Bobby Smith, we now know, had been commissioned by Syd Nathan to build a recording studio in Macon, Georgia — the adopted hometown of King Records’ biggest star, James Brown. The following recordings were produced by Bobby Smith at Bobby Smith Studios, the recording location for these (Starday-)King-related releases — with one notable exception, as indicated a little further down the page:
History Wrinkle: The earliest appearance of “Macon, Georgia” as a recording location in Ruppli’s King recording sessionography – “May 4, 1966” – can be found on a session for Thomas Bailey that yielded “Just Won’t Move” and “Fran” — a single that, for some odd reason, did not find release until 1970. Perhaps Ruppli’s carbon-dating tests somehow got mishandled in the lab? The more likely explanation can be found in John Ridley’s liner notes for the first Ace UK/Kent compilation King Serious Soul:
“Bailey was active in the Macon area with his group, the Flintstones, around the turn of the 70s and was involved with Bobby Smith. He wrote material for Mickey Murray, among others, as well as making his own discs. His first Federal 45 coupled the ballad ‘Fran’ with the strutting Southern funk of ‘Just Won’t Move.'”
Zero to 180 recently spoke with King Records historian, Brian Powers, who asserted that Bobby Smith Studios, indeed, was up and running by 1966 and, in fact, had already been in operation for several years.**
Here’s one other Bobby Smith production that might be the latest recording of the bunch — first of two featured songs in today’s history piece:
Must note with confusion that Bobby Smith is listed as producer on Gloria Walker’s classic slice of funk “Papa’s Got the Wagon” (along with its mate “Your Precious Love“), even though Ruppli’s sessionography notes state that this March, 1971 single had been recorded in “Cincinnati” — is it possible that Smith came to King Studios for this session (which also produced “Lonely and Blue” and “Dancing to the Beat” – two songs that remain locked away in the King vaults)?
NOTE: Check out the “prequel” to this piece via King Records — Day of My Birth, which includes session information for Bobby Smith Productions 1964-1965
In the course of browsing the Federal Records section of Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography, I couldn’t help but notice one particular James Duncan session** that took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama — not Macon, Georgia. But wait, Bobby Smith’s name is attached to this entire August 14, 1969 recording session — is it possible that Smith traveled to Muscle Shoals to record James Duncan? Listen to the classic guitar work on “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” — sure sounds like Eddie Hinton, right? Compare with “This Old Town” by Wilson Pickett, a song previously celebrated here.
“I Got It Made (in the Shade)” James Duncan 1969
As it turns out, the ‘Musical Columbo’ – Soul Detective – had already pondered this question ten years earlier, having discovered a key piece of research in John Ridley’s liner notes to Volume 2 of the Ace UK/Kent anthology series, King Serious Soul that affirms Ruppli’s assertion, pointing out that James Duncan’s Federal singles “were mainly cut at Muscle Shoals [Sound] and were uniformly of a very high standard indeed.”
James Duncan, along with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, laid down six songs at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, Alabama on August 14, 1969, with producer Bobby Smith at the helm: “Money Can’t Buy True Love”; “My Baby Is Back”; “All Goodbyes Ain’t Gone”; “I’m Gonna Leave You Alone”; “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” & “You’ve Got to Be Strong” [Ruppli]. Also recorded at Muscle Shoals, according to Ridley, is the Lori & Lance single “I Don’t Have to Worry” b/w “All I Want Is You.”
** Zero to 180 would subsequently stumble upon Bobby Smith’s productions for King and assemble a “prequel” research piece, King Records — Day of My Birth, posted April 25, 2019.
He returned to Starday in the late 1960s as Merle Kilgore, “The Boogie King,” and also worked part-time for the label. He tells the story:
“I went to work for Starday years later [late 60s] for Hal Neely [President of the Starday-King merger]. I was workin’ the Hank [Williams] Jr. roadshow and I was open all week ’cause we worked Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays. So I went out and just kind of interned, you know. Producing the records and running the country division for Starday-King. I was out there for almost two years. Then they moved me up to where I was director of the country market there. It was like learning a whole new part of the business that I really hadn’t had the chance to experience.”
