Lord Thunder: Final Deluxe 45?

Browsing DeLuxe releases in chronological order in Discog’s database, Lord Thunder‘s “Thunder” from 1975 appears to be the last gasp of Starday-King:

“Thunder”     Lord Thunder     1975

But wait:  1975 sounds much too late in the post-Syd Nathan saga for a new production to come out of the Starday-King studios, especially with IMG/Gusto now running the show.  I’m suspicious.

For one thing, the catalog number 106 would indicate the recording to be closer to 1969, tied to the first string of releases from the resuscitated DeLuxe imprint — at that point owned by Lin Broadcasting.  An examination of the catalog record for this 1975 Gusto 45 release on Discogs finds this revealing note:

“This is the legal second issue from 1975 – reissued for the UK Northern Soul market.  The original does not have the ‘1975 etc’ text around the outside and the release is originally from the late 60’s/early 70’s.

This late 60s “northern soul” instrumental was written by Leroy Tukes and Grady Spires, who would also put together “I Got It Made (In the Shade)” for James Duncan, released March, 1970 on Federal (and featuring Eddie Hinton on swamp guitar)..

Both songs were included on 2007 CD compilation Crash of Thunder:  Boss Soul, Funk and R&B Sides From the Vaults of the King, Federal and DeLuxe Labels — a special collection of rare tracks curated by Matt “Mr. Fine Wine” Weingarden and released on Spanish label, Vampi Soul.

So uh, no, this was not the “final” DeLuxe 45, in terms of latest original recording intended for release.

From browsing Discogs’ listing of DeLuxe releases in chronological order and then examing the catalog numbers in (relative) sequential order, I see that the highest number “152” coincides with 1973 single release from The Manhattans – “Do You Ever” b/w “If My Heart Could Speak” (with the A-side written by Agape recording artist, Myrna March, who also co-produced).  Could this possibly be one of the final recordings to come out under the DeLuxe label?  To answer this question, it sure would help to know the recording dates of the other DeLuxe 45 releases from 1973:

= “Mama’s Baby” b/w “You Are Gone” by Royal Flush
= “Camelot Time” b/w “Victory Strut” by J. Hines & the Fellows*
= “Leave My Kitten Alone” b/w “All the Time” by Reuben Bell
= “Rainbow Week” b/w “Loneliness” by The Manhattans

Ruppli provides no information whatsoever about these recordings and, in fact, does not even list Royal Flush, Reuben Bell, or J. Hines & the Fellows in the index.  Not even known whether any of these 45 releases had been recorded in the year 1973.  More research is needed to determine the final recording to come out on DeLuxe.

Click on song titles above to hear streaming audio of A & B sides

With regard to Zero to 180’s recent musings about which Bethlehem release was the last original recording intended for that King subsidiary label, this online discography has considerably more detailed information than Ruppli’s sessionography with regard to Bethlehem’s last few years of existence, thus forcing me to recalculate the situation

New Observations about Bethlehem‘s Final Releases!
Tip of the hat to the Bethlehem Records Discography Project

  • The James Brown recording session from May 20, 1970 (David Matthews’ “The Drunk” recorded in two parts, with only Part Two issued) that ended up as the B-side of a Bethlehem (not King) 45 “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” b/w “The Drunk”  appears to be the last original recording released on Bethlehem — a session that took place at King Studios in Cincinnati (as did the session for the single’s A-side on March 2, 1970, on which David Matthews served as Director).  Interesting to note that A-side “charted on 18 July, 1970 on Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart peaking at #110″ (Discogs).
  • The next-to-last entry for 1970 says that Arthur Prysock laid down 12 tracks with “unidentified orchestra” and Bill McElhiney serving as arranger/director at Nashville’s Starday-King recording facility on April 8, 1970 for Prysock’s Unforgettable album (released on King).  The two singles from this LP, curiously, would be issued on separate labels — “Cry” b/w “Unforgettable” on King, while “Funny World” b/w “The Girl I Never Kissed”  ended up on Bethlehem.
  • This discography of Bethlehem recordings/releases from 1958 to the present ends in the year 1970 — and yet omits any references to The Saloonatics from 1969. What up?  1969 would also see recording sessions in Cincinnati for Wayne Cochran and His C.C. Riders (previously paid tribute here), as well as The Dee Felice Trio (with Frank Vincent) for LP and 45 releases on Bethlehem.

