Seymour Stein & King Records II

Henry Stone on Seymour Stein of Sire Records:

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

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

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

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

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

Seymour Stein would be the one on the right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Another Woman’s Man”     Joe Tex     1955

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

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

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

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

Seed Money for Sire:  Beatlemania

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

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

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

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

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

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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 II

Billboard would report the following news item in its July 8, 1967 edition:

Col. to Release Two R&B, Country LP’s From King

NEW YORK — Columbia Records will issue two albums of all time best sellers from the catalog of King Records.  One package will contain country material and the other rhythm and blues.  The deal, considered unusual, was okayed by Bill Gallagher, Columbia Records vice-president, after discussions with Seymour Stein of Sire Productions.  Stein, who regards the deal as a tribute to the achievement of Syd Nathan, president of King, produced the packages from masters in the King archives.

Each of the albums contains 18 performances.  The country package, titled 18 King Size Country Hits, includes “Signed Sealed and Delivered” by Cowboy Copas, “Blues Stay Away From Me” by the Delmore Brothers, “Mountain Dew” by Grandpa Jones, “Money, Marbles and Chalk” by the writer Pop Eckler, and sides by the Carlisle Brothers, Jimmy Osbourne, Wayne Raney, Moon Mullican, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Reno and Smiley.

The second package, titled 18 King Size Rhythm and Blues Hits, contains such classics as “Fever” by Little Willie John; “Work With Me Annie” by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters; “Hearts of Stone” by Otis Williams and the Charms; “Honky Tonk” by Bill Doggett; “Sixty Minute Man” by Billy Ward and the Dominoes, and additional sides by James Brown and the Flames, Otis Redding, the Five Royales, Ivory Joe Hunter, Freddy King, Bullmoose Jackson, Wynonie Harris, and Earl Bostic.

The packages will also be distributed by the Columbia Record Club.”

Could the 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 78Stein 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