Who’s Left Holding King’s Bag?

[For an update on the perilous status of the original King Records site, click here]

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

Love Hymn = Deodorant Ad

Sweet Touch of Love,” from the aforementioned acclaimed 1970 album, Toussaint (later named From a Whisper to a Scream), would be the A-side of a promo 45 that appeared not to have enjoyed any chart action:

“Sweet Touch of Love”      Allen Toussaint     1970

“Sweet Touch of Love” (the final installment in this week’s “time walk” tribute to Allen Toussaint) would later be covered by Etta James, Esther Phillips, Irma Thomas, and Grady Tate.

Ed Ochs’ “Soul Sauce” column for Billboard would report in its November 14, 1970 edition that Allen Toussaint’s first for Scepter-distributed Tiffany label is ‘Sweet Touch of Love.’

But alas, promo-only 45

Allen Toussaint 45-c

Funny to see history’s twists and turns:  who could have predicted that Allen Toussaint’s 1970 hymn to love would be used 38 years later as the centerpiece of an oddly creepy ad campaign for Axe Dark Temptation “chocolate” deodorant in 2008?

Axe Dark Temptation ad featuring “Sweet Touch of Love” by Allen Toussaint:

For some people (as YouTube comments attest), Axe Dark Temptation did, indeed, bring new listeners to Allen Toussaint via “Sweet Touch of Love.”  Would you be surprised to learn (as I was) that this commercial won a Gold Lion at the 2008 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (formerly International Advertising Festival)?

Shameless Plug:  This is the eleventh Zero to 180 piece tagged as Music in Advertising.

The Great (Musical) Experiment

Even less seems to be written about Allen Toussaint‘s final A-side for Bell, 1969‘s populist anthem, “We the People“:

“We the People”      Allen Toussaint     1969

Imagine the magnitude of our collective output if we all directed our energies toward constructive ends instead of squabbling amongst ourselves.  Help me understand exactly how squaring off against each other will create a better future.

Unfortunately, it takes grown-ups to keep a democratic-style government from being overrun by career politicians and well-funded special interests, and too many people have bought into the “confrontational approach” to governance and public policy that passes for “civic discourse” in this country (e.g., boxing match sound effects employed by Fox News that allow you to keep score at home).  And thus, as Wall Street Journal reports, while 95% of post-recession gains (2009-2012) have gone to the wealthiest 1%, we the people fight over the crumbs, instead, and demonize each other.  Is this really the best we can do – or expect?

  Released in the US in 1969 on Bell           Released in the UK in 1969 on Soul City

Allen Toussaint 45-bbAllen Toussaint 45-b

On a technical (and much less philosophical) note, AllMusic alerts us to a cogent point about What Is Success – the 2007 CD reissue mentioned in yesterday’s piece:

“Perhaps owing to their very scarcity, the Bell Records singles ‘Get Out of My Life Woman’ b/w ‘Gotta Travel On’; ‘Got That Feelin’ Now’ b/w ‘Hands Christianderson’; and ‘We the People’ b/w ‘Tequila’ have actually been mastered from vinyl (rather than tape) sources.  While surface noise is audible throughout, each of the selections is thoroughly listenable, thanks to Rob Shread’s effective audio restorations.”

Six years prior, Toussaint (as “Al Tousan”) had issued a B-side entitled “Real Churchy,” which is exactly how I’d described the piano chording that Toussaint employs throughout — would it be wrong to tag “We the People” as “gospel“?

Toussaint’s Danish-Flavoured Pop

Do not understand why so very little has been written about Allen Toussaint‘s 1968 composition “Hands Christianderson,” the instrumental B-side released 47 years ago this very month:

“Hands Christianderson”     Allen Toussaint     1968

I hear a bit of Burt Bacharach-style melodicism in the trumpets and backing vocals, though the final product is unmistakably Toussaint-ian.  Tip of the hat to Home of the Groove for breaking it down:

“With a title as quirky as the composition itself, this unusual and complex production appeared on the second of three Toussaint singles released by Bell in 1968, featuring him on piano, and in a few cases, vocals.  I wonder if he designed ‘Hands’ to play pop counterpoint to the lush but more straight ahead instrumental hit song of the same year, ‘Love Is Blue,’ by Paul Mauriat.  It has the same kind of over the top, multi-instrument arrangement, including strings, but with quite a rhythmic twist – kind of like ‘Hand Jive’ meets Riverdance.  If anyone ever asks you if a song can be poly-rhythmic and syncopated and NOT be funky, play this!

