R A R E K I N G T R A C K S *
Merle Travis — along with Grandpa Jones — would inaugurate King Records in 1943 as the first two musical artists to record for Syd Nathan. But because both musicians were under contract to Powell Crosley’s WLW (“The Nation’s Station“), Travis and Jones would record under assumed names (i.e., ‘The Sheppard Brothers’ and ‘Bob McCarthy’) in the next big city north of Cincinnati: Dayton. Nearly lost in history’s shuffle is this interesting historical tidbit: Merle Travis’s lone King recording as a solo artist (“What Will I Do“) would be captured in 1944, while King was still in its embryonic stages, but kept in the can for nearly 20 years until issued in 1963, along with tracks from other country artists, in a compilation album entitled Nashville Bandstand (no audio for this track yet on YouTube).
Includes rare 1944 track by Merle Travis, depicted below by upside down guitar
[Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones would also team up with The Delmore Brothers (Alton & Rabon) as The Brown’s Ferry Four, a gospel quartet (augmented by Louis Innis on guitar and Ray Starkey/Red Foley on bass), whose final recording sessions in 1951 and 1952 would take place in Cincinnati at the King Studios.]
- “I Gotta Gallop into Gallop (Gotta Gal Upon My Mind)” by Charlie Linville and the Fiddlin‘ Linvilles also from October, 1946.
- “My In Laws Made an Outlaw Out of Me” by Hank Penny from October, 1946.
In-Laws as Butt of Joke (part 2)
One other notable early comic title: In September of 1945, King Records released a 78 by The Carlisle Brothers whose B-side — “Baby You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me” — features an infectious chorus and sweet swooping lap steel (click on audio link below):
“Baby You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me” The Carlisle Brothers 1945
The audio clip above was posted on YouTube (as I type these words on October 10, 2016) just 10 days prior on September 30th
This same song would be covered thirteen years later by rockabilly duo Tag & Effie and released on Kentucky indie, Summit, in 1958. Notably, Tag Willoughby would take songwriting credit in spite of what Cliff Carlisle (and/or Syd Nathan) might have to say:
“Baby, You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me” Tag & Effie 1958
Mental Floss‘s “Five Candidates for the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Song” rightly selects Wynonie Harris‘s “Good Rocking Tonight” (recorded December 28, 1947 at King’s Cincinnati studios) and even cites Arthur Crudup‘s “That’s All Right Mama” from 1946. And yet the term rock ‘n’ roll did not appear in song titles until 1954, although mostly 1955. Which is what makes the song “Rock and Roll Blues” by Erline Harris — recorded April, 1949 and released on Deluxe, a King subsidiary purchased by Syd Nathan in 1947 — remarkably ahead of the curve.
Jazz pioneer and long-time NPR (“Piano Jazz“) host, Marian McPartland, would have exactly one encounter with King Records: a NYC recording session March 15, 1951 that resulted in 4 songs [“Flamingo“; “It’s Delovely“; “Liebestraum No. 3“; “Four Brothers“] that would enjoy release in the US, UK, and France. In additional to two 78 releases, King subsidiary, Federal, would issue a playfully-titled EP — Progressive Piano with Cello, Harp, Bass and Drums — in 1954, while these same songs would be issued in the UK four years later under the title of the Cole Porter track, It’s Delovely.
1954 Federal EP 1951 FRENCH 78 – with Art Deco lettering
The father of New Orleans piano playing — “Professor Longhair” (i.e., Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd) — would cross paths with King Records by way of a single New Orleans recording session – December 4, 1951 – that yielded four songs: “K.C. Blues“; “Curley Haired Baby“; “Rocking with Fes“; and “Gone So Long.” These four songs would be divided between two single releases on Federal, while “Gone So Long” would also be included on 1963 King compilation album Everybody’s Favorite Blues.
Remember Zero to 180’s musical salute to grits? Red McAllister‘s “Eggs & Grits” from 1952 — co-written by Henry Glover — would be King’s great contribution to this elite assemblage of rib-sticking musical morsels.
