While there’s no denying James Brown’s pivotal musical influence, Cochran and his backing band, The C.C. Riders, bring their own creativity to bear on “Chopper 70” — an appropriately high-adrenaline way to bring to a close an album that bears the gritty title, Alive and Well and Living in a Bitch of a World:
“Chopper 70” Wayne Cochran 1970
Pastorius would join the band by 1972, when Cochran & C.C. Riders had made the big move to Epic, an imprint of almighty Columbia. Two years prior, Cochran and company would record a pair of albums for King (with the first issued on its Bethlehem subsidiary) that would both be released in 1970.
Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders: ALIVE AND WELL and living in …
… a b*tch of a world
Dave Dexter, in his “Dexter’s Scrapbook” column for Billboard, would file this report on Cochran in the May 23, 1970 edition:
“Platinum-haired Wayne Cochran was driving a garbage truck in Georgia, the father of three sons. Today’s he’s a sizzling nitery star, with his C.C. Riders, and a big gun on Starday-King disks. He blames parents for the generation gap: ‘In this world today, you’ve got to change, you’ve got to move with what’s happening and that way you’ll never grow old. The kids do their thing in order to dig what they are digging more, not so they can hate the kid next to them. I’ve never seen a fight at a teen-age concert and I think I never will.’
Does that make sense, assuming you dig what he’s digging?”
Zero to 180 regrets waiting until now to sing the praises of Cochran, who left us only a couple months ago, as it turns out. Cochran’s large horn-heavy ensemble, I would learn from Matt Schudel’s obituary in The Washington Post, was famously unrelenting, as their “shows had no stopping point: The band kept vamping from one song to the next, as the music and audience reached a point of frenzy.”
Choppers for the teenyboppers: vintage 1970 Raleigh ad
Jackie Gleason, who wrote the liner notes for Cochran’s self-titled 1967 release on Chess, would call the singer (who would often leave the stage to take his show out into the audience) “the wildest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.” Gleason’s dance ensemble leader, June Taylor, apparently “took ideas for her dancers from the C.C. Riders choreography” during Cochran’s extended mid-60s run at Miami’s major soul club, The Barn.
I count 12 musicians in this photo (courtesy of Discogs)
Impossible to write about Cochran without making reference to Cochran’s mountainous dome of hair. Neil Genzlinger, in his New York Times obituary, would point out who inspired the decision behind the hairdo’s platinum color — Johnny and Edgar Winter (“Every time the lights over their heads changed colors, their hair changed colors. And I said, “Now there’s the color, if I could figure out how to get it”) — thanks to Cochran’s appearance on Dave Letterman’s NBC Late Night show in 1982.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Photo from Michael Ochs Archives via PITCHFORK)
Cochran’s first stint with King would last about two years – from late 1963 through early 1965 – before similarly brief runs with Mercury (1965-66) and Chess (1967-68). King founder, Syd Nathan, would pass the year prior to Cochran’s return to the label (now renamed Starday-King), whose first single release would be an elaborately-arranged two-part Beatles mash-up medley of “Hey Jude” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
King Records Turns 75! Cataloging the Classics
Big tip of the hat to Tim Garry of School of Rock – Mason, OH for allowing Zero to 180 the opportunity to compile a list of classic recordings put out by King Records (and its subsidiaries) in time for the label’s 75th birthday celebration. This special tip-top list of nearly 200 songs – stretching from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s – is a fascinating cross-section of popular music styles (secular, as well as sacred) from the original rock ‘n’ roll era and beyond. This PDF document is to be updated over time, as additional classic King recordings are identified by talent scouts embedded here and abroad — click on link below:
Merle Travis — along with Grandpa Jones — would inaugurate King Records in 1943 as the first twomusical 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.]
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
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.
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!)
“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.
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 Reddand 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:
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.
1971 Wild Goose ‘psych 45’ on King-owned Agape
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 SoulBelievers with The Dapps — “IDon’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, TheJBs — 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’s1972 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 78s on King “race” subsidiary label, Queen
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’ onWave 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 CoffeeThat 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!
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 “SoulPride (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“).
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.
1971 Albert Washington 45 on Deluxe (Label Revived by Starday-King)
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.
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.
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.
