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.” 

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?

King’s Classic Yodeling 78

78 RPM claims that King released Carolina Cotton‘s signature song “I Love to Yodel” (penned by the singer herself) as the B-side – Discogs, too.  I find that hard to believe:

“I Love to Yodel”     Carolina Cotton     1946

According to the person who posted this audio clip on YouTube:

Recorded 30 October 1946 (possibly) at Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood , CA — Hank Penny Orchestra a.k.a. Carolina Cotton Pickers (Hank Penny [leader], Carolina Cotton [vcl], Fred Cianci [fiddle], Ralph Miele [steel], Doye O´Dell [gt/vcl?], Max Fidler [fiddle], Bob Caudana [accordion], and possibly Eddie Bennett [piano].

Carolina Cotton was born Helen Hagstrom in Cash Arkansas (1925 – 1997) a.k.a., “The Yodelling Blonde Bombshell.”

“I Love to Yodel” b/w “Mocking Bird Yodel”

Surprisingly little fanfare surrounding this unjustly obscure western swing King classic – released in November, 1949.  Exactly three years prior, King had released Cotton’s first single “Three Miles South of Cash (In Arkansas)” b/w “Singing on the Trail” in November, 1946.  Cotton briefly performed with Hank Penny, reports the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, who undoubtedly helped her get signed with King.

I first learned of this song by way of cassette, interestingly enough — yet another influential musical moment facilitated by the Cherokee Trading Post, who once sold tapes of King recordings (sometimes conjoined with items from the Starday label) produced by Gusto/IMG — owners of the King and Starday combined catalog since 1975.  The cassette in question All Star Western Swing — as with Country Tunes Done R&B (celebrated in the previous piece) — has no corresponding catalog record in Discogs, nor can you find any information about it on the web (okay, one reference).

Undated cassette – produced by Gusto/IMG

Furthermore, just as with Country Tunes Done R&B, there is a King LP that appears to be the inspiration for the cassette version marketed by IMG/Gusto — in this case, 1963’s Western Swing – Famous Western Bands.  This vinyl long-playing collection contains all 8 songs found on the cassette plus 4 additional tunes by Paul Howard (& His Arkansas Cotton Pickers), Leon Rusk, Luke Wills (& His Rhythm Busters), and Jimmie Widener.

Western Swing – Famous Western Bands [King LP 876]

[click on song title links below to hear streaming audio]

A little surprised by the fact that five of the twelve songs included on this album are not yet available for preview on YouTube.

*Amusingly, the label says “Bring It On to My House HENRY

I remember sending copies of these tapes to Larry Nager during my first flush of wonder back in the 1990s on my annual trips to Cincinnati, and Larry theorizing that places like Cherokee Trading Post in semi-rural West Virginia just might be the last vestiges of Syd Nathan’s distribution system in place — “bringing the music to the people” where they live.

“I Love to Yodel” can also be found on this rare Audio Lab EP

An earlier version of “I Love to Yodel,” by the way, would be recorded for Cotton to sing in the 1944 film I’m From Arkansas. (click on link to watch the clip).  Check out the Carolina Cotton website for lots of great information and vintage photos.

“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

Rare & Unissued King Tracks II

R  A  R  E       K  I  N  G       T  R  A  C  K  S *

Merle Travis — along with Grandpa Jones — would inaugurate King Records in 1943 as the first two musical artists to record for Syd Nathan.  But because both musicians were under contract to Powell Crosley’s WLW (“The Nation’s Station“), Travis and Jones would record under assumed names (i.e., ‘The Sheppard Brothers’ and ‘Bob McCarthy’) in the next big city north of Cincinnati:  Dayton.  Nearly lost in history’s shuffle is this interesting historical tidbit:  Merle Travis’s lone King recording as a solo artist (“What Will I Do“) would be captured in 1944, while King was still in its embryonic stages, but kept in the can for nearly 20 years until issued in 1963, along with tracks from other country artists, in a compilation album entitled Nashville Bandstand (no audio for this track yet on YouTube).

Includes rare 1944 track by Merle Travis, depicted below by upside down guitar

king-nashville-bandstand-lp-1963

[Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones would also team up with The Delmore Brothers (Alton & Rabon) as The Brown’s Ferry Four, a gospel quartet (augmented by Louis Innis on guitar and Ray Starkey/Red Foley on bass), whose final recording sessions in 1951 and 1952 would take place in Cincinnati at the King Studios.]

fairley-holden-king-45-aaHumorous song titles of rare early King 78s:

In-Laws as Butt of Joke (part 2)

james-duncan-45-aaa

One other notable early comic title:   In September of 1945, King Records released a 78 by The Carlisle Brothers whose B-side — “Baby You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me” — features an infectious chorus and sweet swooping lap steel (click on audio link below):

“Baby You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me”     The Carlisle Brothers     1945

The audio clip above was posted on YouTube (as I type these words on October 10, 2016) just 10 days prior on September 30th

This same song would be covered thirteen years later by rockabilly duo Tag & Effie and released on Kentucky indie, Summit, in 1958.  Notably, Tag Willoughby would take songwriting credit in spite of what Cliff Carlisle (and/or Syd Nathan) might have to say:

“Baby, You Done Flubbed Your Dub With Me”     Tag & Effie     1958

Mental Floss‘s “Five Candidates for the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Song” rightly selects Wynonie Harris‘s “Good Rocking Tonight” (recorded December 28, 1947 at King’s Cincinnati studios) and even cites Arthur Crudup‘s “That’s All Right Mama” from 1946.  And yet the term rock ‘n’ roll did not appear in song titles until 1954, although mostly 1955.  Which is what makes the song “Rock and Roll Blues” by Erline Harris — recorded April, 1949 and released on Deluxe, a King subsidiary purchased by Syd Nathan in 1947 — remarkably ahead of the curve.

