Lee ‘Scratch‘ Perry produced the original recording – Max Romeo‘s “Ginal Ship” – that would serve as the backing track (sans vocals) for “Festival Rock.”
And yet, oddly, most of the references to “Festival Rock” that I see online and in print declare Max Romeo to be the producer — how can this be?
In Jamaica, “Festival Rock” would be issued on a white/blank label release as the B-side of “Cocky Bully” — both considered “DJ” cuts of the “Ginal Ship” single originally released on Lee Perry’s Upsetter label in 1971.
Which song emerged victorious in the 1973 Independence Festival Song Competition, you ask? Envelope, please:
Bonus Bass Bonanza! Did Paul McCartney Hand the Hofner Torch … to Robbie Shakespeare?
According to Vivien Goldman‘s riveting historical examination of the recording of the Exodus album in London, where Bob Marley and his crew were, literally, on the run following the 1976 assassination attempt at Marley’s compound on 56 Hope Road in Kingston:
Fams [i.e., Aston ‘Family Man‘ Barrett] finally got his own instrument when one of his main clients, a jovial producer called Bunny ‘Striker‘ Lee, brought a short-necked, violin-shaped Hofner bass back from the U.K. He’d purchased it from one Lee Gopthal, boss of the reggae label Trojan, who’d bought it from the Beatles‘ manager, Brian Epstein. So the previous owner of the bass on which Fams played those catchy Upsetters instrumental hits that both mods and skinheads partied to in England, such as “The Return of Django,” was once Paul McCartney[!]
The Upsetters at Randy’s in Kingston circa 1969/70
Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (bass); Carlton ‘Carly’ Barrett (drums); Alva ‘Reggie’ Lewis (guitar) Glen Adams (organ)
Lunging across the stage, Tosh’s bass player, Robbie Shakespeare, brandished his instrument like a lance—the very same little Hofner that Paul McCartney used to play. Shakespeare’s mentor, Family Man, had passed it on to his protege.
But wait – Paul McCartney himself displayed his famous Hofner “Beatle bass” in the June 15, 1989 edition of Rolling Stone. Perhaps Paul owned more than one Hofner?
Billboard, in their January 8, 1972 edition, would report this quirky news item in the Cincinnati division of their “From the Music Capitals Around the World” column:
“Rusty York, who heads up the Jewel Recording Studio[s] here, learned last week that the new ‘Smash-Up Derby’ commercial [for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products], which he created and did all the instrumental work, has been entered into the Hollywood Film Festival as an entry to select the best film commercial of the year. The commercial is currently being spotted on all three major networks.”
Kenner SSP Smash-Up Derby TV Commercial = Music by Rusty York
Rusty York’s Jewel Recording Studio – in Mt. Healthy, just north of Cincinnati – would begin releasing 45s in 1961 and would once host The Grateful Dead, believe it or not, according to Cliff Radel’s obituary for York in the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s February 4, 2014 edition.
You can survey Rusty York’s musical legacy in three ways:
Two memorable song titles that can only be found on the Jewel label:
“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” – vintage 1967 San Francisco-style psych blues – and “Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” – “post 60’s garage/proto punk” from 1974 that features maniacal drumming and laughing choruses that are strategically interrupted by a softly-spoken catch phrase intended to win over the Pre-K crowd.
Jewel Records featured 45 #1
“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” The Fabulous Fish 1967
“Mike Reid, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals [previously celebrated here], and Dee Felice [musical associate of James Brown] and his group set for early recording dates at Rusty York‘s Jewel studios. Felice recently cut two sides at Jewel. Sonny Simmons, Cleveland gospel promoter, in town recently to produce an album for the gospel-singing Monarchs at Jewel studios. Others in recently at Jewel to do gospel albums were Judy Cody of Akron; The Crossmen of Lansing, Mich.; and the Cooke Duet of Wise, Va.
Mad Lydia Wood, accompanied by Cincinnati Joe, did the warbling on six commercial spots on Wiedemann Beer for the Campbell-Mithun Agency of Minneapolis at Jewel last week. Mad Lydia and Joe have held forth at various locations here for the last several years.”
Rusty York, a former King rockabilly and country singer, bought some of King’s echo equipment and microphones for his own Jewel Recording Studios in suburban Mt. Healthy, Ohio. He even bought Nathan’s desk chair. “The Neumann tube mics cost $300 new in the early ’60s,” he said. “I just sold one for $2,800. Like King, quality doesn’t go out of style.”
Bonus Jewel 45 for steel guitar fans! 1977‘s “Rose City Chimes” by Chubby Howard
According to Linda J. York (who has the booklet Dick Clark hawked at the show), Rusty York opened the first Rock and Roll show at the Hollywood Bowl for Dick Clark!
Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook Page
“Zero to 180’s latest piece pays tribute to a former King recording artist – Rusty York – whose kind and gentle nature and lack of ego may have accidentally conspired to obscure his legacy as an accomplished musician (who “could play any tune in any style“) as well as recording studio founder/engineer, whose Jewel recordings run the gamut of musical sounds and genres, not unlike King (and Fraternity and Counterpart).”
Friendly reminder: for optimal presentation do not view Zero to 180 on a smart phone!
But wait: 1975 sounds much too late in the post-Syd Nathan saga for a new production to come out of the Starday-King studios, especially with IMG/Gusto now running the show. I’m suspicious.