Other purchasers were the songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and Fred Bienstock, a former executive with Hill & Range.
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.”
Lin had indicated some time ago it was interested in selling its music division. It had acquired Starday-King shortly after the two firms, Starday here and King in Cincinnati, had merged.
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
Podcasts are great and all, but nothing compares to the magic & excitement of live radio!
A recent exchange with WPFW radio’s Andrea Bray – at Andrea’s Fine Hats in DC just over the line from Silver Spring – unexpectedly resulted in an invitation to join her on the air this past Saturday to celebrate the musical legacy of Bill Doggett, whose career spans the more traditional blues, jazz, and swing eras into the new R&B and funk ushered in by his King Records labelmate, James Brown. Bill Doggett’s spirit turns 100 years today, and Doggett’s nephew, Bill Doggett II, joined us on the “The Andrea Bray Show“ from the west coast to inform WPFW listeners how an improvisation started by Bill Doggett’s bandmates in a Lima, Ohio hotel room became “the most important and first R&B instrumental of the early rock & roll era to cross over” into the pop market. “Honky Tonk” would show remarkable staying power as it entered the Billboard Top 100 chart on August 18, 1956 and – according to those fine folks at Ace UK – “stayed in the national pop listings for 29 weeks, peaking at #2 (naturally it went to #1 R&B).” Keeping it from the top spot, unfortunately, was that dastardly Elvis double A-side “Hound Dog” b/w “Don’t Be Cruel”!
#1 in zero to 180’s book
What great and glorious fun it was to chat up Ms. Andrea about King Records history, as we played “Honky Tonk,” examined the Bill Doggett legacy, and then followed the song with its funky ‘re-boot’ from 1969 (produced by James Brown) on which Doggett is backed by The J.B.’s – “Honky Tonk Popcorn“:
“Honky Tonk Popcorn” Bill Doggett 1969
Doggett II would point out that Nathan was initially opposed to releasing “Part 2” – a jukebox favorite, interestingly. According to the liner notes in Ace UK compilation, Honky Tonk! The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals: “The late Jim Wilson (King’s branch manager in Detroit) insisted, however, that [King A&R director, Henry] Glover must take credit for convincing Syd Nathan to release the record in two parts.” According to Greg Evans, in the June 1986 issue of Cincinnati Magazine, “[Doggett’s] biggest hit, the song his audiences still request, remains ‘Honky Tonk, Part 2.'”
Live radio is an improvisational dance, and the joint really got jumping when another former Cincinnatian – a caller named Benjamin who grew up around the corner from King – phoned in and regaled listeners with stories of Cadillacs pulling up to the King studios, famous sightings (Ruth Brown, Johnny Ace, Hank Ballard, Tiny Bradshaw, JB, of course) and most of all, stealing items from the “pink ashcan” – rejected/warped King vinyl that played like new after attaching a silver dollar with a rubber band to the turntable’s tonearm!
Greg Evans would write his Cincinnati Magazine piece while Doggett was still performing (even though, as he playfully observed, “baby, that organ gets heavier every year”) and include numerous quotes from the Hammond master himself about the “tremendous operation” of Syd Nathan, who – according to Shad O’Shea (or ‘O’Shay’) “was the one single man who can be credited with bringing black music to the masses.” Doggett, for example, would note that “When I recorded for King, you could do a session at 2 in the afternoon, finish by 5 or 6, and have the records on a truck to the distributors by 8 the next morning. It was a complete, total operation.”
Zero to 180 with DC community fixture & national treasure, ms. Andrea Bray
Also worth emphasizing that Doggett’s relationship with James Brown in the 1960s was not strictly a one-way affair, as Geoff Brown would write in his biography of James Brown:
“Not surprisingly, after the success with ‘Mashed Potatoes’ in the guise of Nat Kendrick and the Swans, [King Records label owner, Syd] Nathan relaxed his views about recording the band on instrumental releases. ‘Hold It’, credited as James Brown Presents His Band, was the first, and a riff from the Bill Doggett hit would form the link he used to segue between songs in the breathless, non-stop Revue that seared across the States as he forged his reputation as The King of the One-Nighters.”
