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Ace Visits King Records Archives

“There is an argument that it was all downhill for recording when music stopped being cut straight to disc.”

Ace Records UK has a catalog of reissues that is both all over the map and right out of this world.  I am hardly the first person to be knocked out by the amount of attention and care Ace lavishes on its subjects, one of them being the King Records musical legacy.  Ace’s website, unsurprisingly, documents the company’s journey in meticulous chronological fashion.  1993, for instance, would find Ace gaining the confidence and trust of IMG/Gusto, owner of the King master recordings:

Originally stationed in Cincinnati, Syd Nathan’s immense King Records was, by the 90s, located at Gusto Records in Nashville.  We had licensed the Scepter/Wand and Musicor labels owned by the same company for some time.  We finally got to access the well-organised King vaults and what a wonder they were.  Pretty soon, the Delmore Bros where rubbing shoulders with Freddie King, Wynonie Harris shouted the blues at Moon Mullican:  great sounding records from well-preserved tapes.  Some years later, we shipped the original 16” acetates that contained the first recordings to our studio.  We have been transferring them to digital ever since, releasing many previously unheard performances in pristine sound.  There is an argument that it was all downhill for recording when music stopped being cut straight to disc.

Twelve years hence, Ace’s work with the original King acetates would reach fever pitch:

In the wake of some intense tape research and unearthing original 16” acetates in Nashville, the King label was our big thing of the year.  Before recording on tape, music was cut directly to large discs which were then copied, processed and used to make commercial 78s.  These acetates are a remarkable archive.  In those 16” grooves are many previously unheard recordings.  Also, those that were released were often drenched in reverb.  Our first two releases from this source were a pair of contrasting sets, one with six new performances from the Delmore Brothers, and one with seven previously unissued sides by Roy Brown.

Ace UK’s Tony Rounce would serve as fly-on-the-wall reporter to document the effort – this information reprinted with the understanding that Zero to 180 readers will seek out and purchase these quality King reissues from an honest-to-goodness music store:

Ace Visits the King Records HQ in Nashville by Tony Rounce

As all R&B fans will know, Ace has long reaped the benefits of its ongoing access to the King Records catalogue, thanks in no small way to the cordial relationship we enjoy with the catalogue’s owner, Mr. Moe Lytle, his international representative Stephen Hawkins and the excellent, hard working team at King’s Nashville HQ.  Ace’s A&R team makes no secret of the fact that each of us loves multiple aspects of the King catalogue, and thus it’s never anything but sheer pleasure to be involved with the reissue of the company’s superlative recordings.

Through the kind auspices of Mr. Lytle, Ace’s A&R team has, or the past couple of years, been privileged to receive the ‘run of the vault’, during what has now become annual two-week trips to Nashville.  Under the supervision of Ace’s MD Roger Armstrong a team of the company’s senior A&R guys has been permitted to access the entire King tape inventory, and to copy as much repertoire to DAT as can be copied in the time we have available to us.  Happily for us, the friendly folk at King are more than amenable to putting in a few extra hours here and there to enable us to start early, and leave late, each day in our attempts to bring you as many quality reissues as we can assemble from two weeks worth of heads-down, no-nonsense copying.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone concerned, on both sides of the pond.

King’s formidable and extremely well-organised tape vault is complemented by a well-preserved collection of mint ‘library copy’ 45s and 78s, which between them contain a copy of virtually every record ever released on King, or one of its subsidiaries.  If this information is not itself enough to make most long-time R&B and soul collectors go weak at the knees, the knowledge that many of those vinyl and shellac masterpieces are blank label test pressings, with the label copy written in King founder Syd Nathan‘s own meticulous hand, will surely have most collectors reaching for the nearest comfy chair, while simultaneously clutching a bottle of maximum-strength smelling salts.

But that, as they say, is definitely not all, folks.  Until very recently, the King vaults also contained most of that company’s original acetates, cut between 1944 and 1951 (Syd, like many other indie operatives, did not initially trust the longevity of tape, and he insisted on cutting acetate ‘safeties’ until such times as the durability of oxide could be fully confirmed), and it also included a copious quantity of acetates from those labels King acquired along the way, such as De Luxe.  Most of the acetates had been in storage since Mr. Lytle’s Gusto Records purchased King in the mid 1970s, and most of them were in the same immaculate condition that they had been when they were first cut, over 50 years ago.

«          «          Zero to 180’s samples of King acetates          »          »

1953 tune penned by henry Glover + 1966’s “Stop Talking to Your Child, Mother-in-Law

Acetate of James Brown’s 3-part single from 1971

Those who are worrying about the use of the past tense here will be glad to know that it’s being used for a very good reason.  The acetates were in the King vaults, until very recently.  However, and as this piece is being written, those same acetates are now on their way from Nashville to Ace Towers, where each and every note of music they contain will be copied, downstairs at Sound Mastering Ltd over the course of the next year, to produce an unprecedented series of Ace CDs which will aim to present this historic and hugely important catalogue’s early masters as they have never been heard before (and, in many case, as they have never been heard, period!)

Ace had been discussing the possibility of undertaking such a task with Mr. Lytle and his team for some considerable time, so it goes without saying that we were all beside ourselves with happiness when permission was given for us to undertake the formidable task of decanting several hundred crumbling 25-count boxes of acetates into bigger and sturdier ones, for safe shipment from there to here.  My Ace colleague Alec Palao and I had the arduous, but ultimately very rewarding, task of packing over 60 boxes, each containing at least 60-80 acetates.  This might sound like a chore to some but, as we opened each box and steadily annotated the packing list, we were as excited as a couple of alcoholics with a month-long lock-in at their favourite neighbourhood bar.  It took us the best part of a week to work our way through the lot, but we couldn’t have been happier with the end result.

An incredible number of acetates have survived the passage of time and, in most cases, in a condition that could only be described as “Mint Minus”.  Unfortunately, a few of the earliest acetates were glass-based, and several of them had broken somewhere along the line, including, sad to say, some unique items that will now never be heard in anything other than ‘from 78’ quality.  However, the vast majority of the acetates were and are metal-based – so no fear of breakages there, although a few had corroded beyond salvation.  On the whole, though, the condition of these unique sound sources was, and is, superb, and the quality of the CDs that Ace will be able to produce from them ought to be nothing less than phenomenal.

As the chief ‘acetate-sorter-outer’, it fell to me to decide which slates to ship where there were multiple copies of the same one, thus I got to see every acetate as it moved from box to box.  I need not explain to any collectors how much of a thrill this was, as the original acetates for Wynonie Harris‘ “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, Cowboy Copas‘ “Filipino Baby” and just about all of Hank Penny‘s first session for King flashed before my eyes, en route from a small carton to a packing box.  Even more thrilling was the discovery that, contrary to long-held beliefs in the blues community, early De Luxe acetates that were believed to have been lost in a warehouse fire in 1948 mostly had not been.  At least one take of most of the multitude of unissued and unheard Roy Brown sides were present and correct, as were other potential delights from legendary New Orleans names like Smiley Lewis, Eddie Gorman, Annie Laurie, Paul Gayten, Chubby Newsome & Dave Bartholomew.  If this is not exciting news, then I’ll eat both my hat AND yours.

From a personal point of view, coming upon the original acetates for King 501 (Bob McCarthy a.k.a. Merle Travis‘ “When Mussolini Laid His Pistol Down” [1943 – audio unavailable on YouTube] was a thrill and a half, as was locating the acetate containing several takes of the Travis/Hank Penny western swing classic “Merle’s Buck Dance”.  Who among us could not have been delighted to find out that the unissued Roy Brown‘s were alive and well, or that the likes of Homer and Jethro, John Lee Hooker, and the early Delmore Brothers/Wayne Raney sides would soon be heard a quality comparable to that in which they were originally recorded.  Certainly not anyone who works at Ace, that’s for sure.

