King’s Jazz Legacy: Maxi-Tweets

I am liberating a special series of “maxi-tweets” tied to King Records‘ lesser known jazz legacy – part of 2018’s King 75th Birthday Celebration – that were otherwise buried in a PDF file attachment.  The following research was conducted primarily by scanning the index of Ruppli‘s 2-volume King recording session discography for the names of jazz musicians and noting which recording sessions featured their work.  For this updated piece, I have probed more deeply in order to add a few new items into the mix.

In the course of compiling this information, it dawned on me that the use of jazz musicians on popular (or “dance”) recordings by King Records was also famously done at Motown, not to mention standard operating procedure (i.e., ‘Wrecking Crew’) at the West Coast studios in and around Los Angeles.  Jazz musicians bring, as has been demonstrated, a deep musicality as well as versatility to recording sessions aimed at the popular market.

[Notestreaming audio links indicated in bold blue ink]

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #1

Bassist Keter Betts – who spurred Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd to record the breakthrough 1962 ‘Jazz Samba‘ album that introduced bossa nova to America and the world – played on a handful of Earl Bostic sessions, including his big hit “Flamingo,” as well as flip side “Sleep” (all sessions in NYC except one Cincinnati session on August 2, 1949).  NY Times Aug. 22, 2005 obituary for Betts acknowledges that “his first job of note was with the popular rhythm and-blues saxophonist Earl Bostic in 1949.”

French 78 – 1954

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #2

25-year-old John Coltrane played tenor sax – on what must be among his earliest recordings – for Earl Bostic on two 1952 recording sessions in New York and Los Angeles that included such songs as “Moonglow” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (with William Keter Betts), as indicated on the UK 78 release below.

“John Coltaine” = musical misspelling

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #3

Cat Anderson, long-time trumpeter for Duke Ellington, and Connie Kay, drummer for Modern Jazz Quartet (et al.), backed Wynonie Harris on “I Feel That Old Age Coming On” paired with “Grandma Plays the Numbers” – recorded in Linden, New Jersey on Dec. 9, 1948 for King Records.

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #4

Long-time Duke Ellington bandmates, Johnny Hodges (alto sax) and Russell Procope (tenor sax) played a recording session at Cincinnati’s King Studios for Ivory Joe Hunter on July 15, 1949 – 5 songs in all, including “Please Don’t Cry Anymore” and “I Got Your Water On.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #5

Composer/arranger Neal (‘Batman’) Hefti played trumpet for the Chubby Jackson Sextet on an early King session recorded in Chicago on July 1, 1944 that yielded four songs (including “Bass Face”) released as a pair of 78s on King subsidiary label Queen and later sold as a King EP.  Hefti would later arrange Elliot Lawrence and His Orchestra’s version of “Sixty Minute Man” on which Zoot Sims played tenor sax (and Cowboy Copas served as one of the backing vocalists).

King EP – 1954

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #6

Jabberwockian jazzmeister and hipster supreme Slim Gaillard (& His Boogiereeners) recorded a dozen sides for King/Queen in September, 1945 in Los Angeles, including Slim’s theme song “Vout Orenee” plus “Nightmare Boogie”; “Harlem Hunch”; and “Voot Boogie.”

Rare King EP

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #7

Dexter Gordon laid down some tenor sax for Wynonie Harris at a NYC recording session for King Records on December 16, 1947 that yielded “Your Money Don’t Mean a Thing” plus three unreleased tracks.

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #8

Pianist Wynton Kelly played on a pair of Cincinnati King recording sessions in 1949 for EddieCleanheadVinson, with EddieLockjawDavis, among others = eight songs in all including “Ashes On My Pillow” and “I’m Weak But Willing.”

1959 LP – expect to pay 3 figures at auction

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #9a

Jazz drumming legend Jo Jones recorded a couple sessions for King Records, including a Cincinnati session on August 16, 1949 for EddieLockjawDavis, as part of (pre-organ) Bill Doggett Trio =  two songs, “Mountain Oysters” (written by Henry Glover) and “Huckle Boogie” (ditto).

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #9b

Count Basie drummer Jo Jones would also back Mabel Scott on “Baseball Boogie,” a sly sports metaphor recorded for King in New York City on March 25, 1950.

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #10

Jazz pianist, arranger, and composer Mary Lou Williams recorded a pair of sessions for King, both in New York City, and both with drummer Denzil Best, guitarist Mundell Lowe, and bassist George Duvivier.  Trumpeter Idrees Sulieman accompanied Williams at her first session on March 18, 1949 which produced four songs:  “Tisherome“; “Knowledge“; “Oo-Bla-Dee” & “Shorty Boo.”  Williams’ second session on January 3, 1950 yielded four more tracks:  “Bye Bye Blues” and “Moonglow” (with Williams on organ); ‘Willow Weep for Me” & “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

“autographed” King EP – 1954

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #11

1951 King Jazz History Four-Way

  • Jazz pioneer and long-time NPR (“Piano Jazz“) host, Marian McPartland, would have exactly one encounter with King Records:  NYC session March 15, 1951,  resulting in 4 songs [“Flamingo“; “It’s Delovely“; “Liebestraum No. 3“; “Four Brothers“] that enjoyed release in the US, UK, and France.  In additional to two 78 releases, Federal issued the playfully-titled EP, Progressive Piano with Cello, Harp, Bass and Drums in 1954, while these same songs would be issued in the UK four years later under the title of the Cole Porter track, It’s Delovely.

                           1954 FEDERAL EP                            1951 FRENCH 78 – ART DECO LETTERING

marian-mcpartland-federal-king-ep-aamarian-mcpartland-swing-king-78-aa

  • Vocalist Lee Richardson recorded a session in Linden, New Jersey for DeLuxe on February 26, 1951 that featured drummer (and future bandleader) Art Blakey on four songs, including “Just Call My Name” & “As Time Goes By.”

  • Charles Mingus (bass) and Billy Taylor (piano) backed Melvin Moore (the “blues shouter“) on a NYC session for King recorded December 18, 1951 – four songs recorded, including rare 45 “Possessed” b/w “Hold Me Kiss Me Squeeze Me.”  Mingus would also record under his own name for Bethlehem prior to Syd Nathan’s purchase of the label in 1960.

Trivia = Someone paid $96 in 2017 for this King 45.

Someone paid $435 in 2013 for this 45

Review – March 8, 1952 edition of Cashbox

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #12

Al Sears – saxophonist, bandleader, and Duke Ellington alumnus – recorded a single NYC session for King with his orchestra on September 21, 1951 that netted eight songs packaged into two EPs and four 78s – including “Baltimore Bounce” and “Now Ride the D Train” (not to mention the curiously-titled “Marshall Plan“).

Caution:  Back cover of Sears’ second UK EP from 1958 indicates “controversy” over whether Johnny Hodges played alto sax (as Ruppli says) on these sessions. UK liner notes:

When these titles were originally released some years ago controversy existed over the identity of the alto soloist on ‘Steady Eddie’; some critics maintained that it was Hodges himself. In fact it is the similarly-styled Charlie Holmes, a boyhood friend of Hodges and an important mainstay of the Chick Webb, Luis Russell, and Louis Armstrong bands during the nineteen-thirties.”

