonover is no Hard Rock Cafe, Lenox.
“That’s in the past,” he says. “It’s nice to have a little bit of memorabilia around, but I certainly did not want to incorporate my rock ’n’ roll life into this one. It’s a quiet, contemplative, beautiful place to live. You can wander around in the woods or you can immerse yourself in culture.”
“It’s one simple word: escape,” says Ted Nugent, whose most successful albums, including 1977’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” were produced by Werman. “I understand the desire for peace and quiet and family time. I hunted this morning. I just got in with my Labradors. And the peace and the healing powers of nature might be the only reason I’m sane after 6,514 concerts. You need opposite time from chaos and intensity and stress and insanity that is the production of music.”
Werman, 69, says he never felt the need to escape. He had loved working in the music business. Born in Boston, Werman grew up in Newton, went to Columbia University, where he also ended up getting his Master of Business Administration. He wrote legendary record executive Clive Davis asking for a job and, by 1970, was writing at Epic as an assistant to the artists and repertoire director. He signed REO Speedwagon and tried, but failed, to sign Rush.
Then he found Nugent.
These days, Nugent, 65, is known as the National Rifle Association booster always willing to churn up controversy. But in the mid ’70s, he was a guitarslinger trying to build a solo career after being part of the Amboy Dukes.
Werman made Nugent’s raw, aggressive live sound radio-friendly.
“He was running around like a madman experimenting with different mikes and different positioning,” Nugent remembers of those sessions. “And there was a carpet absorbing the high end of my guitar sound and he’d say, ‘Get that carpet out of here.’ He was real diligent, a detail monster.”
That same approach applied to Cheap Trick, the Illinois band that came to him after its self-titled debut earned critical praise but didn’t make the charts. “In Color” (1977) was a hit, featuring such iconic songs as “I Want You to Want Me” and “Southern Girls.”
Again, Werman’s obsessive approach made his decision memorable even 37 years later.
“He took his wallet and taped it to my snare drum, to make the snare drum sound better on the radio,” remembers Cheap Trick’s drummer Bun E. Carlos. “He made our recordings radio-worthy or airplay worthy.”
To this day, some of Werman’s most successful groups, including members of Cheap Trick and Twisted Sister, complain about the sound on his recordings, criticizing it as overly slick or too clean. Werman admits he’s sensitive. It’s why he even refuted Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx in a letter to The New York Times in 2008 calling the band’s bassist “totally deluded,” among other things.
That debate is, in a way, beside the point. By the 1990s, Werman could barely find work. It wasn’t his fault. It was because the style of music he produced fell out of style. Grunge ruled. Glossy, carefully crafted pop didn’t.
Werman had plenty of money, but he found it frustrating to be unable to land a gig.
“I knew that he was not happy,” says his daughter, Julia. “And that it was a blow. And that he was not feeling great about himself and he was trying to reinvent his career and figure out if I’m no longer doing this, how can I not be in this business and do something else.”
“I also remember my dad saying, often, ‘One day when I get out of this business, I’m going to get out of this business and open a sandwich shop and open a B&B.’ We’d say, ‘Oh, Dad!’ ”
Over golf games with buddies, Werman would grumble about the music business. Then a friend, Tom Kelly, who co-wrote Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” told him to read the motivational book, “Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal With Change In Your Work and in Your Life.”
Two weeks later, Werman was in Western Massachusetts, looking for properties. He and Suky quickly bought Stonover for, he says, $1.5 million and put $1 million into renovating it. They opened on July Fourth weekend in 2002.
“Look, it’s not unusual,” says Werman. “It’s a pretty common daydream. Let’s get out of the rat race and move to the country to open a bed-and-breakfast. It’s kind of a cliché. We had stayed at bed-and-breakfasts, Suky and I, and I could never figure out why they were basically all the same.”
“They all really had a lot of fabric. They had four-poster beds. They were antiquey. Old and charming. But almost completely without conveniences. No radios, no TVs. What was the harm? The time has come for a wired, luxury bed-and-breakfast. So the New York crowd can get out of the city, come up to the country and have a choice. Sit by the stream and commune with nature or they can sit in their suite and watch movies and check their e-mails.
“That’s up to you. You want to watch TV; you have the choice.”
Not many musicians have stayed at Stonover, beyond Linda Ronstadt, Doors drummer John Densmore, and Twisted Sister’s guitarist Jay Jay French.
Nugent, though, knows he has a standing invite. Rooms at Stonover range from suites in the main house, roughly in the $400-a-night range, to the cottage that’s about $200 more.
“I won’t have to pay,” says Nugent. “As long as I bring some wild boar shanks.”
Geoff Edgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.