Kenny Smith: From Soul Street to God Pop and Beyond

Thanks to Darren Blase and Shake It Records for assembling an 18-track collection of recordings by singer, songwriter & producer, Kenny Smith, that span a total of eleven labels:  Fraternity, Chess, President, RCA, Flo-Roe, Goldspot, Clearhill, Counterpart, General American, Kogan and Lena.  Intriguing to discover that the one-time host of Cincinnati’s local soul music TV show – Soul Street – once released a quirky 45 on famed blues label, Chess (“Keep on Walkin’ Baby“) that would have been a fine and fitting addition to the Nuggets box set of 60s garage band singles.

I was also amused to learn that “Lord, What’s Happening To Your People?” – issued in 1971 as the first and only release on Kenny’s own Goldspot label – was “written to cash in on a particular trend that Kenny describes as the ‘Jesus-rock era'” (i.e., God Pop).

1973’s “Everybody Knows I Love You,” according to Kay-Dee Records, was a massive northern soul hit in the UK –should have been a much bigger radio hit here in the US:

Cincinnati Enquirer‘s May 11, 1972 edition included this news item:

“WKRC-TV and General-American Productions will co-operate in an ambitious project to produce an hour-long black music-dance show for youth, Soul Street, beginning with the shooting of a pilot Sunday.  Intentions are to syndicate it.  The host will be Kenny Smith, Kennedy Heights, well-known local composer-singer.  Two Channel 9 staffers, Jim (Oscar) Welch and Ron De-Morales, will serve as producer and director, respectively, on a free-lance basis.  Bob Lanier, GAP vice-president/general manager, will be executive producer.  Pilot guests include the Four Tops, Funkadelic, Bill Doggett and Tommy Sears.  James Brown has agreed to co-host every fifth show, starting with the second, Lanier said.  Guests for succeeding shows include Gladys Knight and the Pips, Eighth Day, Chase, Carla Thomas, Soul Children, Major Lance, Emotions and Chi-Lites.  Kenny Smith’s GAR single, ‘Lord, What’s Happening to Your People?’ is scoring well.  He penned The Platters’ ‘Think Before You Walk Away.'”

Kenny Smith poster

Soul Street in Under 50 Words

According to Historic Films (owner of the show’s only surviving tapes), Soul Street was on the air for two seasons,1969-1971, and featured performances and interviews with such artists as James Brown, Bill Doggett, Carla Thomas, Roberta Flack, The Stylistics, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Millie Jackson.