King Cash-In Surf LP #2

Zero to 180’s sprawling history trawl “Rare & Unreleased King” made passing reference to another surf-ploitation LP issued by King Records – 1963’s Surfin’ on Wave Nine – and even threatened to make that album the focus of a future history piece … whose time has come today.

Compared to Look Who’s Surfin’ Now (King LP previously celebrated hereSurfin’ on Wave Nine is a bit more of an organic affair, with only a modest amount of jiggery pokery involved.

Track Listing

  •                                 A1  The Vice-Roys – “Seagreen
  •                                 A2  The Nu-Trons – “Malibu Mal
  •                                 A3  The Tramps – “Maharadja
  •                                 A4  The Nu-Trons – “Tension
  •                                 A5  The Vice-Roys – “The Fox
  •                                 A6  Mickey Baker – “Gone
  •                                 B1  Mickey Baker – “Zanzie
  •                                 B2  The Vice-Roys – “Moasin’
  •                                 B3  The Nu-Trons – “Wild Side
  •                                 B4  The Wobblers – “The Wobble
  •                                 B5  The Nu-Trons – “Ninth Wave Out
  •                                 B6  The Vice-Roys – “Buzz Bomb

According to Ruppli’s 2-volume Kings recording sessionography, we can only be certain that two of these songs — “The Fox” and “Buzz Bomb” by The Vice-Roys — were recorded in Cincinnati.

The Vice-Roys would record their songs for King in three sessions:  c. Nov/Dec 1961 (“Moasin'”); c. September, 1962 (“Seagreen”); and April, 1963 (“The Fox” & “Buzz Bomb”).  Worth noting that King would issue a split single in 1963 with “Seagreen” by The Vice-Roys chosen as the flip side for “That Low Down Move” by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters.  But, as Discogs notes, “Seagreen” actually began life as an A-side issued on Bethlehem with the title “Seagram’s” – ostensibly a salute to the whiskey brand.  Both Sides Now Publications recounts the controversy:

In 1960, an instrumental rock band called the Viceroys brought Bethlehem an instrumental master they called “Seagrams,” apparently thinking the name of a hard liquor brand would be hip for teens.  Bethlehem liked the tune and released it. Unfortunately, Seagrams Corporation didn’t think it was funny and threatened to sue for trademark infringement, and some stations refused to play a song with the name of a commercial product without being paid for advertising time.  A sheepish notice in Billboard on March 23, 1960, said, “We Goofed!” and explained that “Seagrams” was now changed to “Seagreen.”

Worth noting that in that same March 23, 1960 edition of Billboard along with the official industry notice from King Records saying “We Goofed!” was this wink-wink news item:

Just Call This a Real Loaded Idea

SAN FRANCISCO— A novel record promotion originated by Bob Earl, San Francisco branch manager for King Records, has been picked up by the national record distributor and will be repeated in Cincinnati, Chicago and New York.

Bethlehem’s new recording of “Seagram,” sung by the Vice-roys, prompted Earl to include a half pint of Seagram’s VO whiskey and a package of Vice-roy cigarettes when delivery the disk, all wrapped up in gay “Mardi Gras” gift paper. Uniformed messenger delivery personnel called upon local deejays in the four top r & b and rock and roll stations in San Francisco and Oakland — KSAN, KEWB, KDIA and KYA.

The Nu-Trons would record two sessions for King — the first (“Tension” and “Wild Side”) in May, 1963 (possibly in Cincinnati — Ruppli is uncertain) and the second (“Malibu Mal” and “Ninth Wave Out” in June, 1963.

The Tramps‘s sole contribution “Maharadja” is the earliest contribution to this various artists compilation (August, 1961), but alas — the recording is leased from another label.

Mickey Baker‘s guitar instrumental classic “Zanzie” (previously celebrated here) was recorded – along with “Gone” – June, 1962 in Paris.

Without a doubt, the song most likely to grab your attention is “The Wobbler” which likely was recorded late (November?) in 1961 by The Wobblers:

“The Wobble”     The Wobblers     1961

Listen to King Surf Albums on the Radio!

This Saturday – September 8, 2018 from 6-8 PM – there will be a King Surf Party!  In 1963, King Records released several surf albums, Surfin’ on Wave NineLook Who Surfin’ Now and Freddie King Goes Surfin’, in response to the California craze.  Join WAIF FM radio hosts, Rock-it Rick, Midwest Surf Guy and Handsome Dan, as they play tracks from these King compilations on the legendary “Rockin’ & Surfin’ Show.”  Those who live outside Cincinnati can tune in on the web – click on the link to WAIF 88.3 FM.

King Cash-In Surf LP #1

In the course of sleuthing, I stumbled upon a King surf cash-in compilation from 1964 that, upon closer inspection, revealed a trio of “mystery bands” — The Surf Jumpers, The Wild Kats and The King Surfers — that are mysteriously absent from Ruppli’s otherwise fairly comprehensive 2-volume discography of King Records and its associated labels.  Further examination revealed the curious fact that every song title can only be found on this one King album with the one exception being “Low Tide” by Freddy King.

