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!

 

King Records Meets “Big Red”

In May, 2015’s piece about Guitar Crusher, it was pointed out that Seymour Stein, along with fellow Sire Records co-founder, Richard Gottehrer, had done production work on a Columbia recording in 1967, having formed Sire Productions the year before.  As Billboard would note in its chronology of the music industry executive who signed Madonna from his hospital bed while recovering from a heart infection, Stein had served his first music label apprenticeship at Cincinnati’s King Records for two years, beginning in 1957. Syd Nathan’s operation would prove to be a “farm league” for a number of other industry notables, as pointed out in Jon Hartley Fox’s King of the Queen City:  The Story of King Records:

“King Records was a good training ground where one could get a thorough, hands-on education in all facets of the recording industry.  One of the label’s enduring legacies is the large number of producers, A&R men, and sales or marketing executives who ‘trained’ under Nathan.  Among the King alumni who enjoyed successful careers at other labels are Seymour Stein (Sire, Sire-London, and Elektra), Hal Neely (Starday and Starday-King), Henry Glover (Old Town, Roulette, Starday-King), Ralph Bass (Chess), Jim Wilson (Starday and Sun), Alan Leeds (Paisley Park), Ray Pennington (Step One), and nearly a dozen others.”

As it turns out, the same year Seymour Stein produced a Guitar Crusher single for “Big Red,” Stein also organized a 12-inch release for Columbia Records (under the “Sire Productions” name) that consists entirely of country releases from the King Records vault, albeit (groan) “electronically re-channeled for stereo.”  That’s right, 1967 would see the release of a Columbia album (in name only) 18 King Size Country Hits, with extensive liner notes by Stein himself that promise the LP to be “one of a projected series of albums, each containing eighteen all-time Country and Western hits spanning the past quarter century.”

Many of the songs on this LP were million sellers when first issued, according to Stein

King Size County Hits - Seymour Stein LP-a

This album, sadly, would seem to be the only one released (I can only assume Columbia felt sales to be insufficient enough to warrant future volumes).  It’s not for lack of trying though, as Stein very helpfully provides some historical context on the factors that helped King succeed in the marketplace:

“Cincinnati, at the period just before America’s entrance into World War II, was the center of activities for many of the great Country and Western artists of that era, in much the same way that Nashville is today.  The reason for the Queen City’s dominance over the ‘hillbilly’ world was ‘Midwestern Hayride,’ the country’s favorite C&W radio show, which was aired weekly from Cincinnati over WLW, key station in the Crosley broadcast chain.  Among the show’s stars were the Delmore Brothers, Grandpa Jones, Hank Penny, Wayne Raney, and Homer and Jethro.  Lloyd ‘Cowboy’ Copas had a popular Country show also over WKRC in Cincinnati.  With the exception of the Delmore Brothers, none of the stars of ‘Midwestern Hayride’ had achieved any amount of success on records.  Most had never recorded despite their popularity among the Midwest and South.”

King Records In the big leagues:  On “Big Red” one year before Syd Nathan’s passingKing Size Country Hits-b

Could this 1949 recording, “Money Marbles and Chalk” – fittingly, the album’s final track – be the only one ever released by Pop Eckler, who wrote songs for Rex Allen, Red Sovine, and Wink Martindale, as well as King labelmates, Grandpa Jones and The Stanley Brothers?

“Money, Marbles and Chalk”     Pop Eckler     1949

Eckler would pen “Money, Marbles and Chalk,” also covered at the time by Chet Atkins and Stubby and the Buccaneers, as well as later by Patti Page (1957) and King colleagues, Reno & Smiley (1961), while Link Trotter would give it a go in 1973.Pop Eckler 78

Stein would have this to say about Eckler:

“Pop Eckler was never a famous recording artist, but as composer of one of the greatest Country ballads, this album would be incomplete without his own rendition of ‘Money, Marbles and Chalk.’  The tune was also a pop hit for Patti Page.”

Seymour Stein’s liner notes for Columbia LP ’18 King Size Country Hits’King Size County Hits - Seymour Stein LP-rear cover

Check out NPR’s radio piece from 2009:  Seymour Stein, from King to Sire Records

TMBG: Learning Can Be Fun

I’ve always appreciated how They Might Be Giants respect their fanbase and labor hard to provide high value for the entertainment dollar.  While their music has always had strong appeal to a younger demographic, in recent years They Might Be Giants have released albums aimed squarely at the school-age crowd, such as Here Comes the ABCs, (released as 25 tracks on CD, 39 on DVD) which has gotten a lot of airplay around our house.  Note the clever lyric and accompanying animation sequence for “Alphabet Lost and Found“:

“Alphabet Lost and Found”      They Might Be Giants     2005

There is a good reason why this YouTube clip was uploaded under the name of “DisneyMusic” — so says Wikipedia:

“While [the album] was produced and released by Walt Disney Records, the band was reportedly given complete creative control over the project, which at the time was very unusual for Walt Disney Records, which had until then followed a strict artist control policy.  As a result, the DVD features a variety of puppetry, animation and live action supplied by personal friends of the group, including A.J. Schnack, who directed the TMBG documentary Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns).  For guest vocals on a few tracks, they turned to family:  John Flansburgh’s wife Robin Goldwasser, and John Linnell’s son, Henry.  The music videos that appear on the DVD were also aired (in part or whole) on the Disney Channel’s children’s programming block, Playhouse Disney.”

Sounds like Alvino Rey‘s “Sono-Vox” being employed in the phased backing vocals — or some simulation thereof, yes?

TMBG-aDivya Srinivasan is the artistic hand behind the animation on “Alphabet Lost and Found” — check out the rest of her work at her website, which includes an animation reel and illustration slide show.

Here Come the ABCs would be the successor to No!, their first formal children’s album.TMBG-bTMBG Flexi-Disc Trivia

For their April 1992 edition, Reflex Magazine would release a “split 331/3 RPM flexidisc:  XTC b/w TMBG!  Side A features “Rip Van Reuben” – a home demo of an Andy Partridge compostion – with They Might Be Giants’s “Moving to the Sun” on the flip side.TMBG-ccTMBG-c

Scotty Moore: Producer

I am struck by the number of Scotty Mooreproduced 45s from the late 60s/early 70s that are not available for preview on YouTube due to their relative obscurity — most especially the rare Otis Redding tribute “We’re Gonna Miss You, Otis” b/w “Macon,” whose B-side was actually written by Moore, whose spirit left us four weeks ago today.

Fortunately, that’s not the case for a memorable garage rock 45 from 1966 on tiny little label, Down Home, that bears production credits by Scotty Moore, along with session keyboardist, songwriter, publisher and producer Jerry Smith (who played piano on Dick Curless’ 1973 Live at the Wheeling Truck Driver’s Jamboree album).  Check out the heavy rockabilly guitar break in the middle of “Ain’t About to Lose My Cool” by The Original Dukes:

“Ain’t About to Lose My Cool”     The Original Dukes     1966

Charles Best:  Organ & vocals
James Hickman:  Guitar
James Sonday:  Drums
Richard Martin:  Bass, Sax & Harmonica

Not much seems to be known about The Original Dukes, other than they hailed from Indianapolis.  Prepare to fork over a little dough should you decide to own an original copy of this 45.

Note the (unintended?) wordplay of the song’s authorship — “Sonday/Best.”

Original Dukes 45

“Ain’t About to Lose My Cool” would make the lineup for Volume 3 of the Greg Shaw-curated Pebbles series of indie garage 45s taken from his own collection of over one million records.