The acetate reissue programme will not happen overnight, of course.  Much prioritising has to be done, followed by much transferring.  But we at Ace hope that we will have the first releases in the special ‘acetate’ series on the market by late spring of 2005.  Once the first titles are out we will be issuing further packages throughout 2005 and 2006 and, well, effectively until we run out of acetates to reissue, really.  In general, the release of these packages should forever do away with anyone’s need to buy any more unauthorised Out Of Copyright issues of King material from this era, which can only be a very good thing, really.

Of course, we will not be neglecting our programme of “from tape” King reissues, either.  While we were ‘on site’ in Nashville we also transferred enough sides, from original mastertapes, to extend our King programme well into 2006, even without the ‘acetate series’.  The first fruits of this side of our labours will be available in January, with the first-ever legal reissue of The Lamplighters‘ great Federal catalogue in superlative sound, followed by a ‘5Royales package that obviously includes the hits but that focuses its attentions mostly on those King sides which have been reissued less often or not at all.  As 2006 unfolds there will be a second volume of King Rock ‘n’ Roll, two more volumes (at least!) of King Doo Wop [four volumes in all], the complete recordings of Dominoes/Drifters-affiliated group The Checkers, a package of the early recordings of The Royals/Midnighters, a second volume of Little Willie John [sets one and two] and much more besides.  As Roger A. made the majority of the tape transfers for these packages, the guarantee that these will sound better than any other reissue of this material comes straight from the top!

Here at Ace, King will always be King, and we’re firmly committed to continuing to send it victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over all vintage R&B and Hillbilly aficionados.  Long live the King!

King-Related Titles Available from Ace UK

Click on link - free shipping in UK when ordered from Ace

Various Artists:  Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie

Various Artists:  Beef Ball Baby!  The New Orleans R&B Sessions

Various Artists:  King Rockabilly

Various Artists:  Rockabilly Kings [Charlie Feathers & Mac Curtis]

Various Artists:  King Doo Wop (Vol. One, Two, Three & Four)

Various Artists:  King Rock ‘n’ Roll (Vol. One & Two)

Various Artists:  Honky Tonk!  The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals

Various Artists:  Chicago Blues From Federal Records

Various Artists:  Welcome to the Club [Chicago blues on Federal]

Various Artists:  New Breed Rhythm & Blues

Various Artists:  King Northern Soul (Vol. OneTwo & Three)

Various Artists:  King Serious Soul (Vol. One & Two)

Various Artists:  Soul Ballads from King, Federal & Deluxe

Various Artists:   King Funk

Various Artists:  Royal Grooves – Funk & Groovy Soul

Various Artists:  The Best of King Gospel

Roy Brown:  King & Deluxe Acetate Series [+ 1 other title]

The CheckersComplete King Recordings

Delmore BrothersFreight Train Boogie & Fifty Miles to Travel – Acetates

Bill DoggettHonky Tonk Popcorn

Brother Claude ElySatan Get Back!

The5RoyalesCatch That Teardrop + King Hits & Rarities

Herb HardestyDomino Effect – The Wing & Federal Recordings

Wynonie HarrisKing & Deluxe Acetate Series [+ 2 other titles]

Ivory Joe Hunter:  Woo Wee!  King & Deluxe Acetate Series

Little Willie JohnEarly King Sessions & Later King Sessions

Grandpa Jones (& Merle Travis):  King & Deluxe Acetate Series

Freddy KingBlues Guitar Hero:  Volumes One & Two

The LamplightersComplete Federal Recordings

Little Willie LittlefieldGoing Back to Kay Cee

Stick McGheeAnd His Spo-Dee-O-Dee Buddies

Moon MullicanMoonshine Jamboree & Seven Nights to Rock

The PlattersComplete Federal Recordings

The Royals/MidnightersThe Federal Singles

Smokey SmothersBack Porch Blues

The Stanley BrothersRalph & Carter – The Later King Years

Otis Williams & the CharmsThe King/Deluxe Recordings

The York Brothers:  Long Time Gone:  King & Deluxe Acetate Series

«          «          Additional King Reissues of Note          »          »

Various Artists:  Soppin’ Up the Gravy 1945-1954

Various Artists:  Another Taste of King 1946-1954

Various Artists:  Shuffle TownWestern Swing on King 1946-1950

Various Artists:  King Strings:  King-Federal-Deluxe Guitar Grooves

Various Artists:  Mark LaMarr’s Rocking Up a Storm

Various Artists:  Mark LaMarr Presents Mule Milk ‘n’ Firewater

Various Artists:  Jiving Jamboree:  Vol. 3 [King/Federal dance tracks]

Various Artists:  I’ll Go Crazy:  The Federal Records Story

Various Artists:  After Hours – The King Records Story 1956-1959

Various Artists:  Only Young Once – King Records Story 1962

Various Artists:  Crash of Thunder:  Boss Soul, Funk and R&B Sides

Various Artists:  King R&B Box Set

The fine folks at Rhino would issue their King Master Series in the 1990s, with volumes devoted to Roy BrownLittle Willie John; Hank Ballard & the MidnightersBilly Ward & His DominoesThe ‘5’ RoyalesWynonie Harris & Freddy King.

Also, Westside would issue CD anthologies for such King artists as Zeb Turner, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Tiny Bradshaw, Bonnie LouThe Stanley Brothers, plus a special collection entitled Groove Station – King/Federal/Deluxe Saxblasters.

Calvin Shields – Musical Pioneer

Hard to believe it was only 20 years or so ago I was having cheese coneys with The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s preeminent music writer Larry Nager and asking what it would take for the city to finally “own up” to its King Records history.  Last week, to my utter delight and amazement, the City of Cincinnati, under Mayor John Cranley’s leadership and with the support of City Council, leveraged the power of the state on behalf of music history — so now Zero to 180 will have to find something else to complain about.

Thanks to a $1 land swap deal, there will be no wrecking ball for the original structure used by Syd Nathan and his talented team to birth a musical enterprise that enabled King the ability to ship out in the morning a piece of music that had been recorded the evening before.  As Brian Powers point out in his King Records Scrapbook, no other label – including almighty Columbia – had the nimbleness to operate in this capacity.

Photo courtesy of Brian Powers

Unique among fellow King chroniclers and researchers, Powers organizes his King Records Scrapbook categorically — The Executives; A&R Men; Sound Engineers; Session Musicians; Recording Artists — rather than chronologically, while throwing in  fun tidbits, such as a King Records Timeline of historical highlights plus street addresses of selected King artists and executives, including Syd Nathan (who once lived in Bond Hill an easy walk from the home of drummer, Reg Grizzard, and about a mile and a half from my boyhood home in Roselawn, as the crow flies).

Rob Finnis, in his extensive liner notes for Ace UK anthology King Rockabilly, reveals some of the audio engineering aspects behind King’s legendary sound (e.g., “Fever” by Little Willie John):

The live, upfront studio sound attained by engineer Eddie Smith had the bass and drums leaping out of the speakers with maximum impact.  [Charlie] Feathers wasn’t the only beneficiary [“Bottle to the Baby“].  This sharp, larger-than-life ambience characterizes several other titles on this compact disc including “Move” [Boyd Bennett], “Peg Pants” [Bill Beach], “No Good Robin Hood” [Delbert Barker], and “Rock n’ Roll Nursery Rhyme” [Dave Dudley].  “That old King studio had a terrific sound,” explained Henry Glover.  “It had a very high ceiling, maybe 24 feet, and the control room protruded into the studio in a V-shape like the bridge of a ship so the engineer could see in front and to the side of him.  I sent for an engineer by the name of Eddie Smith who was a very good technical man.  He stayed with King for about 12 years and later worked over at Bell Sound in New York.

Everything was done at one time, there was no multi-tracking; you would continue making cuts until you got every instrument, every voice, on the 1/4 inch tape and that was considered your final mix.  In those days, we were even thinking of frequencies and emphasis on various instruments.  Out of the regular upright bass, we got a sound just like today’s electric Fender bass by close-miking it with a microphone called the 44BX and surrounding it with live-surfaced acoustic isolation panels.  The drum sound in those days was generally gotten by releasing the drum snares completely and you’d put a heavy object like the drummer’s wallet – or Syd Nathan’s wallet – on the snare and the really hard-driving backbeat stroke was actually a rimshot.

