King Records Trivia: Maxi-Tweets

Fun Facts & Trivia — Best Tweets from King Records Month 2018

As with the previous piece (“King’s Jazz Legacy“), it seems silly to keep all this rich history from last year’s King 75th Anniversary tucked away in a file attachment.  One year later, it has become increasingly obvious that this “once-tweeted” information would serve humanity to a much greater degree if likewise liberated and laid out clearly, without concern for limits on text or number of illustrations.  These original tweets have been richly supplemented for this updated version.

Modernist pavilion at Cincinnati’s Bellevue Park overlooking downtown

[Note:  streaming audio links indicated in bold blue ink]

King History Tweet #1

Mose Rager – who, along with Ike Everly (father of Phil & Don), taught Merle Travis the “claw picking” technique – played on a King recording session for Fairley Holden.   According to Dave Sax’s liner notes for Ace UK’s King Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie

Fairley’s new version [of “Keep Them Cold Icy Fingers Off Of Me“] for King (his third) sold well enough to warrant three more sessions during the year, including 12 songs cut in December [1947] before the [1948 recording] ban.  He was backed by Moon Mullican (with whom he also toured in Detroit) at his first two sessions, while Mose Rager and another guitarist are heard at the December date.  This and a session with Curly Fox & Texas Ruby, also for King, give us the only example of Rager’s work on record [emphasis mine].

Check out the instrumental intro from “Sweet Mama, Put Him in Low,” a song from Holden’s last session for King — those guitar lines must belong to Rager, right?  That same recording session also includes “You’ve Been a Bad Bad Little Girl“; “Oh, That Naggin’ Wife of Mine“; “It’ll Make a Change in Business” (guitar solo at 1:11); “Put Some Meat on Them Bones“; “Don’t Monkey Around With My Widder When I’m Gone” & “Long Long Dresses,” with the guitar work on these tracks bearing that classic “Travis-style” picking technique which came directly from Rager and Ike Everly.  By the way, thanks to PragueFrank for pointing out that Holden’s first session for King took place in February, 1947 at E.T. Herzog Recording Studio in Cincinnati.

With regard to Curly Fox and Texas Ruby, since they did two recording sessions for King (as indicated by Ruppli), I am unclear as to which of the 17 tracks feature Rager’s playing, since he only played on “a” recording session, as Sax states above.  However, if I were to be so bold, I suspect that Rager’s guitar work can be heard on the second King recording session that yielded “You Don’t Love Me” and four other songs — check out the “Travis-style” guitar break at the 1:48 mark.  If I’m correct, that means Rager can also be heard (at least, theoretically) on “Those Dreams Are Gone” (solo guitar at the 0:50 mark); “On the Banks of the Lonely River“; “Falling Leaf” & “You’ll Remember and Be Blue” — the last track only issued on Nashville Bandstand Vol. 2 — the same album that includes (as previously noted) Merle Travis’s lone King recording as a solo artist “What Will I Do” (likewise unavailable on YouTube, unfortunately).  Album also includes Moon Mullican’s “Too Many Irons in the Fire” (not on YouTube either) — song co-written by Erwin King, Henry Glover, “Lois Mann” [Syd Nathan] & Mullican.

A copy of Volume 1 sold for $26 in 2012

King History Tweet #2

Southwest ShuffleRich Kienzle‘s history of honky tonk, western swing, and country jazz pioneers, has a chapter about guitar great Roy Lanham (“Neither Fish Nor Fowl”), whose title pinpoints the musician’s unfortunate predicament, in that he was considered “too country for jazz” and “too jazz for country”!  Lanham (celebrated here previously) can be heard on Hank Penny‘s very first session for King in 1944 (recorded in a room above the Wurlitzer Music Store in Cincinnati) — four songs, including “Last Night“; “Tear Stains on Your Letter” & “Hope You’re Satisfied” (with Louis Innis on second guitar).

Roy Lanham on King

Lanham’s most famous session work for King in the label’s early years can be heard on such Delmore Brothers 78 sides as “Goin’ Back to the Blue Ridge Mountains“; “Boogie Woogie Baby“; “Freight Train Boogie” & “Shame on Me” — recorded at Herzog’s Studio in October, 1946 with Homer & Jethro.  One year later, Lanham would join forces with Merle Travis at Cincinnati’s King Studios to record eight songs, including “The Frozen Girl“; “Long Journey Home” & “You Can’t Do Wrong and Get By.”  October of 1949 would find Lanham recording his swansong with the Delmore Brothers “Trouble Ain’t Nothing But the Blues,” with Syd Nathan in the producer’s chair.

This 1958 LP sold for $300 in 2012

King History Tweet #3

Noted western swing bandleader Spade Cooley cut sessions for King Records “under vocalist Red Egner‘s name” according to Kevin Coffey’s liner notes in CD compilation Shuffle Town – Western Swing on King. Total of 8 songs recorded in late 1946 at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles and released as four 78s, [plus 2 unreleased tracks “You Didn’t Want Me (When You Had Me)” & “South of Old San Antone”] — most notably “You Never Miss the Water Till the Well Runs Dry” and “Swing Billy A-La-Mode” (group billed as ‘The California Cutups’), with Noel Boggs, in all likelihood (inferring from PragueFrank‘s session info) on steel guitar.

With Noel Boggs on steel, correct?

King History Tweet #4:
King Steel Guitar Trivia

(Pre-pedal) steel guitar legend Noel Boggs played on King sessions for both Hank Penny [1945 session in Pasadena, California with Merle Travis that yielded 12 songs including “Steel Guitar Stomp“; “Merle’s Buck Dance” & “I’m Counting the Days“] and Jimmie Widener (whose all-star band would include Jimmy Wyble, who later starred with jazz greats Benny Goodman and Red Norvo) on such tracks as “You Better Wake Up Babe” — recorded at Hollywood’s Universal Recorders on September 21, 1946 [SOURCE: Shuffle Town – Western Swing on King 1946-1950].

Western swing on DeLuxe

King History Tweet #5:
More Steel Guitar Trivia

Jimmie Widener’s “What a Line!” – produced/co-written by Merle Travis and released by King Records in 1946 – features stellar steel guitar work by EarlJoaquinMurphey.  According to the liner notes from Ace UK’s King Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie:

Jimmie Widener was born in Oklahoma in 1924, and his career included stints with the Spade Cooley, Bob Wills and Tex Williams bands – and also the 24 sides he recorded for King.  “What a Line!” was from his first session held at Universal Recorders, Hollywood on 25 March 1946 during the sessions that Merle Travis produced.  The song enjoyed a new lease of life in near rockabilly format when recorded by Carl Story for Columbia in 1955.  The all-star personnel featured Jimmie Widener (guitar), ShelbyTexAtchison (fiddle), Harold Hensley (fiddle), Joaquin Murphey (steel guitar), Charlie Morgan (guitar), George Bamby (accordion), Vic Davis (piano), and Shug Fisher (bass). 

Incredibly, streaming audio not yet available on YouTube

Kevin Coffey notes that “Widener had recently been playing tenor banjo with [Bob Wills backing band] the Texas Playboys and had sung ‘How Can It Be Wrong’ with Wills at a recording session less than two weeks before these September 18-23 [1946] King [Hollywood] sessions began” in the liner notes to the Shuffle Town King western swing anthology.  With regard to those September, 1946 sessions at Universal Recorders —

“Syd and his King Records hit Hollywood with all the force of an earthquake,” journalist C. Phil Henderson enthused soon after in his Tophand magazine – and over the next month, at Hollywood’s Universal Recorders, Nathan waxed a hundred-plus sides on Widener, Penny, Red Egner, Tex Atchison and others.”