Track Listing

  •                          A1  James Brown – “Surfin’ Along”
  •                          A2  The Surf Jumpers – “Surfin’ Party”
  •                          A3  Albert King – Surfin’ the Blues Away
  •                          A4  Gene Redd – Surfin’ Beat
  •                          A5  The King Surfers – Surfin’ in the Far East
  •                          A6  The Wild Kats – Wild Surfin’
  •                          B1  Freddy King – Low Tide
  •                          B2  Little Willie John – High Tide
  •                          B3  King Curtis – Surfin’ in Blue
  •                          B4  Hank Moore – Cool Feet
  •                          B5  Johnny Otis – Let’s Surf Awhile
  •                          B6  Tonni Kalash – The Surf

Given what we’ve learned from the Philip Paul history piece about Gene Redd‘s 1959 recording “Zeen Beat” getting re-branded as “Surfin’ Beat,” I suspect that Syd Nathan simply re-titled 9 instrumentals from the King catalog that might possibly be mistaken for “surf beat” to go with the three new spiffy original surf-flavored tracks hastily thrown together by The Surf Jumpers, The Wild Kats, and especially The King Surfers.  One Discogs contributor even entreats:  “If anyone knows the original track names of these tracks which were re-titled for this release .. it would be very helpful.”

For example, I would bet big money that “Joggin’ Along” – from 1962’s James Brown and His Famous Flames Tour the U.S.A. – is the recording used for “Surfin’ Along,” a James Brown song title found nowhere else but here.

“Joggin’ [i.e., Surfin’] Along”     James Brown & His Famous Flames     1962

Ruppli’s discography indicates the Albert King recording to have taken place in St. Louis sometime in 1961 and even notes the song title as “Surfin’ the Blues Away.”  Nevertheless, I feel burned by Ruppli having titled the 1959 Gene Redd track as “Surfin’ Beat,” plus I’m highly dubious that Albert King was moved by the earliest surf strains of 1961 while located in the Midwest.

Ace UK, meanwhile, helped me figure out that 1961’s “Let’s Rock” by Johnny Otis (recorded in Los Angeles, with Johnny Guitar Watson) is the original recording used for “Let’s Surf Awhile” (which Ruppli notes as the title, not “Let’s Rock”).

I’m just guessing that “The Boss” by Tonni Kalash is plausibly surf sounding to pass as “The Surf” to less discerning ears.

Ruppli’s discography indicates the King Curtis track (“Surfin’ in Blue”) to be a 1957 blues instrumental recorded in NYC that originally bore the title “Wicky Wacky” (and, alternatively, “King Curtis Stomp”).

Dying to know whether “Katanga” – an instrumental attributed to Little Willie John from December, 1961 that was laid down in King’s Cincinnati studios – is the recording that was renamed “High Tide” for this album.  Can’t imagine King included many instrumentals (if any) on a Little Willie John LP or 45.

Tenor saxophonist session player Hank Moore stepped out as bandleader on a few tracks that were recorded in Cincinnati.  “Cool Feet” is one such track from March 9, 1961 that appears, miraculously, to have retained its original title – although, it figures that this instrumental would appear on Look Who’s Surfin’ Now and nowhere else.

Listen to King Surf Albums on the Radio!

This Saturday – September 8, 2018 from 6-8 PM – there will be a King Surf Party!  In 1963, King Records released several surf albums, Surfin’ on Wave Nine, Look Who Surfin’ Now and Freddie King Goes Surfin’, in response to the California craze.  Join WAIF FM radio hosts, Rock-it Rick, Midwest Surf Guy and Handsome Dan, as they play tracks from these King compilations on the legendary “Rockin’ & Surfin’ Show.”  Those who live outside Cincinnati can tune in on the web – click on the link to WAIF 88.3 FM.

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“?

When Indie Becomes Oldie(s)

I was ready to abandon K-Tel for greener pastures, when I recalled with great amusement a K-Tel hits collection that someone (okay, Tom Avazian) once tenderly pressed into my eager hands.  I can’t imagine anyone would be shocked that a label famed for recycling older tunes had thieved its title – Gimme Indie Rock – from a song by former Dinosaur Jr. bassist, Lou Barlow … and then oddly omitted the title track!

Includes a Dinosaur Jr. song in lieu of Sebadoh’s title track – ironic?

K-Tel's Gimme Indie RockNo one should be surprised that a label known for being a step or two behind contemporary pop music trends would embrace 80s and 90s punk and “alternative” rock by the dawn of the new century (I hear some of you grumbling this is not your father’s K-Tel).  Nor should anyone be taken aback that this double-disc set from 2000 is a CD-only release that was never pressed onto good ol’ vinyl.

Gadzooks:  [insert name of indie band below] on a K-Tel collection!

K-Tel's Gimme Indie Rock - track listing

The CD cover would also break the K-Tel mold by being a 6-panel foldout poster, with liner notes provided by Option Magazine‘s Scott Becker and a quote at the top of the page attributed to Minutemen frontman, D. Boon (“The how, the why, the where, the who – can these words find the truth?”) from a song – “The World According to Nouns” – that was, in fact, written by the group’s bassist, Mike Watt!  Oh, K-Tel…

K-Tel, as we learned from a recent piece, would expire the following year, thus, dooming this first volume of Gimme Indie Rock, heartbreakingly, to orphan status.

