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).

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

Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook blurb

“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!

Boot: King Hard Rock ’72

Michel Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording session discography indicates that Boot, a “hard rock” outfit, had released their debut album on People, a James Brown-owned subsidiary of Starday-King Records.  But alas, this turns out not to be true, as Boot’s first album was, in fact, issued on Starday-King subsidiary Agape.

34 Euros paid for this LP in 2015

Boot’s album would comprise eight songs, including “Hey Little Girl” and “Liza Brown” (A and B sides, respectively of a 45), plus “Andromeda“; and “Destruction Road.”   Among the tracks left in the can is one curiously titled “Funky Country Music.”

“Hey Little Girl”      Boot     1972

Album Credits – per Discogs:

Dan Eliassen: Bass & Vocals
Jim O’Brock: Percussion
Mike Mycz: Rhythm Guitar & Vocals
Bruce Knox: Lead/Slide Guitar & Vocals
Mike Stone & Peter K. Thomason:  Producers
Michael S. Stone:  [Re-mix] Engineer
David L. Rosenberg:  Photography & Design
Recorded at Starday-King Studios
Distributed by Starday-King Records

Worth noting that this album was reissued on CD in 1986 by German label Lizard Records — although, Discogs reports this work to have been “licensed from Kingston Records.”

Hey, check this out:  Bad Cat Records currently has a listing of the “Hey Little Girl” 45 with a price tag of $85 that also includes some much needed music history:

Hailing from Port Richey, Florida, bassist Dan Eliassen and drummer Jim O’Brock put their first band together in 1972.  Originally known as The Kingsmen, they opted for a name change when the Washington-based Kingsmen scored a hit with ‘Louie Louie’.  Morphing into The Allusions, Eliassen, O’Brock and a changing cast of players continued to perform at local school dances and teen centers.

By 1966 the lineup featured Eliassen, O’Borck, and lead guitarist Bruce Knox and rhythm guitarist Mike Mycz.  They’d also opted for another name change (The Split Ends) as well as moving away from performing largely cover material to penning their own stuff. Signed by the local CPF Records, they also made their recording debut with a 1966 single:  ‘Rich with Nothin’ b/w ‘Endless Sun’ (CPF catalog CPF 4).

The 45 proved a regional hit, opening the door to wider exposure including an opening slot on Dick Clark’s Happening ’67 tour.  That in turn saw them offered an opportunity to compete on Clark’s ‘Happening ’68 television band contest.

In 1969 the quartet decided on another image and name change – this time adopting the moniker Blues Of Our Time – quickly abbreviated to Boot.  With a repertoire of largely original material, the band hit the road playing clubs and concerts nearly non-stop for the next four years.

Released by the Texas-based Agape label, the band debuted with 1972’s cleverly-titled “Boot”.  Co-produced by Mike Stone and Peter Thomason, the album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at James Brown’s Starday/King Studio.  With all four members contributing material the album offered up a mixture of blues-rock and blues-rock, with an occasional stab at a more commercial tune.  The band was blessed with three decent singers.  Nothing more than a guess on my part, but judging by the songwriting credits (assuming whoever wrote the track probably handled lead vocals), Mycz seemed to have the tougher-rock voice in the group while Eliassen was gifted with more commercial chops.  Knox fell somewhere in the middle with a modest country-rock feel to his voice.  Knox also showed himself to being an immensely talented lead guitarist — check out his lead work on ‘Hey Little Girl’.

Wild Goose: King Hard Rock ’71?

Zero to 180’s sprawling overview of King Records‘ rare and unissued recordings made reference to Wild Goose‘s “surprisingly adventurous ‘Flyin’ Machine‘ which features trippy sounds at the opening and closing, as well as harmony guitar lines during the middle instrumental break” — thank you to the YouTube contributor who uploaded a recording of this rare 45 released on Starday-King imprint Agape:

“Flyin’ Machine”     Wild Goose     1971

This 1971 promotional 45 “Flyin’ Machine” b/w “Every Day – Every Night” appears to be the entire recorded output of Wild Goose, about which so little is known.

Starday-King launched Agape in 1971, as reported by Billboard, but alas, it was not long for this world — nine 45 and two LP releases between the years 1971-72 that are currently accounted for (i.e., Discogs and 45Cat).  Any other Agape releases?.

On 12 August 2018 – the day this history piece was originally drafted – a copy of the “Flyin’ Machine” 45 was selling on Ebay, incredibly enough, for only $10.

Notable-But-Obscure 45 Release on Agape

Six years before he helped form the Redneck Jazz Explosion with Danny Gatton and Buddy Emmons, fiddle player Buddy Spicher would record a one-off single for Agape, as The Family Jewels in 1972, with Hal Rugg — “Sweet Sauce” (by Boudleaux Bryant) b/w “Chicken Gumbo,” an original tune by Hal Rugg and Jim (“Six Days on the Road”) Colvard.

“Sweet Sauce”     Buddy Spicher & Hal Rugg (a.k.a., Family Jewels)     1972

Note:  This is the second of 3 history pieces dedicated to Starday-King imprint, Agape.