As it bids adieu to the King Records’ 75th Anniversary Celebration, Zero to 180 would like to pose these four questions:

  1. What is the last original recording for Starday-King that took place at Cincinnati’s King Studios?
  2. What is the final recording — regardless of whether the artist was under contract to Starday-King — that took place at the (former) King Studios in Cincinnati?
  3. What is the last original recording at the Nashville Starday Studios intended for release on Starday-King or one of its subsidiaries?
  4. What is the last original release from Starday-King before the label’s sale to IMG/Gusto?

A Starday/King/DeLuxe Musical Prank*

Whoa!  Is it possible that 1973 instrumental “Victory Strut” by J. Hines & the Fellows (on Starday-King subsidiary, DeLuxe) features what must be some of the earliest turntable scratching on record?!   But alas, the comment below – in reply to the person who posted this audio clip – reveals musical tomfoolery perpetrated at the hands of DJ Ol’SkOul!

“So as much as I love the record scratches on this, I actually bought this 45 thinking they were a part of the song. Sooo yeah, you might want to tell people this is your remix of it.  Either way thanks for posting. Great tune.”

Hear for yourself =  special ‘REMIX’ of “Victory Strut”

DJ Ol’SkOul likewise provides turntable embellishments for A-side “Camelot Time

History Messing with My Mind Dept.

Recently, in the course of scanning the index in Ruppli’s King Labels sessionography, I was struck by a fairly unusual name: “SACASAS”.  Anselmo Sacasas, it turns out, was a Cuban bandleader who recorded exactly one session for King Records in Miami on April 8, 1955 – four songs recorded, including one tune entitled (hold onto your hats) “Trumpcrazy”!

Billboard‘s reviewer would score this trumpet-heavy “Latino instrumental” a 72 (in the “good” range) in its July 23, 1955 edition.  This extremely obscure 45 was nearly lost to history until an audio clip was posted on YouTube in July of 2016.

“Trumpcrazy”     Sacasas & His Orchestra     1955

Boot: King Hard Rock ’72

Michel Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording session discography indicates that Boot, a “hard rock” outfit, had released their debut album on People, a James Brown-owned subsidiary of Starday-King Records.  But alas, this turns out not to be true, as Boot’s first album was, in fact, issued on Starday-King subsidiary Agape.

34 Euros paid for this LP in 2015

Boot’s album would comprise eight songs, including “Hey Little Girl” and “Liza Brown” (A and B sides, respectively of a 45), plus “Andromeda“; and “Destruction Road.”   Among the tracks left in the can is one curiously titled “Funky Country Music.”

“Hey Little Girl”      Boot     1972

Album Credits – per Discogs:

Dan Eliassen: Bass & Vocals
Jim O’Brock: Percussion
Mike Mycz: Rhythm Guitar & Vocals
Bruce Knox: Lead/Slide Guitar & Vocals
Mike Stone & Peter K. Thomason:  Producers
Michael S. Stone:  [Re-mix] Engineer
David L. Rosenberg:  Photography & Design
Recorded at Starday-King Studios
Distributed by Starday-King Records

Worth noting that this album was reissued on CD in 1986 by German label Lizard Records — although, Discogs reports this work to have been “licensed from Kingston Records.”

Hey, check this out:  Bad Cat Records currently has a listing of the “Hey Little Girl” 45 with a price tag of $85 that also includes some much needed music history:

Hailing from Port Richey, Florida, bassist Dan Eliassen and drummer Jim O’Brock put their first band together in 1972.  Originally known as The Kingsmen, they opted for a name change when the Washington-based Kingsmen scored a hit with ‘Louie Louie’.  Morphing into The Allusions, Eliassen, O’Brock and a changing cast of players continued to perform at local school dances and teen centers.

By 1966 the lineup featured Eliassen, O’Borck, and lead guitarist Bruce Knox and rhythm guitarist Mike Mycz.  They’d also opted for another name change (The Split Ends) as well as moving away from performing largely cover material to penning their own stuff. Signed by the local CPF Records, they also made their recording debut with a 1966 single:  ‘Rich with Nothin’ b/w ‘Endless Sun’ (CPF catalog CPF 4).

The 45 proved a regional hit, opening the door to wider exposure including an opening slot on Dick Clark’s Happening ’67 tour.  That in turn saw them offered an opportunity to compete on Clark’s ‘Happening ’68 television band contest.

In 1969 the quartet decided on another image and name change – this time adopting the moniker Blues Of Our Time – quickly abbreviated to Boot.  With a repertoire of largely original material, the band hit the road playing clubs and concerts nearly non-stop for the next four years.

