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Donn Hecht Organization

"... Cost-wise the representation of 10-12 songs costs no more than one."

As swindlers go, the average song-poem entrepreneur is a relatively innocuous character, who extracts from his victims no more than a few hundred dollars at a crack and actually delivers some goods for it, marginally useful though they may be. But there is another, more bloodthirsty species of song shark, who will not rest until he has lifted every dime out of the songwriter's pocket, convinced him to sign over his life savings, and picked the gold teeth out of Grandma's ashes on his way out the door.

Throughout our investigation into the song-poem industry, one name has continually popped up as that of the slipperiest, most conniving song shark of them all. Donn Hecht had but one claim to fame -- he was the credited co-writer of Patsy Cline's 1957 hit "Walkin' After Midnight." Even at the time of the song's currency, however, rumors were rife within the music industry that Hecht didn't actually write it, but merely doctored and then took credit for an amateur submission he discovered while working as a demo-spotter for 4 Star Music. Owned by Bill McCall, a scoundrel legendary even by music biz standards, 4 Star was a Pasadena-based C&W music production company and song publisher, whose occasional forays into song sharking were considered the least of their crimes. In the various Patsy Cline biographies, numerous people who knew McCall get to have their say about him. The one person among them who remembers him with an emotion even remotely resembling fondness is his protégé, Donn Hecht.

Whether he really wrote "Walkin' After Midnight" or not, Hecht, who died in October 2002, coasted on his singular success ever after. For years he traded on this blockbuster credit, using it as "evidence" of his uncanny musical acumen and powerful industry connections, as he coaxed one unsuspecting songwriter after another into forking over bundles of greenbacks while, alas, receiving little of what they'd been promised in return.

There was one other thing Hecht was successful at one: dodging irate amateur songwriters, creditors and process-servers, who chased him all over southern Florida yet rarely caught up with him.

We were contacted by one of those irate songwriters, Paul N. Ryan of Bellingham, Washington, who'd been taken in by Hecht's demo come-ons. Ryan's wife Christine laid out the details of their dealings with him:

"We paid Hecht $1,500 up front to be our agent for placing Paul's songs. We then paid him $7,840 more to record demos of ten of them. We paid this amount in September, 1997, and he told us we'd have our recordings in three weeks. When they were late in being delivered, we grew increasingly perturbed, and started to bug him for them. On January 8, 1998, he finally delivered the tapes.

"We were relieved to finally receive them, but when we played them we were disappointed, especially with the lead singer's tone of voice. Still, Patrick was happy to hear songs that he wrote all set to music and given what he thought was the 'formula to production' sound he needed to promote them.

"A month or so after he completed those Hecht offered us 'a good deal,' as he was going into the studio and told us that if we had any more songs he could get demos made for them in a week or so. We sent him three more songs, and then paid $2,480 for demos on them. We specifically requested a singer with a deeper voice than on the first batch. He said he could arrange that, that he could get us a big name singer from Nashville who didn't want his name known because he was embarrassed that he had to cut demos to make money.

"The second batch was delivered quickly this time, but we were even more disappointed than before. For one thing, in spite of our request and his promise for a different singer, these songs had the same singer as the first tape. Furthermore, they sounded canned and amateurish. They all sounded the same, as though someone played a beat and someone sang out the words. It was apparent that not much effort had been put into them.

"Thirteen songs in all, unlucky for some. Paul and I discussed many times whether this might be a con. Hecht was convincing on the phone, and we decided that if we didn't take the chance, we would have always wondered what might have happened."

The Ryans wanted to warn others of the methods of this type of song shark, and have thus allowed us to publish the contents of Hecht's letters to them, which offer priceless insights into the mechanics of the higher end of the industry.

Hecht's writings may be riddled with signifiers indicating that something less than kosher might be afoot, but on their own they are not proof of a ripoff. Only when such claims as "I'm going to contact a second arranger ... for a second opinion on treatment," after which "will come the ... consutation [sic] session with a producer," are weighed against the product do his words become laughable, and his intent cynical. Any listener with even a rudimentary knowledge of music production could only conclude that, on the contrary, his recordings reflect an absolutely minimal investment of musical imagination and physical effort. They are plodding, spiritless affairs -- not awful, but worse: utterly, depressingly mediocre. Paul's own demos sound just as professional; had that possibility even been hinted at, he could have saved himself $10,000 and a lot of heartache.