Glover would be even more emphatic in his praise for King as a facility with great sound in this passage from Arnold Shaw‘s classic roots rock historical critique, Honkers and Shouters (which includes a chapter devoted to King Records entitled “Record Company in an Icehouse”):

Shortly after he joined King Records, Glover moved to Cincinnati “because Syd Nathan had built one of the finest recording studios in the country and staffed it with Eddie Smith, a former musician who was a brilliant engineer.”

Calvin Shields behind the kit [photo courtesy Brian Powers]

Last year, on the eve of the city’s Historic Commission vote to consider the request for demolition, The Cincinnati Enquirer would subtitle Sharon Coolidge’s feature story on King in the Sunday edition, “Fight to Preserve the Legacy of King Records and Founder Syd Nathan at Crossroads” and include quotes from Patti Collins (Bootsy Collins Foundation), Elliott Ruther (Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation), Jon Hartley Fox (author of ‘King of the Queen City’), L.A. Reid (who actually grew up in Evanston), Otis Williams, Mayor John Cranley, former mayor Dwight Tillery, and Anzora Adkins of the Evanston Community Council.

Can you spot the gaffe?

Elliott Ruther, in the Enquirer piece, notes the progressive hiring practices employed by Nathan – in his attempt to extend his song publishing fortunes across the color line – that put King in the forefront of American race relations.  Powers point out that CalvinEagle EyeShields, in his studio work from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, may have been “the first black drummer to record country music.”

CALVIN ‘EAGLE EYE’ SHIELDS – 1950
[PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN POWERS]

Quotes from Henry Glover & Calvin ‘Eagle Eye’ Shields
[special thanks to Brian Powers*]

“I started using drums for the first time for country music with Moon Mullican.  He fell in love with a black drummer that I had been using on several dates around Cincinnati called Calvin Shields.  He was better known as ‘Eagle Eye.’  He was very, very friendly and dear to Moon Mullican.  He played on many of his sessions, and many of the other country & western records when they began to use drums, which they didn’t do when I first came to King.  [With] Moon Mullican, I would use a heavy backbeat that this drummer called Eagle Eye, that came there with Tiny Bradshaw a few years back and made Cincinnati his home, he was ideal for that, the backbeat.” – Henry Glover

“Moon had such a great soul.  He was just like a black man to me, you know, like he thought, felt, and expressed himself and everything else.  Like we would say he had a whole lot of soul, Moon did.” – Henry Glover

“Drums were a must for Moon.  Moon wanted drums.  And he fell madly in love with this drummer called Calvin Shields that we called Eagle Eye.” – Henry Glover

“Moon Mullican was the first to use a black band at King.  In just about every case, we had a black bass or maybe a black drummer with Moon in order to get the rhythm because Moon played like a black man and he even thought like a black man – in fact, I sometimes had my ideas about whether he was black or not!  He was the very first white man, I believe, that caught my eye as being not filled with bigotry or hatred … he found himself as comfortable among blacks as he did among whites.  And it’s a very funny thing – both races in those days were displaying standoff-ish attitudes — not Moon.  Moon would make most of the black clubs in the worst parts of town and all of his friends during the course of his stay would be black people.  He’d play in black clubs and they would give him a standing ovation.  It was very rare.” – Henry Glover

“Glover introduced us. I walked in and all those white cats sitting around wondering,  ‘Hey, he’s got a black man playing his music.’  So I don’t say nothing to them and they don’t say nothing to me.  So we played and that’s when I fell in love with him because it swung.  So Moon says ‘This is my drummer,’ so when he went to buy some whiskey for the group, he bought a bottle for them and a bottle of whisky for me and him.  He said, ‘Man, I want you to take me over to the Cotton Club,’ and I took him.  Tiny Bradshaw invited him up and he played nothing but Duke Ellington music.“ – Eagle Eye Shields

“When a cat becomes a studio musician, he’s a musician who plays anything they bring in front of him to play.  When I played with Moon Mullican, I enjoyed it.  When I played that Country music, I learned to swing with that Country-Western cause I got into their mood and into their groove.  When I got ready to play Rhythm & Blues, I got into their groove.  When I play dance music, legit music, I get in to a legit feel cause I am a musician.  I didn’t become a superstar.  My thing was to be good, in order to be in demand, to be sought after.” Eagle Eye Shields

[Moon had a number of hits in 1950 produced by Henry Glover including “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” “Mona Lisa” & “Goodnight Irene”; Mullican accepted the invitation to join in the Grand Ole Opry that year.]  “Then Moon said, ‘I want to take you on the Grand Ole Opry with me, man.’  I said, ‘No, I don’t want to go on that.’  He asked me if I would travel with him.  I told him if I’ll be out there in them towns, them junctions, you might not be around and they’ll done grab me and lynch me.’  But now I wish I had because, if I had got out with Moon, I might have made a name for myself.  I might have ended up with the big one – Willie Nelson.” – Eagle Eye Shields

Moon Mullican & Henry Glover

Shields, who took not only his father’s name but nickname as well, came to King through his membership in Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra.  Eagle Eye would conduct his session work for King in between performances with Bradshaw in town at Cincinnati’s Cotton Club and on the road in New York City.  Shields would subsequently serve as drummer for the Billy Williams Quartet (1957-1961), Della Reese (1967-1973) and music director/drummer for Redd Foxx (1978-1984).

Calvin Shields with Paul Bryant (organ) & Norris Patterson (sax) – 1962 in NV

Photo courtesy of UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

The index in King Labels:  A Discography, edited by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) helpfully identifies sessions where Calvin Shields served as the drummer, thus allowing Zero to 180 to compile a special list of suggested recordings — all of them captured on tape in Cincinnati (except Willis Jackson – NYC):

           Parlophone = Home of The Beatles                            French 10-inch LP

  King EP – US                                                          French EP

Abstract expressionist cover art for 1952 French LP

Furthermore, Eagle Eye is believed – as best as Brian Powers can determine – to have played on Moon Mullican‘s version of Tiny Bradshaw’s “Well Oh Well” [recorded July 3, 1950] and the classic “Cherokee Boogie (Eh-Oh-Aleena)” [December 8, 1950], written by Moon with Chief William Redbird, plus Hawkshaw Hawkins‘ version of Tennessee Ernie’s “Shotgun Boogie” [January, 1951] and Al Dexter‘s “Hi De Ho Boogie on a Saturday Night” [May 19, 1950] — all recorded at King’s Cincinnati studio.  Documentation from King’s early years, unfortunately, is often scant.

Shields would also keep time on an enchanting Latin-flavored instrumentalé tropicalé whose musical hook is a gloriously deep bass blast of the horn (B-flat):

“Ocean Liner (Bossa Nova)”     Bill Doggett     1959/1963

Ocean Liner” – penned by Henry Glover and Bill Doggett – would originally be released in 1959 but then “rebranded” in 1963 as “Ocean Liner Bossa Nova,” just in time to exploit the runaway success of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Jazz Samba LP (only jazz album ever to top Billboard’s pop chart) of 1962

   *                                                 *                                                 *

Calvin ShieldsInspiration for Mack Rice’sMustang Sally“?

According to Douglas Green Associates:

Mack Rice wrote “Mustang Sally” following a visit to his friend, singer Della Reese in New York City.  Reese had off-handedly mentioned that she planned to buy her drummer a Lincoln for his birthday.  Calvin Shields, the drummer, appreciated the thought but reportedly replied, “I don’t want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang.”  Shields’ response confused Rice.  He could not understand why anyone would want the small Mustang instead of the bigger and more powerful Lincoln.  After returning to Detroit, Rice began work on a song titled “Mustang Mama.”  A serendipitous visit to Aretha Franklin’s house led to the name change to “Mustang Sally.”  Franklin believed that “Mustang Sally” fit better with the music. And so the song was born.

Obituary from the Las Vegas Review-Journal + personal remembrances

*Henry Glover quotes are from an 1980s interview with the Country Music Hall of Fame *Calvin Shields quotes are from an interview conducted by Brian Powers in 2009.