This other UK EP, also from 1958, alternately characterizes the situation thusly —

It is this band, with alto saxist Charlie Holmes substituting for the contractually debarred Hodges, which may be heard on the enclosed record.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #13

Drummer Philly Joe Jones – three years before joining Miles Davis for a series of albums – would back (Bull) Moose Jackson on a NYC session for King on Feb. 6, 1952 = four songs including “Nosey Joe”; “Bearcat Blues” & “Sad.”

Imagine that = Leiber & Stoller wrote “Nosey Joe”!

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #14

Drummer (and future bandleader) Chico Hamilton played on a total of four recording sessions in Los Angeles for King/Federal: (1) Russell Jacquet & His Bopper Band [“Bongo Blues”] on Mar. 18, 1949; Marion Abernathy [Ee-Tid-Ee-Dee”] on Mar. 26, 1949; Red Callender Sextet [“Poinciana”] c. 1950; and The Platters on Sept. 28, 1954
[“Voo-Vee-Ah-Bee”].

UK EP – 1955

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #15

Count Basie vocalist JimmyMr. Five by FiveRushing recorded two sessions in NYC for King:  Oct. 5, 1951 (four songs, including “Hi-O-Sylvester”) and Sept. 25, 1952 (four songs, including “Where Were You”).  These recordings would be released in the UK on Ember & Parlophone, and in France on Vogue.

UK EP – 1958

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #16

Trumpeter and orchestra leader Erskine Hawkins recorded three sessions for King = (a) four songs in NYC on December 6, 1951, including  “Down Home Jump” plus Henry Glover’s “Lost Time,” as well as steel guitar classic “Steel Guitar Rag“; (b) four more in NYC on September 25, 1952, including “Fair Weather Friend” and “New Gin Mill Special“; and (c) one final Cincinnati session on September 17, 1953 that yielded four tracks, including “Function at the Junction” and “My Baby Please.”

French 78

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #17

EarlFathaHines (piano) and His Orchestra (with Bennie Green, trombone) recorded a 1953 King session in New York City for Sugar Ray Robinson = three songs including “Knock Him Down Whiskey.”  Two of these songs, by the way, would be included on a French EP that also featured a pair of tracks from none other than Mickey Rooney (“Alimony Blues“)!

Without any further adieu, 1958 French EP

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #18

Cecil Young and His Progressive Quartet (previously celebrated here) recorded two separate sessions plus three live performances for King between 1951-1953 (including one King Studios visit on December 7, 1953) — audio links to “Who Parked the Car“; “That Old Black Magic” & “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby.”

1956 King LP – reissued in 1959 on Audio Lab

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #19

Gerald Wilson Orchestra’s early 1954 Los Angeles sessions for Federal and King – including “Mambo Mexicana” – would be reissued five years later on an Audio Lab LP entitled Big Band Modern, a reminder of the mambo mania that had gripped the nation at the time this song was released.  Based on available discographical information, these 1954 recordings appear to be among the earliest in a career that would span well into the new century, as NPR’s 2011 piece “The Gerald Wilson Orchestra:  A Living Legacy” affirms.  Wilson, as it turns out, is one of many famous jazz musicians who “did time” in Earl Bostic’s band — in this case, one of four trumpeters who played on a December 4, 1958 Los Angeles recording session (six tracks, including “My Reverie” and “All the Things You Are“).

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #20

NobleThin ManWatts – hailed by Alligator Records as “one of the early rock superstars” and one of the “greatest exponents of that honking tenor style” – recorded a session at Cincinnati’s King Studios with Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra on Sept. 1, 1954, joined by Rufus Gore, also on tenor sax, and “Fas’ FootPhilip Paul on drums (profiled here in 2018), among others.  Four instrumentals recorded at this session, including “Stack of Dollars” & “Cat Fruit” (co-written by Watts).  The following month Noble Watts recorded two songs with his quintet (including organist Wild Bill Davis and guitarist Floyd Smith) in New York City for DeLuxe – “Pig Ears & Rice” b/w “Mashing Potatoes.”

Noble Watts & Philip Paul played on all 4 tracks = 1955 EP

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #21

Saxophonist Plas (‘Pink Panther Theme‘) Johnson played tenor sax on a session for Sugar Pie & Hank backed by the Preston Love Orchestra, with Ernie Freeman (piano) and Red Callender (bass) in Los Angeles on March 17, 1955 — four songs recorded, including “Please Be True“; “Boom Diddy Wawa Baby” & “A Man Going Crazy.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #22

Jazz pianist and composer Dick Hyman (who accompanied Charlie Parker on his only television appearance in 1952) played a single recording session for Bubber Johnson in New York City on December 22, 1955, along with Al Caiola on guitar and Ruth Berman on harp, among others — four songs recorded (none of them available yet on YouTube):  “Keep a Light in the Window for Me“; “I Lost Track of Everything“; “My One Desire” & “A Wonderful Thing Happens.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #23

Roland Kirk’s debut album Triple Threat — recorded November 9, 1956 in NYC — was released on King.  Discogs has this mini history:

“The debut album by jazz multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, originally released on King, re-released in US in 1976 on Bethlehem Records as Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Early Roots and in UK on Affinity.  The original album received limited distribution and only became widely known after the Bethlehem Records re-issue, a few years prior to Kirk’s death”

Check out opening track “Roland’s Theme

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #24

A number of notable jazz musicians did King recording sessions for Earl Bostic, including drummer Earl Palmer [“Anvil Chorus” & “Southern Fried”]; drummer Jimmy Cobb [“Flamingo” & “Sleep”]; pianists Luis Rivera [“Memories”], Jaki Byard [“Blip Boogie”] & Sir Charles Thompson [“Dark Eyes”]; organist RichardGrooveHolmes [“Telestar Drive”]; tenor saxophonists Stanley Turrentine [“What, No Pearls”] & Benny Golson [“Cherry Bean”]; alto saxophonist Benny Carter [“Dream”]; trumpeter RichardBlueMitchell [“Jungle Drums”]; guitarists Rene Hall [“La Cucaracha”], George Barnes [“Bugle Call Rag”] & Al Casey [“Serenade”]; bassist Johnny Pate [“Feeling Cool”], and, of course, the aforementioned Keter Betts [“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”] and John Coltrane [“Moonglow”] – subject of King jazz tweets #1 & 2, respectively.

King EP – 1956

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #25

Tenor saxophonist Benny Golson played on four recording sessions for bandleader and alto saxophonist Earl Bostic:

Benny Golson was also one of two tenor saxophonists on a Oct. 17, 1951 session at Cincinnati’s King Studios for Moose Jackson that netted “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “I Never Loved Anyone But You,” plus one unissued track, “”I’ve Had a Hard Way to Go.”

UK EP – 1957

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #26

Bassist Milt Hinton (“dean of jazz bassists”) played a handful of sessions for King on behalf of Little Willie John [“Home at Last” – 1955], Big John Greer [“Record Hop”- 1956], and Teddy Humphries [“What Makes You So Tough” – 1959].  Milt Hinton would also release one album for Bethlehem as a recording artist – 1955’s East Coast Jazz/5 – three years before Syd Nathan became co-owner of the label.