Released by the Texas-based Agape label, the band debuted with 1972’s cleverly-titled “Boot”.  Co-produced by Mike Stone and Peter Thomason, the album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at James Brown’s Starday/King Studio.  With all four members contributing material the album offered up a mixture of blues-rock and blues-rock, with an occasional stab at a more commercial tune.  The band was blessed with three decent singers.  Nothing more than a guess on my part, but judging by the songwriting credits (assuming whoever wrote the track probably handled lead vocals), Mycz seemed to have the tougher-rock voice in the group while Eliassen was gifted with more commercial chops.  Knox fell somewhere in the middle with a modest country-rock feel to his voice.  Knox also showed himself to being an immensely talented lead guitarist — check out his lead work on ‘Hey Little Girl’.

Wild Goose: King Hard Rock ’71?

Zero to 180’s sprawling overview of King Records‘ rare and unissued recordings made reference to 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” — thank you to the YouTube contributor who uploaded a recording of this rare 45 released on Starday-King imprint Agape:

“Flyin’ Machine”     Wild Goose     1971

This 1971 promotional 45 “Flyin’ Machine” b/w “Every Day – Every Night” appears to be the entire recorded output of Wild Goose, about which so little is known.

Starday-King launched Agape in 1971, as reported by Billboard, but alas, it was not long for this world — nine 45 and two LP releases between the years 1971-72 that are currently accounted for (i.e., Discogs and 45Cat).  Any other Agape releases?.

On 12 August 2018 – the day this history piece was originally drafted – a copy of the “Flyin’ Machine” 45 was selling on Ebay, incredibly enough, for only $10.

Notable-But-Obscure 45 Release on Agape

Six years before he helped form the Redneck Jazz Explosion with Danny Gatton and Buddy Emmons, fiddle player Buddy Spicher would record a one-off single for Agape, as The Family Jewels in 1972, with Hal Rugg — “Sweet Sauce” (by Boudleaux Bryant) b/w “Chicken Gumbo,” an original tune by Hal Rugg and Jim (“Six Days on the Road”) Colvard.

“Sweet Sauce”     Buddy Spicher & Hal Rugg (a.k.a., Family Jewels)     1972

Note:  This is the second of 3 history pieces dedicated to Starday-King imprint, Agape.

Coldwater Army on S-K’s Agape

Billboard would post this glowing review of Coldwater Army‘s debut album on Agape, a subsidiary label of Starday-King, in their July 10, 1971 edition:

This is quite an extraordinary first record for a group.  It features some of the tightest arrangements heard in a while and vocals that flow well with the music.  To say the Coldwater Army is a brass based group would not be fair, although their brass section is dynamite.  The LP must be taken as one unit as the Army marches along to the beat of a different drummer.  One of the brightest groups to appear in a very long time.

“Hey People”     Coldwater Army     1971

Four months prior, Billboard had posted a ‘General News’ item in their March 20, 1971 edition that announced “Starday-King Forms Agape, a New Label“:

NEW YORK — The Starday-King Music Group has formed a new label, Agape Records.  According to Hal Neely, president of Starday-King, the new label will serve as an outlet for the increasing number of contemporary pop, rock and country-rock records scheduled for release later this month, while other labels within the Starday-King complex will continue their output of specialty product.

“The significance of the label name we’ve chosen,” said Neely, “derives from the Latin and means ‘love, feast and fellowship.’  In some early Christian times the Feast of Agape was celebrated in good spirit, brotherhood and acts of charity–so much of which is reflected in contemporary music and stressed in the lyric content of the new generation of songwriters.  He added, “We hope to bring some of that early spirit of the ancients into modern times.”  (Agape is pronounced ah-goh-pay.)

Several artists have already been signed to Agape including songwriter – singer – producer Myrna March from New York; Fort Worth, Tex. producer David Anderson; a rock group from Georgia known as Coldwater Army to be produced by Bobby Smith; First Friday who will be produced by Darrell Glenn, and a Miami-based unit whose production will be undertaken by veteran producer Kelso Herston.

Agape’s initial product will feature singles by Miss March and Anderson.  While Miss March has written a great deal of product for Starday-King artists, and recently produced Tony & Carol and the Manhattans for King via her Make Music Productions with Bert Keyes, she is making her Agape debut with a Bee Gees song, “Touch and Understand Love” backed with her own “I Can Remember.”  Recorded in Nashville, her sessions were under the personal supervision of Neely.  Anderson’s release will be “Songbird.”  Prior recordings by David Anderson with the company will ultimately be switched over to the Agape label.

Initially, the Agape label will be managed and administered by the staff of Starday-King with heavy responsibilities falling to sales manager Lee Trimble, Mike Kelly in the East, Bob Patton in the Midwest and Dexter Shaffer on the West Coast will coordinate regional promotion for all new releases and the over-all operations will be guided by Neely and vice-presidents Henry Glover and Jim Wilson.

