“Thankful”: Plateful of Grateful

NEWS UPDATE:   Zero to 180 still hard at work on a companion piece to its recent history of Track Recorders — just starting to get its arms around the legacy of Adelphi Records , while taking history lessons directly from Gene Rosenthal himself.  Stay tuned!

A new subject category – Gratitude in Popular Music – has been added in order to allow the opportunity each year around this time to shine a musical spotlight on thankfulness.

Zero to 180 has observed this tradition in the past via populist anthems that promote unity, such as “We the People” by Allan Toussiant, “Time to Get It Together” by Tom Jones, and “This Old Town” by Wilson Pickett.

This year’s featured selection, “I’m Thankful” — originally produced by Sam Cooke and recorded for the 1961 album Jesus Be a Fence Around Me by The Soul Stirrers – was once performed live on television, and a tape of that broadcast (thankfully) still exists:

“I’m Thankful”     The Soul Stirrers     c. early 1960s

Billboard, in its July 3, 1961 edition, would describe the flip side of “I Love the Lord” thusly:

“A slow spiritual  with a higher voice taking over the lead.  The feeling of the side is in a quiet groove.  Simple backing assists the lead and the rest of the group”

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First “Women’s Liberation” LP

Thanks to William Vernola for recommending the 1991 PBS documentary “mini” series, Making Sense of the Sixties.  At one point in the accompanying soundtrack — during the examination of women’s rights, undoubtedly — I was hooked by the catchy chorus to a song called “Drop the Mop“:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Drop the Mop” by Ruth Batchelor]

As it turns out, “Drop the Mop” is the obvious radio hit from feminism’s first full-length record, Reviving a Dream:  Songs for Women’s Liberation, issued on the Femme label in 1972.

“First Lady in the White House”:  The dream remainsruth-batchelor-lp-aa

My timing happened be impeccable, as I was able to obtain the one available copy of this now-forgotten record from the Bay Area’s preeminent music store, Amoeba Records, who has this to say about the album:

Unusual album with all original songs’ content centering on women’s liberation, with titles such as – “Drop The Mop,” “Barefoot And Pregnant,” and “Stand And Be Counted.”  All the material was written by Ruth Batchelor and sung by Ruth Batchelor & the Voices of Liberation.  The back cover has liner notes by Ruth.

How curious that America broke away from the British crown to create “The Land of the Free” — and yet the UK would elect a female head of state decades before the US did (and has yet to do).ruth-batchelor-lp-bb

“WE NEED TO KNOW MORE about THE PRINCESS … about WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN to us when we’re older … about spending our lives BAREFOOT & PREGNANT … about PROGRESS … about REVIVING A DREAM … we need to STAND AND BE COUNTED … we need to know other ways to KEEP HIS LOVE … we need EQUAL RIGHTS and we need to DROP THE MOP.

A dream was started in 1776 when our Fore-FATHER Thomas Jefferson drew up the Declaration of Independence declaring that all MEN were created equal (while our Fore-MOTHER Betsy Ross was allowed to sew a flag).  He didn’t mention WOMEN.  Women however were having the same dream – it took them until 1920 to get it realized.  The suffragettes suffered and got us the vote.  But what have we done with it?  Their dream has been asleep for 50 years.  The album is our way of REVIVING A DREAM.”

[Ruth Batchelor’s original notes from the album’s back cover]

Bob Glassenberg, reporting in his “Studio Track” column for Billboard in the August 28, 1971 edition, would quote the album’s songwriter and organizer-in-chief:

“‘The hardest thing for me as a lyricist is getting the song recorded and then being able to hear the lyrics,’ said Ruth Batchelor, whose current tune, written for the theme of the movie Love Machine, which was sung by Dionne Warwicke, Scepter recording artist.  ‘I find it difficult hearing the words from some of the pop groups around today.  And I feel this is a pet peeve of many people who write lyrics,’ said Miss Batchelor.

Batchelor has been writing lyrics for quite some time.  I couldn’t pin her down as to the length–something to do with disclosing her age.  But she is a young lady in any man’s book.

‘Right now I have an album of dirty women’s liberation poems recorded and I’m trying to sell the master.  I don’t know who will buy it, because the last company I recorded for folded,’ she laughed.  The title of the album is A Quarter for the Ladies Room.  But she has written tunes for other artists, such as Elvis Presley, The Partridge Family, Carmen McRae, and Mel Torme.  She has had no high school or college education and says her only formal training was a book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.”

Flashback to the early 1970s:   Page 6 in the June 1972 issue of Broadside helpfully suggests such “Feminist Gifts” as—

Reviving a Dream (the first feminist record album — for every record sold, a contribution will be made to [National Organization for Women]) and Sexism, the board game, in which a woman tries to make it from the Doll House to the White House while a male chauvinist tries to send her back into the Kitchen or the Typing Pool.  Players are forced into situations which necessitate role playing and discussion.

Sexism, the board game

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A songwriter and television & radio reporter, Batchelor would found the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 1975, as pointed out in her 1992 New York Times obituary, and serve as its president and executive director for three years.  Twenty years prior, The Times had reviewed Batchelor’s album in its March 12, 1972 edition, though not favorably, I’m afraid.  Warren, Pennsylvania’s Times-Mirror and Observer, on the other hand, would be a little more open-minded in its February 3, 1972 edition:

Ruth Batchelor’s name doesn’t make it easy.  She is used to bad puns about her name and puts up with them, albeit with clenched teeth.  She has trouble with her image, because if she wears her hair in a fall, she is accused of being a sex symbol, and if she wears it short and close cropped, which is comfortable, she is called a lesbian.

Being Ruth Batchelor, songwriter, isn’t easy.  Solving the hair problem was relatively simple.  When she performs, she wears pigtails, a happy compromise for a girl who comes from California and started her career writing songs for Elvis Presley.  Since then she has done the music for three Presley movies; a musical version of Fielding’s Tom Jones for CBS Television; Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose – a TV special with Sherman Edwards [i.e., mastermind behind 1776]; and composed a raft of songs including the theme from Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine.  It is her most recent accomplishment that she is currently touting.

Miss Batchelor has written the music and lyrics, sung and produced a stereo LP record, her first for her newly-formed record company. Femme Records, called Reviving A Dream:  Songs for Women’s Liberation.  “And from now on, if I can, I would prefer to write nothing but songs for women,” the slight, dark-haired composer said recently as she sat strumming her guitar in her west side apartment.  “I think it’s a great mistake that Women’s Lib has become identified with lesbians,” she said.  “I think the image is in trouble.  If I weren’t interested in the movement and heard all those anti-men speeches, I’d be turned off, too.  I’m not anti­-men.”

Among the ten songs on the record are “Barefoot and Pregnant” (“That’s the way my last husband felt about women”); “The Princess,” a song about women s economic dependency (“We need to know other ways to keep his love we need equal rights and we need to drop the mop.”) and, it follows, one called “Drop the Mop.”  The first song she thought of for the record was a march.  “I felt that NOW (National Organization for Women) needed a march of its own,” she said earnestly.  “A march turns a mob into a parade.”

She is a member of NOW. and makes a donation to the organization for each record she sells via mail order [$5 F.D.R. Station. N Y. 10022].  The record from Femme Records, P O Box 548, is also available at Doubleday Stores.  Perhaps the most feeling of her songs is called “What’s Gonna Happen,” which she sings in a small voice with echoes of Western music to a guitar accompaniment.  The difference between the aging of men and women in today’s society is its subject.

Now that the record is a fait accompli (it was recently bought by the Record Club of .America to be offered to its 2.5 million members), she is busy whipping up others.  “On Sunday, I wrote a great song about rape,” she reported, singing a few choruses.  “Men always think it is the woman’s fault.” She also rewrote the Lord’s Prayer (“Nothing blasphemous, I just changed it to a woman”).  The aim of the game is to get the Women’s Liberation message across, said the divorced mother of two teenage sons.  “It’s what I tried to say in the lyrics for ‘The Princess,'” she said.  “If you’re pretty, you’ll get a husband, and he’ll take care of you for the rest of your life.  That’s the American dream.  The only thing is, it isn’t a dream, it’s a nightmare.”  Because you care about other people’s feelings, because you know how important it is to tell them they’re needed, wanted, loved.

Ruth Batchelor in pigtails:  images from back cover

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To those who view the issue of women’s rights and equality an amusingly antiquated notion, one should consider the fact that women — (a) could not serve on a jury until 1973; (b) could not keep their job while pregnant until 1987; (c) could not pay a man’s rate for health insurance until 2010’s (now-vulnerable) Affordable Care Act (d) could not get credit cards in their name until 1974’s Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and (e) still are not paid the same as their male counterparts, despite the number of women-only households with children.