Hecht's letter-writing style is far more interesting than his production techniques. Here he proves himself a Zen master of the run-on sentence, and demonstrates a brand of double-speak worthy of the highest levels of American politics. His prose can be hypnotic, even downright dangerous; indeed, in clinical trials these documents have been shown to cause epileptic seizures, as well as other adverse physical reactions. We urge you caution when reading them.

There are many highlights scattered throughout these letters, but a few passages in particular to which we draw your special attention. These include Hecht's September 6, 1997 outburst over his bank's skittishness at accepting third-party checks; the letter of October 24, 1997, where he does nothing but complain about the costs of his wife's hospitalization, with nary a word of concern for her condition; and the letter of January 5, 1998, when during a long-winded (and amusingly deceptive) lecture about how many arrangers he consults with prior to deciding on a perfect final arrangement for each song, he writes, "... afterwhich a 'head-arrangement' is written." Musicians will recognize this line for the dead giveaway that it is, because a head arrangement, by definition, is unwritten. That's what makes it a "head" arrangement -- the musicians just keep it in their heads.

As always, we have proofread carefully, so be assured that the typos you see are just as they appear in the originals. Also included is a reproduction of Hecht's ludicrous contract, and an appendix in which we document a series of IRS liens against him.

[letter #1:]


Dear Paul N. Ryan:

First off, do not confuse this personal letter with any of the boraxy materials you may receive from bogus record companies and other scams, with offers of questionable legitimacy from people with no credentials.

Modesty aside, I am a well-established writer, 30 years in the business, currently being listed in The Marquis Who's Who In Entertainment -- with career sales of over 20 million records to date.

While conducting a title-search at the Library Of Congress on another matter, my copyright researcher noted some impressive material registered to your name and recommended I contact you about possible co-writing.

Understand, I have not reviewed your material personally, but write this query to you along with 7 other writers whose work is believed to be compatible with my own and stylistically suited to the current marketplace

At this time, I am seeking tightly-written lyrics in the style of Garth Brooks, as well as other currently popular artists. His CD LP "The Chase," CDP-798743-2, Capitol/Liberty Records, which featured one of my songs, ("Walking After Midnight") was a #1 best seller with RIAA certified sales of over 7 million records. Be my guest. Check it out.

Aside from Garth Brooks, I constantly touch base with artists' management, keep abreast of upcoming recording sessions, and usually have several possibilities targeted at any given time, which brings me to the point that I work in all music categories, including Country, Pop, Rock, R&B, Gospel, New Age, Contemporary -- even Rap.

Enough about me.

If you are also an accredited professional -- or in the least, a writer of entry-level status who's been around-the-block, are receptive to co-writing under the usual cost-plus 50/50 royalty arrangement, and can appreciate the advantages of working with a Pro with major credentials who can open doors and get to the biggest artists in the business -- you are invited to submit lyric material (no recordings please) for immediate evaluation.

Donn Hecht

P.S. Consistant with industry-wide policy, I do not review unsolicited material. To ensure that your submission will not be returned unopened, draw the symbol ® (for requested material) on the lower left corner of your envelope. Include a covering letter telling something about yourself. Appropriate to this, I will furnish a detailed Writer Profile with my report.

[letter #2:]

18 August 1997 [via fax]
Regarding your fax of 8/ 17/ 97

Dear Paul N. Ryan:--

Than you for the fax as referenced.

At the moment, I am no longer accepting any additional outside material for possible co-writing and marketing, as an abundance of material was immediately received from six other writers, most of which has been completed and placed in major industry pipelines.

To answer your second question, I do operate an agenting arm which has been in existence for almost exactly 20 years, but which has been largely limited to representation of work by accredited professionals.

