= Rare & Unissued King Tracks =

N O T E !
Critical Update — January 11, 2017

Due to “bandwith” issues, this dense, graphics-laden micro-history of King Records from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s has been temporarily archived in order to make room for two epic Silver Spring, Maryland music history pieces:  (1) a Track Recorders ‘re-boot’ that will be followed soon after by (2) a detailed history of Gene Rosenthal & Adelphi Records.

Stay tuned to this space for a link to “Rare & Unissued King Tracks” when it returns in all its magnificence to Zero to 180.

Hardrock Gunter on (indie) Island

This recording of Hardrock Gunter‘s mesmerizing voice, with its offbeat hiccup-y rhythms bathed in slapback echo, never fails to enchant:

“Boppin’ to Grandfather’s Clock”     Hardrock (“Sidney Jo Lewis”) Gunter     1958

Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidney Louis Gunter, Jr.  would record under two other names:  Buddy Durham (as noted in the previous piece about the Vandergrift Brothers — possibly in error) and Sidney Jo Lewis, which he used in 1958 to record “Boppin’ to Grandfather’s Clock” on Cleveland indie label, Island.  Two years prior, Gunter had already put together the ingredients that would define his signature sound on “Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby,” originally recorded in Wheeling, WV for Cross Country in 1956 before the single got picked up by Sam Phillips‘ and re-released on his vaunted Sun label later that August.

1958 would also see the release of ‘SONGS THEY CENSORED IN THE HILLS‘ LP for SeecoHardrock Gunter LP-x

Note the considerably drier sound – not to mention vastly different singing style – on Gunter’s second of three 45s for Cincinnati’s King RecordsI’ll Give ’em Rhythm” (b/w “I Put My Britches on Just Like Everybody Else”), recorded in Cincinnati August 19, 1955 (interestingly enough, the same day as Herb & Kay‘s delightful “We Did“):

“I’ll Give ’em Rhythm”     Hardrock Gunter     1955

Thanks to UK-charts.com, I am able to transcribe the following information from the Hardrock Gunter “bio disc” (thanks, Randy McNutt!) for the King 45 illustrated in the audio clip above:

“When Hardrock Gunter graduated from high school, he teamed up with Happy Wilson who organized the Golden River Boys.  The original members of this group are still doing radio shows.  After World War II, Gunter again went back into radio when the Golden River Boys were re-organized.  In 1948 Hardrock started managing the unit and acted as personal manager to Happy Wilson until late 1949.”

King would issue another “bio disc” for “Turn the Other Cheek” that gives us the official explanation for Gunter’s stage name:Hardrock Gunter 45-bbHardrock Gunter, professionally speaking, would leap right out of the gate, recording his first few singles for mighty Decca, before moving on to MGM, Sun, King, Cross Country, Emperor (“Whoo!  I Mean Whee!“), Island, Seeco, Cullman, D, El Dorado, Starday (“Hillbilly Twist“), Gee Gee, Brunswick, Rival, Essgee, Longhorn, Morgun, Rollercoaster, Home Brew, and Jar — possibly others.

Hardrock Gunter rocking a doubleneck MOSRITE on 1999 Dutch 45 recorded in LondonHardrock Gunter LP

Matthew Loukes echos the call for Gunter’s “Birmingham Bounce” of 1950 – which preceded Jackie Brenston & Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88” and was the reason for Decca’s interest – as “first rock ‘n’ roll recording” in his 2013 obituary for the Guardian.

Hardrock Gunter + Hank Williams:  Twins Separated at Birth?

Check out this dead on impersonation of Hank Williams via 1951 parody of 1949’s classic “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” on Bullet — “Granddaddy of Nashville indie labels“:

“My Bucket’s Been Fixed”     Hardrock Gunter     1951

People are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for Gunter’s original recordings — including $1500 for “Gonna Dance All Night” on Sun.

