Philip Paul: The Pulse of King

How fun and fulfilling to see Philip Paul (as well as Bootsy Collins and Otis Williams) included in the official photograph taken on the day when Jack White was awarded the key to the city in early June, 2018 by Cincinnati mayor, John Cranley, while strategically positioned outside the original King Records headquarters in Evanston.

[L to R:  Bootsy Collins; Otis Williams; Jack White; Mayor John Cranley; Patti Collins & Philip Paul at Cincinnati’s King Records = photo courtesy of Jack White]

Paul would recount for historian Steven C. Tracy in Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City (1993) the creative pressures of being a studio musician and the demands placed on the drummer by Syd Nathan to keep rhythms endlessly fresh:

Well, like I would get a call the same morning.  You know, maybe 7 or 7:30 a.m.  Can you get over here in a half hour?  O.K.  I’d get up and walk over there.  And, uh, maybe the artist wouldn’t be there.  But maybe whoever the A&R man was may have, would have a little riff or something in his head.  He’d say, ‘It goes like this’ or something, you know?  And we’d wait until the artist arrived, and the artist would sing.  Maybe they couldn’t keep four bars together.  But we’d work until we put something together.  If it took all day … Yeah, with the little head sets.  And they used all kinds of recording devices.  But basically they never came, very seldom did they come in with charts for everybody and say play this, play this, play that.  It was always – Syd Nathan wanted you to do something fresh all the time.  I don’t care if you recorded three albums a day, he always wanted something different.  He didn’t want the same beat on every tune.  And you would have to sit there and come up with something.  Because he would be in the booth hollering at you, you know.  I look back on that and it was very insulting at the time, but it was a lesson also, because he provided musicians an opportunity to record under those conditions and see what recording was really about.

Getting the “right sound” at King would, for Paul, also involve the occasional use of kettle drums, wood blocks, and even a suitcase in place of a kick drum, points out Tracy.

Paul would initially intersect with King Records in 1952 through his professional relationship with Tiny Bradshaw — whose group had the house band gig at Cincinnati’s top black nightspot, the Cotton Club, according to Tracy.  Six months earlier, Bradshaw had first taken notice of Paul’s playing at the Savoy Ballroom.  The next nine years with Bradshaw would serve as a proving ground:

We knew we had to work hard.  Like we would play an hour set; he didn’t restrict us.  We was basically a blues band, but we had, at times we had some guys in the band that were very good jazz players. Sonny Stitt played with us. Johnny Griffin played with us. Al Sears played with us.  We had all kinds of musicians out of Duke [Ellington]’s band playing with us.  So when they came in the band, even if it was for one night or two nights, they really had to work.  Noble Watts, Sil Austin – oh God, we wore out tenor players.  But Red [Prysock] was the backbone; he could really handle it.

It was through Bradshaw, as Tracy writes, that “Paul got hooked up with King, and countless sessions followed.”  According to Brian Powers, Paul has played on over 350 recordings and, like CalvinEagle EyeShields, backed a number of King’s country artists, such as Bonnie Lou, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins (also Grandpa Jones, say both Tracy and Nager), even though documentation is similarly and frustratingly scant.

Paul – whose father (from St. Croix) played trumpet and uncle drummed professionally – grew up in Harlem.  While in New York, according to Steven Tracy, “Paul played with Milt Larkin, recorded for Decca with Buddy Johnson, and cut some sides with Basie sidemen accompanying Jimmy Rushing.”  As Powers notes in A King Records Scrapbook:

His career took off when he began playing with jazz musicians Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, Sonny Stitt, Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie.  He got a regular gig at the famed Savoy Ballroom in Harlem with Buddy Johnson’s Big Band that featured the great vocalist Arthur Prysock.  Eventually Paul met bandleader Tiny Bradshaw whose drummer, Calvin ‘Eagle Eye’ Shields, was leaving the band. Bradshaw was impressed with Paul’s playing.

Paul’s ability to be on call as a session musician at King was facilitated by means of a house in Evanston “which Syd Nathan had helped him purchase,” points out Powers.  Even after Nathan’s passing in 1968, Paul continued to forge a musical career, as Powers explains, that enabled him to remain rooted in Cincinnati but with the flexibility to tour as needed:

By the late 1960s, Paul began several years of recording for Columbia Records in New York as one-third of Roy Meriwether‘s hard-driving gospel-influenced trio.  [Stone Truth and Popcorn & Soul, both LPs from 1966].  He played for six years at the Carrousel Inn on Reading Road in [Cincinnati’s Roselawn neighborhood], but also toured with jazz artists like Herbie Mann, Jimmy Smith and Nat Adderley throughout most of the country.  He played festivals and clubs, including the famous Apollo Theater in New York.  Paul has accompanied George Wein & the Newport All-Stars throughout the United States and Canada.

Philip Paul:  the Roselawn connection

Paul would eventually get “overdue” recognition for his contributions to music history, thanks to Larry Nager‘s profile – “Keeping Time” – in the October, 2009 edition of Cincinnati Magazine.   Among Cincinnati’s household names and musical institutions, Nager notes unequivocally, “when it comes to impacting American music and culture, this quiet, unassuming octogenarian stands alone.”  Furthermore, Nager cogently observes, “as America struggles to find something – anything! – we can sell to the world, the one unqualified success continues to be our music,” as Ebay prices in the new century for original vinyl make clear (see discography/listening section below).

In 2002, the Cincinnati Enquirer would bestow upon Paul a Lifetime “Cammy” (Cincinnati Area Music) Award as part of a select group, Legends of King Records.  Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, in 2009, would create a special exhibit, as part of its of Songwriters to Sound Men series, to celebrate the session work of Paul — who would also receive that same year an Ohio Heritage Fellowship, “the state’s highest honor for traditional artists,” notes Nager.  Says the Ohio Arts Council:  “The Ohio Heritage Fellowship program recognizes Ohio folk and traditional artists who are influential masters of their particular art forms and traditions, and whose work has had a significant impact on their communities.”

PHILIP PAUL TRIO – CINCINNATIAN HOTEL
[Photo courtesy of bill Hulsizer]

The 21st century would find Philip Paul issuing his first album, 2003’s It’s About Time, on which he served as bandleader — supporting musicians would include Peter Frampton, Edwyn Conley, Kenny Poole, Steve Schmidt, and Mike Sharf.  The following year, Paul and Conley would comprise the rhythm section for Big Joe Duskin‘s final album, Big Joe Jumps Again!, joined by Frampton on two tracks, as well as producers, Larry Nager (bass) and William Lee Ellis (guitar).  A 2016 Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame Inductee, Paul – who has been a weekly fixture at the Cincinnatian Hotel’s Cricket Lounge for countless years – would be feted in 2018 by Cincinnati’s Listernmann Brewing Company with a beer “Fas Foot Phil” named in his honor.

[Photo courtesy of Bill Hulsizer]

A Philip Paul Jukebox!
King Recording Session Chronology:  1952-1963*
→ Click on song title links below to hear streaming audio of songs ←

  • Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra — Oct. 6, 1952 — Cincinnati

Soft” + “Strange

1956 ‘Soft’ LP on King = $208 at auction in 2006

  • Bullmoose Jackson w/ Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra — Oct. 6, 1952 — Cincinnati

I Needed You” + “Big Ten Inch Record

Original “Big Ten-Inch Record” 78s & 45s can do well at auction

  • Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra — Jan. 19, 1953 — Cincinnati

Off and On“; “Heavy Juice“; “Free For All“; “Hold On, Josie

  • Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra — Jul. 29, 1953 — Cincinnati

Powder Puff“; South of the Orient“; “Later“; “Ping Pong

1954 King EP = 4 songs on 45

  • Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra — Apr. 5, 1954 — Cincinnati

The Gypsy“; “Don’t Worry ’bout Me“; “Overflow“; “Spider Web

  • Wynonie Harris — Apr 14, 1954 — Cincinnati

I Get a Thrill“; “Keep a-Talkin’“; “Don’t Take My Whiskey“; “Shake That Thing

Original King single sells respectably well at auction

Other single from the same recording session does even better at auction

  • The Midnighters — Apr. 24, 1954 — Cincinnati

Work Baby“; “Sexy Ways“; “Don’t Say Your Last Goodbye

“Sexy Ways” one of 1954’s top 10 R&B records (sales & jukebox) per Billboard  

NOTE:  Released on the Federal label in US but on King in Canada — what gives?

  • Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra — Sep. 1, 1954 — Cincinnati

Light” “Stack of Dollars“; Choice“; “Cat Fruit

1955 “Light” & “Choice” King EP$100 at auction in 2014

  • Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra — Jan. 11, 1955 — Cincinnati

Cat Nap“; “Come On“; “Stomping Room Only“; “Pompton Turnpike

King “bio disc

Flip slide refers to the bandleader as “Brad”!

