Rare & Unissued King Tracks II

R  A  R  E       K  I  N  G       T  R  A  C  K  S *

Merle Travis — along with Grandpa Jones — would inaugurate King Records in 1943 as the first two musical 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

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[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.]

fairley-holden-king-45-aaHumorous song titles of rare early King 78s:

In-Laws as Butt of Joke (part 2)

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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

Mental Floss‘s “Five Candidates for the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Song” rightly selects Wynonie Harris‘s “Good Rocking Tonight” (recorded December 28, 1947 at King’s Cincinnati studios) and even cites Arthur Crudup‘s “That’s All Right Mama” from 1946.  And yet the term rock ‘n’ roll did not appear in song titles until 1954, although mostly 1955.  Which is what makes the song “Rock and Roll Blues” by Erline Harris — recorded April, 1949 and released on Deluxe, a King subsidiary purchased by Syd Nathan in 1947 — remarkably ahead of the curve.

 Recorded in 1949 (!)erline-harris-king-deluxe-45-aa

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 EPProgressive 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

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The father of New Orleans piano playing — “Professor Longhair” (i.e., Henry RoelandRoyByrd) — 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.roy-byrd-king-federal-45-aaroy-byrd-king-federal-78-aa

Remember Zero to 180’s musical salute to gritsRed McAllister‘s “Eggs & Grits” from 1952 — co-written by Henry Glover — would be King’s great contribution to this elite assemblage of rib-sticking musical morsels.

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.todd-rhodes-orch-king-45-aaGeorge 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.”george-stogner-king-78-aaMusical 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.king-mambo-45-aaking-mambo-45-bb

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.”don-ippolito-king-45-aaIn 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.”three-harmonicaires-deluxe-king-78-bbHenry 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!)

red-klimo-king-45-aaThe same month Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” was riding high in the charts, King would release a Boyd Bennett 45 with a jump blues A-side (“Hit That Jive Jack“) but a rockabilly B-side (“Rabbit-Eye Pink and Charcoal Black“) in August, 1956.

According to Bluegrass:  A History by Neil Rosenberg:

“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 [27] 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.’”

reno-smiley-king-45-asAmong 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).dave-dudley-king-45-aaExactly 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.”

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It would be almost criminal not to point out an overlooked B-side by Lowman PaulingMessinUp — 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.

Snake Charmer” by The Puddle Jumpers – on their one and only session – sure sounds like King trying to cash in on the runaway success of 1958’s “Tequila” by The Champs (previously examined here).  Note the decent prices being paid for the group’s Federal 45s.

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.tiny-topsy-king-federal-45-aaGene Redd and 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 “SurfinBeat,” 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.”gene-redd-king-45-aaBig Moe and the Panics would cover the unstoppable “Tennessee Waltz” for the teen set in 1959, with their hard-to-find “Tennessee Waltz Rock45 EP on King-owned Audio Lab.big-moe-the-panics-king-45-aCheck 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

buddy-emmons-ray-pennington-lp-aaThe 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.”escos-federal-king-45-aaVery 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]

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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.

stanley-brothers-king-lp-aaTry 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.”poets-king-45-aaAlmost 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

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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.delbert-barker-king-45-aaAnother 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.john-ukhart-king-45-aaIntrigued 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.jaci-damon-king-45-aaSpeaking of 1967, here is King’s brief intersection with “psychedelic” music:

  • Rare King 45 by Keith Murphy & the Daze that was released in May of 1968, according to 45Cat — “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” b/w “Dirty OlSam.”
  • 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 Agapewild-goose-king-agape-45-aa