King History Tweet #6:
(Still) More Steel Guitar Trivia

Paul Howard and His Arkansas Cotton Pickers recorded their first session for King in Cincinnati on January, 26, 1949 with Bob Wills alumnus Billy Bowman on steel guitar (plus Red Perkins on vocals, Jabbo Arrington on guitar, two fiddlers in Red Harper and  “Julliard-trained” Roddy Bristol, and pianist Harold Horner).  This session also marked the recording debut (so says Kevin Coffey) of A-team Nashville session bassist, Bob Moore, father of R. Stevie Moore (“Godfather of Home Recording“) – four songs including “Texas Boogie” and “Torn Between True Love and Desire.”

Scratchy 78s – audio above not pristine

King History Tweet #7:
King Gospel

Queen, King’s short-lived subsidiary (1945-1947) devoted to black artists, featured mostly rhythm and blues recordings but also included a fair amount of gospel music, primarily Wings Over Jordan.  This 10-inch EP from 1946, with three songs per side, appears to be the only non-78 release on the Queen label — includes “Old Ship of Zion“; “When You Come Out of the Wilderness“; “Take Me to the Water“; & “Deep River.”

King History Tweet #8

Mabel Smith, a.k.a., Big Maybelle, with backing support from Hot Lips Page and His Orchestra, did three recording sessions for King in late 1947, with at least two of them taking place at Cincinnati’s King Studios.  Three King 78s would be the net result:  (a) “Sad and Disappointed Jill” b/w “Bad Dream Blues“; (b) “Indian Giver” b/w “Too Tight Mama“; (c) “Little Miss Muffet” b/w “Don’t Try to Fool Me.”   This French compilation from 2004 includes all of her King 78 sides, plus two unissued tracks:  “Foolin’ Blues” and “Dirty Deal Blues.”

Mabel “Big Maybelle” Smith recorded 8 sides for King

King History Tweet #9

King artists “ZebbTurner and “Cow BoyCopas enjoyed a split EP release in Denmark on the Vogue label in the early 1950s that includes Turner’s 1951 breakout hit “Chew Tobacco Rag” and Copas’s 1947 version of “Tennessee Waltz.”  Copas, in fact, had tried to buy “Tennessee Waltz” on a song-scouting expedition for Syd Nathan in a classic capitalist tale recounted by music historian Darren Blase (of Shake It Records) for his excellent piece “The Lonesome Ballad of Cowboy Copas” published in the August 1, 2013 edition of Cincinnati Magazine.

That’s Zeb with two B’s – Danish EP

King History Tweet #10

Federal – the King subsidiary label established for Ralph Bass to produce R & B artists – nevertheless had a Federal Hillbilly Series.  According to the liner notes in Ace UK’s King Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie, “only two hillbilly artists actually recorded new sessions specifically earmarked for Federal.”  One of those artists, Tommy Scott, recorded the hobo train classic “Rockin’ and Rollin’” at Cincinnati’s King Studios on January 4, 1951 with a backing band that included Hank Williams‘ one-time steel guitarist Jerry Byrd and (future Nashville session fiddler emeritus) Tommy Jackson — who both backed Williams on “Lovesick Blues” (recorded at Herzog’s in 1948), along with Louis Innis and Zeke Turner.

Hillbilly bop on Federal

King History Tweet #11
Train Songs on King

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a good train song, and one of the best collections I’ve heard is an anthology of mostly obscure 45s called Choo Choo Bop (issued by German label, Buffalo Bop). The tenth track – Larry Harvey’s “Rolling Home” – is one of my faves, and happens to be a King classic from 1957 that will have you singing the refrain in no time.  The person who posted this YouTube clip points out that “Rolling Home” is an update of “Fast Moving Night Train” (written by Rudy Toombs, sung by Grandpa Jones) that unfortunately is not available on YouTube.

“Rolling Home”     Larry Harvey     1957

According to Discogs:

Larry Harvey was a Canadian country singer originally from Newfoundland.  Moved to Toronto where he saw some success and then later to Nashville.  He was one of the inaugural members of the Country Music Association in 1956.  After a dispute with his record company King Records over Newfoundland distribution he left his contract.  He was unable to keep food on his family’s table, so he returned to Ontario and worked in a factory, then later started a small business.  Subject of the 2008 documentary “Paper Promises” by his son Shane Harvey.

In addition to the obvious (e.g., Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept a Rollin’“), here are four other King train songs worth investigating:

String band and rhythm section set up a strong beat and keep it driving right thru as the Jones gal hands the tune a growling chant.

King “bio disc”

Clever story novelty about an engineer with a slow freight train receives a lively performance by Newman.  Tune is melodic with a boogie beat.  Could grab loot.  A good kiddie disc, too.

Penned by Boudleaux Bryant, who (co-)authored many Everly Bros. hits

[Bob Newman, it must be said, also recorded the truck-driving classic “Hauling Freight” (from the pen of Henry Glover), as celebrated in Zero to 180’s piece from 2016.]

King EP – 1961

King History Tweet #12:
King Gospel

Billboard‘s May 3, 1952 edition reported that a Shenandoah, Iowa disk jockey held a contest, asking listeners to guess the names of King recording artists, The Harlan County Four, who had just released their version of “The Atomic Telephone” — a gospel song co-written by Henry Glover, Syd Nathan & Eddie Smith.  Raise your hand if you know the secret identities behind the Harlan County Four — answer is in this Zero to 180 piece.

Co-written by Eddie Smith – artist/arranger, and later, chief engineer at King

King History Tweet #13

Famed folk duo Sonny Terry (harmonica) and Brownie McGhee (guitar) played on a single recording session for King — supporting singer and Piedmont country blues guitarist, Ralph Willis — that was recorded in NYC on January 14, 1953.  Four sides, including “Hop On Down the Line“; “Do Right” & “Door Bell Blues.”

King History Tweet #14

Petula Clark on King Records?  It’s true!  Clark’s 1954 UK hit “The Little Shoemaker” was issued that same year in the US and Canada on King.  10 years before Clark would win the 1964 Grammy for Best Rock & Roll Recording (over “A Hard Day’s Night”).  Billboard‘s review in the July 17, 1954 edition:

“King 1371 – If this side had come out some weeks ago it could easily have pulled a good part of the action on the tune.  Petula Clark warbles the opus with a smile in her voice and she’s backed wonderfully by the large ork.  Disk, an English import, could still garner loot if exploited.”

King History Tweet #15

Rudy (pre-Dolemite) Moore first recorded for King in December of 1955, a session that yielded four songs:  “The Buggy Ride“; “Ring a-Ling Dong“; “I’m Mad With You“; and “My Little Angel.”  Moore’s second and final King recording session – June 1, 1956 – netted four more tracks:  “Let Me Come Home“; “I’ll Be Home to See You Tomorrow“; and “Robbie Dobbie.”

Rudy (Ray) Moore = four Federal 45s

King History Tweet #16

Mr. Nashville Sound himself, Chet Atkins, played bass on Fuller Todd’s “Proud Lady” – according to Rob Finnis in his liner notes to Ace UK’s King Rockabilly – when session bassist, Bob Moore, had not yet arrived at RCA Nashville, where the song (co-written by Louis Innis) was recorded on March 25, 1957.

Chet Atkins on a King rockabilly that is not yet available on YouTube

King History Tweet #17

Keyboardist DaveBabyCortez — who would later have instrumental hits with “The Happy Organ” (1959) and “Rinky Dink” (1962) — played on two King recording sessions:

Wha’da ya know? co-written by Henry Glover

Flip side co-authored by Henry Glover & Rudy Toombs

King History Tweet #18

King Records would issue over a dozen Trini Lopez single releases beginning in 1958 and ending into 1966, though none would chart, sadly.  Check out this classic slice of rockabilly bop “Yes You Do” — Lopez’s debut single for King — that was recorded December, 1958 in Dallas.

