Lonnie Mack at King Records

Lonnie Mack‘s most famous recordings might be associated with Cincinnati’s other notable indie label from the roots rock era — Fraternity — but the hugely influential guitarist from Southeast Indiana also made a number of recordings at King Studios.  Ace UK’s Lonnie Mack anthology CD From Nashville to Memphis includes a “Lonnie Mack Discography on Fraternity Records” (compiled by John Broven & Stuart Colman) whose contents reveal that all of Lonnie’s recording sessions between 1963 and 1965 (except for one session at RCA Nashville) took place at Cincinnati’s King Records.  Lonnie would return to King in 1967 for one final Fraternity session that produced two songs — “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Omaha” (a.k.a., “Down in the Dumps”).

Note:  Click on each of the 3 images below to view in high resolution

Intrigued to learn from the discography above that (a) Gene Lawson – of Lawson Microphones fame – played drums on legendary recording “Memphis” and (b) Cincinnati tenor saxophonist Jimmy McGary played on a handful of tracks, including “Coastin’” and “Tonky Go Go.”   Randy McNutt also notes in The Cincinnati Sound that Lonnie Mack recorded two of his seminal 1960s albums for Elektra at Jewel Recording Studios (in nearby Mt. Healthy, Ohio), founded by one-time King recording artist, Rusty York.

Ben Sandmel’s liner notes in Alligator’s reissue of 1963 album The Wham of That Memphis Man! point out that Lonnie Mack was working as a King session guitarist at the time of that album’s release.  Lonnie Mack’s 1960s session work at King would involve James Brown [“Tell Me That You Love Me“], Hank Ballard, and Freddy King, with whom Mack recorded four songs at King’s final session for the label on September 14, 1966:  “You’ve Got Me Licked“; “Double Eyed Whammy“; “Use What You’ve Got“; [click on each song title above] and today’s featured track, Girl From Kookamunga:

“Girl From Kookamunga”     Freddy King     1966

Ruppli’s King recording sessionography notes that “Tell Me That You Love Me” — flip side of “Don’t Be a Drop Out” — was recorded live at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, Florida on April 24, 1966.  2007’s release of James Brown:  The Singles Volume 4:  1966-1967 by Hip-O Select identifies Lonnie Mack as the guitarist on this track (sure sounds like him), even though Ruppli’s detailed listing of musicians, strangely, fails to include him.  Zero to 180 is still trying, unsuccessfully, to find out which Hank Ballard recordings feature Mack’s guitar playing.

45 picture sleeve releases from Sweden (left) and Italy (right)

Just three years after his final 1967 King recording session, Mack would return to Cincinnati’s (newly-renamed) “Starday-King” Studio to accompany Albert Washington and his band, you might recall, on at least eight songs that got released as three 45s on Rusty York’s Jewel label, while the fourth 45 came out on Starday-King subsidiary label, DeLuxe, curiously enough..

What a pleasant surprise to learn that the Grammy Foundation produced a video clip in 2015 that features former King session musician and funk innovator Bootsy Collins reflecting on his experience “meeting his musical idol” Lonnie Mack:

Many of the obituaries for Lonnie Mack note that the Bigsby tremolo bar was unofficially dubbed the “Whammy” bar in recognition of Mack’s influential Top Five hit instrumental. Danny Sandrik‘s excellent tribute piece – “Blue-Eyed Soul and the Cincinnati Sound” – notes that Lonnie Mack, along with Beau Dollar, “was” the Cincinnati Sound and reveals that it was Chuck Sullivan, not Mack (as indicated in the discography above), who played the signature guitar lines on Beau’s classic version of “Soul Serenade.”  Sullivan would also relate the details of that famous recording session of 7 February 1966 to Brian Powers in a special radio program James Brown Productions, Part One that aired on Cincinnati’s WVXU during 2018’s King Records 75th Anniversary Celebration.

Mack’s 1960s recordings laid down at King Records would enjoy release overseas in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as Canada.

Recorded at King – released in the Netherlands

Ditto – Japan – 1963

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This used Gibson Lonnie Mack Signature Flying V can be yours for a mere $21,993.94.

Liability Waiver:   For optimal presentation, do not view website on a smart phone.

“Capricorn Flight”: It’s the Bass II

As with Waylon Jennings‘ deeply-felt “Abilene” or Ruby Wright’s surprisingly bass-centric  “Adios Aloha,” one cannot but feel alarmed by the depth of bottom in the opening synth notes of this charmingly analog production – recorded at Cincinnati’s Counterpart Studios, with Shad OShea and Wes Boatman at the helm (get it?):

“Capricorn Flight”     The Saturn Symphony Orchestra     1981

Lo and behold, “Capricorn Flight” would be from the pen of Manzel Bush – however, using the alias The Saturn Symphony OrchestraLast September, Zero to 180 celebrated the groovy ‘space funk’ sound of Manzel, who would record two 1970s dance tracks for Cincinnati’s Fraternity that would be highly sought by DJs and vinyl enthusiasts in the decades since.