However, I am transmitting as follows, a copy of a supplimentary issue of my newsletter Pro-Gramme, which was issued in reply / response to hundreds of queries received from amateur writers questioning why we did not accept material from newcomers, and which is self-explanitroy. [Note: The "Pro-Gramme" has been excluded from publication here because it is so long and boring.]

If you have qualified material, have been around-the-block, and find interest in marketing representation under the terms as described, I would be pleased to evaluate your material and get back to you accordingly.

Donn Hecht

[letter #3:]

23 August 1997 [via fax]
Re: Your fax of 18 August 1997.

Dear Christine:--

I just tried to telephone, but you were not available, hence this fax with apologies for this late reply, but I wanted to go-to-bed so to speak with the lyrics submitted, and get a few industry opinions to compare with my own before getting back to you, which were quite affirmative.

As stated in my original letter, I had not reviewed your husband's material personally at the time, but now that I have, it's evidence that my copyright researcher's high opinion of his work was justified, and it's obvious that Paul is indeed a man of considerable talent, and if "Rememberin' Times Gone By," and "What About You" are accurate samples of his work, I think we should pursue possibilities of procceding in some way.

I say "some way" because I am rather confused about the options, inasmuch as you submitted lyrics only, which would suggest co-writing, as opposed to market representation of his completed material with both words and music.

In either case, I would be receptive, and as related costs would be in about the same ball-park, I would need to know your / his preference.

If he already has music to these lyrics that he's absolutely sold on, it would be understandably difficult to abandon same in favor of what I would do no matter howe viable, in which case, it might be better to go with the agenting option -- although, in all honesty, it will be a much more difficult job -- in fact, a hard-sell -- to sell the personal manager on any song written entirely by an uncredited writer (all of which is so much B.S., but that's the way the ball bounces in terms of corporate decisions these days.)

However, as to agenting the work of an unaccredited writer, a big big positive mark in his favor would be 10-12 powerful sngs as a mini show case, which would make a powerful statement in terms of prolificy, and give us that many shots at the basket, and cost-wise the representation of 10-12 songs costs no more than one.

Think about it, and get back to me soonest, as both of these titles appear to be viable candidates for upcoming sessions by several major artists.

Donn Hecht

[letter #4:]

26 August 1997 [via fax]
Re: Your fax dated August 24, 1997

Dear Christine:--

Sorry you were unable to reach me by phone at 8:45 p.m. on the 24th as referenced, but I am rarely in the office after 4:00 pm (and not at all except between sessions) and that usually marks the end of a long day at a studio in Ft. Lauderdale, which often begins at 6:00 a.m., afterwhich I am totally spent and in no condition to speak with anybody. About the only free time I have during recording projects is very early in the day, and not compatible with the time difference between here and California, where I am sure that a call at 5:00am would be about as welcome as an earthqauke; hence, am dictating this in reply to your fax as referenced, for my girl to type and transmit when she arrives at 9:00a.m.

Regarding Paul's work, and his obvious mixed emotions about co-writing Vs. marketing representation of his completed songs with both words and music. I'm sure you can understand that I am helpless to offer any intelligent comments or make specific suggestions without first having the opportunity to review all of the material mentioned with both words and music.

Here, the overall content, and NOT the quality of his recordings is of primary importance in pursuit of evaluating the material and making decisions about potential paths to follow. In fact, at this stage your "very rough demos" are probably the best way to begin, as the most common (and dangerous) mistake made by most new writers who are bent on authoring their own lyrics and composing their own music who are not familiar with proceural mechanics, is to unknowingly regate work which my be underdeveloped to some hot-shot demo company who proceeds to conceal flaws with cosmetic sound, which are spotted instantly by the trained ears of industry people, and lead to rejection of the material.

Should you find this hard to understand, same would be tantamount to patching and throwing a coat of paint on the dented fender of an automobile, rather than hiring a professional to properly correcting the flaw.

Here (and this is very important) even in the case of finished material ready for recording (whether we do business or not) you should be very wary of "demo companies" who advertise, as these do not produce to industry specs, but orient canned MIDI tracks designed to please the writer, and with no regard to marketing formulae, their only premise being to keep the costs down and create incentive for repeat business.

