“Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son” is one of the few recitations that the Stanleys ever recorded. Ralph related, “I was living in Florida, and I got up about three o’clock one morning and I got three songs on my mind and, afraid I’d forget it, I got up and wrote three songs. ‘Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son’ was one of ’em. ‘I Feel Like Going Home,’ I wrote that. And ‘Vision of a Promised Land ,’ I wrote that.”
“Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son” The Stanley Brothers 1965
On February 28, 1966, blue humorist extraordinaire, Ruth Wallis, recorded four songs at Cincinnati’s King Studios, two of which — “I’m theSexiest Gal in Town” b/w “I’d Rather Be Abroad” — would get released as King 6024, while the other two tracks (“C’est La Vie” and “Thru With Marriage”) remain locked away in the King vaults:
“I’m The Sexiest Gal in Town” Ruth Wallis 1966
This single, however, would not be the comedian’s first brush with Syd Nathan — Wallis, in fact, had enjoyed at least six 78 releases that go back to the late 1940s:
Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording session discography – unusually – devotes two entire pages to nothing but Ruth Wallis recordings. The first page lists the entire song titles for four Ruth Wallis King LPs numbered in sequential order:
Also worth noting King LP 904 — Saucy Hit Parade — produced and edited by Kermit “King of the Bloopers” Schaffer (year of release unknown).
King History Primer: De Luxe Records
As Ruppli explains in the introduction to Volume 1 of The King Labels:
Just after the Queen era [c. August, 1947], Nathan purchased a large part of De Luxe label, which had been formed in 1944 by the Braun family. This label was operated in Linden, New Jersey and had also many sessions recorded in New Orleans. King had control over all De Luxe material and many De Luxe titles were reissued on King records and albums. From 1947 to 1949, the De Luxe label was operated by the Braun brothers under King control, up to the point when the Brauns formed another recording company called Regal. In the fifties, the De Luxe label was revived by King on new master and release series.
As we learned from the Albert Washington history piece, Lin Broadcasting – as new owners of the combined Starday-King catalog upon Syd Nathan’s passing – would revive the De Luxe imprint yet again in the late 1960s.
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:
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.
“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.”
Ann Jones, King recording veteran, and hubby Hughie, have their five-piece, all-girl band playing military installations in the 50 States on a 52-week-a-year basis. Combo makes the jump in a sleeper bus.
KCLX disc jockey, Mary Wilson, in that same Billboard column would “type in” from Palouse, Washington in their January 1, 1955 edition “that Ann Jones and her all-girl band from Vancouver, B.C., toured thru there recently and guested on her ‘Far West Jamboree.’ In the band, which played the Riverside Park there the same night, are Blanche Emerson, steel guitar, Yvonne Fritchie, vocalist and guitarist, who records for Abbott Records; De Lore Nelson, accordion, and Mariam Saylor.”
Ruppli’s King Labels discography reports March 29, 1951 to be the date of Jones’ first recording session at King’s Cincinnati studio (having left Capitol, her first label, for King). “Hi-Ballin’ Daddy” – one of four songs captured on tape at that first session – would be her first 78 release for King:
“Hi-Ballin’ Daddy” Ann Jones 1951
Another recording session would take place eight months later at the King studio on November 9, 1951, and again, four songs would be committed to tape, including “Too Old to Cut the Mustard.” The next recording session at the King studio would take place on June 6, 1952 (including “Smart Aleck“), while two more sessions would take place in Los Angeles the following year in May (“If I Was a Cat” & “A Big Fat Gal Like Me“). The final entry in the Ruppli discography indicates Jones’ last session for King to have taken place April 11-12, 1961 at the Cincinnati studio, with fifteen songs recorded, including “Hit and Run” and “Pieces of My Heart.”
78 RPM/45 World reveals King to have issued eleven 78 releases by Ann Jones, plus two LPs on King subsidiary, Audio Lab: 1959’s Ann Jones And Her American Sweethearts (highlights from her early 50s recordings) and 1961’s Hit and Run from Ann Jones And Her Western Sweethearts (14 of the 15 tracks laid down in April, 1961).