 Recorded in 1949 (!)erline-harris-king-deluxe-45-aa

Jazz pioneer and long-time NPR (“Piano Jazz“) host, Marian McPartland, would have exactly one encounter with King Records:  a NYC recording session March 15, 1951 that resulted in 4 songs [“Flamingo“; “It’s Delovely“; “Liebestraum No. 3“; “Four Brothers“] that would enjoy release in the US, UK, and France.  In additional to two 78 releases, King subsidiary, Federal, would issue a playfully-titled EPProgressive 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 – with Art Deco lettering

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

The father of New Orleans piano playing — “Professor Longhair” (i.e., Henry RoelandRoyByrd) — would cross paths with King Records by way of a single New Orleans recording session – December 4, 1951 – that yielded four songs:  “K.C. Blues“; “Curley Haired Baby“; “Rocking with Fes“; and “Gone So Long.”  These four songs would be divided between two single releases on Federal, while “Gone So Long” would also be included on 1963 King compilation album Everybody’s Favorite Blues.roy-byrd-king-federal-45-aaroy-byrd-king-federal-78-aa

Remember Zero to 180’s musical salute to gritsRed McAllister‘s “Eggs & Grits” from 1952 — co-written by Henry Glover — would be King’s great contribution to this elite assemblage of rib-sticking musical morsels.

Henry Glover would also be one of the three songwriters behind “Pig Latin Blues” — playfully articulated by LaVern Baker (backed by The Todd Rhodes Orchestra) — a song recorded July 1, 1952 in Cincinnati.todd-rhodes-orch-king-45-aaGeorge Stogner would find a way to fuse boogie with hot rodding — “Hardtop Race” — in 1953, two years before Charley Ryan’s original “Hot Rod Lincoln.”george-stogner-king-78-aaMusical Synchronicity:  Two mambo-themed songs were recorded at Cincinnati’s King studios on the very same day — November 12, 1954:  “Mambo Honky Tonk” by The Morgan Sisters (no audio yet on YouTube) + “Tennessee Mambo” by Bonnie Lou.king-mambo-45-aaking-mambo-45-bb

Clearly, 1954 was the year of the mambo, just judging by the titles of all 4 songs recorded by Don Ippolito & His Orchestra on December 14, 1954: “Camptown Races Mambo,” “Swanee River Mambo,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game Mambo” & “Can’t Do It Mambo.”don-ippolito-king-45-aaIn Billboard‘s August 28, 1954 edition, a piece entitled ‘Coinmen You Know – Miami’ states that “Henry Stone, A&R man for DeLuxe Records, signed The Three Harmonicaires, [harmonica trio] winners on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show, to a recording contract and now predicts their first number will be a hit.”three-harmonicaires-deluxe-king-78-bbHenry Glover would also co-write Red Klimo‘s “Grandma Loves to Rock ‘n’ Roll” — recorded February 2, 1956 in Chicago.

Yet another patented King “bio-disc” (thanks, RANDY MCNUTT!)

red-klimo-king-45-aaThe same month Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel” was riding high in the charts, King would release a Boyd Bennett 45 with a jump blues A-side (“Hit That Jive Jack“) but a rockabilly B-side (“Rabbit-Eye Pink and Charcoal Black“) in August, 1956.

According to Bluegrass:  A History by Neil Rosenberg:

“Many bluegrass bands incorporated Elvis spoofs into their comedy routines, further testimony to their fans that they were on the right side of the rock and roll controversy.  Thus in August [27] of 1956 [in Cincinnati], when Reno and Smiley made their first recordings since becoming a full-time group, included was Don Reno’s “Country Boy Rock and Roll,” a tongue-in-cheek anthem to the joys of the music:  ‘I guess to some folks I look foolish, Just let ’em make a fool out of me.’”

reno-smiley-king-45-asAmong the earliest recordings in the canon of truck driving country giant, Dave Dudley:  the toe-tappin’, roots-rockin’ “Rock and Roll Nursery Rhyme” — recorded March 28, 1956 in Cincinnati (a 45 that today commands a healthy two figures at auction).dave-dudley-king-45-aaExactly one King recording session in Cincinnati on February 12, 1956 for The Rockers, whose membership would include Annie Mae (i.e., Tina) Turner on keys and Ike Turner on strings.  “What Am I to Do” features the commanding guitar work of Turner, who would return to Cincinnati the following year on April 9th fronting his own band, Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm (with Jackie Brenston) — six songs recorded that day, including “Rock-a-Bucket.”

rockers-king-federal-45-bbike-turner-king-federal-78-aa

It would be almost criminal not to point out an overlooked B-side by Lowman PaulingMessinUp — a rockin’ doo wop song from The Five Royales (with stellar guitar sounds from El Pauling himself), that was recorded August 13, 1957 in Cincinnati.

