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

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

Ω                                             Ω                                             Ω

*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.