Ruth Batchelor, 1963 – courtesy of Shelley Fabulousruth-batchelor-b

Ruth Batchelor Songs:  A Selected Discography

Ruth Batchelor Trivia

Phil Spector produced “I’d Like to Miss My Graduation,” a 1961 single for Karen Lake that was written by Ruth Batchelor — very likely her first professional composition.

Desired image unavailable – Pretend this is the flip side

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= Rare & Unissued King Tracks =

R  A  R  E       K  I  N  G       T  R  A  C  K  S *

Merle Travis — along with Grandpa Jones — would inaugurate King Records in 1943 as the first two musical artists to record for Syd Nathan.  But because both musicians were under contract to Powell Crosley’s WLW (“The Nation’s Station“), Travis and Jones would record under assumed names (i.e., ‘The Sheppard Brothers’ and ‘Bob McCarthy’) in the next big city north of Cincinnati:  Dayton.  Nearly lost in history’s shuffle is this interesting historical tidbit:  Merle Travis’s lone King recording as a solo artist (“What Will I Do“) would be captured in 1944, while King was still in its embryonic stages, but kept in the can for nearly 20 years until issued in 1963, along with tracks from other country artists, in a compilation album entitled Nashville Bandstand (no audio for this track yet on YouTube).

Includes rare 1944 track by Merle Travis, depicted below by upside down guitar

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[Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones would also team up with The Delmore Brothers (Alton & Rabon) as The Brown’s Ferry Four, a gospel quartet (augmented by Louis Innis on guitar and Ray Starkey/Red Foley on bass), whose final recording sessions in 1951 and 1952 would take place in Cincinnati at the King Studios.]

fairley-holden-king-45-aaHumorous song titles of rare early King 78s:

In-Laws as Butt of Joke (part 2)

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One other notable early comic title:   In September of 1945, King Records released a 78 by The Carlisle Brothers whose B-side — “Baby You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me” — features an infectious chorus and sweet swooping lap steel (click on audio link below):

“Baby You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me”     The Carlisle Brothers     1945

The audio clip above was posted on YouTube (as I type these words on October 10, 2016) just 10 days prior on September 30th

This same song would be covered thirteen years later by rockabilly duo Tag & Effie and released on Kentucky indie, Summit, in 1958.  Notably, Tag Willoughby would take songwriting credit in spite of what Cliff Carlisle (and/or Syd Nathan) might have to say:

“Baby, You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me”     Tag & Effie     1958

Mental Floss‘s “Five Candidates for the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Song” rightly selects Wynonie Harris‘s “Good Rocking Tonight” (recorded December 28, 1947 at King’s Cincinnati studios) and even cites Arthur Crudup‘s “That’s All Right Mama” from 1946.  And yet the term rock ‘n’ roll did not appear in song titles until 1954, although mostly 1955.  Which is what makes the song “Rock and Roll Blues” by Erline Harris — recorded April, 1949 and released on Deluxe, a King subsidiary purchased by Syd Nathan in 1947 — remarkably ahead of the curve.

 Recorded in 1949 (!)erline-harris-king-deluxe-45-aa

Jazz pioneer and long-time NPR (“Piano Jazz“) host, Marian McPartland, would have exactly one encounter with King Records:  a NYC recording session March 15, 1951 that resulted in 4 songs [“Flamingo“; “It’s Delovely“; “Liebestraum No. 3“; “Four Brothers“] that would enjoy release in the US, UK, and France.  In additional to two 78 releases, King subsidiary, Federal, would issue a playfully-titled EPProgressive Piano with Cello, Harp, Bass and Drums — in 1954, while these same songs would be issued in the UK four years later under the title of the Cole Porter track, It’s Delovely.

                       1954 Federal EP                        1951 FRENCH 78 – with Art Deco lettering

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The father of New Orleans piano playing — “Professor Longhair” (i.e., Henry RoelandRoyByrd) — would cross paths with King Records by way of a single New Orleans recording session – December 4, 1951 – that yielded four songs:  “K.C. Blues“; “Curley Haired Baby“; “Rocking with Fes“; and “Gone So Long.”  These four songs would be divided between two single releases on Federal, while “Gone So Long” would also be included on 1963 King compilation album Everybody’s Favorite Blues.roy-byrd-king-federal-45-aaroy-byrd-king-federal-78-aa

Remember Zero to 180’s musical salute to gritsRed McAllister‘s “Eggs and Grits” from 1952 — co-written by Henry Glover, I just now discovered — is worthy of inclusion.

Henry Glover would also be one of the three songwriters behind “Pig Latin Blues” — playfully articulated by LaVern Baker (backed by The Todd Rhodes Orchestra) — a song recorded July 1, 1952 in Cincinnati.todd-rhodes-orch-king-45-aaGeorge Stogner would find a way to fuse boogie with hot rodding — “Hardtop Race” — in 1953, two years before Charley Ryan’s original “Hot Rod Lincoln.”george-stogner-king-78-aaMusical Synchronicity:  Two mambo-themed songs were recorded at Cincinnati’s King studios on the very same day — November 12, 1954:  “Mambo Honky Tonk” by The Morgan Sisters (no audio yet on YouTube) + “Tennessee Mambo” by Bonnie Lou.king-mambo-45-aaking-mambo-45-bb

Clearly, 1954 was the year of the mambo, just judging by the titles of all 4 songs recorded by Don Ippolito & His Orchestra on December 14, 1954: “Camptown Races Mambo,” “Swanee River Mambo,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game Mambo” & “Can’t Do It Mambo.”don-ippolito-king-45-aaIn Billboard‘s August 28, 1954 edition, a piece entitled ‘Coinmen You Know – Miami’ states that “Henry Stone, A&R man for DeLuxe Records, signed The Three Harmonicaires, [harmonica trio] winners on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show, to a recording contract and now predicts their first number will be a hit.”three-harmonicaires-deluxe-king-78-bbHenry Glover would also co-write Red Klimo‘s “Grandma Loves to Rock ‘n’ Roll” — recorded February 2, 1956 in Chicago.

Yet another patented King “bio-disc” (thanks, RANDY MCNUTT!)

red-klimo-king-45-aaThe same month Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” was riding high in the charts, King would release a Boyd Bennett 45 with a jump blues A-side (“Hit That Jive Jack“) but a rockabilly B-side (“Rabbit-Eye Pink and Charcoal Black“) in August, 1956.

According to Bluegrass:  A History by Neil Rosenberg:

“Many bluegrass bands incorporated Elvis spoofs into their comedy routines, further testimony to their fans that they were on the right side of the rock and roll controversy.  Thus in August [27] of 1956 [in Cincinnati], when Reno and Smiley made their first recordings since becoming a full-time group, included was Don Reno’s “Country Boy Rock and Roll,” a tongue-in-cheek anthem to the joys of the music:  ‘I guess to some folks I look foolish, Just let ’em make a fool out of me.'”

reno-smiley-king-45-asAmong the earliest recordings in the canon of truck driving country giant, Dave Dudley:  the toe-tappin’, roots-rockin’ “Rock and Roll Nursery Rhyme” — recorded March 28, 1956 in Cincinnati (a 45 that today commands a healthy two figures at auction).dave-dudley-king-45-aaExactly one King recording session in Cincinnati on February 12, 1956 for The Rockers, whose membership would include Annie Mae (i.e., Tina) Turner on keys and Ike Turner on strings.  “What Am I to Do” features the commanding guitar work of Turner, who would return to Cincinnati the following year on April 9th fronting his own band, Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm (with Jackie Brenston) — six songs recorded that day, including “Rock-a-Bucket.”

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It would be almost criminal not to point out an overlooked B-side by Lowman PaulingMessinUp — a rockin’ doo wop song from The Five Royales (with stellar guitar sounds from El Pauling himself), that was recorded August 13, 1957 in Cincinnati.

Snake Charmer” by The Puddle Jumpers – on their one and only session – sure sounds like King trying to cash in on the runaway success of 1958’s “Tequila” by The Champs (previously examined here).  Note the decent prices being paid for the group’s Federal 45s.