1959 LP — modernist backdrop vs. 1961 LP — more traditional backdrop
From King’s 78 “biodiscs” (thanks, Randy McNutt!) we have learned the following information about Ann Jones:
Altho(ugh) all her kin are still in Kentucky, Ann was born in Kansas and attended school there.
Ann’s biggest seller was “Give Me a Hundred Reasons” [1949 debut single on Capitol] – she says that what success she has enjoyed to date is due primarily to the disc jockeys, who have been almost completely responsible.
Ann Jones, besides being the favorite girl hillbilly singer of thousands of fans, is also an athlete. She was a star softball player in California before devoting all her time to music.
When Ann is free to relax and enjoy her hobbies, you can find her at the best fishing spot in the neighborhood, or else at the ball park watching her favorite baseball team.
Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, Ann Jones has blue eyes and is 5’6″ tall. Fishing is her main hobby when she isn’t busy singing or composing songs. She has written over 150 original compositions.
Besides fishing, Ann loves baseball. She used to play softball before she devoted full-time to music. She seldom goes to baseball games anymore because she always yells herself hoarse.
Randy McNutt notes in King Records of Cincinnati: that Ann Jones “once said that she started writing songs because so many were written for men singers.”
Robert K. Oermann, in his entry for Ann Jones in The Encyclopedia of Country Music – Compiled by the Staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, observes that “much of her material was self-penned, making her one of country’s trailblazing female composers.”
A tall tip of the hat to music historian Dave Schroeder, who informs Zero to 180 (via the comments attached to this piece) that Billboard, in its January 1, 1955 edition “incorrectly lists Vancouver, British Columbia as the band’s home base – it should be Vancouver, Washington, not far from Portland,” and that furthermore, “to my ears, the 1950s recordings (1st Audio Lab LP) used King studio musicians, while those from the early 1960s (2nd Audio Lab LP, Hit and Run) featured Ann’s band, The Western Sweethearts.“
Steel Guitar Who’s Who: 1957
Schroeder also generously offered up this high-rez image of top steel guitar talent (including Blanche Emerson) from the Fender booth at a 1957 radio DJ convention – special thanks to The Steel Guitar Forum for identification of each musician:
The debut album by The JB’s — James Brown‘s backing band that included a group of Cincinnati musicians who would soon join forces with George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic and later form the core of Bootsy’s Rubber Band — was originally scheduled for release in July, 1971 on the King label (SLP 1126), as noted on Discogs. Starday-King even issued a test pressing, with Ron Lenhoff overseeing the engineering and editing of this four-song LP, half of which (“The Grunt” and “These Are the J.B.’s”) was recorded at King’s Cincinnati studios on May 19, 1970, and the other half (“I’ll Ze” and “When You Feel It Grunt If You Can”) recorded at Starday Studios in Nashville on June 30, 1970.
But alas, it was not meant to be** — as one Discogs contributor wryly observes:
Mmm. I wonder how many people have one of these [test pressings] … other than James Brown himself, Hal Neely, Dave Matthews, Charles Bobbit and anybody directly involved in King Records (as in office staff), most of the members of the band probably never got a copy of this TP, as this was at the precise point when JB’s catalogue got bought out by Polydor and the JB’s (Mk.1) had already exited stage left. Probably 25-50 made max.
The original These Are the J.B.’s LP comprised just four tracks (click on audio links):
“These Are the J.B.’s” The J.B.’s recorded in Cincinnati – May 19, 1970
Bass: William ‘Bootsy‘ Collins
Guitar: Phelps “Catfish” Collins
Drums: Clyde Stubblefield (A1 & B2)
Drums: Frank “Kash” Waddy (A2 & B1)
Congas: Johnny Griggs
Flute & Baritone Sax: St-Clair Pinckney (A1)
Tenor Sax: Robert McCullough
Trumpet: Clayton ‘Chicken‘ Gunnels & Darryl ‘Hasaan‘ Jamison
Organ: James Brown (A2)
Piano: Bobby Byrd (B1)
Engineer: Ron Lenhoff
Producer: James Brown
James Brown would describe the band in his 1986 autobiography thusly:
They were called the Pacesetters and were all from Cincinnati. They’d hung around King for awhile and then started doing session work there. I had used them myself on several things. Bootsy Collins (who later went on to become a big star with the Parliament-Funkadelic Thang and his own Rubber Band) was the bass player; his older brother, Phelps ‘Catfish’ Collins played guitar; Frank ‘Kash’ Waddy played drums; Robert McCullough played sax; a fella called Clayton ‘Chicken’ Gunnels played trumpet.