The inception of Agape marks the latest in a series of moves towards the rebuilding of Starday-King under the encouragement and guidance of the LIN Broadcasting Corp., of which it is a division.  In addition to strengthening the operations of the Starday and King labels, the company has reactivated the old Macon, Ga.-based Federal label and the original DeLuxe Records, a blues-rock label.  Recent increased activity, too, has centered on the jazz-oriented Bethlehem label with particular interest focusing on the big sounds of Oscar Brandenburg.

Coldwater Army’s debut/only album Peace would also find release in 1971 in Canada, albeit on Columbia [speaking of which:  Seymour Stein, you might recall, had curated a pair of King hits anthologies for “Big Red” in 1967 — see here and here].  Peace was issued for the first time on compact disc in 2017.

Auction prices for Coldwater Army’s debut album on Agape

Bobby Smith’s King Productions

Bobby Smith, we now know, had been commissioned by Syd Nathan to build a recording studio in Macon, Georgia — the adopted hometown of King Records’ biggest star, James Brown.  The following recordings were produced by Bobby Smith at Bobby Smith Studios, the recording location for these (Starday-)King-related releases — with one notable exception, as indicated a little further down the page:

[click on song titles below for streaming audio]

History Wrinkle:  The earliest appearance of “Macon, Georgia” as a recording location in Ruppli’s King recording sessionography – “May 4, 1966” – can be found on a session for Thomas Bailey that yielded “Just Won’t Move” and “Fran” — a single that, for some odd reason, did not find release until 1970.  Perhaps Ruppli’s carbon-dating tests somehow got mishandled in the lab?  The more likely explanation can be found in John Ridley’s liner notes for the first Ace UK/Kent compilation King Serious Soul:

“Bailey was active in the Macon area with his group, the Flintstones, around the turn of the 70s and was involved with Bobby Smith.  He wrote material for Mickey Murray, among others, as well as making his own discs.  His first Federal 45 coupled the ballad ‘Fran’ with the strutting Southern funk of ‘Just Won’t Move.'”

It is very unlikely that Bobby Smith Studios was operational as early as 1966 — Ruppli simply must be mistaken.

Here’s one other Bobby Smith production that might be the latest recording of the bunch — first of two featured songs in today’s history piece:

Push and Shove” b/w “Just Be Glad”    Willy Wiley     1973

Must note with confusion that Bobby Smith is listed as producer on Gloria Walker’s classic slice of funk “Papa’s Got the Wagon” (along with its mate “Your Precious Love“), even though Ruppli’s sessionography notes state that this March, 1971 single had been recorded in “Cincinnati” — is it possible that Smith came to King Studios for this session (which also produced “Lonely and Blue” and “Dancing to the Beat” – two songs that remain locked away in the King vaults)?

In the course of browsing the Federal Records section of Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography, I couldn’t help but notice one particular James Duncan session** that took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama — not Macon, Georgia.  But wait, Bobby Smith’s name is attached to this entire August 14, 1969 recording session — is it possible that Smith traveled to Muscle Shoals to record James Duncan?   Listen to the classic guitar work on “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” — sure sounds like Eddie Hinton, right? Compare with “This Old Town” by Wilson Pickett, a song previously celebrated here.

“I Got It Made (in the Shade)”     James Duncan     1969

As it turns out, the ‘Musical Columbo’ – Soul Detective – had already pondered this question ten years earlier, having discovered a key piece of research in John Ridley’s liner notes to Volume 2 of the Ace UK/Kent anthology series, King Serious Soul that affirms Ruppli’s assertion, pointing out that James Duncan’s Federal singles “were mainly cut at Muscle Shoals [Sound] and were uniformly of a very high standard indeed.”

James Duncan, along with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, laid down six songs at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama on August 14, 1969, with producer Bobby Smith at the helm:  “Money Can’t Buy True Love”; “My Baby Is Back”; “All Goodbyes Ain’t Gone”; “I’m Gonna Leave You Alone”; “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” & “You’ve Got to Be Strong” [Ruppli].  Also recorded at Muscle Shoals, according to Ridley, is the Lori & Lance single “I Don’t Have to Worry” b/w “All I Want Is You.”