Tiny Topsy would find a way to fuse cowboy-shoot-’em-ups with doo-wop rock in 1958’s “Western Rock ‘n’ Roll” — a song that also slyly quotes from some of the early classics of the genre, including “Lollipop” (The Chordettes), “Get a Job” (The Silhouettes), “At the Hop” (Danny & the Juniors), “Short Shorts” (The Royal Teens).  Note the decent prices being paid for this single at auction.tiny-topsy-king-federal-45-aaGene Redd and the Globe Trotters would record two songs at Cincinnati’s King studios on September 4, 1959 that comprised a 45 (King 5262), with one tune in particular transcribed by Ruppli (in his 2-volume King discographies) as “SurfinBeat,” as this song is listed on 1964 King surf “cash-in” album, Look Who’s Surfin’ Now.  Really?  A “surf” song two years before Dick Dale & His Deltones’ first 45?!  Unfortunately, the original song title used for the 1959 King 45 release was “Zeen Beat.”gene-redd-king-45-aaBig Moe and the Panics would cover the unstoppable “Tennessee Waltz” for the teen set in 1959, with their hard-to-find “Tennessee Waltz Rock45 EP on King-owned Audio Lab.big-moe-the-panics-king-45-aCheck out the decent prices being paid for original King 45s by The Mascots:  lead singer, Eddie Levert, along with William Powell, Bobby Massey & Bill Isles — a band that would become The O’Jays in 1963.  Among the songs recorded June 27, 1960 in Cincinnati at King’s studios:  “Lonely Rain.”

Songwriter/producer (and future King talent scout) Ray Pennington would record a “popcorn/rockabilly” hybrid for King subsidiary Federal — “Three Hearts in a Tangle” — (under the name Ray Starr) on July 15, 1960 in Cincinnati.  Pennington, by the way, features prominently in the ace roots-rock (non-King) compilation Great Rockers from Cincinnati.

first of two (non-King) albums by Ray Pennington & steel master, BUDDY EMMONS

buddy-emmons-ray-pennington-lp-aaThe Twist” (not everyone knows) was originally a King B-side for Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, before Chubby Checker ran away with this freakish hit, as a result of Ballard’s  failure to keep his date with destiny on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand dance program.  King clearly felt the pain, as noted in blood-red ink on the label for The Escos novelty 45 “Thank You Mister Ballard (For Creating the Twist)” — a song that was recorded November 22, 1961 in Cincinnati:  “ATTENTION DJ:  These are the cold hard facts.  Hank Ballard composed the song and created the dance … THE TWIST.”escos-federal-king-45-aaVery eager to hear whether King artists, The Shilohs, managed to capture on record the authentic sound of a “Rebel Yell” in 1961 — exactly one hundred years after our nation’s war against itself had begun.

[Note:  streaming audio unavailable unless the song title in question has a hyperlink]

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Also curious to hear The Stanley Brothers song with the oddball title “Big Booger” (recorded September 17, 1963 in Cincinnati) that is only available on 1963 King LP America’s Finest 5-String Banjo Hootenanny (reissued in 1977 on Starday).  It is possible (though not probable) that “Big Booger” would inspire Mac Davis to write and record “Uncle Booger Red and Byrdie Nelle” for his 1970 debut album.

stanley-brothers-king-lp-aaTry Me, a King-owned subsidiary that served as an outlet for James Brown productions, would issue a groovy two-part organ instrumental – “Devil’s Den” – by The Poets [i.e., Brown’s backing band] that was recorded March, 1963 at King’s Cincinnati studios, along with one other track “The Thing in G” that would find release on Brown’s Prisoner of Love album.  Ruppli’s discography credits Alvin Gonder with organ — and JB himself with “shouts.”poets-king-45-aaAlmost afraid to hear the A-side of Doris King‘s (rare) single for King — “Dumb Dumb” — released in 1966, as the title reminds me of Ginny Arnell’s horribly insensitive “Dumbhead” from 1963.

Sorry, kiddos — streaming audio not available

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Rockabilly crime fighter, Delbert Barker (previously celebrated here) would record his final King 45 in Cincinnati on April 17, 1966 — “Color Me Gone” — a song for which no audio clips exist on YouTube.delbert-barker-king-45-aaAnother rare King 45 from 1966 – John Ukhart‘s “The Biggest Thrill” b/w “Death Row” – (note the prisoner ID #) was recorded at the King-affiliated studio in Macon, Georgia.john-ukhart-king-45-aaIntrigued to hear the hauntingly-titled “Last Year, Senior Prom (This Year, Vietnam)” by Mary Moultrie – recorded in Cincinnati on April 17, 1966 – the flip side of the highly-sought “northern soul” dance track “They’re Trying to Tear Us Apart” for which people are prepared to pay up to three figures at auction.

One Vietnam-themed King release that is available for preview on YouTube:  Jaci Damon‘s “A Place Called Vietnam” from the summer of 1967.jaci-damon-king-45-aaSpeaking of 1967, here is King’s brief intersection with “psychedelic” music:

  • Rare King 45 by Keith Murphy & the Daze that was released in May of 1968, according to 45Cat — “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” b/w “Dirty OlSam.”
  • Green Lyte Sunday, before their first (and only) psychedelic-flavored album was released in 1970 for RCA, would make their recording debut in 1968 on King:    “She’s My Lover” b/w “Lenore” (King 6178).  Good luck finding a copy of this Dayton, Ohio band’s rare debut 45 on King.
  • Starday-King would make one last (late) stab in 1971 with Wild Goose‘s surprisingly adventurous “Flyin’ Machine” which features trippy sounds at the opening and closing, as well as harmony guitar lines during the middle instrumental break.

1971 Wild Goose ‘psych 45’ on King-owned Agapewild-goose-king-agape-45-aa

James Brown on organ, accompanied by three of The Dapps [Tim Drummond (bass), WilliamBeau DollarBowman (drums), Eddie Setser (guitar)] and possibly a fourth [Tim Hedding (if not, Bobby Byrd) on piano], would record a wryly-titled instrumental, “Shhhhhhhh (For a Little While)” March 5, 1968 at King’s Cincinnati studios.james-brown-king-45-ccOn a related note, check out the three-figure sums being paid for rare King 45 by The Soul Believers with The Dapps — “I Don’t Want Nobody’s Troubles” b/w “I’m With You” — recorded October 23, 1968 in Cincinnati.soul-believers-dapps-king-45-aaMarvel at this rare live footage of Marva Whitney — along with the rock-solid support of James Brown’s backing band, The JBs — singing “It’s My Thing” from 1969.

Delight in the discovery that Bill Doggett once laid down 2 songs — “For Once In My Life” and “Twenty Five Miles” — at a recording facility in Detroit (c. February, 1969) with a studio band produced by Motown founder-in-chief, Berry Gordy.  These tracks would form the respective A and B sides of a King 45 that easily commands two figures at auction (and whose flip side only would be included on 1969’s Honky Tonk Popcorn album).

1969 Bill Doggett B-side in “far-out” King sleeve

bill-doggett-king-45-aaVery rare King truck driving 45Bethel King‘s “Addicted to a Truck” from 1968 — that I hope will turn up one day in my lifetime.  Needless to say, no streaming audio.bethel-kings-king-45-aaSome of us are curious to hear “31 Flavors” by The Las Vegas Ambassadors — recorded in Las Vegas on June 13, 1970 – fairly obscure King 45.las-vegas-ambassadors-king-45-aa1970 would also see the release of a song — “Classical Popsicle” — used as the lead-off track for a King full-length release Have a Heart, written by Arnold Bodmer of the group Heart (not the Wilson Sisters of “Barracuda” fame).   heart-king-lp-aaAnother hard-to-come-by King 45:  Lewie Wickham‘s “Liberated Woman” from 1970 …lewie-wickham-king-45-a… as well as the LP from whence the single came — on which Lewie is joined by brother Hank Wickham, not to mention Johnny Dagucon (on his debut/sole recording effort).hank-lewie-wickham-johnny-dagucon-king-lp-aaMusical Mystery:   A formerly long-lost predecessor to The JB’s 1972 debut album on King subsidiary, People — 1971’s These Are the JB’s — was rescued from obscurity in 2014 as a vinyl release and then re-pressed again in 2015.  As BlackGrooves explains, “the album was recorded in 1971 for King Records just before the band’s catalogue got bought out by Polydor.  Only a few test pressings were produced, and they were presumed to have been lost.”  Of the four songs recorded — including “These Are the JB’s” & “I’ll Ze” —  the final medley is notable for including portions of “Let The Music Take Your Mind” (Kool & The Gang and Gene Redd Jr.), “Chicken Strut” (The Meters), and “Power Of Soul” (Jimi Hendrix).jbs-king-test-pressing-aa45Cat suggests that Indiana‘s cover of Bobby Darin & Terry Melcher‘s “My Mom” might have been released in the UK (November, 1971) before the US (1972).  Curious, if true.
indiana-king-45-aaAny pressures exerted on the band – White Cloud – to cover a song (“Hound Dog“) written by the (then) new owners of Starday-King, Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller, on their self-titled 1972 debut (and only) album issued on Starday-King subsidiary, Good Medicine?white-cloud-king-45-aaSmiling Faces would eke out two 45s in 1972 for Starday-King, the first – “Younger Girl” – being infinitely easier to locate than the second – “Tulsa Oklahoma” – whose very existence (King 6424) is still being debated by the nation’s top researchers.  smiling-faces-king-45-aaKing would release exactly one single by The Sanfords (featuring Gary S. Paxton) in 1972 — “Skinny Dippin’” b/w “A Rare and Ordinary Thing” — with one more song in the can (“You’re My Everything”).   Just as with the previous five 45s mentioned, no streaming audio.