To read Scott Becker’s essay, save image to hard drive and magnify in image viewer

K-Tel's Gimme Indie Rock - essay

Generally speaking, Zero to 180’s rule of thumb (you may or may not be aware) is to feature under-celebrated studio songcraft that is, minimally, 20 years old, thus enabling indie and punk to fall fairly within the scope of this music history blog.  Previous attempts to feature more contemporary sounds, Zero to 180 realized belatedly, would not be a good fit for a historically-oriented website, something that should have been apparent at the outset (nothing personal, Roy Sludge – you know I love you).

WordPress would feature Zero to 180 – and then pick the “wrong” piece!

Zero to 180-WordPress by ExampleAnd yet, it’s as if Zero to 180 has learned nothing, as today’s piece sidesteps protocol by ignoring Gimme Indie Rock in favor of a modern rock track — power pop, to be more precise — that is a mere 12 years old, but is already showing alarming signs of being consigned to the dustbin of history:

“Misadventures of the Campaign Kids”     King of Prussia     2007

Such an obvious lead-off track, Zero to 180 is a little disappointed to discover “Miseducation of the Campaign Kids” to be the third song on King of Prussia‘s 2007 CD release, Save the Scene.  The opening chords would seem to be a loving nod to Paul Weller’s demo for The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” — could that have been the songwriter’s intention, I wonder.  Yes, there are five YouTube clips of this compelling King of Prussia track, and yet the total combined “views” of these audio clips do not even total 5,000 — a musical injustice that this history blog is attempting to remedy.

King of Prussia - Save the SceneLyrics to the song can be found here on Bandcamp, where you can also buy the album for only $6.99 – a bargain.   Thank you, as well, to Zero to 180 science correspondent, Paul Guinnessy, for once forwarding a flash drive filled with 3.42GigaBytes of songs (e.g, “Misadventures”) from artists – including King of Prussia – who appeared at the 2008 South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas.  NPR, in fact, would give the band some coverage, describing the King of Prussia’s debut album as “a trippy collection of songs with elements of ’60s folk rock.”

 

News Flash:  Zero to 180 Filters Out the Rubbish!

The Zero to 180 screenshot above, by the way, shows this music history blog in its infancy at a time when I was still grappling with scope and content issues.  After five years and over 700 posts, I finally cottoned onto the necessity of adding several filters to help readers (to the extent they exist) pick out the few interesting bits amidst the mountains of refuse.  Consequently, Zero to 180 now has added a handful of “buttons” at the top of the screen to help minimize wasted time you will never ever get back —

True or False? Led Zep on K-Tel

True or False?  Led Zeppelin have appeared on a K-Tel album.

Answer:

True!

The band that famously refused to do TV appearances did not, generally speaking stoop to K-Tel‘s level of crass commercialism.  Led Zeppelin cultivated such a mystique amongst their fanbase, in fact, that it was thought the band didn’t deign to do singles — obviously untrue when you browse their 7-inch output on 45Cat (each and every Zep album was accompanied by a 45 release, don’t kid yourself).

And yet, unbelievably, Led Zeppelin once said yes to K-Tel:  1980’s The Summit, released by K-Tel UK & Ireland — an album that includes “Candy Store Rock” (from 1976’s Presence), fittingly as the final track:

“Candy Store     Rock”     Led Zeppelin     1976

Does the band get forgiveness points, since “proceeds from this album are contributed to The Year of the Child to help sick and handicapped children”?

K-Tel's The Summit-front-aaAs Herc’s K-Tel Albums explains —

“Hot on the heels of the Kampuchea concerts, K-Tel rush-released The Summit in January 1980, featuring a baker’s dozen of tracks from rock royalty, all of whom donated their proceeds to UNESCO’s The International Year Of The Child (1979). Kurt Waldheim, then secretary-general of the United Nations, was crucial in organizing both the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea and The International Year Of The Child projects.”

Zep on K-Tel cover!
<click on image for maximum resolution>

K-Tel's The Summit-rear-a

Nevertheless, we can’t let Zeppelin fully off the hook, given their powerlessness in preventing “Whole Lotta Love” — the 3-minute edited version, no less — from being used on a ‘Warner Special Product’ (namely, 1973 box set Superstars of the 70’s), thus giving their high-falutin reputation a slight blemish.  Note, too, the existence of an ‘alternateSuperstars of the Stars 4-album collection that includes “D’yer Maker” (instead of “Whole Lotta Love”), as well as Hendrix track “Freedom” (versus “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady”).

‘Alternative’ Superstars of the 70s 4-LP collection

Superstars of the 70s - alternate version

“D’yer Maker” and Hendrix’s “Freedom” would reunite for another Warner Special Product — 1974’s Heavy Metal 2-record set, with “24 electrifying performances.”

Could easily pass for a K-Tel cover, right?

K-Tel's Heavy Metal“Whole Lotta Love” would get trotted out again for 1976 Warner Special Product LP, Listen to the Music.

K-Tel's Listen to the Music

3 songs one could not escape in the 1970s:

K-Tel's Listen to the Music-rear cover1997 would prove historic, as Zeppelin permitted “Misty Mountain Hop” (of all things) to be the band’s special contribution to Time-Life’s Gold and Platinum, Vol. 2:  1971-1973, in collaboration with Warner Special Products.