Snake Charmer” by The Puddle Jumpers – on their one and only session – sure sounds like King trying to cash in on the runaway success of 1958’s “Tequila” by The Champs (previously examined here).  Note the decent prices being paid for the group’s Federal 45s.

Tiny Topsy would find a way to fuse cowboy-shoot-’em-ups with doo-wop rock in 1958’s “Western Rock ‘n’ Roll” — a song that also slyly quotes from some of the early classics of the genre, including “Lollipop” (The Chordettes), “Get a Job” (The Silhouettes), “At the Hop” (Danny & the Juniors), “Short Shorts” (The Royal Teens).  Note the decent prices being paid for this single at auction.

tiny-topsy-king-federal-45-aaGene Redd and the Globe Trotters would record two songs at Cincinnati’s King studios on September 4, 1959 that comprised a 45 (King 5262), with one tune in particular transcribed by Ruppli (in his 2-volume King discographies) as “SurfinBeat,” as this song is listed on 1964 King surf “cash-in” album, Look Who’s Surfin’ Now.  Really?  A “surf” song two years before Dick Dale & His Deltones’ first 45?!  Unfortunately, the original song title used for the 1959 King 45 release was “Zeen Beat.”

gene-redd-king-45-aaBig Moe and the Panics would cover the unstoppable “Tennessee Waltz” for the teen set in 1959, with their hard-to-find “Tennessee Waltz Rock45 EP on King-owned Audio Lab.

big-moe-the-panics-king-45-a

Check out the decent prices being paid for original King 45s by The Mascots:  lead singer, Eddie Levert, along with William Powell, Bobby Massey & Bill Isles — a band that would become The O’Jays in 1963.  Among the songs recorded June 27, 1960 in Cincinnati at King’s studios:  “Lonely Rain.”

Songwriter/producer (and future King talent scout) Ray Pennington would record a “popcorn/rockabilly” hybrid for King subsidiary Federal — “Three Hearts in a Tangle” — (under the name Ray Starr) on July 15, 1960 in Cincinnati.  Pennington, by the way, features prominently in the ace roots-rock (non-King) compilation Great Rockers from Cincinnati.

first of two (non-King) albums by Ray Pennington & steel master, BUDDY EMMONS

buddy-emmons-ray-pennington-lp-aaThe Twist” (not everyone knows) was originally a King B-side for Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, before Chubby Checker ran away with this freakish hit, as a result of Ballard’s failure to keep his date with destiny on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand dance program.  King clearly felt the pain, as noted in blood-red ink on the label for The Escos novelty 45 “Thank You Mister Ballard (For Creating the Twist)” — a song that was recorded November 22, 1961 in Cincinnati:  “ATTENTION DJ:  These are the cold hard facts.  Hank Ballard composed the song and created the dance … THE TWIST.”escos-federal-king-45-aa

Those curious to hear the rare rockabilly strains of Sherman Bratcher‘s lone 45 for King, “Those Lonesome Guitars” — recorded December, 1961 — will have to purchase a vintage copy (like the one depicted below), as this tune is not yet available on YouTube.

sherman-bratcher-king-45

Very eager to hear whether King artists, The Shilohs, managed to capture on record the authentic sound of a “Rebel Yell” in 1961 — exactly one hundred years after our nation’s war against itself had begun.

[Note:  streaming audio unavailable unless the song title in question has a hyperlink]

shilohs-king-45-aashilohs-king-45-bb

Also curious to hear The Stanley Brothers song with the oddball title “Big Booger” (recorded September 17, 1963 in Cincinnati) that is only available on 1963 King LP America’s Finest 5-String Banjo Hootenanny (reissued in 1977 on Starday).  It is possible (though not probable) that “Big Booger” would inspire Mac Davis to write and record “Uncle Booger Red and Byrdie Nelle” for his 1970 debut album.

stanley-brothers-king-lp-aaTry Me, a King-owned subsidiary that served as an outlet for James Brown productions, would issue a groovy two-part organ instrumental – “Devil’s Den” – by The Poets [i.e., Brown’s backing band] that was recorded March, 1963 at King’s Cincinnati studios, along with one other track “The Thing in G” that would find release on Brown’s Prisoner of Love album.  Ruppli’s discography credits Alvin Gonder with organ — and JB himself with “shouts.”poets-king-45-aaAlmost afraid to hear the A-side of Doris King‘s (rare) single for King — “Dumb Dumb” — released in 1966, as the title reminds me of Ginny Arnell’s horribly insensitive “Dumbhead” from 1963.

Sorry, kiddos — streaming audio not available

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Rockabilly crime fighter, Delbert Barker (previously celebrated here) would record his final King 45 in Cincinnati on April 17, 1966 — “Color Me Gone” — a song for which no audio clips exist on YouTube.delbert-barker-king-45-aaAnother rare King 45 from 1966 – John Ukhart‘s “The Biggest Thrill” b/w “Death Row” – (note the prisoner ID #) was recorded at the King-affiliated studio in Macon, Georgia.john-ukhart-king-45-aaIntrigued to hear the hauntingly-titled “Last Year, Senior Prom (This Year, Vietnam)” by Mary Moultrie – recorded in Cincinnati on April 17, 1966 – the flip side of the highly-sought “northern soul” dance track “They’re Trying to Tear Us Apart” for which people are prepared to pay up to three figures at auction.