As far as I can tell, that would be Zig and George of the Meters pumping the kick drum pedal and plucking the bass strings respectively; and you can probably see why the temperamental and highly funkifried Mr. Modeliste chafed at being put to rather mechanical tasks such as this and eventually stopped playing on many of Toussaint’s productions.

Maybe Allen was hoping this might be picked up as another TV theme song (as had his earlier “Whipped Cream”, when covered by Herb Alpert), or for a movie soundtrack.  I don’t know, but it seems he enjoyed and saw commercial potential in such pop instrumentals, as he had been doing them since the late 1950s, though not on this scale.  ‘Hands’ was cleverly done, maybe too much so, as it quickly patty-caked off into the sunset; taking with it the other side of the 45, ‘I’ve Got That Feelin Now,’ which went in another musical direction entirely, call it soul easy-listening.”

Allen Toussaint 45-aYou can find “Hands Christianderson” on a 2007 CD release entitled What Is Success:  The Bell & Scepter Recordings — essentially, a reissue of Toussaint’s acclaimed 1970 LP From a Whisper to a Scream, (originally released as Toussaint) plus the A & B sides of three Bell 45s from 1968-69.

Hans Christian Andersen:  poet, playwright, novelist & fairy tailor

Hans Christian Andersen

Rx: Love (Lot’s of Lovin’)

So, have you figured out the pattern yet?  It’s still early, I know, but congratulations to those who correctly deduced that Zero to 180 is paying tribute to Allen Toussaint (who left us exactly one week ago) by taking a little “time walk” – one that began last Friday with 1965‘s teaching tool for antonyms, “The Word Game” (preschool parents take note).   Yesterday’s piece shone the spotlight on 1966‘s literary-themed “Omar Khayyam,” a song whose mysterious allure worked quietly in the background until, decades later, it was discovered that the song had seized the imagination of dance fans worldwide.

Which brings us to 1967, pop’s peak year, and the one and only duet by Lee Dorsey and Betty Harris — “Love Lots of Lovin'” — which features some percussion that really pops:

“Love Lots of Lovin'”     Lee Dorsey & Betty Harris     1967

This  “regional breakout” – written, arranged & produced by Allen Toussaint – alas, just bubbled under (#110) nationally in December, 1967 and did not receive the wider recognition it deserved.  Billboard, who predicted the song would reach the Top 60, had this review in its November 25, 1967 edition:

“Teamed for the first [and, sadly, last] time, this duet will fast become a hot seller, right up there high on the Hot 100.  Pulsating blues rocker penned by Allen Toussaint serves as strong material for them, and they wail all the way through.”

      Lee Dorsey                                      Betty Harris

Lee Dorsey-bbbBetty Harris-aaa

“Love Lots of Lovin'” – released domestically in 1967 – would not be issued in the UK for another two years.

1967 US release                                           1969 UK release

Lee Dorsey-Betty Harris-aLee Dorsey-Betty Harris-b

Billboard’s biography of Betty Harris states that “Harris planned to support [“Love Lots of Lovin'”] on tour with Otis Redding, but on December 10 [1967], the soul giant lost his life in a plane crash.”

Toussaint’s Pop Persian Poetry

Browsing 45Cat’s database for 1966 singles associated with Allen Toussaint, my eyes were immediately drawn to an A-side entitled “Omar Khayyam” by The Rubaiyats, issued on Toussaint’s own Sansu label.  As it turns out, the band’s name is inspired by the term for “a collection of Ruba’i”  (as in the Persian poetry form), with the best known example likely being the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

“Omar Khayyam”     The Rubaiyats     1966

The Rubaiyats are, in actual fact, Allen Toussaint and Willie Harper — Toussaint would write both sides of their only single.  “Omar Khayyam” would be a B-side upon initial release in the US in September, 1966 although the two sides would flip (so says 45Cat) with the single’s 1968 release in the UK.

Houghton Mifflin & Company- First edition, 1884 – thanks to Book Graphics

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-aaNews Flash!  “Omar Khayyam” made Offbeat’s “Ten Buried Allen Toussaint Treasures” list.