James Brown on organ, accompanied by three of The Dapps [Tim Drummond (bass), WilliamBeau DollarBowman (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.james-brown-king-45-ccOn a related note, check out the three-figure sums being paid for rare King 45 by The Soul Believers with The Dapps — “I Don’t Want Nobody’s Troubles” b/w “I’m With You” — recorded October 23, 1968 in Cincinnati.soul-believers-dapps-king-45-aaMarvel at this rare live footage of Marva Whitney — along with the rock-solid support of James Brown’s backing band, The JBs — 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

bill-doggett-king-45-aaVery rare King truck driving 45Bethel 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.bethel-kings-king-45-aaSome 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.las-vegas-ambassadors-king-45-aa1970 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).   heart-king-lp-aaAnother hard-to-come-by King 45:  Lewie Wickham‘s “Liberated Woman” from 1970 …lewie-wickham-king-45-a… 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).hank-lewie-wickham-johnny-dagucon-king-lp-aaMusical Mystery:   A formerly long-lost predecessor to The JB’s 1972 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).jbs-king-test-pressing-aa45Cat 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.
indiana-king-45-aaAny 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?white-cloud-king-45-aaSmiling 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.  smiling-faces-king-45-aaKing 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.

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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 linkWheels 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, Queenslim-gaillard-king-78-on-queen-aaslim-gaillard-king-78-on-queen-bb

Rare Slim Gaillard EPS ON KING that COMMAND BIG BUCKS at auctionslim-gaillard-king-ep-bbslim-gaillard-king-ep-aa

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U  N  I  S  S  U  E  D     K  I  N  G     T  R  A  C  K  S *

DC‘s ownBillStewart (previously celebrated here) recorded a version of “Fat Boy” in Cincinnati (!) on May 12, 1961 that remains unheard to this day.

The King vaults also contain an unissued instrumental (and possible “twist” composition) “Louisiana Twist” that is attributed, curiously, to vocalist Little Willie John (who once issued a rare version of “Fever” with strings) — recorded in Cincinnati on March 6, 1962.

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’ on Wave Nine.  Left in the King vaults are a pair by The Nu-Trons, including “Don’t Give Me No Phony Love.”

king-surf-lp-surfin-on-wave-nine-front

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.mill-evans-king-45-bbEdgar Allen & the PoFolks would record two tunes, “My Tears Are Drippin‘ (in Coffee That I’m Sippin‘)” and “Dennys 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!

In James Brown-related news:

  • 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 HargisBeau DollarBowman:  “My Concerto” (c. Spring, 1969) and “Funky Street (January, 1970).
  • AlfredPee WeeEllis would record his own version of “Soul Pride (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“).
  • Vicki Anderson would record — in Washington, DC on January 26, 1971– an unreleased version of “Wheels of Life,” a song that would be recorded several months later by Lyn Collins and released on 1972’s Think (About It) album.
  • 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.”Elaine ArmstrongBlues & 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)albert-washington-deluxe-45-aa

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.

First Fridaywhose one and only album recorded for Webster’s Last Word – laid down some demos for Starday-King at their Nashville studios in June, 1970 that included some songs that made the album (such as kick-off tune “Nice Day for Something“; “Wings to Fly”; “Such a Lot to Say”) and songs that didn’t (“Last Night’s Foolin’ Around”; “49th Street Rag”).

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.

Be sure to check out an earlier related piece:   King Records: Oddball Historical Tidbits   *[Primary Information Source:   The King Labels:  A Discography by Michel Ruppli]

Mike Stoller (left) & Jerry Leiber (right)

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⇒⇒⇒     45 Years Ago This Month:   Leiber & Stoller Buy King Records!     ⇐⇐⇐

As Billboard reported 45 years ago this month (under the headline, “Starday-King Pubs Sold for $1.4 Mil“) in its October 2, 1971 edition:

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
(513) KL5-KING”

= 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 an epic Silver Spring, Maryland music history trilogy:  (1) a Track Recorders detailed studio chronology ‘re-boot’; (2) followed by an encore Track Recorders history piece featuring chief engineer, Bill McCullough; and (3) capped off with a comprehensive history of Gene Rosenthal‘s Adelphi Records.

Stay tuned to this space for a link to “Rare & Unissued King Tracks” when it returns …

Final Update — August 31, 2017

Alert!  “Rare & Unissued King Tracks” has since been restored — click here

Who’s Left Holding King’s Bag?

