Around this time of the year, Zero to 180 seeks out popular music that expresses gratitude for all the good in our midst — such as this classic production from Studio One that is highlighted by subtle dub flourishes when least expected:
“Thanks and Praise” Devon Russell 1981
This Studio One 45 – Devon Russell‘s “Thanks and Praise” – appears to have been only released in Jamaica. Hoping someone eventually posts the instrumental B-side “Thanks and Praise Pt. 2” by The Brentford Rockers.
Billboard, in their January 8, 1972 edition, would report this quirky news item in the Cincinnati division of their “From the Music Capitals Around the World” column:
“Rusty York, who heads up the Jewel Recording Studio[s] here, learned last week that the new ‘Smash-Up Derby’ commercial [for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products], which he created and did all the instrumental work, has been entered into the Hollywood Film Festival as an entry to select the best film commercial of the year. The commercial is currently being spotted on all three major networks.”
Kenner SSP Smash-Up Derby TV Commercial = Music by Rusty York
Rusty York’s Jewel Recording Studio – in Mt. Healthy, just north of Cincinnati – would begin releasing 45s in 1961 and would once host The Grateful Dead, believe it or not, according to Cliff Radel’s obituary for York in the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s February 4, 2014 edition.
You can survey Rusty York’s musical legacy in three ways:
Two memorable song titles that can only be found on the Jewel label:
“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” – vintage 1967 San Francisco-style psych blues – and “Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” – “post 60’s garage/proto punk” from 1974 that features maniacal drumming and laughing choruses that are strategically interrupted by a softly-spoken catch phrase intended to win over the Pre-K crowd.
Jewel Records featured 45 #1
“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” The Fabulous Fish 1967
“Mike Reid, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals [previously celebrated here], and Dee Felice [musical associate of James Brown] and his group set for early recording dates at Rusty York‘s Jewel studios. Felice recently cut two sides at Jewel. Sonny Simmons, Cleveland gospel promoter, in town recently to produce an album for the gospel-singing Monarchs at Jewel studios. Others in recently at Jewel to do gospel albums were Judy Cody of Akron; The Crossmen of Lansing, Mich.; and the Cooke Duet of Wise, Va.
Mad Lydia Wood, accompanied by Cincinnati Joe, did the warbling on six commercial spots on Wiedemann Beer for the Campbell-Mithun Agency of Minneapolis at Jewel last week. Mad Lydia and Joe have held forth at various locations here for the last several years.”
Rusty York, a former King rockabilly and country singer, bought some of King’s echo equipment and microphones for his own Jewel Recording Studios in suburban Mt. Healthy, Ohio. He even bought Nathan’s desk chair. “The Neumann tube mics cost $300 new in the early ’60s,” he said. “I just sold one for $2,800. Like King, quality doesn’t go out of style.”
Bonus Jewel 45 for steel guitar fans! 1977‘s “Rose City Chimes” by Chubby Howard
Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook blurb
“Zero to 180’s latest piece pays tribute to a former King recording artist – Rusty York – whose kind and gentle nature and lack of ego may have accidentally conspired to obscure his legacy as an accomplished musician (who “could play any tune in any style“) as well as recording studio founder/engineer, whose Jewel recordings run the gamut of musical sounds and genres, not unlike King (and Fraternity and Counterpart).”
Friendly reminder: for optimal presentation do not view Zero to 180 on a smart phone!
But wait: 1975 sounds much too late in the post-Syd Nathan saga for a new production to come out of the Starday-King studios, especially with IMG/Gusto now running the show. I’m suspicious.
For one thing, the catalog number 106 would indicate the recording to be closer to 1969, tied to the first string of releases from the resuscitated DeLuxe imprint — at that point owned by Lin Broadcasting. An examination of the catalog record for this 1975 Gusto 45 release on Discogs finds this revealing note:
“This is the legal second issue from 1975 – reissued for the UK Northern Soul market. The original does not have the ‘1975 etc’ text around the outside and the release is originally from the late 60’s/early 70’s.
So uh, no, this was not the “final” DeLuxe 45, in terms of latest original recording intended for release.