  • Rufus Gore — Feb. 24, 1955 — New York City

Firewater” + “Ghost Walk

This Rufus Gore session is only one Paul recorded outside of Cincinnati

  • Bill Jennings Quintet — Jul. 24, 1955 — Cincinnati

Willow Weep for Me“; “Day Train“; “Glide On“; “Three Little Words” + 2 unissued

People have paid three and even four figures for Bill Jennings’ King releases

  • John Puckett Trio — Jun. 7, 1957 — Cincinnati

12 songs that comprise Meet John Puckett & His Piano ($100 at auction in 2015)

  • Tiny Topsy & the Charms — Oct. 2, 1957 — Cincinnati

Come On Come On Come On” + “Ring Around My Finger

Tiny Topsy “mit orchester”:  Single enjoyed release in Germany & the UK

  • Titus Turner — Nov. 7, 1957 — Cincinnati

Stop the Pain” + “Hold Your Loving

45 can fetch three figures at auction

  • Earl Connelly King — Nov. 7, 1957 — Cincinnati

Every Which Kinda Way” + “I Don’t Want Your Love

 People will shell out up to $300 for the 45 — A-side reissued in UK in 2012

  • Tiny Bradshaw — Jan. 16, 1958 — Cincinnati

Short Shorts” + “Bushes

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Aug. 6, 1959 — Cincinnati

Said I Wouldn’t Beg You“; “Look at Little Sister“; “I Could Love You; “Never Knew

  • Gene Redd & the Globe Trotters — Sep. 4, 1959 — Cincinnati

Zeen (Surfin’) Beat” + “Old Virginny Rock

1959 A-side got “repurposed” as “Surfin’ Beat” for 1962 King LP below

  • Rudy West — Sep. 29, 1959 — Cincinnati

Just To Be With You“; “You Were Mine“; “The Measure of My Love“; “This Is Something Else“; “My Mother’s Prayers“; “As Long As I Live

Rudy West — lead tenor for The Five Keys

  • Little Willie John & Strings — Dec. 23, 1959 — Cincinnati

A Cottage For Sale” + “Loving Care

Both songs included on 1961 King LP

  • Lynn Hope — Mar. 4, 1960 — Cincinnati

Juicy“; “Tenderly“; “Full Moon“; “Shockin’“; “Ghost of a Chance“; “Body and Soul

King 45 issued on UK ‘ska’ label note “corrected” spelling to King’s English!

  • Lynn Hope — Mar. 28, 1960 — Cincinnati

Blue and Sentimental“; “The Very Thought of You“; “Rose Room“; “Sands of the Sahara“; “Little Landslide“; “Oo Wee“; “Stardust

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Mar. 31, 1960 — Cincinnati

I Must Be Crazy“; “These Young Girls“; “Finger Poppin’ Time“; “Thinking of You

Finger Poppin’ Time” enjoyed release in Australia & New Zealand

Tab Smith — Apr. 28, 1960 — Cincinnati

Drivin’ the Blues“; “In a Mellow Dream“; “Over and Under”; “They’re Off“; “Lovely Springtime“; “Easy Going”; “Big Wheel”

  • Little Willie John — Jul. 8, 1960 — Cincinnati

The Very Thought of You“; “I’m Sorry“; “Walk Slow“; “Sleep“; “There’s a Difference

Billboard chart history for “Sleep” (#13), “Walk Slow” (#48) & “Very Thought” (#61)

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Jul. 26, 1960 — Cincinnati

Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go“; “Sick of You“; “Keep on Dancing“; “Goodbye So Long

The Chambers Brothers & East Bay Soul Brass among groups to cover “Let’s Go”

  • Tab Smith — Aug. 5, 1960 — Cincinnati

Chuggin’ Along“; “Night Hawk Prowl” + “The Midget” & “The Old Mill” [unissued]

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Aug. 16, 1960 — Cincinnati

When I Need You“; “If You’d Forgive Me“; “The Hoochi Coochi Coo

Note: “Hoochi Coochi Coo” peaked at #23 on Jan. 30, 1961 — 11 weeks on chart

Canadian 45                                                      French EP

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Aug. 17, 1960 — Cincinnati

Mona Lisa“; “Just One More Chance“; “Summertime

$100 (and more) has been paid for 1961 Hank Ballard Spotlight LP

  • Smokey Smothers [w/ Freddy King] — Aug. 25, 1960 — Cincinnati

Smokey’s Lovesick Blues“; “Crying Tears“; “Midnight and Day“; “Honey, I Ain’t Teasin’“; “Blind and Dumb Man Blues“; “What Am I Going To Do“; “I’ve Been Drinking Muddy Water“; “I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man No More“; “You’re Gonna Be Sorry“; “Can’t Judge Nobody“; “Give It Back“; “Come On Rock Little Girl

Jon Hartley Fox writes in 2009’s King Records history, King of the Queen City: “Guitarist and singer Otis ‘Smokey’ Smothers [Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist prior to signing with King] never came close to stardom, but for a period in the early 1960s, he had one of the most talked-about albums of the day.  Smokey Smothers Sings the Backporch Blues, released in 1962, is highly coveted by collectors today as one of the rarest of blues albums.  Forty-five years ago, it was an unexpected blast of down-home blues that took everybody by surprise.”

1962 King LP released (and retitled) on Polydor in UK (1966) & Germany (1967)

[Auction alert!   $1223 paid in 2009 for original Smokey Smothers King LP]

  • Freddy King — Aug. 25, 1960 — Cincinnati

You Know That You Love Me“; “See See Baby“; “You’ve Got To Love Her With Feeling“; “Have You Ever Loved a Woman“; “Hide Away“; “I Love the Woman

Attn:  Disc Jocks – This instrumental will be liked by The Teenagers!”

3 figures paid for 1961 King LP = reissued in Europe (2014) & Spain (2015)

  • Clifford Scott — Nov. 26, 1960 — Cincinnati

Shu-ee“; “Fros-Tee Nite“; “Blue Lady“; “Broadway Caravan

  • Clifford Scott — Dec. 6, 1960 — Cincinnati

“No. 1 in the Book”; “Chocolate Malt“; “Bushy Tail

1962 French EP on Odeon

  • Freddy King — Jan. 17, 1961 — Cincinnati

Lonesome Whistle Blues” + “If You Believe (In What You Do)

  • Freddy King — Jan. 18, 1961 — Cincinnati

It’s Too Bad (Things Are Going So Tough)” + “I’m Tore Down

Canada                                                          US

  • Hank Marr [w/ Freddy King] — Jan. 18, 1961 — Cincinnati

Ram-Bunk-Shush” + “The Push

  • Freddy King — Apr. 5, 1961 — Cincinnati

Sidetracked“; “Stumble“; “San-Ho-Zay“; “Wash Out“; “Just Pickin’“; “Heads Up

$255 paid in 2008 for this 1961 King LP

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Jul. 18, 1961 — Cincinnati

Big Red Sunset“; “Nothing But Good“; “Do You Remember

  • Freddy King — Jul. 24, 1961 — Cincinnati

Christmas Tears“; “Let Me Be“; “Takin’ Care of Business“; “You Mean Mean Woman“; “I Hear Jingle Bells“; “In the Open“; “Out Front“; “Swooshy

“Christmas Tears” & “Jingle Bells” strictly 45 tracks — reissued in 1975 (below)

  • Eddie Clearwater [w/ Hank Marr & Freddy King] — Nov. 22, 1961 — Cinti.

A Real Good Time” + “I Was Gone

$261 in 2017 for this A-side

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Jan. 6, 1962 — Cincinnati

It’s Twistin’ Time“; “Good Twistin’ Tonight“; “Get Ready“; “I Want to Thank You“; “Your Lovin’“; “She’s the One“; “Dream World

1962 King LP does pretty well at auction

  • Freddy King — Jan. 10, 1962 — Cincinnati

Closed Door“; “Texas Oil“; “She Put the Whammy On Me“; “On My Way to ATL“; “Overdrive (Untouchable Glide)”; “Driving Sideways“; “Sittin’ On the Boat Dock

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Sep. 12, 1962 — Cincinnati

Shaky Mae“; “Christmas Time for Everybody But Me“; “I Love and Care for You

  • Hank Ballard & the Midnighters — Sep. 13, 1962 — Cincinnati

Santa Claus Is Coming“; “Love Oh Love”; “Bring Me Your Love

  • Bob Kames — October 1-4, 1962 — Cincinnati

Songs that would comprise 1962 King LP Bob Kames Goes Western

  • Milt Buckner [w/ Gene Redd] — Nov. 26, 1962 — Cincinnati

Misty“; “Why Don’t You Do Right“; “I Left My Heart in SF“; “All Blues“; “Take Five

  • Milt Buckner — Mar. 5, 1963 — Cincinnati

Fever“; “Kansas City“; “Pick Yourself Up“; “Moon River“; “Fly Me to the Moon

1963 Milt Buckner LP reissued in Japan in 2013

  • Freddy King — Sep. 26, 1963 — Cincinnati

Now I’ve Got a Woman“; “Surf Monkey“; “If You Have It“; “Low Tide (Zoo Surfin’)”; “Remington Ride“; “Monkey Donkey“; “Meet Me at the Station“; “Full Time Love“; “King a Ling

1965 LP would be reissued in 1984 (Germany), 1996 (Japan) & 2010 (US)

“If You Have It” — from especially rare Freddy King album (King LP 931)

[*Source: The King Labels: A Discography, edited by Michel Ruppli & Bill Daniels]

A King History Moment:  Session Bassist Bill Willis

Bill Willis quoted in 2000’s Rollin’ and Tumblin’:  The Postwar Blues Guitarists:

King Records had four of us who played on everything — me, Philip Paul on drums, Sonny Thompson on piano and Freddie Jordan on guitar.  Everything was live so you had that spontaneous feeling going.  None of us played together outside.  The only time we played together was in the studio.  A lot of times I didn’t hear what I was playing, like on “Hide Away,” because I went directly into the board.  They turned my bass amp off, and I very rarely used headphones.  I wanted to hear everybody through the room and catch all the nuances. 

Philip Paul Postscript from Brian Powers — in a Zero to 180 exclusive:

I am sure Paul played on some Cowboy Copas stuff — before Copas left King in 1955, but I couldn’t tell ya what.  I’m pretty sure he played on Hawkshaw Hawkinsalbum recorded in fall 1962 (with Gene Redd on vibes and Bill Willis on bass), which had a number one country hit with “Lonesome 7-7203.”  I know this because Ray Pennington told me – he produced it and there quite a few songs written by Ray.

But, as Jon Harley Fox notes with a heavy heart (in King of the Queen City):

After a long, dry spell with only one hit to his credit, Hawkins returned to King in 1962.  He cut twelve songs in a September session, including the song that restarted his career, “Lonesome 7-7203,” a honky-tonk shuffle in the style of Ray Price.  It would be Hawkins’s first number one hit single, but he wouldn’t live to see it happen.  Just three days after the record entered the Billboard county chart, Hawkshaw Hawkins was killed in a plane crash with Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.  Nothing else from Hawkins’s last session made the charts.