Legitimate companies, groups, consisting of professional arrangers, producers who specialize in demo production and cater to industry insiders, such a publishers, name writers, etc., have no need to advertise, and usually have more work than they can handle.

As for the "hard sell" aspects of marketing the work of an unaccredited writer, it is decidedly more difficult, but certainly not impossible given powerful material that has been both written and produced to industry criteria.

Suggestion: I expect to be finishing up the current album project in the next couple of days, and will have some free time over the coming holiday weekend to evaluate Paul's material from both agenting and co-writing standpoints, afterwhich, I will be in a better position to hopefully offer intelligent suggestions.

Accordingly, if it would be not too much of an imposition, you might send the tapes and lyric sheets via UPS Overnight Next Day Air, or FedEx, to ensure prompt delivery.

Also helpful would be to transmit copies of the lyric sheets as suggested.

Donn Hecht

[the contract:]

-- Agreement For Representation Of Music Property --

Donn Hecht (DHO)
2 September 1997

Dear Paul N. Ryan:--

We are writing to confirm the agreement reached between you and us.

WHEREBY IT IS AGREED as follows:--

1. You hereby appoint us as your sole and exclusive agent within the territories of North America, South America, Central America, the United Kingdom and Europe for the purpose of procuring agreements with third parties for the acquisition under contract and/or license of the rights to use the songs and/or musical compositions and/or recordings listed in Schedule 'A' (hereinafter referred to as the Recordings") and/or to license the rights to manufacture, distribute and sell records featuring the Recordings.

2. Except as otherwise provided herein the appointment of us as your agent for the purposes aforesaid shall continue until the same shall be terminated by either of the parties hereto giving to the other six-months notice in writing.

3. During the period of our appointment aforesaid:

(a) We shall use reasonable endeavours to represent the Recordings and to procure such agreements as aforesaid with third -parties for the commercial benefit of yourself.

(b) You shall co-operate fully with us and will provide us free-of-charge with sample audio cassettes and/or Compact Discs of the Recordings owned by you together with, if applicable, publicity style photos, artist biographical data, and such other promotional aids as may be designated and set forth in Schedule 'A' hereof.


4. In consideration of the good and valuable performance by us of our obligations under Caluse 3 hereof, you agree that we shall be entitled to receive a 15% (fifteen per cent) commission calculated upon any and all front-money and/or advances of royalty and/or royalty (in money or money's worth) paid or payable to you or on your behalf in contemplation of or pursuant to agreements and/or arrangements entered into with third parties and procured and/or introduced to you by us hereunder.,


6. We shall be entitled to receive our commission in accordance with the provisions of this agreement for as long as any relevant agreement and/or arrangement between you and such a third party or any extension and/or renewal thereof shall endure and you receive monies thereunder from such a third party. The said commission shall remain payable irrespective of whether we shall remain your agent hereunder during the entire duration of such agreements and/or renewals.

7. We shall be permitted not more than once during each calendar year, and on giving reasonable notice to you of such intention, and at our own expense, to conduct an inspection of your books indofar as the same contain information relevant to the calculation of our commission due hereunder.

8. We shall be entitled to negotiate agreements as aforesaid on your behalf in respect of the Recordings for the territories as specified in foregoing Clause 1 of this agreement only PROVIDED THAT you shall have first approved in writing, the terms and conditions of such agreements and PROVIDED THAT EACH SUCH AGREEMENT SHALL BE EXECUTED BY YOU IN WRITING.

9. This agreement shall be construed and governed to be in accordance with the laws of the County of Dade, State of Florida, United States of America.

10. Nothing herein shall constitute a partnership between you and us.

11. We shall be entitled to appoint sub-agents in territories outside the United States for the purpose hereof in which instance this agreement shall also be construed and governed to in accordance with the laws of of England and Wales.


13. As may be mutually desirable, and for so long as this agreement shall endure, you agree that future musical works and/or Recordings owned by you and which may added to this agreement by addendum shall be subject to the same terms and provisions hereunder.