One Vietnam-themed King release that is available for preview on YouTube:  Jaci Damon‘s “A Place Called Vietnam” from the summer of 1967.jaci-damon-king-45-aaSpeaking of 1967, here is King’s brief intersection with “psychedelic” music:

1971 Wild Goose ‘psych 45’ on King-owned Agapewild-goose-king-agape-45-aa

James Brown on organ, accompanied by three of The Dapps [Tim Drummond (bass), WilliamBeau DollarBowman (drums), Eddie Setser (guitar)] and possibly a fourth [Tim Hedding (if not, Bobby Byrd) on piano], would record a wryly-titled instrumental, “Shhhhhhhh (For a Little While)” March 5, 1968 at King’s Cincinnati studios.james-brown-king-45-ccOn a related note, check out the three-figure sums being paid for rare King 45 by The Soul Believers with The Dapps — “I Don’t Want Nobody’s Troubles” b/w “I’m With You” — recorded October 23, 1968 in Cincinnati.soul-believers-dapps-king-45-aaMarvel at this rare live footage of Marva Whitney — along with the rock-solid support of James Brown’s backing band, The JBs — singing “It’s My Thing” from 1969.

Delight in the discovery that Bill Doggett once laid down 2 songs — “For Once In My Life” and “Twenty Five Miles” — at a recording facility in Detroit (c. February, 1969) with a studio band produced by Motown founder-in-chief, Berry Gordy.  These tracks would form the respective A and B sides of a King 45 that easily commands two figures at auction (and whose flip side only would be included on 1969’s Honky Tonk Popcorn album).

1969 Bill Doggett B-side in “far-out” King sleeve

bill-doggett-king-45-aaVery rare King truck driving 45Bethel King‘s “Addicted to a Truck” from 1968 — that I hope will turn up one day in my lifetime.  Needless to say, no streaming audio.

bethel-kings-king-45-aaSome of us are curious to hear “31 Flavors” by The Las Vegas Ambassadors — recorded in Las Vegas on June 13, 1970 – fairly obscure King 45.\

las-vegas-ambassadors-king-45-aa1970 would also see the release of a song — “Classical Popsicle” — used as the lead-off track for a King full-length release Have a Heart, written by Arnold Bodmer of the group Heart (not the Wilson Sisters of “Barracuda” fame).

heart-king-lp-aaAnother hard-to-come-by King 45:  Lewie Wickham‘s “Liberated Woman” from 1970 …lewie-wickham-king-45-a… as well as the LP from whence the single came — on which Lewie is joined by brother Hank Wickham, not to mention Johnny Dagucon (on his debut/sole recording effort).

hank-lewie-wickham-johnny-dagucon-king-lp-aaMusical Mystery:   A formerly long-lost predecessor to The JB’s 1972 debut album on King subsidiary, People — 1971’s These Are the JB’s — was rescued from obscurity in 2014 as a vinyl release and then re-pressed again in 2015.  As BlackGrooves explains, “the album was recorded in 1971 for King Records just before the band’s catalogue got bought out by Polydor.  Only a few test pressings were produced, and they were presumed to have been lost.”  Of the four songs recorded — including “These Are the JB’s” & “I’ll Ze” —  the final medley is notable for including portions of “Let The Music Take Your Mind” (Kool & The Gang and Gene Redd Jr.), “Chicken Strut” (The Meters), and “Power Of Soul” (Jimi Hendrix).

[Link to Zero to 180 history piece — The JB’s Debut:  Polydor not King]

jbs-king-test-pressing-aa

45Cat suggests that Indiana‘s cover of Bobby Darin & Terry Melcher‘s “My Mom” might have been released in the UK (November, 1971) before the US (1972).  Curious, if true.

indiana-king-45-aaAny pressures exerted on the band – White Cloud – to cover a song (“Hound Dog“) written by the (then) new owners of Starday-King, Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller, on their self-titled 1972 debut (and only) album issued on Starday-King subsidiary, Good Medicine?white-cloud-king-45-aaSmiling Faces would eke out two 45s in 1972 for Starday-King, the first – “Younger Girl” – being infinitely easier to locate than the second – “Tulsa Oklahoma” – whose very existence (King 6424) is still being debated by the nation’s top researchers.  smiling-faces-king-45-aaKing would release exactly one single by The Sanfords (featuring Gary S. Paxton) in 1972 — “Skinny Dippin’” b/w “A Rare and Ordinary Thing” — with one more song in the can (“You’re My Everything”).   Just as with the previous five 45s mentioned, no streaming audio.

sanfords-king-45-aaasanfords-king-45-bbb

Finally, Mike Wheeler — who would later form a band, Wheels, that would enjoy a big boost in  popularity (as The Raisins did) due to their appearance on 1980 TV talent showcase Rock Around the Block — recorded 2 songs on April 10,1972 that would be released as a (hard-to-find) 45 on Agape:  “Rocky Forge” b/w “Worn Out Leather.”
Bonus linkWheels performing “Keep Movin’ On” — sung/written by Michael Baney — a song that also served as the kick-off track for WEBN’s 2nd Album Project (annual compilation of Cincinnati-area bands) from 1977.

