Ruth Wallis: King/DeLuxe Artist

On February 28, 1966, blue humorist extraordinaire, Ruth Wallis, recorded four songs at Cincinnati’s King Studios, two of which — “I’m the Sexiest Gal in Town” b/w “I’d Rather Be Abroad” — would get released as King 6024, while the other two tracks (“C’est La Vie” and “Thru With Marriage”) remain locked away in the King vaults:

“I’m The Sexiest Gal in Town”     Ruth Wallis     1966

This single, however, would not be the comedian’s first brush with Syd Nathan — Wallis, in fact, had enjoyed at least six 78 releases that go back to the late 1940s:

1947 = “Johnny Had a Yo-Yo” b/w “Your Daddy Was a Soldier

1947 = “An Oil Man From Texas” b/w “Too Many Men In My Life

1947 = “Senorita What’s Her Name” b/w “Jose Is Living the Life of Reilly

1947 = “Down in the Indies” b/w “Pull Down the Shade, Marie

1947 = “Have a Baby” b/w “What’s a Shmoe

1948 =  “The Dinghy Song” b/w “Tonight You Sleep in the Bathtub

These songs would be reissued in the early-to-mid 1950s in the form of one EP (1953’s Rhumba Party), one LP (1956’s House Party), and three 4-song 45s (House Party volumes 1-3).

House Party LP – Canadian cover

Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording session discography – unusually – devotes two entire pages to nothing but Ruth Wallis recordings.  The first page lists the entire song titles for four Ruth Wallis King LPs numbered in sequential order:

(King 986) The Admiral’s Daughter — includes “Hawaiian Lei Song”

(King 987) Davy’s Little Dinghy — includes “Stay Out of My Pantry”

(King 988) Marry Go Round — includes “Johnny’s Little Yo Yo”

(King 989) Red Lights — includes “Hopalong Chastity”

The next page lists four more LPs that continue this number sequence:

(King 990) Ubangi Me — includes “Play the Field” and “Queer Things”

(King 991) Oil Man From Texas — includes “The Pistol Song”

(King 992) He Wants a Little Pizza — includes “Swingin’ Derriers”

(King 993) Bahama Mama — includes “Fishing Pole Song”

Also worth noting King LP 904 — Saucy Hit Parade — produced and edited by Kermit “King of the Bloopers” Schaffer (year of release unknown).

King History Primer:  De Luxe Records

As Ruppli explains in the introduction to Volume 1 of The King Labels:

Just after the Queen era [c. August, 1947], Nathan purchased a large part of De Luxe label, which had been formed in 1944 by the Braun family.  This label was operated in Linden, New Jersey and had also many sessions recorded in New Orleans.  King had control over all De Luxe material and many De Luxe titles were reissued on King records and albums.  From 1947 to 1949, the De Luxe label was operated by the Braun brothers under King control, up to the point when the Brauns formed another recording company called Regal.  In the fifties, the De Luxe label was revived by King on new master and release series.

As we learned from the Albert Washington history piece, Lin Broadcasting – as new owners of the combined Starday-King catalog upon Syd Nathan’s passing – would revive the De Luxe imprint yet again in the late 1960s.

Albert Washington’s Psych Funk

After Syd Nathan passed, King Records was sold to Starday Records in 1968, who subsequently sold the combined Starday-King catalog to Nashville’s Lin Broadcasting.  The new King owners would revive the Deluxe label in 1969 or so – check out this interesting bit of pop soul from Albert Washington on the *resuscitated imprint:

“Somewhere Down the Line”     Albert Washington     1970

Steven C. Tracy would devote a chapter to Albert Washington in Going to Cincinnati:  A History of the Blues in the Queen City:

In 1970 Albert’s manager Harry Carlson [owner of Fraternity Records] signed Albert to a contract with Starday-King Records, and Albert is listed in the King discography [edited by Michel Ruppli, with Bill Daniels] as recording at the studios on Brewster Avenue on May 19 and October 16, 1970.  Unfortunately the discography is incomplete and inaccurate for Albert’s work for Starday-King, from the misspelling of Harry Carlson’s name (Cartson) to the listing of all titles as unissued and the inclusion of titles not recorded at Starday-King.  A number of titles are recognizable as earlier Fraternity issues.

From these Starday-King recording sessions, states Tracy, four singles were issued:

  • “Loosen These Pains and Let Me Go” b/w “Go On and Help Yourself”   Jewel 822
  • “Love Is a Wonderful Thing” b/w “I Wanna Know How You Feel”   Jewel 836
  • “Betty Jane” b/w “If You Need Me”   Jewel 837
  • “Ain’t It a Shame” b/w “Somewhere Down the Line”   Deluxe 45-135

The sessions included Albert on vocal and guitar, backed by Andy Johnson or Lonnie Mack on guitar, Hal Byrd and Scooter on horns, Hubert Herb on piano, Lonnie Bennett or Jimmy Thompson on organ, Walter Cash on bass, and Cornelius Roberts on drums, along with stray trumpet added here and there.