Henry Glover would also be one of the three songwriters behind “Pig Latin Blues” — playfully articulated by LaVern Baker (backed by The Todd Rhodes Orchestra) — a song recorded July 1, 1952 in Cincinnati.George Stogner would find a way to fuse boogie with hot rodding — “Hardtop Race” — in 1953, two years before Charley Ryan’s original “Hot Rod Lincoln.”Musical Synchronicity: Two mambo-themed songs were recorded at Cincinnati’s King studios on the very same day — November 12, 1954: “Mambo Honky Tonk” by The Morgan Sisters (no audio yet on YouTube) + “Tennessee Mambo” by Bonnie Lou.
Clearly, 1954 was the year of the mambo, just judging by the titles of all 4 songs recorded by Don Ippolito & His Orchestra on December 14, 1954: “Camptown Races Mambo,” “Swanee River Mambo,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game Mambo” & “Can’t Do It Mambo.”In Billboard‘s August 28, 1954 edition, a piece entitled ‘Coinmen You Know – Miami’ states that “Henry Stone, A&R man for DeLuxe Records, signed The Three Harmonicaires, [harmonica trio] winners on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show, to a recording contract and now predicts their first number will be a hit.”Henry Glover would also co-write Red Klimo‘s “Grandma Loves to Rock ‘n’ Roll” — recorded February 2, 1956 in Chicago.
Yet another patented King “bio-disc” (thanks, RANDY MCNUTT!)
The same month Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” was riding high in the charts, King would release a Boyd Bennett 45 with a jump blues A-side (“Hit That Jive Jack“) but a rockabilly B-side (“Rabbit-Eye Pink and Charcoal Black“) in August, 1956.
According to Bluegrass: A History by Neil Rosenberg:
“Many bluegrass bands incorporated Elvis spoofs into their comedy routines, further testimony to their fans that they were on the right side of the rock and roll controversy. Thus in August  of 1956 [in Cincinnati], when Reno and Smiley made their first recordings since becoming a full-time group, included was Don Reno’s “Country Boy Rock and Roll,” a tongue-in-cheek anthem to the joys of the music: ‘I guess to some folks I look foolish, Just let ’em make a fool out of me.’”
Among the earliest recordings in the canon of truck driving country giant, Dave Dudley: the toe-tappin’, roots-rockin’ “Rock and Roll Nursery Rhyme” — recorded March 28, 1956 in Cincinnati (a 45 that today commands a healthy two figures at auction).Exactly one King recording session in Cincinnati on February 12, 1956 for The Rockers, whose membership would include Annie Mae (i.e., Tina) Turner on keys and Ike Turner on strings. “What Am I to Do” features the commanding guitar work of Turner, who would return to Cincinnati the following year on April 9th fronting his own band, Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm (with Jackie Brenston) — six songs recorded that day, including “Rock-a-Bucket.”
It would be almost criminal not to point out an overlooked B-side by Lowman Pauling — Messin‘ Up — a rockin’ doo wop song from The Five Royales (with stellar guitar sounds from El Pauling himself), that was recorded August 13, 1957 in Cincinnati.
“Snake Charmer” by The Puddle Jumpers – on their one and only session – sure sounds like King trying to cash in on the runaway success of 1958’s “Tequila” by The Champs (previously examined here). Note the decent prices being paid for the group’s Federal 45s.
Tiny Topsy would find a way to fuse cowboy-shoot-’em-ups with doo-wop rock in 1958’s “Western Rock ‘n’ Roll” — a song that also slyly quotes from some of the early classics of the genre, including “Lollipop” (The Chordettes), “Get a Job” (The Silhouettes), “At the Hop” (Danny & the Juniors), “Short Shorts” (The Royal Teens). Note the decent prices being paid for this single at auction.Gene Redd and the Globe Trotters would record two songs at Cincinnati’s King studios on September 4, 1959 that comprised a 45 (King 5262), with one tune in particular transcribed by Ruppli (in his 2-volume King discographies) as “Surfin‘ Beat,” as this song is listed on 1964 King surf “cash-in” album, Look Who’s Surfin’ Now. Really? A “surf” song two years before Dick Dale & His Deltones’ first 45?! Unfortunately, the original song title used for the 1959 King 45 release was “Zeen Beat.”Big Moe and the Panics would cover the unstoppable “Tennessee Waltz” for the teen set in 1959, with their hard-to-find “Tennessee Waltz Rock” 45 EP on King-owned Audio Lab.Check out the decent prices being paid for original King 45s by The Mascots: lead singer, Eddie Levert, along with William Powell, Bobby Massey & Bill Isles — a band that would become The O’Jays in 1963. Among the songs recorded June 27, 1960 in Cincinnati at King’s studios: “Lonely Rain.”