From browsing Discogs’ listing of DeLuxe releases in chronological order and then examing the catalog numbers in (relative) sequential order, I see that the highest number “152” coincides with 1973 single release from The Manhattans – “Do You Ever” b/w “If My Heart Could Speak” (with the A-side written by Agape recording artist, Myrna March, who also co-produced). Could this possibly be one of the final recordings to come out under the DeLuxe label? To answer this question, it sure would help to know the recording dates of the other DeLuxe 45 releases from 1973:
Ruppli provides no information whatsoever about these recordings and, in fact, does not even list Royal Flush, Reuben Bell, or J. Hines & the Fellows in the index. Not even known whether any of these 45 releases had been recorded in the year 1973. More research is needed to determine the final recording to come out on DeLuxe.
Click on song titles above to hear streaming audio of A & B sides
With regard to Zero to 180’s recent musings about which Bethlehem release was the last original recording intended for that King subsidiary label, this online discography has considerably more detailed information than Ruppli’s sessionography with regard to Bethlehem’s last few years of existence, thus forcing me to recalculate the situation …
The James Brown recording session from May 20, 1970 (David Matthews’ “The Drunk” recorded in two parts, with only Part Two issued) that ended up as the B-side of a Bethlehem (not King) 45 “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” b/w “The Drunk” appears to be the last original recording released on Bethlehem — a session that took place at King Studios in Cincinnati (as did the session for the single’s A-side on March 2, 1970, on which David Matthews served as Director). Interesting to note that A-side “charted on 18 July, 1970 on Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart peaking at #110″ (Discogs).
The next-to-last entry for 1970 says that Arthur Prysock laid down 12 tracks with “unidentified orchestra” and Bill McElhiney serving as arranger/director at Nashville’s Starday-King recording facility on April 8, 1970 for Prysock’s Unforgettable album (released on King). The two singles from this LP, curiously, would be issued on separate labels — “Cry” b/w “Unforgettable” on King, while “Funny World” b/w “The Girl I Never Kissed” ended up on Bethlehem.
As it bids adieu to the King Records’ 75th Anniversary Celebration, Zero to 180 would like to pose these four questions:
What is the last original recording for Starday-King that took place at Cincinnati’s King Studios?
What is the final recording — regardless of whether the artist was under contract to Starday-King — that took place at the (former) King Studios in Cincinnati?
What is the last original recording at the Nashville Starday Studios intended for release on Starday-King or one of its subsidiaries?
What is the last original release from Starday-King before the label’s sale to IMG/Gusto?
A Starday/King/DeLuxe Musical Prank*
Whoa! Is it possible that 1973 instrumental “Victory Strut” by J. Hines & the Fellows (on Starday-King subsidiary, DeLuxe) features what must be some of the earliest turntable scratchingon record?! But alas, the comment below – in reply to the person who posted this audio clip – reveals musical tomfoolery perpetrated at the hands of DJ Ol’SkOul!
“So as much as I love the record scratches on this, I actually bought this 45 thinking they were a part of the song. Sooo yeah, you might want to tell people this is your remix of it. Either way thanks for posting. Great tune.”
Hear for yourself = special ‘REMIX’ of “Victory Strut”
DJ Ol’SkOul likewise provides turntable embellishments for A-side “Camelot Time“
History Messing with My Mind Dept.
Recently, in the course of scanning the index in Ruppli’s King Labels sessionography, I was struck by a fairly unusual name: “SACASAS”. Anselmo Sacasas, it turns out, was a Cuban bandleader who recorded exactly one session for King Records in Miami on April 8, 1955 – four songs recorded, including one tune entitled (hold onto your hats) “Trumpcrazy”!
Billboard‘s reviewer would score this trumpet-heavy “Latino instrumental” a 72 (in the “good” range) in its July 23, 1955 edition. This extremely obscure 45 was nearly lost to history until an audio clip was posted on YouTube in July of 2016.
Michel Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording session discography indicates that Boot, a “hard rock” outfit, had released their debut album on People, a James Brown-owned subsidiary of Starday-King Records. But alas, this turns out not to be true, as Boot’s first album was, in fact, issued on Starday-King subsidiary Agape.
Boot’s album would comprise eight songs, including “Hey Little Girl” and “Liza Brown” (A and B sides, respectively of a 45), plus “Andromeda“; and “Destruction Road.” Among the tracks left in the can is one curiously titled “Funky Country Music.”
