King Records — Day of My Birth

Ruppli’s King Labels discography is a 2-volume reference set that can be hard to make sense of initially, given all the subsidiary labels and various quirks in its numbering systems, among other things.

Volume 1 features information pertaining to the recording sessions at King‘s Cincinnati studios, and it can be great fun to browse chronologically in order to determine whether any recording took place on the birthdate of someone you know, such as family members and friends.  At first I was disappointed to find out that no King artists were laying down any new sounds on the day of my birth — at least, in Cincinnati.

Page 470 concludes the post-Syd Nathan Starday-King era, with a listing for a Nashville session that took place on September 23, 1973 by a group called The B.K.‘s [Bob Kames + company], with only one song recorded “Choo Choo Choo” (the B-side of King 6426 — a 45 that appears never to have been issued).  However, pages 471-476 list a King 16000 master series of recordings that took place in Los Angeles between the years 1961-1963 (sessions with Johnny Otis and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, et al., including “Gangster of Love“).

But the real kicker is this announcement near the bottom of page 476:

Note:  Series discontinued and resumed later in Macon, Ga.”

Thus, Volume 1 ends with four pages of King recording sessions between the years 1964-1965 that took place in Macon, Georgia at Bobby Smith Studios (and therefore serve as the “missing link” to all the later work* highlighted in last October’s celebration, “Bobby Smith’s King Productions“).  So, today I decided to browse these pages with a certain date in mind, and wouldn’t you know it:  The Fabulous Denos recorded two songs with Bobby Smith at the helm [“Once I Had a Love” & “Bad Girl“] on the day of my birth — April 13, 1964!

“Bad Girl”     The Fabulous Denos     1964

Bad Girl” – the featured song in this King history piece – served as the B-side of a single released in June, 1964.

Tip of the hat (again) to 45Cat contributor davie gordon for this snippet from Billboard‘s August 22, 1964 edition that shows “Bad Girl” to be a ‘R&B Regional Breakout’ for the urban centers of Atlanta and Cleveland, the city where my dad would relocate by decade’s end — foreshadowing?

Bobby Smith Productions = 1964-1965
Info from The King Labels: A Discography compiled by Michel Ruppli

<click on all song titles below for streaming audio>

Sam Anderson & the Telstars                    [No Date]
BS500    Standing at the Edge of the Sea       King 5855
BS501    Back on the Block                     King 5855

Wayne Cochran                                  [No Date]
BS502    Last Kiss                             King 5856
BS503    I Dreamed, I Gambled, I Lost          King 5856
BS504    The Coo                               King 5874
BS505    Cindy Marie                           King 5874

Alice Rozier                              March 16, 1964
BS16133  I Love You a Bushel and a Peck         unissued
BS16134  My Candy Man                          King 5896
BS16135  George, BB and Roy                    King 5896
BS16136  Love Me Like I Love You                unissued

Eddie Kirk                                March 17, 1964
BS16137  Let Me Walk With You                  King 5895
BS16138  I Just Want to Be Loved                unissued
BS16139  Monkey Tonight                        King 5895
BS16140  Mary                                   unissued

James Duncan [and The Duncan Trio]                [1964]
BS16141  Here Comes Charlie                    King 5887
BS16142  Everybody Needs Somebody to Love      King 5923
BS16143  I'll Be Gone                          King 5923
BS16144  My Pillow Stays Wet                   King 5887

Billy Soul                                March 19, 1964
BS16145  My Darlin' Honey Baby                 King 5929
BS16146  Big Balls of Fire                     King 5929
BS16147  She's Gone (Pt. 1)                    King 5904
BS16148  So Many People                         unissued

Bobby Leeds                               March 22, 1964
BS16149  Nothing Too Good for You              King 5928
BS16150  When I Fell                           King 5928
BS16151  I'm Through, I'm Gone, I'm Free       King 5903
BS16152  Big Brick Wall                        King 5903

C.V. Williams                             March 19, 1964
BS16153  I've Lost the Only One                 unissued
BS16154  My Once-a-Week Love                    unissued

Eddie Kirk                             September 8, 1964
BS16155  Hog Killin' Time                      King 5959
BS16156  Treat Me the Way You Want Me          King 5959

James Duncan                            October 11, 1964
BS16157  Three Little Pigs                     King 5966
BS16158  I Can't Fight the Time                King 5966

Bobby Skelton                                  [No Date]
BS16159  It Goes Without Saying                King 5897
BS16160  Just Two People in the World          King 5897

The Fabulous Denos                     November 23, 1964
BS16161  Hard to Hold Back Tears               King 5971
BS16162  I've Enjoyed Being Loved by You       King 5971