Be sure to check out these special radio moments with Philip Paul:

“Untamed World”: Top TV Theme

Unless you were a nature nerd in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, chances are you have never heard Mort Garson‘s mysterious and exotic instrumental theme for the CTV television series, Untamed World.

“Untamed World Theme”     Mort Garson     196?

Uncanny emulation of steel drums that is/are undergirded by a percolating, undulating rhythm track — but what about those flute sounds, are those electronic, too?  Ditto with the reverberating drum you hear in the final seconds of the opening theme.

I am hardly the only one, as it turns out, to have been entranced by this 60-second composition, as the comments attached to this YouTube video clip attest:

  • “Growing up in the late 60’s, this was one of my favourite TV shows of all time. After all these decades, I still remember the tune nearly note-perfect. Thanks so much for posting, and bringing back such wonderful memories!”
  • “That song has been ruling my world for 35 years!”
  • “thank you for posting. been wanting to hear it a long time big childhood memories. maybe a little creepy sounding but great to hear it again after 40 yrs or so”
  • “thx so much for posting this. Haven’t heard this for years…gave me goosebumps!!! what a simple wonderful thing from childhood. thx for the memories”
  • “Ok raise your hand if you & your brother used to do weird jungle dances to this song.”
  • “I feel like crying. Huge memories of my childhood!”
  • “One of the best music intros for a tv show of all time”
  • “Genius indeed, but that opening, especially when one was a little kid, was 1000% SCARY!!!!! :O”
  • “Sensational musical theme!”
  • “THANK YOU! I remembered everything about this intro but could not for the life of me remember the name of the show! I remember my mom and dad watching this in the mid-1980s…I think either on Saturday or Sunday nights. I guess it must have been in re-runs by that time.”
  • “yeh something eerie about it for sure…..”
  • “Yes, it’s been exactly the same for me. So great to hear this again.”
  • “This song always makes me want to run naked through the forest.”
  • “Fantastic, trippy ’70s graphics and a great “tribal”-sounding theme that makes you wanna dance wildly around the living room. So glad to hear and see this again after many, many years – thank you!”
  • “Oh, those were the days. Life was simple then, watching an old B&W Zenith TV with 2 channels, and the other choice was usually some religious show. Being 6 yo I chose the animals.”
  • “Love the awesome wipes!” [technical term]
  • “one of those songs that sticks to your brain after all those years….up there with Rocket Robin Hood and Ultraman…”
  • “I always thought this was traditional African music It is computer generated”

YouTube contributor, Warren Jay, rightfully chides the program’s producers:

  • “Just look at those untamed Africans and Balinese.”

One Canadian contributor to IMDB’s jazz impressions as a lad:

  • “Sundays at 5:00 on CTV were a time of wonder and discovery.  The fields with their chaff-like growths blowing in the wind signaled the start of a highly informative and haunting half-hour documentary.  The thin straight lines speeding in a single direction, albeit staggered, brought us the silhouettes of images (offset by pink, orange, red, and teal backgrounds) that would have been lost in time if not for a YouTube account.  And then the announcer, one Alan Small, would finish off almost every episode with “the Untamed World.”  I remember being scared half out of my wits by, yet strangely drawn to, these simple images (all of which repeated in the outro accompanied by five others) and Mort Garson’s haunting theme, but now that fear seems just silly and ridiculous.”

Produced by Canadian Television (CTV), Untamed World was shown regularly between January and August 1969, according to IMDB, and then went into syndication – broadcast in the US through the mid-1970s and beyond, perhaps.

Fifty years or so ago, Billboard would report in its December 28, 1968 edition, under the banner TV Doings:

Mort Garson scoring 26 half-hour Untamed World shows for Metromedia, utilizing an electronic synthesizer.

Behold Untamed World‘s equally intoxicating outro theme:

Untamed World Outro Theme     Mort Garson     1967?

Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia vs.Stevie Wonder’s Secret Life of Plants

“Full, warm, beautiful mood music especially composed to aid in the growing of your plants,” Garson’s conceptual and all-electronic Mother Earth’s Plantasia from 1976 would predate Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants by three years.  Mother Earth’s Plantasia sells for an easy three figures at auction.

Waylon Did Dylan in ’65

How humorous to browse a chronological listing of Waylon Jennings albums starting in 1964 – eleven on RCA by my count, following his debut LP At JD’s – when out of nowhere, A&M suddenly decides to issue its first and only album by Jennings, long after his brief run of singles (1963-65) with the label.  Jenning’s country (folk) rock take on Bob Dylan’s “I Don’t Believe You” — originally recorded January 4, 1965 at Phoenix’s Audio Recorders would enjoy release that year as the B-side for “The Real House of the Rising Sun“:

“I Don’t Believe You”     Waylon Jennings     1965

Is it possible that Jennings’s March 25, 1970 appearance on ABC’s wildly successful Johnny Cash Show is what prompted A&M that same year to make a renewed attempt to cash in on their mid-60s recordings of Waylon?

A-side                               B-side

Jennings’ tenure with A&M amounted to four single releases released between the years 1963-65.  Don’t Think Twice — Waylon’s only LP on A&M — would be issued in the US and UK in 1970, four years into his 20-year run with RCA.

Typo alert

Know Your Product!

Examine the album cover above carefully and note that A&M couldn’t even be bothered to transcribe the song title correctly:  “I Didn’t Believe You”!

The Deep-Bottom Sound of Early Waylon Jennings

Jennings, you might recall (though likely not), was the subject of an early Zero to 180 piece that featured his unusually bass-centric take on Bob Gibson’s “Abilene.”

John Hartford’s Pop 45 + Strings

John Hartford‘s strings version of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” which kicks off the Jud soundtrack LP:  Is it true, as the person who posted this YouTube video states, that this 45 was “never released”?

“One Too Many Mornings”     John Hartford     1971

As the one commenter on this YouTube clip insists:  Please correct “To” to “Too”

 

John Hartford backed by Mason Proffit:

  • John Hartford:  Vocals
  • Terry Talbot: Acoustic Guitar & Backing Vocals
  • John Michael Talbot:  Guitar
  • Al Perkins:  Pedal Steel
  • Tim Ayers:  Bass
  • Art Nash:  Drums

[Al Perkins, not to be confused with Muscle Shoals guitarist, Wayne Perkins, who was enlisted by the Chris Blackwell Organisation to help “sweeten up” three of the tracks on the 1973 debut album by Jamaica’s top vocal trio, the original Wailers (recently profiled) backed by the Barrett brothers, et al.].

As it turns out, Hartford “doesn’t seem to play a lick, actually” on “One Too Many Mornings,” cheekily observes YouTube contributor been there.

Billboard, in its May 29, 1971 edition, would praise this “folk rhythm ballad” as part of its “Special Merit Spotlight” that features “new singles deserving special attention of programmers and dealers” (opposite a full-page promotional ad for Karen Dalton’s album, In My Own Time):

From the soundtrack of the film ‘Jud,’ Hartford has a strong commercial reading of the Bob Dylan folk rhythm ballad with much chart potential.

The following week’s June 5, 1971 edition would likewise find the Jud soundtrack album included in Billboard‘s “Special Merit Picks“.

Promo/DJ 45

Ampex did issue a promotional/DJ 45, but alas, there appears to have been no single release for the Hartford-sung/Phillips-arranged “One Too Many Mornings” in the US …  However, further probing of Discogs reveals that Ampex apparently green-lighted a single release in Canada!

Canadian single release

Reading Between the Grooves points out this unintended bit of hilarity about the (non) single’s flip side:

The single featuring Hartford didn’t even list an artist for its flip of “Solitary Sanctuary,” which was actually performed by Alan Brackett, John Merrill, and Barbara Robinson.  Another version of the same song was the last cut on the LP and was performed by the American Breed. 

Whether you try to obtain this recording via the movie soundtrack or either of the Ampex 45s:  not an easy row to hoe.  But wait, good news:  “One Too Many Mornings” would end up, fittingly, as a final “bonus” track on 2003’s pairing of two Hartford albums — 1970’s Iron Mountain Depot and 1971’s previously unreleased Radio John — on one compact disc (that also comes with a DVD of a live studio performance of John Hartford and Iron Mountain Depot on February 24, 1970).

King’s Dalliance with Psychedelia — Keith Murphy & the Daze

Keith Murphy & the Daze would help King Records expand its popular reach into the emerging “psychedelic” rock market (following the previous year’s foray into Jamaican ska via Prince Buster).  May of 1968 would find the release of King’s first “psych” 45 [as noted previously in “Rare & Unissued King“] with two sides by Keith Murphy & the Daze, “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” b/w “Dirty Ol’ Sam.”

Keith Murphy (front, right)

Left to right — Standing: Phil Fosnaugh – keyboard/organ (deceased); Jerry Asher – bass (deceased); John Asher – guitar (now Evansville IN); Sitting Bill Shearer – drums (Gas City IN), Keith Murphy – lead singer/rhythm guitar (Long Valley, NJ)

The single’s recording, however, would take place against the backdrop of (1) label founder Syd Nathan‘s passing two months prior in March, (2) followed, in April, by civil unrest in the neighborhoods adjacent to Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood – King’s home base – when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

“Slightly Reminiscent of Her”     Keith Murphy & the Daze     1968

The Daze, Keith Murphy postulates, are among King’s final signings while Nathan was still actively involved:

Louis Innis [previously celebrated here] was a wonderful man, and you can see from the letters [featured below] how nicely he treated me.  No letters in 1967, then in 1968 I reapproached him with The Daze, the band of which I was lead singer.  Again, the band was so sure the idea of getting a contract with King was so slim, none of the band members went with me to talk to King.  As it turns out, it was just as well, for when King wanted only me as the lead singer songwriter, they did not resent my name being on the label.  This was the pattern of King I thought, to just sign the lead singer/songwriter then they had one person to deal with and the most valuable property, like James Brown and the Famous Flames, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, etc.  I did insist that the band name also be on the record and they were ok with that.

