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The Star-maker Antonio "L.A." Reid part 2

"This is where it all started," says boyhood friend Darryl Gaither, 53, of Colerain Township, in the auditorium at Hughes Center, where he is lead security officer. "Walking home from school, we got to talking about him playing the drums. He said, 'One day, I'm going to be famous.' "

'WHERE IT ALL STARTED'

He received MBA training at Harvard Business School. But Reid did not graduate with the Hughes High School class of '74. Nor was he one of the school's most famous alumni or voted "most likely to succeed."

There are no photos of him in the 1974 yearbook because, says Reid, "I dropped out. I was enrolled, but I did not participate. I went through the 12th grade, and didn't have enough credits to graduate. I decided to pursue my music career. One thing led to another, and as I started to have success, I took the necessary steps to get a diploma."

At Hughes, Reid was a star drummer who cut his teeth playing with bands in "Merry-Go-Round," an annual talent show held in the school auditorium. He also played in the marching band. He says his music teacher, Terry Brown (now deceased), who had his own group outside of school, taught him how to be a professional.

Today, the marching band is struggling to come back after a 20-year absence. The now-shabby auditorium, last updated in the '50s, has an unusable sound system.

"This is where it all started," says boyhood friend Darryl Gaither, 53, of Colerain Township, in the auditorium at Hughes Center, where he is lead security officer. "Walking home from school, we got to talking about him playing the drums. He said, 'One day, I'm going to be famous.' "

Reid talked about his dream a lot, says another childhood friend, Anthony Bowden, 52, of Fairfield.

"There was no question he wanted to be a musician. He and one of my brothers had battles to see who'd be the lead drummer. He always won," Bowden says. "He could play anything - ballads, rock, hard rock. He was one of those kinds of drummer who could fit in with anybody."

Reid doesn't know where he got his drive.

He was raised in Mount Auburn and Madisonville, one of four children of Emma Reid, a seamstress and interior decorator. His father was mostly absent. His first drum lessons were with his uncle, Albert Baldwin.

Using sticks he bought with tips earned working in a barbershop, young Antonio would beat on anything he could find in his mom's house - pots and pans, furniture, the refrigerator - "Including me, if I stood still long enough," laughs Emma Reid, his mother.

She took him to Greater New Light Baptist Church in Avondale, where the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth preached and the choir sang spirituals. Spirituals, Reid says, taught him about emotion in music.

"I let him know he should always put God first in his life, and he was a good kid," Emma Reid says.

MORE THAN JUST MUSIC

Reid idolized James Brown, who was then making history at King Records in Evanston. It's an oft-told story of how the young boy would stop and listen outside the studio on his way to his karate lesson on Montgomery Road.

"I couldn't hear anything, but I knew what was going on inside those walls and that was good enough for me," he says. "I never spoke to him in person, but James Brown called me once, to tell me that he was proud that I was doing a great job."

Even before 1981, when he founded The Deele with guitarist Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Reid was thinking about who Cincinnati's great musicians were, and how he could get them into his band, or vice versa.

"It's the same now. Nothing's changed in that regard," says the music mogul. "Where's that great guitar player, where's that singer, where's that songwriter, where's that dancer, where's that hot girl? It's just more channeled, more organized, and I've turned my passions into a business."

Reid and Edmonds went on in 1989 to found Atlanta-based LaFace Records, where their roster included stars such as Toni Braxton, OutKast, TLC, Usher, Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston and Pebbles (whom Reid married and divorced).

Reid and Edmonds, who still has a successful solo career, have remained lifelong friends. They reunited on Edmonds' latest album.

Reid hasn't exceeded his dream - "not even close," he says. Producing movies and television will be next, he says.

"I stay motivated by looking at my competitors, looking at the landscape of music around the world, and wanting to make more impact on more people," he says.

"I believe that music has cultural impact. I know that it's not that we're brain surgeons, and it's not necessarily true that we are stopping the war in Iraq. But to the extent that music can help one through the day and perhaps motivate you - I'd like to think that music's very important."read more >>