Songwriter/producer (and future King talent scout) Ray Pennington would record a “popcorn/rockabilly” hybrid for King subsidiary Federal — “Three Hearts in a Tangle” — (under the name Ray Starr) on July 15, 1960 in Cincinnati. Pennington, by the way, features prominently in the ace roots-rock (non-King) compilation Great Rockers from Cincinnati.
first of two (non-King) albums by Ray Pennington & steel master, BUDDY EMMONS
“The Twist” (not everyone knows) was originally a King B-side for Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, before Chubby Checker ran away with this freakish hit, as a result of Ballard’s failure to keep his date with destiny on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand dance program. King clearly felt the pain, as noted in blood-red ink on the label for The Escos novelty 45 “Thank You Mister Ballard (For Creating the Twist)” — a song that was recorded November 22, 1961 in Cincinnati: “ATTENTION DJ: These are the cold hard facts. Hank Ballard composed the song and created the dance … THE TWIST.”Very eager to hear whether King artists, The Shilohs, managed to capture on record the authentic sound of a “Rebel Yell” in 1961 — exactly one hundred years after our nation’s war against itself had begun.
[Note: streaming audio unavailable unless the song title in question has a hyperlink]
Also curious to hear The Stanley Brothers song with the oddball title “Big Booger” (recorded September 17, 1963 in Cincinnati) that is only available on 1963 King LP America’s Finest 5-String Banjo Hootenanny (reissued in 1977 on Starday). It is possible (though not probable) that “Big Booger” would inspire Mac Davis to write and record “Uncle Booger Red and Byrdie Nelle” for his 1970 debut album.
Try Me, a King-owned subsidiary that served as an outlet for James Brown productions, would issue a groovy two-part organ instrumental – “Devil’s Den” – by The Poets [i.e., Brown’s backing band] that was recorded March, 1963 at King’s Cincinnati studios, along with one other track “The Thing in G” that would find release on Brown’s Prisoner of Love album. Ruppli’s discography credits Alvin Gonder with organ — and JB himself with “shouts.”Almost afraid to hear the A-side of Doris King‘s (rare) single for King — “Dumb Dumb” — released in 1966, as the title reminds me of Ginny Arnell’s horribly insensitive “Dumbhead” from 1963.
Sorry, kiddos — streaming audio not available
Rockabilly crime fighter, Delbert Barker (previously celebrated here) would record his final King 45 in Cincinnati on April 17, 1966 — “Color Me Gone” — a song for which no audio clips exist on YouTube.Another rare King 45 from 1966 – John Ukhart‘s “The Biggest Thrill” b/w “Death Row” – (note the prisoner ID #) was recorded at the King-affiliated studio in Macon, Georgia.Intrigued to hear the hauntingly-titled “Last Year, Senior Prom (This Year, Vietnam)” by Mary Moultrie – recorded in Cincinnati on April 17, 1966 – the flip side of the highly-sought “northern soul” dance track “They’re Trying to Tear Us Apart” for which people are prepared to pay up to three figures at auction.
One Vietnam-themed King release that is available for preview on YouTube: Jaci Damon‘s “A Place Called Vietnam” from the summer of 1967.Speaking of 1967, here is King’s brief intersection with “psychedelic” music:
- Rare King 45 by Keith Murphy & the Daze that was released in May of 1968, according to 45Cat — “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” b/w “Dirty Ol‘ Sam.” [*Special Zero to 180 history piece on Keith Murphy & the Daze]
- Green Lyte Sunday, before their first (and only) psychedelic-flavored album was released in 1970 for RCA, would make their recording debut in 1968 on King: “She’s My Lover” b/w “Lenore” (King 6178). Good luck finding a copy of this Dayton, Ohio band’s rare debut 45 on King.