Time-Life Gold & Platinum Vol 2In 2003, Jimmy Page would even make the CD cover, when “Misty Mountain Hop” made an encore appearance on Time-Life’s Do It Again from the ‘Legends’ series (with liner notes from Ben Fong-Torres), also in synergistic partnership with Warner Special Products.

Time-Life Legends - Do It Again11311 K-Tel Drive = Minnetonka, Minnesota:
The New “Hitsville USA”?

Thanks to family members strategically located in Minnetonka, Zero to 180 is grateful to have had the opportunity to visit 11311 K-Tel Drive, the corporate headquarters of K-Tel International since 1975, as any music scholar will tell you.

K-Tel’s former address in Mid-City (via 1974’s Today’s Super Greats)

K-Tel's Today's Super Greats11311 K-Tel Drive:  Leafier than 2648 W Grand Blvd (via 1975’s Sounds Spectacular)

K-Tel s Sounds Spectacular LP

K-Tel’s service in maintaining the commercial vitality of our great nation’s pop hits – long after their initial “expiration date” – has been widely mocked, which is sadly short-sighted, given the company’s honorable efforts in fighting Madison Avenue attitudes (i.e., old = bad) that have unmistakably infiltrated popular consciousness due to a relentless bombardment of advertising that fetishizes newness for the sake of newness.

K-Tel would celebrate 35 years of success in grand style with a supplemental 17-page advertisement in the March 8, 1997 edition of Billboard.(pages K-1 through K-17) that includes messages of congratulations from Sony Music Special Products, EMI-Capitol, Polygram, Curb Records, Select-O-Hits, local heroes The Trashmen, The Castaways, Steppenwolf’s John Kay, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Ernest Evans himself (a.k.a., Chubby Checker).  These 17 packed pages include a profile of founder Phillip Kives (K-Tel = Kives Television), who “starred in what may have been the first infomercial:  a five-minute spot in support of a non-stick frying pan,” plus a history of the music label (“Original Hits! Original Stars!  K-Tel’s Super Gold Music Machine Rolls Right On”) that states the company’s musical inventory to be “approximately 2,700 masters, dating from the ’50s up through the ’80s and beyond.”

K-Tel:  Your Green Light to Hits

K-Tel Drive - HQ

But mere months later, Don Jeffrey would report on a worrisome organizational restructuring of K-Tel International in Billboard‘s November 22, 1997 edition

Just months after terminating a deal that would have divested its music assets, K-Tel International has restructured the music company and set ambitious plans to become an online music retailer and a distributor of other labels’ recordings.

As part of the change, the company has tapped Mark Dixon, its top financial executive, as COO of the music unit, Ktel International (USA), which remains based in Minneapolis. The corporate offices, however, are moving to Los Angeles, where company president David Weiner will oversee the music unit, international operations, a direct-marketing subsidiary, a home video imprint, and a new Internet venture.  Weiner says the move will enable K-Tel to “tap into a larger talent pool.”

By mid-December, Weiner says the company will launch K-Tel Online and develop the site over the next year into a major Internet retailer to compete with CDnow, Music Boulevard, and World Wide Web sites operated by traditional music chains.  At the site www.ktel.com, consumers will also be able to order customized CDs made up of tracks from the company-owned catalogs.

Alas, Greg Beets would break the sad news — “Where were you when you found out K-Tel declared bankruptcy and shut down its U.S. music distribution subsidiary?” — in the May 4, 2001 edition of the Austin Chronicle.  Turning popular wisdom on its head, Beets points out that “although K-Tel’s buffet-style MO [modus operandi] seems quintessentially American,” the company was actually founded in Winnipeg, Ontario in 1962, before Kives moved operations to Minneapolis in the early Seventies.

Kives wasn’t the first (that would be Art Leboe’s Oldies but Goodies series), and he wasn’t without competition (Ronco and Adam VIII), but “it was K-Tel,” Beets observed, “that truly cultivated the form into a pop culture institution ripe for parody.”

K-Tel’s Krass Kommercialism:
A Tribute by Greg Beets

During the Seventies, K-Tel’s marketing ploys had the same seedy appeal as a carnival barker’s come-on.  The pitch was fast and furious, with deftly spliced snippets of music, song titles rapidly scrolling across the screen, and an overcaffeinated announcer imploring you to order now.  Some aficionados swear the ads said K-Tel albums were not available in stores, even though they were — at unhip outlets such as drug and discount stores.

You won’t find a much better snapshot of pop music in the early Seventies than 1972’s Believe in Music.  Named for Gallery’s “I Believe in Music,” the album kicks off with the 1-2-3 feel-good punch of “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, “Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone, and “Sunny Days” by Lighthouse. Throw in Donny Osmond, the O’Jays, and a few more weird obscurities like Mouth & MacNeil’s “How Do You Do?” and Bulldog’s “No,” and you have a bass-ackwardly definitive compilation rivaled only by Nuggets.

Maybe K-Tel butchered art for profit.  But even if that were true, does it make K-Tel any worse than a record company padding a marginal artist’s album with filler? Though it came at the expense of artistic vision, K-Tel’s Seventies output was nothing if not value-driven.  Where else could you get up to 25 hit songs for the low, low price of $5.98 ($7.98 for 8-track)?