Australian 45 (“A King recording from U.S.A.”) – 1964

King History Tweet #19

Cliff Davis & The Turbo Jets recorded four songs in Chicago for King subsidiary label Federal in 1958 – including “So Sassy” and “Far East Cha Cha Cha” – and then four more on May 22, 1959: “Let It Roll (Pts. 1 & 2)” “Rock and Reel” and “Back Mountain Rock.”  Saxophonist, as well as songwriter and arranger, Davis would record one single for Okeh after leaving King.

German 45 – 1962

King History Tweet #20

Bruce Channel (whose harmonica player, Delbert McClinton, gave John Lennon a few tips on the instrument back in 1962 when The Beatles opened for Channel) recorded exactly four songs for King in a single 1959 Forth Worth, TX recording session that yielded two 45s. Of the four sides reviewed by Billboard, “Boy! This Stuff Kills Me” would get the most enthusiastic ink:

“Cat digs music, as he intros drums, twangy guitars and honking tenor.  He shouts the tale over a driving ork and combo assist.”

That combo assist, by the way, would be Marvin Montgomery and His Orchestra — this track also available on Ace UK compilation, King Rock ‘n’ Roll.

King History Tweet #21

One recording that remains unheard in the King vaults is Buck Floyd‘s “The U-2 Flight” – recorded in Cincinnati on October 17, 1960 in response to the major international incident that had taken place five months earlier on May 1st.  There are no images of Floyd’s lone King 45 [“I’m Gonna Show You All Someday” b/w “No Love for Me“] on the web.  The attached photo is of Ernest Burgess “Buck” Floyd of Carrollton, Kentucky (in Carroll County), born April 1, 1933.  Could this Korean War veteran be the same Buck Floyd, who once recorded at the King Studios?  Buck Floyd’s King 45 — recorded with Kenny Sowder & the Grand River Boys — was reviewed in Billboard‘s Jan 9, 1961 issue [B-side:  “Heartfelt vocalizing by Floyd on moving weeper”] and rated “three stars” (i.e., “good sales potential”).  Obituary for Ernest ‘Buck’ Floyd.

Ernest ‘Buck’ Floyd = King recording artist?

King History Tweet #22:
King Gospel

If you need sanctified sounds for your Sunday morning, consider giving this 1960 King album by the Bible Way Church of GodLet the Church Roll On — a spin.  Billboard‘s review from the Dec 26, 1960 edition:

“These spirituals have been recorded during church service by the Bible Way Church of God Choir in Cincinnati.  Performances are impassioned and capture the true gospel spirit.”

 King History Tweet #23

Besides Petula Clark, King would serve as US distributor for other leased EMI recordings, such as 1961’s “spy” guitar number with a “popcorn” beat “The Swinging Gypsies” by Tony Osbourne — selected by Billboard as a Special Merit Single for the week of Oct. 23, 1961.  Says the reviewer:

“A listenable instrumental featuring a hoked up piano sound against a big ork backing.  The side is set in a breezy rock tempo.  Could win spins.”

Would sound great on an instrumental mix with The Shadows, Duane Eddy, etc.

That same year, King would also lease “Black Stockings” b/w “Get Lost Jack Frost” by The John Barry Seven from EMI, both crisp guitar instrumentals — sadly, no visual evidence of this King 45 exists on the web (link to 45Cat catalog record).

King History Tweet #24

Reno & Smiley recorded a sarcastic slice of rockabilly (or is it mockabilly?) in King’s Cincinnati studios on April 24, 1961 — “Just Doing Rock and Roll” — under the fake name Chick and His Hot RodsBillboard‘s September 11, 1961 edition would rate this single release three stars (i.e., “moderate sales potential”).

Rock ‘n’ roll gets Punk’d

King History Tweet #25

Ray Bell was part of an elite group of artists that helped revive King’s Queen subsidiary label between the years 1961-1962.  45Cat contributor formula (-CH2-CHI)n would post this concise appraisal of Bell’s lone 45 release “Blues Tavern” b/w “Loveless Island.”

A Side: “Blues Tavern” – nice country honky tonk sound with fiddle from ’61.

King History Tweet #26

In 1961, Audio Lab gathered up Rocky Bill Ford‘s sudsy lament of a most tuneful sort — “Beer Drinking Blues” (originally released 1950 on Gilt-Edge, a label distributed by King) — along with eleven other songs for an LP that you would be hard pressed to find today.  Ford’s composition would get a nice makeover in 1969 by Eddie Noack, thanks to some driving piano and soulful dobro lines — link to Noack’s version of “Beer Drinking Blues.”

Rare album on Audio Lab, King’s “budget” subsidiary label

King History Tweet #27

Columbus, Ohio’s King Pharoah & the Egyptians recorded a single session for Federal Records in March, 1961 that yielded the 45 “Shimmy Sham” b/w “By the Candle Lite.” Billboard‘s Apr 17, 1961 edition would rate the 45 as having “moderate sales potential” and include this review:

A-side: “This is about the women in the tropic land who look so grand.  It’s a slow persistent rocker by the boys in solid bluesy r&b fashion. Good sound & catchy beat.”
B-side: “A slow, slow rockaballad done for fair results by the boys.”

King History Tweet #28:
Truck Driving Songs

Compare/contrast (1) Coleman Wilson’s original acoustic version of classic truck driving tale “Radar Blues” with (2) Swanee Caldwell’s full-band version recorded in Cincinnati on July 15, 1963.

Coleman Wilson’s A-side “Passing Zone Blues” peaked at #23 in Billboard‘s Country chart the week of Aug. 23, 1961.  Amusing to scan all the 45 releases of Dave Dudley, one of the “kings” of truck driving songs, and notice that King would reach into their back catalog and reissue in August of 1963 one of Dudley’s King rockabilly 45s in the wake of “Six Days on the Road” – the runaway hit released in April of that year.

Case study in truck-driving classics:  “Radar Blues”

King History Tweet #29:
Obscure Instrumental Awaiting Rediscovery

Double Whammy” by The Whammies – a driving sax and organ instrumental guaranteed to fill the dance floor – is actually the B-side of the group’s one and only 45.  The one YouTube audio clip for this song has only 545 “views” as of October 16, 2018 [one year later, that total has nudged up to 599 plays] — be the first on your block to hear this winner of a track!  The A-side “Walk Walk” was written by one of the West Coast’s in-demand session guitarists — René Hall (of “Twitchy” fame) — whose first King recording session (for Wynonie Harris) goes all the way back to Dec. 17, 1947 (“Your Money Don’t Mean a Thing” – with Dexter Gordon).  Hall’s guitar can be heard on a number of hits recorded in Los Angeles, including “La Bamba” (electric baritone guitar), and his arrangements include Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Going to Come.”

both sides “leased” – c. June, 1962

King History Tweet #30

Sonny Thompson, who co-wrote “Had You Told It Like It Was (It Wouldn’t Be Like It Is)” for Albert King, laid down some “popcorn jazz” on August 14, 1962 at King’s Cincinnati studio on a pair of tracks that were released as a Bethlehem 45:  “Loco Limbo” b/w “Just a Little Bit of Soul.”  Thompson is part of an ‘elite’ group that had a special publishing arrangement with Syd Nathan. 45Cat contributor “mickey rat” explains:

“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).”

Longer quote can be found in Zero to 180 piece – “Bethlehem Records: Post-Syd

Published by “Son-lo”

King History Tweet #31

Blues guitar legend Albert King did, in fact, set foot inside King’s Cincinnati studio on April 17, 1963 – two songs recorded:  “This Funny Feeling” (sadly, as it says on the 45 label:  a “vocal with band and vocal group” that features a sax [!] solo) and “Had You Told It Like It Was (It Wouldn’t Be Like It Is),” another vocal sans guitar.  Both songs are included on 1963 King LP, The Big Blues.