14. You warrant and represent that you are the owner(s) of the following described music properties and have the legal rights to enter into this agreement.

SCHEDULE 'A' This agreement shall cover marketing representation of ten (10) songs, authored and composed by Paul Nicholas Ryan and entitled as follows: (1) THROW IT BACK, (2) 12 O'CLOCK DEVIL, (3) WHAT ABOUT YOU, (4) REMEMBERIN' TIMES GONE BY, (5) BREEZE ON MY SHOULDERS, (6) ORANGE RIND, (7) POT OF GOLD AT THE END, (8) TIME'S UP, (9) IMAGE 16, (10) LEAVING OKLAHOMA.

You agree to supply lead-sheets, together with 36 cassette copies of professionally produced demonstration recordings of all songsas as referenced.

Additionally, you agree to a one-time only payment in amount of $1500 (fifteen hundred and 00/100 dollars) as an advanced against our 15%commission on potential royalties, payable in lawful monies of the United States upon execution of this agreement.

In sincere hope that this will mark the beginning of a long and mutually profitable assocoation, we remain,

Yours Faithfully,
[signed] Donn Hecht

Agreed and accepted by:
[signed] Paul Nicholas Ryan, 9/3/97
[signed] Christine Ryan, 9-3-97

[letter #5:]

6 September 1997. [via fax]
Re: Progress report + your fax of 04 September.

Dear Christine & Paul:--

Had lunch with Ron (the arranger) just after his return from New York, yesterday and succeeded in spending several hours with him later in the day going over and finalizing suggested arrangements on the material, and expect to touch base with him again on Monday, at which time, basic sketches for the lead-sheets should be completed.

After that, I'm going to contact a second arranger (I've worked with for years) in Studio City, California, and fax him three of the lead-sheets for additional input (here, no offense to Ron's fine work -- but for a second opinion on treatment for three of the titles, which can do no harm, and is routine practice.)

After that will come the final step involving the consutation session with a producer, which is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, at which time, I will have the final figure on the production hard-costs and will get same to you immediately thereafter.

To your fax of 04 September, a problem.

While the agreement and check arrived in good order, it was necessary for me to return your check drawn on Charles Schwab, which the bank refused to accept because of third-party endorsement.

Florida banks, ladened with worthless checks from 'snowbirds,' and thieves who pilfer checks from the mails, then forge endorsements making some payable to them are gun-shy to begin with, with all out-of-state bank drafts, and will not accept third-party checks without verification, which Charles Schwab reportedly refused to do via telephone, so they refused the check, which is now on its way back to you by Express Mail, and all of which didn't exactly make girl Beverly's day, who's in-line time at the bank, then the post office succeeded in shoveling Friday's office work over on to Monday.

(No offense, but were I in your position, I would have a few words with the Charles Schwab organization.)

Donn Hecht

[letter #6:]

17 September 1997. [via fax]
Re: Demo production details.

Dear Christine:--

All things (and people) considered, I can now make some intelligent comments regarding recording production on the ten-song show case, the blow-by-blow details of which would require many pages to explain, so in the interest of saving time, I will give you a general outline on the game-plan and estimated costs involved, and will cover related details via phone if necessary.

The bottom line on costs, as it turns out, involves two different approaches, the first of which would be to do the entire sessions in Miami: Estimated cost: $10,640.00 (or $1,064.00 per title.) While this is not inconsistant with going rates, it is in my view, somewhat excessive in terms of custom work appropriate to the material itself, the culpret being that a number of the preferred 'people ingredients' would need to be imported and put up here for the recording sessions at considerable additional expense.

This is nothing unusual, is done all the time in cases where you're selecting and assembling players for a special ball-team who do not live in the same city, and if you've got money to burn, it's no problem -- and in fact, the most convenient approach in this case, if it's of paramount importance that Paul head here as well to "check out the in-progress recording" as mentioned in your fax of September 07.