That said, the sonic quality of vintage K-tel albums is truly awful.  You’ll find better low end on a distant AM radio station, and the flimsier-than-Dynaflex vinyl ensures quick scratches if you so much as breathe too hard on it.  And no discussion of K-Tel would be complete without mentioning the blinding colors and screaming fonts utilized in the subtle-as-a-meat-cleaver cover art.  But, as the tired old saying goes, that’s part of the charm.

Note:  Beets would also voice the widely-held notion that “respectable artists, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, never showed up on K-Tel” — a view that, as Zero to 180’s recent research has revealed, does not withstand factual scrutiny.

Explosive Dynamic Super Smash Hits!

100 years or so ago, Minnetonka had served as the inspiration for Thurlow Lieurance‘s oft-covered [Paul Whiteman, Glenn Miller, Three Suns, Bud Isaacs, Billy Mure] composition, “By the Waters of the Minnetonka,” from 1914 (PDF of original sheet music courtesy of Greer Music Library — Digital Commons @ Connecticut College).

Marty Gold Orchestra — 1959

Minnetonka cover - Marty Gold Orchestra LP

Jimi Hendrix on a K-Tel Album?

It still boggles my mind that Ronco somehow found a way to compile an album featuring tracks from top pop acts – Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, and the Byrds – one would not normally associate with TV-advertised hits labels, such as Ronco.

Jimi Hendrix – third artist listed after The Beatles

Do It NowIn light of this knowledge I began to wonder:  Is it possible Jimi Hendrix has appeared on a K-Tel album?

Answer — Yes!  K-Tel Japan would include “Purple Haze” on 1971’s 20 Dynamic Hits – an album that would also feature a Beatles track (admittedly, 1961’s “My Bonnie” with singer, Tony Sheridan).

Jimi Hendrix on a K-Tel album cover!

K-Tel's 20 Dynamic Hits-a

“Purple Haze” would also turn up on 2-LP release, Superstars of the 70’s (K-Tel Japan), as well as 1983’s Heavy (K-Tel Australia).

Superstars of the 70s-JapanK-Tel's Heavy

K-Tel Netherlands would include “The Wind Cries Mary” on 1975 release K’Tel’s Gold Rock.

“Wind Cries Mary” = Side Two, Track Six

K-Tel's Gold Rock - Netherlands 75That same year, K-Tel UK & Ireland would include “Hey Joe” on British Gold.

K-Tel's British Gold“Hey Joe” would also be pressed into service for 1973’s Story of Pop Vol. 2 (K-Tel UK), as well as 1984’s Masters of Rock (K-Tel Germany).

(Left) Note the misspelling of Jimi               (right) 2nd Hendrix photo on K-Tel LP!

K-Tel's Story of Pop - Vol IIK-Tel's Masters of Rock-Germany

K-Tel UK & Ireland would also see fit to include “All Along the Watchtower” on 1986 release Rock Anthems II.

K-Tel:  “TV Advertised”

K-Tel's Rock Anthems 2

Perhaps the strangest release of all would be K-Tel Australia’s The Legend of Hendrix album (date unknown).

3rd known photo of Hendrix on a K-Tel album cover

K-Tel's Legend of Hendrix18 tracks in all – note the curious decision to include a Noel Redding composition, “She’s So Fine”:

1. Hey Joe
2. Purple Haze
3. The Wind Cries Mary
4. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
5. Stone Free Again
6. All Along The Watchtower
7. Foxy Lady
8. Voodoo Chile
9. Crosstown Traffic
10. Fire
11. Like A Rolling Stone
12. Ezy Rider
13. Freedom
14. Johnny B Goode
15. Blue Suede Shoes
16. Gypsy Eyes
17. Angel
18. She’s So Fine

“She’s So Fine”     Noel Redding’s Jimi Hendrix Experience     1967

Of course, all of this begs the question — why no Hendrix tracks on US K-Tel releases?  Was Warner Brothers afraid that the appearance of a Hendrix track on a K-Tel album might inflict damage on his viability in the marketplace, given the snobby rock press?

The Beatles on K-Tel:  A Neglected History

K-Tel, by the way, would pull another Beatles stunt, with the inclusion of (the Bert Kaempfert-produced) “Ain’t She Sweet” – recorded 1961 in Hamburg – on 1974’s K-Tel’s Pop Greats (K-Tel Germany), as well as 1975’s Flashback Fever (K-Tel Canada), and 1981’s 14 Grandes Exitos (K-Tel Argentina).

K-Tel album featuring “Los Beatles”!

K-Tel's 14 Grandes Exitos - Argentina LP

“My Bonnie,” likewise, would show up on 1973’s K-Tel’s Story of Pop (K-Tel UK), as well as 1975’s K-Tel’s British Greats (K-Tel Germany).  Also worth pointing out that 1978 album, Explosion 60 (K-Tel Spain), appears to be the only K-Tel collection to feature The Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout.”

“My Bonnie” on this 1972 4-LP set = only US K-Tel LP Release to feature The Beatles!

K-Tel's 60s Flash-Back GreatsThe Stones on K-Tel:  The Truth Is Out There

1982 would prove to be the year the band made the momentous decision that permitted K-Tel UK/Ireland to sell a 2-LP (mostly monophonic) “greats”-only package, Story of the Stones, in Great Britain, as well as Spain, Portugal and (“unofficially”) Japan and Singapore.