We recorded the record in May of 1968, but it was not released until September or October of that year.  I see in their final letter, it was chaotic.  Actually, Syd Nathan died in March 1968, and it was chaos then too, as I recorded about 2 months later. I suspect, but do not know, that I was one of the very last artists that was approved by Syd Nathan himself.  Louis mentions that he wanted to see me alone to proceed forward, and they were releasing the record in England.  I had just graduated from college, had a baby daughter, had a regular job and was too busy to attend to everything. I don’t think I ever went back. I think he mentioned something on the phone about re-recording the songs.”

The same single would find its release 6 months later in the UK on Polydor, albeit with the A and B sides flipped.  Murphy would inform Zero to 180:

“I attached a picture of the exact Yellow King record [below] that was sent to England to see if Polydor was interested.  As you can see, they considered ‘Dirty Ol’ Sam’ the A side there.  I do know they must have shipped the tape or master there, as ‘Sam’ does not fade out in the UK version and is 7 seconds longer with a limp ending.  It is a near miracle I have that record.  The person who sold it worked for Polydor UK and was asked to clean out the warehouse or library.  He kept the records, and confirmed it was where it came from and the markings on the record are the numbers that ended up as the Polydor number.”

This very King 45 led to the song’s issue in UK on Polydor:  note ‘A’ & ‘B’ markings

The single’s UK release of 15 November, 1968, unfortunately, would be a mere 8 days or so before Starday* would sell the entire Starday-King operation to Lin Broadcasting for a mere $5 million (*see related vintage news item appended to this piece).

UK release on Polydor – with A & B sides flipped!

“Dirty Ol’ Sam”     Keith Murphy & the Daze     1968

Keith Murphy & the Daze at Cincinnati’s King studios – May, 1968

Photo notes from Keith Murphy

“Here is the sole picture that was taken in the King Recording studio in May, 1968. L to R:  Phil Fosnough – Keyboard; John Asher – Lead Guitar; Bill Shearer – Drums; Jerry Asher – Bass, Keith Murphy – Lead singer, songwriter.  I remember two incidents during the recording session:  Someone came in and said they needed to send somebody to the jail to give Hank Ballard a pack of cigarettes, he had been arrested for public intoxication.  The other memory is that it was a hot day, and along side the building, the workers had the doors open and had a pressing machine partially outside to get some cooler air for the workers!”

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy:
Selected Correspondence || 1965-1968

Dec. 14, 1965:  “Have [Becky Wiggins] do 3 or 4 different type songs” [see Q&A]

Dec. 21, 1965:  “Please find copy of my agreements” + “5% of the retail price”

Jan. 25, 1966:  “Anxious to get the sides recorded” + “what a rat race I’m in”

Feb. 17, 1966:  Pardon the delay – “echo chambers have been out in the studio”

Apr. 13, 1966:  “Returning your contracts so you can do something else” (!)

Sep. 16, 1968:  “Record should be out pronto” + keep your chin up

Oct. 9, 1968:  Final note = 45 to be issued in UK, but King “under new management”

PDF copy below of Keith Murphy’s contract with King (click on link)

Keith Murphy – Louis Innis contract (June 5, 1968)

Prior to the King 45, Murphy had actually recorded under the name Keith O’Conner as part of The Torkays, who recorded exclusively for Chicago’s Stacy Records (home of Al Casey, guitarist/bandleader behind three Lee Hazlewood A-sides in 1963 & 1964 for the label and not to be confused with The Torquays from Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High School, located across the [future] interstate, interestingly enough, from King Records).

In that pre-Beatle era, O’Conner was part of a Mark, Don & Mel-type of arrangement (sorry, kids – that’s a Grand Funk Railroad joke) with The Torkays — Frank, Keith, and Jimmy — who would write a martial arts-themed composition, “Karate,” for their recording debut in 1963, with “I Don’t Like It (But What Can I Do)” on the flip.

Q & A with King Recording Artist, Keith O’Conner Murphy

Q:  What led up to your getting signed by King?
A:  I started with a side project apart from my band The Daze.  They felt the chances of getting on a R&B label was such a long shot that they did not want to pursue it.  I wrote a Sonny and Cher type song called “We’re Gonna Get It” for myself and a girl named Becky Wiggins.  I started talking to Louis Innis of King in 1965.  He was very interested, as reflected in his letter which I have shared.  Sometime in 1966, Ft. Wayne native Troy Shondell, who had the big hit “This Time,” persuaded her to record for his small label 3 Rivers as Beck Holland with “I’m Going Away.”  So that scuttled the King deal.  In 1968, I then connected with Louis again, by myself, as the band still did not think it was worth the effort.  I actually was hoping to get on the Cincinnati Fraternity label, and interviewed with Harry Carlson, the owner.  He was a genuine caring person, but did not see a place in their current roster for me.  I liked his artist Mouse and the Traps, and he gave me a copy of their newly released “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win” – still one of my favorites.  The label was also home to Lonnie Mack, who recently passed, and my all time guitar instrumental favorite “Memphis.”  My next stop was King, and Louis was ready to go once I dropped some of my bold royalty demands!

Q:  Was Louis Innis Innis your main point of contact, given Syd Nathan’s death in March, 1968?  Who were some of the staff – as well as artists – you encountered during your time with King?
A:  I only worked with Louis Innis, a man I cannot say enough kind words for.  The only other person was a King engineer who I do not know the name of.  A white guy maybe in his 30’s.

Q:  Where was “home base” during your time with King — and what were your impressions of Evanston, as well as Cincinnati, during your tenure with the label?

A:   My home was the small country town of Sweetser, Indiana, and the other guys lived in the “big” town of Marion or the nearby Gas City.  Grant County Indiana is the same small rural county that Fairmount is in — home of James Dean and Jim Davis who created Garfield.

Q:  Did you live in Cincinnati for any extended period of time?
A:  I never lived in Cincy.  Being in the middle of Indiana, we knocked on doors in Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, and Cincy — the major cities with record companies.  I love Cincy, however, the hills and the friendliness and especially the Chili!

Q:  I dig the far-out backdrop used in your King promotional photo — was that photo taken at King’s art studio and who designed the cool “Daze” logo?
A:  We had a booking agent, Bill Craig Jr. of Muncie, Indiana who I think partially owned a TV station there.  He also managed the Chosen Few, who later were on RCA and Mercury.  That photo was taken at a nightclub he owned called Halcyon Days, and he used it to get bookings.  Our keyboard player who used a Hammond B3 Organ with a Leslie speaker, he made that DAZE sign which had colored lights that rotated behind it.

Q:  Which make/model of electric guitars, basses & drums were plugged into the Fender amplifiers pictured in the King promo photo?

A:  John played a Fender Jazzmaster, and at that time it looked like he was using Fender amps.  At other times he used Sunn, and I think for a short time the rolled and pleated Custom amps.  Jerry played a Fender bass, but bought a bass like Paul McCartney played sort of looked like a violin, a Hofner.  He didn’t have it long when it got stolen off the stage when we played a club in Detroit called The Mummp.

Q:  Where was home base originally for The Torkays, and what was the local response to your “Karate” 45 (which has a cool musical bridge, by the way, that loops back nicely to the verse)?
A:   “Karate” never got off the ground except in Pittsburgh.  Stacy’s biggest hit record, “Surfin’ Hootenanny” rightfully pushed everything else aside.  For some reason it has been revived on YouTube with several people posting it and 6,000 total views.  I wrote a song “Tiddlywink” for a German rockabilly band Black Raven, and they recorded it. They have notified me they want to record “Karate.”  I am surprised at the interest in this record.

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“Two Kings”:  A True Tale by Keith Murphy

Chip Taylor — did not know him, but we were both on the King label. He was on King under his real name Wes Voight.

“He was doing a concert here in NJ and I called him and left a message, and said I would like to meet him afterwards, telling him I was in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  Well, I was out in the yard, but fortunately he left a phone message congratulating me!  I met him after the concert and brought my and his King record and had him sign it along with my copies of “Wild Thing” on both the Atco and Fontana labels by the Troggs.  Reg Presley of the Troggs died around that time, and Chip had flown to England to attend the funeral, as their careers were forever bound together by that one iconic great rock song. It is the example I always give of how important arrangement is.  The Troggs had the creative genius to put an ocarina and other stuff on there.  Chip just was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame [also famous for 1968 smash hit, “Angel of the Morning”] this summer, and I called him and congratulated.  He should have been in there a long time ago.”

“Two Kings”:  Chip Taylor (a.k.a., Wes Voight) and Keith Murphy

Keith Murphy is also a voting member of the Grammys and Country Music Association

 

A   K i n g   R e c o r d s   V i n t a g e   H i s t o r y   M o m e n t

Full text of news item from the Nov. 23, 1968 edition of Billboard

Lin Broadcasting Buys Starday-King for $5 Mil; Execs Policy Retained

NASHVILLE — Lin Broadcasting Corp., owner of communication outlets, has purchased Starday and King Records and their affiliated companies for $5 million.

Fred Gregg Jr., Lin’s chairman of the board and president, said this would mean a great expansion program here.  “It will mean an additional $6 million to $8 million in gross income to the Nashville music economy,” he said.

The corporate structure of Starday-King will remain the same, with Don Pierce, president; Hal Neely, vice-president; Jim Wilson, vice-president for marketing; Johnny Miller in charge of the Cincinnati office; Henry Glover, manager of the New York office; and Harlen Dodsen, general counsel.

“Nashville will now be a complete operation in the rhythm and blues field,” Pierce said.  Pierce said James Brown now would record here, and would bring in the “right musicians for the r&b sound.”  Just having Brown record here, he said, would give tremendous impetus in this direction.  “Now that we’re working under a huge corporate structure,” Pierce said, “we can effect economies, efficiencies, acquisitions and total expansion.  We can compete for larger acts, go after great catalogs.”  He made it clear, though, that the sale in no way affects the operation of the business or its past policies.