Vandergrift Bros @ King Records

I really like the relaxed country boppin’ sound of “Who Needs Your Cold Cold Love” by The Vandergrift Brothers — a King 45 from 1962:

“Who Needs Your Cold Cold Love”     The Vandergrift Brothers     1962

Good ol’ PragueFrank – along with help from Michel Ruppli, et al. – seems to be the only source of information about the (please note the spelling variant) Vandergriff Brothers.

Vandergrift Bros 45-aaVandergrift Bros 45-bb

Amusing to note that this vocal trio from Davis, West Virginia — Don, Ronnie & Darrell — released another 45 in 1962 on Wheeling’s Emperor label, “Honky Tonk Woman,” a song title that would recently inspire a playful sequence of pieces:  1, 2, and 3.

Neither Discogs nor 45Cat, surprisingly, have catalog records for the group’s first King 45 release “The Corner of My Eye” b/w “Tomorrow Never Comes” — recorded June 26, 1961.  The following entry in Ruppli’s discography for The Vandergrift Brothers is one lonely “leased” composition entitled “You’re Gone Too Far” that remains unissued to this day, while the third and final entry is the group’s other King 45, “Who Needs Your Cold, Cold Love” b/w “Hello Again Sweet Lips” from 1962 — both songs co-written by Shorty Long and published by (Syd Nathan-affiliated) Lois Music.

Publicity photo courtesy of HILLBILLY RESEARCHER

Vandergrift Brothers

Significant to note that two other songs from the final February, 1962 King recording session — “In Trouble With the Law” and “Please Don’t Run Away” — remain in Moe Lytle’s vault, wondering what on earth they ever did to deserve such treatment.

“Trouble With the Law” would live to see another day, fortunately, on the tiny and mysterious, Santa Fe label:

“Trouble With the Law”     The Vandergrift Brothers     196?

The Vandergrift Brothers were among the top acts who helped The Wheeling Jamboree celebrate its 30th anniversary, as reported in Billboard’s April 27, 1963 edition, along with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan, Big Slim, Crazy Elmer & Buddy Durham [a.k.a., Hardrock Gunter, according to RCS — not so, says PragueFrank].  Just four months later, however, WWVA disc jockey, Lee Moore, would inform Billboard that “the ‘World Original Jamboree’ has adopted the policy of importing country music acts from Nashville to augment the ‘Jamboree’ regulars like Doc Williams, Big Slim, and the Vandergrift Brothers”!

Seymour Stein & King Records II

Henry Stone on Seymour Stein of Sire Records:

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

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

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

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

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

Seymour Stein would be the one on the right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Another Woman’s Man”     Joe Tex     1955

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

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

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

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

Seed Money for Sire:  Beatlemania

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

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

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

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

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

.

King Records Meets “Big Red”

In May, 2015’s piece about Guitar Crusher, it was pointed out that Seymour Stein, along with fellow Sire Records co-founder, Richard Gottehrer, had done production work on a Columbia recording in 1967, having formed Sire Productions the year before.  As Billboard would note in its chronology of the music industry executive who signed Madonna from his hospital bed while recovering from a heart infection, Stein had served his first music label apprenticeship at Cincinnati’s King Records for two years, beginning in 1957.  Syd Nathan‘s operation would prove to be a “farm league” for a number of other industry notables, as pointed out in Jon Hartley Fox’s King of the Queen City:  The Story of King Records:

“King Records was a good training ground where one could get a thorough, hands-on education in all facets of the recording industry.  One of the label’s enduring legacies is the large number of producers, A&R men, and sales or marketing executives who ‘trained’ under Nathan.  Among the King alumni who enjoyed successful careers at other labels are Seymour Stein (Sire, Sire-London, and Elektra), Hal Neely (Starday and Starday-King), Henry Glover (Old Town, Roulette, Starday-King), Ralph Bass (Chess), Jim Wilson (Starday and Sun), Alan Leeds (Paisley Park), Ray Pennington (Step One), and nearly a dozen others.”