Manzel Bush photo courtesy of Discogs.com

Manzel BushWithin the last ten years, copies of “Capricorn Flight” would fetch $316 in 2008, $188 in 2012, and $148 in 2010.

First appearance of Cincinnati skyline in Zero to 180

Saturn Symphony Orchestra 45-aJust discovered this delightful vintage ad c/o Aerial Noise

Manzel ad

Meet Lonnie Mack

Hard to believe that Lonnie Mack‘s obvious winner of an instrumental – “Soul Express” – is not yet available for preview on YouTube and, thus, in danger of being lost in our cultural memory. The title of this piece is gallows humor expressing sadness over the fact this song is not more widely known:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Soul Express” by Lonnie Mack (1968)]

You can find this recording (and “Snow on the Mountain“) on Ace’s Lonnie Mack collection, Lonnie on the Move, a compact disc retrospective that I am happy to report has since been expanded to a 26-track stocking stuffer entitled, Lonnie Mack:  Still on the Move – The Fraternity Years 1963-1968.  Er, wait a second – it turns out that Ace gave “Soul Express” the ol’ heave ho!  Check it out:

“This collection does not repeat the mistakes of its predecessor by including both ‘Soul Express’ and ‘Jam And Butter’ – per the original Trip album – as it becomes fairly obvious in an A/B test that these are, in fact, one and the same master (albeit the ‘Jam & Butter’ tape runs marginally faster than the tape for ‘Soul Express’). In fact, we haven’t included it at all, as we have a splendid stereo mix of that mono ‘Soul Express’/’Jam & Butter’ master on Memphis Wham, where it appears under its “proper” title, ‘The Freeze’!”

Photo courtesy of Ace Records

Lonnie Mack-hippy mod

As Trey Faull notes in the original liner notes, Lonnie Mack (it is fun to point out) contributed guitar work on recording sessions for Freddie King, James Brown, Mike Nesmith, and even The Doors.  Greil Marcus, in The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years, writes about the conspicuous impact of the very presence of “recently signed” artist, Lonnie Mack – who played bass on “Roadhouse Blues” for fellow Elektra artists, The Doors – thereby validating Wikipedia’s assertion that “the sessions only took off on the second day [of recording], when resident Elektra guitarist Lonnie Mack joined in on bass.”

Faull would also describe “Soul Express” & “Jam and Butter” as “one funky onion with stabbing horns and plenty of flair.”

Lonnie Mack - Soul Express 45

Lonnie Mack - Fraternity 45“Snow on the Mountain” Update:  Tambourine Part Now Fully Restored!

In the historical notes that accompany Lonnie Mack:  Still on the Move, Ace Records makes the following announcement on its website:

“Our previously reissued version of ‘(There’s) Snow On The Mountain’ lacked the tambourine overdub heard on the single (as, to be fair, did the version on the Trip album that was taken from the same tapes!), so we’ve put that right here.”
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Mountain Snow = Icy Heart

Cincinnati’s other prominent label – besides King – was Fraternity Records, who (in a tidy quirk of math) enjoyed three successive #2 hits between the years 1956 and 1958.

However, by 1963 things were looking grim — until Lonnie Mack entered the picture.  Tip of the hat to David Edwards & Mike Calahan of Both Sides Now Publications for the back story:

“By 1963, it had been a long time since [#2 hit] ‘All American Boy,’ [by Bill Parsons, a.k.a., Bobby Bare] and most people had forgotten about the label altogether.  But in the summer of 1963, a young guitar player from Indiana by the name of Lonnie McIntosh had his band in King Records’ Cincinnati studio backing another artist.  When some studio time was left, the band recorded an instrumental version of what at the time was a fairly obscure song, Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis.’   The recording was inspired; unlike the slow tempo of Berry’s version, McIntosh rolled out a snappy, danceable, and in retrospect, memorable, version of the song that Fraternity issued under the name Lonnie Mack.  It made #5 on the national charts. ‘Memphis’ was obscure no more, as other artists such as Johnny Rivers did the song in Mack’s faster tempo and it became a Chuck Berry classic.”

Lonnie Mack - 1960s

I could not agree more with Richie Unterberger (in the All Music Guide to Blues) and his assessment of Lonnie Mack’s under-appreciated B-side “Snow on the Mountain,” a recording that he deems “a first-class overlooked blue-eyed soul cooker from 1967”:

“Snow on the Mountain” = 41 ‘views’ on YouTube as of 9/23/15

Soulful Kinda Music & other credible sources document the fact that this song was used as a flip side in the latter part of 1966 – and then again the next year!  Moreover, 45Cat shows the song – initially titled “There’s Snow on the Mountain” – as an A-side the first time around:  could this be true?