As further proof of the song’s viability:  Vintage Vinyl is offering a special 7-inch release, “Omar Khayyam” b/w “Do Me Like You Do Me” by John Williams & the Tick Tocks – $13.99 (“two collectible Sansu sides back-to-back for the first time … of huge interest to Northern Soul collectors, Mod and R&B fans worldwide.”)  Vintage Vinyl provides the UK history related to this song:

“First played at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on the UK Action label but originally recorded for US label Sansu in 1966.  This hard-to-find original became a Mod and rare soul classic and has, in recent times, enjoyed a revival on the Northern Soul circuit.”

Rubaiyats 45£45 paid for this 45 in 2010.

Check out this art nouveau-inspired 3rd edition published by Bernard Quaritch in London in 1872 – bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe of London (tip of the hat to Dartmouth).

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-bbDid you know of the cursed special “Sangorski Edition” of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — on Business Pundits‘ list of 15 Weird and Mysterious Books?

“Is it possible for a book to be as cursed as the Hope Diamond?  If so, the Sangorski special edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is.  This book is a work of art in and of itself:  the cover is bound in leather, features a jewel-encrusted peacock on the front, and is emblazoned with gold leaf.  Its designer, Francis Sangorski, spent months designing it, and two years to finish its creation.  It’s a legendary book, both because of the elevated artistry of the book, and the tragedies that seemed to follow it.

Sangorski’s original copy sank with the Titanic.  Before he could recreate it, Francis Sangorski drowned, six weeks after the ship — with the book — foundered in the Atlantic.  Stanley Bray, Sangorski’s partner, spent six years recreating the second copy of the book from Sangorski’s original drawings.  The book was then destroyed in the London Blitz.  It took Bray another 40 years to finish the next copy, which was donated to the British Library after his death.”

The cursed Sangorski special edition

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-cc“Omar Khayyam” is part of the 2011 compilation:  Allen Toussaint:  The Lost Sessions.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is an enormously influential literary work (650 different editions, translated into over 70 languages, illustrations by 150 artists) whose reach extends into literature, cinema, music. computer games, and television (e.g., 6-episode story arc in The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show about the “Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam“).

Important to keep in mind, though, that Edward Fitzgerald (as the UK’s Telegraph points out) is, in his English translations, “deliberately altering, combining and developing the verses of Omar Khayyam, a 12th-century poet who is remembered as a talented astronomer-mathematician, but not as a great Persian poet like Sadi or Hafiz.  Many of the quatrains attributed to him have been falsely ascribed.”

Music Trivia:  Edmund J. Sullivan’s 1913 illustration to verse 26 of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam would be famously appropriated by Alton Kelley & Stanley Mouse for a poster advertising a 1966 Grateful Dead concert at the Avalon that, from that point forward, would be known as (though not strictly) “Skull & Roses.”

Naomi Neville = Allen Toussaint

Allen Toussaint was the headlining act for the 2009 Silver Spring Jazz Festival.  At that time, the festival venue was the parking lot behind the facade of the old JC Penney building, just prior to its conversion (using millions of taxpayer dollars) into the LiveNation concert facility that would be branded (cynically) as “The Fillmore.”

Thanks to Silver Spring Neighborhoods Blog for the great photo

Allen Toussaint @ 2009 Jazz FestivalTaking in Toussaint’s performance in 2009, I was struck by how all-encompassing his music is, the totality of its sweep:  jazz, blues, New Orleans second line, gospel, funk, pop, country, and even a big of ragtime thrown in for good measure.

Funny to recall that, even as an obsessed teenage fan of The Who, I would inadvertently make Allen Toussaint’s acquaintance via The Who’s live arrangement of “Fortune Teller” from a bootleg album of their April, 1968 performance at New York City’s Fillmore East.