Penned by Henry Glover & Peaked at #16 in the R&B charts – March, 1959

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #27

I have a soft spot for EddieLockjawDavis‘s arrangement of Gershwin’s “Foggy Day” (recorded in Cincinnati on August 16, 1955) which also happens to be the lead-off track of a 4-song EP released in the UK in 1956.  Here in the US, however, “Foggy Day” appears to have been a B-side – and part of a 12-track album entitled Modern Jazz Expressions that also enjoyed release in France and Denmark.

UK EP – 1956

The Eddie Davis Trio and Doc Bagby’s 1955 recordings for King were done in Cincinnati, while 1956-1958 releases for King and Bethlehem were recorded in NYC.

classic 1950s modernist covers = 1957 LP + its 1959 reissue

King would also release Davis’s …Uptown LP in 1958 [with half these tracks providing an album side for 1959’s A Battle of Saxes LP with Charlie Ventura] — audio link to “The Happy Whistler.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #28

Organist Doc Bagby — who has recorded for Okeh and Epic, in addition to playing on Eddie Davis’s Modern Jazz Expressions album (et al.) — was also a King recording artist in his own right.  Two 1955 Cincinnati sessions with EddieLockjawDavis (tenor sax), Clifford Bush (guitar), and Charlie Rice (drums) would yield six songs (plus one unissued track, “Call Me Darling, Call Me Sweetheart, Call Me Dear”) that would comprise side one of King LP Battle of the Organs — Luis Rivera and Doc Bagby.  King would also issue two singles from these sessions, including “Grinding” b/w “Hayride” (co-written by Henry Glover), while Odeon France would issue an EP (below).

French EP

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #29

Fania All-Star percussionist Ray Barretto played on a King recording session for Bill Doggett in NYC on February 12, 1957 – three songs including “Chloe.”  Barretto would also play conga on two NYC King recording dates for EddieLockjawDavis (Jan./Feb. 1957) that yielded eight songs. including the King 45 “Sheila” b/w “Say What,” as well as the LP Jazz With a Beat.

I never tire of looking at this album cover

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #30

Guitarist Kenny Burrell – whose Blue Note debut LP would be released 1956 – did session work in 1957 for King and DeLuxe on behalf of Wynonie Harris [“Big Old Country Fool”], Little Willie John [“Dinner Date”] & Annie Laurie [“Hold On To What You Got”].  Burrell would also do King sessions in 1958 for Bubber Johnson [“Finger Tips”], Little Willie John [“Let’s Rock While the Rockin’s Good” – George Barnes also on guitar], Jimmy Scott [“Somehow”], HaroldShortyBaker [“’S Wonderful” – check out the intro], and James Brown and the Famous Flames [“Try Me”].

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #31

Drummer/singer/bandleader Roy Milton (and His Orchestra) recorded four tracks on October 17, 1956 at Cincinnati’s King Studios (one of them “Bam-a-Lam” unissued) = “You’re Gonna Suffer“; “Succotash“; and “One Zippy Zam.”  Milton’s next session for King would take place in Los Angeles February 27, 1957, with two songs recorded — “I’m Grateful” and “Skid Row” — while his final session would be captured at King Studios on July 2, 1957 = “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu“; “Brand New Thrill“; “R.M. Blues“; and “Jeep’s Blues.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #32

Jerome Richardson – who began his professional career in Lionel Hampton’s band at age 14 – played flute and tenor sax on a King recording session for vocalist Etta Jones on April 18, 1957 in New York City (with Bill Jennings on guitar) = four songs recorded: “When I Fall in Love“; “S’posin’”; “Mountain Greenery” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.”

Richardson’s flute work is featured on this track

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #33

Jazz/gospel singer Lorez Alexandria recorded an album-length tribute to Lester Young at an ‘intimate’ Chicago club on November 6 & 13, 1957 that was issued by both King and Federal in 1958 as Lorez Sings Pres = link to the opening song, “Fine and Dandy.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #34

The Johnny Pate Quintet (featuring Bennie Druss on flute) would infuse the blues with a jazz sound and sensibility on “Swinging Shepherd Blues” — recorded in Chicago on Nov. 29, 1957 for Federal — along with three other tracks [“The Elder“; “Easy Does It” & “Five O’Clock Whistle“] that enjoyed overseas distribution.

Released on Parlophone in Australia & New Zealand (plus UK)

Bill Doggett would also make great use of the flute in a jazz setting, with his arrangement of Tiny Bradshaw’s “Soft” (previously celebrated here).

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #35

Vocalist Jimmy Scott recorded four sessions for King, all in New York City = (a) two songs recorded on July 26, 1957 (Kenny Burrell, guitar) — “When Day Is Done” & “Home“; (b) two songs recorded on October 2, 1957 — “What Sin” & “Somewhere Down the Line“; (c) four songs recorded on April 3, 1958, including “Don’t Be Misled“; (d) four songs recorded on September 6, 1958 (Kenny Burrell, guitar), including “Somehow” and “Please.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #36

Jazz drummer and bandleader Cozy Cole [with his Septet – George Kelly (tenor sax), Gene Redd (vibes), John Thomas (piano), John Faire & Fred Jordan (guitar) and Edwyn Conley (bass)] would record for King thrice — (a) in Cincinnati on June 18 & 19, 1959 (12 songs, including “Cozy’s Mambo” and “Ha-Ha Cha Cha“); (b) in New York City on May 17, 1960 — “Red Ball” and “Cozy’s Corner” plus 2 unissued; (c) and a final Cincinnati session May 26, 1959 (7 songs, including “Blop Up”; “Blop Down”; “Pogo Hop” & “D’Mitri“).  In the wake of 1962’s Jazz Samba smash hit album, King would update “Cozy’s Mambo” by slapping on a new title – “Cozy and Bossa” – and issuing as a Bethlehem 45 in 1963.

French EP – 1959

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #37

Howard Roberts (guitar), Ernie Freeman (piano), and EdSharkeyHall (drums) played on a Los Angeles King recording session for JohnnyGuitarWatson on July 21, 1961, with four songs recorded = one original, “Cuttin’ In” + three standards (“Nearness of You“; “Posin’“; and George & Ira Gershwin’s “Embraceble You”).  Check out the modernist sleeve design below of the 1962 French EP that includes “Cuttin’ In.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #38

King session drummer emeritus Philip Paul threatens to steal the show in Milt Buckner’s blistering jazz organ instrumental version of “Fever” – recorded with Gene Redd on vibraphone and Bill Willis on bass at Cincinnati’s King Studios on March 5, 1963.  The New World of Milt Buckner (reissued in Japan in 2013) would also include five more tracks recorded at King Studios on November 26, 1962 [see related Zero to 180 piece]. Audio link to “Why Don’t You Do Right.”

Bethlehem LP – 1963

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #39

Hank Marr’s classic jazz organ instrumental “Greasy Spoon” – recorded at King’s Cincinnati studios on June 26, 1963 – was later used as the title track for a 1969 compilation LP issued on the King label with the groovy cover below.

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #40

Bill Doggett’s “mod jazz” take on “Twenty Five Miles” — Edwin Starr’s rewrite, essentially, of Wilson Pickett’s “Mojo Mamma” (penned by Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler) — was, according to Ruppli, recorded at a special 1969 session in Detroit (Motown, one can only presume) with the organist backed by a “studio band” and the producer role served by none other than Berry Gordy!