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Finally, Mike Wheeler — who would later form a band, Wheels, that would enjoy a big boost in  popularity (as The Raisins did) due to their appearance on 1980 TV talent showcase Rock Around the Block — recorded 2 songs on April 10,1972 that would be released as a (hard-to-find) 45 on Agape:  “Rocky Forge” b/w “Worn Out Leather.”
Bonus linkWheels performing “Keep Movin’ On” — sung/written by Michael Baney — a song that also served as the kick-off track for WEBN’s 2nd Album Project (annual compilation of Cincinnati-area bands) from 1977.

Rare Slim Gaillard 78s on King “race” subsidiary label, Queenslim-gaillard-king-78-on-queen-aaslim-gaillard-king-78-on-queen-bb

Rare Slim Gaillard EPS ON KING that COMMAND BIG BUCKS at auctionslim-gaillard-king-ep-bbslim-gaillard-king-ep-aa

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U  N  I  S  S  U  E  D     K  I  N  G     T  R  A  C  K  S *

DC‘s ownBillStewart (previously celebrated here) recorded a version of “Fat Boy” in Cincinnati (!) on May 12, 1961 that remains unheard to this day.

The King vaults also contain an unissued instrumental (and possible “twist” composition) “Louisiana Twist” that is attributed, curiously, to vocalist Little Willie John (who once issued a rare version of “Fever” with strings) — recorded in Cincinnati on March 6, 1962.

King’s attempt to cash in on surf music (see previous story on The Impacs) would also produce a compilation album (and future Zero to 180 piece) Surfin’ on Wave Nine.  Left in the King vaults are a pair by The Nu-Trons, including “Don’t Give Me No Phony Love.”

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Also in the King vaults is something by Tonni Kalash, second trumpeter for Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (who released a lone King 45 “The Boss” b/w “Shuckin’“):    a single unissued track entitled “The Surf” that was recorded April 2, 1962.

Speaking of shuckin’, King’s vaults also contain two tracks recorded by Carl Thomas in Macon, Georgia on January 11, 1964:  “Just Shuckin’” (as well as “Off Beat Boogie”).

Don’t forget the stellar soul tune — 1966’s “Ain’t You Glad” by Mill Evans — that sat in the can for 35 years until valiantly rescued by UK’s Kent Records [as reported here] in 2001.mill-evans-king-45-bbEdgar Allen & the PoFolks would record two tunes, “My Tears Are Drippin‘ (in Coffee That I’m Sippin‘)” and “Dennys Tune,” c. March, 1967 that have never enjoyed release.

One humorous (and particularly long-winded) early unissued song title:
“(I Didn’t Think You’d Really Go) I Didn’t Think You’d Ever Leave Me” — Hank Penny from October, 1946 — a song also covered by Moon Mullican in October, 1946 and then likewise locked away in the vaults!

In James Brown-related news:

  • The Dapps (previously celebrated here and here) have a few tunes in the King vaults that have never been issued including “White Christmas”; “I Can’t Stand Myself”; “Who Knows”; and two other tracks recorded in Cincinnati — “I’ll Give You Odds” (March, 1968) and “Later for the Saver” (December, 1968).
  • Cincinnati musician, and one-time James Brown sparring partner, Dee Felice, would record quite a few songs that remain in the King vaults, including (besides JB covers such as “Cold Sweat”) what might be an original tune, “Double Funky” that was recorded in Cincinnati on December 10, 1969.
  • Also in King’s vaults by the aforementioned William HargisBeau DollarBowman:  “My Concerto” (c. Spring, 1969) and “Funky Street (January, 1970).
  • AlfredPee WeeEllis would record his own version of “Soul Pride (pts. 1 & 2)” in the summer of 1968 that will not likely see the light of day, as well as (veiled message perhaps?) “Time for My Release” later that October in Miami.
  • Ruppli’s King discography has a listing for “More Mess on My Thing (pt. 1 & 2)” by The New Dapps [i.e., The Pacesetters:  William “Bootsy” Collins, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Frank “Kash” Waddy & Phillip (pre-Spinners) Wynne] — according to Bootsy, September, 1969.  Even though a 45 release is indicated (King 6271), a strange thing happens when you numerically scroll to that number on this King Records 6000 Series 45 Discography —  6271 & 6272 are both identical:   Arthur Prysock “23rd Psalm” b/w “I Believe”!   Some funny business there.  Sadly, no King 45 for The New Dapps.  Notice that Ohio Soul Recordings, for instance, lists it as an actual 45 release.
  • James Brown himself would record a song whose title would be used as a band name for a Maceo Parker-led outfit of former JB sidemen – “All the King’s Men” – in Cincinnati on November 5, 1970 that remains unissued (as is a track recorded the previous month in Macon, Georgia — “We Need Liberation“).
  • Vicki Anderson would record — in Washington, DC on January 26, 1971– an unreleased version of “Wheels of Life,” a song that would be recorded several months later by Lyn Collins and released on 1972’s Think (About It) album.
  • Psychedelic soul rockers Grodeck Whipperjenny, led by James Brown associate David Matthews (previously celebrated here) have one track sitting in the King vaults — “Ain’t It Jellyroll” (possibly from early 1971).

Elaine Armstrong (vocalist and civil rights pioneer previously celebrated here) would record two songs that remain in the King vaults, including “Tears Begin to Fall.”Elaine ArmstrongBlues & soul singer/guitarist Albert Washington would record a number of songs that remain locked away, including “Without Love Ain’t It a Shame” — recorded in Cincinnati on October 16, 1970.

1971 Albert Washington 45 on Deluxe (Label Revived by Starday-King)albert-washington-deluxe-45-aa

A group whose name requires a pronunciation guide — The Prix’s — recorded two songs in early 1968 (“The Smoother” & “Take Everything“) likely to remain forever unheard.

First Fridaywhose one and only album recorded for Webster’s Last Word – laid down some demos for Starday-King at their Nashville studios in June, 1970 that included some songs that made the album (such as kick-off tune “Nice Day for Something“; “Wings to Fly”; “Such a Lot to Say”) and songs that didn’t (“Last Night’s Foolin’ Around”; “49th Street Rag”).

Frank Gorshin of TV’s Batman fame (previously celebrated here) recorded a handful of songs that remain permanently sequestered, including “Love Slave” — recorded in Nashville June 3, 1970.

Mike Appel¿the same Mike Appel who was Bruce Springsteen’s manager at the time? – recorded at least 10 songs (“Queen of the Harvest”; “Timber Clown” et al.) for Starday-King in 1972.  Note that “Queen of the Harvest” is the title of a song listed on Mike Appel’s website as being one for which he owns all the publishing rights and master recordings.

Be sure to check out an earlier related piece:   King Records: Oddball Historical Tidbits   *[Primary Information Source:   The King Labels:  A Discography by Michel Ruppli]

Mike Stoller (left) & Jerry Leiber (right)

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⇒⇒⇒     45 Years Ago This Month:   Leiber & Stoller Buy King Records!     ⇐⇐⇐

As Billboard reported 45 years ago this month (under the headline, “Starday-King Pubs Sold for $1.4 Mil“) in its October 2, 1971 edition:

NASHVILLE — The Starday-King label and its publishing firms have been sold by Lin Broadcasting Co. to a group of music executives including one of its former officers.

Hal Neely, President of Starday-King and an offical of Lin until the time of purchase, leads the purchasers.  Sale price was listed at $1.4 million.  Offices will remain here, under the new name of Tennessee Recording and Publishing Co., Inc.

Other purchasers were the songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and Fred Bienstock, a former executive with Hill & Range.

Neely and his associates will receive all of the Lin Music division’s “current and fixed assets, to include receivables, copyrights, and publishing interests, recorded masters, inventory, contracts, real estate, studios in Nashville, Cincinnati, and Macon, Ga., and the pressing and printing plant in Cincinnati.”

Lin had indicated some time ago it was interested in selling its music division.  It had acquired Starday-King shortly after the two firms, Starday here and King in Cincinnati, had merged.

Starday, formed as a country music label by Pappy Dailey and Jack Starnes, was later acquired by Don Pierce, who was its president for a number of years.  After the Lin purchase, Hal Neely became president, and Pierce moved into an advisory capacity.

King, too, was originally a country label, but later became deeply involved in the development of rhythm and blues.  One of its top performers, James Brown, recently moved to Polydor in a contract sale.  Starday, too, divested itself of some of its leading talent, many of whom moved to Chart Records.  However, the company retains artists with both labels.

