King Records: Oddball Historical Tidbits

Triple Threat – the debut album by jazz multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk – was originally released on the King label in 1956, rereleased on Bethlehem as Third Dimension, and on the Affinity label as Early Roots.  Kirk on tenor sax, stritch, manzello, & siren (!), with James Madison on piano, Carl Pruitt on bass, and Henry Duncan on drums.

Roland Kirk-Triple Threat-aTitle track “Triple Threat” recorded in New York City on November 9, 1956

Rare James Brown single – “The Drunk” – was released in 1970 on King subsidiary, Bethlehem. Unfortunately, no audio recording available yet on the web, which is a shame since the song features rhythmic propulsion by William Hargis “Beau Dollar” Bowman.  Egon notes in his well-researched audio essay about the outsized influence of short-lived drummer for James Brown, “Beau Dollar,” who would also be a King recording artist in his own right:

“Recorded one year after ‘Mother Popcorn’ in May 1970, ‘The Drunk’ is supposedly Bowman’s last recording for King.  Since Stubblefield and the rest of Brown’s classic ’60s band – with the exception of drummer John ‘Jabo’ Starks – had either left Brown’s employ or been fired by this point, [James Brown discographer, Alan] Leeds postulates that Bowman – the only drummer in Cincinnati that could have pulled off this beat – played on this David Matthews-penned instrumental.  Matthews’ overall assessment of Bowman is clearly illustrated on this single: ‘Beau was the best white funk drummer in Cincinnati … This single was his heaviest, and a fitting swan song.'”

James Brown - The Drunk 45

From Michel Ruppli’s The King Labels discography we learn that “part two” is what ended up being issued as the A-side while “part one” remains unissued to this day.  Both parts recorded on May 20, 1970 at King’s Cincinnati studios.  Musical fight45Cat lists “The Drunk” as the A-side while Discogs deems it the B-side.  Both sources agree that its backing track – “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” – charted on July 18, 1970 on Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart, peaking at #110.

One more James Brown-related historical note:  Troy Seals, hall-of-fame songwriter (and one-time member of The Dapps who wrote “Two Old Cats Like Us“), once played guitar on an April, 1967 recording session at King’s Cincinnati studios that resulted in “Why Did You Take Your Love Away from Me”:

LP-only track:  “Why Did you take your love away from me”

In 1959 The Sportcoats would release their one and only King single – title of the flip side:  “‘A’ Side!  At the time of release, Billboard staff would give this single a one-star rating; a copy of this 45 is currently for sale on Ebay for $100.

Hundred-dollar disc?

Sportcoats $100 45An artist by the name of Scoopie Brucie released his lone single on King Records, 1972’s “The Whole Thing,” a country novelty tune “with lyrics based on the tagline of the old Alka Seltzer ad campaign.  The vocal style apes that of Jerry Reed, even working in titles of Reed’s songs ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot’ and ‘She Got the Gold Mine, I Got the Shaft’ into the lyrics” (says Discogs) backed with “Ya’ll Come.”

Scoopie Brucie 45Pee Wee King‘s ace western swing outfit – The Golden West Cowboys – once backed country comedian, Minnie Pearl, in an August, 1946 recording session [possibly] at Cincinnati’s King Records (says Prague Frank – although Randy McNutt, in King Records of Cincinnati, states 1947 to be the year Syd Nathan “built a recording studio in back of the loading dock” – hmm) that yielded exactly one single, “In the Shadow of the Pine” b/w    “On Top of Old Smoky.”

Minnie Pearl King 78Randy McNutt weighs in on the controversy:  “The Minnie Pearl recording could not have been recorded at the King Recording Studio as we know it.  It didn’t open until the fall of 1947.  Perhaps the King guys were using some equipment there and recording by then. I don’t know.  I know they had been experimenting early on with various kinds of recording equipment.  The Pearl record was cut in August and September of 1946, but the location is not given in the company log, according to the King Labels, A Discography.  It could have been done anywhere–perhaps even at the Bucky Herzog studio in Cincinnati. I’d be interested in knowing where.”

Simon & Garfunkel‘s first 45 – their #49 hit from 1957 (sung as ‘Tom & Jerry‘) that in no way resembles the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Suzie – was leased by Syd Nathan in 1958 and reissued as a King 7-inch, “Hey, Schoolgirl.”

Tom & Jerry King 45Similarly, in 1963 King would lease the tapes to Slim Dusty & His Bushlanders version of 1960 Australian hit – “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” – that would hit big three years later in the US:

Slim Dusty King 45On a limited budget – as always – this would be the closest King could come to actually getting a piece of The Beatles during their initial burst of fame:

Beehives King single