“These Are the J.B.’s” – songwriting credits per Discogs
Note: “When You Feel It Grunt If You Can” includes portions of “Let The Music Take Your Mind,” written by Kool & The Gang and Gene Redd Jr.; “Chicken Strut,” written by The Meters; and “Power Of Soul,” written by Jimi Hendrix.
The following year in 1972, when Polydor released what would be known as the debut album by The J.B.’s, a much different collection of songs would would end up in the marketplace, as Food For Thought comprised ten songs [“The Grunt” & “These Are the J.B.’s (Pt. 1)” being the only overlapping tracks] vs. the four song set as mixed and sequenced by Ron Lenhoff.
Funk fans worldwide rejoiced in 2014 when the original four-song mix enjoyed release on vinyl (as well as digital download) for the first time, with a 12-page booklet of liner notes by Alan Leeds stating that, in fact, only two test pressings are known to have existed (so says a Discogs contributor). Worth pointing out that “the originally scheduled issue of this album included overdubbed crowd noise — for this issue of the album, the original, undubbed two-track stereo mix was used as source.”
“The Grunt” – famously sampled for 1987’s “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy – would enjoy single release on King in August of 1970, just three months after being recorded. Billboard would select the single in the August 8, 1970 edition for its Top 20 Soul Spotlights “predicted to reach the Top 20 of the top-selling R&B Singles chart.”
A second single – “These Are the J.B.’s” (Pts. 1&2)” – followed in November, 1970. Billboard‘s Ed Ochs would select the 45 for his “picks and plays” for the week of October 24, 1970 in his ‘Soul Sauce’ column. Interesting to point out that the same BillboardNovember 21, 1970 issue that mentions Starday-King release of “These Are the J.B.’s” also notes that “the James Brown Show played Fargo, N.D. recently – the good response was particularly encouraging because this was the first time his show had ever played that state.”
R&B guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins, a veteran of James Brown’s J.B.’s, Parliament-Funkadelic and his younger brother William “Bootsy” Collins‘ Rubber Band, passed away at his home in Cincinnati on Aug. 6 at the age of 66, following a long battle with cancer.
Bootsy Collins issued a statement saying that “my world will never be the same” without his brother. “Be happy for him, he certainly is now and always has been the happiest young fellow I ever met on this planet.”
Bootsy’s wife, Patti Collins, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Catfish “was a father figure to my husband. He’s the reason why Bootsy is who he is.”
Catfish, eight years Bootsy’s senior, was the one who suggested his brother put bass strings on an old guitar, and the two were part of a Cincinnati group called The Pacemakers that became the rhythm section for the city’s famed King Records label. James Brown recruited the Collins brothers, and starting in 1968 they played on Brown classics such as “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose,” “Super Bad” and “Soul Power” as the J.B.’s.
By 1971 they had left Brown’s employ, going on to form The House Guests and then joining Funkadelic in 1972 for albums such as America Eats Its Young and Cosmic Slop. Catfish remained with the group — which also lost guitarist Garry Shider to cancer in June — until the mid-’80s.
“(Catfish) was a hell of a musician,” keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who played with the guitarist in Funkadelic, told the Enquirer. “People seem to forget that the rhythm guitar behind James Brown was Catfish’s creative genius, and that was the rhythm besides Bootsy’s bass.”
George Clinton alumnus Dumine DePorres seconded that notion, telling Billboard.com that Catfish’s particular niche was playing “the subliminal stuff, those inferred parts that you might not be able to hear right out front but without it there’s a big hole. It’s like the glue that holds the glue together.”
After Funkadelic, Catfish went on to play in Bootsy’s Rubber Band and also recorded with Deee-Lite, Freekbass and H-Bomb [Ferguson]. In 2007 he reunited with Bootsy, Worrell, Clyde Stubblefield and others for the soundtrack to the Judd Apatow comedy “Superbad.” A number of Cincinnati musicians gathered to play a tribute show for Catfish during July at a club in Roselawn, Ohio [Celebrities night club in the Valley Shopping Center on Reading Road, just a mile down the road from the Carrousel Inn].
