Rusty York’s Cincinnati Indie

Billboard, in their January 8, 1972 edition, would report this quirky news item in the Cincinnati division of their “From the Music Capitals Around the World” column:

Rusty York, who heads up the Jewel Recording Studio[s] here, learned last week that the new ‘Smash-Up Derby’ commercial [for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products], which he created and did all the instrumental work, has been entered into the Hollywood Film Festival as an entry to select the best film commercial of the year.  The commercial is currently being spotted on all three major networks.”

Kenner SSP Smash-Up Derby TV Commercial   =  Music by Rusty York

Rusty York’s Jewel Recording Studio – in Mt. Healthy, just north of Cincinnati – would begin releasing 45s in 1961 and would once host The Grateful Dead, believe it or not, according to Cliff Radel’s obituary for York in the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s February 4, 2014 edition.

You can survey Rusty York’s musical legacy in three ways:

Discogs also allows you to browse LP & 45 releases that were recorded at Jewel Recording Studio, including Lonnie Mack‘s Whatever’s Right 1969 LP for Elektra (engineered by Gene Lawson) and Paul Dixon‘s Paul Baby 1973 album (on which Dixon is accompanied by former King recording artist Bonnie Lou).

Two memorable song titles that can only be found on the Jewel label:

Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” – vintage 1967 San Francisco-style psych blues – and “Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” – “post 60’s garage/proto punk” from 1974 that features maniacal drumming and laughing choruses that are strategically interrupted by a softly-spoken catch phrase intended to win over the Pre-K crowd.

Jewel Records featured 45 #1

“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg”     The Fabulous Fish     1967

Jewel Records featured 45 #2

“Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky”     Dry Ice     1974

From Billboard‘s ‘Music Capitals of the World – Cincinnati’ column = Oct. 14, 1972 edition:

Mike Reid, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals [previously celebrated here], and Dee Felice [musical associate of James Brown] and his group set for early recording dates at Rusty York‘s Jewel studios.  Felice recently cut two sides at Jewel.  Sonny Simmons, Cleveland gospel promoter, in town recently to produce an album for the gospel-singing Monarchs at Jewel studios.  Others in recently at Jewel to do gospel albums were Judy Cody of Akron; The Crossmen of Lansing, Mich.; and the Cooke Duet of Wise, Va.

Mad Lydia Wood, accompanied by Cincinnati Joe, did the warbling on six commercial spots on Wiedemann Beer for the Campbell-Mithun Agency of Minneapolis at Jewel last week.  Mad Lydia and Joe have held forth at various locations here for the last several years.”

Based on Rusty York’s cameo appearance in a recent piece, no doubt you will not be surprised to learn that Albert Washington was a Jewel recording artist, as was/were Jimmie SkinnerThe Russell BrothersJ.D. Jarvis, Linda Webb, and Dale Miller [let’s not forget 1969’s Sharon Lee and the Moonrockers, not to mention that same year’s The Funnie Papers, and most especially of all, Jade, whose 1970 album, recorded at Jewel, would include the jaw-dropping sonic wonder of “My Mary“).

Rusty York at Jewel = courtesy of Randy McNutt’s Home of the Hits

Click on image above for ultra-high resolution

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Did You Know?
Rusty York/King Records Trivia From Randy McNutt’s website:

Rusty York, a former King rockabilly and country singer, bought some of King’s echo equipment and microphones for his own Jewel Recording Studios in suburban Mt. Healthy, Ohio.  He even bought Nathan’s desk chair.  “The Neumann tube mics cost $300 new in the early ’60s,” he said.  “I just sold one for $2,800.  Like King, quality doesn’t go out of style.”

Bonus Jewel 45 for steel guitar fans!  1977‘s “Rose City Chimes” by Chubby Howard

According to Linda J. York (who has the booklet Dick Clark hawked at the show), Rusty York opened the first Rock and Roll show at the Hollywood Bowl for Dick Clark!

Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook Page

“Zero to 180’s latest piece pays tribute to a former King recording artist – Rusty York – whose kind and gentle nature and lack of ego may have accidentally conspired to obscure his legacy as an accomplished musician (who “could play any tune in any style“) as well as recording studio founder/engineer, whose Jewel recordings run the gamut of musical sounds and genres, not unlike King (and Fraternity and Counterpart).”

Friendly reminder:  for optimal presentation do not view Zero to 180 on a smart phone!

“My Mary”: The Mother of Backwards B-Sides

Music, when played backwards, almost invariably takes on a sinister overtone, its overall sound, more often than not, provoking within the listener feelings of unrest and disquiet.