Rare Slim Gaillard 78s on King “race” subsidiary label, Queenslim-gaillard-king-78-on-queen-aaslim-gaillard-king-78-on-queen-bb

Rare Slim Gaillard EPS ON KING that COMMAND BIG BUCKS at auctionslim-gaillard-king-ep-bbslim-gaillard-king-ep-aa

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U  N  I  S  S  U  E  D     K  I  N  G     T  R  A  C  K  S *

DC‘s ownBillStewart (previously celebrated here) recorded a version of “Fat Boy” in Cincinnati (!) on May 12, 1961 that remains unheard to this day.

The King vaults also contain an unissued instrumental (and possible “twist” composition) “Louisiana Twist” that is attributed, curiously, to vocalist Little Willie John (who once issued a rare version of “Fever” with strings) — recorded in Cincinnati on March 6, 1962.

King’s attempt to cash in on surf music (see previous story on The Impacs) would also produce a compilation album (and future Zero to 180 piece) Surfin’ on Wave Nine.  Left in the King vaults are a pair by The Nu-Trons, including “Don’t Give Me No Phony Love.”

king-surf-lp-surfin-on-wave-nine-front

Also in the King vaults is something by Tonni Kalash, second trumpeter for Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (who released a lone King 45 “The Boss” b/w “Shuckin’“):    a single unissued track entitled “The Surf” that was recorded April 2, 1962.

Speaking of shuckin’, King’s vaults also contain two tracks recorded by Carl Thomas in Macon, Georgia on January 11, 1964:  “Just Shuckin’” (as well as “Off Beat Boogie”).

Don’t forget the stellar soul tune — 1966’s “Ain’t You Glad” by Mill Evans — that sat in the can for 35 years until valiantly rescued by UK’s Kent Records [as reported here] in 2001.mill-evans-king-45-bbEdgar Allen & the PoFolks would record two tunes, “My Tears Are Drippin‘ (in Coffee That I’m Sippin‘)” and “Dennys Tune,” c. March, 1967 that have never enjoyed release.

One humorous (and particularly long-winded) early unissued song title:
“(I Didn’t Think You’d Really Go) I Didn’t Think You’d Ever Leave Me” — Hank Penny from October, 1946 — a song also covered by Moon Mullican in October, 1946 and then likewise locked away in the vaults!

In James Brown-related news:

  • The Dapps (previously celebrated here and here) have a few tunes in the King vaults that have never been issued including “White Christmas”; “I Can’t Stand Myself”; “Who Knows”; and two other tracks recorded in Cincinnati — “I’ll Give You Odds” (March, 1968) and “Later for the Saver” (December, 1968).
  • Cincinnati musician, and one-time James Brown sparring partner, Dee Felice, would record quite a few songs that remain in the King vaults, including (besides JB covers such as “Cold Sweat”) what might be an original tune, “Double Funky” that was recorded in Cincinnati on December 10, 1969.
  • Also in King’s vaults by the aforementioned William HargisBeau DollarBowman:  “My Concerto” (c. Spring, 1969) and “Funky Street (January, 1970).
  • AlfredPee WeeEllis would record his own version of “Soul Pride (pts. 1 & 2)” in the summer of 1968 that will not likely see the light of day, as well as (veiled message, perhaps?) “Time for My Release” later that October in Miami.
  • Ruppli’s King discography has a listing for “More Mess on My Thing (pt. 1 & 2)” by The New Dapps [i.e., The Pacesetters:  William “Bootsy” Collins, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Frank “Kash” Waddy & Phillip (pre-Spinners) Wynne] — according to Bootsy, September, 1969.  Even though a 45 release is indicated (King 6271), a strange thing happens when you numerically scroll to that number on this King Records 6000 Series 45 Discography —  6271 & 6272 are both identical:   Arthur Prysock “23rd Psalm” b/w “I Believe”!   Some funny business there.  Sadly, no King 45 for The New Dapps.  Notice that Ohio Soul Recordings, for instance, lists it as an actual 45 release.
  • James Brown himself would record a song whose title would be used as a band name for a Maceo Parker-led outfit of former JB sidemen – “All the King’s Men” – in Cincinnati on November 5, 1970 that remains unissued (as is a track recorded the previous month in Macon, Georgia — “We Need Liberation“).
  • Vicki Anderson would record — in Washington, DC on January 26, 1971– an unreleased version of “Wheels of Life,” a song that would be recorded several months later by Lyn Collins and released on 1972’s Think (About It) album.
  • Psychedelic soul rockers Grodeck Whipperjenny, led by James Brown associate David Matthews (previously celebrated here) have one track sitting in the King vaults — “Ain’t It Jellyroll” (possibly from early 1971).

Elaine Armstrong (vocalist and civil rights pioneer previously celebrated here) would record two songs that remain in the King vaults, including “Tears Begin to Fall.”Elaine ArmstrongBlues & soul singer/guitarist Albert Washington would record a number of songs that remain locked away, including “Without Love Ain’t It a Shame” — recorded in Cincinnati on October 16, 1970.