A recent Cincinnati visit allowed me the chance to verify that the former King Records complex is still standing.  But for how long?  Polly Lucke, Zero to 180’s West Coast correspondent, recently brought to my attention a battle over this city-designated historic landmark that pits the current owners (there are two of them) against an influential group of supporters (the city’s mayor being one of them), with Cincinnati’s taxpayers caught in the middle.

King Records circa 1966

King Records Complex - 1960s-x

This past summer there was reason for optimism.  In August, 2015 the City Planning Commission had voted unanimously (1) to approve the application submitted by the Bootsy Colllins Foundation and the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation and (2) refer the matter to City Council, as reports WCPO’s website in an August 21, 2015 article entitled, “Support Grows for King Records HIstoric Preservation.”  One parcel in the King complex remains vacant, while the other serves a warehouse – according to the Cincinnati Enquirer in an October 7, 2015 piece, “King Records Now a City Landmark” – and Dynamic Industries (owner of the vacant property) seeks a demolition permit in order to expand:

“Mayor John Cranley said Wednesday his administration is working to acquire the King Records property in good faith. Cranley, recalling his days on City Council, said King Records preservation efforts date back to 2008 after council approved a motion to work toward designating the properties as historic. The motion, he said, was approved prior to the owner purchasing the property and the buyer should have known the designation could eventually happen.”

Cincinnati taxpayers, thus, were given an opportunity to vote in early November whether to tack on about $35 a year per $100,000 of assessed home value (i.e., Issue 22, the “parks levy”) in order to generate enough funds to “transform” 13 of the city’s public spaces, including the King Records Evanston Pavilion (as well as the vacant Jewish Community Center in Roselawn, my old stomping grounds).  As you may have inferred from the first paragraph, insufficient numbers came to the polls, sadly, to pass the new property tax.  King’s future, therefore, is in limbo.

Rendering for Xavier University‘s King Experiential Learning Center

King Records rendering

Martha Harvin – James Brown’s longest-running female vocalist – might possibly have set foot in King’s Evanston recording studios.

Photo of Martha Harvin courtesy of Blind Faith Records

Martha HarvinHarvin began her career as part of DC vocal group, The Jewels, who toured with the James Brown Revue in 1966 and did some studio recordings before Harvin’s singing partners grew tired of life on the road and returned home.  Harvin would remain with the James Brown Revue for more than 30 years.

Hundreds of handshakes to filmmaker, Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot; Led Zeppelin Played Here, et al.) for directing me to Eli Meir Kaplan, who interviewed Harvin (a.k.a., “Martha High”) in December, 2014 for his DC music history blog, Soul 51.

Jewels Federal 45Jewels King 45-aJewels King 45-b

The Jewels, it turns out, would record one single each for Federal and King.  More intriguing, however, is the Jewels 45 written and produced by James Brown and released on the obscure (and mysterious) Dynamite label, “Papa Left Mama Holding the Bag,” a playful rejoinder to Brown’s breakthrough funk of 1965, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag“:

“Papa Left Mama Holding the Bag”     The Jewels     1966

Cincinnati’s CityBeat includes a piece in its September 9, 2015 edition about the challenges of creating heritage tourism in the city landmark overlooking Interstate 71 — “The Once and Future King:  In an Effort to Boost Evanston, Community Leaders Race to Preserve Its Famous Musical Legacy.

Jewels Dynamite 45

The Duel: Organ vs. Sax

In the early part of this century, reissue label, Hip-O, put out a comprehensive series of James Brown single releases that were issued from 1956-1981.  Historians & researchers will no doubt be studying these liner notes in decades to come as they try to organize and make sense of the James Brown legacy, particularly given the volume of recordings issued over the course of his lifetime.