Dan Eliassen: Bass & Vocals Jim O’Brock: Percussion Mike Mycz: Rhythm Guitar & Vocals Bruce Knox: Lead/Slide Guitar & Vocals Mike Stone & Peter K. Thomason: Producers Michael S. Stone: [Re-mix] Engineer David L. Rosenberg: Photography & Design
Recorded at Starday-King Studios
Distributed by Starday-King Records
Worth noting that this album was reissued on CD in 1986 by German label Lizard Records — although, Discogs reports this work to have been “licensed from Kingston Records.”
Hey, check this out: Bad Cat Records currently has a listing of the “Hey Little Girl” 45 with a price tag of $85 that also includes some much needed music history:
Hailing from Port Richey, Florida, bassist Dan Eliassen and drummer Jim O’Brock put their first band together in 1972. Originally known as The Kingsmen, they opted for a name change when the Washington-based Kingsmen scored a hit with ‘Louie Louie’. Morphing into The Allusions, Eliassen, O’Brock and a changing cast of players continued to perform at local school dances and teen centers.
By 1966 the lineup featured Eliassen, O’Borck, and lead guitarist Bruce Knox and rhythm guitarist Mike Mycz. They’d also opted for another name change (The Split Ends) as well as moving away from performing largely cover material to penning their own stuff. Signed by the local CPF Records, they also made their recording debut with a 1966 single: ‘Rich with Nothin’ b/w ‘Endless Sun’ (CPF catalog CPF 4).
The 45 proved a regional hit, opening the door to wider exposure including an opening slot on Dick Clark’s Happening ’67 tour. That in turn saw them offered an opportunity to compete on Clark’s ‘Happening ’68 television band contest.
In 1969 the quartet decided on another image and name change – this time adopting the moniker Blues Of Our Time – quickly abbreviated to Boot. With a repertoire of largely original material, the band hit the road playing clubs and concerts nearly non-stop for the next four years.
Released by the Texas-based Agape label, the band debuted with 1972’s cleverly-titled “Boot”. Co-produced by Mike Stone and Peter Thomason, the album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at James Brown’s Starday/King Studio. With all four members contributing material the album offered up a mixture of blues-rock and blues-rock, with an occasional stab at a more commercial tune. The band was blessed with three decent singers. Nothing more than a guess on my part, but judging by the songwriting credits (assuming whoever wrote the track probably handled lead vocals), Mycz seemed to have the tougher-rock voice in the group while Eliassen was gifted with more commercial chops. Knox fell somewhere in the middle with a modest country-rock feel to his voice. Knox also showed himself to being an immensely talented lead guitarist — check out his lead work on ‘Hey Little Girl’.
Zero to 180’s sprawling overview of King Records‘ rare and unissued recordings made reference to 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” — thank you to the YouTube contributor who uploaded a recording of this rare 45 released on Starday-King imprint Agape:
“Flyin’ Machine” Wild Goose 1971
This 1971 promotional 45 “Flyin’ Machine” b/w “Every Day – Every Night” appears to be the entire recorded output of Wild Goose, about which so little is known.
Starday-King launched Agape in 1971, as reported by Billboard, but alas, it was not long for this world — nine 45 and two LP releases between the years 1971-72 that are currently accounted for (i.e., Discogs and 45Cat). Any other Agape releases?.
On 12 August 2018 – the day this history piece was originally drafted – a copy of the “Flyin’ Machine” 45 was selling on Ebay, incredibly enough, for only $10.
Notable-But-Obscure 45 Release on Agape
Six years before he helped form the Redneck Jazz Explosion with Danny Gatton and Buddy Emmons, fiddle player Buddy Spicher would record a one-off single for Agape, as The Family Jewels in 1972, with Hal Rugg — “Sweet Sauce” (by Boudleaux Bryant) b/w “Chicken Gumbo,” an original tune by Hal Rugg and Jim (“Six Days on the Road”) Colvard.
“Sweet Sauce” Buddy Spicher & Hal Rugg (a.k.a., Family Jewels) 1972
Note: This is the second of 3 history pieces dedicated to Starday-King imprint, Agape.
This is quite an extraordinary first record for a group. It features some of the tightest arrangements heard in a while and vocals that flow well with the music. To say the Coldwater Army is a brass based group would not be fair, although their brass section is dynamite. The LP must be taken as one unit as the Army marches along to the beat of a different drummer. One of the brightest groups to appear in a very long time.
NEW YORK — The Starday-King Music Group has formed a new label, Agape Records. According to Hal Neely, president of Starday-King, the new label will serve as an outlet for the increasing number of contemporary pop, rock and country-rock records scheduled for release later this month, while other labels within the Starday-King complex will continue their output of specialty product.
