The Soulful Strings evoke the magic of falling snow — thanks to Dorothy Ashby‘s harp — on their classic instrumental track, “Snowfall“:
“Snowfall” Soulful Strings 1968
Discogs helps us appreciate how The Soulful Strings were able to create an identifiable sound despite only playing other people’s material:
“The Soulful Strings was a project of the Chicago soul arranger Richard Evans, working with several musicians from the Cadet Records house band between 1966 and 1971 including Charles Stepney, Bobby Christian, Billy Wooten, Phil Upchurch, Lennie Druss, and Cleveland Eaton.
Employing a repertoire composed almost entirely of covers, Evans and company created a unique sound, combining a sharp, soulful rhythm section with a lush string backing. Evans pushed the strings to the front, assuming an attitude previously reserved only for the hulking funk of bass and rhythm guitar. It was this crucial element that made The Soulful Strings sound, so successful.”
“Snowfall” can be found on The Magic of Christmas, released in 1968 on Chess jazz subsidiary label, Cadet.
Cadet would issue 7 albums by The Soulful Strings between the years 1966-1970.
Fascinating that a musician of the caliber of Hank Garland (who was signed to Columbia, for cryin’ out loud) would release a companion album of sorts – Subtle Swing – to the groundbreaking (and previously discussed) Jazz Winds from a New Direction, and yet so little information to confirm its existence, aside from Sundazed’s 2004 vinyl reissue.
Poke around online and you will discover that Subtle Swing was tacked onto 2013’s CD reissue of Who Is Gary Burton? as an inducement for fans of the noted jazz vibraphonist — but at the expense of Hank Garland!
Dig deeper still, and you will correctly deduce that Sony, in partnership with Sundazed, incorporated Hank’s entire Columbia output [1959’s Velvet Guitar + 1960’s Subtle Swing + 1961’s Jazz Winds + 1962’s Unforgettable Guitar] into a double compact disc, albeit in jumbled order, when issued in 2001.
Jazz Wax notes that the recording session for Subtle Swing took place six days after the Jazz Winds in a New Direction album had wrapped on August 24, 1960 (here we go again, an entire album recorded in a single day) although, it’s not quite true that the “same group” of musicians played on this follow-up album — only Garland and Burton remained from Jazz Winds.
Check out the stereo drums that kick off album closer, “Call D. Law” – a clever bit of wordplay that also pays tribute to Columbia boss and benefactor, Don Law :
“Call D. Law” Hank Garland 1960
Hank Garland: Guitar Gary Burton: Vibraphone Bob Moore: Bass Doug Kirkham & Murrey “Buddy” Harman: Drums Bill Pursell: Piano Don Law: Producer
The CD liner notes by the indispensible Rich Kienzle sheds light on the special reasons underlying Subtle Swing‘s obscurity.
“Six days later, Hank returned to the studio for two days to produce a jazzy album for the song licensing firm SESAC, who produced country and gospel recordings for the radio stations that took licenses with the company. This session was geared as much to the radio market as it was to the jazz audience. The band, however, was strictly Nashville, including Burton, Bob Moore, pianist Bill Pursell, and drummer Doug Kirkham, who’d worked with Hank in Billy Burke’s combo.
If Jazz Winds emphasized Hank in a [Tal] Farlowesque context, the ten-song SESAC effort, released to clients under the title Subtle Swing, reflected the influence of pianist George Shearing’s Quintet. Programming requirements seemingly mandated no songs longer than four minutes. It’s a Garland-Burton effort all the way.”
Rare original copy of 1960 SESAC album — sold for $47 in 2004
“Now that the Hank Garland Quintet is a ‘fait accompli’ on SESAC Recordings, the young guitarist stands in the unique position of moulding a new career on the firm foundation of his C&W successes. With a patient hand and perceptive musicianship, he has unified the instrumental skills of five performers to produce these refreshing sounds. The “subtle swing” which has always been a vital part of Garland’s playing transcends his newest contribution to musical entertainment.” [liner notes from the back cover]
But tragedy would intervene in Garland’s life when a blown rear tire resulted in a serious accident that would leave him permanently impaired. 1962’s Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland would essentially be a repackaging of the SESAC recordings — his musical career forever halted. In 1992, Bear Family would gather Garland’s 1940s & 50s Decca recordings, including a pair of excellent unissued tracks from 1957, “Baby Guitar” and “Hank’s Dream.”
2004 reissue — “designed for repeated listening” as the original LP promised
Zero to 180 kicks off its musical salute to grits with an obvious winner of an instrumental, “Tacos and Grits” by Al Grey:
“Tacos and Grits” Al Grey 1963
The first featured song in Zero to 180’s music & grits series — launching on the heels of Saturday’s big Max Fleischer event at the AFI — happens to be represented on YouTube by exactly one audio clip, one that is illustrated (for mystifying reasons) by a still image of Betty Boop.
Trombone: Al Grey
Piano: John Young
Guitar: Leo Blevins
Bass: Ike Isaacs
Drums: Phil Thomas
Engineer: Ron Malo
Supervisor: Esmond Edwards
Liner Notes: Holmes (Daddy-O) Daylie
A single clause would speak volumes: “Recorded December 17, 1963” – as it says on the cover of Al Grey’s Boss Bone album. One day. Just like Stones Jazz by Joe Pass. Even the debut album by The Beatles would require a handful of recording sessions. Recording for the Boss Bone album would take place at Ter Mar studios – i.e., Chess.
“Tacos and Grits” would be released on Chess subsidiary, Argo, in 1964 — did it chart? Rest assured, Al Grey did register his copyright for “Tacos and Grits” in 1964.