Fortunately, this King album does feature King’s distinctive guitar playing

King History Tweet #32:
King Kiddie Pop!

Whip out “The Bunny Hop” by The Delteens – recorded at King on March 12, 1963 – at your next preschool party or Kindergarten playdate.  “The Bunny Hop” (the B-side) merited three stars in Billboard‘s March 30, 1963 edition, while the Delteens take on that kiddie standard “The Hokey Pokey” earned the group an additional star!

King History Tweet #33

BillyCrashCraddock had recorded for almighty Columbia Records, prior to a short tenure with King Records that yielded three 45 releases – all in the year 1964 – from a single 12-song recording session at the Cincinnati studios on June 15, 1964, including “My Baby’s Got Flat Feet.”  Important to note that two of Craddock’s three A-sides were written by Henry Glover (just for fun:  scroll these 19 pages of search results on 45Cat to see how many 45 sides were written, produced and/or arranged by Glover).  The other six tracks would be rounded up for Craddock’s lone King LP – which includes “Talk to Me Talk to Me” (a Little Willie John 45 on King, originally) and the album’s title track “I’m Tore Up” (1956 Federal single written by Ike Turner and Ralph Bass).

Penned by Henry Glover (with assistance from “Lois Mann”)

King History Tweet #34:
The Cincinnati-Kingston Connection

One year following Prince Buster‘s rocksteady salute to “The Cincinnati Kid” (a.k.a., James Brown), King Records – ironically, perhaps – licensed a song from Prince Buster himself [“Ten Commandments (From Woman to Man)”] for release in the United States in 1967, with a Byron Lee track [“Papa Jack“] on the flip side.  45Cat notes, “Different vocal to the track released on RCA Victor 47-9114.”  Zero to 180’s related piece from 2014.

“Buster and East Productions”

King History Tweet #35

Keyboardist/arranger/studio musician, Richard Tee, arranged one recording session in New York City on April Fool’s Day, 1969, for soul vocal group, The Manhattans, who ended up releasing two albums on (revived) King subsidiary, DeLuxe, before joining forces with “Big Red” – Columbia Records.  Four songs recorded and released on two DeLuxe 45s — “The Picture Becomes Quite Clear” b/w “Oh Lord, I Wish I Could Sleep” -and- “Gonna Take a Lot to Bring Me Back” b/w “Give Him Up.”

King History Tweet #36:
Final Recording Session for Bethlehem?

Remember The Saloonatics from the Zero to 180 piece that questioned whether this was one of the last original sessions at Cincinnati’s King Studios for the Bethlehem subsidiary label?  Azie Mortimer‘s 1971 album, Feeling of Jazz, was actually one of the last 1969 recording sessions for Bethlehem listed in Ruppli’s King Records sessionography, with musician credits that include such notable jazz musicians as Jerome Richardson, Milt Hinton, Snooky Young, Jimmy ClevelandQuentin Jackson, Phil Woods, Les SpannWillie Rodriguez, and Mercer Ellington (arranger & conductor).  In 2014, the album was issued on CD (in Japan) for the first time.  Mortimer’s earlier singles are available on YouTube, but no streaming audio yet from this Bethlehem LP.

King History Tweet #37:
Last of the Licensing

Two long-playing recordings were licensed from EMI in 1972.  These two albums, King LPs 1140 and 1141, belong to the same artist:  Manuel (“pseudonym for Geoff Love‘s easy listening Latin themed recordings”) And His Music of the Mountains.  One of the albums, Manuel and the Music of the Movies, enjoyed a US release, while the other King LP, Cascade, appears to have been issued in the UK only — is that really true?

Hard to believe this is a King release — logo in upper left corner

King History Tweet #38

1973’s On Broadway album by The Coasters kicks off with the original “pre-Monkees” version of “D.W. Washburn” that was recorded “a few months before” the mop tops’ 1968 single though not released until after, so says Both Sides Now Publications [The Coasters’ version was recorded on Halloween 1967, according to this Wikipedia page].  Album also includes hotly reworked versions of “Love Potion Number 9” and “Cool Jerk” in a Latin boogaloo vein, plus newer compositions, such as “Soul Pad“; “Talkin’ About a Woman” & “Everybody’s Woman.”  Half the songs on the album are written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who were co-owners of Starday-King at that time (but not for much longer, sadly).

1973 LP cover – part of the “new social awareness”

King History Tweet #39:
Final King & Federal 45s

With respect to the question of what was the final King 45, I thought it might be great sad fun to simply list all the King single releases from 1973 in order by catalog numberNote that some catalog numbers are missing in the sequence below (e.g., 45-6411) — hoping that music scholars and vinyl collectors find any and all remaining King 45 releases from 1973 not represented in this list:

ARTIST NAME                A-SIDE  +  B-SIDE              CATALOG #

Allison          "Love Grow Cold" + "Born to Be a Lover"    45-6406

Patterson Twins  "Ever Got You Back" + "Got Some Problems"  45-6407

Earl Gaines      "Pillow Stays Wet" + "Don't Deceive Me"    45-6408

Willy Wiley      "Push and Shove" + "Just Be Glad"          45-6409

Rufus Watkins    "Wake Me Shake Me (No Sleep) Pts. 1 & 2"   45-6410

Sylvester Boyd   "Don't Want Nobody" + "Can't Go On Livin'" 45-6412

Eddie James      "Been Down So Long" + "Livin' w/o You"     45-6413

Fireside Singers "Live By His Word" + "Run On"              45-6417

Kastle           "Gettin' Down (w/ Hoss)" + "Why Don't You" 45-6418

Charles Brown    "For Good Times" + "Lonesome & Driftin'"   45-6420

Our Bro's Keeper "The Harlem Clown" + "Gonna Keep You Warm" 45-6421

Patterson Twins  "Back in Love Again" + "Come to Me"        45-6422

B-side of final King 45 (prior to the label’s sale in 1973)?

Similarly, I thought we could take masochistic pleasure in listing all the Federal 7-inch releases from 1971-1973 in order by catalog number to determine which was the final release, prior to the sale of Starday-King to Moe Lytle and Gusto Records in 1973 (Gusto, it has been said, “is believed to maintain one of the largest independently owned collection of record masters”).  As with the list above, I spy a couple missing catalog numbers (#12564 & #12565) — are there any 45 releases from these final years unaccounted for?

ARTIST NAME                A-SIDE + B-SIDE                CATALOG #

Mickey Murray    "People Are Together" + "Fat Girl"        45-12560

James Duncan     "Please Johnny" + "Stand Up & Get Funky"  45-12561

Clarence Murray  "Please Accept My Love" + "Book of Love"  45-12562

Bobby Leeds      "No Sign of Love" + "Yesterday's Rain"    45-12563

Gloria Walker    "Papa's Got the Wagon" + "Precious Love"  45-12566

Thomas Bailey    "Wish I Was Back" + "Percy's Place"       45-12567

Stratoliners     "What Do You Want w/ Love" + "Your Love"  45-12568

Gloria Walker    "Love Is In the Air" + "Them Changes"     45-12569

Gloria Walker    "When My Baby Cries" + "Gift of Love"     45-12570

Mickey Murray    "Can't Tell You" + "Nothing We Can Do"    45-12571

James K-Nine     "Counting Tear Drops" + "Live It Up"      45-12572

Toby King        "Mr. Tuff Stuff" + "For the Good Times"   45-12573

Final Federal 45 (we think) = Toby King Clavinet funk from 1973

NoteZero to 180 piece from last November attempts to identify the last DeLuxe 45.