Both Gregg and Pierce said they plan new overseas music companies in England, Germany and France at first, and eventually in other nations.  Pierce said the firm would expand its overseas distribution and exploit its various companies around the world.

The Starday president said he was obtaining a record club contract for King with Columbia, RCA and Capitol, the same ones with which Starday now has an arrangement.  He said the club membership would include James Brown.

Pierce, one of the founders of the Country Music Association, was Billboard’s Man of the Year in 1962 and is vice-president of RIAA.  Starday was founded in 1952 in Los Angeles and moved here in 1957.

Recently (Billboard, Oct. 26) Starday acquired the King Records operation.  Those holdings included the record and distribution operation and masters, Lois Music and its publishing subsidiaries, the Royal Plastics Pressing operation, and the long-term contract of Brown.  Starday holdings include Hollywood, Look and Nashville Records, and Starday, Tarheel and Kamar Music.

Bonus Craft Project!  Make Your Own King Records stationery

Additional history on Keith Murphy in this interview from 60sGarageBands.com

Santa’s in the Victrola: Spooky

The male heir to the Zero to 180 fortune insisted that his father write a history piece centered around a nearly 100-year-old Christmas song that, for today’s generation, inspires apprehension and consternation — but was that the intent of Arthur A. Penn, the songwriter responsible for “Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph“?

Editorial comments from those old-timers at Archive.org show that the unsettling feelings evoked by this recording are actually a cross-generational phenomenon:

This is one of the more unusual of Edison’s records.  Listen to Santa’s sinister laugh he makes as he tries to sound fun, loving and kind.  The www.menloparkmuseum.com staff agrees — if we were kids, we’d run!

“Santa Claus Hides in Your Paragraph”     Harry Humphrey     1922

Rebecca from the Jolly Reindeer blog puts it another way:

An obvious indicator of how far we’ve come since the days of Edison is represented in the recordings themselves. While it’s no surprise that the sound quality has improved, it’s interesting to note one particular improvement as well:

Santa is less creepy!

In 2009, “Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph” would make the #9 spot in ListVerse‘s Top 10 Eerie Recordings.

This is a 1922 recording made by Thomas Edison of Harry E. Humphrey.  It was intended to be sold to owners of Edison’s phonograph so that their children could have some Christmas joy.  In fact, on the contrary it is rather awful.  If I were a kid, this would put me off Christmas forever.  That laugh!  Ugh!

Click on image to view in ultra-high resolution

Robert Helpmann” would magnify the creep factor when “he” incorporated an excerpt from “Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph” played backwards in “his” edgy and/or disturbing video [caution to the easily-spooked] “Daisy Helps Out in the Kitchen” — as well as 11 other short films uploaded simultaneously on one day, July 12, 2015, on YouTube?  Who, exactly, is “Robert Helpmann” and is this a ‘Paul Is Dead‘-like hoax?  Inside a Mind, in their investigative video, seems to have figured it all out.

Jerome from Watch Tower History points out that Harry Humphrey (“monologist, elocutionist, actor and recording artist”) and his association with Edison goes all the way back to 1912, when Humphrey made his first recording.  Jerome, too, helpfully demystifies the technical aspects around the recording process in that era:

In those days, raw sound with its limited frequency range was literally collected by a horn and sent to equipment that vibrated a cutting stylus.  Recording artistes sometimes had to virtually put their head into the recording horn and shout to get an acceptable result.

Speaking of primitive sound technology, have you ever seen a cylinder record being played back?  Play the video below and also be sure to click on the link above to enjoy “thematic playlists” of recordings that go as far back as the 19th century, thanks to the fine folks at the UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio Archive.

“Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph”     cylinder record     1922

How cool to discover that the Library of Congress catalog record for this 1922 recording by Thomas Alva Edison also includes the ability for anyone to (a) play a copy of the original recording and/or (b) download this 12.8 GB file to your own computer!

The US National Park Service has also posted this recording on its website for the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, New Jersey.

I wonder if the Arthur A. Penn Estate is aware that someone named Alan Brown has taken credit for having written a song with a nearly identical title — “Santa Claus Hides in The Phonograph” — that was released in 1923 for the US and Australian markets on the Brunswick label.

But wait, it turns out that Okeh had released “Santa Claus Hides in the Talking Machine” – penned by Arthur A. Penn but performed by Ernest Hare – in 1921, meaning that Harry Humphrey, alas, did not record the original version.

Check out the Art Deco label art on this 78

“Can’t You See”: Rare (?!) Wailers

Back in 1966 when The Wailers were three vocalists (and not a backing band for reggae music’s most famous artist), Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer were under contract to Coxsone Dodd‘s Studio One label.  Recently, after re-watching the 1992 Peter Tosh documentary, Red X, I suddenly got the urge to listen to the original 1966 Studio One recording of “Can’t You See” — a song authored by Tosh that sounds completely unlike anything else recorded by the Wailers from 1963-1966, stylistically and otherwise.   So imagine my surprise when I discovered this recording’s complete absence from YouTube.

After a couple well-placed phone calls and a little bit of knob twiddling, Zero to 180 has now made it possible for you [depending on your geographical location*] to hear streaming audio of the song for the first time on YouTube.  Blink and you will miss the percussion intro that kicks off the song (an intro, by the way, that fails to reappear in all future arrangements/recordings of the song — e.g., the early reggae version recorded across town at Leslie Kong’s studio in 1970, or the heavier roots reggae version laid down at Kingston’s Dynamic Sound in 1979, with Geoffrey Chung’s assistance):

“Can’t You See”     Peter Tosh & The Wailers     1966

[*Per email from ‘The YouTube Team’ dated May 15, 2018:  “Due to a copyright claim, your YouTube video has been blocked in some countries. This means that your video is still up on YouTube, but people in some countries may not be able to watch it.”]

Roger Steffens and Leroy Pierson, in the liner notes to the double-disc Wailers retrospective, One Love at Studio One, point out the “beat group” influences (during a particularly creative period for the Stones) that are evident in this standout track:

“Can’t You See” demonstrates Tosh’s early interest in rock and roll, particularly the influence of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with whom he would sign a dozen years hence.  Peter leads.

A little surprised to see Tosh’s name appear just thrice on the songwriting credits for the 40 songs included on this double-disc retrospective (Bunny Wailer’s name, by comparison, appears seven times).

20-track LP version (1994)      -vs.-      40-track 2-CD release (1994)

In 2010, someone (in Sweden) would pay exactly $213 for a “blank original Coxsone” release of “Can’t You See.”  But wait — two years prior, someone (in France) had paid $256 for a blank original release.

Genre-wise, how do I “tag” this recording?  It’s certainly not rocksteady, despite being recorded the year of rocksteady’s birth.  And calling it reggae makes even less sense.  Zero to 180 may live to regret its (desperate) decision to tag it as “rocksteady” anyway.

“H2O Gate Blues”: Silver Spring

As you may have already gathered, Zero to 180 has a soft spot for music history related to Silver Spring, Maryland.  We now know, for instance, that Track Recorders (with help from its chief engineer, Bill McCullough) was an important recording facility in the 1970s, outside of New York and Los Angeles.  We also know that Adelphi Studios (founded by Gene Rosenthal), enjoys renown for its 1960s and 70s recordings of seminal rediscovered blues artists, such as Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Rev. Gary Davis, and Honeyboy Edwards (tapes that were, in fact, purchased last year by Oxford, Mississippi blues label, Fat Possum).

Downtown Silver Spring [click on image for ultra-high resolution]

Silver Spring (okay, nearby Edmonston) also manufactured affordable, quality KAPA guitars in the 1960s, thanks to Koob Veneman, and even inspired a song that would be left off Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album — and thus serve as a wedge issue that ultimately helped drive the band apart.

Zero to 180 now asks:  Does anyone in Silver Spring remember D&B Sound Studio?  Gil Scott-Heron and his musical partner Brian Jackson recorded their first three albums – 1974’s Winter in America, 1975’s From South Africa to South Carolina & 1975’s The First Minute of a New Day – at D&B Sound.

“H2O Gate Blues” from Winter in America was recorded in 1973, either September 4th/5th or October 15th, according to Discogs – it’s not clear.  But wait!  This Timeline of the Watergate Scandal notes the resignation of Vice-President, Spiro Agnew (and former Maryland governor) on October 10th!   Listen for yourself, and you will know:

“H2O Gate Blues”     Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson     1973

Be it thus resolved:  “H2O Gate Blues” was laid on tape the fifteenth day in the month of October, 1973.

ESPN panelist, visiting University of Maryland professor, and Washington Post columnist, Kevin Blackistone would reference D&B Sound in the opening paragraph in a 2017 Post sports piece about Adam Jones that begins with a quote from Gil Scott-Heron — who himself wrote about the experience of recording at D&B in his 2012 memoir, The Last Holiday:

Dan Henderson, who was still our manager, and his wife, Wilma, eventually moved into the house with me and Brian, too, and in the fall of 1973 we went into D&B Sound in Silver Spring, Maryland, and began recording the album Winter in America.  D&B was small, but it had a comfortable feeling — and it had Jose Williams as the engineer.  The main room was so small that when Brian and I did tunes together, one of us had to go out in the hallway where the water cooler was located.  I did vocals for “Song for Bobby Smith” and “A Very Precious Time” from there, and Brian played flute on “The Bottle” and “Your Daddy Loves You” right next to that cooler.  A lot of people wanted to know wanted to know who it was playing flute on “The Bottle,” because it wasn’t specifically credited on the Winter in America album.  It was Brian.  He also played flute on “Back Home.”  Those are all his arrangements.  By the time we did Winter in America, Brian had become a very good flute player.  He also played Fender Rhodes on that album.