As it turns out, the same year Seymour Stein produced a Guitar Crusher single for “Big Red,” Stein also organized a 12-inch release for Columbia Records (under the “Sire Productions” name) that consists entirely of country releases from the King Records vault, albeit (groan) “electronically re-channeled for stereo.”  That’s right, 1967 would see the release of a Columbia album (in name only) 18 King Size Country Hits, with extensive liner notes by Stein himself that promise the LP to be “one of a projected series of albums, each containing eighteen all-time Country and Western hits spanning the past quarter century.”

Many of the songs on this LP were million sellers when first issued, according to Stein

King Size County Hits - Seymour Stein LP-a

This album, sadly, would seem to be the only one released (I can only assume Columbia felt sales to be insufficient enough to warrant future volumes).  It’s not for lack of trying though, as Stein very helpfully provides some historical context on the factors that helped King succeed in the marketplace:

Cincinnati, at the period just before America’s entrance into World War II, was the center of activities for many of the great Country and Western artists of that era, in much the same way that Nashville is today.  The reason for the Queen City’s dominance over the ‘hillbilly’ world was ‘Midwestern Hayride,’ the country’s favorite C&W radio show, which was aired weekly from Cincinnati over WLW, key station in the Crosley broadcast chain.  Among the show’s stars were the Delmore Brothers, Grandpa Jones, Hank Penny, Wayne Raney, and Homer and Jethro.  Lloyd ‘Cowboy’ Copas had a popular Country show also over WKRC in Cincinnati.  With the exception of the Delmore Brothers, none of the stars of ‘Midwestern Hayride’ had achieved any amount of success on records.  Most had never recorded despite their popularity among the Midwest and South.”

King Records In the big leagues:  On “Big Red” one year before Syd Nathan’s passingKing Size Country Hits II

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could the 1949 recording, “Money Marbles and Chalk” – fittingly, the album’s final track – be the only one ever released by Pop Eckler, who wrote songs for Rex Allen, Red Sovine, and Wink Martindale, as well as King labelmates, Grandpa Jones and The Stanley Brothers?

“Money, Marbles and Chalk”     Pop Eckler     1949

Eckler would pen “Money, Marbles and Chalk,” also covered at the time by Chet Atkins and Stubby and the Buccaneers, as well as later by Patti Page (1957) and King colleagues, Reno & Smiley (1961), while Link Trotter would give it a go in 1973.Pop Eckler 78Stein would have this to say about Eckler:

“Pop Eckler was never a famous recording artist, but as composer of one of the greatest Country ballads, this album would be incomplete without his own rendition of ‘Money, Marbles and Chalk.’  The tune was also a pop hit for Patti Page.”

Seymour Stein’s liner notes for Columbia LP ’18 King Size Country Hits’King Size County Hits - Seymour Stein LP-rear cover

“Phfft! You Were Gone”: King 78

The recurring Hee Haw skit – “Phfft!  You Were Gone” – was originally a King Record, believe it or not, that was recorded in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 3, 1952 by Bob Newman, who recorded Henry Glover‘s great truck driving song “Haulin’ Freight” the year before, as you might recall:

“Phfft! You Were Gone”      Bob Newman     1952

Billboard would review “Phfft! You Were Gone” in its November 1, 1952 edition:

“Newman tries hard on this novelty and hands it a good vocal, which should help it pick up many spins.”

Bob Newman 78-aaMany thanks to Bopping for its detailed Bob Newman sessionography in which the following musicians for “Haulin’ Freight” are listed:

Bob Newman:  bass & lead vocal
Henry Glover:  drums
Al Meyers:  lead guitar
Louie Innis:  rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson:  fiddle
Shorty Long:  piano

Phfft!  You Were Gone” would include Newman on bass & vocals, Shorty Long on piano, and Al Meyers on lead guitar, plus “sound effect” provided by Wayne Kemp, with an unnamed drummer and rhythm guitarist rounding out the sound.