One thing I discovered by simply looking at the musician credits:  those bongo drums sound unusual on “Let Yourself Go,” because bongos – believe it or not – were not part of JB’s pioneering percussion sound, generally speaking.  According to the musician credits in this singles series that someone kindly posted on the Discogs website, I only see a handful of recordings (five by my count) between the years 1966-1973 that include the bongos.

Thanks to the missus, I am fortunate to own the 2-volume reference set, The King Labels:  A Discography as compiled by Michel Ruppli.  And yet I am discovering time and again that Ruppli’s discography is not authoritative as I had originally assumed.  Thank goodness, therefore, for the input of other music fanatics and actual participants who were there when history took place.  For example, if I simply relied on Ruppli, I might have continued to labor under the delusion that the Famous Flames backed James Brown on another great single from 1967 when, in fact, it was The Dapps.

James Brown & The Dapps (Les Asch holding horn)

JB & The DappsMy appreciation to Mitch Bowman, thus, for pointing me to James Brown’s “Funky Soul #1″ b/w “The Soul of JB” 45 originally released on King.  Ruppli tells me that the A-side was recorded on August 17, 1967 in Cincinnati but has very scant information about its mate.  Moreover, the B-side is attributed (wrongly) to “James Brown and the Famous Flames” and adds (incorrectly) “probably band without James Brown.”  That’s about it for the historical details – only the year is listed, no musician credits – although Ruppli does add, intriguingly, that another composition of “unknown title” was recorded but remains (to this day?) unissued.

Thanks to P-Funk Portal for affirming Bowman’s assertion that his brother-in-law, Les Asch, and his fellow Dapps were the musicians who backed James Brown on this double A-side instrumental excursion.  Gather around everybody for a musical fight, and hear for yourself as James Brown dukes it out with Les Asch on their respective instruments:

“The Soul of JB”     James Brown & The Dapps     1967

Organ Solo:  James Brown
Tenor Sax Solo:  Les Asch
Guitar:  Eddie Setser & Troy Seals
Bass:  Tim Drummond
Piano:  Tim Hedding
Drums:  William ‘Beau Dollar’ Bowman
Trumpet:  Ron Geisman
Alto Sax:  AlfredPee WeeEllis
Tenor Sax:  Les Asch
Baritone Sax:  David Parkinson
Organ:  James Brown
Producer & Arranger:  James Brown

If I were in the producer’s chair (I see you rolling your eyes), I would have followed James Brown organ solo in the left speaker with Les Asch’s tenor sax solo in the right speaker in order to underscore the dueling aspects of this musical match.  As it stands, both solos erupt from the west.  Note, too, the writing credits that include Gladys Knochelman – would love to know her role in the creative process, as her name appears ever so infrequently in the epic story of James Brown.*

There’s no denying the global impact of the fresh funk created by James Brown and his various support players over the years, much of which was recorded in Cincinnati — note the impact felt as far away as Japan, as this web tribute to JB attests.  Hey, check out some of the prices that Dapps singles command on Ebay.

Don’t believe the hype:  The Dapps are the backing band here

James Brown & Dapps 45-bJames Brown & Dapps 45-a

Biff!  Bam!  Pow!  This is the thirteenth bout tagged as a Musical Fight

*Historical Postscript

Tony Oulahan would subsequently contact Zero to 180 to shed light on this piece’s playful reference to Gladys Knochelman’s artistic contribution to “The Duel”:

“So my grandmother was Syd Nathan’s assistant for most of her time at King records. She also was a copywriter at one point as well. She died close to 20 years ago. She had close relationships with James, his band and many of the other artists at King. She had a couple of engraved jewelry pieces that James gave to her. I wish I could say otherwise, but she had nothing to do with the creative process on the album. And from what I know it wasn’t James directly that gave her the credit. She loaned someone in his group some money and they couldn’t pay her back. They gave her this credit in lieu of payment. It could have been his manager or someone else in the band. I’m almost positive that it wasn’t James himself, I can’t remember exactly who it was.”