Merle Kilgore on Starday-King

Former Starday recording artist Merle Kilgore would have an unsuccessful stint at Columbia/Epic in the mid-1960s before rejoining the fold at the newly-expanded Starday-King (the King label having consolidated with Starday upon the death of its founder/owner Syd Nathan in 1968).  Starday historian emeritus Nathan D. Gibson would interview Kilgore for 2011’s superb history, The Starday Story:  The House That Country Built:

He returned to Starday in the late 1960s as Merle Kilgore, “The Boogie King,” and also worked part-time for the label.  He tells the story:

“I went to work for Starday years later [late 60s] for Hal Neely [President of the Starday-King merger].  I was workin’ the Hank [Williams] Jr. roadshow and I was open all week ’cause we worked Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays.  So I went out and just kind of interned, you know.  Producing the records and running the country division for Starday-King.  I was out there for almost two years.  Then they moved me up to where I was director of the country market there.  It was like learning a whole new part of the business that I really hadn’t had the chance to experience.”

1972 would see the release of three 45s while under contract to Starday-King — two singles “The Great Drinking Bout” b/w “Good Rockin’ Tonight” -and- “My Side of Life” b/w “A Different Kind of Pretty” issued on Starday, while one other “Boogie King” b/w “All She Wants to Do is Boogie” issued, curiously, on King:

“Boogie King”      Merle Kilgore     1972

Kilgore’s peripatetic recording career would take him to Imperial, Starday, Mercury, MGM, Columbia, Ashley, Starday-King, Warner Brothers, and Elektra, and yet – as Gibson points out – “Kilgore’s only singles to break the Top 50 in the Billboard charts were on Starday.”

“Big Merle” King 45 engineered by Billy Sherrill

Extra Credit:  Merle Kilgore as Songwriter for Other Artists

Search 45Cat‘s database using the terms “Merle Kilgore” and note the 9 “pages” of 45 releases (25 per page) on which Merle Kilgore has written at least one of the tracks.  Artists who have recorded Merle Kilgore compositions include Webb Pierce, Guy Lombardo, Margie Singleton, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Claude King, Rex Allen, Hylo Brown, Jack Scott, Lorne Greene, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vinton, Kitty Wells, Billie Jean Horton, Lefty Frizzell, Tillman Franks, Wayne Raney, Tom Tall, Earl Gaines, Kay Starr, Ronnie & the Daytonas, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Leon Ashley, Travis Wammack, Little Jimmy Dempsey, Ray Campi, Anita Carter, June Carter, Carlene Carter, Bucky Allred, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, and Marty Stuart.

Halloween & Horror Alert!

Merle Kilgore once recorded a song “Frankenboogie” under the alias “Frankie Stein” for Starday-King, who would issue the song in 1973 on King as an A-side, with “All She Wants to Do Is Boogie” (borrowed from the 1972 “Boogie King” 45) used for the flip.

Mickey Murray LP II: Released?

Soul singer Mickey Murray recorded only two full-length albums over the course of his career — one for SSS International, 1967’s Shout Bamalama & Super Soul Songs  (the label’s first hit for Shelby Singleton), and the other, entitled People are Together, for King subsidiary Federal Records in 1970 — an album produced by Bobby Smith, who had been commissioned earlier by Syd Nathan to build a recording and production facility in Macon, Georgia, the adopted hometown of James Brown.

Album released in US on Federal and in Brazil (year unknown) on Joda

abstract crowd backdrop —  used for front and back cover images

Going Back to Alabama” — first of three B-sides issued on Federal for Starday-King — includes some prototypical “rapping” in the James Brown tradition.  Note the playful musical references to “Sweet Soul Music” — a song previously celebrated here:

“Going Back to Alabama”    Mickey Murray     1970

Discogs acknowledges three Federal single releases over the course of three years beginning in 1970.

For those who wonder why such limited output from a one-time potential hitmaker, NPR reporter Eric Luecking’s accompanying history piece for “People are Together” — selected as ‘Song of the Day‘ for February 24, 2012 — suggests that Murray may have been more than a little disillusioned by his experience with the music industry:

Born in South Carolina in the 1930s, Mickey Murray had roots in Georgia and shined shoes to help earn a living early in life.  He proved he could sing with gravel and grit, had a million-selling single in the late 1960s, and signed with the King/Federal label.  It’s striking how similar Mickey Murray’s story is to that of James Brown, yet while Brown left an indelible mark on soul and popular music, Murray remains a mere blip in the musical cosmos.  As the liner notes to his recently reissued lost album tell it, Murray doesn’t believe that People Are Together was ever officially released after it was recorded in 1970.

It was a risky endeavor to push “People Are Together” as the album’s lead single in the South.  It was reportedly black DJs who killed the record, labeling it as too progressive and fearing that they’d lose their on-air jobs should they play it. It doesn’t sound remotely controversial today:  It’s a call to all of mankind to join together and love one another, in the spirit of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and many other songs of its time.