**Willis “Gatortail” Jackson played a pivotal role in Jamaican music history when spies working for Duke Reid identified the source of Coxsone Dodd’s theme song (i.e., “Coxsone’s Hop”) that cemented Downbeat‘s status as the superior sound system in Kingston:  “Later for the Gatorby Willis Jackson [1958 – sounds not a little unlike ska].  In those pre-Internet days, operators of competing mobile sound systems would use American 45s with the labels scratched off as proprietary source material.  Duke Reid’s discovery of Coxsone’s source material would prompt Dodd into creating an original Jamaican sound in 1962 – ska – in time for the birth of JA’s independence.  Much more direct evidence of the Cincinnati-Kingston connection can be found here and here

<Note:   For optimal presentation, avoid viewing this website on a smartphone>

 

Skip Battyn + Van Dyke’s 45

Not sure how this fascinating production – written and arranged by Van Dyke Parks and sung by Skip Battyn in the magical year of 1967 – came to my attention originally.

“High Coin”     Skip Battyn     1967

Kim Fowley and Skip Battyn would co-compose “Mr. Responsibility” for the flip side.  Was this, in fact, the only release on Los Angeles-based Record Records?

High Coin$50 paid for this 45 last Christmas

In his profile of Van Dyke Parks from this past April, Elyadeen Anbar wrote that “despite his unfavorable opinions on anglo-pop music [i.e., during Beatlemania’s first wave], Parks did become more interested in songwriting and landed a hit with his composition ‘High Coin,’ when it was recorded by San Francisco beat group The Charlatans” – i.e., on their 1969 debut album — two years after Battyn’s version.

High Coin 45 - Charlatans-bAs it turns out, “High Coin” had already been recorded by a handful of artists going back as far as 1965 with Bobby Vee, who, by the way, appears to have muscled his way in on the songwriting credits.  Note that the song, however, got passed over for A-side when released in Australia.

Rick Jarrard‘s jangly version on the Los Angeles-based Chattahoochee label (recorded in November 1965 at Hollywood’s Gold Star Recording Studios, according to YouTube’s Anthony Reichardt) from 1966, followed by Harper Bizarre and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band‘s versions (as well as Battyn’s) in 1967, and Jackie DeShannon‘s version in 1968 (on August 20, 2016 Parks would tweet

“Jackie deShannon, born August 21, sang my first written song ‘High Coin.’  I was 21, and legal tender”).

Van Dyke Parks revealed to UK’s Songwriting Magazine in 2014 the back story behind the creation of his first song, “High Coin” (a “very California musical expression,” notes William Stout in his online journal):

“Well, I was working for a group called the Brandywine Singers, playing guitar, and I was earning £3,000 a week playing at this casino in Reno, Nevada.  That was a lot of money then… it’d be a lot of money now!  And we had a two-week job there, and I got in a Mustang convertible with Hal Brown, the bass player – who went on to become the Supreme Court justice of Alaska – and we drove to this almost ghost town, an old wild west town with a few dozen people left living there, and we got out of the car and walked into the saloon.  Hal had his double bass and I had my guitar, and in the saloon there were four guys in the corner, in a crowd of smoke that smelt funny.

“They were the house band, The Charlatans, and they all looked like Neil Young on a bad day!  One of them was Dan Hicks.  And we asked if we could play a song or two, and they were derisive because I looked like a little square, but I got on and I sang ‘High Coin and they fell on the floor and asked if I’d mind if they recorded it.  I was just delighted.  They took the song, I went back to Los Angeles, and I was broke… but then I got the news that ‘High Coin was on the radio in San Francisco.  And that established me with the counter-culture.”

HowlinWuelf reveals that Ruthann Friedman (third female songwriter to compose an American Number One record without the help of a male cowriter) had also recorded a version of “High Coin” in 1967, with Parks himself playing his “unmistakable tack piano” that “sounds like a magnificent lost track from Song Cycle,” for her unfinished debut album (eventually issued in Europe in 2013, along with “Candy Apple Cotton Candy” as a bonus track — check out the single version recorded by Pat Shannon for Warner Brothers).  Carolyn Soyars, in her April 26, 2014 review for Los Angeles Beat, in fact, affirms “High Coin” as “one of the highlights of the album.”

Ruthann Friedman CD - Europe

Battyn’s preceding single release, interestingly enough, would feature a go-go instrumental version of Chuck Barris’s “Dating Game Theme” as the B-side.

Hearts & Flowers: Country Rock

Back when I did the daily commute to Baltimore and my car radio had better reception, I used to enjoy a great community radio station that shares programming with its owner, WXPN, the Philadelphia radio station known for its “World Cafe” program, and yet operates out of a high school from just across the Chesapeake Bay.  You would think a signal of 17,500 watts would reach folks in Silver Spring, but sadly that’s not the case.

I remember phoning the late, great Charlie Coleman from the road, after I’d stumbled upon Worton, Maryland’s WKHS FM, to tell him how much I enjoyed his show, and Charlie asking me right off the bat if I was a fan of “country rock” — the first time I had ever stopped to consider that term.

Front & rear cover – 1967 LP Now Is the Time for Hearts and Flowers

I have since renewed my appreciation for 1995 retrospective, Legends of Country Rock, Volume 5 of Rhino’s “Hillbilly Fever!” series. Besides the opening track, 1967’s International Submarine Band’s “Luxury Liner” (written by Gram Parsons and released on Lee Hazlewood‘s LHI label), I am also taken with a song – “Rock and Roll Gypsies” by trailblazing Los Angeles country rockers, The Hearts and Flowers – that is almost tied for earliest recording on this CD compilation (i.e., “Grizzly Bear” – an RCA single by The Youngbloods, released in December of 1966, whose A-side would be misspelled on the rear cover of 1967’s The Youngbloods album):

“Rock and Roll Gypsies”      Hearts and Flowers      Recorded Dec. 20, 1966

Larry Murray:  Vocal & Guitar
Rick Cunha:  Guitar & Backing Vocal
Dave Dawson:  Autoharp & Backing Vocalr
Bernie Leadon:  Guitar
John Forsha:  Guitar
Ray Pohlman:  Bass
Toxey Sewell:  Drums
Joe Porcaro:  Percussion
Jimmy Bond:  Arranger
Nik Venet:  Producer

Grammar police strike again – Rear Cover of 1967’s Youngbloods LP

Rich Kienzle, in his liner notes for Legends of Country Rock, as you would expect, delivers on the history:

The mid-’60s L.A. band Hearts and Flowers featured songwriter Larry Murray and future Burrito Brother and Eagles charter member Bernie Leadon.  This group, all but forgotten today, exemplified the talented if commercially unsuccessful country-rock pioneers.  Their harmonies were far more bluegrass than folk, not diluted in any way to grab a pop audience.  The use of mandolin on a pop record was unusual, as was the use of autoharp, the push-button instrument played by Mother Maybelle Carter.  Aside from the Hearts & Flowers, only The Lovin’ Spoonful‘s John Sebastian used one.

Their producer Nik Venet, who’d worked with Lou Rawls, Bobby Darin, and The Beach Boys, hoped the group could fuse country music with politically liberal themes.  “Larry Murray was really a country boy,” Venet recalls. “He wanted to be a country artist-writer.”   “Rock and Roll Gypsies,” from their 1967 debut album, Now Is the Time for Hearts and Flowers, sold well regionally but didn’t break out nationally.  The chaotic sound effects at the song’s end, says Venet, were real.  Armed with a portable monaural recorder, Venet went up to Sunset Boulevard and recorded the sounds of an actual 1966 hippies-versus-LAPD riot near a rock club called Pandora’s Box.  The group made two albums for Capitol before disbanding.

Look what turned up in Popsike – this promotional 45 insert – when I searched for auction sales related to Hearts and Flowers:

For your eyes only:  $50 at auction

“Rock & Roll Gyspies”.  This is a hit!  This is a hit!  This is a hit!  The song, although written some time ago, is strangely applicable to the happenings on the many ‘Sunset Strips’ across the nation today.  On the ending repeat of the song, actual crowd sounds are used from recent Sunset Strip riots in Los Angeles.  The Hearts & Flowers, a very popular group from Los Angeles, was being very heavily big on by many of the major labels based there.  Their vocal sound is a unique combination of rock, folk and country, and they utilize strange old instruments, such as the autoharp and dobro in creating new Top 40 instrumental sounds.  ‘Road to Nowhere’ is an exceptionally strong back-up side for the debut disc of a group that is definitely going to happen!