Funk Under Fire (Literally)

Years ago I remember being spellbound by a Mojo feature article that interviewed several of the musicians in The Famous Flames who had toured Vietnam with James Brown in 1968 and played for a large number of very grateful soldiers right in the heart of the war zone.  I quickly devoured this piece – and then filed it away with my other 20 years or so of music magazines … into the abyss.

Recently, in the course of researching SW Ohio’s glorious contributions to the history of funk and soul, I got to thinking — “Sure would be nice to put my hands on that article about that harrowing time James Brown and his band did a musical tour of Vietnam in 1968.”  Fortunately, I got the urge to try an Internet search, and lo and behold – “July 2003” would be the Golden Ticket.  One minute later, after a trip to the archives, I had the July 2003 issue of Mojo in my hand.  What on earth had I been waiting for all this time?

Hats off to James Maycock, who tells this incredible story where music and politics would intersect spectacularly, with lives being put on the line in a moving demonstration of the American credo, E Pluribus Enum.  How fascinating to find out, for example, that James Brown had offered to take his entire 22-piece band orchestra to entertain the US troops in Vietnam on his own dime – and yet the federal government, surprisingly (or not), said no.  James Brown would eventually lobby LBJ himself at a Presidential State Dinner in May, 1968 — a direct consequence of Brown’s own heroic intervention in Boston in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination that kept untold numbers of people safe at home and out of harm’s way due to his insistence that his group’s live performance on April 5, 1968 be locally televised.

JB & Boston Mayor, Kevin White – Boston Gardens – April 5, 1968

James Brown & Mayor Kevin WhiteMaycock reveals the political machinery at work:

“The trip was the outcome of James Brown persistently pushing the US authorities for offical consent to tour.  ‘I’d been trying for a long time to get the government to let me go over there.  I offered to pay all my expenses.  But for some reason they didn’t want me to go.  I don’t know if they thought I would be too political.’  Like an increasing amount of the American public, Brown was also conscious that a disproportionate number of Afro-Americans were being drafted.”

JB’s stylist, Marva Whitney, grappled with vietnam’s heat & humidity – to no avail

James Brown in Vietnam-bb

Thus arranged (or so they thought), Brown’s 22-member ensemble began their musical tour in Korea, with the understanding that the whole orchestra would press on to Vietnam.  But with the escalation of hostilities, Brown was given word that only a 6-member musical crew would be allowed to continue at that point.  How moving then to discover that, while most of the group was only too happy to bow out of the tour, Tim Drummond (a “playing cat” as Brown would characterize him) immediately jumped at the chance:

“I said, I want to play Vietnam, because I want to show people back here that black and white can get along.”

Ultimately, Brown would carry out his musical tour of Vietnam with these six band members:   Clyde Stubblefield (drums), Tim Drummond (bass), Jimmy Nolen (guitar), Maceo Parker (saxophone), Waymon Reid (trumpet) & “esteemed funky diva” Marva Whitney.  As the writer points out, “Bob Hope retreated to the safety of Bangkok in neighbouring Thailand after each of his shows, but as Drummond points out, ‘We were in the thick of it.'”

By way of illustration, Tim Drummond would recount:

“So we come in 20 feet off the ground where the Viet Cong were sleeping.  They only moved at night … Right were we had just [crash] landed, here comes the Viet Cong who were coming after the plane.  We’d woken them up.  [The US] were bombing the Viet Cong, who were coming after the plane thinking we’re still on it.  That was a real toe-tapper!”

Marva Whitney describes the preceding “white-knuckle emergency crash”:

“The pilot said, ‘Everybody get out!  And I mean move it!  We’re in the marshes, the doors open, no time for a ladder.  Would someone give me a helping hand?  Forget it.  It was every man for himself, including me.  I had to jump from the plane.”

Clyde Stubblefield (out of view), James Brown & Maceo Parker

James Brown in Vietnam-aa

Being in a war zone meant having to be ever alert and strategic in your actions – Drummond describes one particular situation:

“In my hotel room, the window was facing the president’s palace.  It had a sign on it saying, ‘Don’t open the blinds with the light on behind you at night, you will be shot as a sniper.'”

