The career of producer Phil Gernhard spanned over four decades, with hits ranging from Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' "Stay" to Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John" to the Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow." Born and raised in Florida, Gernhard scored his first blockbuster in 1960 via "Stay," helmed with co-producer Johnny McCullough and recorded in Columbia, SC, the previous summer. After pitching the single to a series of uninterested New York City labels, Gernhard and McCullough finally placed the record with indie imprint Herald, which nevertheless insisted on several edits. Clocking in at just 1:39 in its official release, "Stay" proved the shortest single ever to top the U.S. pop charts, as well as Williams & the Zodiacs' lone hit record.
Upon settling in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, Gernhard continued producing up-and-coming local acts at the Charles Fuller Productions studio, in 1964 overseeing the Sugar Beats' regional hit "What Am I Doing Here." Two years later, he agreed to manage the fledgling Ocala sextet the Royal Guardsmen, also co-writing with Dick Holler their debut single, "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron," a novelty effort inspired by cartoonist Charles Schulz's beloved strip Peanuts. Gernhard negotiated the Royal Guardsmen a deal with Laurie Records, which issued "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" in the fall of 1966 -- by Christmastime, the single was at number two on the Billboard pop charts. Gernhard next scored with Dion DiMucci, the New York City doo wop legend seeking to rejuvenate his career following a battle with drug abuse -- the Holler-penned folk-rock classic "Abraham, Martin and John" ascended to number four in Billboard during mid-1968, and Gernhard and Dion subsequently reunited for a series of acclaimed LPs in a singer/songwriter vein.
In 1969 Gernhard signed on with Laurie exec Doug Morris' new Big Tree Records, soon extending a contract offer to Tallahassee singer/songwriter and Sugar Beats alum Kent LaVoie. Under the alias Lobo, LaVoie scored the Gernhard-produced soft rock perennials "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" and "I'd Love You to Want Me." Lobo's success heralded Gernhard's transition into country music, and as the decade wore on he notched smashes including Jim Stafford's "Spiders and Snakes" and the Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" -- he also co-produced Hank Williams, Jr.'s outlaw classic Family Tradition. Prior to his death on February 22, 2008, Gernhard served as senior vice president of A&R for Nashville-based Curb Records.