Regardless, fame and a longer singing career didn’t follow for Murray, although he’d record later in life.  But the defiantly hopeful “People Are Together,” written by Bob Garrett and Calvin Arline, now stands as a virtually unheard gem; whether it was known to the public when it was recorded more than 40 years ago is irrelevant. What is relevant is the song itself, a timeless three-minute sermon which implores us all to give a little more love.

In 2011, Secret Stash Records reissued the album in limited edition (“1200 individually numbered copies”), with extended liner notes, never-before-seen photos, and access code for a free MP3 download of the entire album (“first 250 copies also include a 7″, hand-numbered with the corresponding number.”)

45Cat acknowledges two singles following Murray’s stint with Starday-King — one in 1975 and the other in 1979, which appears to be singer’s final musical statement.

Musical Postscript:  Dept. of Zaniness

Sole Release for NYC’s indie label Pepco

  later bought out by Potomac Electric Power Company

Albert Washington’s Psych Funk

After Syd Nathan passed, King Records was sold to Starday Records in 1968, who subsequently sold the combined Starday-King catalog to Nashville’s Lin Broadcasting.  The new King owners would revive the Deluxe label in 1969 or so – check out this interesting bit of pop soul from Albert Washington on the *resuscitated imprint:

“Somewhere Down the Line”     Albert Washington     1970

Steven C. Tracy would devote a chapter to Albert Washington in Going to Cincinnati:  A History of the Blues in the Queen City:

In 1970 Albert’s manager Harry Carlson [owner of Fraternity Records] signed Albert to a contract with Starday-King Records, and Albert is listed in the King discography [edited by Michel Ruppli, with Bill Daniels] as recording at the studios on Brewster Avenue on May 19 and October 16, 1970.  Unfortunately the discography is incomplete and inaccurate for Albert’s work for Starday-King, from the misspelling of Harry Carlson’s name (Cartson) to the listing of all titles as unissued and the inclusion of titles not recorded at Starday-King.  A number of titles are recognizable as earlier Fraternity issues.

From these Starday-King recording sessions, states Tracy, four singles were issued:

  • “Loosen These Pains and Let Me Go” b/w “Go On and Help Yourself”   Jewel 822
  • “Love Is a Wonderful Thing” b/w “I Wanna Know How You Feel”   Jewel 836
  • “Betty Jane” b/w “If You Need Me”   Jewel 837
  • “Ain’t It a Shame” b/w “Somewhere Down the Line”   Deluxe 45-135

The sessions included Albert on vocal and guitar, backed by Andy Johnson or Lonnie Mack on guitar, Hal Byrd and Scooter on horns, Hubert Herb on piano, Lonnie Bennett or Jimmy Thompson on organ, Walter Cash on bass, and Cornelius Roberts on drums, along with stray trumpet added here and there.

Of the four singles, notes Tracy:

His best is on the release on Deluxe, a King subsidiary, where Albert hits another peak for blues fans.  Roy Brown had recorded the song, A&R man and vice-president of King Henry Glover’s composition, previously [unavailable on YouTube], but his smooth ballad rendering pales before Albert’s version of “Ain’t It a Shame.”  Led by Lonnie Mack’s restrained guitar and underpinned by a rock-steady bass, Albert preaches in smooth and soaring tones while one of the most tastefully used female choruses – Gigi and the Charmaines – echoes and underlines Albert’s pleading.  And the marvelous vamp out!  [Blues Unlimited co-founder Mike] Leadbitter calls it “typical intense Albert,” but that kind of intensity is really atypical.

The flip side [“Somewhere Down the Line“] is psychedelic funk with tasty guitar and something that sounds like an echoing flute, female chorus, and chording piano and “you’ll never miss your water” in the lyrics — not of blues interest, really, but strong for its genre.

For those of you who noted the three 45 releases on Jewel and wondered if Rusty York was directly involved in making that happen, you would be correct:

Rusty York had been involved in the production of a number of these songs for Albert, and some of the songs recorded at Starday-King came out on Jewel Records.  Also at this time, however, Albert went back into the Jewel Studios, recording with the same band at Starday-King, for a release on the [Cincinnati-based] Rye label.

Tracy would invite Washington to perform at Walnut Hills High School in 1972.  In turn, Washington would invite Tracy play harmonica on two sides cut at Jewel, with Johnny Dollar (piano), Ed Thompson (guitar), Walter Cash (bass), and Cornelius Roberts (drums) – “So Good” b/w “Before the Sun Goes Down” – that were released on Cincinnati label, L & W.