“The significance of the label name we’ve chosen,” said Neely, “derives from the Latin and means ‘love, feast and fellowship.’ In some early Christian times the Feast of Agape was celebrated in good spirit, brotherhood and acts of charity–so much of which is reflected in contemporary music and stressed in the lyric content of the new generation of songwriters. He added, “We hope to bring some of that early spirit of the ancients into modern times.” (Agape is pronounced ah-goh-pay.)
Several artists have already been signed to Agape including songwriter – singer – producer Myrna March from New York; Fort Worth, Tex. producer David Anderson; a rock group from Georgia known as Coldwater Army to be produced by Bobby Smith; First Friday who will be produced by Darrell Glenn, and a Miami-based unit whose production will be undertaken by veteran producer Kelso Herston.
Agape’s initial product will feature singles by Miss March and Anderson. While Miss March has written a great deal of product for Starday-King artists, and recently produced Tony & Carol and the Manhattans for King via her Make Music Productions with Bert Keyes, she is making her Agape debut with a Bee Gees song, “Touch and Understand Love” backed with her own “I Can Remember.” Recorded in Nashville, her sessions were under the personal supervision of Neely. Anderson’s release will be “Songbird.” Prior recordings by David Anderson with the company will ultimately be switched over to the Agape label.
Initially, the Agape label will be managed and administered by the staff of Starday-King with heavy responsibilities falling to sales manager Lee Trimble, Mike Kelly in the East, Bob Patton in the Midwest and Dexter Shaffer on the West Coast will coordinate regional promotion for all new releases and the over-all operations will be guided by Neely and vice-presidents Henry Glover and Jim Wilson.
The inception of Agape marks the latest in a series of moves towards the rebuilding of Starday-King under the encouragement and guidance of the LIN Broadcasting Corp., of which it is a division. In addition to strengthening the operations of the Starday and King labels, the company has reactivated the old Macon, Ga.-based Federal label and the original DeLuxe Records, a blues-rock label. Recent increased activity, too, has centered on the jazz-oriented Bethlehem label with particular interest focusing on the big sounds of Oscar Brandenburg.
Coldwater Army’s debut/only album Peace would also find release in 1971 in Canada, albeit on Columbia [speaking of which: Seymour Stein, you might recall, had curated a pair of King hits anthologies for “Big Red” in 1967 — see here and here]. Peace was issued for the first time on compact disc in 2017.
Bobby Smith, we now know, had been commissioned by Syd Nathan to build a recording studio in Macon, Georgia — the adopted hometown of King Records’ biggest star, James Brown. The following recordings were produced by Bobby Smith at Bobby Smith Studios, the recording location for these (Starday-)King-related releases — with one notable exception, as indicated a little further down the page:
History Wrinkle: The earliest appearance of “Macon, Georgia” as a recording location in Ruppli’s King recording sessionography – “May 4, 1966” – can be found on a session for Thomas Bailey that yielded “Just Won’t Move” and “Fran” — a single that, for some odd reason, did not find release until 1970. Perhaps Ruppli’s carbon-dating tests somehow got mishandled in the lab? The more likely explanation can be found in John Ridley’s liner notes for the first Ace UK/Kent compilation King Serious Soul:
“Bailey was active in the Macon area with his group, the Flintstones, around the turn of the 70s and was involved with Bobby Smith. He wrote material for Mickey Murray, among others, as well as making his own discs. His first Federal 45 coupled the ballad ‘Fran’ with the strutting Southern funk of ‘Just Won’t Move.'”
It is very unlikely that Bobby Smith Studios was operational as early as 1966 — Ruppli simply must be mistaken.
Here’s one other Bobby Smith production that might be the latest recording of the bunch — first of two featured songs in today’s history piece:
Must note with confusion that Bobby Smith is listed as producer on Gloria Walker’s classic slice of funk “Papa’s Got the Wagon” (along with its mate “Your Precious Love“), even though Ruppli’s sessionography notes state that this March, 1971 single had been recorded in “Cincinnati” — is it possible that Smith came to King Studios for this session (which also produced “Lonely and Blue” and “Dancing to the Beat” – two songs that remain locked away in the King vaults)?