“25 Miles” = 2nd track on this 1969 King LP co-produced by James Brown

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #41

James Brown organized a special Los Angeles recording session on November 10, 1969 in which Oliver Nelson did the arrangements, while Brown enjoyed backing from the Louis Bellson Orchestra, featuring legendary bassist Ray Brown, as well as Ernie Watts, Buddy Collette, Chuck Finley, Jimmy Cleveland, Maceo Parker, and Cincinnati’s own, Frank Vincent, among others — 12 songs recorded, but only 11 included on 1970s Soul on Top LP (“There Was a Time” from this session unissued) — check out kick-off track “That’s My Desire.”

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #42:
Cincinnati Jazz

Cincinnati‘s own local jazz talent has appeared on King and its subsidiary labels:

  • Frank Vincent: played piano as part of The Dee Felice Trio on several sessions at Cincinnati’s King Studio in late 1968 and early 1969 for James Brown‘s Gettin’ Down To It album — audio links to “Willow Weep for Me“; “Time After Time“; “It Had to Be You” & “Cold Sweat.”  A few other tracks recorded for this album remain in the vaults:  “The Shadow of Your Smile”; “Unwind” & “The Weight” [!]

Vincent also played piano on “I’m Not Demanding (Pt. 1 & 2)” & “The Man in the Glass (Pt. 1)” for Brown’s 1970 LP It’s a New Day – Let a Man Come In, as well as the aforementioned Soul on Top sessions with the Louis Bellson Orchestra.

  • The Dee Felice Trio [Frank Vincent (piano), Lee Tucker (bass) & Dee Felice (drums)] were King recording artists whose work would be issued on Bethlehem — if you have never before seen the cover of their 1969 debut album, In Heat, prepare to be dazzled:

Audio links to “Uncle“; “There Was a Time“; & “Wichita Lineman.”  Worth noting the number of songs the trio has recorded in Cincinnati that remain unissued in the vaults: 10 songs recorded ca. September, 1968 (including “Light My Fire”; “Crickets Sing for Anna Maria” and “Summer in the City”), plus 5 songs recorded on December 21, 1968 (including “Day In, Day Out”; “Gone with the Wind” & “You Came a Long Way from St. Louis”).  Dee Felice, as a solo artist (with unknown musicians, though likely affiliated with James Brown) recorded a total of 9 songs on three successive days (December 10-12, 1969) that all remain unissued, including “Double Funky”; “Cold Sweat”; “Get Ready”; “Ode to Billie Joe” & “A Different Shade of Colors.”

“Oh Happy Day” on the flip side

  • James Brown arranged a recording session at King’s Cincinnati studios on February 17, 1969 that featured a number of notable Cincinnati musicians, including Kenny Poole (guitar), Jimmy McGary (tenor sax), Carmen DeLeone, Jr. (vibes), David Matthews (trombone), WilliamBeau DollarBowman (drums), Frank Vincent (piano), Lee Tucker (bass) & Dee Felice (percussion) – five songs recorded but only two released, including Brown’s arrangement of Burt Bacharach & Bob Hilliard’s“Any Day Now” (included on 1969’s It’s a Mother LP).

Belgium 45 – 1973

Jimmy McGary plays flute on 1971 German A-side arranged by David Matthews

Kenny Poole & Bootsy on a JB B-side written by David Matthews

Asch & Setser on a 1968 South African B-side

King Records Jazz Legacy Tweet #43:
Tribute to Bethlehem Records

In 1958, Syd Nathan became part owner of jazz label, Bethlehem Records, as has been noted.  When one examines Ruppli’s 2-volume recording sessionography, it becomes clear that by 1958, Bethlehem’s most vital days had already passed, as by the early 1960s, Nathan would significantly pull back on recording new jazz material in favor of issuing the label’s back catalog.  Nevertheless, this 1958-1961 period would see some notable recording sessions for Bethlehem take place primarily in New York City —

Bethlehem would also release On Campus — Ivy League Jazz Concert, recorded live at Yale University in 1960, with Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Sam Most (flute), Dave McKenna (piano), Jimmy Raney (guitar), Bill Crow (double bass) & Ed Shaughnessy (drums).  Audio links to “Whippenpoof Song“; “Yale Bird“; “Riffitude” & “Nigerian Walk.”

  • Tony Ortega‘s album (with the unforgettable cover), Jazz for Young Moderns, featuring Art Farmer (trumpet, 6-10); Ray Starling (trumpet & mellophone 1-5); Jimmy Cleveland (trombone); Jim Buffington (French horn); Ray Tricarico (bassoon); Ortega (alto & tenor sax, clarinet & flute); John Hafer (tenor sax & bass clarinet); Jay Cameron (baritone sax); Dick Wetmore (violin); Bobby Timmons (piano); Ahmed Abdul-Malik, bass) & Ed Thigpen (drums) — recorded in late 1958/early 1959.  Audio links to “Bat Man Blues“; “Cinderella’s Curfew“; “Four to Four” & “No Fi.”

  • Frank Minion‘s (Teddy Charles-produced) LP, The Soft Land of Make Believe, recorded in 1959, with backing from Bill EvansJimmy JonesTommy Flanagan (piano). Roland Alexander (tenor sax), Kenny Burrell (guitar), George TuckerJoe BenjaminPaul Chambers (bass) & Dannie RichmondEd ThigpenJimmy Cobb (drums).  Audio links to “Introduction to Black Opium Street” & (vocal version of) “So What.”

The year before, Bethlehem had released Minion’s debut album, futuristically titled The Forward Sound of Frank Minion – Sound Stylings of 1970 [!] — audio link to “Watermelon.”

  • Mal Waldron Trio‘s 1960 Left Alone album dedicated to Billie Holiday, with Julian Euell (bass), and Al Dreares (drums), features Jackie McLean (alto sax)  — produced by Teddy Charles.  Audio links to “Left Alone“; “Catwalk” & “Minor Pulsation.”

  • Vocalist Betty Blake recorded 1961’s Sings in a Tender Mood with instrumental backing from Mal Waldron (piano), Teddy Charles (vibraphone), Zoot SimsRoland Alexander (tenor sax), Marcus Belgrave (trumpet), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Addision FarmerEustis Guilemet (bass) & Ed ShaughnessyCharles Persip (drums).  Audio links to “Moon and Sand“; “Blue Fool“; “Trouble Is a Man” & “Let There Be Love.”

Ruppli also notes a September 20, 1961 recording session in Los Angeles for Brown, whose backing band included Johnny ‘GuitarWatson.

  • Charles Persip & the Jazz Statesmen‘s self-titled (Teddy Charles-produced) LP recorded on April 2, 1960, with Freddie HubbardMarcus Belgrave (trumpet), Roland Alexander (tenor sax), Ronald Matthews (piano), Ron Carter (bass) & Persip (drums).  Audio links to “Sevens“; “Soul March“; “The Song Is You” & “Right Down Front.”