Coldwater Army on S-K’s Agape

Billboard would post this glowing review of Coldwater Army‘s debut album on Agape, a subsidiary label of Starday-King, in their July 10, 1971 edition:

This is quite an extraordinary first record for a group.  It features some of the tightest arrangements heard in a while and vocals that flow well with the music.  To say the Coldwater Army is a brass based group would not be fair, although their brass section is dynamite.  The LP must be taken as one unit as the Army marches along to the beat of a different drummer.  One of the brightest groups to appear in a very long time.

“Hey People”     Coldwater Army     1971

Four months prior, Billboard had posted a ‘General News’ item in their March 20, 1971 edition that announced “Starday-King Forms Agape, a New Label“:

NEW YORK — The Starday-King Music Group has formed a new label, Agape Records.  According to Hal Neely, president of Starday-King, the new label will serve as an outlet for the increasing number of contemporary pop, rock and country-rock records scheduled for release later this month, while other labels within the Starday-King complex will continue their output of specialty product.

“The significance of the label name we’ve chosen,” said Neely, “derives from the Latin and means ‘love, feast and fellowship.’  In some early Christian times the Feast of Agape was celebrated in good spirit, brotherhood and acts of charity–so much of which is reflected in contemporary music and stressed in the lyric content of the new generation of songwriters.  He added, “We hope to bring some of that early spirit of the ancients into modern times.”  (Agape is pronounced ah-goh-pay.)

Several artists have already been signed to Agape including songwriter – singer – producer Myrna March from New York; Fort Worth, Tex. producer David Anderson; a rock group from Georgia known as Coldwater Army to be produced by Bobby Smith; First Friday who will be produced by Darrell Glenn, and a Miami-based unit whose production will be undertaken by veteran producer Kelso Herston.

Agape’s initial product will feature singles by Miss March and Anderson.  While Miss March has written a great deal of product for Starday-King artists, and recently produced Tony & Carol and the Manhattans for King via her Make Music Productions with Bert Keyes, she is making her Agape debut with a Bee Gees song, “Touch and Understand Love” backed with her own “I Can Remember.”  Recorded in Nashville, her sessions were under the personal supervision of Neely.  Anderson’s release will be “Songbird.”  Prior recordings by David Anderson with the company will ultimately be switched over to the Agape label.

Initially, the Agape label will be managed and administered by the staff of Starday-King with heavy responsibilities falling to sales manager Lee Trimble, Mike Kelly in the East, Bob Patton in the Midwest and Dexter Shaffer on the West Coast will coordinate regional promotion for all new releases and the over-all operations will be guided by Neely and vice-presidents Henry Glover and Jim Wilson.

The inception of Agape marks the latest in a series of moves towards the rebuilding of Starday-King under the encouragement and guidance of the LIN Broadcasting Corp., of which it is a division.  In addition to strengthening the operations of the Starday and King labels, the company has reactivated the old Macon, Ga.-based Federal label and the original DeLuxe Records, a blues-rock label.  Recent increased activity, too, has centered on the jazz-oriented Bethlehem label with particular interest focusing on the big sounds of Oscar Brandenburg.

Coldwater Army’s debut/only album Peace would also find release in 1971 in Canada, albeit on Columbia [speaking of which:  Seymour Stein, you might recall, had curated a pair of King hits anthologies for “Big Red” in 1967 — see here and here].  Peace was issued for the first time on compact disc in 2017.

Auction prices for Coldwater Army’s debut album on Agape

Cincinnati: Hard Rock Capital of the World?

I have an album of repackaged material from the Buddah label – a compilation entitled Heavy Mix – that is one of the odder releases from everyone’s favorite reissue label, Pickwick.   I love that the cover art has a cement theme:

Heavy Mix - Pickwick

Even more intriguing than the kitschy cover concept is the cryptic bit of text at the bottom of the label of “Heavy Mix” cement:Hard Rock Cement Co

First is an unattributed quote that proclaims in classic 1969-speak, “Gettting It Together,” followed by the name of a fictitious business – Hard Rock Cement Co. – that is allegedly located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Not sure I follow, but okay, why not.   Now, it is true that The Sacred Mushroom came from Cincinnati, and it would be fair to call them “hard rock” – as this track from 1969 would clearly indicate.

Or perhaps Pickwick was making reference to the Ludlow Garage – Cincinnati’s closest approximation to Bill Graham’s famous Fillmore rock venues – whose proprietor in 1969 was Jim Tarbell, the one responsible for bringing in such “hard rock” acts as Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, and The Grateful Dead (and who would later become a Cincinnati City Council Member and hold the title – by mayoral proclamation – “Mr. Cincinnati” for life).

My favorite track on this motley mix is a surprisingly supple cover of the theme from the 1969 Oscar-winning film (Film; Director; Adapted Screenplay) – “Midnight Cowboy” – by John & Yoko’s one-time backing band, Elephant’s Memory:

Midnight Cowboy – Elephant’s Memory

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “Midnight Cowboy” by Elephant’s Memory.]

There’s a nice little drum break starting around the 1:18 mark where the drumming alternates between speakers – consider using this track in the event you need to test the stereo directionality of your computer’s speakers.