In the course of browsing the Federal Records section of Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography, I couldn’t help but notice one particular James Duncan session** that took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama — not Macon, Georgia. But wait, Bobby Smith’s name is attached to this entire August 14, 1969 recording session — is it possible that Smith traveled to Muscle Shoals to record James Duncan? Listen to the classic guitar work on “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” — sure sounds like Eddie Hinton, right? Compare with “This Old Town” by Wilson Pickett, a song previously celebrated here.
“I Got It Made (in the Shade)” James Duncan 1969
As it turns out, the ‘Musical Columbo’ – Soul Detective – had already pondered this question ten years earlier, having discovered a key piece of research in John Ridley’s liner notes to Volume 2 of the Ace UK/Kent anthology series, King Serious Soul that affirms Ruppli’s assertion, pointing out that James Duncan’s Federal singles “were mainly cut at Muscle Shoals [Sound] and were uniformly of a very high standard indeed.”
James Duncan, along with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, laid down six songs at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama on August 14, 1969, with producer Bobby Smith at the helm: “Money Can’t Buy True Love”; “My Baby Is Back”; “All Goodbyes Ain’t Gone”; “I’m Gonna Leave You Alone”; “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” & “You’ve Got to Be Strong” [Ruppli]. Also recorded at Muscle Shoals, according to Ridley, is the Lori & Lance single “I Don’t Have to Worry” b/w “All I Want Is You.”
He returned to Starday in the late 1960s as Merle Kilgore, “The Boogie King,” and also worked part-time for the label. He tells the story:
“I went to work for Starday years later [late 60s] for Hal Neely [President of the Starday-King merger]. I was workin’ the Hank [Williams] Jr. roadshow and I was open all week ’cause we worked Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays. So I went out and just kind of interned, you know. Producing the records and running the country division for Starday-King. I was out there for almost two years. Then they moved me up to where I was director of the country market there. It was like learning a whole new part of the business that I really hadn’t had the chance to experience.”
Kilgore’s peripatetic recording career would take him to Imperial, Starday, Mercury, MGM, Columbia, Ashley, Starday-King, Warner Brothers, and Elektra, and yet – as Gibson points out – “Kilgore’s only singles to break the Top 50 in the Billboard charts were on Starday.”
Extra Credit: Merle Kilgore as Songwriter for Other Artists
Search 45Cat‘s database using the terms “Merle Kilgore” and note the 9 “pages” of 45 releases (25 per page) on which Merle Kilgore has written at least one of the tracks. Artists who have recorded Merle Kilgore compositions include Webb Pierce, Guy Lombardo, Margie Singleton, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Claude King, Rex Allen, Hylo Brown, Jack Scott, Lorne Greene, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vinton, Kitty Wells, Billie Jean Horton, Lefty Frizzell, Tillman Franks, Wayne Raney, Tom Tall, Earl Gaines, Kay Starr, Ronnie & the Daytonas, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Leon Ashley, Travis Wammack, Little Jimmy Dempsey, Ray Campi, Anita Carter, June Carter, Carlene Carter, Bucky Allred, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, and Marty Stuart.
Merle Kilgore once recorded a song “Frankenboogie” under the alias “Frankie Stein” for Starday-King, who would issue the song in 1973 on King as an A-side, with “All She Wants to Do Is Boogie” (borrowed from the 1972 “Boogie King” 45) used for the flip.
Lonnie Mack‘s most famous recordings might be associated with Cincinnati’s other notable indie label from the roots rock era — Fraternity — but the hugely influential guitarist from Southeast Indiana also made a number of recordings at King Studios. Ace UK’s Lonnie Mack anthology CD From Nashville to Memphis includes a “Lonnie Mack Discography on Fraternity Records” (compiled by John Broven & Stuart Colman) whose contents reveal that all of Lonnie’s recording sessions between 1963 and 1965 (except for one session at RCA Nashville) took place at Cincinnati’s King Records. Lonnie would return to King in 1967 for one final Fraternity session that produced two songs — “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Omaha” (a.k.a., “Down in the Dumps”).
Note: Click on each of the 3 images below to view in high resolution
Intrigued to learn from the discography above that (a) Gene Lawson – of Lawson Microphones fame – played drums on legendary recording “Memphis” and (b) Cincinnati tenor saxophonist Jimmy McGary played on a handful of tracks, including “Coastin’” and “Tonky Go Go.” Randy McNutt also notes in The Cincinnati Sound that Lonnie Mack recorded two of his seminal 1960s albums for Elektra at Jewel Recording Studios (in nearby Mt. Healthy, Ohio), founded by one-time King recording artist, Rusty York.