Tracy would recall the charge of hearing “Turn on the Bright Lights” (with Lonnie Mack) for the first time on local Top 40 “hits” station WSAI in 1969 and recalling it as the moment Washington had “turned me on to the blues in Cincinnati.”  Also backing Washington on “Bright Lights” are Tim Drummond (of The Dapps, not to mention bassist for James Brown’s special 6-person backing band on a harrowing Vietnam tour the year before), Denny (“Dumpy“) Rice on piano, Ron Grayson on organ, Rusty York on harmonica, and an unknown drummer, according to Tracy.

Check out the prices people are shelling out for Albert Washington on vinyl

Larry Nager’s obituary in the October 28, 1998 edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ω                                             Ω                                             Ω

*King Records History Moment:
DeLuxe Records

According to Both Sides Now Publications:

“The DeLuxe label was founded by brothers David and Jules Braun in Linden, New Jersey, in 1944.  Syd Nathan bought into the company in the late 1940s and finally bought out the Braun brothers in 1951.  From that time, DeLuxe operated as a King subsidiary.” 

1969: Bethlehem’s Last Session?

As noted in Zero to 180’s recent history of Bethlehem Records in the “Post-Syd Nathan” era (i.e., starting in 1958, when Nathan acquired 50% of the label), Ruppli’s King recording sessionography indicates that some new recording had taken place at King’s Cincinnati studios in a few instances connected to the Bethlehem label, most seeming to take place 1962/63: The Mighty Faith Increasers; The Wilson Sisters; Jean Dee; Beverly Buff; The Guitar Crusher & The Vice-Roys.

Both Sides Now Publications documents the final years of Bethlehem in Part 4 of its informative Bethlehem Records Story:

By 1969, King had long since abandoned Bethlehem and its jazz catalog.  The last of those albums was released in 1965.  Syd Nathan himself had died in 1968, and the label was sold to Starday Records, now operating as Starday/King.  After four years of owning the imprint but releasing no product, Starday/King decided it would revive Bethlehem for a mixture of albums that didn’t seem to fit with their regular country (Starday) or soul (King) series.  So Bethlehem became the home of (1) a jazzy soul band (Dee Felice Trio) that was one of James Brown’s projects, (2) a saloon sing-along/ragtime/novelty band (The Saloonatics), (3) Wayne Cochran, a well-known rockabilly artist, (4) the Oscar Brandenburg Orchestra, a big band swing “orchestra” that was really Neil Richardson, Alan Moorehouse, and Johnny Pearson recording music to be used behind BBC test patterns for TV, (5) Azie Mortimer, a female jazz singer, and (6) to cap off the label, a reissue of a 1955 Dick Stabile studio album recorded in New York and advertised as recorded at a swanky New Orleans hotel.  Not the first time King pulled this trick, however.  The album had previously been issued on King 623 as Dancing on Sunset Strip.

The last Bethlehem-related session in Ruppli’s sessionography — The Saloonatics, who recorded their one and only album on April 29, 1969, Crazy World Crazy Tunes, which features country blues weeper, “I Get the Blues When It Rains” as the A-side of a 1969 single:

“I Get the Blues When It Rains”     The Saloonatics      1969

Note the 1929 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton on the LP cover…

… while the rear cover features liner notes from none other than Mr. Dick Clark

Dick Clark’s liner notes:

The Saloonatics are a group of musicians and singers who entertain each night, and as a result of this daily contact with the people, they seem to know what the people like.  It is just that element, what the people like – that is reproduced here.

The story behind the Saloonatics and this album goes much further.  This recording is the accomplishment of an ambition for two men who have been in all phases of the music industry for many years.

Paul Striks plays piano and sings, Ralph Guenther plays bass and banjo and also sings.  They are the nucleus of the group presented here.  Saul was with a group called Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads from 1947 to 1960 and was on all the hit records produced by that group during those years.  Ralph was a recording musician for King Records in Cincinnati for many years, and participated in the recording of many hits.

Saul and Ralph knew each other but never worked together.  After a severe injury to Saul, which forced him to stop traveling, friends brought Saul and Ralph together again and insisted that they should work together.  The group, which began as an experiment, soon became an outstanding attraction in Cincinnati. 

The next step was recording:  the reasoning behind this was that Saul and Ralph had been on hit records before, but had never received credit for what they did on the records. They were anonymous.

Here are two experienced professionals finally getting the recognition they deserve.  The musicianship obvious in the piano and banjo playing is enhanced by the unique singing of both men.  Saul plays the piano and Ralph plays the banjo.  Saul sings “Me and My Shadow,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby” and “Red Silk Stockings.”  Ralph sings “Vo Da Dee O Do,” “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” “Just Because,” “Lock My Heart,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” “Columbus Stockade Blues,” and the original song with the improbable title, “If My Baby Cooks as Good as She Looks, I’ll Be Happy All the Time.”

To this comination of musicians, another element was added – O.B. Marshall, a great arranger with many hits to his credits, was brought in to be the musical framework in which the talents of Saul Striks and Ralph Guenther would best be shown.  O.B. added a band of all-star recording musicians, and conducted the sessions as well as writing the arrangements.

That’s the crew:  Saul Striks, Ralph Guenther, and O.B. Marshall.  The result is this album.  We hope you enjoy it.  We did.

Bill Sachs, Cincinnati reporter in Billboard‘s ‘From the Music Capitals of the World’ column the week of June 10, 1972, notes that “The Saloonatics, namely Saul Striks, piano, and Ralph Guenther, banjo and bass, set for up an indefinite stay in the Terrace Hilton Hotel.  Striks was for many years with Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads.”

We know that Wayne Cochran and others had album releases on Bethlehem that followed The Saloonatics, so the big question that runs through this piece: Were the Saloonatics the last Bethlehem act to record at King’s Cincinnati studio — versus the Nashville studio used by the new consolidated Starday-King label (e.g., the JB’s featuring Bootsy & Catfish Collins and other CIncinnati musicians)?  And who exactly was the last artist to record at the King Studios – do we know?

King’s Classic Yodeling 78

78 RPM claims that King released Carolina Cotton‘s signature song “I Love to Yodel” (penned by the singer herself) as the B-side – Discogs, too.  I find that hard to believe:

“I Love to Yodel”     Carolina Cotton     1946

According to the person who posted this audio clip on YouTube:

Recorded 30 October 1946 (possibly) at Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood , CA — Hank Penny Orchestra a.k.a. Carolina Cotton Pickers (Hank Penny [leader], Carolina Cotton [vcl], Fred Cianci [fiddle], Ralph Miele [steel], Doye O´Dell [gt/vcl?], Max Fidler [fiddle], Bob Caudana [accordion], and possibly Eddie Bennett [piano].

Carolina Cotton was born Helen Hagstrom in Cash Arkansas (1925 – 1997) a.k.a., “The Yodelling Blonde Bombshell.”

“I Love to Yodel” b/w “Mocking Bird Yodel”

Surprisingly little fanfare surrounding this unjustly obscure western swing King classic – released in November, 1949.  Exactly three years prior, King had released Cotton’s first single “Three Miles South of Cash (In Arkansas)” b/w “Singing on the Trail” in November, 1946.  Cotton briefly performed with Hank Penny, reports the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, who undoubtedly helped her get signed with King.

I first learned of this song by way of cassette, interestingly enough — yet another influential musical moment facilitated by the Cherokee Trading Post, who once sold tapes of King recordings (sometimes conjoined with items from the Starday label) produced by Gusto/IMG — owners of the King and Starday combined catalog since 1975.  The cassette in question All Star Western Swing — as with Country Tunes Done R&B (celebrated in the previous piece) — has no corresponding catalog record in Discogs, nor can you find any information about it on the web (okay, one reference).

Undated cassette – produced by Gusto/IMG

Furthermore, just as with Country Tunes Done R&B, there is a King LP that appears to be the inspiration for the cassette version marketed by IMG/Gusto — in this case, 1963’s Western Swing – Famous Western Bands.  This vinyl long-playing collection contains all 8 songs found on the cassette plus 4 additional tunes by Paul Howard (& His Arkansas Cotton Pickers), Leon Rusk, Luke Wills (& His Rhythm Busters), and Jimmie Widener.

Western Swing – Famous Western Bands [King LP 876]

[click on song title links below to hear streaming audio]

A little surprised by the fact that five of the twelve songs included on this album are not yet available for preview on YouTube.

*Amusingly, the label says “Bring It On to My House HENRY

I remember sending copies of these tapes to Larry Nager during my first flush of wonder back in the 1990s on my annual trips to Cincinnati, and Larry theorizing that places like Cherokee Trading Post in semi-rural West Virginia just might be the last vestiges of Syd Nathan’s distribution system in place — “bringing the music to the people” where they live.

“I Love to Yodel” can also be found on this rare Audio Lab EP

An earlier version of “I Love to Yodel,” by the way, would be recorded for Cotton to sing in the 1944 film I’m From Arkansas. (click on link to watch the clip).  Check out the Carolina Cotton website for lots of great information and vintage photos.