Bopping also has the history on Bob Newman alias, Lee Roberts:

“‘Phfft!  You Were Gone,’ another novelty, was sold by Bob (alias Lee Roberts) and he didn’t get a dime when about twenty years later the song became a hook on the Hee Haw TV show.  Bob, according to Hank’s widow, was a big spender:  he would sell a song for, say, $ 1,500, then throw away $ 2,000.  He sold ‘Shut Up And Drink Your Beer’ to Merle Travis, and ‘Crying Steel Guitar Waltz’ to Jean Shepard.  That’s why he never made a living of his songs.  Al Myers explained that Bob Newman didn’t know how to pursue his career, and that’s the main reason why King didn’t renew his contract in August 1952.”

Bob Newman - Audio Lab LPThe indispensable Both Sides Now Publications offers a slightly more expansive view:

“For years, the television series Hee Haw used a song on the show called ‘Phfft!  You Were Gone,’ often credited to Buck Owens.  Earlier appearances of the song on record attributed writer’s credit to Lee Roberts, Susan Heather, or Marian B. Yarneall. Bob Newman’s son Bob Jr. recently wrote to us to untangle the mystery of authorship of this classic.  It was first recorded by Bob Newman July 3, 1952, at King Studios in Cincinnati.  It was released on King 45-1131 shortly thereafter, with writer credits to Lee Roberts.  Bob Newman actually wrote the song under the name Lee Roberts, which was his usual pen name (he had over 80 songwriting credits for both ASCAP and BMI under that name), and was the first to record it. Newman sold the song to Bix Reichner in 1958.  Reichner, who wrote many songs including ‘Papa Loves Mambo’ for Perry Como and ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’ for Elvis Presley, assigned the song to his wife’s name — Marian B. Yarneall, aka Susan Heather.  By the time the Audio Lab album came out in 1959, the writer credit had changed to Susan Heather.  The original version of the song made its first (only?) LP appearance on his Audio Lab album.”

Two decades or so later, television writers would enjoy endless lyrical possibilities:

“Phfft!  You Were/Was Gone”     Hee Haw

Note, however, that Bopping assumes — as I did, until very recently — that King merely “reissued” those two truck driving songs in 1959, “Haulin’ Freight” and “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues.”   Sorry, Bopping, but we discovered in the previous Zero to 180 piece that those two songs were given a re-boot to make them sound more contemporary.

 King Record Innovation:  “Bio Discs”

Independent record producer and music writer, Randy McNutt, has authored two books about Cincinnati’s post-WWII music history and its role in giving birth to rock & roll.

Randy McNutt-2Randy McNutt-1

King Records of Cincinnati points out a wily marketing tactic by Syd Nathan that happens to involve Bob Newman:

“The 78 RPM record pictured here, Newman’s ‘Quarantined Love,’ shows another of Nathan’s innovations, the bio disc.  He printed brief biographies of artists on promotional records and sent them to disc jockeys and decision makers in the music business.  The idea must have worked, for King Records continued to issue bio discs into the 1960s.”Bob Newman 78-bio disc

“Haulin’ Freight”: 1959 (not 1951)

An Ebay sales listing from January, 2016 validates my hunch that truck driving classic “Haulin’ Freight” by Bob Newman was recorded twice — first, in 1951, and then again in 1959 with some of the rough “barrelhouse” edges smoothed out via overdubs.  The more contemporary version would be issued again in 1963, according to PragueFrank.

Interestingly enough, “Haulin’ Freight” was co-written by King’s indispensable A&R man, Henry Glover and would be included in 2012 retrospective, The Henry Glover Story.

King Truck Driver Songs LPMichel Ruppli’s 2-volume reference – The King Labels:  A Discography – lists a recording session from  October 9, 1951 that includes “Haulin’ Freight.”  However, in parentheses next to the song title, Ruppli directs you to K4264, which is an undated entry sometime in 1959 that lists 2 truck driving songs – “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues” & “Haulin’ Freight” – and simply says “dubbed from King masters.”