Funeral arrangements have not been announced for Catfish, who had two children.
Bootsy’s Brother Succumbs to Cancer Cincinnati Enquirer — August 6, 2010
KENNEDY HEIGHTS – Before there was Bootsy, there was Catfish.
The older brother of Cincinnati’s legendary funk icon, Phelps “Catfish” Collins was a jovial guitar player with a huge smile, a mentor who helped shape his brother’s musical career as well as his life.
“He was a father figure to my husband,” said Patti Collins, William “Bootsy” Collins’ wife. “He’s the reason why Bootsy is who he is.”
Phelps Collins died Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.
Mr. Collins was a lifelong musician and Cincinnati resident. He was born eight years before Bootsy, who gave him the nickname “Catfish” because he thought he looked like one. He was fiercely protective of his family, once threatening to kill his father with a butcher knife if he saw him hurt their mother again, Bootsy told the Enquirer in an interview last year.
In 1968, Phelps and Bootsy Collins helped form local R&B band the Pacemakers, which became the rhythm section at the renowned King Records in Evanston. They played with James Brown, backing him on such songs as “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” as part of a group that became known as the J.B.’s.
James Brown & the J.B.’s – Bologna, Italy – April, 1971
In 1971, the brothers formed a flashy funk group called the House
Guests with band mates including drummer Frankie “Kash” Waddy and
former Pacemakers singer Philippé Wynne. Wynne went on to lead a group
called the Spinners, and the rest joined the free-wheeling Parliament-
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist Bernie Worrell played with the
Collins brothers in Parliament-Funkadelic. Worrell said he and Catfish
were the elders of the group.
“He was a loving, caring person, but at the same time, he wouldn’t
take any bullcrap when it came to business,” Worrell said. “He was a
hell of a musician. He taught me a lot about rhythms. People seem to
forget that the rhythm guitar behind James Brown was Catfish’s
creative genius, and that was the rhythm besides Bootsy’s bass.”
Phelps Collins later joined Bootsy’s Rubber Band and would go on to
play rhythm guitar on albums by Deee-Lite, Freekbass and H-Bomb [Ferguson]. He also performed on the soundtrack to the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy
“Superbad” with Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and other original
members of the J.B.’s.
“He was one of probably the most underrated musicians in R&B and funk
history,” said Cincinnati bassist Chris “Freekbass” Sherman, who cites
both Collins brothers as influences. “He’s such an amazing guitar
player. No one did it like him.”
Patti Collins said her brother-in-law, a father of two who lived in
Kennedy Heights, made a life of music and continued to collaborate
with Bootsy as the brothers grew older.
About a month ago, local musicians gathered at Celebrities in Roselawn
to perform a tribute to Catfish, said Lincoln Ware, who hosts a daily
radio show on WDBZ-1230 AM.
Ware said Mr. Collins, always a boisterous and smiling presence,
clearly wasn’t feeling his best that night. But he sat back anyway,
soaking in the music that had always meant so much to him.
As it turns out, more than one planned project got shelved when James Brown made the big decision to leave Starday-King and sign on the dotted line with Polydor, to wit:
**TONIGHT – One Night Only!
Friday, September 28, 2018 from 6-8 PM | James Brown’s Lost King Album.
In August 1971, James Brown planned to release a triple vinyl album of his electrifying March 1971 concert at the Olympia in Paris, backed by the original JB’s, featuring Bootsy and Catfish Collins. Sequenced and mixed by Brown himself for a King Records release, he considered it among his best work. However, when Brown’s contract was sold to Polydor Records, the masters were shelved and the album was not released. The complete concert recording would not be heard until 43 years later when Sundazed Records released it on “tri-fold” vinyl in July 2014. Join Bootsy Collins protege, Freekbass, as he plays the album on his own Funk Radio show = streaming on Radio Artifact, and simulcast on Cincinnati’s WVXU FM (listen here).
Note: Cincinnati music history fans will be interested to know that Kenny Poole (guitar) and arranger, David Matthews (organ) join The JB’s on one song — “Who Am I” — a tune on which James Brown plays on drums (assuming that Zero to 180 is correctly reading the musician credits).