There will be immediate releases with the existing artists, who are listed as The Coasters, J. David Sloan, The Manhattans, Jack(y) Ward, Gloria Walker, Max Powell, and White Cloud.  Additionally, there will be product release on Red Sovine, who has moved to Chart.

Tennessee Recording and Publishing will continue to release and distribute the King, Starday, Deluxe, Nashville, Agape and Federal labels.

Julius Brockington @ Track Recorders in “Silver Springs”

Julius Brockington & the Magic Force‘s 45 — “This Feeling” b/w “Cosmic Force” — would be yet another 7-inch record laid down at Silver Spring‘s Track Recorders that has been able to fetch three figures at auction within the last five or so years:

“This Feeling” + “Cosmic Force”     Julius Brockington     1973

“This Feeling,” points out Soul Sides, enjoys the distinction of being reissued the following year, in 1974, as a 2-part “Freedom” remix that kicks off with an ever-so-slightly menacing mini-Moog line.   Indeed, is this one of the earliest instances – as Soul Sides observes – “where a seven-inch single got remixed onto 7-inch again”?

“This Feeling (Freedom) Part 1”     Julius Brockington     1974

Prior to releasing this single (quite possibly the Burman label’s one and only title), Brockington recorded three full-length albums for Today Records – including debut LP Sophisticated Funk – that would enjoy distribution in France.

Recorded in “Silver Springs” – Remixed in “PhilA” – Released on “Balto”-based labeljulius-brockington-45-bb

“Alternative” hip hop group Jurassic 5 would sample “This Feeling” to trippy effect 30 years later on “Freedom” from 2002’s Power in Numbers album:

“Freedom”     Jurassic 5     2002

2002 would also find “This Feeling” selected as the final track of a Christian McBride-curated compilation of heavy soul sides released in the UK — Fat and Funky:  45 Kings II.

Brockington’s Silver Spring-based sounds still enjoy renown around the world — in France, for instance, via LeMellotron music blog, as well as B*Town Project.

On Deck!  Silver Spring’s place in music history is about to get much bigger in Zero to 180’s next piece, which celebrates the legacy of Gene Rosenthal and Adelphi Records.

Track Recorders: Silver Spring

NEWS FLASH!   A companion piece to this history of Track Recorders is in the works that celebrates the role of Gene Rosenthal and Adelphi Records.  Stay tuned to this space!

Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future, Silver Spring will organize an event to celebrate all the music history attached to Track Recorders, a sound studio upstairs in the Cissel-Lee Building (directly above the present-day Urban Butcher) on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland – just over the DC line – that saw action in the 1970s, 80s & ’90s.  Stevie Nicks may have been originally inspired by a name on an interstate sign, but as it turned out, her instincts were correct:  Silver Spring in the mid-to-late1970s was a focal point for a fair amount of musical magic, as indicated in the hyper-linked list below.

downtown Silver Spring’s Last Spanish colonial revival – Track on 2nd floorTrack Recorders - 2009Photo courtesy of JUST UP THE PIKE

Notable Moments in Track Recorders’ Music History
(chronologically speaking)

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  • Joe Quarterman & Free Soul‘s debut album – which saw release in 1973 in the US, UK, Venezuela, Spain, France, Italy and Japan – was recorded at Track.
  • Julius Brockington‘s 1973 landmark 45 — “This Feeling” b/w “Cosmic Force” — was initially recorded at Track and then reissued with a haunting synth line the following year as “This Feeling (Freedom) Parts 1 & 2” before being recast some 30 years later as the foundational sample for Jurassic 5’s 2002 single, “Freedom.”
    [*Click here to read Zero to 180’s follow-up feature piece on “This Feeling”]
  • Claude Jones (“Warrenton, Virginia’s answer to the Grateful Dead—a hippie band whose members all lived together at a rural outpost they called The Amoeba Farm”)  recorded their 5-track EP Sykesville in 1973.
  • Pentagram recorded their fuzzed-out cover of “Under My Thumb” (with inspired dual guitar solo) in 1974 at Track.
  • Danny (Gatton) and the Fat Boys [Billy Hancock & Dave Elliott] would record their debut album in 1974 at Track and issue a 45 whose B-side (“Harlem Nocturne“) made folks sit up and take notice of the amazing new guitarist.

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  • Seldom Scene‘s Old Train album was recorded in 1974 at Track.
  • Mike Auldridge‘s 1974 album Blues and Blue Grass was recorded at Track.
  • (One-time Stevie Wonder bassist and accomplished reed player) Andrew White recorded 1974 album Passion Flower at Track.
  • At least one song on Linda Ronstadt‘s Heart Like a Wheel album from 1974 was recorded at Track.
  • Emmylou HarrisPieces of the Sky album was recorded at Track in 1975.
  • J.D. Crowe and the New South‘s debut album (featuring the stellar musicianship of J.D. Crowe, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, and Bobby Slone) was recorded January, 1975 at Track.

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  • Tony Rice‘s California Autumn album from 1975 was recorded at Track (and released the following year in Japan), while 1986’s Me and My Guitar — featuring Vassar Clements, Jerry Douglas & Sam Bush, et al. — was recorded (in part) and mixed at Track.
  • Powerhouse – featuring guitarist Tom Principato – recorded 1975’s Night Life at Track (in which Bullmoose Jackson was pulled out of retirement for a guest vocal).
  • Stephen Spano‘s 1975 album Eye to Eye on Adelphi Records (featuring kick-off tune “Love Is the Sound“) was recorded, in part, at Track and today commands up to three figures at auction.

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  • Gloria Gaynor‘s 1975 album Experience was recorded, in part, at Track — as was the following year’s I’ve Got You album.
  • Black Heat‘s 1975 album Keep on Runnin‘ was recorded at both Track and Atlantic Records studios (and reissued in Europe in 2016 — three years prior, in Japan).
  • Jimi Hendrix‘s posthumous LP Midnight Lightning (with numerous session players overdubbed) was produced, in part, at Track Recorders and released in 1975.

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  • Banbarra‘s classic 1975 A-side “Shack Up” — a sampler’s dream (A Certain Ratio, Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad, 3rd Bass, Stetsasonic, Gang Starr, Kool Keith, and Happy Mondays, et al.) — was recorded at Track.
  • Skip Mahoaney & the Casuals would record 1976 album Land of Love at Track.
  • O’Donel Levy recorded Windows (with Randy Brecker, et al.) in August, 1976 at Track.
  • The Nighthawks‘ four albums for Adelphi Records all involved Track Recorders: 1976’s Open All Nite was engineered at Track; 1977’s Side Pocket Shot was both engineered and mixed at Track; the following year’s Jacks and Kings (with Pinetop Perkins and Bob Margolin) would actually be recorded at Track; and 1982’s Times Four would include 1977-78 studio sessions laid down at Track.

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  • Bill Horton‘s free-form, Beefheart-esque album – 1976’s Dancehall for Midgets – would be assembled at Track.
  • Thomas Crawford‘s 1976 album The Peak Experience was recorded, in part, at Track.
  • Del McCoury & The Dixie Pals would record three tracks at Track Recorders in 1976 that would later enjoy release on 1991’s Classic Bluegrass CD compilation.
  • Country Gentlemen‘s Calling My Children Home album was recorded in 1977 at Track.
  • Acclaimed bluegrass musician Jimmy Arnold recorded 1977’s Jimmy Arnold-Guitar at Track.
  • Coup de Grass‘ 1978 album Rhythm and Bluegrass – on Adelphi Records – was recorded at Track (see “album spotlight” in upcoming Adelphi Records history piece).

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  • The Ramones‘ second album Leave Home from 1978 was mixed, in part, at Track.
  • Root Boy Slim (one-time Silver Spring resident) would record 1979’s Zoom – whose classic cover was designed by Dick Bangham – with the Sex Change Band and the Rootettes at Track, as well as 1987’s Left for Dead.

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  • RussnPaul‘s 1979 album See You in Court was recorded entirely at Track.
  • Original Fetish‘s Warped 45 – “Standing in Line at Studio 54” b/w “I’m Glad That Elvis Is Dead” – was recorded in 1979 and engineered by Bill McCullough at Track (click on link to view original gatefold images of celebrities in caricature waiting at Studio 54).
  • Howard University‘s Jazz Ensemble (featuring Greg Osby) recorded one album each in 1979 and 1980 at Track.
  • The Slickee Boyswinner 1980 A-side “The Brain That Refused to Die” was recorded at Track, (while the flip side “(Are You Gonna Be There at The) Love-In?” was recorded at the famed Psyche Delly).
  • Black Market Baby‘s forthrightly rocking A-side “America’s Youth” was recorded in 1980 at Track.