King History Tweet #40:
King Funk & Soul

Fans of James Brown funk will want to track down a series of five LPs – Nothing But Funk, all (but one) JB productions – with each volume distinct and thoughtfully selected.  Click on the links below to review the extensive musician credits for each and every track.

Volume One = “12 JB Produced Funk Instrumentals 1967-1977

Volume Two = “11 Selections of Rare JB Funkiness From 1967-1977

Volume Three = “11 Selections of James Brown Rarities From 1963-1973

Volume Four = “11 James Brown Produced Rarities From 1963-1975

Volume Five = “10 JB Produced Funky Selections From 1965 to 1976

Bootsy & Catfish Collins + Robert ‘Chicken’ Gunnels & Robert ‘Chopper’ McCollough

TIP!  Vol. 2 features “Fun In Your Thang” by Bootsey Phelps & Complete Strangers

Nothing But Funk – Volume One

1968 King LP Nothing But Soul

French and German Counterparts on Polydor = 1968

Artist Profile in Miniature

Texas blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter Roy Gaines – a contemporary of Johnny Copeland with whom he was acquainted – had backed his hero T-Bone Walker by the time he was 14.  After moving to Los Angeles, Gaines served as a backing musician on recordings for Bobby Bland, Junior Parker and Big Mama Thornton in 1955.  In the 1960s, he played guitar on sessions for the Everly Brothers, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Darin & Gladys Knight.  Gaines would finally release his first solo album in 1982, Gainelining.  Three years later, Gaines played one of the jook joint musicians in the film, The Color Purple (link to musician credits on the soundtrack album), 2009’s big band album Tuxedo Blues would include “Miss Celie’s Blues” which Gaines had performed in The Color Purple.

“Mr. Guitar” (as he was billed in 1956) would release two 45s for King subsidiary label, DeLuxe the following year – “Annabelle” b/w “Night Beat” + “Isabella” b/w “Gainesville” – the latter tune being one of his signature guitar statements.  Gaines signed with RCA in 1958, and later in the 1960s would release singles for MCA subsidiary UNI and (pre-Arista) Bell Records, on which he recorded underappreciated “northern soul crossover” original, “Make It Easy.”

Quite a few Roy Gaines forty-fives have sold for 3 figures at auction

Cincinnati Celebrities on King

  • Cincinnati television and radio personality, Bob Braun, was a King recording artist!  Bob’s first 45 for King was a duet with another Cincinnati TV star, Dottie Mack – “Loaded with Love” b/w “My Baby Dearest Darling” – that was recorded on Sept. 28, 1954 at King Studios.  Bob’s next (and final) King 45 – “All My Love” b/w “Broken Hearted” – was actually leased in 1959 from another label.  Braun would also record for Cincinnati’s Fraternity label. as well as Decca, United Artists, and KY indie, Boone.  More intriguing, though, is the “rock & roll” single that Braun issued early in his career, in contrast to his clean-cut image.  Music scholars are still debating whether “Rock and Roll Country Girl” was recorded in 1954, the same year Elvis cut his legendary sessions at Sun.  A cataloger’s note on Discogs says, “release date from internet sources and is unconfirmed.”  Picture sleeve for 1973 Christmas single (on QCA) shows that Braun also recorded at Rusty York‘s Jewel Recording Studios in Mt. Healthy.

Bob Braun’s 1st King single was a 78 written by Lucky Millinder & Henry Glover

1973 Christmas single on the QCA label

  • After playing baseball with Babe Ruth for the Yankees in the 1920s, Waite Hoyt transitioned successfully in the 1940s to a career in broadcasting, as the Cincinnati Reds’ play-by-play voice for 24 years and Burger Beer pitchman.
    Hoyt gained fame for entertaining radio audiences during rain delays, sharing anecdotes and telling vivid stories from his days on the field.  In 1963, King put together an album of these stories called The Best of Waite Hoyt in the Rain.

1963 LP on King-distributed Personality Records

  • Song-and-dance man and whimsical late-night television personality, Bob Shreve — with backing support from The Dee Felice Trio (celebrated in the previous piece) — would go into Cincinnati’s King Studios on four occasions between February and March of 1970 to record enough material for his lone King LP, Good Ole’ Bob Doing His Thing.  A fair number of recordings remain “in the can,” according to Ruppli, such as “When I Take My Sugar To Tea“; “Just One of Those Songs“; “Do You Ever Think of Me” and “Raindrops” plus eight more songs whose titles are “unknown.”

1970 King LP – “A James Brown Production”

Rare King — At Auction

Among the pricier items that came up in my search for rare King vinyl via Popsike:

The winner goes to a 45 that is considered to be “the Holy Grail of soul records and with good reason,” as this copy sold in 2016 is said to be “the second copy known to exist and by the far the finest example” of Junior McCants‘ second and final 7-inch (promo) release — “Try Me For Your New Love”  Total price paid:  $17,100!

“Try Me For Your New Love” by Junior McCants = 1967

Close behind in second place is … the same 45!  With a starting bid at $10, twenty-five bids later the final bid would reach $15,099 in 2008 for the Junior McCants 45 above.

Third-highest price paid for rare King vinyl is this “deep groove” copy of Roland Kirk’s debut album, Triple Threat (recently celebrated) in “near mint” condition — sold in 2015.  Total price:  $6886

In similar fashion, fourth-highest is a repeat winner — in this case, Roland Kirk’s debut album, sold in 2007 for $2878 [while others would sell for $2130 in 2005; for $1750 in 2009; and $1260 in 2015].

Other King-related vinyl that has sold in the four-figure range:

  • This “ultra rare” Lonnie Johnson LP – packed with 12 songs per side and released by King in 1966 — sold in 2015 for $1250.

King-related vinyl that has sold in the three-figure range:

  • Someone coughed up $811 in 2009 for a John Lee Hooker/Sticks McGhee split LP Highway of Blues on King’s “budget” subsidiary label, Audio Lab.

  • With a total of 8 bids submitted, this “very rare” 1954 Roy Brown EP eventually fetched $691 in 2011.

Starday-King:
Vintage Advertising

Starday-King ad from the April 25, 1970 edition of Billboard

In the groove = Extreme close-up of artist roster

King Records History MeetsGeorge Michael?!

In the course of putting together a Spotify birthday playlist for my wife, I took a detour to find another George Michael song to substitute for “Faith” and pulled up what I thought was the promo video for “Waiting For That Day,” but was actually a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of his 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice – Volume 1.  King Records history fans, can you figure out which James Brown drum sample was used as the rhythm track for that song? Go ahead and hazard a guess (hint: Clyde Stubblefield) — you’re probably right!  Answer can be found in this video clip:

George Michael in the studio with master tape of “Waiting For That Day” – 1990

Clyde Austin Stubblefield (April 18, 1943 – February 18, 2017)

Clyde Stubblefield Remembered

Last Word…

Final paragraph in Dave Marsh‘s state-of-the-music essay in Rolling Stone‘s 1979 year-end issue:

Summary List of Zero to 180 Pieces Created for King Records Month 2018

= Phillip Paul:  The Pulse of King

= “Chew Tobacco Rag” Done R&B

= King’s ‘Country Done R&B’ LP

= King’s Classic Yodeling 78:  Carolina Cotton

= On the Cusp of the New Rock Sound

= “Atomic Telephone”:  King 78

= King Cash-In Surf LP #1

= King Cash-In Surf LP #2

= Jazz Misrepresented As Surf?

= El Pauling and the Royalton

= Bethlehem Records:  Post-Syd

= 1969:  Bethlehem’s Last Session?