  • Howard McGhee‘s LP, Dusty Blue (released 1960 in the UK, 1961 in the US), featuring Bennie Green (trombone), Roland Alexander (tenor sax & flute), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Ron Carter (bass) & Walter Bolden (drums).  Audio links to “Dusty Blue“; “Sleep Talk“; “Cottage for Sale” & “I Concentrate on You.”

  • Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams‘ 1961 LP, Motor City Scene, featuring Tommy Flanagan (piano), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Paul Chambers (bass), and “Hey” Lewis (drums).  Audio links to “Stardust“; “Philson” & “Trio.”

  • Bennie Green‘s 1961 LP, Hornful of Sound, with Jimmy Forrest (tenor sax), Lem Davis (alto sax), Mal Waldron (piano), Skip Hall (organ), Tommy Lopez (congas), Wyatt Ruther (bass), and Art Taylor (drums).  Audio links to “Summertime“; “Groove One” & “Dee Dee.”

  • Booker Ervin‘s (Teddy Charles-produced) The Book Cooks LP, featuring Ervin and Zoot Sims (tenor saxes), Tommy Turrentine (trumpet), Tommy Flanagan (piano), George Tucker (bass) & Dannie Richmond (drums).  Audio links to “The Book Cooks“; “The Blue Book“; “Git It” & “Largo” — released 1961.

  • Azie Mortimer would record a string of singles for various labels, including Epic and RCA, in the run up to her debut album, Feeling of Jazz, on Bethlehem – recorded in 1969 but not released until 1971 (though reissued in 2014 in Japan).  Mortimer would enjoy a backing band that included Jimmy Cleveland & Quentin Jackson (trombones), Jerome Richardson (tenor sax), Phil Woods (alto sax & clarinet), Les Spann (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Willie Rodriguez (percussion) & Charlie Persip (drums) among others, with Mercer Ellington as arranger and conductor.

  • … and the aforementioned Australian Jazz Quintet in a piece from last year’s King Records Month celebration, “Jazz Misrepresented As Surf?

Huge debt of gratitude to Jazz Discography Project for Bethlehem Records info!

King Records Jazz TriviaFor Your Eyes Only

Stan GetzZoot Sims, Al Cohn, and Gerry Mulligan were among the musicians in Gene Roland’s Boppers (accompanied by the Chubby Jackson rhythm section) who recorded a “rehearsal” in New York City on May 17, 1949 — “Sid’s Swing Symphony”; “Oh Them Saxophones”; “Blues” & “Sid’s Swing Symphony” — 67 minutes of music recorded for DeLuxe by the bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and long-time Stan Kenton collaborator that remain unissued in King’s vault.

King Records Jazz Legacy = Rare Vinyl Alert

One of the earliest recordings by trombonist Al Grey (previously celebrated in a musical tribute to grits) took place at the Cincinnati studios on October 1, 1954 — “Speak To Me (In My Dreams Tonight)” b/w “Goofa Nut” (B-side instrumental) — these two songs comprising a 78 that is VERY hard to find.  Writing credits reveal Henry Glover to have had a hand in both compositions.

King Records Jazz Legacy = Genius Sighting

THIS JUST IN!  Ray Charles, incredibly, has a bona fide King connection, thanks to a single 78 release at a very early point in his recording career on Rockin’, a King subsidiary — “Walkin’ and Talkin’ to Myself” b/w “I’m Wonderin’ and Wonderin’.”  Note that at least one of the sides was published by Lois, Syd Nathan’s publishing firm.  The fact that this 78 is not listed in either Discogs or 45Cat tells you how rare it is — and yet, someone acquired a copy in 2009 for just $31 (while someone else picked up an acetate 45 for, ironically, $78).  Both tracks were recorded in Miami in 1952, as well as two unissued tracks “Jumpin’ the Blues” and “Blue Rhumba.”  Ruppli adds that both 78 recordings were “also issued on Crown LP5303, Strand LP1086, Crown LP5418, Musicdisc CV964 [France], Visadisc VI245 [France & Israel] & Guest Star LP1901.”

King Records Jazz Legacy = King Kontroversy

Ruppli’s King recording notes says that the Paris backing band used by Babs Gonzales on 1953 King single “Still Wailin’” b/w “Shuckin’ and Jivin’” included Dizzy Gillespie  “possibly.”  Judge for yourself:  Is that Dizzy on trumpet?  Wynton Marsalis might settle this question.

*Tip of the hat to Brian Powers, who organized a jazz-related lecture at Cincinnati Public Library’s Main Branch on Sept. 24, 2016 in support of King Records Month:

Formula X-9:  King Records and Jazz

Although more known for R&B and Country music, King Records did make a mark in the field of Jazz. The label recorded many jazz artists, while King’s production staff preferred to use jazz musicians to play on King’s R&B releases. In the 1950s, Syd Nathan purchased Gus Wildi’s jazz label, Bethlehem. Jazz had a great influence on James Brown’s music recorded at King. Music historian Uncle Dave Lewis will give a talk that will cover the salient points of this melting pot of influences and how King managed to have an impact in the history of jazz without producing any top 100 jazz albums.

Lord Thunder: Final Deluxe 45?

Browsing DeLuxe releases in chronological order in Discog’s database, Lord Thunder‘s “Thunder” from 1975 appears to be the last gasp of Starday-King:

“Thunder”     Lord Thunder     1975

But wait:  1975 sounds much too late in the post-Syd Nathan saga for a new production to come out of the Starday-King studios, especially with IMG/Gusto now running the show.  I’m suspicious.

For one thing, the catalog number 106 would indicate the recording to be closer to 1969, tied to the first string of releases from the resuscitated DeLuxe imprint — at that point owned by Lin Broadcasting.  An examination of the catalog record for this 1975 Gusto 45 release on Discogs finds this revealing note:

“This is the legal second issue from 1975 – reissued for the UK Northern Soul market.  The original does not have the ‘1975 etc’ text around the outside and the release is originally from the late 60’s/early 70’s.

This late 60s “northern soul” instrumental was written by Leroy Tukes and Grady Spires, who would also put together “I Got It Made (In the Shade)” for James Duncan, released March, 1970 on Federal (and featuring Eddie Hinton on swamp guitar)..

Both songs were included on 2007 CD compilation Crash of Thunder:  Boss Soul, Funk and R&B Sides From the Vaults of the King, Federal and DeLuxe Labels — a special collection of rare tracks curated by Matt “Mr. Fine Wine” Weingarden and released on Spanish label, Vampi Soul.

So uh, no, this was not the “final” DeLuxe 45, in terms of latest original recording intended for release.

From browsing Discogs’ listing of DeLuxe releases in chronological order and then examing the catalog numbers in (relative) sequential order, I see that the highest number “152” coincides with 1973 single release from The Manhattans – “Do You Ever” b/w “If My Heart Could Speak” (with the A-side written by Agape recording artist, Myrna March, who also co-produced).  Could this possibly be one of the final recordings to come out under the DeLuxe label?  To answer this question, it sure would help to know the recording dates of the other DeLuxe 45 releases from 1973:

= “Mama’s Baby” b/w “You Are Gone” by Royal Flush
= “Camelot Time” b/w “Victory Strut” by J. Hines & the Fellows*
= “Leave My Kitten Alone” b/w “All the Time” by Reuben Bell
= “Rainbow Week” b/w “Loneliness” by The Manhattans

Ruppli provides no information whatsoever about these recordings and, in fact, does not even list Royal Flush, Reuben Bell, or J. Hines & the Fellows in the index.  Not even known whether any of these 45 releases had been recorded in the year 1973.  More research is needed to determine the final recording to come out on DeLuxe.