King Keels                                 April 4, 1964
BS16163  Wondering, Wondering, Wondering       King 5969
BS16164  I Hear Love Bells                     King 5969

James Styles                               April 4, 1964
BS16165  Sweeter Than a Flower                  unissued
BS16166  I'm on My Way                          unissued

Bobby Cash                                April 12, 1964
BS16167  I Don't Need Your Love and Kisses     King 5894
BS16168  Answer to My Dreams                   King 5894

Dennis Wheeler                            April 12, 1964
BS16169  Down in Daytona                       King 5898
BS16170  Rock Bottom                           King 5898

The Fabulous Denos                        April 13, 1964
BS16171  Once I Had a Love                     King 5908
BS16172  Bad Girl                              King 5908

Bennie Anderson and the Teals             April 28, 1964
BS16173  Little School Girl                    King 5893
BS16174  Sugar Girl                            King 5893

Billy Soul                                March 19, 1964
BS16175  She's Gone (Pt. 2)                    King 5904

Oscar Toney Jr. (& The Kayos Band)        April 19, 1964
BS16176  You're Going to Need Me               King 5906
BS16177  Can It All Be Love                    King 5906

Wayne Cochran                           January 17, 1965
BS16178  Think                                 King 5994
BS16179  You Left the Water Running            King 5994

James Duncan                              March 12, 1965
BS16180  All Aboard                             unissued
BS16181  My Baby Is Back                        unissued

Alice Rozier                           February 24, 1965
BS16182  Lonely Girl                            unissued
BS16183  Hold on to You                         unissued

Oscar Toney Jr. (& The Kayos Band)    February [ ], 1965
BS16184  I've Found a True Love                King 6108
BS16185  Keep on Loving Me                     King 6108

James Duncan                              March 12, 1965
BS16186  Guilty                                King 6013
BS16187  Mr. Goodtime                          King 6013

Stanley K.                                      [No Date]
BS16188  unknown title                          unissued
BS16189  unknown title                          unissued

Zero to 180 on his Father’s lap – Cincinnati, OH – March, 1966

*Brian Powers was, indeed, correct in his assertion (back in October, 2018) that Bobby Smith Studios had been up and running prior to 1966

For Serious King Records Fans OnlyPage 481

Check out these random bits of King recording session info on the very last page of Volume 1 that fall under the catch-all title Additional King Sessions — including a live James Brown & the Famous Flames set at Baltimore’s Royal Theater in 1963.

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)

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

Bobby Smith’s King Productions

Bobby Smith, we now know, had been commissioned by Syd Nathan to build a recording studio in Macon, Georgia — the adopted hometown of King Records’ biggest star, James Brown.  The following recordings were produced by Bobby Smith at Bobby Smith Studios, the recording location for these (Starday-)King-related releases — with one notable exception, as indicated a little further down the page:

[click on song titles below for streaming audio]

History Wrinkle:  The earliest appearance of “Macon, Georgia” as a recording location in Ruppli’s King recording sessionography – “May 4, 1966” – can be found on a session for Thomas Bailey that yielded “Just Won’t Move” and “Fran” — a single that, for some odd reason, did not find release until 1970.  Perhaps Ruppli’s carbon-dating tests somehow got mishandled in the lab?  The more likely explanation can be found in John Ridley’s liner notes for the first Ace UK/Kent compilation King Serious Soul:

“Bailey was active in the Macon area with his group, the Flintstones, around the turn of the 70s and was involved with Bobby Smith.  He wrote material for Mickey Murray, among others, as well as making his own discs.  His first Federal 45 coupled the ballad ‘Fran’ with the strutting Southern funk of ‘Just Won’t Move.'”

Zero to 180 recently spoke with King Records historian, Brian Powers, who asserted that Bobby Smith Studios, indeed, was up and running by 1966 and, in fact, had already been in operation for several years.**

Here’s one other Bobby Smith production that might be the latest recording of the bunch — first of two featured songs in today’s history piece:

Push and Shove” b/w “Just Be Glad”    Willy Wiley     1973

Must note with confusion that Bobby Smith is listed as producer on Gloria Walker’s classic slice of funk “Papa’s Got the Wagon” (along with its mate “Your Precious Love“), even though Ruppli’s sessionography notes state that this March, 1971 single had been recorded in “Cincinnati” — is it possible that Smith came to King Studios for this session (which also produced “Lonely and Blue” and “Dancing to the Beat” – two songs that remain locked away in the King vaults)?