The Daily Beast‘s Marcus Baram in 2014 would provide a wider context for the artistic vision behind Winter in America:

Gil and Brian’s next album, Winter in America, on Strata-East, was credited to both Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson.  It was originally planned as a concept album called Supernatural Corner, in reference to the haunted vibe of the house at One Logan Circle.  The record was intended to tell the story of an African American soldier coming home from Vietnam to an America that was indifferent to his experience and hostile to his race and who eventually loses his mind.  The narratives in the song were taken from the soldier’s therapy sessions in a psychiatric ward, Jackson later explained.  One of the original songs, “White Horse Nightmare,” is about the veteran’s heroin addiction. But the label [Arista] considered the album too morose, and Gil and Brian took out some of the songs, leaving “Rivers of My Fathers,” “Back Home,” “The Bottle,” and a few new pieces.

They had recorded the album in the beginning of September 1973, at Dan Henderson’s D&B Sound Studio, in Silver Spring, Maryland.  The space was so small that there wasn’t enough room for both of them in the studio, so Gil would sing in the studio while Brian played flute in a hallway next to a water cooler.  The tight quarters only added to Gil’s discomfort, and he complained about how long the sessions were taking.  True to the ethos of the impromptu jams and poetry readings he’d soaked in as a teenager at jazz clubs in New York, he felt alive when he was performing and disliked the recording process.  Whereas some musicians love to tweak their songs and do multiple takes in the studio, Gil tried to get it done as quickly as possible.  Engineer Robert Hosea Williams, who had recorded Roberta Flack and funk guitarist Chuck Brown, recalls, “Gil was one of the hardest I’ve ever recorded.  He had to do everything at once.”  Not only would he resist multitrack recording, in which each section of the song is isolated and separately recorded, but “he never shut up,” says Williams.  “When he would sing a verse and then start talking, it was crazy to record.  We’d have to erase those things later.”  Sometimes they would leave the mistakes in there.  When drummer Bob Adams skipped a beat at the 1:40 mark of “The Bottle,” the band wanted to rerecord the track, but Gil said, “No, that’s okay.”

Winter in America is an album that can do fairly well at auction, when all the stars are in alignment.

This information is all very interesting to know — but none of it addresses the vexing question of where D&B Sound was originally located.  Zero to 180, after unsuccessful consultation with a number of Silver Spring veterans who were around in the 1970s, would seek out the assistance of a librarian – Jerry McCoy of the Silver Spring Historical Society – who knew exactly where to look:

D&B Sound Studios = listed just below D.B. Creighton Associates

Thanks to the Silver Spring Historical Society’s own collection of Polk’s Silver Spring, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Takoma Park & Wheaton City Directory (1973 edition), we now know that D(&)B Sound Studios [Jose Williams & Jules Danian, proprietors] once stood at 8037 13th Street in Silver Spring, Maryland, just over the Maryland-DC line.

Furthermore, Gregg Karukas, one of the early members of Tim Eyermann & East Coast Offering, enlightened Zero to 180 to the fact that Jules Danian is the principal figure who established Juldane Records.  The group’s debut and sophomore releases on Juldane would be recorded at D&B — a memorable time, recalls Karukas:

“I’ll never forget when we were tracking the record, we did three tracks, a couple of takes, and we were in the groove, we wanted to record some more songs and Jules said ‘wait a minute’ on the talk back.  After about five minutes we went in the control room and realized that he was splicing together tape (outtakes) from other used reels in the tape room, because he had only purchased one fresh reel of tape for our session…….and he was the producer/engineer/label.  I was furious…..well, more like:  really?”

Sadly, as Jerry McCoy notes, “this building has been demolished.”  Do any pictures of the studio exist, one cannot help but wonder.

Also Recorded at D&B SoundThese 45s & LPs

Peggy Weston   “The Sun” b/w “Mellow”   1973

The Summits   “Let Me Love You Again” b/w “It Takes Two”   1973

Skip Mahoney & the Casuals   “Your Funny Moods” b/w “Struggling Man”   1973

Sons of Nature   “Ride the Vibe” b/w “Traveling Star”    1974

Past, Present & Future   “Love on the Line” b/w “Too Many Fish”   1974

Peggy Weston:  “Night Bird” b/w [?]   1974

The Summits   “Sleepwalking” b/w “I’ll Never Say No”   1974

Skip Mahoney & the Casuals   “Seems Like…” b/w “Town Called No-Where”   1974

Skip Mahoaney & the Casuals   Your Funny Moods   1974   [LP]

Phase II   “Phase II (pt. 1)” b/w “Phase II (pt. 2)”  1975

Willie Mason   “Same Mistake Twice” b/w “Chocolate City Boogie”  1975

Stanley Woodruff’s US Trio   “Took You So Long” b/w “Now Is Forever”   1976

Stanley Woodruff’s US Trio   “Shadows” b/w “Walk Softly”   1976

Hills of Zion w/ Claude Alston & Dacario Darden  “Heaven Bound Train”   197?

Eddie Drennon & B.B.S. Unlimited  Would You Dance to My Music  1977   [LP]*

* [Note:  LP also recorded at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound]

Tim Eyermann   Unity   1977   [LP]

Tim Eyermann & East Coast Offering   Go-Rilla   1978   [LP]

Also, this wee historical postscript from the Nov 21, 1971 edition of Billboard:

“At D[&]B Sound in Silver Spring[s], Maryland, James Marshall and the Village Soul Choir were in for a session.  Willie Mason of Jay Walking Records also came in for a session.”

Ace Visits King Records Archives

“There is an argument that it was all downhill for recording when music stopped being cut straight to disc.”

Ace Records UK has a catalog of reissues that is both all over the map and right out of this world.  I am hardly the first person to be knocked out by the amount of attention and care Ace lavishes on its subjects, one of them being the King Records musical legacy.  Ace’s website, unsurprisingly, documents the company’s journey in meticulous chronological fashion.  1993, for instance, would find Ace gaining the confidence and trust of IMG/Gusto, owner of the King master recordings:

Originally stationed in Cincinnati, Syd Nathan’s immense King Records was, by the 90s, located at Gusto Records in Nashville.  We had licensed the Scepter/Wand and Musicor labels owned by the same company for some time.  We finally got to access the well-organised King vaults and what a wonder they were.  Pretty soon, the Delmore Bros where rubbing shoulders with Freddie King, Wynonie Harris shouted the blues at Moon Mullican:  great sounding records from well-preserved tapes.  Some years later, we shipped the original 16” acetates that contained the first recordings to our studio.  We have been transferring them to digital ever since, releasing many previously unheard performances in pristine sound.  There is an argument that it was all downhill for recording when music stopped being cut straight to disc.

Twelve years hence, Ace’s work with the original King acetates would reach fever pitch:

In the wake of some intense tape research and unearthing original 16” acetates in Nashville, the King label was our big thing of the year.  Before recording on tape, music was cut directly to large discs which were then copied, processed and used to make commercial 78s.  These acetates are a remarkable archive.  In those 16” grooves are many previously unheard recordings.  Also, those that were released were often drenched in reverb.  Our first two releases from this source were a pair of contrasting sets, one with six new performances from the Delmore Brothers, and one with seven previously unissued sides by Roy Brown.

Ace UK’s Tony Rounce would serve as fly-on-the-wall reporter to document the effort – this information reprinted with the understanding that Zero to 180 readers will seek out and purchase these quality King reissues from an honest-to-goodness music store:

Ace Visits the King Records HQ in Nashville by Tony Rounce

As all R&B fans will know, Ace has long reaped the benefits of its ongoing access to the King Records catalogue, thanks in no small way to the cordial relationship we enjoy with the catalogue’s owner, Mr. Moe Lytle, his international representative Stephen Hawkins and the excellent, hard working team at King’s Nashville HQ.  Ace’s A&R team makes no secret of the fact that each of us loves multiple aspects of the King catalogue, and thus it’s never anything but sheer pleasure to be involved with the reissue of the company’s superlative recordings.

Through the kind auspices of Mr. Lytle, Ace’s A&R team has, or the past couple of years, been privileged to receive the ‘run of the vault’, during what has now become annual two-week trips to Nashville.  Under the supervision of Ace’s MD Roger Armstrong a team of the company’s senior A&R guys has been permitted to access the entire King tape inventory, and to copy as much repertoire to DAT as can be copied in the time we have available to us.  Happily for us, the friendly folk at King are more than amenable to putting in a few extra hours here and there to enable us to start early, and leave late, each day in our attempts to bring you as many quality reissues as we can assemble from two weeks worth of heads-down, no-nonsense copying.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned, on both sides of the pond.

King’s formidable and extremely well-organised tape vault is complemented by a well-preserved collection of mint ‘library copy’ 45s and 78s, which between them contain a copy of virtually every record ever released on King, or one of its subsidiaries.  If this information is not itself enough to make most long-time R&B and soul collectors go weak at the knees, the knowledge that many of those vinyl and shellac masterpieces are blank label test pressings, with the label copy written in King founder Syd Nathan‘s own meticulous hand, will surely have most collectors reaching for the nearest comfy chair, while simultaneously clutching a bottle of maximum-strength smelling salts.

But that, as they say, is definitely not all, folks.  Until very recently, the King vaults also contained most of that company’s original acetates, cut between 1944 and 1951 (Syd, like many other indie operatives, did not initially trust the longevity of tape, and he insisted on cutting acetate ‘safeties’ until such times as the durability of oxide could be fully confirmed), and it also included a copious quantity of acetates from those labels King acquired along the way, such as De Luxe.  Most of the acetates had been in storage since Mr. Lytle’s Gusto Records purchased King in the mid 1970s, and most of them were in the same immaculate condition that they had been when they were first cut, over 50 years ago.

«          «          Zero to 180’s samples of King acetates          »          »

1953 tune penned by henry Glover + 1966’s “Stop Talking to Your Child, Mother-in-Law

Acetate of James Brown’s 3-part single from 1971

Those who are worrying about the use of the past tense here will be glad to know that it’s being used for a very good reason.  The acetates were in the King vaults, until very recently.  However, and as this piece is being written, those same acetates are now on their way from Nashville to Ace Towers, where each and every note of music they contain will be copied, downstairs at Sound Mastering Ltd over the course of the next year, to produce an unprecedented series of Ace CDs which will aim to present this historic and hugely important catalogue’s early masters as they have never been heard before (and, in many case, as they have never been heard, period!)