The alternate approach, which simply reverses the acquisitional method of using the same people, is to send and segmentize the work to where they are, which in this case would place the Miami facilities in the minority, and involve New York, Nashville, Atlanta, and possible Studio City, in that order.

Advantages: Total costs are shaved to $7,840.00 (or $784.00 per title) Estimated time for completion: About three weeks (as opposed to the eight to ten weeks it would take to correlate assembly of the same people here in Miami.)

Also, the completion date is not without priority, as at least three of these titles are targeted for submission to major outlets believed to be up for recording within the next five-six weeks.

For this reason, whichever alternative you choose (including the final option of Paul sub-contracting and overseeing production there) the gears should be set in motion just as quickly as possible, so do let me know so that I can plan my schedule accordingly.

Donn Hecht

P.S. I do hope Paul's knee problem is no more.

[letter #7:]

24 October 1997 [via fax]
Re: Your Fax of October 22nd.

Dear Paul & Christine:--

Sorry about the seeming silence. Time as a way of slipping by, and I realize it's natural for people on the other end to wonder what's happening.

What's happening is that things have been going along about as planned, in spite of an unexpected interruption due to a personal family problem in form of completely unexpected two major surgical operations on my wife within the past 3 weeks.

Nontheless, we are somewhere between one-half and two-thirds toward completion on 6 of the songs and about one-half on the remaining 4.

As the normal routine goes, you quite often see to modifications, changes for arrangement, instrumentation etc., and in this case, a possible switch of lead-vocalists.

(tantamount to spicing up a pot of stew with a pich of this or that, which deviates from the original recepe, if you get my meaning.)

So, be cool and rest assured that all will work out well, and know that your patience is appreciated.

Must run, as I am due at the hospiital to check on things, and sign more papers. Papers, papers, papers. (And the tab is beginning to look like my Social Security number. Hopefully, they will release her today or tomorrow, in which case, she'll need around-the-clock girls in white hats, which will also be anything but cheap, but a far far cry from the million dollars a day hospitals get these days, while all the while claiming they are losing money.

I hope Paul's knee is back in joint, and that all else is well with you both.

Must run.

Warmest regards,
Donn Hecht

[letter #8:]

[undated, handwritten]

Dear Paul & Christine:--

Promises kept.

Here are your finished recordings which I hope you will like half-as-much as I do.

The lead-sheets have not yet arrived from the arranger -- but I didn't want to hold these tapes up only to send the tapes & lead sheets together.

They say this will reach you on Thanksgiving.

Let's hope it's a good omen.

Happy Thanksgiving

signed [Donn Hecht]

[letter #9:]

5 January 1998

Dear Paul & Christine:--

First off, a Happy New Year to you! And many, many, more!

At long last, in spite of unavoidable delays (which, true to Murphy's Law, seem to come in bunches, and crowned in this case by the usual madness between Christmas and New Year which got in the way of scheduling new singers and supplimentary instrumentation) the producer finally gave a thumbs-up to the enclosed results, but not before all of three trips back into the studio to modify treatment of six of the ten songs with which he stubbornly insisted he was not completly happy.

By way of some explanation of this, this is really not unusual with formulae production (there is a chasmed difference between knocking out a demo simply for the sake of pleasing a writer -- as opposed to heeding and being a slave to currently acceptable industry criteria) which once again is the chief reason why I dislike being involved with production of demos for clients, few if any of whom really understand the difference, and I can only relate this in terms of what I personally do in the process from writing a new title, on through to completion of the finished product:

After writing is completed, and put to paper in form of manuscript copy (lead-sheets) I call a consultation session with an appropriate arranger, and we kick around ideas for stylistic treatment, afterwhich a "head-arrangement" is written. Next, comes another consultation session with a producer, who makes up session-charts (a sort of blue-print) indicating instrumentation for the recording session. Then comes the choice of musicians, and the session is booked, and away they go. And I say they because I do not interfere with the process, aside from possibly making suggestions which they may consider or ignore, as the case may be. Finally -- and contrary to the belief of most newcomers to the business, the completed tapes are then reviewed, and ideass for modifications, changes of all sorts are are made and noted, and the appropriate musicians are recalled, and returned to the studio for the "sweetening" process which may or may not be repeated several times.