Kilgore’s peripatetic recording career would take him to Imperial, Starday, Mercury, MGM, Columbia, Ashley, Starday-King, Warner Brothers, and Elektra, and yet – as Gibson points out – “Kilgore’s only singles to break the Top 50 in the Billboard charts were on Starday.”
Extra Credit: Merle Kilgore as Songwriter for Other Artists
Search 45Cat‘s database using the terms “Merle Kilgore” and note the 9 “pages” of 45 releases (25 per page) on which Merle Kilgore has written at least one of the tracks. Artists who have recorded Merle Kilgore compositions include Webb Pierce, Guy Lombardo, Margie Singleton, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Claude King, Rex Allen, Hylo Brown, Jack Scott, Lorne Greene, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vinton, Kitty Wells, Billie Jean Horton, Lefty Frizzell, Tillman Franks, Wayne Raney, Tom Tall, Earl Gaines, Kay Starr, Ronnie & the Daytonas, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Leon Ashley, Travis Wammack, Little Jimmy Dempsey, Ray Campi, Anita Carter, June Carter, Carlene Carter, Bucky Allred, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, and Marty Stuart.
Merle Kilgore once recorded a song “Frankenboogie” under the alias “Frankie Stein” for Starday-King, who would issue the song in 1973 on King as an A-side, with “All She Wants to Do Is Boogie” (borrowed from the 1972 “Boogie King” 45) used for the flip.
Lonnie Mack‘s most famous recordings might be associated with Cincinnati’s other notable indie label from the roots rock era — Fraternity — but the hugely influential guitarist from Southeast Indiana also made a number of recordings at King Studios. Ace UK’s Lonnie Mack anthology CD From Nashville to Memphis includes a “Lonnie Mack Discography on Fraternity Records” (compiled by John Broven & Stuart Colman) whose contents reveal that all of Lonnie’s recording sessions between 1963 and 1965 (except for one session at RCA Nashville) took place at Cincinnati’s King Records. Lonnie would return to King in 1967 for one final Fraternity session that produced two songs — “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Omaha” (a.k.a., “Down in the Dumps”).
Note: Click on each of the 3 images below to view in high resolution
Intrigued to learn from the discography above that (a) Gene Lawson – of Lawson Microphones fame – played drums on legendary recording “Memphis” and (b) Cincinnati tenor saxophonist Jimmy McGary played on a handful of tracks, including “Coastin’” and “Tonky Go Go.” Randy McNutt also notes in The Cincinnati Sound that Lonnie Mack recorded two of his seminal 1960s albums for Elektra at Jewel Recording Studios (in nearby Mt. Healthy, Ohio), founded by one-time King recording artist, Rusty York.
Ruppli’s King recording sessionography notes that “Tell Me That You Love Me” — flip side of “Don’t Be a Drop Out” — was recorded live at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, Florida on April 24, 1966. 2007’s release of James Brown: The Singles Volume 4: 1966-1967 by Hip-O Select identifies Lonnie Mack as the guitarist on this track (sure sounds like him), even though Ruppli’s detailed listing of musicians, strangely, fails to include him.
45 picture sleeve releases from Sweden (left) and Italy (right)
Zero to 180 is still trying, unsuccessfully, to find out which Hank Ballard recordings feature Mack’s guitar playing.* [see note at the very end]
Just three years after his final 1967 King recording session, Mack would return to Cincinnati’s (newly-renamed) “Starday-King” Studio to accompany Albert Washington and his band, you might recall, on at least eight songs that got released as three 45s on Rusty York‘s Jewel label, while the fourth 45 came out on Starday-King subsidiary label, DeLuxe, curiously enough..
What a pleasant surprise to learn that the Grammy Foundation produced a video clip in 2015 that features former King session musician and funk innovator Bootsy Collins reflecting on his experience “meeting his musical idol” Lonnie Mack:
Many of the obituaries for Lonnie Mack note that the Bigsby tremolo bar was unofficially dubbed the “Whammy” bar in recognition of Mack’s influential Top Five hit instrumental. Danny Sandrik‘s excellent tribute piece – “Blue-Eyed Soul and the Cincinnati Sound” – notes that Lonnie Mack, along with Beau Dollar, “was” the Cincinnati Sound and reveals that it was Chuck Sullivan, not Mack (as indicated in the discography above), who played the signature guitar lines on Beau’s classic version of “Soul Serenade.” Sullivan would also relate the details of that famous recording session of 7 February 1966 to Brian Powers in a special radio program James Brown Productions, Part One that aired on Cincinnati’s WVXU during 2018’s King Records 75th Anniversary Celebration.