K-Tel's Story of the Stones-front coverK-Tel's Story of the Stones-aK-Tel's Story of the Stones-bK-Tel's Story of the Stones-c

Track listing:  any quibbles, Stones fans?

K-Tel's Story of the Stones-rear cover

The following year, the Stones’ Organization then made the staggering decision to allow “Satisfaction” the honor of kicking off K-Tel’s Best Party Album in the World — a various artists release that would also include “Get Off My Cloud”!

K-Tel's Best Party Album-cover

Any Other Ronco LPs with Hendrix Tracks?

Q:  Besides Do It Now, are there any other Ronco LPs that feature Jimi Hendrix tracks?
A:  Yes!  “All Along the Watchtower” would join 43 of its closest friends for Ronco UK’s soundtrack to the film, Stardust, from 1974.

Ronco's Star Dust Soundtrack LPRonco's Sound Explosion - Hendrix

Additionally, in 1974 Ronco Netherlands would release 44 Golden Hits of the Sixties, a 2-LP set that included (you guessed it) “All Along the Watchtower.”

Ronco's 44 Golden Hits of the Sixties LPFinally, “Red House” would be included on two Ronco releases – 1977’s The Super Groups – 20 Explosive Hits! (Ronco UK) and 1979’s 20 Rock Legends (Ronco UK).

Ronco's The Super Groups LPRonco's 20 Rock Legends LP

By the Way…?

What is “All Along the Watchtower” doing on 1969 “CBS Special Products” Australia LP 20 Power Hits?  Wasn’t Polydor Hendrix’s label for Experience releases in Australia?

20 Power Hits

Columbia’s Great Gaffe:  Ladyland vs. Landlady:

In 2016, Heritage Auctions (“the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer”) sold two acetates of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album — note that the Columbia label for the left image reads “Electric Landlady“(!)

double-Click on image for Super-maximum resolution

Jimi Hendrix - Electric Landlady acetates

“Electric Landlady”:  Inspiration for Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album

Jimi Hendrix Electric LandladyNote the Billboard chart listing (“Electric Landlady“) for the week of October 19, 1968 + October 26, 1968 [Dave Michaels of ‘Progressive Rock’ WOXY in Oxford, Ohio] + November 2, 1968 [Barry Richards of ‘Progressive Rock’ WHMC, Gaithersburg, MD].

Helen Reddy’s (Non-LP) Debut 45

Melbourne-born, Helen Reddy would begin her career in 1963 laying down vocals for a Consulate cigarette jingle with Bob Young and His Orchestra.

Helen Reddy 45 - 1963 jingleReddy’s win on Australian Bandstand would, according to Discogs, spur her big move in 1966 to the United States, where two years later, she would make her official debut in the pop marketplace with Fontana 45, “One Way Ticket.”

Monty Montgomery, Music Director for Bakersfield’s KERN would select “One Way Ticket” as Billboard‘s ‘Best Leftfield Pick’ for the week of May 11, 1968.  The song would hit #83 nationally in Australia in May, 1968.

From the songwriting team of Stephen (“Sesame Street“) Lawrence & Bruce Hart

Helen Reddy US 45For uncertain reasons (though likely due to runaway 1972 smash hit, “I Am Woman“), K-Tel made an executive decision to include this Laugh-In-era track on a collection of US radio hits from primarily 1973 (i.e., James Brown’s “The Payback“; Love Unlimited’s “Love’s Theme“; Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock“), thus indirectly helping to direct attention to a melodic sense and production sound that seem very much out of place with the rest of the song’s surroundings:

“One Way Ticket”     Helen Reddy     1968

American music consumers would find itself treated to “One Way Ticket” via 1974 K-Tel release, Dynamic Sound, while discerning Canadian ears would discover the track on 1974’s Music Power, amidst such 1973 highlights as Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“; Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie“; and Al Wilson’s “Show and Tell.”

US                                                                 Canada

K-Tel's Dynamic Sound - USK-Tel's Music Power - Canada

The original 7-inch single (which some sellers have described as “mod beat” or even “Northern soul pop rock”) should buy you dinner at a decent fast casual restaurant.

“One Way Ticket” would also get bundled up as part of a 3-singers-3-songs package, along with Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield, in 1973 by our friends at Pickwick (who “electronically enhanced” the original recordings “for stereo”).

Helen Reddy + Shirley Bassey + Dusty Springfield = butterfly

Helen Reddy-Shirley Bassey-Dusty Springfield

Aside from the K-Tel and Pickwick LP releases above, “One Way Ticket” otherwise found itself orphaned as a non-album single until the song’s inclusion as a bonus track for the 2-album-on-one-CD reissue No Way to Treat a Lady / Music, Music in 2005 — but for the Australian market only!

Helen Reddy 2-fer CD 2005As has been pointed out elsewhere, Reddy is the first Australian artist to win a Grammy (for the aforementioned “I Am Woman”), as well as top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Helen Reddy & friends

Forgotten 1968 UK Rocksteady 45

Thanks again to record collector extraordinaire, Tom Avazian — underwriter of numerous Zero to 180 research initiatives (most recently, Scotland’s The Poets) — who provided a vinyl copy of 1988 UK anthology, 20 One Hit Wonders, an album that includes a strong track from a band of Birmingham musicians, The Locomotive, who began their career playing rocksteady in a rather convincing manner, before changing gears altogether on their next single and subsequent album before disbanding soon after.