Click on song titles above to hear streaming audio of A & B sides

With regard to Zero to 180’s recent musings about which Bethlehem release was the last original recording intended for that King subsidiary label, this online discography has considerably more detailed information than Ruppli’s sessionography with regard to Bethlehem’s last few years of existence, thus forcing me to recalculate the situation

New Observations about Bethlehem‘s Final Releases!
Tip of the hat to the Bethlehem Records Discography Project

  • The James Brown recording session from May 20, 1970 (David Matthews’ “The Drunk” recorded in two parts, with only Part Two issued) that ended up as the B-side of a Bethlehem (not King) 45 “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” b/w “The Drunk”  appears to be the last original recording released on Bethlehem — a session that took place at King Studios in Cincinnati (as did the session for the single’s A-side on March 2, 1970, on which David Matthews served as Director).  Interesting to note that A-side “charted on 18 July, 1970 on Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart peaking at #110″ (Discogs).
  • The next-to-last entry for 1970 says that Arthur Prysock laid down 12 tracks with “unidentified orchestra” and Bill McElhiney serving as arranger/director at Nashville’s Starday-King recording facility on April 8, 1970 for Prysock’s Unforgettable album (released on King).  The two singles from this LP, curiously, would be issued on separate labels — “Cry” b/w “Unforgettable” on King, while “Funny World” b/w “The Girl I Never Kissed”  ended up on Bethlehem.
  • This discography of Bethlehem recordings/releases from 1958 to the present ends in the year 1970 — and yet omits any references to The Saloonatics from 1969. What up?  1969 would also see recording sessions in Cincinnati for Wayne Cochran and His C.C. Riders (previously paid tribute here), as well as The Dee Felice Trio (with Frank Vincent) for LP and 45 releases on Bethlehem.

As it bids adieu to the King Records’ 75th Anniversary Celebration, Zero to 180 would like to pose these four questions:

  1. What is the last original recording for Starday-King that took place at Cincinnati’s King Studios?
  2. What is the final recording — regardless of whether the artist was under contract to Starday-King — that took place at the (former) King Studios in Cincinnati?
  3. What is the last original recording at the Nashville Starday Studios intended for release on Starday-King or one of its subsidiaries?
  4. What is the last original release from Starday-King before the label’s sale to IMG/Gusto?

A Starday/King/DeLuxe Musical Prank*

Whoa!  Is it possible that 1973 instrumental “Victory Strut” by J. Hines & the Fellows (on Starday-King subsidiary, DeLuxe) features what must be some of the earliest turntable scratching on record?!   But alas, the comment below – in reply to the person who posted this audio clip – reveals musical tomfoolery perpetrated at the hands of DJ Ol’SkOul!

“So as much as I love the record scratches on this, I actually bought this 45 thinking they were a part of the song. Sooo yeah, you might want to tell people this is your remix of it.  Either way thanks for posting. Great tune.”

Hear for yourself =  special ‘REMIX’ of “Victory Strut”

DJ Ol’SkOul likewise provides turntable embellishments for A-side “Camelot Time

History Messing with My Mind Dept.

Recently, in the course of scanning the index in Ruppli’s King Labels sessionography, I was struck by a fairly unusual name: “SACASAS”.  Anselmo Sacasas, it turns out, was a Cuban bandleader who recorded exactly one session for King Records in Miami on April 8, 1955 – four songs recorded, including one tune entitled (hold onto your hats) “Trumpcrazy”!

Billboard‘s reviewer would score this trumpet-heavy “Latino instrumental” a 72 (in the “good” range) in its July 23, 1955 edition.  This extremely obscure 45 was nearly lost to history until an audio clip was posted on YouTube in July of 2016.

“Trumpcrazy”     Sacasas & His Orchestra     1955

For King Records History Fanatics Only:

49-Page Compilation of “Maxi-Tweets” from King Records Month 2018 (pdf file)

1969: Bethlehem’s Last Session?

As noted in Zero to 180’s recent history of Bethlehem Records in the “Post-Syd Nathan” era (i.e., starting in 1958, when Nathan acquired 50% of the label), Ruppli’s King recording sessionography indicates that some new recording had taken place at King’s Cincinnati studios in a few instances connected to the Bethlehem label, most seeming to take place 1962/63: The Mighty Faith Increasers; The Wilson Sisters; Jean Dee; Beverly Buff; The Guitar Crusher & The Vice-Roys.

Both Sides Now Publications documents the final years of Bethlehem in Part 4 of its informative Bethlehem Records Story:

By 1969, King had long since abandoned Bethlehem and its jazz catalog.  The last of those albums was released in 1965.  Syd Nathan himself had died in 1968, and the label was sold to Starday Records, now operating as Starday/King.  After four years of owning the imprint but releasing no product, Starday/King decided it would revive Bethlehem for a mixture of albums that didn’t seem to fit with their regular country (Starday) or soul (King) series.  So Bethlehem became the home of (1) a jazzy soul band (Dee Felice Trio) that was one of James Brown’s projects, (2) a saloon sing-along/ragtime/novelty band (The Saloonatics), (3) Wayne Cochran, a well-known rockabilly artist, (4) the Oscar Brandenburg Orchestra, a big band swing “orchestra” that was really Neil Richardson, Alan Moorehouse, and Johnny Pearson recording music to be used behind BBC test patterns for TV, (5) Azie Mortimer, a female jazz singer, and (6) to cap off the label, a reissue of a 1955 Dick Stabile studio album recorded in New York and advertised as recorded at a swanky New Orleans hotel.  Not the first time King pulled this trick, however.  The album had previously been issued on King 623 as Dancing on Sunset Strip.

The last Bethlehem-related session in Ruppli’s sessionography — The Saloonatics, who recorded their one and only album on April 29, 1969, Crazy World Crazy Tunes, which features country blues weeper, “I Get the Blues When It Rains” as the A-side of a 1969 single:

“I Get the Blues When It Rains”     The Saloonatics      1969

Note the 1929 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton on the LP cover…

… while the rear cover features liner notes from none other than Mr. Dick Clark

Dick Clark’s liner notes:

The Saloonatics are a group of musicians and singers who entertain each night, and as a result of this daily contact with the people, they seem to know what the people like.  It is just that element, what the people like – that is reproduced here.

The story behind the Saloonatics and this album goes much further.  This recording is the accomplishment of an ambition for two men who have been in all phases of the music industry for many years.

Paul Striks plays piano and sings, Ralph Guenther plays bass and banjo and also sings.  They are the nucleus of the group presented here.  Saul was with a group called Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads from 1947 to 1960 and was on all the hit records produced by that group during those years.  Ralph was a recording musician for King Records in Cincinnati for many years, and participated in the recording of many hits.

Saul and Ralph knew each other but never worked together.  After a severe injury to Saul, which forced him to stop traveling, friends brought Saul and Ralph together again and insisted that they should work together.  The group, which began as an experiment, soon became an outstanding attraction in Cincinnati. 