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  • Little Feat odds ‘n’ sods compilation released in the Netherlands, 1981’s Hoy-Hoy, includes tracks recorded at ten different studios — including Track.
  • Harvey Reid‘s debut album Nothin’ But Guitar was recorded in 1981 at Track.
  • Tommy Keene‘s Strange Alliance from 1982 – his debut LP – was recorded at Track.
  • Brother Ah & The Sounds of Awareness would record the Key to Nowhere album at Track on July 7, 1983.

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DC-area historian, Marcie Stickle, writing in 2009 about the history of the Cissel-Lee building for Dan Reed’s Just Up the Pike blog, notes that this “significant two-story brick structure was Spanish Colonial Revival, all the ‘rage’ at the time.  With its unique black slate canopies angled around two sides of the roofline, the Cissel-Lee Building was the ONLY remaining such structure in all of the [Central Business District].”

cissel-lee building in its current incarnation (sans spanish colonial):  Urban ButcherTrack Recorders - 2016

Silver Spring Music History Moment:  Linda Ronstadt at Track

This bit from Bob Kirsch’s “Studio Track” Billboard column in the April 27, 1974 edition:

Bill Tate, owner of Track Recording, Inc. in Silver Spring, Md., reports that Linda Ronstadt was in recently for three sessions.  Lowell George handled the production and also played on the sessions.  George Massenberg handled the engineering.  Columbia’s David Bromberg also played.  Track has recently put in a new quadrasonic control room, complete with a custom built Neve console.  David Harrison of Studio Supply in Nashville designed.  Finally, local bluegrass group Seldom Scene was in working on sessions.”

Skip Mahoaney & the Casuals – hitchhiking along the Potomac near Memorial BridgeTrack Recorders LP-h

You Could Be Track Recorders’ Next Recording Engineer!
Full text of ad from August, 1973 edition of dB Magazine

WANTED: RECORDING ENGINEER  $12,000 – $18,000/yr.  Negotiable

  • Do you have a total knowledge of all aspects of audio recordings?
  • Can you appreciate all forms of rock and soul and get along with all types of personalities?
  • Can you take raw musical talent and convert it into a sellable product on tape?
  • Do you know the sound of a hit?  Do you want to cut hits?  Do you want success badly enough to eat every top selling single and LP you’re not on?
  • ln short, are you a born winner?
  • If you can honestly answer “yes” to all the above, we want you to join us and we’ll pay whatever’s fair.  Track Recorders has had eight national chart records in the last year.  Washington, D.C. is the last major music frontier and we’re the leaders.  Our studio has all the standard quality equipment — 3M 16-track, 25-in/16-out custom console, EMT reverb, JBL 4320 monitors, Dolby, Kepex, varispeed, grand piano, Hammond B3 organ, amps, drums, excellent test gear and maintenance.  Your weekends will generally be free.  The Washington area offers great entertainment plus Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah Valley, Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean.

Call or write to: TRACK RECORDERS, INC.
8226 Georgia Ave. #11-2, Silver Spring, Md. 20910.  (301) KL5-xxxx”

[click on triangle below to activate recording]

“We the People” (A+B SIDES)    The Soul Searchers (with Chuck Brown)     1972

“We the People” (not to be confused with the Allen Toussaint composition) was co-written by Chuck Brown and hit #40 on the R&B Chart, spending a total of six weeks on the chart.

Track Recorders:  The Toddler Years
This bit from Sam Sutherland’s “Studio Track” Billboard column in the June 17, 1972 edition:

“From Silver Springs [sic], Md., Track Recorders has noted activities there.  That studio was D.C.’s only 8-track facility when it opened two years ago, and, last November, they became Washington’s first 16-track facility.  A custom-designed board built and designed by the studio’s personnel, uses API and Suburban Sound components.  The 16-track machine is 3M, and both the main studio (there are two rooms, but the second is incomplete) and the control room have been redesigned acoustically, with modifications now underway.

Founders Cotter Wells, Bill Tate, and Jim Jermott have been aiming the studio at the area’s local musicians, but they are now broadening their work to include outside artists, and in-house productions are also being considered.  Chief engineer and “small owner” (his words) Cory Pearson reported sessions by The Masked Men, produced for Musicor Records by Jim Burston; CarrCee Productions recording The Soul Searchers for Sussex; Van McCoy‘s productions for Whitehouse Productions and Mike Auldridge, working on a Takoma album [i.e., label owned by John Fahey].”

On Tuesday, May 25, 1971, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for Track Recorders Incorporated – as this link shows – by Track Recorders, Inc.  The trademark registration for Track, sadly, expired on June 7, 1993.

SONS OF THUNDER‘s Steve Halverson at Track Recorders – July, 1972

Track Recorders - July 1972Bob Brown Remembers:  Track Recorders

Once upon a time in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s there was a recording facility called Track Recorders.  If you wanted to make a record locally at that time you pretty much had two choices; if you lived in the southern suburbs of Northern Virginia you probably went to Bias Studios but if you lived north of the District (which I did) you gravitated toward Track.  Track was my Polaris.  As an aspiring ‘session player’ it was the shining point around which my life seemed to revolve.  Many a well‐known artist had at some time recorded there; Little Feat, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and many others had all contributed to its reputation as a world-­class facility.  I even once stumbled face to face into Donald Fagen who was there scouting out Root Boy Slim, another regular client at Track who’s notoriously wonderful demos (recorded there) had begun to attract the attention of major labels on the other coast.

There were many reasons to work there.  They had great recording gear, the main studio room sounded great with a rock band or a string section and the Kawai grand piano remains, in my recollection, one of the best of its type anywhere.  But the real reason to work there I think was the presence of two extremely talented and (for the time) accomplished pros; engineer, Bill McCullough and engineer, producer, musician and songwriter, Mark Greenhouse.  This team had worked together on numerous projects and was able to give aspiring artists a chance to, with minimal financial investment, make high quality demos and local records that transcended the normal standards of such ‘products.’  I’m sure it was Mark who introduced me to Bob Brown (as he was then known).

Another View of Track Recorders – July, 1972 – Courtesy of SONS OF THUNDERTrack Recorders - July 1972-b

John Kelly‘s review of Track Recorders from his DC-MD-VA studio overview
in the November 6, 1987 edition of The Washington Post

TRACK RECORDERS — 8226 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.  589-4349.  $65/hour.

“Track just celebrated its 18th birthday and the list of major acts who have recorded there make it one of the most venerable studios in town.  Track alumni include Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Jimi Hendrix.  Local musicians, including Teresa Gunn, Random Samples and the Cultevaders, also take advantage of Track’s services. According to vice president/studio manager Mark Greenhouse, Track also runs its own vanity record label (it’s called, appropriately, Vanity Records).  The acts on Vanity put up the money themselves and are rewarded with an ultra-slick package that includes record, sleeve and promotional advice.  8-TRACK.”

Further Reading:  Track Recorders

John Kelly‘s March 14, 2015 column in The Washington Post that reveals the history behind the 1983 jingle for Mattress Discounters — a musical ad that haunts to this day.

Richard Harrington‘s August 13, 1986 Washington Post celebration of Track’s sixteenth birthday — and in which we learn that The Allman Brothers recorded an unreleased 15/8 instrumental jam (“Chet’s Tune”) and that Track’s staff were musicians too, thus “the work has a certain spirit and attitude, reflecting a more intense personal relationship between technicians and musicians,” according to Mark Greenhouse.

Richard Harrington‘s December 27, 1981 Washington Post piece about the recording of a live Nighthawks album at The Bayou by Bill McCullough of Track Recorders.

Bill Nowlin‘s history behind the recording of J.D. Crowe and the New South — an iconic album (re-released in 2016), and one that helped establish Rounder Records’ reputation.

Wilfully Obscure‘s ruminations (parts one & two) about the recording of Tommy Keene’s Strange Alliance album.

Fats Domino once recorded an album in 1982 at Track – or was it Big Mo in Kensington? Does anyone know which of the two Montgomery County studios it was?  (Marc D’Amico , as well as Track’s own Bill McCullough both concur:  Fats recorded at Track!  See comments at the end of the piece)

RUSS ‘N’ PAUL (inner sleeve):  in 1979 riding then new DC MetrorailTrack Recorders - Russ 'n' Paul

Excerpt from the NOVEMBER 22, 1975 EDITION OF ANISTON, ALABAMA’S STAR NEWSPAPER

Midnight Lightning — Posthumous Hendrix album coming

“Once [producer Alan] Douglas had winnowed the 3,000 hours down to four hours of especially promising material, the tapes were turned over to [partner Tony] Bongiovi, who was expected to reduce the four hours of raw stock to the final product an eight-song, 36-minute album that will be entitled Midnight Lightning.