Historical note:  Release Date indicated above (January 16, 1966) must be a typo if the song was recorded, as Rhino asserts, near the end of December in 1966.

Recordings mostly distributed in US, UK & Canada – except one Dutch picture sleeve

Remember 4 Track Stereo Tape Cartridges?

This is the 8th Zero to 180 piece tagged as Country Rock

Pickwick: Dukes of Deception

Pickwick International, those masters of mis-marketing, did whatever was necessary to trick you, potential chump, into buying one of their albums — namely, by dressing up outdated material so as to appear fresh and contemporary through the use of titillating imagery, stylish typography, and razzle-dazzle promotional hype.

“NOUVEAU – A NOW RECORD BY DESIGN”

DESIGN – an imprint of Pickwick International

 

I, too, was initially blindsided by 1966’s Groovy Greats and its alluring cover images that all but promised British beat groups with guitars.  But the juxtaposition of a lithe go-go dancer – enveloped in Union Jacks and hoisting a Vox Teardrop* – with monophonic recordings that go as far back as 1949 (albeit “electronically enhanced for stereo”) is an act so openly contemptuous of its intended customer base as to be comical.

Note how the back cover text artfully dances around the fact that the artists featured on this collection of pre-Beatles tracks set the stage for the exciting mid-60s sounds that are nowhere to be found on this 1966 release:

Today’s scene is psychedelic, kinetic and wild, a free swinging world mad, mad mod and the big beat takes over au go-go from The Strip to Carnaby St.  The big names of rock and soul that geared the world for their kind of action are here, blasting and groovin’ for your own freak out! Pow! Zap!

Pretty humorous to consider that none of the musical artists included on Groovy Greats  — Johnny Rivers, Ray Charles, Lou Christie, Bobby Goldsboro, Ronnie Dove, Joe Tex, Chuck Jackson, Bobby Freeman — could remotely be considered mod, psychedelic, or freaky.  Or British.

Track Listing

A01   “Your First and Last Love”   Johnny Rivers   1959

A02   “If I Give You My Love”   Ray Charles   1949

A03   “You’re With It”   Lou Christie   rec. 1963 and/or rel. 1966

A04   “Dizzy Boy”   (Bobby Goldsboro &) The Webs   1961

A05   “I’ll Be Around”   Ronnie Dove   1959

B01   “I’ve Had My Fun”   Ray Charles   1950

B02   “Tomorrow Will Come”   Lou Christie   rec. 1963 and/or rel. 1966

B03   “(I’ll Be a) Monkey’s Uncle”   Joe Tex   1960

B04   “Ooh, Baby”   Chuck Jackson   1959

B05   “I Still Remember”   (Bobby Freeman &) The Romancers   1956

How curious to discover Groovy Greats has a Cincinnati connection via the inclusion of two Lou Christie & the Classics songs originally issued as 45 sides on Cincinnati indie label, Alcar, whose artist roster at one time included Jim & Jesse, Sonny Osborn(e), Delbert Barker, Red AllenJimmie FairRenfro FamilyDale Wright & the Wright GuysRay Baker & His Happy Travelers, and even Chuck Jackson.  “You’re With It,” the better of the two tracks, was likely recorded in 1963, according to the person who posted this audio clip on YouTube:

“You’re With It”     Lou Christie & the Classics    “Probably recorded in 1963”

My edition, somehow, does not contain the typo (“Bobby Golsboro”) that seems to be a standard feature on all other releases — I feel cheated.  Ironically, perhaps, the Bobby Goldsboro song “Dizzy Boy” is the one track on Groovy Greats to feature prominent guitar work in a modern style as implied by the album cover images.

     Musical Misspelling – no extra charge…          … But Sadly, no typos on my LP

As with Out of Sight!, the previously featured Pickwick album from last December, Groovy Greats is another marketing triumph from Design Records, Pickwick’s budget subsidiary label.

The Kapa Minstrel:  Affordable Version of the Vox Teardrop

*The Vox guitar being held on the cover is actually a 12-string lookalike – the Minstrel – made by Kapa, a “bargain” guitar made in Silver Spring, Maryland.  According to Pat Veneman Stone, her father Koob Veneman, who “opened Veneman Music in Silver Spring, MD in the 1960s,” was the “sole creator and manufacturer of KAPA guitars,” a name that stands for Koob, Adeline (wife), Patricia (daughter) & Albert (son).  This guitar reference guide (which locates Veneman Music in nearby Hyattsville, by the way) indicates that approximately 120,000 Kapa guitars and basses had been made by the time the company closed up shop in 1970, with parts and equipment then sold off to Micro-Frets and Mosrite Guitars.

Unique Guitar Blog‘s tribute piece to KAPA guitars is chock full of historical details:

  • The necks, pickups and electronics originally came from German manufacturer Hofner (in later years, they made their own pickups, which looked similar to Hofner units)
  • The tuners were made by Schaller. Kapa made his own bridges and tremolo assemblies.
  • According to one comment:  “Actually, while Veneman’s was in Hyattsville, the guitars were built at a plant on 46th Avenue in the (nearby) town of Edmonston, Maryland.  I was raised on 49th ave, in Edmonston and remember the place very well.  In fact, as kids, we used to dig through the Kapa guitar factory dumpsters and bring home pieces of the refuse.”
  • Other comments recall time spent at Veneman’s music stores located in Silver Spring on Georgia Avenue near Bonifant Street, as well nearby Wheaton Plaza and Rockville (even Springfield, Virginia).
  • One purchaser of a KAPA bass guitar, who can be seen in this 2008 performance clip from Conan O’Brien’s NBC show, also testified as to the deep bottom end of the Kapa bass, whose fullness of sound surpasses even the almighty Fender Precision:

Hello. I purchased my Kapa bass after Two guys tried to rob me outside of Detroit and take my wallet after a gig.  My left pinky finger was dislocated and at nine o’clock before having it set.  I needed a short scale bass because my left pinky finger and the one next to it were taped together for a while so it could heal.  I went to a store called Junk Yard Guitar in Royal Oak, Michigan and played every short scale bass they had, and they had several vintage basses and the Kapa I picked up sounded better than any of them so I asked the owner if I could take it home and try it and he said no problem.  He also had a total of three Kapa basses and I said if this bass sounds as good as I think it does, work with me and I’ll take all three.  Well just as I thought it sounded fat, full and more even sounding than both my old fender basses so I took all three.  Fast forward several years later and now I own 12 Kapa Basses.  I have been gigging with Rockabilly Greats Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding and that first Kapa bass I bought several years ago has been to eleven different Countries, and also made an appearance on the Conan O’Brien show a couple years back and it still has the same strings on it from when I bought it, and still sounds great.  I do think I should thin the Kapa herd a bit, Naaah.

Guitar Player‘s Tip of the Hat to the 1967 Goya Rangemaster

Hey, dig those radical split pickups and fret markers purposely aligned left (not center), in direct violation of the unwritten code.

Photo courtesy of Guitar Point

Thanks to the Unique Guitar Blog for clarifying the difference between the semi-hollow body Goya Rangemasters, with the single or double “Florentine” cutaways, versus the solid-body version (above), with a six-on-a-side elongated headstock (as shown on Groovy Greats).  There is photographic proof of Jimi Hendrix playing a Goya Rangemaster off stage.

In 2014, Guitar Player‘s Terry Carleton reviewed one of the solid-body Rangemasters in a piece entitled “Whack Job!“:

“We sure liked our guitars to have buttons back in the ’60s.  Before our love affairs with pedalboards and rack systems, the more buttons, knobs, and switches a model had, the more potential it had to help one find his or her voice on the guitar.  The Goya Rangemaster, with its nine pushbuttons, offered more choices than just about any guitar out there, aside from Vox models that actually had built-in electronics.  This [1967] specimen was manufactured in Italy— perhaps by EKO—but the bridge was made in Sweden by Hagstrom.