- Starday-King would make one last (late) stab in 1971 with Wild Goose‘s surprisingly adventurous “Flyin’ Machine” which features trippy sounds at the opening and closing, as well as harmony guitar lines during the middle instrumental break.
James Brown on organ, accompanied by three of The Dapps [Tim Drummond (bass), William “Beau Dollar” Bowman (drums), Eddie Setser (guitar)] and possibly a fourth [Tim Hedding (if not, Bobby Byrd) on piano], would record a wryly-titled instrumental, “Shhhhhhhh (For a Little While)” March 5, 1968 at King’s Cincinnati studios.On a related note, check out the three-figure sums being paid for rare King 45 by The Soul Believers with The Dapps — “I Don’t Want Nobody’s Troubles” b/w “I’m With You” — recorded October 23, 1968 in Cincinnati.Marvel at this rare live footage of Marva Whitney — along with the rock-solid support of James Brown’s backing band, The JBs — singing “It’s My Thing” from 1969.
Delight in the discovery that Bill Doggett once laid down 2 songs — “For Once In My Life” and “Twenty Five Miles” — at a recording facility in Detroit (c. February, 1969) with a studio band produced by Motown founder-in-chief, Berry Gordy. These tracks would form the respective A and B sides of a King 45 that easily commands two figures at auction (and whose flip side only would be included on 1969’s Honky Tonk Popcorn album).
1969 Bill Doggett B-side in “far-out” King sleeve
Very rare King truck driving 45 — Bethel King‘s “Addicted to a Truck” from 1968 — that I hope will turn up one day in my lifetime. Needless to say, no streaming audio.Some of us are curious to hear “31 Flavors” by The Las Vegas Ambassadors — recorded in Las Vegas on June 13, 1970 – fairly obscure King 45.1970 would also see the release of a song — “Classical Popsicle” — used as the lead-off track for a King full-length release Have a Heart, written by Arnold Bodmer of the group Heart (not the Wilson Sisters of “Barracuda” fame). Another hard-to-come-by King 45: Lewie Wickham‘s “Liberated Woman” from 1970 …… as well as the LP from whence the single came — on which Lewie is joined by brother Hank Wickham, not to mention Johnny Dagucon (on his debut/sole recording effort).Musical Mystery: A formerly long-lost predecessor to The JB’s 1972 debut album on King subsidiary, People — 1971’s These Are the JB’s — was rescued from obscurity in 2014 as a vinyl release and then re-pressed again in 2015. As BlackGrooves explains, “the album was recorded in 1971 for King Records just before the band’s catalogue got bought out by Polydor. Only a few test pressings were produced, and they were presumed to have been lost.” Of the four songs recorded — including “These Are the JB’s” & “I’ll Ze” — the final medley is notable for including portions of “Let The Music Take Your Mind” (Kool & The Gang and Gene Redd Jr.), “Chicken Strut” (The Meters), and “Power Of Soul” (Jimi Hendrix).45Cat suggests that Indiana‘s cover of Bobby Darin & Terry Melcher‘s “My Mom” might have been released in the UK (November, 1971) before the US (1972). Curious, if true.
Any pressures exerted on the band – White Cloud – to cover a song (“Hound Dog“) written by the (then) new owners of Starday-King, Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller, on their self-titled 1972 debut (and only) album issued on Starday-King subsidiary, Good Medicine?Smiling Faces would eke out two 45s in 1972 for Starday-King, the first – “Younger Girl” – being infinitely easier to locate than the second – “Tulsa Oklahoma” – whose very existence (King 6424) is still being debated by the nation’s top researchers. King would release exactly one single by The Sanfords (featuring Gary S. Paxton) in 1972 — “Skinny Dippin’” b/w “A Rare and Ordinary Thing” — with one more song in the can (“You’re My Everything”). Just as with the previous five 45s mentioned, no streaming audio.
Finally, Mike Wheeler — who would later form a band, Wheels, that would enjoy a big boost in popularity (as The Raisins did) due to their appearance on 1980 TV talent showcase Rock Around the Block — recorded 2 songs on April 10,1972 that would be released as a (hard-to-find) 45 on Agape: “Rocky Forge” b/w “Worn Out Leather.”