Bongiovi and his co-workers at Track Recorders, especially staff engineer ‘Obie’ O’Brien and session musician Lance Quinn, have gone to extraordinary lengths in their attempt to remain faithful to what seem to be Hendrix’s intentions.  Guitarist Quinn played a Fender Stratocaster, the same model that Hendrix used, for all his overdubs, and brought the strings down half a step to the F flat [!] tuning that Hendrix favored.  ‘But when we came in we weren’t trying to copy what he did or to make somebody sound like him,’ said Bongiovi.’  ‘We were trying to match the sound of the record.  So Hendrix is the star of the album; we just had to fill in all the air that was on the record with what Jimi had planned to put on later.’

And that’s why relatively anonymous session men like Quinn, drummer Alan Schwartzberg, and bassist Bob Babbit were used on Midnight Lightning. ‘We didn’t want to use any soloist guitarists like a Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton,’ says Bongiovi.  ‘Imagine if we had them on the album – they’re stars in their own right.  It would have ended up a guitar duel, and that’s not fair because Jimi’s not really here to defend himself.”

But even without the opportunity to solo and show off a bit, Quinn, a disciple of Washington’s Roy Buchanan and an admirer of England’s Jeff Beck, finds the Hendrix sessions rewarding.  ‘In some spots,’ says the corpulent [!] guitarist, ‘it was almost like playing in a band with him.  And you get a chance to hear him in situations that don’t turn up on record.  When we listened to the tapes, we heard the parts people never hear on record.  Some of the ideas he tried were amazingly creative things that might not work on record but which, as a guitar player, I could appreciate.  The guy was unbelievable.  He could really play guitar.  It wasn’t just that he had mastered the wah-wah pedal, feedback and the other effects.  He was a really great guitar player who took something that no one ever did before.  He just jumped into the space age all of a sudden instead of just playing rock & roll.  He was the most creative there ever was.  You can hear it in every note he played.”

“Recorded at Track Recorders – Washington, DC” — oops, close enoughTrack Recorders 45-ee

Crowd-sourcing the history:  What other notable recordings deserve to be posted here?

Maryland’s New State Anthem

To:     Governor Larry Hogan & The General Assembly of Maryland

Perhaps it is time to replace the Maryland state anthem — you know, the Rebel marching song from 1861 that beseeches Marylanders to “spurn the northern scum” and thereby follow Virginia’s example on the whole secession question — with something else altogether.  Something much more uplifting, celebratory, and inclusive.  That doesn’t also do double duty as a Christmas carol.

To that end, Zero to 180 – as a public service – would like to offer the following song as a replacement for “Maryland, My Maryland“:

“Maryland”     The Crazy Five     1973

With lyrics that everyone can get behind, and a singalong chorus that no Marylander can resist, who cares that “Marylandnever enjoyed release beyond Germany’s borders?  “Maryland, My Maryland” is likewise German, and besides, we are a nation of immigrants.  Borrowing from other cultures is an American pastime.

Crazy Five 45-aaCrazy Five‘s relative obscurity and limited output (i.e., one 45) means a good deal for the taxpayers and a modest investment, ultimately, in civic pride.  Tess Teiges and Walt Wister, the songwriting team behind “Maryland,” have been out of the music scene since 1975 — I suspect both would be grateful for the income and happy to negotiate a fair and reasonable sum for all parties involved.

Crazy Five 45-bb“Maryland, My Maryland”:  Retain or Retire?

Should the Maryland legislature — as Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan and the Washington Post editorial board insist — return “Maryland, My Maryland” (written in 1861, but only designated the official state song in 1939) to the history from whence it came?  Or, would that be a well-intended exercise in historical revisionism and — as Governor Hogan would assert — “political correctness run amok“?

Three out of four Civil War monuments in Baltimore, as Marc Steiner points out, honor the Confederacy.  Baltimore’s violent (and murderous) response to the sight of federal troops disembarking by rail on Pratt Street en route to the Federal City, it is worth noting, took place just one week after the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter.  Maryland stayed on the side of the Union, but only because President Lincoln ensured that outcome, yes?   Bethesda, Maryland’s William Safire – in his 1984 essay, “Patriotic Gore,” for the New York Times – mocks those who would want to deny the state’s anti-Union, pro-slavery past.

Please contact Zero to 180 if you have the historical bona fides to answer this question:   Does “Maryland, My Maryland” reflect the sentiments of a majority of the state’s residents 150 years ago when Americans took up arms against each other?

The Cook Bros. on (indie) Island

I stumbled upon a pretty snappy A-side that is virtually unknown, and what a shame, given the sibling harmonizing and wonderfully oddball percussion sounds during the instrumental section that would be nearly impossible to produce with our current technology.  Song clocks in at 103 seconds — and not a single one wasted:

“Juke Box Play for Me”     The Cook Brothers     195?

I love the redacted song title/author info on the record label above — makes listening to the song almost seem a criminal act.

Released on tiny Cleveland indie Island, the same label that released the 45 featured in the previous piece on Hardrock Gunter, who is or is not the same singer as Buddy DurhamRCS sure seems to indicate so (“SEE:  Gunter, Hardrock”), while PragueFrank identifies Durham as a separate human entity (who once teamed up with Gunter at Wheeling’s WWVA radio station ca. 1962 to record a Starday 45 “Hillbilly Twist” + “As Long As You’re Happy”).

Juke Box Play for Me” is from a rare rockabilly EP that features two tracks each from Hardrock Gunter, Buddy Durham, Bill Browning, and The Cook Brothers and would appear 22 years later on a Dutch compilation of Island’s 1950s recordings.

The Cook BrothersCook Brothers(photo courtesy of ROCKY 52)

The Cook Brothers, judging from this news item in the May 20, 1957 edition of Billboard, had been a featured act for WWVA at one point.  Two years prior in 1955, the brothers, Chuck and Jim (“Accompanied by Their Rocky Ridge Boys”) would record two singles for Wheeling-based Emperor.   Three singles would appear to be their entire recorded output.

Hardrock Gunter on (indie) Island

This recording of Hardrock Gunter‘s mesmerizing voice, with its offbeat hiccup-y rhythms bathed in slapback echo, never fails to enchant:

“Boppin’ to Grandfather’s Clock”     Hardrock (“Sidney Jo Lewis”) Gunter     1958

Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidney Louis Gunter, Jr.  would record under two other names:  Buddy Durham (as noted in the previous piece about the Vandergrift Brothers — possibly in error) and Sidney Jo Lewis, which he used in 1958 to record “Boppin’ to Grandfather’s Clock” on Cleveland indie label, Island.  Two years prior, Gunter had already put together the ingredients that would define his signature sound on “Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby,” originally recorded in Wheeling, WV for Cross Country in 1956 before the single got picked up by Sam Phillips‘ and re-released on his vaunted Sun label later that August.

1958 would also see the release of ‘SONGS THEY CENSORED IN THE HILLS‘ LP for SeecoHardrock Gunter LP-x

Note the considerably drier sound – not to mention vastly different singing style – on Gunter’s second of three 45s for Cincinnati’s King RecordsI’ll Give ’em Rhythm” (b/w “I Put My Britches on Just Like Everybody Else”), recorded in Cincinnati August 19, 1955 (interestingly enough, the same day as Herb & Kay‘s delightful “We Did“):

“I’ll Give ’em Rhythm”     Hardrock Gunter     1955

Thanks to UK-charts.com, I am able to transcribe the following information from the Hardrock Gunter “bio disc” (thanks, Randy McNutt!) for the King 45 illustrated in the audio clip above:

“When Hardrock Gunter graduated from high school, he teamed up with Happy Wilson who organized the Golden River Boys.  The original members of this group are still doing radio shows.  After World War II, Gunter again went back into radio when the Golden River Boys were re-organized.  In 1948 Hardrock started managing the unit and acted as personal manager to Happy Wilson until late 1949.”

King would issue another “bio disc” for “Turn the Other Cheek” that gives us the official explanation for Gunter’s stage name:Hardrock Gunter 45-bbHardrock Gunter, professionally speaking, would leap right out of the gate, recording his first few singles for mighty Decca, before moving on to MGM, Sun, King, Cross Country, Emperor (“Whoo!  I Mean Whee!“), Island, Seeco, Cullman, D, El Dorado, Starday (“Hillbilly Twist“), Gee Gee, Brunswick, Rival, Essgee, Longhorn, Morgun, Rollercoaster, Home Brew, and Jar — possibly others.

Hardrock Gunter rocking a doubleneck MOSRITE on 1999 Dutch 45 recorded in LondonHardrock Gunter LP

Matthew Loukes echos the call for Gunter’s “Birmingham Bounce” of 1950 – which preceded Jackie Brenston & Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88” and was the reason for Decca’s interest – as “first rock ‘n’ roll recording” in his 2013 obituary for the Guardian.