* [On the issue of Hank Ballard, Zero to 180 received this email on 15 March 2019:
I am the author of the Wikipedia article on Mack and have just read your posts on him. Excellent archaeology! You mention being unable to find any proof that he had played on records of Hank Ballard. Although I could not use “original material” in the article, I did interview Mack several times. He specifically told me that he had never played on any Hank Ballard record. He told me that this misinformation was the result of a garbled interview in which Mack told the interviewer that Ballard was a singing influence. After that, the mistake took on a life of its own as it was repeated in numerous subsequent reports. Regards, Steve Paine
Album released in US on Federal and in Brazil (year unknown) on Joda
abstract crowd backdrop — used for front and back cover images
“Going Back to Alabama” — first of three B-sides issued on Federal for Starday-King — includes some prototypical “rapping” in the James Brown tradition. Note the playful musical references to “Sweet Soul Music” — a song previously celebrated here:
“Going Back to Alabama” Mickey Murray 1970
Discogs acknowledges three Federal single releases over the course of three years beginning in 1970.
For those who wonder why such limited output from a one-time potential hitmaker, NPR reporter Eric Luecking’s accompanying history piece for “People are Together” — selected as ‘Song of the Day‘ for February 24, 2012 — suggests that Murray may have been more than a little disillusioned by his experience with the music industry:
Born in South Carolina in the 1930s, Mickey Murray had roots in Georgia and shined shoes to help earn a living early in life. He proved he could sing with gravel and grit, had a million-selling single in the late 1960s, and signed with the King/Federal label. It’s striking how similar Mickey Murray’s story is to that of James Brown, yet while Brown left an indelible mark on soul and popular music, Murray remains a mere blip in the musical cosmos. As the liner notes to his recently reissued lost album tell it, Murray doesn’t believe that People Are Together was ever officially released after it was recorded in 1970.
It was a risky endeavor to push “People Are Together” as the album’s lead single in the South. It was reportedly black DJs who killed the record, labeling it as too progressive and fearing that they’d lose their on-air jobs should they play it. It doesn’t sound remotely controversial today: It’s a call to all of mankind to join together and love one another, in the spirit of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and many other songs of its time.
Regardless, fame and a longer singing career didn’t follow for Murray, although he’d record later in life. But the defiantly hopeful “People Are Together,” written by Bob Garrett and Calvin Arline, now stands as a virtually unheard gem; whether it was known to the public when it was recorded more than 40 years ago is irrelevant. What is relevant is the song itself, a timeless three-minute sermon which implores us all to give a little more love.
In 2011, Secret Stash Records reissued the album in limited edition (“1200 individually numbered copies”), with extended liner notes, never-before-seen photos, and access code for a free MP3 download of the entire album (“first 250 copies also include a 7″, hand-numbered with the corresponding number.”)
45Cat acknowledges two singles following Murray’s stint with Starday-King — one in 1975 and the other in 1979, which appears to be singer’s final musical statement.
Philip Paul‘s stellar stick work really drives this “killer” instrumental version of “Fever” that features organ (Milt Buckner) and vibes (Gene Redd) — recorded at Cincinnati’s King Studios on March 5, 1963:
“Fever” Milt Buckner 1963
Organ: Milt Buckner
Drums: Philip Paul
Bass: Bill Willis
Vibes: Gene Redd
“Fever” — rightly selected as the A-side of a 1963 single release on King subsidiary, Bethlehem (paired with “Why Don’t You Do Right“) — would be characterized 54 years later as “Mod Popcorn R&B” when sold at auction.
“Fever” would also be one of the highlights of 1963 long-playing release The New World of Milt Buckner, an album produced by Hal Neely, arranged by Gene Redd and Milt Buckner, and engineered by Chuck Seitz. (with cover design by Joseph F. Wood). 2013 would see the album reissued on compact disc in Japan.
“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).