My Mary” by obscure Cincinnati rock band, Jade, is certainly no exception.  This track from the 1970 album, Faces of Jade, would serve as the flip side to  “My Honey” – making it also the fourth such known (to me) backwards B-side:

Link to earlier blog piece:  “B-Side As Anti-A-Side”

However, unlike the three previous B-sides, where the A-side is simply played in reverse, “My Mary” is an altogether different, and more purposeful, beast.   For one thing, you can actually discern the lyrics throughout the song – quite a technical feat when you stop to consider the intent behind it (i.e., the vocals had to be sung phonetically to emulate the sound of the lyrics being sung backward so that the words would sound forward when the entire song was played backward – make sense?)  And knowing that the song was recorded somewhat on the heels of “Revolution 9” from The Beatles’ “White Album” (and its subsequent Charles Manson associations) only adds to the creep factor.

Thanks to J. Richter at Discogs.com for the historical background and analysis:

“Cincinnati’s Jade, Jim Aumann (keyboards, vocals), Randy Morse (guitar), Tim Nixon (drums, percussion), Nick Root (bass, vocals) were another one of those elusive late 60s early 70s psychedelic acts who left behind only one album, issued on the General American label, before vanishing into the mist.

Virtually nothing is known about the band, but collectors have been swarming record fairs and pillaging eBay for years in the hopes of snagging this relic.  So does the album live up to its hype?  Mostly, yes…

Considering the modest budget of such a DIY undertaking in 1970, the mix is well done and the material is very well constructed.  This was recorded at local Jewel Recording Studio [owned by Rusty York].  Blending the Beatles, Blossom Toes and a number of other pop/psych acts of the era, Jade create a formidable aural tapestry.  With slight folk leanings, each track breezes along quite nicely throughout the duration of the album.

The engineering trickery in places here are subtle reminders that Jade were foremost Beatles influenced.  Perhaps the strangest track is “My Mary” which is absolutely mindblowing.  This ingenious piece features music that runs in reverse (backward) while the vocalist uses fragmented phrasings to fit the words into the warped beat.

The outcome is like a bent merry-go-round, wobbling in circular motion while the seasick vocals spill out over the arrangement. It’s truly a sound to behold.”

Why am I not surprised to learn that Cincinnati’s fabulous Shake It Records reissued the Faces of Jade album just last year?  Shake It deems the album “one of the most highly sought-after ‘Beatles-Impact’ records among psych, power-pop and Beatles collectors” and adds that “after a bit of sleuthing we tracked down the members and are proud to give a proper and awesome-sounding vinyl reissue of their sole pop-psych / Revolver-esque classic.”

My Mary 45

Randy McNutt – music writer/historian/producer and author of The Cincinnati Sound; Little Labels, Big Sound; Guitar Towns (et al.) – was gracious enough to share this information with Zero to 180:

“If [Jade] cut it at Jewel in 1970, then Gene Lawson was likely the engineer.  Gene was and is a terrific engineer and musician (he played drums on Lonnie Mack‘s “Memphis”).  He is now the maker of the Lawson Microphone in Nashville.  I’d say he did the engineering because it sounds like his work.  He was employed by Jewel at that time.  General American operated for a year or two in Cincinnati, working out of Jewel and Counterpart studios.  I believe songwriter Bill Stith was one of the owners.”

Brian Baker wrote a feature story about the original Faces of Jade album and Shake It’s determination to help this breakthrough recording achieve its proper recognition in the December 31, 2004 edition of City BeatThe Cincinnati Enquirer also published a nice piece about Darren Blase‘s detective work in tracking down the original band members, one of whom was just elected to his third term as a Republican county treasurer, as well as the unusual ambitiousness with which Jade approached the ten songs on this criminally obscure album and the degree to which this recording stood apart from the other Cincinnati groups at that time.  The Enquirer piece humorously concludes with a quote from bandmate and chief songwriter (and county treasurer), James Aumann:  “As Darren said, if this [reissue] does really well, we can probably all go out for a nice dinner.”

Backwards B-Sides:  More Than I First Imagined

"aaH-aH yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er'yehT" by viX noelopaN  [1966]
"noollaB wolleY" by noollaB wolleY  [1967]
"ereH er'uoY sA gnoL sA" by yksvonaY namlaZ [1967]
"Smeta Murgaty" by Warm Sounds [1968]
"Cinap (Pirt A)" by Lloyd Green [1968]
"evoL yenoH" by Burt Walters  [1968]
"Zig Zag" by Ohio Express [1968]
"Bitter Lemon" by Ohio Express [1969]
"My Mary" by Jade  [1970]
"Yellowcake UF6" by srelgnartS ehT [1979]