Toussaint’s recent passing is an enormous loss, and his legacy – as Atlantic Monthly noted – is “unassailable.”  Fortunately, for humankind, Toussaint has left a vast treasure chest.  But rather than unscroll a long list of song titles that attest to Toussaint’s impressive handiwork as a songwriter, musician and producer, I thought it might be better to simply hit you with one good song at a time – such as 1965‘s infectious “The Word Game” by Benny Spellman:

“The Word Game”      Benny Spellman     1965

Toussaint’s playful take on Shirley Ellis‘s near-number one hit at the time, “The Name Game” is ripe (as this YouTube clip’s paltry numbers show) for rediscovery.   The “B” Side tells us that the song “bubbled under the Hot 100 for awhile” but never really charted, despite the endorsements of such influential disc jockeys as Johnny Bee (WBOK, New Orleans) and Chuck Cunningham (WLOU, Louisville).  As Home of the Groove explains it:

“It has been reported that ‘The Word Game’ did alright around New Orleans; and maybe it could possibly have sparked a flash of oppositional game-song fever across the land, except for a major monkey wrench.  While Atlantic agreed to release this single, it doesn’t seem they did much more than test-market it as a promo (as seen in the [image below] – you rarely run across a stock copy), and took no pains to promote it – that is, pay anybody elsewhere to play it.  That’s too bad, not because “The Word Game” really deserved to be a hit, but because it kept DJs from paying enough attention to flip the record over and discover the side that should have gotten the attention [i.e., ‘I Feel Good’].”

    Originally issued on New Orleans’ indie, Alon … and then picked up by Atlantic

Benny Spellman 45-bBenny Spellman 45-a

“The Word Game” is one of dozens of songs penned by Toussaint using his mother’s name, Naomi Neville.

Who could, of course, forget Dylan’s producer, Bob Johnston, mangling “The Name Game” to great comical effect the following year?

Pop-Up Record Albums

Until fairly recently, I had a Tuesday Morning “close-out retailer” store within 2 miles of home.   In an age when we’re lucky to have just one large national bookstore chain, I was grateful to have a quirky home goods store that also offered the oddest assortment of book fare, the overwhelming majority of which can not be found in Barnes & Noble, Politics & Prose, and other “respectable” reading establishments.

This piece, therefore, is a tribute to the former Silver Spring location of Tuesday Morning for allowing me to purchase the ingeniously-crafted Country Music Pop-Up Book, a $45.00 retail value (as the price tag states) for only $14.99.  This delightful pop-up book I first mentioned two years ago last December in a classic “road” story about Waylon Jennings as told by Kinky Friedman.

Country Music Pop-Up Book-aaCountry Music Pop-Up Book-a

The closing of our local Tuesday Morning has me looking at this sumptuous movable book once again — I just re-read Steve Earle‘s funny essay about life as a struggling songwriter in Nashville working on “The Graveyard Shift” in which we learn that, when “Steve Martin led the entire audience down Ellison Place and bought everyone a Krystal hamburger, [Earle] was at the front of the line.”

When it comes to pop-up record albums, Jethro Tull‘s elaborate gatefold sleeve for their sophomore release — 1969’s Stand Up, with the pop-up art of the four band members — single-handedly rules the roost (one has to wonder, then, why the title of this piece is plural).  The concept was “based on ideas from Terry Ellis and John Williams and printed from woodcuts by New York graphic artist, Jimmy Grashow [whom you may visit on Facebook].”

Jethro Tull Pop-Up LP

One song I remember hearing on 1970s FM radio was Jethro Tull’s adaptation of a popular Bach lute piece (Bourrée in E minor).  Although Stand Up would reach the US Top 20, Island’s release of “Bourée” b/w “Fat Man” would fail to chart, except in Germany (#37) and the Netherlands (#5):

“Bourée”     Jethro Tull     1969

Jimmy Grashow would also design the artwork used for the French 45 picture sleeve:

Jethro Tull 45-aJethro D’oh!

Did You Know…Jethro Tull’s very first single release – their one and only on the MGM label – would find find the group identified as Jethro Toe!  In fact, 45Cat emphatically states that any copies of “Sunshine Day” b/w “Aeroplane” with the band’s name as ‘Jethro Tull’ are bootlegs — click here to check out the many interesting comments about this 7-inch equivalent of the postage stamp with the bi-plane flying upside down.

“Jethro Toe”:  a fire-able offense?

Jethro Toe-bJethro Toe-a

A rare beige/taupe 45 would sell at auction in 2009 for £500 ($800)!

