King’s Dalliance with Psychedelia — Keith Murphy & the Daze

Keith Murphy & the Daze would help King Records expand its popular reach into the emerging “psychedelic” rock market (following the previous year’s foray into Jamaican ska via Prince Buster).  May of 1968 would find the release of King’s first “psych” 45 [as noted previously in “Rare & Unissued King“] with two sides by Keith Murphy & the Daze, “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” b/w “Dirty Ol’ Sam.”

Keith Murphy (front, right)

keith-murphy-the-daze-king-promo

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Left to right — Standing: Phil Fosnaugh – keyboard/organ (deceased); Jerry Asher – bass (deceased); John Asher – guitar (now Evansville IN); Sitting Bill Shearer – drums (Gas City IN), Keith Murphy – lead singer/rhythm guitar (Long Valley, NJ)

The single’s recording, however, would take place against the backdrop of (1) label founder Syd Nathan‘s passing two months prior in March, (2) followed, in April, by civil unrest in the neighborhoods adjacent to Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood – King’s home base – when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

“Slightly Reminiscent of Her”     Keith Murphy & the Daze     1968

The Daze, Keith Murphy postulates, are among King’s final signings while Nathan was still actively involved:

Louis Innis [previously celebrated here] was a wonderful man, and you can see from the letters [featured below] how nicely he treated me.  No letters in 1967, then in 1968 I reapproached him with The Daze, the band of which I was lead singer.  Again, the band was so sure the idea of getting a contract with King was so slim, none of the band members went with me to talk to King.  As it turns out, it was just as well, for when King wanted only me as the lead singer songwriter, they did not resent my name being on the label.  This was the pattern of King I thought, to just sign the lead singer/songwriter then they had one person to deal with and the most valuable property, like James Brown and the Famous Flames, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, etc.  I did insist that the band name also be on the record and they were ok with that.

We recorded the record in May of 1968, but it was not released until September or October of that year.  I see in their final letter, it was chaotic.  Actually, Syd Nathan died in March 1968, and it was chaos then too, as I recorded about 2 months later. I suspect, but do not know, that I was one of the very last artists that was approved by Syd Nathan himself.  Louis mentions that he wanted to see me alone to proceed forward, and they were releasing the record in England.  I had just graduated from college, had a baby daughter, had a regular job and was too busy to attend to everything. I don’t think I ever went back. I think he mentioned something on the phone about re-recording the songs.”

The same single would find its release 6 months later in the UK on Polydor, albeit with the A and B sides flipped.  Murphy would inform Zero to 180:

“I attached a picture of the exact Yellow King record [below] that was sent to England to see if Polydor was interested.  As you can see, they considered ‘Dirty Ol’ Sam’ the A side there.  I do know they must have shipped the tape or master there, as ‘Sam’ does not fade out in the UK version and is 7 seconds longer with a limp ending.  It is a near miracle I have that record.  The person who sold it worked for Polydor UK and was asked to clean out the warehouse or library.  He kept the records, and confirmed it was where it came from and the markings on the record are the numbers that ended up as the Polydor number.

This very King 45 led to the song’s issue in the UK on Polydor:  note ‘A’ & ‘B’ markings

Keith Murphy Yellow King-aakeith-murphy-dirty-ol-sam-king-promo-45-a

The single’s UK release of 15 November, 1968, unfortunately, would be a mere 8 days or so before Starday* would sell the entire Starday-King operation to Lin Broadcasting for a mere $5 million (*see related vintage news item appended to this piece).

UK release on Polydor – with A & B sides flipped!

Keith Murphy - Dirty Ol' Sam - Polydor 45-aKeith Murphy - Slightly - Polydor 45-b

“Dirty Ol’ Sam”     Keith Murphy & the Daze     1968

Keith Murphy & the Daze at Cincinnati’s King studios – May, 1968

Keith Murphy & the Daze at King studio - May 1968

Photo notes from Keith Murphy

“Here is the sole picture that was taken in the King Recording studio in May, 1968. L to R:  Phil Fosnough – Keyboard; John Asher – Lead Guitar; Bill Shearer – Drums; Jerry Asher – Bass, Keith Murphy – Lead singer, songwriter.  I remember two incidents during the recording session:  Someone came in and said they needed to send somebody to the jail to give Hank Ballard a pack of cigarettes, he had been arrested for public intoxication.  The other memory is that it was a hot day, and along side the building, the workers had the doors open and had a pressing machine partially outside to get some cooler air for the workers!”