Bonus link: Wheels performing “Keep Movin’ On” — sung/written by Michael Baney — a song that also served as the kick-off track for WEBN’s 2nd Album Project (annual compilation of Cincinnati-area bands) from 1977.
Rare Slim Gaillard EPS ON KING that COMMAND BIG BUCKS at auction
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U N I S S U E D K I N G T R A C K S *
The King vaults also contain an unissued instrumental (and possible “twist” composition) “Louisiana Twist” that is attributed, curiously, to vocalist Little Willie John (who once issued a rare version of “Fever” with strings) — recorded in Cincinnati on March 6, 1962.
King’s attempt to cash in on surf music (see previous story on The Impacs) would also produce a compilation album (and future Zero to 180 piece) Surfin’ on Wave Nine. Left in the King vaults are a pair by The Nu-Trons, including “Don’t Give Me No Phony Love.”
Also in the King vaults is something by Tonni Kalash, second trumpeter for Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (who released a lone King 45 “The Boss” b/w “Shuckin’“): a single unissued track entitled “The Surf” that was recorded April 2, 1962.
Speaking of shuckin’, King’s vaults also contain two tracks recorded by Carl Thomas in Macon, Georgia on January 11, 1964: “Just Shuckin’” (as well as “Off Beat Boogie”).
Don’t forget the stellar soul tune — 1966’s “Ain’t You Glad” by Mill Evans — that sat in the can for 35 years until valiantly rescued by UK’s Kent Records [as reported here] in 2001.Edgar Allen & the Po‘ Folks would record two tunes, “My Tears Are Drippin‘ (in Coffee That I’m Sippin‘)” and “Denny‘s Tune,” c. March, 1967 that have never enjoyed release.
One humorous (and particularly long-winded) early unissued song title:
“(I Didn’t Think You’d Really Go) I Didn’t Think You’d Ever Leave Me” — Hank Penny from October, 1946 — a song also covered by Moon Mullican in October, 1946 and then likewise locked away in the vaults!
In James Brown-related news:
- The Dapps (previously celebrated here and here) have a few tunes in the King vaults that have never been issued including “White Christmas”; “I Can’t Stand Myself”; “Who Knows”; and two other tracks recorded in Cincinnati — “I’ll Give You Odds” (March, 1968) and “Later for the Saver” (December, 1968).
- Cincinnati musician, and one-time James Brown sparring partner, Dee Felice, would record quite a few songs that remain in the King vaults, including (besides JB covers such as “Cold Sweat”) what might be an original tune, “Double Funky” that was recorded in Cincinnati on December 10, 1969.
- Also in King’s vaults by the aforementioned William Hargis “Beau Dollar” Bowman: “My Concerto” (c. Spring, 1969) and “Funky Street (January, 1970).
- Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis would record his own version of “Soul Pride (pts. 1 & 2)” in the summer of 1968 that will not likely see the light of day, as well as (veiled message, perhaps?) “Time for My Release” later that October in Miami.
- Ruppli’s King discography has a listing for “More Mess on My Thing (pt. 1 & 2)” by The New Dapps [i.e., The Pacesetters: William “Bootsy” Collins, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Frank “Kash” Waddy & Phillip (pre-Spinners) Wynne] — according to Bootsy, September, 1969. Even though a 45 release is indicated (King 6271), a strange thing happens when you numerically scroll to that number on this King Records 6000 Series 45 Discography — 6271 & 6272 are both identical: Arthur Prysock “23rd Psalm” b/w “I Believe”! Some funny business there. Sadly, no King 45 for The New Dapps. Notice that Ohio Soul Recordings, for instance, lists it as an actual 45 release.
- James Brown himself would record a song whose title would be used as a band name for a Maceo Parker-led outfit of former JB sidemen – “All the King’s Men” – in Cincinnati on November 5, 1970 that remains unissued (as is a track recorded the previous month in Macon, Georgia — “We Need Liberation“).
- Vicki Anderson would record — in Washington, DC on January 26, 1971– an unreleased version of “Wheels of Life,” a song that would be recorded several months later by Lyn Collins and released on 1972’s Think (About It) album.