1971 Albert Washington 45 on Deluxe (Label Revived by Starday-King)albert-washington-deluxe-45-aa

A group whose name requires a pronunciation guide — The Prix’s — recorded two songs in early 1968 (“The Smoother” & “Take Everything“) likely to remain forever unheard.

First Fridaywhose one and only album recorded for Webster’s Last Word – laid down some demos for Starday-King at their Nashville studios in June, 1970 that included some songs that made the album (such as kick-off tune “Nice Day for Something“; “Wings to Fly”; “Such a Lot to Say”) and songs that didn’t (“Last Night’s Foolin’ Around”; “49th Street Rag”).

Frank Gorshin of TV’s Batman fame (previously celebrated here) recorded a handful of songs that remain permanently sequestered, including “Love Slave” — recorded in Nashville June 3, 1970.

Mike Appel¿the same Mike Appel who was Bruce Springsteen’s manager at the time? – recorded at least 10 songs (“Queen of the Harvest”; “Timber Clown” et al.) for Starday-King in 1972.  Note that “Queen of the Harvest” is the title of a song listed on Mike Appel’s website as being one for which he owns all the publishing rights and master recordings.

Be sure to check out an earlier piece:   King Records: Oddball Historical Tidbits  

*Primary Information Source:   The King Labels:  A Discography by Michel Ruppli

Mike Stoller (left) & Jerry Leiber (right)

lieber-stoller

⇒⇒⇒     45 Years Ago This Month:   Leiber & Stoller Buy King Records!     ⇐⇐⇐

As Billboard reported 45 years ago this month (under the headline, “Starday-King Pubs Sold for $1.4 Mil“) in its October 2, 1971 edition:

NASHVILLE — The Starday-King label and its publishing firms have been sold by Lin Broadcasting Co. to a group of music executives including one of its former officers.

Hal Neely, President of Starday-King and an offical of Lin until the time of purchase, leads the purchasers.  Sale price was listed at $1.4 million.  Offices will remain here, under the new name of Tennessee Recording and Publishing Co., Inc.

Other purchasers were the songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and Fred Bienstock, a former executive with Hill & Range.

Neely and his associates will receive all of the Lin Music division’s “current and fixed assets, to include receivables, copyrights, and publishing interests, recorded masters, inventory, contracts, real estate, studios in Nashville, Cincinnati, and Macon, Ga., and the pressing and printing plant in Cincinnati.”

Lin had indicated some time ago it was interested in selling its music division.  It had acquired Starday-King shortly after the two firms, Starday here and King in Cincinnati, had merged.

Starday, formed as a country music label by Pappy Dailey and Jack Starnes, was later acquired by Don Pierce, who was its president for a number of years.  After the Lin purchase, Hal Neely became president, and Pierce moved into an advisory capacity.

King, too, was originally a country label, but later became deeply involved in the development of rhythm and blues.  One of its top performers, James Brown, recently moved to Polydor in a contract sale.  Starday, too, divested itself of some of its leading talent, many of whom moved to Chart Records.  However, the company retains artists with both labels.

There will be immediate releases with the existing artists, who are listed as The Coasters, J. David Sloan, The Manhattans, Jack(y) Ward, Gloria Walker, Max Powell, and White Cloud.  Additionally, there will be product release on Red Sovine, who has moved to Chart.

Tennessee Recording and Publishing will continue to release and distribute the King, Starday, Deluxe, Nashville, Agape and Federal labels.

Coda:  For Whom the Bell Tolls

Billboard‘s February 5, 1972 edition would include the following grim announcement:

“EQUIPMENT FOR SALE.  Pressing — Printing — Plating — Milling — Fabrications — Art Cameras — Recording Studio Equipment.

King Records, Cincinnati, Ohio is liquidating its Complete Pressing and Printing Plant and Recording Studio.  7″ and 12″.

All Equipment First Class.  Guaranteed.  Opportunity for Export.

Contact:  Johnny Miller
1540 Brewster Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45207
(513) KL5-KING”

The Bill Doggett Centennial Begins Now!

Podcasts are great and all, but nothing compares to the magic & excitement of live radio!

A recent exchange with WPFW radio’s Andrea Bray – at Andrea’s Fine Hats in DC just over the line from Silver Spring – unexpectedly resulted in an invitation to join her on the air this past Saturday to celebrate the musical legacy of Bill Doggett, whose career spans the more traditional blues, jazz, and swing eras into the new R&B and funk ushered in by his King Records labelmate, James Brown.  Bill Doggett’s spirit turns 100 years today, and Doggett’s nephew, Bill Doggett II, joined us on the “The Andrea Bray Show from the west coast to inform WPFW listeners how an improvisation started by Bill Doggett’s bandmates in a Lima, Ohio hotel room became “the most important and first R&B instrumental of the early rock & roll era to cross over” into the pop market.  “Honky Tonk” would show remarkable staying power as it entered the Billboard Top 100 chart on August 18, 1956 and – according to those fine folks at Ace UK – “stayed in the national pop listings for 29 weeks, peaking at #2 (naturally it went to #1 R&B).”  Keeping it from the top spot, unfortunately, was that dastardly Elvis double A-side “Hound Dog” b/w “Don’t Be Cruel”!