= King’s Budget Subsidiary Label

= The JB’s Debut:  Polydor Not King

= Ann Jones & Her “All-Girl” Band

= Albert Washington’s Psych Funk

= Ruth Wallis:  King/DeLuxe Artist

= King Truck Driver Bluegrass 45

= Milt B’s “Mod Popcorn R&B”

= Mickey Murray LP II:  Released?

= Lonnie Mack at King Records

= Merle Kilgore on Starday-King

= Bobby Smith’s King Productions

= Coldwater Army on S-K’s Agape

= Wild Goose:  King Hard Rock ’71?

= Boot:  King Hard Rock ’72

= Lord Thunder:  Final Deluxe 45

*Reminder:  This site viewed optimally on a full-screen computer, not a smart phone

Calvin Shields – Musical Pioneer

Hard to believe it was only 20 years or so ago I was having cheese coneys with The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s preeminent music writer Larry Nager and asking what it would take for the city to finally “own up” to its King Records history.  Last week, to my utter delight and amazement, the City of Cincinnati, under Mayor John Cranley’s leadership and with the support of City Council, leveraged the power of the state on behalf of music history — so now Zero to 180 will have to find something else to complain about.

Thanks to a $1 land swap deal, there will be no wrecking ball for the original structure used by Syd Nathan and his talented team to birth a musical enterprise that enabled King the ability to ship out in the morning a piece of music that had been recorded the evening before.  As Brian Powers point out in his King Records Scrapbook, no other label – including almighty Columbia – had the nimbleness to operate in this capacity.

Photo courtesy of Brian Powers

Unique among fellow King chroniclers and researchers, Powers organizes his King Records Scrapbook categorically — The Executives; A&R Men; Sound Engineers; Session Musicians; Recording Artists — rather than chronologically, while throwing in  fun tidbits, such as a King Records Timeline of historical highlights plus street addresses of selected King artists and executives, including Syd Nathan (who once lived in Bond Hill an easy walk from the home of drummer, Reg Grizzard, and about a mile and a half from my boyhood home in Roselawn, as the crow flies).

Rob Finnis, in his extensive liner notes for Ace UK anthology King Rockabilly, reveals some of the audio engineering aspects behind King’s legendary sound (e.g., “Fever” by Little Willie John):

The live, upfront studio sound attained by engineer Eddie Smith had the bass and drums leaping out of the speakers with maximum impact.  [Charlie] Feathers wasn’t the only beneficiary [“Bottle to the Baby“].  This sharp, larger-than-life ambience characterizes several other titles on this compact disc including “Move” [Boyd Bennett], “Peg Pants” [Bill Beach], “No Good Robin Hood” [Delbert Barker], and “Rock n’ Roll Nursery Rhyme” [Dave Dudley].  “That old King studio had a terrific sound,” explained Henry Glover.  “It had a very high ceiling, maybe 24 feet, and the control room protruded into the studio in a V-shape like the bridge of a ship so the engineer could see in front and to the side of him.  I sent for an engineer by the name of Eddie Smith who was a very good technical man.  He stayed with King for about 12 years and later worked over at Bell Sound in New York.

Everything was done at one time, there was no multi-tracking; you would continue making cuts until you got every instrument, every voice, on the 1/4 inch tape and that was considered your final mix.  In those days, we were even thinking of frequencies and emphasis on various instruments.  Out of the regular upright bass, we got a sound just like today’s electric Fender bass by close-miking it with a microphone called the 44BX and surrounding it with live-surfaced acoustic isolation panels.  The drum sound in those days was generally gotten by releasing the drum snares completely and you’d put a heavy object like the drummer’s wallet – or Syd Nathan’s wallet – on the snare and the really hard-driving backbeat stroke was actually a rimshot.

Glover would be even more emphatic in his praise for King as a facility with great sound in this passage from Arnold Shaw‘s classic roots rock historical critique, Honkers and Shouters (which includes a chapter devoted to King Records entitled “Record Company in an Icehouse”):

Shortly after he joined King Records, Glover moved to Cincinnati “because Syd Nathan had built one of the finest recording studios in the country and staffed it with Eddie Smith, a former musician who was a brilliant engineer.”

Calvin Shields behind the kit [photo courtesy Brian Powers]

Last year, on the eve of the city’s Historic Commission vote to consider the request for demolition, The Cincinnati Enquirer would subtitle Sharon Coolidge’s feature story on King in the Sunday edition, “Fight to Preserve the Legacy of King Records and Founder Syd Nathan at Crossroads” and include quotes from Patti Collins (Bootsy Collins Foundation), Elliott Ruther (Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation), Jon Hartley Fox (author of ‘King of the Queen City’), L.A. Reid (who actually grew up in Evanston), Otis Williams, Mayor John Cranley, former mayor Dwight Tillery, and Anzora Adkins of the Evanston Community Council.

Can you spot the gaffe?

Elliott Ruther, in the Enquirer piece, notes the progressive hiring practices employed by Nathan – in his attempt to extend his song publishing fortunes across the color line – that put King in the forefront of American race relations.  Powers point out that CalvinEagle EyeShields, in his studio work from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, may have been “the first black drummer to record country music.”

CALVIN ‘EAGLE EYE’ SHIELDS – 1950
[PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN POWERS]

Quotes from Henry Glover & Calvin ‘Eagle Eye’ Shields
[special thanks to Brian Powers*]

“I started using drums for the first time for country music with Moon Mullican.  He fell in love with a black drummer that I had been using on several dates around Cincinnati called Calvin Shields.  He was better known as ‘Eagle Eye.’  He was very, very friendly and dear to Moon Mullican.  He played on many of his sessions, and many of the other country & western records when they began to use drums, which they didn’t do when I first came to King.  [With] Moon Mullican, I would use a heavy backbeat that this drummer called Eagle Eye, that came there with Tiny Bradshaw a few years back and made Cincinnati his home, he was ideal for that, the backbeat.” – Henry Glover

“Moon had such a great soul.  He was just like a black man to me, you know, like he thought, felt, and expressed himself and everything else.  Like we would say he had a whole lot of soul, Moon did.” – Henry Glover

“Drums were a must for Moon.  Moon wanted drums.  And he fell madly in love with this drummer called Calvin Shields that we called Eagle Eye.” – Henry Glover

“Moon Mullican was the first to use a black band at King.  In just about every case, we had a black bass or maybe a black drummer with Moon in order to get the rhythm because Moon played like a black man and he even thought like a black man – in fact, I sometimes had my ideas about whether he was black or not!  He was the very first white man, I believe, that caught my eye as being not filled with bigotry or hatred … he found himself as comfortable among blacks as he did among whites.  And it’s a very funny thing – both races in those days were displaying standoff-ish attitudes — not Moon.  Moon would make most of the black clubs in the worst parts of town and all of his friends during the course of his stay would be black people.  He’d play in black clubs and they would give him a standing ovation.  It was very rare.” – Henry Glover

“Glover introduced us. I walked in and all those white cats sitting around wondering,  ‘Hey, he’s got a black man playing his music.’  So I don’t say nothing to them and they don’t say nothing to me.  So we played and that’s when I fell in love with him because it swung.  So Moon says ‘This is my drummer,’ so when he went to buy some whiskey for the group, he bought a bottle for them and a bottle of whisky for me and him.  He said, ‘Man, I want you to take me over to the Cotton Club,’ and I took him.  Tiny Bradshaw invited him up and he played nothing but Duke Ellington music.“ – Eagle Eye Shields

“When a cat becomes a studio musician, he’s a musician who plays anything they bring in front of him to play.  When I played with Moon Mullican, I enjoyed it.  When I played that Country music, I learned to swing with that Country-Western cause I got into their mood and into their groove.  When I got ready to play Rhythm & Blues, I got into their groove.  When I play dance music, legit music, I get in to a legit feel cause I am a musician.  I didn’t become a superstar.  My thing was to be good, in order to be in demand, to be sought after.” Eagle Eye Shields