The next step was recording:  the reasoning behind this was that Saul and Ralph had been on hit records before, but had never received credit for what they did on the records. They were anonymous.

Here are two experienced professionals finally getting the recognition they deserve.  The musicianship obvious in the piano and banjo playing is enhanced by the unique singing of both men.  Saul plays the piano and Ralph plays the banjo.  Saul sings “Me and My Shadow,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby” and “Red Silk Stockings.”  Ralph sings “Vo Da Dee O Do,” “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” “Just Because,” “Lock My Heart,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” “Columbus Stockade Blues,” and the original song with the improbable title, “If My Baby Cooks as Good as She Looks, I’ll Be Happy All the Time.”

To this comination of musicians, another element was added – O.B. Marshall, a great arranger with many hits to his credits, was brought in to be the musical framework in which the talents of Saul Striks and Ralph Guenther would best be shown.  O.B. added a band of all-star recording musicians, and conducted the sessions as well as writing the arrangements.

That’s the crew:  Saul Striks, Ralph Guenther, and O.B. Marshall.  The result is this album.  We hope you enjoy it.  We did.

Bill Sachs, Cincinnati reporter in Billboard‘s ‘From the Music Capitals of the World’ column the week of June 10, 1972, notes that “The Saloonatics, namely Saul Striks, piano, and Ralph Guenther, banjo and bass, set for up an indefinite stay in the Terrace Hilton Hotel.  Striks was for many years with Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads.”

We know that Wayne Cochran and others had album releases on Bethlehem that followed The Saloonatics, so the big question that runs through this piece: Were the Saloonatics the last Bethlehem act to record at King’s Cincinnati studio — versus the Nashville studio used by the new consolidated Starday-King label (e.g., the JB’s featuring Bootsy & Catfish Collins and other CIncinnati musicians)?  And who exactly was the last artist to record at the King Studios – do we know?

Update!  Update!  Update!

Zero to 180 concluded its special King Records 75th Anniversary coverage with a piece posted on November 1, 2018 – Lord Thunder:  Final Deluxe 45? – that included this special postscript:

New Observations about Bethlehem‘s Final Releases!
Tip of the hat to the Bethlehem Records Discography Project

  • The James Brown recording session from May 20, 1970 (David Matthews’ “The Drunk” recorded in two parts, with only Part Two issued) that ended up as the B-side of a Bethlehem (not King) 45 “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” b/w “The Drunk”  appears to be the last original recording released on Bethlehem — a session that took place at King Studios in Cincinnati (as did the session for the single’s A-side on March 2, 1970, on which David Matthews served as Director).  Interesting to note that A-side “charted on 18 July, 1970 on Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart peaking at #110″ (Discogs).
  • The next-to-last entry for 1970 says that Arthur Prysock laid down 12 tracks with “unidentified orchestra” and Bill McElhiney serving as arranger/director at Nashville’s Starday-King recording facility on April 8, 1970 for Prysock’s Unforgettable album (released on King).  The two singles from this LP, curiously, would be issued on separate labels — “Cry” b/w “Unforgettable” on King, while “Funny World” b/w “The Girl I Never Kissed”  ended up on Bethlehem.
  • This discography of Bethlehem recordings/releases from 1958 to the present ends in the year 1970 — and yet omits any references to The Saloonatics from 1969. What up?  1969 would also see recording sessions in Cincinnati for Wayne Cochran and His C.C. Riders (previously paid tribute here), as well as The Dee Felice Trio (with Frank Vincent) for LP and 45 releases on Bethlehem.

Jazz Misrepresented As Surf?

The Australian All-Stars‘s 1959 album – Jazz for Beach-Niks – was originally released on Columbia Australia and picked up for US release four years later by King subsidiary label, Bethlehem (and reissued 2013 in Japan), subject of the previous history piece.  One can only presume Syd Nathan was trying to capitalize on the burgeoning surf sound via the misleading cover photo (strictly jazz – not a trace of surf).

Volume 1 = US release on Bethlehem in 1963

Billboard would deem Jazz for Beach-Niks “three stars” (indicating moderate sales potential) in the jazz section of the album reviews for its May 11, 1963 edition.

volume 2 = US release on Bethlehem in 1960

+Australian All-Stars = Beach-Nik Jazz LP

Vexingly, Bethlehem had already issued the Australian All-Stars sophomore album in 1960, three years prior to the US release of their first album.  Are you confused?

“Decidedly”     The Australian All-Stars     1960

Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording sessions discography, sadly, is bereft of any information (“details not known”) about this release by The Australian All-Stars.  Fortunately, Discogs has the musician credits, with the following players listed on both albums:

Freddy Logan:   Bass
Ron Webber:      Drums
Terry Wilkinson: Piano
Don Burrows:     Saxes, Flutes & Clarinet
Dave Rutledge:   Tenor Sax & Flute

Bethlehem Records: Post-Syd

Syd Nathan would end up acquiring jazz label, Bethlehem Records, in a series of strategic moves over the course of years — so when exactly can Syd Nathan take credit for shaping the music released on that label?  Unfortunately, that’s a question that each person has to answer for him/herself.  I can, however, put forth some relevant information.

Gus Wildi, a Swiss immigrant, founded Bethlehem in 1954, as Billboard reports in its February 27, 1954 edition.  By 1958, however, Wildi – in a desperate bid to stay liquid – would give Syd Nathan half ownership of the label for distribution.  As Cash Box reports in its August 2, 1958 edition:

King Takes Over Bethlehem Distribution

CINCINNATI — Sydney Nathan, President of King Records, and Gus Wilde [sic], President of Bethlehem Records, jointly announced last week the conclusion of an agreement whereby King will take over the exclusive world-wide distribution of all the Bethlehem product. The agreement is effective immediately, but the distribution does not take place until the near future.

In discussing the take over of Bethlehem by King, Nathan pointed out that this is only the first of several deals now in negotiation whereby King is getting a new look and expanding its product line by agreements with other labels.

Wilde [sic] will continue as President of Bethlehem and will supervise the operation from his New York headquarters. A big program of regular monthly new releases is scheduled, starting in August with new albums by Mel Torme, and The Australian Jazz Quartet. In addition Wilde has concluded contracts for a new heavy recording schedule which kicks off.

This deal, on its surface, would seem to connote a 50/50 partnership, but as Both Sides Now Publications points out in their Bethlehem Records history piece, Syd Nathan immediately took charge, once this new relationship was established:

From the time King Records essentially took over, Bethlehem slowly wound down. Nathan incessantly mined the back catalog for various artists compilations, and fewer and fewer new recordings were done…

Bethlehem continued to fade, and in 1962, Gus Wildi sold the remaining 50% of the company to Syd Nathan. By 1965, Nathan had just let the label fade away.

Around this period of time, Otis Redding, interestingly enough, would enter the picture when his debut single – “Fat Girl” b/w “Shout Bamalama” – needed a little extra help launching off the ground.  The debut 45 by Otis Redding and the Pinetoppers was originally released in 1962 on the Confederate label.  The single would find a new home that same year on tiny Orbit before enjoying wider distribution on Bethlehem two years later in 1964.