Fish tacos and grits
Good news! “Taco and Grits” would be used as background music to accompany Mr. Fine Wine’s DJ patter on WFMU’s Downtown Soulville radio show on July 11, 2014.
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
Last November’s tribute to the funkiest musical instrument known to humankind would seem to designate NRBQ‘s “Stomp” (recorded December, 1968) as among the earliest of recordings to feature the clavinet, even though by article’s end I reveal my trump card: “Attractive Girl” by The Termites — an album track on 1967’s Do the Rock Steady, a Studio One LP that was originally released in Jamaica and the UK.
My gratitude to the mysterious Felix, who points out that Don Sebesky‘s “Water Brother” from 1968’s Distant Galaxy album – based on the recording date – undoubtedly precedes NRBQ’s first recordings for Columbia and highlights the clavinet work of Sebesky himself:
“Water Brother” Don Sebesky 1968
Distant Galaxy, Sebesky’s second album for Verve, would find Larry Coryell (again) on guitar (“Lady Madonna”) and sitar (“Guru-Vin”), along with Chuck Rainey, Dick Hyman and Hubert Laws, among others, providing musical support.
Although a solo artist from the late 1960s through the 1990s, Sebesky enjoys much greater renown as an arranger, whose CV includes Jimmy Dean, Astrud Gilberto, Sonny Stitt, Dionne Warwicke, Esther Phillips, Hank Crawford, Leslie Uggams, George Benson, Maynard Ferguson, Gilbert Bécaud, Paul Desmond, Charles Brown, Wes Montgomery, Willie Bobo, Walter Wanderley, Doc Severinson, Carmen McRae, and Roberta Flack.
Sebesky’s earliest recognition, however, was for his jazz trombone work with Kai Winding, Tommy Dorsey, and Stan Kenton, among others.
Check out the assemblage of talent for Don Sebesky’s 1973 2-LP set
Unfortunately, I’m about to pull another trump card of sorts out of my sleeve: Aaron Kipness’s Hohnet Clavinet FAQ from 2007 in which the question of First Clavinet Recordings is addressed on page ten. Stevie Wonder (to no one’s surprise) is identified as a potential clavinet originator; “Shoo–Be–Doo–Be–Doo–Da–Day,” which opens with a funky clavinet riff, was released, according to the FAQ, in 1966! Upon closer inspection, however, credible sources point to March, 1968 as the song’s actual release date.
The FAQ, additionally, offers Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” (released January, 8, 1968 and recorded, according to Soulful Kinda Music, three days prior) as an early clavinet recording, which it is.
Nevertheless, “Attractive Girl” by The Termites – a track from their 1967 Studio One LP Do the Rock Steady remains, as best as I can determine, the medal bearer for Earliest Clavinet Recording.
Clavinet Update! Special thanks to Jim Kimsey, whose March, 2016 comment ponied up “Six O’Clock” by (NRBQ fan) John Sebastian & The Lovin’ Spoonful – recorded in 1967 – as a new candidate for “Earliest Clavinet Recording” — now tied with “Attractive Girl” by The Termites.
The alluring flute and vibraphone are just a ploy – liberation’s crafty end game.of using music to help listeners recognize the shared humanity that binds us all:
“Liberation” The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One 1965
“Liberation” is the debut single/opening statement from The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One, who released five albums between the years 1965-1969. 45Cat appears to tell us that “Liberation” b/w “Walk on By” was released twice in 1965 but with the A & B sides flipped! Is this really true?
Twin 45s but with the two sides flipped? Note: Hal David bumped from the credits
1967 LP (early appearance for this “Future Shock” typeface?)
Rufus Harley’s sole 45, “Bagpipe Blues” on Atlantic Records – an original amalgamation of Scottish highland and African-American musical traditions from 1965 – was undoubtedly the first of its kind. The title track of Harley’s second Atlantic album – “Scotch and Soul” – would find a way to incorporate Afro-Cuban jazz into the mix, as well:
“Scotch and Soul” Rufus Harley 1966
Harley would release four albums for Atlantic between 1965-1970 — plus one track (“Pipin’ the Blues”) on Sonny Stitt’s 1967 Deuces Wild album on Atlantic. Harley’s 1972 release, Re-Creation of the Gods on the Ankh label, would be his last for awhile.
Rufus Harley would re-emerge in 1982 to play the bagpipes on one track (“Sweater”) from Laurie Anderson’s 1982 debut “avant-pop” album, Big Science. In 1994 The Roots would also feature Rufus Harley’s bagpipes on one of their earlier efforts, From the Ground Up., as well as the following year’s Do You Want More?!!!??!
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:
Three musicians – Stanley Clarke, Jeff Beck & Steve Gadd – with keyboard embellishments from a fourth, Bayeté Todd Cochran:
“Jamaican Boy” was a 45 release from 1979’s I Wanna Play for You studio/live hybrid LP.
Not to be confused with Lloyd Clarke’s single release from 1964, “Fellow Jamaican.”
In a (potentially ironic) twist, NYC-born percussionist, Lenny White – Clarke’s former partner in jazz fusion supergroup, Return to Forever – later served as the drummer for The Jamaica Boys, who released two albums on Warner Brothers.
Jeff Beck, interestingly, had received a shout out from Clarke three years previously on “Hello Jeff” (both an A-side and B-side on which Beck played guitar) and three years prior to that from Stevie Wonder on “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love” – an album track from Wonder’s 1972 breakthrough LP, Talking Book, on which Stevie encouragingly chuckles “Do it, Jeff” around the 2:00 mark.