NOTE:  Check out the “prequel” to this piece via King RecordsDay of My Birth, which includes session information for Bobby Smith Productions 1964-1965 

In the course of browsing the Federal Records section of Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography, I couldn’t help but notice one particular James Duncan session** that took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama — not Macon, Georgia.  But wait, Bobby Smith’s name is attached to this entire August 14, 1969 recording session — is it possible that Smith traveled to Muscle Shoals to record James Duncan?   Listen to the classic guitar work on “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” — sure sounds like Eddie Hinton, right? Compare with “This Old Town” by Wilson Pickett, a song previously celebrated here.

“I Got It Made (in the Shade)”     James Duncan     1969

As it turns out, the ‘Musical Columbo’ – Soul Detective – had already pondered this question ten years earlier, having discovered a key piece of research in John Ridley’s liner notes to Volume 2 of the Ace UK/Kent anthology series, King Serious Soul that affirms Ruppli’s assertion, pointing out that James Duncan’s Federal singles “were mainly cut at Muscle Shoals [Sound] and were uniformly of a very high standard indeed.”

James Duncan, along with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, laid down six songs at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama on August 14, 1969, with producer Bobby Smith at the helm:  “Money Can’t Buy True Love”; “My Baby Is Back”; “All Goodbyes Ain’t Gone”; “I’m Gonna Leave You Alone”; “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” & “You’ve Got to Be Strong” [Ruppli].  Also recorded at Muscle Shoals, according to Ridley, is the Lori & Lance single “I Don’t Have to Worry” b/w “All I Want Is You.”

** Zero to 180 would subsequently stumble upon Bobby Smith’s productions for King and assemble a “prequel” research piece, King Records — Day of My Birth, posted April 25, 2019.

Mickey Murray LP II: Released?

Soul singer Mickey Murray recorded only two full-length albums over the course of his career — one for SSS International, 1967’s Shout Bamalama & Super Soul Songs  (the label’s first hit for Shelby Singleton), and the other, entitled People are Together, for King subsidiary Federal Records in 1970 — an album produced by Bobby Smith, who had been commissioned earlier by Syd Nathan to build a recording and production facility in Macon, Georgia, the adopted hometown of James Brown.

Album released in US on Federal and in Brazil (year unknown) on Joda

abstract crowd backdrop —  used for front and back cover images

Going Back to Alabama” — first of three B-sides issued on Federal for Starday-King — includes some prototypical “rapping” in the James Brown tradition.  Note the playful musical references to “Sweet Soul Music” — a song previously celebrated here:

“Going Back to Alabama”    Mickey Murray     1970

Discogs acknowledges three Federal single releases over the course of three years beginning in 1970.

For those who wonder why such limited output from a one-time potential hitmaker, NPR reporter Eric Luecking’s accompanying history piece for “People are Together” — selected as ‘Song of the Day‘ for February 24, 2012 — suggests that Murray may have been more than a little disillusioned by his experience with the music industry:

Born in South Carolina in the 1930s, Mickey Murray had roots in Georgia and shined shoes to help earn a living early in life.  He proved he could sing with gravel and grit, had a million-selling single in the late 1960s, and signed with the King/Federal label.  It’s striking how similar Mickey Murray’s story is to that of James Brown, yet while Brown left an indelible mark on soul and popular music, Murray remains a mere blip in the musical cosmos.  As the liner notes to his recently reissued lost album tell it, Murray doesn’t believe that People Are Together was ever officially released after it was recorded in 1970.

It was a risky endeavor to push “People Are Together” as the album’s lead single in the South.  It was reportedly black DJs who killed the record, labeling it as too progressive and fearing that they’d lose their on-air jobs should they play it. It doesn’t sound remotely controversial today:  It’s a call to all of mankind to join together and love one another, in the spirit of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and many other songs of its time.

Regardless, fame and a longer singing career didn’t follow for Murray, although he’d record later in life.  But the defiantly hopeful “People Are Together,” written by Bob Garrett and Calvin Arline, now stands as a virtually unheard gem; whether it was known to the public when it was recorded more than 40 years ago is irrelevant. What is relevant is the song itself, a timeless three-minute sermon which implores us all to give a little more love.

In 2011, Secret Stash Records reissued the album in limited edition (“1200 individually numbered copies”), with extended liner notes, never-before-seen photos, and access code for a free MP3 download of the entire album (“first 250 copies also include a 7″, hand-numbered with the corresponding number.”)

45Cat acknowledges two singles following Murray’s stint with Starday-King — one in 1975 and the other in 1979, which appears to be singer’s final musical statement.

Musical Postscript:  Dept. of Zaniness

Sole Release for NYC’s indie label Pepco

  later bought out by Potomac Electric Power Company

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.