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy:
Selected Correspondence || 1965-1968

Dec. 14, 1965:  “Have [Becky Wiggins] do 3 or 4 different type songs” [see Q&A]

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Dec 1965-a

Dec. 21, 1965:  “Please find copy of my agreements” + “5% of the retail price”

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Dec 65

Jan. 25, 1966:  “Anxious to get the sides recorded” + “what a rat race I’m in”

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Jan 1966Feb. 17, 1966:  Pardon the delay – “echo chambers have been out in the studio”

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Feb 17 1966Apr. 13, 1966:  “Returning your contracts so you can do something else” (!)

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Apr 1966Sep. 16, 1968:  “Record should be out pronto” + keep your chin up

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Sep 1968Oct. 9, 1968:  Final note = 45 to be issued in UK, but King “under new management”

Louis Innis & Keith Murphy - Oct 1968

PDF copy below of Keith Murphy’s contract with King (click on link)

Keith Murphy – Louis Innis contract (June 5, 1968)

Prior to the King 45, Murphy had actually recorded under the name Keith O’Conner as part of The Torkays, who recorded exclusively for Chicago’s Stacy Records (home of Al Casey, guitarist/bandleader behind three Lee Hazlewood A-sides in 1963 & 1964 for the label and not to be confused with The Torquays from Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High School, located across the [future] interstate, interestingly enough, from King Records).

keith-oconner-stacy-records-promo-aIn that pre-Beatle era, O’Conner was part of a Mark, Don & Mel-type of arrangement (sorry, kids – that’s a Grand Funk Railroad joke) with The Torkays — Frank, Keith, and Jimmy — who would write a martial arts-themed composition, “Karate,” for their recording debut in 1963, with “I Don’t Like It (But What Can I Do)” on the flip.

keith-oconner-the-torkays-stacy-records-promo-aQ & A with King Recording Artist, Keith O’Conner Murphy

Q:  What led up to your getting signed by King?
A:  I started with a side project apart from my band The Daze.  They felt the chances of getting on a R&B label was such a long shot that they did not want to pursue it.  I wrote a Sonny and Cher type song called “We’re Gonna Get It” for myself and a girl named Becky Wiggins.  I started talking to Louis Innis of King in 1965.  He was very interested, as reflected in his letter which I have shared.  Sometime in 1966, Ft. Wayne native Troy Shondell, who had the big hit “This Time,” persuaded her to record for his small label 3 Rivers as Beck Holland with “I’m Going Away.”  So that scuttled the King deal.  In 1968, I then connected with Louis again, by myself, as the band still did not think it was worth the effort.  I actually was hoping to get on the Cincinnati Fraternity label, and interviewed with Harry Carlson, the owner.  He was a genuine caring person, but did not see a place in their current roster for me.  I liked his artist Mouse and the Traps, and he gave me a copy of their newly released “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win” – still one of my favorites.  The label was also home to Lonnie Mack, who recently passed, and my all time guitar instrumental favorite “Memphis.”  My next stop was King, and Louis was ready to go once I dropped some of my bold royalty demands!

Q:  Was Louis Innis Innis your main point of contact, given Syd Nathan’s death in March, 1968?  Who were some of the staff – as well as artists – you encountered during your time with King?
A:  I only worked with Louis Innis, a man I cannot say enough kind words for.  The only other person was a King engineer who I do not know the name of.  A white guy maybe in his 30’s.

Q:  Where was “home base” during your time with King — and what were your impressions of Evanston, as well as Cincinnati, during your tenure with the label?

keith-murphy-king-45-in-psych-sleeve-a

A:   My home was the small country town of Sweetser, Indiana, and the other guys lived in the “big” town of Marion or the nearby Gas City.  Grant County Indiana is the same small rural county that Fairmount is in — home of James Dean and Jim Davis who created Garfield.

Q:  Did you live in Cincinnati for any extended period of time?
A:  I never lived in Cincy.  Being in the middle of Indiana, we knocked on doors in Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, and Cincy — the major cities with record companies.  I love Cincy, however, the hills and the friendliness and especially the Chili!

Q:  I dig the far-out backdrop used in your King promotional photo — was that photo taken at King’s art studio and who designed the cool “Daze” logo?
A:  We had a booking agent, Bill Craig Jr. of Muncie, Indiana who I think partially owned a TV station there.  He also managed the Chosen Few, who later were on RCA and Mercury.  That photo was taken at a nightclub he owned called Halcyon Days, and he used it to get bookings.  Our keyboard player who used a Hammond B3 Organ with a Leslie speaker, he made that DAZE sign which had colored lights that rotated behind it.