#1 in zero to 180’s book

Bill DoggettWhat great and glorious fun it was to chat up Ms. Andrea about King Records history, as we played “Honky Tonk,” examined the Bill Doggett legacy, and then followed the song with its funky ‘re-boot’ from 1969 (produced by James Brown) on which Doggett is backed by The J.B.’s – “Honky Tonk Popcorn“:

 “Honky Tonk Popcorn”     Bill Doggett     1969

Doggett II would point out that Nathan was initially opposed to releasing “Part 2” – a jukebox favorite, interestingly.  According to the liner notes in Ace UK compilation, Honky Tonk!  The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals:  “The late Jim Wilson (King’s branch manager in Detroit) insisted, however, that [King A&R director, Henry] Glover must take credit for convincing Syd Nathan to release the record in two parts.”  According to Greg Evans, in the June 1986 issue of Cincinnati Magazine, “[Doggett’s] biggest hit, the song his audiences still request, remains ‘Honky Tonk, Part 2.'”

Live radio is an improvisational dance, and the joint really got jumping when another former Cincinnatian – a caller named Benjamin who grew up around the corner from King – phoned in and regaled listeners with stories of Cadillacs pulling up to the King studios, famous sightings (Ruth Brown, Johnny Ace, Hank Ballard, Tiny Bradshaw, JB, of course) and most of all, stealing items from the “pink ashcan” – rejected/warped King vinyl that played like new after attaching a silver dollar with a rubber band to the turntable’s tonearm!

Honky Tonk compilation CDGreg Evans would write his Cincinnati Magazine piece while Doggett was still performing (even though, as he playfully observed, “baby, that organ gets heavier every year”) and include numerous quotes from the Hammond master himself about the “tremendous operation” of Syd Nathan, who – according to Shad O’Shea (or ‘O’Shay’) “was the one single man who can be credited with bringing black music to the masses.”  Doggett, for example, would note that “When I recorded for King, you could do a session at 2 in the afternoon, finish by 5 or 6, and have the records on a truck to the distributors by 8 the next morning.  It was a complete, total operation.”

Zero to 180 with DC community fixture & national treasure, ms. Andrea Bray

Soulsteady Kid on The Andrea Bray Show

Also worth emphasizing that Doggett’s relationship with James Brown in the 1960s was not strictly a one-way affair, as Geoff Brown would write in his biography of James Brown:

“Not surprisingly, after the success with ‘Mashed Potatoes’ in the guise of Nat Kendrick and the Swans, [King Records label owner, Syd] Nathan relaxed his views about recording the band on instrumental releases.  ‘Hold It’, credited as James Brown Presents His Band, was the first, and a riff from the Bill Doggett hit would form the link he used to segue between songs in the breathless, non-stop Revue that seared across the States as he forged his reputation as The King of the One-Nighters.”

Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk Popcorn LPSays UK’s Ace Records, who put out a compilation in 2012 bearing the same title as the 1969 funk track:

“The most obvious manifestation of [Doggett keeping pace with contemporary music trends] was his collaboration with James Brown and his JBs, who were incredibly tight on the top-side of the super-rhythmic ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’.  The popcorn was Brown’s dance rhythm of the year:  he had made #1 R&B with ‘Mother Popcorn’, #2 with ‘Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn’.  The B-side of the single was Doggett’s funk update of ‘Honky Tonk’, which worked even better than Brown’s own 1972 remake.

King then gathered up a bunch of recent Doggett recordings to make the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” album.  It was marketed as a James Brown production but, other than the two single sides, it contained no cuts produced by Brown.  Instead it featured a fascinating mix of grooves that evoke smoky clubs and juke joints. ‘Mad’ and a scorching version of Edwin Starr’s ‘Twenty Five Miles’ were released as singles.”

Hip hop fans might be intrigued to know that Pete Rock would sample the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” – JB’s scream, specifically – for 2004 “One MC One DJ.

Bill Doggett II invites you to join the Bill Doggett Centennial celebration at his website, where you can hear his uncle’s music, absorb some history, and sign the Guest Book.

Andrea's Fine Hats - DC

Hat Lady and Long-Time Community Fixture: On the Air with Andrea Bray

[Click on triangle above to play Andrea Bray’s interview with Chris Richardson]

In Memoriam

Andrea Bray, who spent nearly 20 years working in radio broadcast news with media companies such as WRC and WTOP in Washington and WDJY-FM in Atlanta, died Wednesday, reported WPFW-FM in Washington, where Bray was known as the “queen of old-school rhythm and blues.”  The Pittsburgh native hosted the popular “Andrea Bray Show” until May 2016.  Bray ran a hat shop [still active] in Silver Spring, Md., where a spokeswoman said a memorial service would be held in about 30 days.

Posted on May 7, 2017 — Ebony Magazine

Little Royal’s Funk Monarchy

Remember three years ago when Zero to 180 featured its first ‘Musical Roll Call‘ vis-à-vis Little Royal and his regal rail line, whose crew consisted solely of the finest and funkiest soul luminaries of the early 1970s including, incredibly, The Osmond Brothers?             Of course you don’t — I barely do.