Ace had been discussing the possibility of undertaking such a task with Mr. Lytle and his team for some considerable time, so it goes without saying that we were all beside ourselves with happiness when permission was given for us to undertake the formidable task of decanting several hundred crumbling 25-count boxes of acetates into bigger and sturdier ones, for safe shipment from there to here.  My Ace colleague Alec Palao and I had the arduous, but ultimately very rewarding, task of packing over 60 boxes, each containing at least 60-80 acetates.  This might sound like a chore to some but, as we opened each box and steadily annotated the packing list, we were as excited as a couple of alcoholics with a month-long lock-in at their favourite neighbourhood bar.  It took us the best part of a week to work our way through the lot, but we couldn’t have been happier with the end result.

An incredible number of acetates have survived the passage of time and, in most cases, in a condition that could only be described as “Mint Minus”.  Unfortunately, a few of the earliest acetates were glass-based, and several of them had broken somewhere along the line, including, sad to say, some unique items that will now never be heard in anything other than ‘from 78’ quality.  However, the vast majority of the acetates were and are metal-based – so no fear of breakages there, although a few had corroded beyond salvation.  On the whole, though, the condition of these unique sound sources was, and is, superb, and the quality of the CDs that Ace will be able to produce from them ought to be nothing less than phenomenal.

As the chief ‘acetate-sorter-outer’, it fell to me to decide which slates to ship where there were multiple copies of the same one, thus I got to see every acetate as it moved from box to box.  I need not explain to any collectors how much of a thrill this was, as the original acetates for Wynonie Harris‘ “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, Cowboy Copas‘ “Filipino Baby” and just about all of Hank Penny‘s first session for King flashed before my eyes, en route from a small carton to a packing box.  Even more thrilling was the discovery that, contrary to long-held beliefs in the blues community, early De Luxe acetates that were believed to have been lost in a warehouse fire in 1948 mostly had not been.  At least one take of most of the multitude of unissued and unheard Roy Brown sides were present and correct, as were other potential delights from legendary New Orleans names like Smiley Lewis, Eddie Gorman, Annie Laurie, Paul Gayten, Chubby Newsome & Dave Bartholomew.  If this is not exciting news, then I’ll eat both my hat AND yours.

From a personal point of view, coming upon the original acetates for King 501 (Bob McCarthy a.k.a. Merle Travis‘ “When Mussolini Laid His Pistol Down” [1943 – audio unavailable on YouTube] was a thrill and a half, as was locating the acetate containing several takes of the Travis/Hank Penny western swing classic “Merle’s Buck Dance”.  Who among us could not have been delighted to find out that the unissued Roy Brown‘s were alive and well, or that the likes of Homer and Jethro, John Lee Hooker, and the early Delmore Brothers/Wayne Raney sides would soon be heard a quality comparable to that in which they were originally recorded.  Certainly not anyone who works at Ace, that’s for sure.

The acetate reissue programme will not happen overnight, of course.  Much prioritising has to be done, followed by much transferring.  But we at Ace hope that we will have the first releases in the special ‘acetate’ series on the market by late spring of 2005.  Once the first titles are out we will be issuing further packages throughout 2005 and 2006 and, well, effectively until we run out of acetates to reissue, really.  In general, the release of these packages should forever do away with anyone’s need to buy any more unauthorised Out Of Copyright issues of King material from this era, which can only be a very good thing, really.

Of course, we will not be neglecting our programme of “from tape” King reissues, either.  While we were ‘on site’ in Nashville we also transferred enough sides, from original mastertapes, to extend our King programme well into 2006, even without the ‘acetate series’.  The first fruits of this side of our labours will be available in January, with the first-ever legal reissue of The Lamplighters‘ great Federal catalogue in superlative sound, followed by a ‘5Royales package that obviously includes the hits but that focuses its attentions mostly on those King sides which have been reissued less often or not at all.  As 2006 unfolds there will be a second volume of King Rock ‘n’ Roll, two more volumes (at least!) of King Doo Wop [four volumes in all], the complete recordings of Dominoes/Drifters-affiliated group The Checkers, a package of the early recordings of The Royals/Midnighters, a second volume of Little Willie John [sets one and two] and much more besides.  As Roger A. made the majority of the tape transfers for these packages, the guarantee that these will sound better than any other reissue of this material comes straight from the top!

Here at Ace, King will always be King, and we’re firmly committed to continuing to send it victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over all vintage R&B and Hillbilly aficionados.  Long live the King!

King-Related Titles Available from Ace UK

Click on link - free shipping in UK when ordered from Ace

Various Artists:  Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie

Various Artists:  Beef Ball Baby!  The New Orleans R&B Sessions

Various Artists:  King Rockabilly

Various Artists:  Rockabilly Kings [Charlie Feathers & Mac Curtis]

Various Artists:  King Doo Wop (Vol. One, Two, Three & Four)

Various Artists:  King Rock ‘n’ Roll (Vol. One & Two)

Various Artists:  Honky Tonk!  The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals

Various Artists:  Chicago Blues From Federal Records

Various Artists:  Welcome to the Club [Chicago blues on Federal]

Various Artists:  New Breed Rhythm & Blues

Various Artists:  King Northern Soul (Vol. OneTwo & Three)

Various Artists:  King Serious Soul (Vol. One & Two)

Various Artists:  Soul Ballads from King, Federal & Deluxe

Various Artists:   King Funk

Various Artists:  Royal Grooves – Funk & Groovy Soul

Various Artists:  The Best of King Gospel

Roy Brown:  King & Deluxe Acetate Series [+ 1 other title]

The CheckersComplete King Recordings

Delmore BrothersFreight Train Boogie & Fifty Miles to Travel – Acetates

Bill DoggettHonky Tonk Popcorn

Brother Claude ElySatan Get Back!

The5RoyalesCatch That Teardrop + King Hits & Rarities

Herb HardestyDomino Effect – The Wing & Federal Recordings

Wynonie HarrisKing & Deluxe Acetate Series [+ 2 other titles]

Ivory Joe Hunter:  Woo Wee!  King & Deluxe Acetate Series

Little Willie JohnEarly King Sessions & Later King Sessions

Grandpa Jones (& Merle Travis):  King & Deluxe Acetate Series

Freddy KingBlues Guitar Hero:  Volumes One & Two

The LamplightersComplete Federal Recordings

Little Willie LittlefieldGoing Back to Kay Cee

Stick McGheeAnd His Spo-Dee-O-Dee Buddies

Moon MullicanMoonshine Jamboree & Seven Nights to Rock

The PlattersComplete Federal Recordings

The Royals/MidnightersThe Federal Singles

Smokey SmothersBack Porch Blues

The Stanley BrothersRalph & Carter – The Later King Years

Otis Williams & the CharmsThe King/Deluxe Recordings

The York Brothers:  Long Time Gone:  King & Deluxe Acetate Series

«          «          Additional King Reissues of Note          »          »

Various Artists:  Soppin’ Up the Gravy 1945-1954

Various Artists:  Another Taste of King 1946-1954

Various Artists:  Shuffle TownWestern Swing on King 1946-1950

Various Artists:  King Strings:  King-Federal-Deluxe Guitar Grooves

Various Artists:  Mark LaMarr’s Rocking Up a Storm

Various Artists:  Mark LaMarr Presents Mule Milk ‘n’ Firewater

Various Artists:  Jiving Jamboree:  Vol. 3 [King/Federal dance tracks]

Various Artists:  I’ll Go Crazy:  The Federal Records Story

Various Artists:  After Hours – The King Records Story 1956-1959

Various Artists:  Only Young Once – King Records Story 1962

Various Artists:  Crash of Thunder:  Boss Soul, Funk and R&B Sides

Various Artists:  King R&B Box Set

The fine folks at Rhino would issue their King Master Series in the 1990s, with volumes devoted to Roy BrownLittle Willie John; Hank Ballard & the MidnightersBilly Ward & His DominoesThe ‘5’ RoyalesWynonie Harris & Freddy King.

Also, Westside would issue CD anthologies for such King artists as Zeb Turner, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Tiny Bradshaw, Bonnie LouThe Stanley Brothers, plus a special collection entitled Groove Station – King/Federal/Deluxe Saxblasters.

Calvin Shields – Musical Pioneer

Hard to believe it was only 20 years or so ago I was having cheese coneys with The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s preeminent music writer Larry Nager and asking what it would take for the city to finally “own up” to its King Records history.  Last week, to my utter delight and amazement, the City of Cincinnati, under Mayor John Cranley’s leadership and with the support of City Council, leveraged the power of the state on behalf of music history — so now Zero to 180 will have to find something else to complain about.

Thanks to a $1 land swap deal, there will be no wrecking ball for the original structure used by Syd Nathan and his talented team to birth a musical enterprise that enabled King the ability to ship out in the morning a piece of music that had been recorded the evening before.  As Brian Powers point out in his King Records Scrapbook, no other label – including almighty Columbia – had the nimbleness to operate in this capacity.

Photo courtesy of Brian Powers

Unique among fellow King chroniclers and researchers, Powers organizes his King Records Scrapbook categorically — The Executives; A&R Men; Sound Engineers; Session Musicians; Recording Artists — rather than chronologically, while throwing in  fun tidbits, such as a King Records Timeline of historical highlights plus street addresses of selected King artists and executives, including Syd Nathan (who once lived in Bond Hill an easy walk from the home of drummer, Reg Grizzard, and about a mile and a half from my boyhood home in Roselawn, as the crow flies).