Finally, when all are in total agreement with the end product, the original lead-sheets and head-arrangements are scrapped, and new versions written to coincide and accurately reflect modificatins over the original lead-sheets and arrangements afterwhich the vocalists are called in for still another seperate session for voice-overs, and after final editing and processing in a mastering facility, it's done.

While the above is an over-simplification of the process, it should give you some idea of the valid reasoning behind delays in completion, as well as the immense work involved.

Every consideration to faithfully follow both Paul's lyrics and melodic structures were made, and any changes you may note from the versions on his original tape were made only after judicious evaluation in effort to contribute to the overall power of the titles, and I do hope you both agree that same were made for the better.

All in all, I could not be more pleased with the results, which were completed in good time, as this first month of the new year marks the beginning of the best season for submitting new works, and I have lost no time in getting duplicate copies to several appropriate industry outlets within the same time-frame as you will be receiving this.

Again, best wishes for the New Year, which hopefully will include positive results for our combined efforts.

Donn Hecht

P.S. After double checking the lead-sheets, I noted a few inconsistancies due to errors by the copiest, so will hold off including same until corrections are made, which should take about a week or so, afterwhich I'll get them off to you.


When the Ryans finally admitted to themselves that they may have been taken for a ride, they ran a credit check on Hecht, and turned up some fascinating information. Between 1990 and 1997, the Internal Revenue Service had filed no less than five liens on Hecht's assets, to cover alleged nonpayment of income taxes in amounts ranging from barely a thousand dollars to more than three-quarters of a million.

A Notice of Federal Tax Lien is a legal declaration of attachment of a party's assets. It is resorted to only after attempts at voluntary payment have been exhausted, and is generally used as a strategic tool designed to secure compliance. A lien notice is the only civil component of the tax enforcement process that is a matter of public record (cases in which it is believed there was intent to defraud are referred for criminal prosecution, but they are relatively rare), and so we've been unable to investigate this case in any further detail.

It's not safe to assume that the incomes covered by these liens were entirely derived from Hecht's song-sharking enterprises. On the contrary, songwriting royalties for "Walkin' After Midnight" must amount to a healthy annuity for him, especially in a year like 1992, when Garth Brooks covered it on his multi-platinum album The Chase. Once they started rolling in, Hecht's Chase royalties had to have dwarfed his song-sharking income; indeed, the year of the most dramatic spike in the lien figures is the year of the album's release. Still, even if the liens don't necessarily refer to his sharking enterprises, they are a revealing indicator of the man's personal character. For what is most striking about them, apart from the amounts they cover, is that they demonstrate that Hecht was dunned for non-payment of federal income tax year after year.

Here we reprint the most pertinent data from the Donn Hecht lien notices:

Notice of Federal Tax Lien Under Internal Revenue Laws

This notice was prepared and signed at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on this, the 10th day of July, 1990
Name of taxpayer: Donn Hecht

Kind of tax
Tax period ended
Date of assessment
Unpaid balance of assessment

Notice of Federal Tax Lien Under Internal Revenue Laws

This notice was prepared and signed at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on this, the 4th day of September, 1991
Name of taxpayer: Donn Hecht

Kind of tax
Tax period ended
Date of assessment
Unpaid balance of assessment

Notice of Federal Tax Lien

This notice was prepared and signed at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on this, the 5th day of April, 1994
Name of taxpayer: Donn Hecht

Kind of tax
Tax period ended
Date of assessment
Unpaid balance of assessment

Notice of Federal Tax Lien

This notice was prepared and signed at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on this, the 10th day of July, 1996
Name of taxpayer: Donn Hecht

Kind of tax
Tax period ended
Date of assessment
Unpaid balance of assessment

Notice of Federal Tax Lien

This notice was prepared and signed at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, on this, the 26th day of February, 1997
Name of taxpayer: Donn Hecht

Kind of tax
Tax period ended
Date of assessment
Unpaid balance of assessment

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