45Cat contributors Dead Wax and Ort. Carlton (among others) have the back story:

[Dead Wax] According to Peter Guralnik (Sweet Soul Music) the record was first issued on Confederate. The record enjoyed some local success, but not before Bobby (Confederate owner) was forced to change the name of the label to get airplay on r&b stations.  Also later re-issued on Conco, a Confederate related label, possibly co-owned by Wayne Cochran.

[Ort. Carlton] When several influential disc jockeys, including Big Saul at WOIC in Columbia, S. C. and John “R.” Richbourg at WLAC in Nashville heard the disc, they knew it was a hit, but both suggested a label name change. Apparently Bobby [Smith] and (to a lesser degree) Phil Walden put Orbit in business for this purpose only.

Bobby Smith Studios, according to Discogs, is a Macon, Georgia recording and production facility that was founded when Syd Nathan “commissioned the engineer and producer Bobby Smith to build a studio in the adopted hometown of the James Brown, the star of the King labels.”   45Cat contributor “mickey rat” – with the discerning eye – speculates aloud about Bobby Smith and his business relationship with Syd Nathan:

For years I’ve wondered who was involved in Boblo Music. I’ve always had it listed with that clutch of half a dozen imprints that Syd Nathan of King Records shared with his favourite producers (e.g. Men-Lo = Fred Mendelsohn & Syd Nathan and Son-Lo = Sonny Thompson & Syd Nathan, where the “Lo” bit was short for Nathan’s flagship publishing imprint Lois Music). Anyway after reading the current comments on the initial releases of this Otis Redding record on Confederate and Orbit it’s dawned on me that the “Bob” bit is probably Bobby Smith in Macon, GA. Looking quickly at other Boblo discs on King by James Duncan, Bobby Leeds, Billy Soul and Fabulous Denos, they all have a “BS” prefix on matrix numbers. Can anyone confirm this is indeed Bobby Smith? Interesting too that Boblo’s big hit was Wayne Cochran’s composition “Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson. Nathan missed the actual record but would have done very well from the publishing royalties. Boblo seems to have evolved later into Macon Music, also a King related imprint I think.

Dead Wax staunchly refutes others’ assertions about the date of the Otis Redding recording session (Ruppli’s sessionography, for instance, says September, 1960) while also revealing the back story behind future Bethlehem recording artists, The Rockin’ Capris:

Recorded in March 1962 in Athens, GA, in the studios of WGTV, the public television station affiliated with the University of Georgia. Otis was backed by members of Wayne Cochran’s group, the Rockin’ Capris.

“Shout Bamalama”     Otis Redding & the Pinetoppers     1962

Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography indicates that some new recording did take place at King’s Cincinnati studios in a few instances related to the Bethlehem label, most seeming to take place 1962-63 (The Mighty Faith Increasers; The Wilson Sisters; Jean Dee; Beverly Buff; The Guitar Crusher; & The Vice-Roys), with a few faint stirrings up until 1969.

What’s In a Name?
From the Pen of Syd Nathan

Chief among Syd Nathan’s contributions to Freddy King’s musical legacy, notes Jon Hartley Fox in King of the Queen City, were the nonsensical titles he gave to the legendary blues musician’s original tunes:

As Freddie remembered, “‘Hide Away’ and ‘Just Pickin’,’ I think those are the only two I named.  I made ’em all, you know, wrote all the tunes, but the studio put the names to ’em.  Some of them, I don’t even know … They said ‘Swooshy,’ you know.  I’d listen to it and not even know what he’s talkin’ about.  They got some heck of a names in there.”

There seems to be a common thread running through “The Bossa Nova Watusi Twist,” “San-Ho-Zay” and some of the nuttier album titles coming out on the Bethlehem label post-Syd Nathan, as Jon Hartley Fox observes:

During King’s involvement with Bethlehem, King tried to broaden the audience for Bethlehem’s artists by releasing a series of multiple-artist compilation LPs with such cornball titles as Nothing Cheesy About This Jazz; We Cut This Album for Bread; Jazz Music for People Who Don’t Care About Money; A Lot of Yarn But A Well Knitted Jazz Album, and No Sour Grapes, Just Pure Jazz.

“Chopper ’70”: Horn-Heavy Funk

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

50-DOLLAR 45

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

“Chopper 70”     Wayne Cochran     1970

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

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

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

Wayne Cochran LP-gatefold

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

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

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

CLASSIC COVER:  High Point for ‘biker funk’ Culture

Wayne Cochran LP-1aaWayne Cochran LP-1bb

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

Choppers for the teenyboppers:  vintage 1970 Raleigh ad

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

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

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

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

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

King Records Turns 75!  Cataloging the Classics

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

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

Zero to 180 - 45

Lue Renney’s Novelty 45 on King

Lue Renney‘s quirky and endearing “Your Wiggle And Your Giggle” would be recorded at King’s Cincinnati studios on January 27, 1964:

“Your Wiggle And Your Giggle”     Lue Renney     1964

45Cat informs us this song would be issued May, 1964 on King’s Bethlehem subsidiary label.  A half century later, this “teen-rock” 45 sells for a respectable amount at auction.  “Your Wiggle and Your Giggle” merited inclusion on French bootleg LP Inferno Party, as well as Dutch bootleg compilation More Real Gone Girls.

As with Lord BooBoo, Little Mummy, and Carolyn Blakey, this one release would comprise the full extent of Lue Renney’s entire recorded output (although copyright records show that that artist would register her song “Time to Love” later that same year under the name Lue Rennebaum).

Lue Renney Bethlehem 45-a

It’s been over a year since Zero to 180 has posted a piece tagged as humor & satire

Guitar Crusher: Baby Hit the #’s

Guitar Crusher, I’m happy to report, is still very vital and, judging from his Facebook posts, appears to be based in Germany, where he performs much of the time.

I first learned of Guitar Crusher by browsing the index of Ruppli’s King Labels discography, where I was immediately taken with his name.  King Records’ Syd Nathan would initially lease a set of four Guitar Crusher recordings (“with orchestra”) from another label and release them as two 45s on the Bethlehem imprint in late 1962, early 1963.

Guitar Crusher - Bethlehem aGuitar Crusher - Bethlehem b

But then, Ruppli’s discography states that Guitar Crusher – intriguingly – made four recordings at King’s Cincinnati studios on April 6, 1963 that were then released as two King singles.

Guitar Crusher - King aGuitar Crusher - King b

Guitar Crusher’s next release would be on almighty Columbia in 1967 with – get this – Sire Records co-founders, Richard Gottehrer and Seymour Stein, jointly producing the 45 (and writing the flip side).

1969 would see the release of “Since My Baby Hit the Numbers” – but only in Europe.  The A-side would be a collaboration with the Jimmy Spruill Orchestra — love the jaunty horns that echo through the fadeout of this brief blast of rocking blues:

“Since My Baby Hit the Numbers” + “Hambone Blues”     Guitar Crusher     1969

Guitar Crusher would re-engage musically in the 1990s after sitting out much of the 1970s & 80s. Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee and Guitar Crusher, for instance, would jointly release an album, 1995’s Message to Man.  Check Guitar Crusher’s website for tour info & music.

Click here for the trailer to the recent Guitar Crusher documentary.