Weirdo Factor

Other than all of the buttons and the special quad pickup design, one of the weirder features of this instrument is the elongated headstock that looks like a large fish scaler.

Headstock can be pressed into service as a fish scaler

Playability & Sound

Weighing in at about eight pounds, the Rangemaster 116-SB is a double-cutaway model with a very subtle contour.  The 25”-scale maple neck plays great, and there are 21 perfectly dressed frets on the rosewood fretboard.  A slotted string spacer on the headstock levels out tension while feeding the strings into the 1 5/8” plastic nut.  There are six chrome machine heads that feel great to the touch and are nicely accessible, due to the crescent-moon shaped headstock cutaway.  The Rangemaster also includes a faux wood-grain pickguard, an adjustable neck, a chrome vibrato with a detachable bar, and a three-way adjustable bridge.  The lowmass, surface-mounted Hagstrom bridge feels remarkably smooth and holds its tune fairly well.  Living up to its name, the Rangemaster has quite a variety of tonal possibilities.  For one thing, there’s almost six inches between the bridge and neck pickups.  That’s a big gap, and it makes for a very unique sound.  Then, unlike other push-button guitars—of which there were many—the electronics on the Rangemaster 116-SB include two pairs of split pickups, as well as six pickup-selector buttons, three Tone buttons (Lo, Med, Hi), and a master Volume knob.  In addition to conventional bridge or neck pickup selections, the Rangemaster also lets you do things like push the 2+3 button to get the bridge’s bass-side pickup and the neck’s treble-side pickup.  The result is a very funk-friendly, out-of-phase sound.  Finally, there’s the rockin’ ALL button for when you need that “extra push over the cliff” (thank you, Nigel Tufnell), and a master OFF (or kill switch).

Value

I bought mine about ten years ago from Guitar Showcase in San Jose, California, for $400.  Today, this 9-button Euro freak is known as one of the Goya “holy grailers,” and it can go for well over a thousand dollars.

Why It Rules

Like so many of the Italian, Swedish, English, and German guitars of the ’60s, the Rangemaster not only has a great and freaky look, but it plays and sounds like a dream.  For whatever reason, these time-tested guitars are still relatively affordable, and that rules!  As Goya said in their beat-era Rangemaster ads, ‘Plug it in and turn everybody on!’”

WORLD’S FIRST PSYCHEDELIC GUITAR“?

Lovin’ Spoonful’s Brazilian Single

Zero to 180 was browsing Lovin Spoonful‘s 7-inch releases on Discogs and decided to give a listen to an obscure 45 track, “Lonely” – a harmonica instrumental, as it turns out – only to discover upon further examination that this song was released as an A-side for the Brazilian market only!

“Lonely”     Lovin’ Spoonful     1967

Zero to 180’s pleased to see Kama Sutra did up the occasion right with a picture sleeve:

Lovin' Spoonful 45 - BrazilHey, wha’ d’ya know, “Lonely” (or “Solitário”) would also be tapped as a B-side for the Japanese market:

Lovin' Spoonful 45 - Japan

Likewise a B-side in France.  Immediately brings to mind the decision that would be made by Immediate the following year to release P.P. Arnold’s version of “God Only Knows” as a single for the Italian market only, as discussed in the previous piece.

Wow – just discovered the existence of this entry in 45Cat for a US single release for “You’re a Big Boy Now” b/w “Lonely (Amy’s Theme),” with a date of “Jun. 1967” indicated but ultimately “unreleased” – what’s the story?

“Lonely (Amy’s Theme)” would originally be part of the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1966 feature film, You’re a Big Boy Now, whose songs would all be composed by John Sebastian (who was kind enough to inform Zero to 180 in an earlier piece that his father was a concert chromatic harmonica player).

“God Only Knows”: Italian A-Side

Rob Chapman – in his review of the 6-CD box set Immediate Singles Collection for the June, 2000 edition of Mojo – takes issue with with the choice of tracks regarding American vocalist, P.P. Arnold (who kicked off her solo singing career in mid-60s UK), demanding to know “where is her ecstatic version of [Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys’] ‘God Only Knows‘?”:

“GOD ONLY KNOWS”     P.P. ARNOLD     1968

“God Only Knows” would be sequenced just after the opening track on side one of 1968’s Kafunta album, which enjoyed distribution in the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Canada, and Japan.  Arnold’s version of the standout track from The Beach Boys’ groundbreaking Pet Sounds would spend its entire existence confined to the album — except, however, in Italy (and nowhere else), where “God Only Knows” nobly served as the A-side of a 1969 single release.

RILASCIATO SOLO IN ITALIA

PP Arnold 45-a2The reverse side of the Italian picture sleeve includes jukebox title card – plus photo!

PP Arnold 45-bbThere is a page on the Smiley Smile chatboard devoted to this recording in which one of the members makes the following observation:

“But seriously folks, this is pretty much a song no one should cover.  In doing a cover version you either do something completely different with the song and/or top the original.  The latter is as close to zero chance as you’ll get, and the former not likely to work considering the power of the original arrangement [#2 Pop – 14 weeks on the charts].  That said, P.P. does a decent job – doesn’t embarrass herself.”

An original copy of the 1969 Italian picture sleeve sold at auction in 2012 for 20 Euros.

This just in:  Arnold’s “lost” album of songs recorded in the late 1960s/early 1970s – The Turning Tide – was finally released last August, as reported by Billboard.  “Derek” (i.e., Eric Clapton) and the Dominoes (Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle, along with Jim Price & Bobby Keys) served as backing musicians on three of the songs, while Madeline Bell, Doris Troy, and Rita Coolidge share vocals with Arnold on other tracks (with Clapton, Barry Gibb, Caleb Quaye and Arnold serving variously and/or collaboratively as producer).

“The First Lady of Immediate Records” (who was gracious enough to share this history piece on her Facebook page!) is about to embark upon her first ever concert tour of Australia – tour dates listed on the official poster below:

[CLICK on IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW IN HIGH RESOLUTION]

Bonus Track
“God Only Knows”:  Rare LP-Only Version

Thanks to Smiley Smile for pointing Zero to 180 toward another notable (pop) “soul” cover of the classic Beach Boys track “God Only Knows“:   Philadelphia’s own, Brenda & the Tabulations:

“God Only Knows” would serve as the third track on side one of 1967’s Dry Your Eyes.

Sealed for everyone’s protection

Oddball Hendrix 45s Worldwide

Those familiar with Jimi Hendrix‘s song catalog might be amused by the quirky decisions made in various ‘foreign’ (i.e, non-US or -UK) markets around the globe — that’s right, it’s another romp through the 45Cat database not unlike the previous piece with The Beatles.

Let us begin our quest with “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” Hendrix’s fourth UK single and an ‘important’ early composition — right away, we note that Germany produced a playfully expressive picture sleeve for this 1967 A-side release.

Norway, on the other hand, would take Hendrix’s ‘wild man’ stage persona and run with it.

Barclay of France (previously celebrated here), meanwhile, would present Hendrix in a slightly more regal fashion in this 1967 picture sleeve.

Tragically humorous to see “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” as a B-side in 1969, paired with “Fire” for the UK market, however with the A-side mistitled as “Let Me Light Your Fire”!

New Zealand, Yugoslavia, and Germany would also confuse “Fire” with The Doors’ big breakout hit also from 1967 – pop music’s peak year – along with Spain, whose picture sleeve release (below) wins an award for most imaginatively literal interpretation.

Spanish 45 – “Let Me Ligh Your Fire”:  Musical Misspellings!

“Light Your Fire” / “Midnight Lamp” Polydor 45 from unknown country – possibly Singapore.

“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” would also be used as a B-side on this 4-track EP from Portugal that was released in 1968.

“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” would receive somewhat of a promotion in Bolivia, where the song was sequenced as the second track (side A) of a four-cut EP from 1970 that features “Come On (Pt. 1)” in its first and only starring role as an “A-side” (EP also notable for “Love or Confusion” – a recording otherwise found only on Are You Experienced).