[Moon had a number of hits in 1950 produced by Henry Glover including “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” “Mona Lisa” & “Goodnight Irene”; Mullican accepted the invitation to join in the Grand Ole Opry that year.]  “Then Moon said, ‘I want to take you on the Grand Ole Opry with me, man.’  I said, ‘No, I don’t want to go on that.’  He asked me if I would travel with him.  I told him if I’ll be out there in them towns, them junctions, you might not be around and they’ll done grab me and lynch me.’  But now I wish I had because, if I had got out with Moon, I might have made a name for myself.  I might have ended up with the big one – Willie Nelson.” – Eagle Eye Shields

Moon Mullican & Henry Glover

Shields, who took not only his father’s name but nickname as well, came to King through his membership in Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra.  Eagle Eye would conduct his session work for King in between performances with Bradshaw in town at Cincinnati’s Cotton Club and on the road in New York City.  Shields would subsequently serve as drummer for the Billy Williams Quartet (1957-1961), Della Reese (1967-1973) and music director/drummer for Redd Foxx (1978-1984).

Calvin Shields with Paul Bryant (organ) & Norris Patterson (sax) – 1962 in NV

Photo courtesy of UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

The index in King Labels:  A Discography, edited by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) helpfully identifies sessions where Calvin Shields served as the drummer, thus allowing Zero to 180 to compile a special list of suggested recordings — all of them captured on tape in Cincinnati (except Willis Jackson – NYC):

           Parlophone = Home of The Beatles                            French 10-inch LP

  King EP – US                                                          French EP

Abstract expressionist cover art for 1952 French LP

Furthermore, Eagle Eye is believed – as best as Brian Powers can determine – to have played on Moon Mullican‘s version of Tiny Bradshaw’s “Well Oh Well” [recorded July 3, 1950] and the classic “Cherokee Boogie (Eh-Oh-Aleena)” [December 8, 1950], written by Moon with Chief William Redbird, plus Hawkshaw Hawkins‘ version of Tennessee Ernie’s “Shotgun Boogie” [January, 1951] and Al Dexter‘s “Hi De Ho Boogie on a Saturday Night” [May 19, 1950] — all recorded at King’s Cincinnati studio.  Documentation from King’s early years, unfortunately, is often scant.

Shields would also keep time on an enchanting Latin-flavored instrumentalé tropicalé whose musical hook is a gloriously deep bass blast of the horn (B-flat):

“Ocean Liner (Bossa Nova)”     Bill Doggett     1959/1963

Ocean Liner” – penned by Henry Glover and Bill Doggett – would originally be released in 1959 but then “rebranded” in 1963 as “Ocean Liner Bossa Nova,” just in time to exploit the runaway success of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Jazz Samba LP (only jazz album ever to top Billboard’s pop chart) of 1962

   *                                                 *                                                 *

Calvin ShieldsInspiration for Mack Rice’sMustang Sally“?

According to Douglas Green Associates:

Mack Rice wrote “Mustang Sally” following a visit to his friend, singer Della Reese in New York City.  Reese had off-handedly mentioned that she planned to buy her drummer a Lincoln for his birthday.  Calvin Shields, the drummer, appreciated the thought but reportedly replied, “I don’t want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang.”  Shields’ response confused Rice.  He could not understand why anyone would want the small Mustang instead of the bigger and more powerful Lincoln.  After returning to Detroit, Rice began work on a song titled “Mustang Mama.”  A serendipitous visit to Aretha Franklin’s house led to the name change to “Mustang Sally.”  Franklin believed that “Mustang Sally” fit better with the music. And so the song was born.

Obituary from the Las Vegas Review-Journal + personal remembrances

*Henry Glover quotes are from an 1980s interview with the Country Music Hall of Fame *Calvin Shields quotes are from an interview conducted by Brian Powers in 2009.

**Willis “Gatortail” Jackson played a pivotal role in Jamaican music history when spies working for Duke Reid identified the source of Coxsone Dodd’s theme song (i.e., “Coxsone’s Hop”) that cemented Downbeat‘s status as the superior sound system in Kingston:  “Later for the Gatorby Willis Jackson [1958 – sounds not a little unlike ska].  In those pre-Internet days, operators of competing mobile sound systems would use American 45s with the labels scratched off as proprietary source material.  Duke Reid’s discovery of Coxsone’s source material would prompt Dodd into creating an original Jamaican sound in 1962 – ska – in time for the birth of JA’s independence.  Much more direct evidence of the Cincinnati-Kingston connection can be found here and here

<Note:   For optimal presentation, avoid viewing this website on a smartphone>

 

“Haulin’ Freight”: 1959 (not 1951)

An Ebay sales listing from January, 2016 validates my hunch that truck driving classic “Haulin’ Freight” by Bob Newman was recorded twice — first, in 1951, and then again in 1959 with some of the rough “barrelhouse” edges smoothed out via overdubs.  The more contemporary version would be issued again in 1963, according to PragueFrank.

Interestingly enough, “Haulin’ Freight” was co-written by King’s indispensable A&R man, Henry Glover and would be included in 2012 retrospective, The Henry Glover Story.

King Truck Driver Songs LPMichel Ruppli’s 2-volume reference – The King Labels:  A Discography – lists a recording session from  October 9, 1951 that includes “Haulin’ Freight.”  However, in parentheses next to the song title, Ruppli directs you to K4264, which is an undated entry sometime in 1959 that lists 2 truck driving songs – “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues” & “Haulin’ Freight” – and simply says “dubbed from King masters.”

But listen for yourself – here’s the original 1951 version:

“Haulin’ Freight”     Bob Newman     1951

Now listen to what King Records fabricated in 1959 using the original version “dubbed from the masters” and augmented by – what I can only assume to be – a new rhythm section and lead guitar (excerpt from Charlie Coleman‘s classic country radio show):

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Haulin’ Freight” by Bob Newman]

But how they’d do it?  Is that the original vocal?   It sounds like they might have kept the original piano track, but I’m not even certain about that.  Would love to know who played on the 1959 version, my favorite of the two, despite the great guitar lines on the original.  Funny how I’ve been wrestling with this issue for years (and with Charlie Coleman above), but only just now did I figure out the deeper meaning behind “dubbed from the masters.”

Just for fun, go ahead and play both versions at the same time and note how dissimilar they sound.

Bob Newman 45aBob Newman 45b

July 1976: Meet the Ramones

One of my mom’s friends gave me two back issues of Rolling Stone, both dated July of 1976.  One issue in particular – the July 15th edition, with The Beatles on the cover, coincidentally enough (as you’ll later see) – is a time capsule rich in details, big and small:

Rolling Stone - Fab Four 76As soon as I turned the page, right away on the inside cover I couldn’t help but notice this full-page (and somewhat provocative) ad for a 1970s ‘midnight movie’ – Tunnel Vision – that somehow escaped notice my entire life until just now..