For one thing, the catalog number 106 would indicate the recording to be closer to 1969, tied to the first string of releases from the resuscitated DeLuxe imprint — at that point owned by Lin Broadcasting. An examination of the catalog record for this 1975 Gusto 45 release on Discogs finds this revealing note:
“This is the legal second issue from 1975 – reissued for the UK Northern Soul market. The original does not have the ‘1975 etc’ text around the outside and the release is originally from the late 60’s/early 70’s.
So uh, no, this was not the “final” DeLuxe 45, in terms of latest original recording intended for release.
From browsing Discogs’ listing of DeLuxe releases in chronological order and then examing the catalog numbers in (relative) sequential order, I see that the highest number “152” coincides with 1973 single release from The Manhattans – “Do You Ever” b/w “If My Heart Could Speak” (with the A-side written by Agape recording artist, Myrna March, who also co-produced). Could this possibly be one of the final recordings to come out under the DeLuxe label? To answer this question, it sure would help to know the recording dates of the other DeLuxe 45 releases from 1973:
Ruppli provides no information whatsoever about these recordings and, in fact, does not even list Royal Flush, Reuben Bell, or J. Hines & the Fellows in the index. Not even known whether any of these 45 releases had been recorded in the year 1973. More research is needed to determine the final recording to come out on DeLuxe.
Click on song titles above to hear streaming audio of A & B sides
With regard to Zero to 180’s recent musings about which Bethlehem release was the last original recording intended for that King subsidiary label, this online discography has considerably more detailed information than Ruppli’s sessionography with regard to Bethlehem’s last few years of existence, thus forcing me to recalculate the situation …
The James Brown recording session from May 20, 1970 (David Matthews’ “The Drunk” recorded in two parts, with only Part Two issued) that ended up as the B-side of a Bethlehem (not King) 45 “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” b/w “The Drunk” appears to be the last original recording released on Bethlehem — a session that took place at King Studios in Cincinnati (as did the session for the single’s A-side on March 2, 1970, on which David Matthews served as Director). Interesting to note that A-side “charted on 18 July, 1970 on Record World‘s “Singles Coming Up” chart peaking at #110″ (Discogs). Note: If you scrutinize this electronic version of Record World‘s July 18, 1970 issue (page 24), you will see that “Crossroads” peaked only at the #134 position. Also, on page 1 of this issue, “Sex Machine” is selected as one of the Singles of the Week (“James Brown pulls no punches and proves once more that he is truly ‘Soul Brother Number 1’ with ‘Get Up I Feel Like a Sex Machine'”), while on page 7,”Crossroads” is reviewed as one of the “four-star” single picks of the week (“He seems to have a new release every other day. This is a genuinely compelling ballad for those who find ‘Get Up’ too heavy.”). Lastly, Record World‘s version of the “bubbling under” LP chart (“LP’s Coming Up”) lists JB’s It’s a New Day – Let a Man Come In And Do the Popcorn album at the #20 spot in this same issue, while “Sex Machine” (identified more chastely as “Get Up”) is at the #30 position on the Top 50 R&B Chart, up seven spots from the previous week.
The next-to-last entry for 1970 says that Arthur Prysock laid down 12 tracks with “unidentified orchestra” and Bill McElhiney serving as arranger/director at Nashville’s Starday-King recording facility on April 8, 1970 for Prysock’s Unforgettable album (released on King). The two singles from this LP, curiously, would be issued on separate labels — “Cry” b/w “Unforgettable” on King, while “Funny World” b/w “The Girl I Never Kissed” ended up on Bethlehem.
As it bids adieu to the King Records’ 75th Anniversary Celebration, Zero to 180 would like to pose these four questions:
What is the last original recording for Starday-King that took place at Cincinnati’s King Studios?
What is the final recording — regardless of whether the artist was under contract to Starday-King — that took place at the (former) King Studios in Cincinnati?
What is the last original recording at the Nashville Starday Studios intended for release on Starday-King or one of its subsidiaries?
What is the last original release from Starday-King before the label’s sale to IMG/Gusto?
A Starday/King/DeLuxe Musical Prank*
Whoa! Is it possible that 1973 instrumental “Victory Strut” by J. Hines & the Fellows (on Starday-King subsidiary, DeLuxe) features what must be some of the earliest turntable scratchingon record?! But alas, the comment below – in reply to the person who posted this audio clip – reveals musical tomfoolery perpetrated at the hands of DJ Ol’SkOul!
“So as much as I love the record scratches on this, I actually bought this 45 thinking they were a part of the song. Sooo yeah, you might want to tell people this is your remix of it. Either way thanks for posting. Great tune.”
Hear for yourself = special ‘REMIX’ of “Victory Strut”
DJ Ol’SkOul likewise provides turntable embellishments for A-side “Camelot Time“
History Messing with My Mind Dept.
Recently, in the course of scanning the index in Ruppli’s King Labels sessionography, I was struck by a fairly unusual name: “SACASAS”. Anselmo Sacasas, it turns out, was a Cuban bandleader who recorded exactly one session for King Records in Miami on April 8, 1955 – four songs recorded, including one tune entitled (hold onto your hats) “Trumpcrazy”!
Billboard‘s reviewer would score this trumpet-heavy “Latino instrumental” a 72 (in the “good” range) in its July 23, 1955 edition. This extremely obscure 45 was nearly lost to history until an audio clip was posted on YouTube in July of 2016.