Soul Train” would be one of two 45s released in 1972 on Tri-Us, a boutique imprint for producer Huey Meaux that was bequeathed, as well as distributed, by Starday-King.  90-second instrumental “Razor Blade” would be the B-side of Little Royal’s second single from that same year (although, the 45 label is way off — actual running time is more like two minutes and ten seconds):

“Razor Blade”     Little Royal & the Swingmasters     1972

Most of Little Royal’s 1972-73 single sides (though definitely not all) would be packaged into a 12″ long-playing release Jealous that was issued in 1972 and then again in 1973.

Little Royal’s 1972 Starday-King LP

Little Royal LPKenny Smith, one-time host of Cincinnati’s local Soul Street TV program from 1969-71, (and featured in this Zero to 180 piece from October, 2013) would once welcome onto his show, Little Royal, who first sings the A-side (“Jealous”) and then dances the B-side “Razor Blade” in this vintage clip:

Thanks to the Stepfather of Soul (or is it Last.fm?) for pointing out that “Razor Blade” has a vocal counterpart:  Sebastian‘s “Living in Depression” from 1975!

“Living in Depression”     Sebastian     1975

Alert!  DC music history blog Soul 51 (last seen in Zero to 180’s profile of Martha Harvin & The Jewels – “Who’s Left Holding King’s Bag?“) checks in with Little Royal, who lives in the DC area and first met James Brown, we are informed, at the Howard Theater in 1963.

42nd Zero to 180 piece tagged as Funk & Soul

Bill Doggett’s “Soft”: Enduring

Bill Doggett and his Hammond organ, in 1957, would breathe (via flute) fresh life into Tiny Bradshaw‘s “Soft” from 1952 – both versions released on King.  Even though Doggett’s “Soft” would ‘only’ peak at #51, Billboard’s “Hot 100 Chart History” indicates this song to have spent 14 weeks on the chart – impressive staying power for an instrumental:

“Soft”     Bill Doggett     1957

Billboard would report “Soft” as an ‘R&B territorial best seller’ (1) in Detroit in its October 14, 1957 edition and (2) Cincinnati in its December 21, 1957 edition.  “Soft” would also be included in Billboard’s ‘Top 100 Sides – Store Recorded Sales’ for the week ending October 26, as well as December 7, 1957.

                     US 45 on King                          UK 45 on “Beatle” label Parlophone

Bill Doggett US 45Bill Doggett UK 45

The song would endure into the 1970s.  However, King Records would do a curious thing.  On the one hand, King would reissue “Soft” as a single in 1971 – though as a B-side (!) – while just the year prior, the song had been deemed fit to serve as the title track of a Bill Doggett LP compilation.  What gives?  Perhaps the 1971 single was an attempt to give record buyers a “double A-side” release with two solid tracks and no filler, so perhaps I should lighten up a little.

                   1971 King LP — “Soft” as title track        1970 King 45 — “Soft” as B-side

Bill Doggett LP (1970)Bill Doggett 45 reissue (1971)

It’s the Bill Doggett Centennial!

Bill Doggett, who recorded an instrumental in 1956 (“Honky Tonk”) that sold over 1 million copies — a ridiculous number, especially for King Records.  2016, therefore, means that “Honky Tonk” turns 60 (which is the new 40, anyway), and the artist who recorded it was (curiously enough) 40 years old at the time, as Bill Doggett was born exactly one hundred years ago.  I have to confess:  I didn’t figure this out on my own.  This information would come directly from Bill Doggett II, nephew and namesake, who recently reached out to Zero to 180 in response to the precarious future of the original King Records historic site in Cincinnati:

“King Records and its building are to Cincinnati Music History what Capitol Records and its building are to Los Angeles and West Coast r&b and jazz.  Preserving the building and turning it in to a restored TOURIST Destination will bring Tax revenue dollars and TOURISM.  Think BIG….not small.  THIS YEAR is The BILL DOGGETT CENTENNIAL 1916-2016 and THE 60TH Anniversary of the landmark KING Gold Record: HONKY TONK Parts 1/2.”

Honky Tonk”:  Promotional video from Bill Doggett Productions
https://vimeo.com/150982089

Latest Report on Efforts to Save the King Records Historic Site

What Will It Take to Save King RecordsCincinnati Magazine – January 6, 2016

Bob & Lucille: King Rockabilly

Interesting to learn that the Canadian Sweethearts (who later signed with A&M and Epic) had passed through Cincinnati’s King Records briefly in the guise of Bob & Lucille.

King’s Syd Nathan would lease two tracks from 2 different Bob & Lucille 45s that had been released in the late 1950s on tiny Hollywood-based Ditto label and package them as a King single in 1962.  “Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe” is the A-side and a classic rockabilly track:

“Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe”     Bob & Lucille      recorded Dec. 1958

Even more interesting was the decision by Starday-King in 1973 – long after Syd Nathan had passed – to reissue this 45.  Could it possibly have been in response to resurgence of interest in 1950s roots rock that George Lucas’s American Graffiti (also released in 1973) helped ignite?   (*See related “Roots Rock Reawakening” addendum in prior Zero to 180 piece that features “Seven Deadly Finns” by Brian Eno).

      1962 King 45                                          1973 King Reissue 45

Bob & Lucille King 45-aBob & Lucille King 45-b

“Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe” would also be included on 1978 “Vintage Vault Collector Series” album King-Federal Rockabillys.

King-Federal Rockabillys LP

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.