“In late 1958, Audio Lab was formed as a budget label subsidiary to Cincinnati-based King Records. From 1959 -1962, Audio Lab released a lot of material that had never appeared in album form, including rare albums by Bullmoose Jackson, Annie Laurie, April Stevens, Lattie Moore, [Hank] Penny, the Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Newman, H-Bomb Ferguson, Sticks McGhee and John Lee Hooker.”
One track that enjoyed a second lease on life via Audio Lab was the first (non-45) album appearance of a song that would become a part of the American cultural fabric years later when used as a recurring skit on TV’s “Hee Haw” – link to related Zero to 180 history piece. As Both Sides Now observes, “The original version of [‘Pfft! You Were Gone‘] made its first (only?) LP appearance on [the Kentucky Colonel] Audio Lab album” (Bear Family’s 20-track CD compilation from 1984 Hangover Boogie doesn’t count).
Another great example of King material previously not available on LP —
1962 Audio Lab LP attributed to Moon Mullican entitled Instrumentals (that also, oddly, includes two tracks by Hank Penny and one song each by Mel Cox & Cowboy Copas).
All of these instrumentals are fairly obscure, especially the 1947 Cowboy Copas B-side “Jamboree” that got much better buzz in Billboard ‘s Dec. 13, 1947 edition compared to its A-side “I’m Tired of Playing Santa Claus to You”: “Plenty of good hill country guitar and fiddle in an instrumental potpourri of folk melodies” [streaming audio for “Jamboree” not yet available on YouTube, unfortunately].
Gerald Wilson Orchestra’s early 1954 Los Angeles sessions for Federal and King – including “Mambo Mexicana” – would be reissued five years later on an Audio Lab LP entitled Big Band Modern, a reminder of the mambo mania that had gripped the nation at the time this song (today’s featured track) was released:
“Mambo Mexicano” Gerald Wilson Orchestra 1954
Based on available discographical information, these 1954 recordings would appear to be among the earliest in a career that would span well into the new century, as NPR’s 2011 piece “The Gerald Wilson Orchestra: A Living Legacy” affirms (Wilson, as it turns out, is one of many famous jazz musicians who “did time” in Earl Bostic’s band — in this case, one of four trumpeters who played on a December 4, 1958 Los Angeles recording session (six tracks, including “My Reverie” and “All the Things You Are“).
Today’s featured artist: Gerald Wilson & HIs Orchestra
Kicking off our rogue’s gallery of Classic Audio Lab LP Covers is this modernist gem:
Grammar maven in me cannot allow disparity in song titles below go unremarked:
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.
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 saloonsing-along/ragtime/novelty band (The Saloonatics), (3) Wayne Cochran, a well-known rockabilly artist, (4) the Oscar Brandenburg Orchestra, a big band swing “orchestra” that was really Neil Richardson, Alan Moorehouse, and Johnny Pearson recording music to be used behind BBC test patterns for TV, (5) Azie Mortimer, a female jazz singer, and (6) to cap off the label, a reissue of a 1955 Dick Stabile studio album recorded in New York and advertised as recorded at a swanky New Orleans hotel. Not the first time King pulled this trick, however. The album had previously been issued on King 623 as Dancing on Sunset Strip.
The last Bethlehem-related session in Ruppli’s sessionography — The Saloonatics, who recorded their one and only album on April 29, 1969, Crazy World Crazy Tunes, which features country blues weeper, “I Get the Blues When It Rains” as the A-side of a 1969 single:
“I Get the Blues When It Rains” The Saloonatics 1969
Note the 1929 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton on the LP cover…
… while the rear cover features liner notes from none other than Mr. Dick Clark
Dick Clark’s liner notes:
The Saloonatics are a group of musicians and singers who entertain each night, and as a result of this daily contact with the people, they seem to know what the people like. It is just that element, what the people like – that is reproduced here.
The story behind the Saloonatics and this album goes much further. This recording is the accomplishment of an ambition for two men who have been in all phases of the music industry for many years.
Paul Striks plays piano and sings, Ralph Guenther plays bass and banjo and also sings. They are the nucleus of the group presented here. Saul was with a group called Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads from 1947 to 1960 and was on all the hit records produced by that group during those years. Ralph was a recording musician for King Records in Cincinnati for many years, and participated in the recording of many hits.