Says UK’s Ace Records, who put out a compilation in 2012 bearing the same title as the 1969 funk track:
“The most obvious manifestation of [Doggett keeping pace with contemporary music trends] was his collaboration with James Brown and his JBs, who were incredibly tight on the top-side of the super-rhythmic ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’. The popcorn was Brown’s dance rhythm of the year: he had made #1 R&B with ‘Mother Popcorn’, #2 with ‘Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn’. The B-side of the single was Doggett’s funk update of ‘Honky Tonk’, which worked even better than Brown’s own 1972 remake.
King then gathered up a bunch of recent Doggett recordings to make the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” album. It was marketed as a James Brown production but, other than the two single sides, it contained no cuts produced by Brown. Instead it featured a fascinating mix of grooves that evoke smoky clubs and juke joints. ‘Mad’ and a scorching version of Edwin Starr’s ‘Twenty Five Miles’ were released as singles.”
Hip hop fans might be intrigued to know that Pete Rock would sample the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” – JB’s scream, specifically – for 2004 “One MC One DJ.”
Bill Doggett II invites you to join the Bill Doggett Centennial celebration at his website, where you can hear his uncle’s music, absorb some history, and sign the Guest Book.
Hat Lady and Long-Time Community Fixture: On the Air with Andrea Bray
[Click on triangle above to play Andrea Bray’s interview with Chris Richardson]
Andrea Bray, who spent nearly 20 years working in radio broadcast news with media companies such as WRC and WTOP in Washington and WDJY-FM in Atlanta, died Wednesday, reported WPFW-FM in Washington, where Bray was known as the “queen of old-school rhythm and blues.” The Pittsburgh native hosted the popular “Andrea Bray Show” until May 2016. Bray ran a hat shop [still active] in Silver Spring, Md., where a spokeswoman said a memorial service would be held in about 30 days.
Remember three years ago when Zero to 180 featured its first ‘Musical Roll Call‘ vis-à-vis Little Royal and his regal rail line, whose crew consisted solely of the finest and funkiest soul luminaries of the early 1970s including, incredibly, The Osmond Brothers? Of course you don’t — I barely do.
“Soul Train” would be one of two 45s released in 1972 on Tri-Us, a boutique imprint for producer Huey Meaux that was bequeathed, as well as distributed, by Starday-King. 90-second instrumental “Razor Blade” would be the B-side of Little Royal’s second single from that same year (although, the 45 label is way off — actual running time is more like two minutes and ten seconds):
“Razor Blade” Little Royal & the Swingmasters 1972
Most of Little Royal’s 1972-73 single sides (though definitely not all) would be packaged into a 12″ long-playing release Jealous that was issued in 1972 and then again in 1973.
Little Royal’s 1972 Starday-King LP
Kenny Smith, one-time host of Cincinnati’s local Soul Street TV program from 1969-71, (and featured in this Zero to 180 piece from October, 2013) would once welcome onto his show, Little Royal, who first sings the A-side (“Jealous”) and then dances the B-side “Razor Blade” in this vintage clip:
Thanks to the Stepfather of Soul (or is it Last.fm?) for pointing out that “Razor Blade” has a vocal counterpart: Sebastian‘s “Living in Depression” from 1975!
“Living in Depression” Sebastian 1975
Alert! DC music history blog Soul 51 (last seen in Zero to 180’s profile of Martha Harvin & The Jewels – “Who’s Left Holding King’s Bag?“) checks in with Little Royal, who lives in the DC area and first met James Brown, we are informed, at the Howard Theater in 1963.
Bill Doggett and his Hammond organ, in 1957, would breathe (via flute) fresh life into Tiny Bradshaw‘s “Soft” from 1952 – both versions released on King. Even though Doggett’s “Soft” would ‘only’ peak at #51, Billboard’s “Hot 100 Chart History” indicates this song to have spent 14 weeks on the chart – impressive staying power for an instrumental:
The song would endure into the 1970s. However, King Records would do a curious thing. On the one hand, King would reissue “Soft” as a single in 1971 – though as a B-side (!) – while just the year prior, the song had been deemed fit to serve as the title track of a Bill Doggett LP compilation. What gives? Perhaps the 1971 single was an attempt to give record buyers a “double A-side” release with two solid tracks and no filler, so perhaps I should lighten up a little.