Hardrock Gunter + Hank Williams:  Twins Separated at Birth?

Check out this dead on impersonation of Hank Williams via 1951 parody of 1949’s classic “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” on Bullet — “Granddaddy of Nashville indie labels“:

“My Bucket’s Been Fixed”     Hardrock Gunter     1951

People are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for Gunter’s original recordings — including $1500 for “Gonna Dance All Night” on Sun.

Vandergrift Bros @ King Records

I really like the relaxed country boppin’ sound of “Who Needs Your Cold Cold Love” by The Vandergrift Brothers — a King 45 from 1962:

“Who Needs Your Cold Cold Love”     The Vandergrift Brothers     1962

Good ol’ PragueFrank – along with help from Michel Ruppli, et al. – seems to be the only source of information about the (please note the spelling variant) Vandergriff Brothers.

Vandergrift Bros 45-aaVandergrift Bros 45-bb

Amusing to note that this vocal trio from Davis, West Virginia — Don, Ronnie & Darrell — released another 45 in 1962 on Wheeling’s Emperor label, “Honky Tonk Woman,” a song title that would recently inspire a playful sequence of pieces:  1, 2, and 3.

Neither Discogs nor 45Cat, surprisingly, have catalog records for the group’s first King 45 release “The Corner of My Eye” b/w “Tomorrow Never Comes” — recorded June 26, 1961.  The following entry in Ruppli’s discography for The Vandergrift Brothers is one lonely “leased” composition entitled “You’re Gone Too Far” that remains unissued to this day, while the third and final entry is the group’s other King 45, “Who Needs Your Cold, Cold Love” b/w “Hello Again Sweet Lips” from 1962 — both songs co-written by Shorty Long and published by (Syd Nathan-affiliated) Lois Music.

Publicity photo courtesy of HILLBILLY RESEARCHER

Vandergrift Brothers

Significant to note that two other songs from the final February, 1962 King recording session — “In Trouble With the Law” and “Please Don’t Run Away” — remain in Moe Lytle’s vault, wondering what on earth they ever did to deserve such treatment.

“Trouble With the Law” would live to see another day, fortunately, on the tiny and mysterious, Santa Fe label:

“Trouble With the Law”     The Vandergrift Brothers     196?

The Vandergrift Brothers were among the top acts who helped The Wheeling Jamboree celebrate its 30th anniversary, as reported in Billboard’s April 27, 1963 edition, along with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan, Big Slim, Crazy Elmer & Buddy Durham [a.k.a., Hardrock Gunter, according to RCS — not so, says PragueFrank].  Just four months later, however, WWVA disc jockey, Lee Moore, would inform Billboard that “the ‘World Original Jamboree’ has adopted the policy of importing country music acts from Nashville to augment the ‘Jamboree’ regulars like Doc Williams, Big Slim, and the Vandergrift Brothers”!

Seymour Stein & King Records II

Henry Stone on Seymour Stein of Sire Records:

“When I left King Records about 1956 I guess, Seymour Stein ended up interning there with Syd Nathan.  He was a young kid.  He must be about 10 years younger than me, must be about 75, or 80 by now.

He fell asleep at my birthday party at the table.  He does a great imitation of Syd Nathan, loves to do an imitation of Syd.  I became pretty friendly with him through the years.  When he left King he was editor of Billboard for a while.

[L to R] George & Susan Goldner, Syd Nathan & Seymour SteinSyd Nathan, Seymour Stein & George and Susan Goldner

He penned the charts for Billboard in New York.  I used to go up there and see him all the time.  And then I used to see him a lot when we went to Cannes, France for the music festival.  Every year they have that, they still do.  It’s called MIDEM.  It’s a big deal.  I was going there since the very beginning in the 70s.  I used to go there with my TK Productions.  I was a big man when I used to go there.

I had the biggest independent music company in the world, and they loved discos and dancing in Europe.  I used to hang out with Seymour there and he was just one of those real terrific real record guys.  He found Madonna ya know, and The Ramones, The Talking Heads, and he founded the Sire label, that was his, Sire Records.  I didn’t know him back in the King days.  Syd Nathan and I had already split up.  Syd used to talk about that son of a bitch Henry Stone.  I guess he respected me as a good record guy y’ know.  Seymour Stein’s a real good record guy too.”

Seymour Stein would be the one on the right

Seymour Stein & MadonnaStein’s signings — as noted in the text that accompanies his Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or his (abandoned) acceptance speech for CBGB’s Icon Award) — reveal a keen ear for talent in contemporary rock and pop:   The Flamin’ Groovies, The Saints, The Rezillos, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Radio Birdman, The Dead Boys, The Undertones, The Pretenders, The Replacements, The Smiths, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, The Cult, Modern English, The English Beat, Madness, KD Lang, Depeche Mode, Aztec Camera, Everything But the Girl, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Barenaked Ladies, and Aphex Twin, along with the aforementioned Ramones, Talking Heads, and Madonna.  Just as Cincinnati’s King Records helped give birth to 50s rock ‘n’ roll, this same scrappy indie label would then go on to play a significant supporting role in shaping modern ‘indie’ rock.

The same year that (future) music mogul Seymour Stein inked the liner notes for a Columbia collection of classic country hits culled from Cincinnati’s King label, Stein would compose text to accompany a corresponding compilation of King rhythm & blues hits that would similarly enjoy release on almighty Columbia’s hallowed red label as one his earlier Sire Productions:  18 King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits from 1967.

LP of King R&B HIts remixed for stereo and issued on Columbia

King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits-cover-aCover also available in lemon custardKing Size Rhythm & Blues Hits - french vanilla cover

This album would be reconstituted the following year as Soul Fever: 16 King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits and marketed overseas to the UK, Germany, and India.

Soul Fever - King Size R&BSeymour Stein’s liner notes for the original 1967 Columbia LP, sadly, exceed my grasp.  Nevertheless, I can only presume that Stein points out (as with King Size Country Hits) how this other batch of King hits represents millions of sales:  1956’s “Honky Tonk” by Bill Doggett (although, “Part 2” – the better side, some assert); 1956’s “Please Please Please” by James Brown, 1961’s “Hide Away” by Freddie King, 1947’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” by Wynonie Harris, and Lonnie Johnson’s “Tomorrow Night,” a huge ‘crossover’ hit in 1948 — massive sellers all.

Also worth pointing out the inclusion of an early Otis Redding single – “Shout Bamalama” from 1961 – that shows the influence of fellow Macon artist, Little Richard.

Also finding its way into 18 King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits is “Another Womans Man” – a song from Joe Tex‘s first ever recording session, which took place in New York City for King Records in September, 1955:

“Another Woman’s Man”     Joe Tex     1955

Musical personnel (according to Michael Ruppli’s The King Labels:  A Discography):

Vocals:  Joe Tex
Electric Guitar:  Mickey Baker
Piano:  Andy Gibson
Tenor Sax:  Dave Van Dyke
Bass:  Unknown
Drums:  Specs Powell

“Another Woman’s Man”- would be issued by King on LP only:  (a) The Best of Joe Tex from 1965 (its first time on wax!), as well as (b) Rhythm and Blues: 18 All Time King Hits from 1968 (whose running order, curiously, duplicates 18 King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits).

Joe Tex LP-bKing Rhythm & Blues - All Time King Hits-b

Seed Money for Sire:  Beatlemania

Bob Mehr’s well-researched Trouble Boys:  The  True Story of The Replacements provides some illuminating details about Seymour Stein’s fascinating roller coaster ride in the record business, as detailed here in this passage about the source of Sire’s seed money:

“In high school, Stein spent summers in Cincinnati apprenticing under King Records owner Syd Nathan [1957-58], whose biggest star was James Brown.  Stein eventually would work for King full-time [1961-63], learning every aspect of the business at the company’s one-stop operation.  Back in New York, he became an assistant to record man George Goldner in 1963, then in 1966 broke off with producer-writer Richard Gottehrer.  Their label’s moniker scrambled the first two letters of their first names – SE and RI – to get Sire.

Each put up $10,000 in seed money.  Stein’s funds had come from Beatlemania’s 1964 height, when Capitol Records in Canada sold a selection of Beatles singles not available in the United States.  Stein had spirited a mass of the records out of the country, then offloaded them to US wholesalers, making a small fortune in a week.  ‘The statute of limitations has passed,’ said Stein.  ‘But that’s where my share of the money came from.'”

Q:   Why do these Canadian early Beatles singles look so peculiar to the american eye?
Beatles 45 Canada-aaBeatles 45 Canada-bb

A:   Capitol US – incredible as it might seem – passed on the Beatles’ first four singles!

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