Q:  Which make/model of electric guitars, basses & drums were plugged into the Fender amplifiers pictured in the King promo photo?

keith-oconner-the-torkays-45-a

A:  John played a Fender Jazzmaster, and at that time it looked like he was using Fender amps.  At other times he used Sunn, and I think for a short time the rolled and pleated Custom amps.  Jerry played a Fender bass, but bought a bass like Paul McCartney played sort of looked like a violin, a Hofner.  He didn’t have it long when it got stolen off the stage when we played a club in Detroit called The Mummp.

Q:  Where was home base originally for The Torkays, and what was the local response to your “Karate” 45 (which has a cool musical bridge, by the way, that loops back nicely to the verse)?
A:   “Karate” never got off the ground except in Pittsburgh.  Stacy’s biggest hit record, “Surfin’ Hootenanny” rightfully pushed everything else aside.  For some reason it has been revived on YouTube with several people posting it and 6,000 total views.  I wrote a song “Tiddlywink” for a German rockabilly band Black Raven, and they recorded it. They have notified me they want to record “Karate.”  I am surprised at the interest in this record.

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“Two Kings”:  A True Tale by Keith Murphy

Chip Taylor — did not know him, but we were both on the King label. He was on King under his real name Wes Voight.

Wes Voight Deluxe 45-aWes Voight King 45-aWes Voight Co - King EP

“He was doing a concert here in NJ and I called him and left a message, and said I would like to meet him afterwards, telling him I was in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  Well, I was out in the yard, but fortunately he left a phone message congratulating me!  I met him after the concert and brought my and his King record and had him sign it along with my copies of “Wild Thing” on both the Atco and Fontana labels by the Troggs.  Reg Presley of the Troggs died around that time, and Chip had flown to England to attend the funeral, as their careers were forever bound together by that one iconic great rock song. It is the example I always give of how important arrangement is.  The Troggs had the creative genius to put an ocarina and other stuff on there.  Chip just was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame [also famous for 1968 smash hit, “Angel of the Morning”] this summer, and I called him and congratulated.  He should have been in there a long time ago.”

“Two Kings”:  Chip Taylor (a.k.a., Wes Voight) and Keith Murphy

Chip Taylor & Keith 2 Kings Lo Res

Keith Murphy is also a voting member of the Grammys and Country Music Association

A   K i n g   R e c o r d s   V i n t a g e   H i s t o r y   M o m e n t

Full text of news item from the Nov. 23, 1968 edition of Billboard

Lin Broadcasting Buys Starday-King for $5 Mil; Execs Policy Retained

NASHVILLE — Lin Broadcasting Corp., owner of communication outlets, has purchased Starday and King Records and their affiliated companies for $5 million.

Fred Gregg Jr., Lin’s chairman of the board and president, said this would mean a great expansion program here.  “It will mean an additional $6 million to $8 million in gross income to the Nashville music economy,” he said.

The corporate structure of Starday-King will remain the same, with Don Pierce, president; Hal Neely, vice-president; Jim Wilson, vice-president for marketing; Johnny Miller in charge of the Cincinnati office; Henry Glover, manager of the New York office; and Harlen Dodsen, general counsel.

“Nashville will now be a complete operation in the rhythm and blues field,” Pierce said.  Pierce said James Brown now would record here, and would bring in the “right musicians for the r&b sound.”  Just having Brown record here, he said, would give tremendous impetus in this direction.  “Now that we’re working under a huge corporate structure,” Pierce said, “we can effect economies, efficiencies, acquisitions and total expansion.  We can compete for larger acts, go after great catalogs.”  He made it clear, though, that the sale in no way affects the operation of the business or its past policies.

Both Gregg and Pierce said they plan new overseas music companies in England, Germany and France at first, and eventually in other nations.  Pierce said the firm would expand its overseas distribution and exploit its various companies around the world.

The Starday president said he was obtaining a record club contract for King with Columbia, RCA and Capitol, the same ones with which Starday now has an arrangement.  He said the club membership would include James Brown.

Pierce, one of the founders of the Country Music Association, was Billboard’s Man of the Year in 1962 and is vice-president of RIAA.  Starday was founded in 1952 in Los Angeles and moved here in 1957.

Recently (Billboard, Oct. 26) Starday acquired the King Records operation.  Those holdings included the record and distribution operation and masters, Lois Music and its publishing subsidiaries, the Royal Plastics Pressing operation, and the long-term contract of Brown.  Starday holdings include Hollywood, Look and Nashville Records, and Starday, Tarheel and Kamar Music.

Bonus Craft Project!  Make Your Own King Records stationery

King Records stationeryAdditional history on Keith Murphy in this interview from 60sGarageBands.com

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