20 One Hit Wonders LPLocomotive’s second single, “Rudi’s In Love” (which slyly quotes “007 (Shanty Town),” Desmond Dekker’s big hit from the year before) would be their debut for Parlophone in 1968, and enjoy release in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Yugoslavia [pictured below – left to right, top down], as well as the US, New Zealand, and Australia.

Locomotive 45 - DenmarkLocomotive 45 - FranceLocomotive 45 - GermanyLocomotive 45 - ItalyLocomotive 45 - NetherlandsLocomotive 45 - SpainLocomotive 45 - Yugoslavia

Billboard would announce in their November 16, 1968 edition (“Locomotive Disk on Speedy Track“) that “the Parlophone single ‘Rudi’s In Love’ is being released in 14 countries in Europe and in the US on the Bell label.”  According to Brum Beat – whose list of Top 20 Birmingham bands includes The Locomotive – “The catchy ‘Rudi’s In Love‘ proved very popular on the dance floor and reached Number 25 during its eight week stay in the charts.”

Beginning in the late 1980s, “Rudi’s In Love” would be repackaged in various 60s oldies compilations, such as Hits of 1968; The Best Sixties Party; 101 Sixties Hits; 100 Hits Swinging 60s; 100 60s Hits ; North of Watford (24 Rare Pop & Soul Classics 1964-82) — and even a couple West Indian-themed collections, The Best Reggae Album in the World … Ever!  Part 2 and Suited & Booted:  Essential Mod & Ska.

Suited & BootedAnd yet, amazingly, for a song so widely distributed, “Rudi’s In Love” (as of today) is only available on YouTube in the form of a live BBC version that, unfortunately, is not well recorded.  How can this be?  45Cat contributor, jimmytheferret, proclaims “Rudi’s In Love” to be “one of the most iconic records of the late sixties” and consequently has posted audio for the song on YouTube.  And yet, when you click on the video link, YouTube informs us that “this video contains content from WMG [Warner Music Group?], who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”  Ah ha…

However, for a limited time — the next ten days — Zero to 180 will make this track available to whomever has accidentally stumbled upon this blog:

[Time limit has expired – MP3 since removed.  Sorry, folks!]

[Pssst:  Click triangle above to play “Rudi’s In Love” by Locomotive]

SixtiesVinylSingles tells us that the “stellar brass section” includes ‘his’ friend Lyn Dobson on sax “together with Dick Heckstall-Smith and Chris Mercer, and with Henry Lowther on trumpet.”  “Rudi’s In Love” is notable for having been produced by Gus “Space Oddity” Dudgeon (who is famous for having worked with Elton John in his early years and XTC in their later years), along with Tony Hall.

BigBearMusic reports that the inaugural release for Big Bear Records (“UK’s longest-established independent record company”) was a “spoof ska 45 rpm single entitled ‘Rudi The Red-Nosed Reindeer‘ by a band whose nom-du-disque The Steam Shovel disguised the fact that they were, in reality, The Locomotive” (!)

Rudi the Red-Nosed Reindeer 45

Would you be surprised to learn that EMI reissued “Rudi’s In Love” in 1980, at the height of the second-wave ska craze, in a two-tone-themed picture sleeve?

UK REISSUE, 1980                                      US SINGLE, 1968

Locomotive 45 - UK - 1980-bLocomotive 45 - US-a

PROMO EP, 1979
[Click on image below for maximum Resolution]

Locomotive UK EP

2005 would find “Rudi’s In Love’ selected, curiously enough, for a Japanese DJ cassette mix tape of various and sundry (44 tracks in all) entitled, Freaks Vol. 1.

Freaks - Vol 1Original vinyl trades at auction for decent prices — in fact, four days ago, someone paid £150 for an “extremely rare mispress” of the original UK 45:  two “B” sides!

Norman Haines, who penned “Rudi’s In Love,” would later prove to be “instrumental in developing how Black Sabbath worked” in their earliest days, notes Big Takeover‘s AJ Morocco, “He orchestrated their first arrangements and likely taught them how to commit their songs to tape in the studio.”

Sheet music below serves as bedroom poster when you click on image

Rudi's In Love - bedroom poster

“Foreman”: Sanitation Engineer

Scooter “The Music Computer” MagruderWPFW radio host and general manager of Silver Spring’s Roadhouse Oldies – deserves much praise and respect for his leadership role in stoking an appreciation for our popular musical heritage over the years.  My recent album purchases at Roadhouse Oldies affirmed yet again that plenty of interesting songs remain primarily (if not solely) on vinyl, as originally intended.

Of the five albums that I picked up, the grooviest cover, by far, should have won an award for design, particularly the typography –- note the individualistic lettering:

out-of-sight-lp

However, since Out of Sight! was issued by a subsidiary label of crass cash-in label, Pickwick, that somehow invalidates the album from consideration (in which case, I would again direct your attention to the uniquely expressive lettering above).

A couple tracks caught my ear, including one by Tommy Roe in which the musical backing track suddenly “departs” from the vocal fairly soon into the song … and never really returns!   Check out the steep “musical drop-off” that occurs around the 40-second mark — did Tommy Roe really intend for the mix to sound this way?