Ruppli’s King recording sessionography notes that “Tell Me That You Love Me” — flip side of “Don’t Be a Drop Out” — was recorded live at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, Florida on April 24, 1966. 2007’s release of James Brown: The Singles Volume 4: 1966-1967 by Hip-O Select identifies Lonnie Mack as the guitarist on this track (sure sounds like him), even though Ruppli’s detailed listing of musicians, strangely, fails to include him. Zero to 180 is still trying, unsuccessfully, to find out which Hank Ballard recordings feature Mack’s guitar playing.
45 picture sleeve releases from Sweden (left) and Italy (right)
Just three years after his final 1967 King recording session, Mack would return to Cincinnati’s (newly-renamed) “Starday-King” Studio to accompany Albert Washington and his band, you might recall, on at least eight songs that got released as three 45s on Rusty York’s Jewel label, while the fourth 45 came out on Starday-King subsidiary label, DeLuxe, curiously enough..
What a pleasant surprise to learn that the Grammy Foundation produced a video clip in 2015 that features former King session musician and funk innovator Bootsy Collins reflecting on his experience “meeting his musical idol” Lonnie Mack:
Many of the obituaries for Lonnie Mack note that the Bigsby tremolo bar was unofficially dubbed the “Whammy” bar in recognition of Mack’s influential Top Five hit instrumental. Danny Sandrik‘s excellent tribute piece – “Blue-Eyed Soul and the Cincinnati Sound” – notes that Lonnie Mack, along with Beau Dollar, “was” the Cincinnati Sound and reveals that it was Chuck Sullivan, not Mack (as indicated in the discography above), who played the signature guitar lines on Beau’s classic version of “Soul Serenade.” Sullivan would also relate the details of that famous recording session of 7 February 1966 to Brian Powers in a special radio program James Brown Productions, Part One that aired on Cincinnati’s WVXU during 2018’s King Records 75th Anniversary Celebration.
Album released in US on Federal and in Brazil (year unknown) on Joda
abstract crowd backdrop — used for front and back cover images
“Going Back to Alabama” — first of three B-sides issued on Federal for Starday-King — includes some prototypical “rapping” in the James Brown tradition. Note the playful musical references to “Sweet Soul Music” — a song previously celebrated here:
“Going Back to Alabama” Mickey Murray 1970
Discogs acknowledges three Federal single releases over the course of three years beginning in 1970.
For those who wonder why such limited output from a one-time potential hitmaker, NPR reporter Eric Luecking’s accompanying history piece for “People are Together” — selected as ‘Song of the Day‘ for February 24, 2012 — suggests that Murray may have been more than a little disillusioned by his experience with the music industry:
Born in South Carolina in the 1930s, Mickey Murray had roots in Georgia and shined shoes to help earn a living early in life. He proved he could sing with gravel and grit, had a million-selling single in the late 1960s, and signed with the King/Federal label. It’s striking how similar Mickey Murray’s story is to that of James Brown, yet while Brown left an indelible mark on soul and popular music, Murray remains a mere blip in the musical cosmos. As the liner notes to his recently reissued lost album tell it, Murray doesn’t believe that People Are Together was ever officially released after it was recorded in 1970.
It was a risky endeavor to push “People Are Together” as the album’s lead single in the South. It was reportedly black DJs who killed the record, labeling it as too progressive and fearing that they’d lose their on-air jobs should they play it. It doesn’t sound remotely controversial today: It’s a call to all of mankind to join together and love one another, in the spirit of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and many other songs of its time.
Regardless, fame and a longer singing career didn’t follow for Murray, although he’d record later in life. But the defiantly hopeful “People Are Together,” written by Bob Garrett and Calvin Arline, now stands as a virtually unheard gem; whether it was known to the public when it was recorded more than 40 years ago is irrelevant. What is relevant is the song itself, a timeless three-minute sermon which implores us all to give a little more love.
In 2011, Secret Stash Records reissued the album in limited edition (“1200 individually numbered copies”), with extended liner notes, never-before-seen photos, and access code for a free MP3 download of the entire album (“first 250 copies also include a 7″, hand-numbered with the corresponding number.”)
45Cat acknowledges two singles following Murray’s stint with Starday-King — one in 1975 and the other in 1979, which appears to be singer’s final musical statement.