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:
Bobby Smith’s King Productions = 1968-1973
[click on song titles below for streaming audio]
People Are Together LP by Mickey Murray
“Talking Loud and Saying Nothing” by James Brown & Bobby Byrd
“Darling, I Love You” & “I Want Some” by Johnny Soul
“Wish I Was Back” & “Percy’s Place” by Thomas Bailey
“Road to Freedom” & “Pick Me Up, Lord” by Willie Mae Glover
“You’re a Woman” & “Throwing Your Love Away” by Jack Turner
Peace LP [*issued on Agape] by Coldwater Army
“One Life to Live” by The Manhattans
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:
“Push and Shove“
Willy Wiley (1973)
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)?
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.”
Liner notes for King’s Serious Soul Vol. 2:
After an initial R&B-styled 45 for Gene in 1962, Duncan recorded a series of six singles for King between 1964 and 1966. Several of these, like his version of “Out of Sight” (King 6039), were heavily influenced by the then current styling of Brother James, although Duncan’s voice was far less harsh and more melodic. They also had a pronounced R&B flavour and tracks like “Mr. Goodtime” (King 6013) have featured on dance floors recently. Others, like his original version of the southern soul war-horse “My Pillow Stays Wet” (King 5887) are more suited to collections like this. After a gap of a couple of years, Duncan rejoined the King group via the ubiquitous Bobby Smith who placed four singles on the Federal label from 1969 to 1971. These were mainly cut at Muscle Shoals and were uniformly of a very high standard indeed. “My Baby Is Back” may just be the pick of the ballads, and is a rec-cut of his only 45 for Major Bill Smith’s Charay concern from 1964. What a great retro sound! It’s pushed by the classic 6/8 slow country soul of “I’m Gonna Leave You Alone” – only the Alabama musicians could play like that. The up-tempo “Money Can’t Buy True Love” shows how adept they were at dance cuts as well.
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.”
< courtesy Creative Loafing – Original Atlanta >
Bobby Smith – King Records – On James Brown
By UNKNOWN AUTHOR – January 10, 2007
Bobby Smith was the first person to sign Otis Redding to a recording contract, and produced his first single “Shout Bamalama.” Smith also managed Wayne Cochran and built a studio in Macon that was commissioned by Syd Nathan, the president of King Records in Cincinnati.
I met James when I was with King Records. Syd Nathan put me into business. I was in Miami with Syd and they got in a tape from James, his latest recording. They sent it down to Syd for his OK, and we sat down and listened to it: “It’s A Man’s World.”
A few days later, they called from Cincinnati and said James wanted $70,000. And Syd said, “Go ahead and give it to him.” And he got off the phone and said, “He could grunt and I could still see his records.
The thing I recall most of all, when I lived in Nashville and I’d been in the music business a long time. John R. — the disc jockey for WLAC-AM in Nashville — was dying of cancer and they were giving a big benefit for him at the Grand Old Opry. And all the black entertainers were there to perform. I was backstage and James just got through with an interview with NBC. And I said, “James, I’m about to leave and get out of the music business.” And he said, “What do you mean, Bobby? You’ve been in it 27, 28 years.” I said, “I’m going to change my life. I’m going back to Macon to work with this lady who does the Lighthouse Mission, and she helps people and I want to do something different.” And he looks at me and James’ very words to me were, “Well, Bobby, God put you here and look what you’ve done; you’ve helped a lot of people in the music business and helped a lot of people get into the music business. I think God intended for you to stay where you’re at.” I said, “Well, James, I just got tired of it.”
That stood out more to me with James Brown than anything. James is a performer, nobody could follow him on stage. He had certain sides about him, but I was touched when he said, “God put you here to help people in the music business.” He also knew that a lot of people took me for a ride, too.
James came down to record in my studio. He had the studio booked for a week. And when he was here, he had them bring all his sports cars to Macon so that he’d have something to scoot around town in. My son, Tommy, was 10 or 11 years old. Tommy called me the other day from Santa Fe where he was on vacation. He’d heard about James. I said, “Son, you got James’ autograph from the studio; do you still have it?” He said, “Yes, I still got it, Daddy. I wouldn’t let go of it for nothing.”
When James was in the studio recording, he wanted full attention from those musicians. I mean that with great respect. He was in there to take care of business. He recorded, I think, “Mother Popcorn.” I think three hits came out of that LP that he cut there.
US promo 45
“Talkin’ Loud and Saying Nothin’“
45 – Germany
Song title converted to the King’s English
*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