Tunnel Vision - posterScattered throughout the issue are a number of arresting moments in popular music during a period that would be considered in the decades-to-come as “classic rock”:

  • Full-page ad for David Bowie – in his starring role in a film about an alien who fell to Earth – that features a bold image that was later used as the basis for 1977’s Low album cover.  Later in the issue, the film is panned by reviewer, Paul Nelson, under the title, “Bowie Film Falls Flat: Too Much of Nothing.”  There an outsized quote in the magazine’s Random Notes section from Elton John lyricist, Bernie Taupin, who declares, “Worse film I’ve ever seen, so dreadful … so arty-farty beyond.”
  • Daryl ‘The Captain’ Dragon (of The Captain & Tennille) is quoted in Random Notes remarking on “the tremendous burden” he and Toni faces in influencing young fans and goes on to say, “The Beatles misused that responsibility and turned a whole generation on to drugs.  We’re going to be very careful how we use our new fame.”
  • Neil Young – whose song “Alabama” once inspired a legendary “musical fight” with Lynyrd Skynyrd – actually ended up taking Ronnie Van Zandt’s band on tour with him in the summer of 1976.  According to Random Notes, “those Southern men who once sang they didn’t need Neil Young around anyhow will tag along with Young and Steve Stills on some July/August outdoor dates.  In real life, Skynyrd are Young are pals.  ‘They play my kind of music,’ says Neil, ‘They sound like they mean it.'”
  • Late-breaking news item about a surprise reunion of Country Joe & the Fish, who were expected to play a festival gig in Wales as one of the headlining acts.  The other headliner?  Bob Marley & the Wailers.  Barry Melton reveals what prompted the reunion:  “The festival was originally June 5th, and [Steve] Stills canceled out.  So my agent in London called and asked me how to get hold of Steve Miller – they were offering $50,000.  I found out Miller was all booked up and said, ‘Hey Phil, we’d do it for 40 thousand.’  They said ‘yes.’  Not quite for $40,000, but enough for us to make a lot of money.'”
  • Full-page advert inside the issue’s back cover for Toots & the Maytals‘ “eagerly awaited second album” – Reggae Got Soul – that is dominated by a large photo of Toots Hibbert on stage caught at a particularly transcendent moment, with his back and arms fully outstretched, and one word – Toots! – in giant letters above his head.
  • Legendary Los Angeles session player – saxophonist, Steve Douglas – had just completed one of the most unusual recording sessions ever committed to tape:  inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops!  Said Douglas, “I’m a student of archaeology, and I thought the chamber would be incredible to play in.”  The chamber was so responsive, he said, that he created drum effects by simply tapping on his flute.  Douglas was shopping the album for a label at the time.
  • Frustrated plea from Dave Marsh in his “American Grandstand” column with regard to One for the Road, the “new” album by Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance.  Says Marsh, “It isn’t the most terrific record I’ve heard lately, just one of the most engaging … But record companies aren’t interested in an oddity, even a beautiful one, and One for the Road probably won’t be released in America.  The first Slim Chance album had disappointing sales, and Lane’s contract with A&M has lapsed.”
  • Austin record collector, Doug Hanners, “has unearthed a mid-60s album called Soundsville that contains cut by such biggies as The Beach Nuts and The Rough Necks, among others.  The album sold for 99 cents in grocery stores back then, but now it would fetch up to $20.  The reason:  both groups featured Lou Reed.”   I suspect the album may have increased in value over the years.  Rolling Stone then queried Reed himself, and he told the magazine that “he’d spent time as a staff writer for Pickwick Records, which specialized in the quickie, cheapie LP trade … They paid us a couple bucks a week, and we churned out these things.  Then we’d go in and record them – do it quick, like ten albums in three hours.”
  • Article by Paul Gambaccini about Patti Smith‘s recent tour of Europe & the UK in which she taped an appearance on BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test and played shows in Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam & Paris, in addition to London.   Although Smith was generally well received, the press on Patti was not by no means universally adoring, as Melody Maker “printed a parody of a review, as if to take the woman seriously would be to admit the existence of a rock & roll cancer.”  The reviewer for The Evening Standard was more succinct, “She is the only girl singer I have ever seen spit onstage.”

But what really stands out in retrospect is the full-page ad placed by former King Records employee, Seymour Stein, promoting the debut album by The Ramones, leading lights of a new American rock sound that would later be deemed ‘punk’:

Ramones 1976 adWhat’s clear in hindsight is how this point in time, July 1976, was a changing of “the guard” (i.e., The Beatles) with a new rock sound emerging out of New York City – in the form of Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Television, et al. – during a particularly vibrant period of musical innovation in that city’s storied history, enabled in part by an economic recession that resulted in affordable housing rates for artists who were aiming to move the music forward on a variety of fronts – punk, hip hop, disco, salsa, jazz, classical – as brilliantly documented by Will Hermes (in Love Goes to a Building on Fire).

The first Ramones album was most definitely a shot across the bow.  Sire would release two singles from this landmark debut album, with one track – “California Sun” (written, coincidentally enough, by one-time King Records executive, Henry Glover) that would be included on the flip side to “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” here in the States and show up on their follow-up album, Leave Home, an album that was mixed, as any schoolkid in Montgomery County, Maryland will tell you, in part, at Silver Spring’s Track Recorders.

“California Sun”     The Ramones     1976

“California Sun” would nobly serve as a B-side overseas:  in the UK (backing “I Remember You”), the Netherlands (backing “Blitzkrieg Bop”), and Italy (on an EP), whereas Japan would show the song the respect it so richly deserved by according it A-side status.

“Stop and Go Boogie”: It’s the Spaces in Between

Thanks to Dave Sax, whose liner notes from King Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie provide the back story on Louis Innis, a member of the “dream band” at King Records who had cut his first tune with the label in late 1947.   Prior to joining King, Innis had been a member of WLW’s house band, The Plantation Boys, playing bass on Hank Penny’s first King session.  Innis would later “gain his own radio and television shows at WLW, as well as on the Indiana Hayride at WFBS, Indianapolis.”

According to Sax, “This ‘dream band’ for both King & Mercury [Louis Innis (bass/rhythm guitar); Zeke Turner (guitar); Jerry Byrd (steel); Tommy Jackson (fiddle)] is heard on many sides here including ‘Stop and Go Boogie‘ which was intended as a backing track for ‘Rag Man Boogie,’ a song scheduled for Hawkshaw Hawkins’ March 1950 session”:

“Stop and Go Boogie”     The Brewster Avenue Gang     1950

The liner notes explain further – “Hawk never did get around to singing the song, and it seems that it was decided that Red Perkins should record it instead, which he did in July.  When the hoped-for track arrived at Ace in this form, Ace’s Tony Rounce suggested that the musicianship and interest might still merit its inclusion as a bonus track.  Master guitarist’s Zeke Turner’s crisp sound is well evident here and becomes a part of the King hillbilly sound for several years.”

Rag Man Boogie

Songwriting credits go to label owner Syd Nathan & Henry Bernard – alter ego for songwriter/arranger/producer/talent scout/trumpeter, Henry (Bernard) Glover, one of the first African-American music industry executives, whose professional reputation was cemented in the 1940s & 50s working for King.  Even though Glover left King in 1958 to join Morris Levy’s Roulette label, he would later re-join King briefly to serve as label head until its acquisition by Starday.

Henry Glover & Levon Helm:  A Shared History

It’s really true:  Henry Glover and Levon Helm went into business together, co-founding a new recording venture, RCO Productions, in 1975.   I Estivate, Therefore I Am states that Glover and Helm’s friendship goes back a couple decades:

“Glover’s relationship with Helm dates back to the late 1950s, when Helm was hanging in Canada with Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson as Ronnie Hawkins’ backup band. Glover, who as a consummate A&R man knew talent when he saw it and had become friendly with Helm, convinced the Hawks, as they were known, to go out on their own (initially recording them as the Canadian Squires), then as Bob Dylan’s backup band and ultimately, The Band.   Years later, after The Band dissolved, Helm asked Glover to shepherd his first solo project into existence, which was this RCO All-Stars album.”

Levon Helm & Henry Glover at Woodstock, Spring 1977

Henry Glover & Levon Helm

Brian Powers’ King Records Scrapbook notes that, while with RCO Productions, “Glover’s projects included producing a Muddy Waters album and the soundtrack for the Martin Scorcese documentary The Last Waltz, about the Band’s last concert in 1976.”