But listen for yourself – here’s the original 1951 version:

“Haulin’ Freight”     Bob Newman     1951

Now listen to what King Records fabricated in 1959 using the original version “dubbed from the masters” and augmented by – what I can only assume to be – a new rhythm section and lead guitar (excerpt from Charlie Coleman‘s classic country radio show):

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Haulin’ Freight” by Bob Newman]

But how they’d do it?  Is that the original vocal?   It sounds like they might have kept the original piano track, but I’m not even certain about that.  Would love to know who played on the 1959 version, my favorite of the two, despite the great guitar lines on the original.  Funny how I’ve been wrestling with this issue for years (and with Charlie Coleman above), but only just now did I figure out the deeper meaning behind “dubbed from the masters.”

Just for fun, go ahead and play both versions at the same time and note how dissimilar they sound.

Bob Newman 45aBob Newman 45b

The Bill Doggett Centennial Begins Now!

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

Bill DoggettWhat 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 Cincinnati boy – 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!

Honky Tonk compilation CDGreg 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

Soulsteady Kid on The Andrea Bray Show

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.”

Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk Popcorn LPSays 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 new website, where you can hear his uncle’s music, absorb some history, and sign the Guest Book:

www.billdoggettcentennial.com

Andrea's Fine Hats - DC

King’s Funky Nursery Rhyme

Love this playful take on the old nursery rhyme – for extra credit, count all the key changes:

“Three Soulful Mice”     carlton “King” Coleman      1967

Somehow this single has eluded the attention of the fine catalogers at 45Cat (i.e., not in their datbase).  I have to assume – as Discogs.com claims – that “Three Soulful Mice” really was a B-side, as there are no images of this flip side anywhere to be found online.   Zero to 180 is, frankly, puzzled as to why this fetching (and funky) arrangement by (Old) King Coleman is not more widely known.  45 years later, an original 45 would command $36 on Ebay.   So there.

The musicians backing King Coleman on this track, according to Ruppli’s The King Labels — A Discography, would come from James Brown‘s musical organization – and it sure sounds like it!  Determining which musicians played on this recording, however, might require a small team of researchers.

Ruppli indicates that a string of March, 1967 sessions were recorded in New York City and that the King Coleman session used a “similar band” as the preceding one with Vicki Anderson.  The musicians for Vicki Anderson’s (ultimately unissued) recording are “probably the same” band members as the preceding James Brown session that produced “You’ve Got the Power” — and only a small number are identified:

Ernie Hayes:  trumpet & piano
Jimmy Nolen or Wallace Richardson:  guitar
Al Lucas:  bass
Bernard Purdie:  drums
Sammy Lowe:  arranger & director

King would release two King Coleman singles in 1967 [“The Boo Boo Song (pts. 1&2)” and “Hang It Up” b/w “Three Soulful Mice“] – plus one final 45 in 1971 “Boo Boo Song (pt. 1)” b/w “Rock Gospel Mash.”

Coleman would record for over a dozen labels in his lifetime, including Columbia, Atlantic & Philips.  Kudos to Norton Records for including “Three Soulful Mice” on It’s Dance Time, their King Coleman compilation from 2003.  And a royal doff of the cap to “Breakfast Blend with Amanda” on Richmond radio’s 97.3 WRIR FM for playing this can’t-miss track one fine Tuesday morning in the Fall of 2013.

Using this 1971 King promo 45, as no image of “Three Soulful Mice” on internet

King Coleman-1971 promo 45Arranged by Dave Matthews — A James Brown Production

Bill Doggett’s “Soft”: Enduring

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:

“Soft”     Bill Doggett     1957

Billboard would report “Soft” as an ‘R&B territorial best seller’ (1) in Detroit in its October 14, 1957 edition and (2) Cincinnati in its December 21, 1957 edition.  “Soft” would also be included in Billboard’s ‘Top 100 Sides – Store Recorded Sales’ for the week ending October 26, as well as December 7, 1957.

                     US 45 on King                          UK 45 on “Beatle” label Parlophone

Bill Doggett US 45Bill Doggett UK 45

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

Bill Doggett LP (1970)Bill Doggett 45 reissue (1971)

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

Latest Report on Efforts to Save the King Records Historic Site

What Will It Take to Save King RecordsCincinnati Magazine – January 6, 2016