Jethro Toe-c

Colour Me Canadian: DIY

Just when Zero to 180 thought it had exhausted all the “you-be-the-artist” album cover possibilities (i.e., connect-the-dots, color-your-own) Canadian contributor, We Willy, shocked this fellow North American by referencing a fairly obscure Canadian album cover that masterfully straddles the line between the two do-it-yourself genres:

Discogs.com says LP released in 1969 — web link below, however, says 1964Bette Graham LP-a

Could this one long-playing release, Colour Me “Canadian, be — as Discogs.com seems to indicateBette Graham‘s entire recording output?   I am impressed to see that Graham has written all but one of the songs on the album, but is it fair to presume that she is the creative director behind this crackerjack album cover?

And should we be concerned about the variant spellings for Graham’s given name on the front vs. rear covers?

Bette Graham LP-b

You may preview (as well as acquire) the album @ The Museum of Canadian Music

Buddy Knox’s Bigfoot Song

How can you not love Muddy Waters for his brilliant observation, “The blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll”?  And thank you, Jerry Wexler, for coining the term “rhythm & blues” as an alternative to the more 19th-century-sounding “race music.”

The Grand Ol’ Opry would famously ban percussion from its stages until the forces of modernity could no longer be held back, and it was around this time when country music was increasingly being played with a backbeat that the term “rhythm” started to bubble up into popular consciousness.

            Jimmy Bowen & Buddy Knox would go their separate ways – even on Roulette

Jimmy Bowen EP (edited)Buddy Knox 45

Producer and music industry heavyweight, Jimmy Bowen, has a great story in his excellent memoir (and insider account) Rough Mix about the word “rhythm” and its unexpected appearance (more like forced entrance) during his first professional encounter with the music biz, as he and his partner, Buddy Knox, were recording their first 45 for none other than Morris Levy, the music mogul (and owner of Birdland) who would be convicted in 1990 for extortion:

“To say we had trouble finding our groove puts it mildly.  Whether it was the big-city pressure or his bad syncopation, Buddy froze up behind the mike and could not get it right.  You could count it out for Buddy all day long–a-one, anna-two, anna-three, anna-four–but he couldn’t find a-one and never came in right.  Another problem:  the studio was directly over a subway.  Every time a train rumbled by, you could hear it on the tape, so a bunch of good takes had to be redone.  This just made Buddy more nervous.”

I had to step in and sing both B-sides–‘My Baby’s Gone’ for ‘Party Doll’ and ‘Ever-Lovin’ Fingers’ for ‘I’m Stickin’ with You.’  [George] Goldner pumped the echo to it so high on my voice that you could hardly tell it wasn’t Buddy, though my voice was deeper and less twangy.  When the session was over, Morris [Levy] realized he hated the group’s name–Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, and the Orchids–and told us it would have to change.  ‘You kids go on back to Texas,’ Morris said, ‘and we’ll take care of that.’

When they mailed us our records, I couldn’t believe it.  ‘I’m Stickin’ with You’ was now by Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids [!]  The shock wore off, though, and it was a real kick to be on a New York label with our records going out all over the country [as well as the UK, Canada & Germany].  ‘Stickin’ with You’ was Roulette 4001, the label’s debut release.  ‘Party Doll’ was Roulette 4002, by Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids.”

Buddy Knox & His Rhythm Orchids posterThe Rhythm Orchids would eventually disband, and Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen would find their own musical paths.  For Buddy Knox, that path would one day lead to Bigfoot:

“Bigfoot Song”     Buddy Knox     197?

We learn from another YouTube clip that this surprisingly effective Bigfoot song is an unreleased demo “that no one had heard until 2005 when it was shared from an acetate demo that friends in Canada obtained from Buddy late in his life.”

Buddy Knox & His Rhythm OrchidsWe also learn from Greg Long’s The Making of Bigfoot:  The Inside Story that Buddy Knox is connected to renowned Bigfoot videographer, Roger Patterson, through his guitarist, Jerry Merritt, and that the three of them would once go on a Bigfoot finding expedition:

“One time [Jerry Merritt] picked grapes with Patterson, and Patterson made juice from the grapes to treat his cancer.  Another time, Merritt and Buddy Knox, a famous rockabilly star, who recorded ‘Party Doll,’ traveled with Merritt, Patterson, and [Bob] Gimlin in Patterson’s van out into the hills.”

Fascinating to discover from Buddy Knox’s discography on Discogs.com that these 1950s recordings with Jimmy Bowen would continue to sell into the 1960s, 70s, 80, 90s & beyond.  Kinda spooky.