1971 King LP — “Soft” as title track 1970 King 45 — “Soft” as B-side
It’s the Bill Doggett Centennial!
Bill Doggett, who recorded an instrumental in 1956 (“Honky Tonk”) that sold over 1 million copies — a ridiculous number, especially for King Records. 2016, therefore, means that “Honky Tonk” turns 60 (which is the new 40, anyway), and the artist who recorded it was (curiously enough) 40 years old at the time, as Bill Doggett was born exactly one hundred years ago. I have to confess: I didn’t figure this out on my own. This information would come directly from Bill Doggett II, nephew and namesake, who recently reached out to Zero to 180 in response to the precarious future of the original King Records historic site in Cincinnati:
“King Records and its building are to Cincinnati Music History what Capitol Records and its building are to Los Angeles and West Coast r&b and jazz. Preserving the building and turning it in to a restored TOURIST Destination will bring Tax revenue dollars and TOURISM. Think BIG….not small. THIS YEAR is The BILL DOGGETT CENTENNIAL 1916-2016 and THE 60TH Anniversary of the landmark KING Gold Record: HONKY TONK Parts 1/2.”
“Honky Tonk”: Promotional video from Bill Doggett Productions
Browse Doggett’s many releases from the 1950-1970s and beyond at Discogs.com
Interesting to learn that the Canadian Sweethearts (who later signed with A&M and Epic) had passed through Cincinnati’s King Records briefly in the guise of Bob & Lucille.
King’s Syd Nathan would lease two tracks from 2 different Bob & Lucille 45s that had been released in the late 1950s on tiny Hollywood-based Ditto label and package them as a King single in 1962. “Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe” is the A-side and a classic rockabilly track:
“Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe” Bob & Lucille recorded Dec. 1958
Even more interesting was the decision by Starday-King in 1973 – long after Syd Nathan had passed – to reissue this 45. Could it possibly have been in response to resurgence of interest in 1950s roots rock that George Lucas’s American Graffiti (also released in 1973) helped ignite? (*See related “Roots Rock Reawakening” addendum in prior Zero to 180 piece that features “Seven Deadly Finns” by Brian Eno).
I am stunned to discover that Marie “Queenie” Lyons’ playful retort to the Isley Brothers – “Your Thing Ain’t Good Without My Thing” (answer song of sorts to “It’s Your Thing“) and an obvious candidate for an A-side – would remain an album-only track from 1970’s Soul Fever on DeLuxe, an imprint of Starday-King Records (from King’s post-Syd Nathan era):
“Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing” Marie “Queenie” Lyons 1969
Billboard would award the Soul Fever LP “Four-Stars” (albums with “sales potential within their category of music and possible chart items”) in its October 10, 1970 edition.
Michel Rupli’s The King Labels: A Discography does not say whether this album was recorded at King’s Cincinnati studios – although many suspect it was. Soul Fever, sadly, would be Marie “Queenie” Lyons’ first and only album release.
‘Soul Fever’ back cover – with liner notes by WLAC’s Bill “Hoss” Allen
Things I learned about Marie “Queenie” Lyons from reading Hoss Allen’s liner notes:
Hails from Archibald, Louisiana but moved to Ashtabula, Ohio at a young age.
First performed professionally in 1963 at the Club Castaway in Geneva, Ohio.
Served as vocalist in 1964 with The King Curtis Band in New York City.
Performed with Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, The Coasters, Jerry Lee Lewis, and – her idol and inspiration – James Brown, among many others.
One of the funkiest soul LPs ever to drop, according to Noah S. Guiney
Buckeye Beat says that Lyons is still active and that Queenie’s Lounge, her bar in Ashtabula, Ohio (as of 2014) – is/was still open for business.
Harvard Crimson’s, Noah S. Guiney, is aghast that Marie “Queenie” Lyons “was left cruelly unappreciated for so long” due to “a combination of small-label politics and a miniscule marketing budget” and demands that music historians sit up and take notice of this miscarriage of justice.