- Psychedelic soul rockers Grodeck Whipperjenny, led by James Brown associate David Matthews (previously celebrated here) have one track sitting in the King vaults — “Ain’t It Jellyroll” (possibly from early 1971).
Elaine Armstrong (vocalist and civil rights pioneer previously celebrated here) would record two songs that remain in the King vaults, including “Tears Begin to Fall.”Blues & soul singer/guitarist Albert Washington would record a number of songs that remain locked away, including “Without Love Ain’t It a Shame” — recorded in Cincinnati on October 16, 1970.
A group whose name requires a pronunciation guide — The Prix’s — recorded two songs in early 1968 (“The Smoother” & “Take Everything“) likely to remain forever unheard.
First Friday – whose one and only album recorded for Webster’s Last Word – laid down some demos for Starday-King at their Nashville studios in June, 1970 that included some songs that made the album (such as kick-off tune “Nice Day for Something“; “Wings to Fly”; “Such a Lot to Say”) and songs that didn’t (“Last Night’s Foolin’ Around”; “49th Street Rag”).
Frank Gorshin of TV’s Batman fame (previously celebrated here) recorded a handful of songs that remain permanently sequestered, including “Love Slave” — recorded in Nashville June 3, 1970.
Mike Appel – ¿the same Mike Appel who was Bruce Springsteen’s manager at the time? – recorded at least 10 songs (“Queen of the Harvest”; “Timber Clown” et al.) for Starday-King in 1972. Note that “Queen of the Harvest” is the title of a song listed on Mike Appel’s website as being one for which he owns all the publishing rights and master recordings.
Be sure to check out an earlier piece: King Records: Oddball Historical Tidbits
*Primary Information Source: The King Labels: A Discography by Michel Ruppli
Mike Stoller (left) & Jerry Leiber (right)
⇒⇒⇒ 45 Years Ago This Month: Leiber & Stoller Buy King Records! ⇐⇐⇐
As Billboard reported 45 years ago this month (under the headline, “Starday-King Pubs Sold for $1.4 Mil“) in its October 2, 1971 edition:
NASHVILLE — The Starday-King label and its publishing firms have been sold by Lin Broadcasting Co. to a group of music executives including one of its former officers.
Hal Neely, President of Starday-King and an offical of Lin until the time of purchase, leads the purchasers. Sale price was listed at $1.4 million. Offices will remain here, under the new name of Tennessee Recording and Publishing Co., Inc.
Neely and his associates will receive all of the Lin Music division’s “current and fixed assets, to include receivables, copyrights, and publishing interests, recorded masters, inventory, contracts, real estate, studios in Nashville, Cincinnati, and Macon, Ga., and the pressing and printing plant in Cincinnati.”
Starday, formed as a country music label by Pappy Dailey and Jack Starnes, was later acquired by Don Pierce, who was its president for a number of years. After the Lin purchase, Hal Neely became president, and Pierce moved into an advisory capacity.
King, too, was originally a country label, but later became deeply involved in the development of rhythm and blues. One of its top performers, James Brown, recently moved to Polydor in a contract sale. Starday, too, divested itself of some of its leading talent, many of whom moved to Chart Records. However, the company retains artists with both labels.
There will be immediate releases with the existing artists, who are listed as The Coasters, J. David Sloan, The Manhattans, Jack(y) Ward, Gloria Walker, Max Powell, and White Cloud. Additionally, there will be product release on Red Sovine, who has moved to Chart.
Tennessee Recording and Publishing will continue to release and distribute the King, Starday, Deluxe, Nashville, Agape and Federal labels.
Coda: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Billboard‘s February 5, 1972 edition would include the following grim announcement:
“EQUIPMENT FOR SALE. Pressing — Printing — Plating — Milling — Fabrications — Art Cameras — Recording Studio Equipment.
King Records, Cincinnati, Ohio is liquidating its Complete Pressing and Printing Plant and Recording Studio. 7″ and 12″.
All Equipment First Class. Guaranteed. Opportunity for Export.
Contact: Johnny Miller
1540 Brewster Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45207