These seven musicians (appointed honorary Lieutenant Colonels for this tour) would play three performances a day, often in the sweltering 120+ degree tropical heat.  According to Drummond, “That was the best the band ever sounded, stripped down like that.  Oh, we got tight!  Man, I wish we had recordings of that [stuff]!  We were smoking!”

Among the funk highlights in the band’s set:  “Get It Together“; “I Got the Feeling“; Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and a particularly key track from pop’s peak year – “Let Yourself Go“:

James Brown & the Famous Flames     “Let Yourself Go”     1967

[Check out Brown instructing second drummer, John “Jabo” Sparks to hit an accent on the snare drum each time JB emits a grunt (*note: video since removed – above mix differs).]

James Brown 45-aJames Brown 45-b

Brown claims that it was Hope himself, interestingly enough, who would clinch the Vietnam tour at the May, 1968 State Dinner:  “[He] told some of the USO people, ‘If you’re going to get anybody to perform for the troops, James Brown is the man.”  The sad joke at the time was that “Armed Forces Radio Network offered two kinds of music:  country and western.”  Soul offerings were rather limited at the military PX — says Maycock:

“Prior to Brown’s 1968 visit, the United Service Organisations had brought over to entertain soldiers were generally insipid country and western troupes.  Drummond admits, “We’d call them ‘Tex Nobodies’ – meaning they were country singers who hadn’t made it!”

Compared to previous USO offerings, these shows were clearly a huge deal for the soldiers – Drummond says they easily outdrew Bob Hope (over 40,000 at one show, he claims).  According to Brown, “Dug out of the side of a hill, around the rim, at the top, tanks were pulled up like at a drive-in.  Guys were sitting in their hatches looking down on the show.”

And yet the surreality of the bitter warfare, coupled with the rampant drug use among the soldiers, would induce serious cognitive dissonance amongst the musicians.  Maycock writes:  “Indeed, the musicians were understandably uptight, although they concealed their feelings from JB.  Marva:  ‘They weren’t going to let the boss man see.'”  Maycock writes that Whitney remembers “some GIs just wanted to touch her hand.  Others confided in her.  Marva says, ‘The fellas with the less education were put on the front lines — “We’re in trouble over here!”  They would say that.'”

Several months after returning home, Whitney would be completely thrown by an unexpected moment of post-traumatic stress:

“I’m walking down New York City, shopping.  All of a sudden, I start shaking and can’t stop.  I’m going into shock.  I know it.”  Brown himself would later say, “I don’t know how I made it.  God was carrying me all the time, it was like footprints in the sand.”

James Brown in Vietnam – courtesy of Corbis

James Brown Performs for American Soldiers in Vietnam

One final quote from Maycock’s riveting piece of history that underscores music’s special ability to nourish the soul and bring people together in peace and fellowship (from Vietnam veteran/musician Dave Gallaher):

“Tim Drummond being there did more good than anyone might realize.  Because of the hostilities that had developed racially, I think James showing up with a white musician put everyone on a little bit of notice about cooling out.  Showing that a white man could get in there and play that music.  I think it was very timely.”

“From the Back Side”: James Brown’s Parting Gift to King?

Son’s of Funk – i.e., Fred Wesley & the JBs – with a 1972 single release on the King label:

Is it really true – as YouTube contributor, BuckeyeCat2002, recalls – that “this James Brown / Fred Wesley cut was given to King Records as a going away present by James Brown?

As it turns out, both parts of this rare soul 45 would be included in Ace’s top-notch collection of King Funk, and Dean Rudland’s CD liner notes affirm that this two-part instrumental recording by The JBs was, indeed, “given to King as a favour by James himself a couple of years after he had left to go to Polydor.”