Rob Finnis, in his extensive liner notes for Ace UK anthology King Rockabilly, reveals some of the audio engineering aspects behind King’s legendary sound (e.g., “Fever” by Little Willie John):

The live, upfront studio sound attained by engineer Eddie Smith had the bass and drums leaping out of the speakers with maximum impact.  [Charlie] Feathers wasn’t the only beneficiary [“Bottle to the Baby“].  This sharp, larger-than-life ambience characterizes several other titles on this compact disc including “Move” [Boyd Bennett], “Peg Pants” [Bill Beach], “No Good Robin Hood” [Delbert Barker], and “Rock n’ Roll Nursery Rhyme” [Dave Dudley].  “That old King studio had a terrific sound,” explained Henry Glover.  “It had a very high ceiling, maybe 24 feet, and the control room protruded into the studio in a V-shape like the bridge of a ship so the engineer could see in front and to the side of him.  I sent for an engineer by the name of Eddie Smith who was a very good technical man.  He stayed with King for about 12 years and later worked over at Bell Sound in New York.

Everything was done at one time, there was no multi-tracking; you would continue making cuts until you got every instrument, every voice, on the 1/4 inch tape and that was considered your final mix.  In those days, we were even thinking of frequencies and emphasis on various instruments.  Out of the regular upright bass, we got a sound just like today’s electric Fender bass by close-miking it with a microphone called the 44BX and surrounding it with live-surfaced acoustic isolation panels.  The drum sound in those days was generally gotten by releasing the drum snares completely and you’d put a heavy object like the drummer’s wallet – or Syd Nathan’s wallet – on the snare and the really hard-driving backbeat stroke was actually a rimshot.

Glover would be even more emphatic in his praise for King as a facility with great sound in this passage from Arnold Shaw‘s classic roots rock historical critique, Honkers and Shouters (which includes a chapter devoted to King Records entitled “Record Company in an Icehouse”):

Shortly after he joined King Records, Glover moved to Cincinnati “because Syd Nathan had built one of the finest recording studios in the country and staffed it with Eddie Smith, a former musician who was a brilliant engineer.”

Calvin Shields behind the kit [photo courtesy Brian Powers]

Last year, on the eve of the city’s Historic Commission vote to consider the request for demolition, The Cincinnati Enquirer would subtitle Sharon Coolidge’s feature story on King in the Sunday edition, “Fight to Preserve the Legacy of King Records and Founder Syd Nathan at Crossroads” and include quotes from Patti Collins (Bootsy Collins Foundation), Elliott Ruther (Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation), Jon Hartley Fox (author of ‘King of the Queen City’), L.A. Reid (who actually grew up in Evanston), Otis Williams, Mayor John Cranley, former mayor Dwight Tillery, and Anzora Adkins of the Evanston Community Council.

Can you spot the gaffe?

Elliott Ruther, in the Enquirer piece, notes the progressive hiring practices employed by Nathan – in his attempt to extend his song publishing fortunes across the color line – that put King in the forefront of American race relations.  Powers point out that CalvinEagle EyeShields, in his studio work from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, may have been “the first black drummer to record country music.”

CALVIN ‘EAGLE EYE’ SHIELDS – 1950
[PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN POWERS]

Quotes from Henry Glover & Calvin ‘Eagle Eye’ Shields
[special thanks to Brian Powers*]

“I started using drums for the first time for country music with Moon Mullican.  He fell in love with a black drummer that I had been using on several dates around Cincinnati called Calvin Shields.  He was better known as ‘Eagle Eye.’  He was very, very friendly and dear to Moon Mullican.  He played on many of his sessions, and many of the other country & western records when they began to use drums, which they didn’t do when I first came to King.  [With] Moon Mullican, I would use a heavy backbeat that this drummer called Eagle Eye, that came there with Tiny Bradshaw a few years back and made Cincinnati his home, he was ideal for that, the backbeat.” – Henry Glover

“Moon had such a great soul.  He was just like a black man to me, you know, like he thought, felt, and expressed himself and everything else.  Like we would say he had a whole lot of soul, Moon did.” – Henry Glover

“Drums were a must for Moon.  Moon wanted drums.  And he fell madly in love with this drummer called Calvin Shields that we called Eagle Eye.” – Henry Glover

“Moon Mullican was the first to use a black band at King.  In just about every case, we had a black bass or maybe a black drummer with Moon in order to get the rhythm because Moon played like a black man and he even thought like a black man – in fact, I sometimes had my ideas about whether he was black or not!  He was the very first white man, I believe, that caught my eye as being not filled with bigotry or hatred … he found himself as comfortable among blacks as he did among whites.  And it’s a very funny thing – both races in those days were displaying standoff-ish attitudes — not Moon.  Moon would make most of the black clubs in the worst parts of town and all of his friends during the course of his stay would be black people.  He’d play in black clubs and they would give him a standing ovation.  It was very rare.” – Henry Glover

“Glover introduced us. I walked in and all those white cats sitting around wondering,  ‘Hey, he’s got a black man playing his music.’  So I don’t say nothing to them and they don’t say nothing to me.  So we played and that’s when I fell in love with him because it swung.  So Moon says ‘This is my drummer,’ so when he went to buy some whiskey for the group, he bought a bottle for them and a bottle of whisky for me and him.  He said, ‘Man, I want you to take me over to the Cotton Club,’ and I took him.  Tiny Bradshaw invited him up and he played nothing but Duke Ellington music.“ – Eagle Eye Shields

“When a cat becomes a studio musician, he’s a musician who plays anything they bring in front of him to play.  When I played with Moon Mullican, I enjoyed it.  When I played that Country music, I learned to swing with that Country-Western cause I got into their mood and into their groove.  When I got ready to play Rhythm & Blues, I got into their groove.  When I play dance music, legit music, I get in to a legit feel cause I am a musician.  I didn’t become a superstar.  My thing was to be good, in order to be in demand, to be sought after.” Eagle Eye Shields

[Moon had a number of hits in 1950 produced by Henry Glover including “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” “Mona Lisa” & “Goodnight Irene”; Mullican accepted the invitation to join in the Grand Ole Opry that year.]  “Then Moon said, ‘I want to take you on the Grand Ole Opry with me, man.’  I said, ‘No, I don’t want to go on that.’  He asked me if I would travel with him.  I told him if I’ll be out there in them towns, them junctions, you might not be around and they’ll done grab me and lynch me.’  But now I wish I had because, if I had got out with Moon, I might have made a name for myself.  I might have ended up with the big one – Willie Nelson.” – Eagle Eye Shields

Moon Mullican & Henry Glover

Shields, who took not only his father’s name but nickname as well, came to King through his membership in Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra.  Eagle Eye would conduct his session work for King in between performances with Bradshaw in town at Cincinnati’s Cotton Club and on the road in New York City.  Shields would subsequently serve as drummer for the Billy Williams Quartet (1957-1961), Della Reese (1967-1973) and music director/drummer for Redd Foxx (1978-1984).

Calvin Shields with Paul Bryant (organ) & Norris Patterson (sax) – 1962 in NV

Photo courtesy of UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

The index in King Labels:  A Discography, edited by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) helpfully identifies sessions where Calvin Shields served as the drummer, thus allowing Zero to 180 to compile a special list of suggested recordings — all of them captured on tape in Cincinnati (except Willis Jackson – NYC):

           Parlophone = Home of The Beatles                            French 10-inch LP

  King EP – US                                                          French EP

Abstract expressionist cover art for 1952 French LP

Furthermore, Eagle Eye is believed – as best as Brian Powers can determine – to have played on Moon Mullican‘s version of Tiny Bradshaw’s “Well Oh Well” [recorded July 3, 1950] and the classic “Cherokee Boogie (Eh-Oh-Aleena)” [December 8, 1950], written by Moon with Chief William Redbird, plus Hawkshaw Hawkins‘ version of Tennessee Ernie’s “Shotgun Boogie” [January, 1951] and Al Dexter‘s “Hi De Ho Boogie on a Saturday Night” [May 19, 1950] — all recorded at King’s Cincinnati studio.  Documentation from King’s early years, unfortunately, is often scant.

Shields would also keep time on an enchanting Latin-flavored instrumentalé tropicalé whose musical hook is a gloriously deep bass blast of the horn (B-flat):

“Ocean Liner (Bossa Nova)”     Bill Doggett     1959/1963

Ocean Liner” – penned by Henry Glover and Bill Doggett – would originally be released in 1959 but then “rebranded” in 1963 as “Ocean Liner Bossa Nova,” just in time to exploit the runaway success of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Jazz Samba LP (only jazz album ever to top Billboard’s pop chart) of 1962

   *                                                 *                                                 *

Calvin ShieldsInspiration for Mack Rice’sMustang Sally“?

According to Douglas Green Associates:

Mack Rice wrote “Mustang Sally” following a visit to his friend, singer Della Reese in New York City.  Reese had off-handedly mentioned that she planned to buy her drummer a Lincoln for his birthday.  Calvin Shields, the drummer, appreciated the thought but reportedly replied, “I don’t want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang.”  Shields’ response confused Rice.  He could not understand why anyone would want the small Mustang instead of the bigger and more powerful Lincoln.  After returning to Detroit, Rice began work on a song titled “Mustang Mama.”  A serendipitous visit to Aretha Franklin’s house led to the name change to “Mustang Sally.”  Franklin believed that “Mustang Sally” fit better with the music. And so the song was born.

Obituary from the Las Vegas Review-Journal + personal remembrances

*Henry Glover quotes are from an 1980s interview with the Country Music Hall of Fame *Calvin Shields quotes are from an interview conducted by Brian Powers in 2009.

**Willis “Gatortail” Jackson played a pivotal role in Jamaican music history when spies working for Duke Reid identified the source of Coxsone Dodd’s theme song (i.e., “Coxsone’s Hop”) that cemented Downbeat‘s status as the superior sound system in Kingston:  “Later for the Gatorby Willis Jackson [1958 – sounds not a little unlike ska].  In those pre-Internet days, operators of competing mobile sound systems would use American 45s with the labels scratched off as proprietary source material.  Duke Reid’s discovery of Coxsone’s source material would prompt Dodd into creating an original Jamaican sound in 1962 – ska – in time for the birth of JA’s independence.  Much more direct evidence of the Cincinnati-Kingston connection can be found here and here

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