The next time you find your favorite album while in the check-out line at Whole Foods, you may have Palisadian Jimmy Dunne to the thank. A family man who has found his passion as well as success in both art and business, Dunne is the creator of Inspire Entertainment, a firm that has orchestrated some of the most recognizable music and branding initiatives in the past decade. Inspire’s clients include Whole Foods Market, Office Depot, UPS, JC Penney, Staples, Visa and many other notable national brands.
Whether selling CDs in stores, gifting customers with free downloads or creating audio logos, Inspire identifies how leading brands can benefit from music.
Dunne released his first album during his college days at U. of Kentucky. Since then, he’s become a hit songwriter with pop and country songs on 28 million records, along with songs and scores in 1,400 television shows and films. With all that experience, he understands exactly what it takes to make it to the top of the charts.
Dunne’s songs have made their way onto Grammy, Emmy, CMA and ACM-winning records as well as to the top of the charts. “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do,” one of the many songs he’s written, soared to #1 on the country charts and was later covered by Whitney Houston. His office walls pay tribute to more than 75 gold, platinum and multi-platinum records from around the world.
Although his partnerships with nationally recognized artists could have taken him anywhere in the world, after three decades of living and working in Pacific Palisades, Dunne can’t imagine building a life anywhere else.
“The best kind of town is when it looks and feels like you and respects the same thing you do. I wanted to find a town that would be a fabulous, nurturing home to raise a family, a place I could work in and where I’d want to get involved,” he said. “That’s the Palisades.”
He started a profitable music agency business and was the head tennis professional during the summer months at Chicago tennis clubs where he created the West Suburban Tennis Conference, now celebrating 40 years.
A CARUSO CONNECTION
Young and optimistic, Dunne headed west for an unknown California where he was hired as an Academic Tutor at USC. It was there he began a friendship with Palisades’ developer Rick Caruso.
“People think of him as a business man, but I think of him as an artist. His art is creating town centers for communities. There is an tremendous amount of creativity and art in that,” Dunne said of his longtime friend.
INSPIRED BY THE PALISADES
At 27, Dunne was living in Hollywood working on “Happy Days” when he drove through the Palisades on the Fourth of July. A celebration of families and kids, the parade was reminiscent of his hometown of La Grange, Illinois. “I saw the families lining the streets, a zillion kids in the parade and I knew in that moment I wanted the Palisades to be the canvas to draw the rest of my life on,” Dunne said. “I bought a house and had the best thing ever happen to me — I met Catherine Bailly [now Dunne’s wife] from Minnesota.”
From his ‘gopher’ job on “Happy Days,” he rose through the ranks as a writer and producer for the show. He went on to produce other sitcoms at Paramount, while writing and producing songs and scores on a slew of their series. Ten years ago, his passion for music and business found their true harmony when Dunne launched Inspire. He found it all in the Palisades and has since been involved in a number of big ways.
The tennis ace started the California Paddle Tennis Conference, which is now in its 12th year with more that 10,000 matches played. He also founded the California Beach Volleyball Championships and is spearheading an initiative to bring bocce courts to the Palisades Park.
Dunne is working with the Park Advisory Board on plans to bring the bocce courts to the park for all age groups, but especially for senior citizens.
“Bocce is such a great social game and it’s on fire around the country, enjoyed by every possible age group,” he said. “My dream is seeing the courts filled with senior citizens in leagues enjoying a great day at their park where they meet friends, get some exercise and create a new ‘town center’ in their lives.”
Working with a younger generation, Dunne has helped run youth group programs at St. Matthew’s and was the President of the Father’s Club at Marymount. He has produced charity events for Corpus Christi Parish and raised two daughters. “In many ways, I’ve found that your kids steer your ship. My daughters, Kaitlyn and Alexis, had fantastic experiences at St. Matthew’s and then Marymount,” Dunne said. “Catherine and I were able to enjoy that once-in-a-lifetime journey with so many parents that have become friends for life.” With the beach down the street, an office in town and hiking trails minutes from his back door, Dunne doesn’t deny the Palisades’ stunning location, but for him the best thing about living in the Palisades is undoubtedly the people.
“They’re smart. They’re engaged. The’re full of life and they feel privileged to be in this town, he said. “With a bunch of friends for life that you bump into everywhere you go — how lucky can you be?”
Dunne said it’s heaven having the offices in the Palisades just down the road from family and friends, allowing him to work and play in the same community. “The best thing I ever did was move our office to the Palisades. It’s so nice to ride my bike to work, or walk to lunch with clients down the street to Cafe Vida or Pinocchio’s. And having Catherine come and visit me,” he said.
A BALANCING ACT
From his office on Alma Real Drive, Dunne has found a way to balance art and business. He’s currently writing songs for Garry Marshall’s new musical of “Pretty Woman,” recently released a new CD of original compositions on piano, “Joy to Life,” contributes to his Pandora station “Jimmy Dunne Radio” and is finishing up a rewrite of a hockey drama screenplay — and that’s just the art.
When it comes to his business, Dunne has been in the studio producing a number of musical logos for retail chains and corporate brands, launching CDs in a new national retail chain, producing a multi-artist concert at “Austin City Limits'” Moody Center, and his team at Inspire is creating a few cutting-edge initiatives that Dunne said is sure will shake up things. While his plate is as full as ever, Dunne embodies the old adage — if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. “There’s no substitute for hard work and accountability,” he said. “But hard work is really, really easy when you love what you do.”