[Pssst:  Click on triangle above to play “Foreman” (the ‘Pickwick’ mix) by Tommy Roe]

Posted as a special treat for Zero to 180 readers (Hi, Mom) for the rest of the year only

Note that nothing of the sort happens in this “propermix posted on YouTube — the only audio recording of the song publicly available (and one that was only posted last month).

A working-class blues that is not without a certain amount of boastful pride (since, after all, the singer has a good job at the mill making “30 cents* an hour” as the “foreman of the garbage brigade”), important to note that “Foreman,” was originally issued in 1961 by Diplomat – Pickwick peer and purveyor of equally exploitative fare (as previously celebrated here) – on Tommy Roe’s Whirling with Tommy Roe and Al Tornello, and would subsequently be reissued two years later on bedraggled and beloved Crown Records (as paid musical tribute here).  I am assuming that the same recording was used for all 3 LPs.

1961 Diplomat LP                                               1963 crown LP

tommy-roe-lp-aatommy-roe-lp-bb

The other tune that thrust itself upon my musical consciousness is an amusing surf-slash-drag-racing hybrid that is talk/sung in Bob Dylan fashion and backed by a bunch of smart alecks (who sound suspiciously like the backing vocalists on “The Ostrich”).  Halfway through the song, I spy the Pickwick logo on the back cover, and the realization suddenly hits:   Lou Reed!  Sure enough, “Cycle Annie” is from the pen of Lou Reed, as are three other tracks on the album:  “Soul City” by The Hi-Lifes; “Don’t Turn My World Upside Down” by The J Brothers; and “The Wonderful World of Love” by The Liberty Men.

“Cycle Annie”     The Beachnuts     1964

* [Note:  30⊄ an hour in 1961 dollars roughly equates to $2.45 an hour in 2017 dollars.]

Roadhouse Oldies, alas, will be shutting its doors for the last time in December, 2017. Message currently posted on the record shop’s website:

A SAD NOTE:  Sorry to report that, after 43 years in Silver Spring, we will be closing the business at the end of this year.  As you can probably understand, the demand for good old songs is fading.  We wish to thank our many loyal customers, and invite you to please come see us before we close, even if it is just to chat about the good old days.  We were the first true ‘oldies’ store in this area, and we thank you for 43 terrific years!

Zero to 180’s Photographic Tribute to Roadhouse Oldies

Roadhouse Oldies-aRoadhouse Oldies-bRoadhouse Oldies-cRoadhouse Oldies-d

original streamline moderne storefront on nearby Thayer St. (demolished)

Roadhouse Oldies-z

This is the 5th piece tagged as Pickwick Records

Earliest Recording of a Melodica?

One of Zero to 180’s earliest pieces (from 2012) concerned itself with documenting the earliest recording of a melodica (i.e., keyboard version of a harmonica), and 1966 seems to be year to beat in this regard, with the composer, Steve Reich, as well as future pop giants, The Bee Gees, having both committed the melodica to tape that same year.

This summer on a long road trip, I was enjoying a CD compilation of rare 45s and obscure album tracks that had been thoughtfully assembled by musician/scholar, Joe Goldmark, (and partner at San Francisco’s legendary Amoeba Records), when I was startled to hear a 1960s recording of South African township jive that includes a melodica!

“Ice Cream and Suckers (pts. 1 & 2)”     Soweto Stokvel Septette     1966?

Incredibly, when you search the entire Discogs database for recordings by the group, Soweto Stokvel Septette, only one item turns up:  a various artists LP release issued on the Mercury label for US distribution entitled Ice Cream & Suckers:  South African Soul, and which features the title track, parts one and two (stitched together in the mix above).

Ice Cream & Suckers - Various Artists Mercury LP-aZero to 180 is impressed with Mercury’s receptiveness to the exciting new sounds coming out of South Africa at that particular time in the 1960s (20 years or so before Paul Simon’s Graceland album) — only question is exactly when?  Before 1966, possibly?

Here’s a clue:  this 4-star review in Billboard‘s April 19, 1969 edition.  However, this description for an online auction sale pegs the album as being a 1966 LP release!  Curiously (or not), the description for this online auction sale approximates the release date to be “c. 1966,” while Lyon, France’s Sofa Records also understands the album’s year of release as 1966.

Assuming this is true, can we necessarily assume that Soweto Stokvel Septette recorded their two-part title track in 1966?  In other words, was the recording made the previous year or even earlier?  The back cover liner notes (courtesy of ElectricJive), unfortunately, do not shed light in this regard.  Nevertheless, “Ice Cream and Suckers” is now, at the very least, part of a three-way tie for earliest melodica recording.

Double-click on image below to view liner notes at maximum resolution

Ice Cream & Suckers - Various Artists Mercury LP-cc

One other supporting clue:  Soweto Stokvel Septette recorded a 45 of “South African ska” that also happened to be released in 1966, according to this vendor.

Soweto Stokvel Septette 45Zero to 180, you might recall, put Joe Goldmark’s music research to good use when its staff compiled a special list of King-related steel guitar releases from Joe’s landmark work, The International Steel Guitar and Dobro Discography.

International Steel Guitar - Dobro DiscographyZero to 180 history pieces related to the steel guitar