Of the four singles, notes Tracy:

His best is on the release on Deluxe, a King subsidiary, where Albert hits another peak for blues fans.  Roy Brown had recorded the song, A&R man and vice-president of King Henry Glover’s composition, previously [unavailable on YouTube], but his smooth ballad rendering pales before Albert’s version of “Ain’t It a Shame.”  Led by Lonnie Mack’s restrained guitar and underpinned by a rock-steady bass, Albert preaches in smooth and soaring tones while one of the most tastefully used female choruses – Gigi and the Charmaines – echoes and underlines Albert’s pleading.  And the marvelous vamp out!  [Blues Unlimited co-founder Mike] Leadbitter calls it “typical intense Albert,” but that kind of intensity is really atypical.

The flip side [“Somewhere Down the Line“] is psychedelic funk with tasty guitar and something that sounds like an echoing flute, female chorus, and chording piano and “you’ll never miss your water” in the lyrics — not of blues interest, really, but strong for its genre.

For those of you who noted the three 45 releases on Jewel and wondered if Rusty York was directly involved in making that happen, you would be correct:

Rusty York had been involved in the production of a number of these songs for Albert, and some of the songs recorded at Starday-King came out on Jewel Records.  Also at this time, however, Albert went back into the Jewel Studios, recording with the same band at Starday-King, for a release on the [Cincinnati-based] Rye label.

Tracy would invite Washington to perform at Walnut Hills High School in 1972.  In turn, Washington would invite Tracy play harmonica on two sides cut at Jewel, with Johnny Dollar (piano), Ed Thompson (guitar), Walter Cash (bass), and Cornelius Roberts (drums) – “So Good” b/w “Before the Sun Goes Down” – that were released on Cincinnati label, L & W.

Tracy would recall the charge of hearing “Turn on the Bright Lights” (with Lonnie Mack) for the first time on local Top 40 “hits” station WSAI in 1969 and recalling it as the moment Washington had “turned me on to the blues in Cincinnati.”  Also backing Washington on “Bright Lights” are Tim Drummond (of The Dapps, not to mention bassist for James Brown’s special 6-person backing band on a harrowing Vietnam tour the year before), Denny (“Dumpy“) Rice on piano, Ron Grayson on organ, Rusty York on harmonica, and an unknown drummer, according to Tracy.

Check out the prices people are shelling out for Albert Washington on vinyl

Larry Nager’s obituary in the October 28, 1998 edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer

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*King Records History Moment:
DeLuxe Records

According to Both Sides Now Publications:

“The DeLuxe label was founded by brothers David and Jules Braun in Linden, New Jersey, in 1944.  Syd Nathan bought into the company in the late 1940s and finally bought out the Braun brothers in 1951.  From that time, DeLuxe operated as a King subsidiary.” 

Marie “Queenie” Lyons: Soul Fever

I am stunned to discover that Marie “Queenie” Lyons’ playful retort to the Isley Brothers – “Your Thing Ain’t Good Without My Thing” (answer song of sorts to “It’s Your Thing“) and an obvious candidate for an A-side – would remain an album-only track from 1970’s Soul Fever on DeLuxe, an imprint of Starday-King Records (from King’s post-Syd Nathan era):

“Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing”     Marie “Queenie” Lyons     1969

Billboard would award the Soul Fever LP “Four-Stars” (albums with “sales potential within their category of music and possible chart items”) in its October 10, 1970 edition.

Michel Rupli’s The King Labels:  A Discography does not say whether this album was recorded at King’s Cincinnati studios – although many suspect it was.  Soul Fever, sadly, would be Marie “Queenie” Lyons’ first and only album release.

‘Soul Fever’ back cover – with liner notes by WLAC’s Bill “Hoss” Allen

Soul Fever - back coverThings I learned about Marie “Queenie” Lyons from reading Hoss Allen’s liner notes:

  • Hails from Archibald, Louisiana but moved to Ashtabula, Ohio at a young age.
  • First performed professionally in 1963 at the Club Castaway in Geneva, Ohio.
  • Served as vocalist in 1964 with The King Curtis Band in New York City.
  • Performed with Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, The Coasters, Jerry Lee Lewis, and – her idol and inspiration – James Brown, among many others.

One of the funkiest soul LPs ever to drop, according to Harvard’s Noah S. Guiney

Soul Fever - front coverBuckeye Beat says that Lyons is still active and that Queenie’s Lounge, her bar in Ashtabula, Ohio (as of 2014) – is/was still open for business.

Queenie's Lounge - Ohio

Soul and Jazz and Funk points out that the official CD release of this high-demand album was surprisingly late in coming – 2008.

Harvard Crimson’s, Noah S. Guiney, is aghast that Marie “Queenie” Lyons “was left cruelly unappreciated for so long” due to “a combination of small-label politics and a miniscule marketing budget” and demands that music historians sit up and take notice of this miscarriage of justice.