“Come On (Pt. 1)”:  first & only A-side appearance

4-song EP from Iran (with one Hendrix track) sold for $180

Some of Hendrix’s more adventurous songwriting efforts, such as “Are You Experienced”; “Third Stone from the Sun”; “Little Wing”; “Castles Made of Sand”; “House Burning Down”; “Rainy Day Dream Away” and “Still Raining Still Dreaming” (et al.) would not end up on a 45 release – or, at least, during his lifetime.

However, there are a couple unlikely Hendrix compositions that found themselves being issued in 7-inch format, such as side one’s ambitious (5 minutes and 29 seconds) closing track for Axis: Bold As Love – “If Six Was Nine” – chosen for the US & Australian markets in 1969 as the B-side to “Stone Free” (no doubt prompted by the song’s inclusion in the soundtrack to that same year’s classic counterculture film, Easy Rider).

“If Six Was Nine” — unlikely Australian B-side

Another unlikely Hendrix track found on a 45:  “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” selected as the B-side for “Crosstown Traffic” in 1968 for the Australian market, while serving the same role in 1970 for the Yugoslavian market (although paired instead with “Voodoo Chile”) — the song’s only non-LP releases thus far known.

“Have You Ever Been” — unlikely Australian B-side

But without a doubt, the oddest Hendrix composition to end up on either side of a 45 is the epic underwater fantasy that fills an entire album side on Hendrix’s finest long-player — “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” — which Barclay saw fit to release in 1972, along with another Electric Ladyland cut, “Come On (Part 1),” that, aside from Bolivia, could not be found on a disc measuring less than one foot in diameter [in fact, hilarious to discover that Iran beat everyone else to the punch when bootleggers issued “Come On” on this EP from 1968, the year of Electric Ladyland‘s release].

French 45 – 1972

This French 45 release from 1972 would be the sole non-LP release of beautiful ballad, “Drifting” (with nice vibraphone work from Buzzy Linhart), from the first posthumous LP, 1971’s The Cry of Love.

French 45 – 1972

Spanish Castle Magic” – otherwise confined to Axis: Bold As Love – would find itself loudly liberated in Japan, where it would be released on 7-inch (and nowhere else) in 1968.

Japanese 45 – 1968

This pair of 45s from 1967 – Italy (left) & Spain (right) – shares the same design template, if not typography.

The cover design of this “Purple Haze” EP from Mexico (1968) also wins for ‘most literal’ — includes three tracks from the debut album, plus one (“Up From the Skies”) from the ‘new’ one, curiously enough.

“Freedom” b/w “Angel” 45 picture sleeve – Japan – 1971

1971 EP from Singapore — rare non-LP appearance of “My Friend” from The Cry of Love.

“Hej Joe” 45 picture sleeve – Yugoslavia – 1975

This Hendrix piece would not be complete without bootleg EP releases from Thailand, beginning with this 4-song Are You Experienced sampler (title track + 3 others).

Axis: Bold As Love would likewise get packaged as a 4-track EP sampler — includes rare instance of “Wait Until Tomorrow”; “You Got Me Floatin'” & “Little Miss Lover” on non-LP.

4-track EP (1969) includes 2 tracks each from Hendrix’s Experience & Clapton’s Cream.

Another noteworthy 4-track bootleg EP from Thailand with a familiar cover montage — includes Jimi’s “Freedom” plus three non-Hendrix tracks.

Jimi appears on the cover of another 4-track EP, albeit with only one Hendrix recording — this one a bootleg from Malaysia, however.

Iran would produce other bootleg Hendrix product, such as this 4-track Smash Hits EP.

Iran would also boldly pair two musical giants – James Brown and Jimi Hendrix – for the first and last time ever on this split EP that includes “Let Yourself Go” (a song previously celebrated in Zero to 180’s salute to Brown’s brave and patriotic Vietnam tour in 1968).

Distinctive green-vinyl EP from Iran includes “House Burning Down” — plus “Mr. Soul” from Buffalo Springfield (not to mention “Grits and Corn Bread” – a 1966 soul instrumental  previously celebrated here).

Hendrix releases on obsolete playback formats are available for purchase, go figure.

Zero to 180 is stunned to discover that all three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums received radically different covers and sleeve designs when released in France on Barclay imprint, Panache, as shown below.

1967 debut

1967’s Axis: Bold As Love

1968’s Electric Ladyland

Hendrix, incidentally, would only merit one picture sleeve in his lifetime for the US market — debut 45, “Hey Joe” b/w “51st Anniversary” (released April, 1967 on Reprise).

Oddball Beatles EPs Worldwide

Last month’s surprising (and under-reported) research results pertaining to The Beatles’ controversial association with K-Tel, I assumed, had tapped the well of Beatledom dry.  So imagine my surprise when Zero to 180 researchers poked at 45Cat’s database with a stick and stumbled upon a treasure trove of curious and, at times, downright baffling decisions regarding Beatles 45 and EP releases in “foreign” markets around the world.

Thailand takes the proverbial cake, in terms of audacity, style, and sense of the absurd, with not a single vinyl offering having enjoyed input from EMI or The Beatles whatsoever.  My favorite find among these brazen bootleg releases on Thailand’s Coliseum label is an EP that features four tracks from 1968’s ‘White Album – all of them left-field song choices – but it’s the picture sleeve that wins a prize for sheer daffiness:

Musical Misspellings!   “The Beatle” (singular) + “warm gum”

Beatles 45 Thailand-aa

As one of the 45Cat catalogers notes, this 1968 EP enjoys the distinction of being the only appearance of “Martha My Dear” on a non-LP Beatles release.  Only Finland would see fit to include “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” on a (legitimate) 45, while “Glass Onion” would remain an album track solely (if you exclude this unauthorized EP from Iran).  “Savoy Truffle” very nearly suffered the same fate — until Mexico’s outsized fondness for George Harrison manifested itself in this impressive assemblage of four (count ’em) George tracks released in 1971, one year after the band had called it quits.

Guinness record for number of George songs on Beatles non-LP release

Beatles EP - Mexico-aa

Actually, that same year Apple Mexico would issue four additional George-packed EPs, particularly notable for the Beatle whose first and only A-side — 1969’s “Something” — had come near the end of the Beatles’ recording career (where his output would be limited to one song per album side):

Beatles EP - Mexico-bbBeatles EP - Mexico-ddBeatles EP - Mexico-cc

Needless to say, this is the sole non-LP appearance ofPiggies” (above, endearingly misspelled), while the picture sleeve below is a rare use of the Sgt. Pepper image on an EP that includes but one track from pop music’s most revolutionary album.

Mexico Salutes George Harrison:  fifth & final EP

Beatles EP - Mexico-eeGeorge’s “I Me Mine” would forever be confined to the Let It Be album, except in Mexico, where the song would be included on a 1972 EP, (also noteworthy for including album-only track “One After 909“), while Venezuela would go one step further by being the only country to issue this waltz on a 45.  Also noteworthy is a planned-but-never-issued 5-song EP for the UK market of what would have been the only non-LP appearance of George track “It’s All Too Much.”

Nice to see that Mexico — who would take credit for the only authorized non-LP issue ofYer Blues” — also has a soft spot for Ringo, as this hand-picked set of tracks from 1971 clearly indicates:

Beatles EP - Mexico-ffSpeaking of Ringo, this has got to be a first and only one of its kind:  A solitary Beatle (rendered as a cartoon, no less) as the cover image for a Beatles EP issued by Odeon Bolivia in 1965.

Beatles EP - Bolivia-aaaApple Mexico’s casual use of Sgt. Pepper tracks on other 1971 EPs (“Lucy in the Sky,” as well as “Help From My Friends,” and album showstopper, “A Day in the Life“) would seem to be unparalled among EMI affiliates while, at the same time, oddly sacrilegeous.  And for some quirky reason, it is Italy – not the UK – who enjoys the distinction of having issued the world’s only Sgt. Pepper 45 the year of the album’s release.