1966 release                                                        1967 release

Lonnie Mack 45-1bLonnie Mack 45-1a

All Roads Lead to Shad O’Shea

Rubber City Review has a nice tribute to Lonnie Mack that also ropes Shad O’Shea into the story – by virtue of the fact that $25,000 in 1975 made him Fraternity Records’ new owner.

Photo courtesy of Rubber City Review

Shad O'Shea behind the board

“Soul Serenade”: Beau Dollar + Coins

Seems like everyone’s covered “Soul Serenade” – so why does no one play it on the radio?  Don’t you think it’s about time for this tune to be rediscovered?

“Soul Serenade”     Beau Dollar & the Coins     1966

This irresistible instrumental was produced by Lonnie Mack, one-time musical compatriot of Roger TroyBeau Dollar – last celebrated in this offbeat & oddball historical highlight reel – once served as a session drummer for Syd Nathan’s King Records in Cincinnati.  Three of the Coins – Ed Setser, Tim Hedding & Les Asch – in fact, would join Roger Troy’s Jellyroll.

                      DJ copy                                        45 on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label

Beau Dollar - Prime 45Beau Dollar - Fraternity 45

Originally recorded by legendary session musician and bandleader, King Curtis, in 1964, this song would be covered by the likes of Quincy Jones, Gloria Lynne, Aretha Franklin,  Lou RawlsWillie Mitchell, The Allman Brothers, Jimmy Castor Bunch, Bill Black’s Combo & The Derek Trucks Band.

The song would also spawn a slew of ska, rocksteady & reggae covers by such notable names as Prince Buster, The Soul Brothers, The Paragons, The Gaylads, Tommy McCook, Boris Gardiner, St. George & the Dragon Killers, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, and don’t forget The Federalmen.

Beau Dollar’s Last King 45 as Artist – written by henry glover

Beau Dollar - King 45

“Space Funk”: Groovy Synths

Is Cincinnati aware the degree to which Manzel‘s two 45s “Space Funk” (from 1977) & “Midnight Theme” (1979) have become revered dance tracks around the globe?  Note the trippy backwards drumming intro that immediately draws in the listener on “Space Funk”:

“Space Funk”     Manzel     1977

The number of times Dopebrother Records have reissued (and remixed) these tracks – originally produced by Manzel Bush & Shad O’Shea – is a testament to their durability, as well as desirability by DJs and vinyl enthusiasts worldwide.  One recording of “Space Funk” posted on YouTube has enjoyed 180,000+ “views” to date.

Worth noting that Harry Carlson would sell 20-year-old Fraternity to Shad O’Shea in 1975, thus allowing Fraternity to stake a claim as America’s oldest continuously operating independent record label.”  Shad would consolidate operations at Counterpart Creative Studios in Cheviot, where Manzel’s two singles would be created.

What’s the deal with this 1988 release?  Need info, please
Manzel 45

Discogs.com waxes biographical about Lexington, Kentucky’s Manzel:

“The Manzel story began quite unsuspectingly. In 1976 O’Shea built Cincinnati, OH’s first state-of-the-art recording studio, Counterpart Creative Studios, and recorded some sessions by Manzel.  The instrumental funk group from Lexington, KY, consisted of Manzel Bush (keyboards), John L. Van Dyke (guitar), and Steve Garner (drums).  Just before the sessions were totally finished, Lieutenant Bush got called off to military duty in Germany, and O’Shea hired some players from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to finish off the sessions.  The first of the recordings to see the light of day were ‘Space Funk’ b/w ‘Jump Street,’ which O’Shea released on Fraternity in 1977.”

Manzel-aManzel-bManzel-c

Discogs has the rest of the story:

“Two years later, after some further tweaking by Bush, came the ‘Midnight Theme’ b/w ‘Sugar Dreams’ 45, and that was that.  Manzel were no more.  Bush stayed in the military, raised a family, and left music behind.  Twenty-five years later, in 2004, the recordings of Manzel resurfaced with the aid of Kenny Dope and the Undercover Brother.  The two wanted to reissue the original, very rare, and quite bootlegged Manzel recordings.  However, the Dopebrother guys didn’t just reissue the original 45s.  They dug up the tapes from the original Manzel sessions at Counterpart Creative, remixed and remastered them, and then released everything on a lavishly detailed CD, Midnight Theme.  They also released a ‘Midnight Theme’ b/w ‘Space Funk’ single on 7″ vinyl with a picture sleeve reproducing the artwork from a flyer for a Manzel show in the ’70s.”