Here’s a tuneful country rocker from 1970 that sure sounds like a radio hit:
“Louisiana Woman” Swampwater 1970
And yet this rather obscure debut from Linda Ronstadt’s backing band would be released by none other than King Records – with notable rock artist, Cal Schenkel, responsible for the distinctive (for King) cover photography. King would also issue two singles from this album, and one of them would reach #72 on the country chart (according to this 45Cat contributer).
John Beland: Guitar, Resonator Guitar, Piano, Vocals Gib Guilbeau: Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals Thad Maxwell: Bass, Vocals Stan Pratt: Drums Roger Jannotta: Strings John Wagner: Producer
“These guys are real good, but I hope nobody buys their album ’cause if they get to be famous, I won’t have a backup group.” – Linda Maria Ronstadt [album jacket]
John Beland (a.k.a., Bill Murphy) posted the following piece on Amazon.com:
“Long before the Eagles..there was Swampwater, Linda Ronstadt’s pioneering first solo band, led by the team of myself & Gib Guilbeau, the same duo that would later breath life back into the nearly defunked Flying Burrito Brothers 10 years later. Swampwater was one of the first true country rock bands to emerge in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Blending my love for tight harmonies and twanging LA Bakersfield telecaster guitar stylings with Gib’s one of a kind pure country vocals and driving cajun fiddle, Swampwater helped pave the way for acts like the Eagles and many others that followed.
“This album was recorded in 1970 between tours with Linda Ronstadt, who we were backing up at the time. Our unique harmonies blended so well that we were often hired as a vocal back up group for other L.A recording artists such as Larry Murray, Johnny Darrell, Arlo Guthrie and others. The album was recorded in two days on a 4 track studio in New Mexico and listening back 24 years later its amazing in its simplicity, honesty and originality.
“At a time when others were rocking it up on the Sunset Strip, we were combining west coast California country music with influences from our heroes like the Byrds, The Dillards, Hearts & Flowers, the Beach Boys and the Everly Brothers. Our arrangements and stylized guitar riffs would coincidentally be mirrored in the early records of the Eagles. Just listen to “River People” and then to “Take It Easy” a few years later.
“This is a must album for any true collector of country rock. I’m not ashamed to say that Swampwater was well ahead of its time. Gib and I would reunite 10 years later to work together in the Flying Burrito Brothers, landing that band its first chart hits ever. But this is where is all began with us with this honest but very important little album in 1970. Linda Ronstadt & Clarence White wrote the liner notes too! I’m damned proud of what we did back then. Swampwater was the best band I ever played in. Heck, I’d join them again in a Hollywood minute. John Beland a.k.a. Bill Murphy – 2004”
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.
Title 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.'”
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 fight: 45Cat 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”
An 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.”
Pee 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.”
Randy 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.”
Similarly, 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:
On 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:
From Nilsson’s brilliantly sung end credits for 1968 cinematic bomb, Skidoo, we learned that the film’s director, Otto Preminger, once essentially paid $7,600 to appear on an episode of TV’s Batman. How interesting then to learn that Cincinnati’s King Records has its own – albeit indirect – connection to television’s Caped Crusader: Frank Gorshin‘s 1970 King single, “Turn Around, Look at Me.”
Gorshin, who played Batman archenemy, The Riddler, playfully voices numerous stage and screen characters in the course of laying down his vocal track, the highlight easily being his classic “you dirty rat” villainous gangster — click here to dig the groovy sounds.
archnemesis — and King recording star
“Turn Around, Look at Me” was composed by Jerry Capehart – probably best known for having written “Summertime Blues” and “My Way” for Eddie Cochran – and was originally a Top 100 hit for Glen Campbell in 1961. The following year, The Lettermen (who, as Jay Warner points out, “would earn the dubious distinction of amassing more records that hit the Billboard ‘Bubbling Under’ chart without crashing the Top 100”) would just bubble under at #105 with their version of the song. However, six years later The Vogues would revive the song and hit the Top 10 with their 1968 remake.
Ruppli’s 2-volume King discography points out that Gorshin recorded several other songs for Starday-King (such as “Love Slave” and “Part of My Life for Awhile”) that remain in IMG’s vast vault of master recordings. Five years after Frank Gorshin’s attempt to mine new commercial territory with the song, Esther Phillips would release a version on Kudu, the “soul jazz” subsidiary for Creed Taylor’s CTI label.