Odeon Spain’s 4-track EP is remarkable for being, essentially, a Sgt. Pepper sampler from 1968 that includes “Lovely Rita” – the only authorized such use of that track, as well as the magical “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”  Odeon Argentina would enjoy similar distinction for its own 1967 Sgt. Pepper EP, notable for including “Fixing a Hole” and “Good Morning Good Morning.”

FLEXI-DISC!  Says 45cat:  “DESIGNED TO BE SOLD IN VENDING MACHINES

Beatles flexi-disc - US 1969

Must point out that the Sgt. Pepper EP released on Thailand’s TK label is almost certainly not the work of the band — the bizarro song selection [“All You Need Is Love”; “Lovely Rita”; “Baby You’re a Rich Man”; “Things We Said Today”] being a major tip-off.  As 45Cat contributor Tylerl notes with exasperation on the world’s behalf:

“Why ‘Things We Said Today’??  Weird.  Needed ‘For the Benefit of Mr Kite’ instead.  It’s not on any 45 or EP worldwide.  Sad.”

(Bam-Caruso also hits it on the head with his observation “another strange Thailand EP with an inspired sleeve.”)

Sgt. Pepper EP – but with only one track from the album!

Beatles EP - Thailand-ddBeatles EP - Thailand-ee

“Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of those monumental A-sides from AM radio’s golden age — and yet Odeon Japan would do the unthinkable, when the label made the tragic and misguided decision in 1967 to dilute the song’s seismic impact by leading off instead with a throwaway track from the previous year (“Bad Boy”) that sounds considerably out of its depth.

Beatles EP - Japan-aA recent documentary tribute toHey Bulldog,” the group’s last true collaborative effort, would note the song’s exclusion from single release during the band’s lifetime — a factual statement, if you ignore the track’s inclusion on a 1969 EP issued by Thailand renegade label, Coliseum.

the famous Yellow Submarine cover, and yet only one track from the album!

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Thailand’s labels would, indeed, take liberties with not only song selection but cover design, as well.  For instance, the band depicted on the 1968 EP below most definitely is not the same group that recorded “Sexy Sadie” (Lennon, by this point, wearing a beard and “granny” spectacles) and “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”

“Rock” Raccoon

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Note, too, this 1968 EP’s use of a still image from the iconic “I Am the Walrus” sequence in 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour film for a collection of ‘White Album‘ tracks!

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The only EMI-authorized issue of “I Dig a Pony” on a non-LP released during the band’s lifetime, meanwhile, is what secures Bolivia’s place in Beatles history (ditto for “Bungalow Bill,” “Julia” & “Me and My Monkey“).  But it’s Brazil (and no one else) who issued “Dear Prudence” on a 7-inch, while only Nicaragua would dare to include “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” on a 45 (ditto “Cry Baby Cry“).

sole authorized use of “Dig It” on non-LP release:  1972 MEXICAN EP

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Fascinatingly, Jamaica alone would enjoy authorized use of “Sexy Sadie” on a non-LP issue, while Venezuela would have bragging rights over its singular selection of “Wild Honey Pie” for 45 release.

“I’ve Got a Falling”:  1970 MALAYSIAN EP

Beatles EP - Malaysia-bbHowever, no one can top Portugal as the only country authorized to include the ultimate Beatles psychedelic track – “Tomorrow Never Knows” – on a vinyl platter whose diameter measures less than one foot (sorry, Iran – I don’t think you got permission).

Beatles EP - Portugal-aa Happy to see the distribution of Beatles recordings reach the African countries of Nigeria, Kenya, Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Angola, Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], and South Africa, as well as countries in the Middle East, including United Arab Republic, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, plus such Eastern Bloc nations as East Germany, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.

Can’t tell if EMI had a hand in this 1965 EAST GERMAN 45 release

Beatles 45 - East Germany-aEncore bootleg EP
Thailand Loves The Beatles

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“Chopper ’70”: Horn-Heavy Funk

Jaco, the 2015 documentary about the virtuosic electric fretless bassist, informs us that Jaco Pastorius’s first professional engagement was with former King recording artist, Wayne Cochran, whose contributions to the field of funk have not always been fully acknowledged.

50-DOLLAR 45

Wayne Cochran King 45-aaWhile there’s no denying James Brown’s pivotal musical influence, Cochran and his backing band, The C.C. Riders, bring their own creativity to bear on “Chopper 70” — an appropriately high-adrenaline way to bring to a close an album that bears the gritty title, Alive and Well and Living in a Bitch of a World:

“Chopper 70”     Wayne Cochran     1970

Pastorius would join the band by 1972, when Cochran & C.C. Riders had made the big move to Epic, an imprint of almighty Columbia.  Two years prior, Cochran and company would record a pair of albums for King (with the first issued on its Bethlehem subsidiary) that would both be released in 1970.

Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders:  ALIVE AND WELL and living in …

Wayne Cochran LP-a… a b*tch of a world

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Dave Dexter, in his “Dexter’s Scrapbook” column for Billboard, would file this report on Cochran in the May 23, 1970 edition:

“Platinum-haired Wayne Cochran was driving a garbage truck in Georgia, the father of three sons.  Today’s he’s a sizzling nitery star, with his C.C. Riders, and a big gun on Starday-King disks.  He blames parents for the generation gap:  ‘In this world today, you’ve got to change, you’ve got to move with what’s happening and that way you’ll never grow old.  The kids do their thing in order to dig what they are digging more, not so they can hate the kid next to them.  I’ve never seen a fight at a teen-age concert and I think I never will.’

Does that make sense, assuming you dig what he’s digging?”

CLASSIC COVER:  High Point for ‘biker funk’ Culture

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Zero to 180 regrets waiting until now to sing the praises of Cochran, who left us only a couple months ago, as it turns out.  Cochran’s large horn-heavy ensemble, I would learn from Matt Schudel’s obituary in The Washington Post, was famously unrelenting, as their “shows had no stopping point: The band kept vamping from one song to the next, as the music and audience reached a point of frenzy.”

Choppers for the teenyboppers:  vintage 1970 Raleigh ad

Raleigh Chopper - vintage 1970 adJackie Gleason, who wrote the liner notes for Cochran’s self-titled 1967 release on Chess, would call the singer (who would often leave the stage to take his show out into the audience) “the wildest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Gleason’s dance ensemble leader, June Taylor, apparently “took ideas for her dancers from the C.C. Riders choreography” during Cochran’s extended mid-60s run at Miami’s major soul club, The Barn.

I count 12 musicians in this photo (courtesy of Discogs)

Wayne Cochran & the CC RidersImpossible to write about Cochran without making reference to Cochran’s mountainous dome of hair.  Neil Genzlinger, in his New York Times obituary, would point out who inspired the decision behind the hairdo’s platinum color — Johnny and Edgar Winter (“Every time the lights over their heads changed colors, their hair changed colors. And I said, “Now there’s the color, if I could figure out how to get it”) — thanks to Cochran’s appearance on Dave Letterman’s NBC Late Night show in 1982.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Photo from Michael Ochs Archives via PITCHFORK)

Wayne CochranCochran’s first stint with King would last about two years – from late 1963 through early 1965 – before similarly brief runs with Mercury (1965-66) and Chess (1967-68).  King founder, Syd Nathan, would pass the year prior to Cochran’s return to the label (now renamed Starday-King), whose first single release would be an elaborately-arranged two-part Beatles mash-up medley of “Hey Jude” and “Eleanor Rigby.”

King Records Turns 75!  Cataloging the Classics

Big tip of the hat to Tim Garry of School of Rock – Mason, OH for allowing Zero to 180 the opportunity to compile a list of classic recordings put out by King Records (and its subsidiaries) in time for the label’s 75th birthday celebration.  This special tip-top list of nearly 200 songs – stretching from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s – is a fascinating cross-section of popular music styles (secular, as well as sacred) from the original rock ‘n’ roll era and beyond.  This PDF document is to be updated over time, as additional classic King recordings are identified by talent scouts embedded here and abroad — click on link below:

Classic Tracks from King Records:  Zero to 180’s Top Picks

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