Even though the artist on this track is but one of several amusing variant names for Fred Wesley & the JBs, it is fascinating nevertheless to discover that this 45 would be the only one to be released under the name, Sons of Funk.

Brown’s last release for King would be “Soul Power (pt. 1),” which reached #3 on the soul chart and hit the US Top 40 (#29), as well as UK Top 100 (#78) in 1971.  The Collins brothers, Bootsy and Catfish – neighborhood kids who lived close to the King studio – played as part of The JBs on “Soul Power,” an epic 3-part soul tune that was, curiously enough, recorded in Washington, DC.

Brown’s first single release for Polydor meanwhile – “Escape-ism (pt. 1)” which was written by Brown’s arranger & bandleader, David Matthews – would hit Top 10 R&B (#6) and Top 40 (#35) in the US.

“Fat Eddie”: James Crawford’s Mighty B-Side

Of course, no discussion about Cincinnati in song would be complete without a reference to the city’s storied indie label that helped give birth to rock & roll music – King Records.

September 14, 1967 may not be a date that registers strongly in Cincinnati local history, but it should:  for on this date, James Crawford recorded a mighty slice of James Brown funk – “Fat Eddie” – at King’s recording studios on Brewster Avenue:

“Fat Eddie” — co-written by Crawford with James Brown and Bud Hobgood — was the B-side of “I’ll Work It Out” and released by King in October, 1967.

Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven offers this biographical profile of James Crawford:

A member of the James Brown Revue for several years, Crawford is one of several artists who were so mesmerised by the Great Man’s personality and success that they attempted to make their vocal styles indistinguishable from the real thing.  He came from Toccoa, Georgia where he sang with a young Bobby Byrd in the Gospel Starlighters, and where he may have started his involvement with JB.  Crawford never really mastered James’ crude “rasp”, having a naturally purer tone to his voice, but his sense of timing and dynamics are straight Brown.  No doubt the presence of Brown sidemen like Nat Jones – not to mention James’ own production skills – reinforced this tendency.

He cut some funk/boogaloo tracks of course, like “Much Too Much”, “Help Poor Me” and “Honest I Do” but also recorded some really cracking ballads. “Strung Out” was the first, a simple but very effective song.  A great plodding bass line, piano triplets and subdued horns back Crawford up as his voice cracks with emotion – lovely.  “Stop And Think It Over” is another first rate performance, over a stop/go structured ballad, with minor keyed chord changes and a sympathetic string section.  Think Brother James on “Man’s Man’s World” and you’ll be in the right territory.

“Hooray For The Child Who Has It’s Own” is fine deep soul as well, the “climbing” horn chart and arpeggio piano giving Crawford room to show his abilities.  “I’ll Work It Out” may just be the best of the bunch though.  For my money it’s his most committed and emotionally compelling effort, and the backing is just magic, with the guitar and horns meshing to superb effect.

James Crawford 45 medium

The Real Cincinnati Kid

This blog’s first post is a tip of the hat to my hometown, Cincinnati, and the record label  that recorded the rhythm & blues and hillbilly bop that helped give birth to rock and roll, King Records.

In 1965 King’s most famous and influential artist, James Brown (along with The Famous Flames) ushered in the new funk with the landmark 45, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”  That same year Steve McQueen starred as “The Cincinnati Kid,” a professional gambler in 1930s New Orleans, who challenges the reigning poker champ to a big match in a film that featured music composed by Ray Charles.

The following year saw the release of a tune also bearing the title, “Cincinnati Kid,” but musically and lyrically being something else altogether.  Instead Prince Buster, one of the leading lights of the Jamaican rocksteady sound, slyly calls out praise and respect to the “real” Cincinnati Kid – James Brown – (without actually naming him) in a particularly funky track for 1966 that clearly shows the influence of the new sound being laid down in a recording studio on Brewster Avenue (that still stands) in the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati across I-71 from my old high school.  The Cincinnati-Kingston connection.  There you have it – listen for yourself:

“Cincinnati Kid”      Prince Buster     1966