Saul and Ralph knew each other but never worked together. After a severe injury to Saul, which forced him to stop traveling, friends brought Saul and Ralph together again and insisted that they should work together. The group, which began as an experiment, soon became an outstanding attraction in Cincinnati.
The next step was recording: the reasoning behind this was that Saul and Ralph had been on hit records before, but had never received credit for what they did on the records. They were anonymous.
Here are two experienced professionals finally getting the recognition they deserve. The musicianship obvious in the piano and banjo playing is enhanced by the unique singing of both men. Saul plays the piano and Ralph plays the banjo. Saul sings “Me and My Shadow,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby” and “Red Silk Stockings.” Ralph sings “Vo Da Dee O Do,” “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” “Just Because,” “Lock My Heart,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” “Columbus Stockade Blues,” and the original song with the improbable title, “If My Baby Cooks as Good as She Looks, I’ll Be Happy All the Time.”
To this comination of musicians, another element was added – O.B. Marshall, a great arranger with many hits to his credits, was brought in to be the musical framework in which the talents of Saul Striks and Ralph Guenther would best be shown. O.B. added a band of all-star recording musicians, and conducted the sessions as well as writing the arrangements.
That’s the crew: Saul Striks, Ralph Guenther, and O.B. Marshall. The result is this album. We hope you enjoy it. We did.
Bill Sachs, Cincinnati reporter in Billboard‘s ‘From the Music Capitals of the World’ column the week of June 10, 1972, notes that “The Saloonatics, namely Saul Striks, piano, and Ralph Guenther, banjo and bass, set for up an indefinite stay in the Terrace Hilton Hotel. Striks was for many years with Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads.”
We know that Wayne Cochran and others had album releases on Bethlehem that followed The Saloonatics, so the big question that runs through this piece: Were the Saloonatics the last Bethlehem act to record at King’s Cincinnati studio — versus the Nashville studio used by the new consolidated Starday-King label (e.g., the JB’s featuring Bootsy & Catfish Collins and other CIncinnati musicians)? And who exactly was the last artist to record at the King Studios – do we know?
Update! Update! Update!
Zero to 180 concluded its special King Records 75th Anniversary coverage with a piece posted on November 1, 2018 – Lord Thunder: Final Deluxe 45? – that included this special postscript:
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.
The Australian All-Stars‘s 1959 album – Jazz for Beach-Niks – was originally released on Columbia Australia and picked up for US release four years later by King subsidiary label, Bethlehem (and reissued 2013 in Japan), subject of the previous history piece. One can only presume Syd Nathan was trying to capitalize on the burgeoning surf sound via the misleading cover photo (strictly jazz – not a trace of surf).
Vexingly, Bethlehem had already issued the Australian All-Stars sophomore album in 1960, three years prior to the US release of their first album. Are you confused?
“Decidedly” The Australian All-Stars 1960
Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording sessions discography, sadly, is bereft of any information (“details not known”) about this release by The Australian All-Stars. Fortunately, Discogs has the musician credits, with the following players listed on both albums:
Freddy Logan: Bass Ron Webber: Drums Terry Wilkinson: Piano Don Burrows: Saxes, Flutes & Clarinet Dave Rutledge: Tenor Sax & Flute
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.
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.
Lowman Pauling (a.k.a., “El Pauling“) exchanges vocal lines with Royal Abbit (i.e., “The Royalton“), while also taking the time to squeeze off some stinging guitar licks on “Solid Rock” — recorded June 9, 1960 in Cincinnati at the King Studios:.
“Solid Rock” El Pauling & the Royalton 1960
Lowman Pauling — in a solo stint from The ‘5’ Royales, following their great run with King — teams up with Royal Abbit, “who would become the group’s pianist and replacement vocalist for any of the group members when sick,” according to 45Cat. Over 50 years later, someone would pay $295 for an original copy of this Federal 45 described by The Houndblog as “rockin’ gospel” (check out the prices paid for other singles attributed to El Pauling).
The two vocalists would team up for three more Federal 45s of their own creation [streaming audio by clicking on song titles below]: