One trivia bit from The Rolling Stone Rock Almanac that didn’t make it into Zero to 180’s big Summer Beach Read:
April 30, 1965: The Kinks begin their first headlining UK tour, with The Yardbirds and Goldie and the Gingerbreads providing support.
I have always been curious about the ‘all-girl’ beat group with such a playful name, so a quick browse of their discography in 45Cat immediately drew me to this 1965 French EP with the arty and urbane cover photo:
There was something appealing about the song title “The Skip,” so I queued it up on YouTube and, what do you know — it’s a jaunty organ dance instrumental produced by Shel Talmy, of early Who and Kinks fame:
“The Skip” Goldie and the Gingerbreads 1965
As the crawl text in the YouTube streaming audio clip above notes, “The Skip” began life as the B-side of a Decca single that was released April, 1965 in the UK, as well as the closing track on a French EP (noted above) issued by Decca France three months later. Sadly, “The Skip” never graced any of their US singles, nor did it appear on an LP, as Goldie and the Gingerbreads’ recorded legacy consists solely of 45s — Billboard’s Chris Hutchins explains why in this report from London, one of the “Music Capitals of the World,” in the October 2, 1965 edition:
The successful all-girl American group Goldie and the Gingerbreads, based in Britain, is breaking up because the girls claim working together is not profitable. They had a hit here [Top 30] earlier this year with “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” on Decca. Now Goldie is going solo, two of the others are hoping to form a new group and the fourth is returning to the U.S.
Chris Hutchins would subsequently report in Billboard‘s February 5, 1966 issue that “Immediate [Records] has signed Goldie, who previously led the U.S. all-girl group Goldie and the Gingerbreads who were signed to [UK-based] Decca.”
Fascinating to discover in the course of poking around that Goldie recorded the original version of Goffin & King’s “Goin’ Back” in 1966 prior to The Byrds’ better-known version released the following year as a Columbia 45 (and included on The Notorious Byrd Brothers). Goldie’s version, heartbreakingly, was withdrawn from the marketplace at the insistence of the songwriters due to unauthorized lyric changes, thus paving the way for Dusty Springfield’s subsequent hit version, as detailed by Paul Howes in The Complete Dusty Springfield.
Use of “King’s English” [Going vs. Goin’] in UK song title
Au contraire, counters Goldie herself (in a comment you will find attached to the end of this piece):
“The Song ‘Going Back’ was not withdrawn, Goldie made a decision to withdraw it -Goldie did not like being questioned about lyric change, and asked Andrew L Oldham to withdraw it. Reason being; Dusty made a big to-do as to why the song was given to Goldie after she ( Dusty ) held on to the demo by Carole King for possible future recording of the song. To make things worse, Dusty claimed I even changed a lyric …to which the response from Carol King was….I like what Goldie did.”
Prior to the formation of Goldie and the Gingerbreads, Goldie would join – and then subsequently assume leadership of – Coral recording artist, The Escorts, as evidenced by the evolution of the group’s name over the course of justthree singles: The Escortsvs. The Escorts Featuring “Goldie” vs. Goldie And The Escorts.
An impromptu “audition” for The Escorts earned Ravan an invitation to become lead singer by the group’s leader, none other than Richard Perry, future A-list record producer (Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson, Barbra Streisand).
Before signing to British label, Decca, Goldie and the Gingerbreads first inked a contract offered by Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun, who was suitably impressed with the group’s performance at NYC’s Peppermint Lounge.
Goldie and the Gingerbreads were barred from releasing “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” in the US by the single’s producer, Alan Price, who is said to have taken the recording without permission.
At a live performance in 1972 while on tour with Sly & the Family Stone, one audience member in attendance with family, Muhammad Ali, impelled the show’s producer — in response to Ravan’s liberal use of the F-bomb — to dispatch the police, who ended up arresting her.
*Reminder: This site viewed optimally on a full-screen computer, not a smart phone
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.
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 Calvin “Eagle Eye” Shields, 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
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):
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):
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.
*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 Gator” by 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>
Catchy King instrumental — and what is that instrument, exactly? Sounds like a blend of organ and harmonica, most likely:
“New Annie Laurie” Gene Redd 1960
“New Annie Laurie” seems an obvious attempt by King to “cash in” on the fresh organ retooling of “Red River Rock” made famous the previous year by Johnny and the Hurricanes, although without directly resorting to plagiarism, cleverly enough, by using an olde Scotch ballad.
Billboard‘s review of the single in its October 10, 1960 edition would have this to say about the A-side “New Sidewalks of New York” — “Gene Redd sells this happy rocker with warmth on this driving instrumental side, it’s the old tune dressed up with a rocking beat” — and then, hilariously, utter two words “same comment” about the B-side “New Annie Laurie”! Worth noting that Redd covered “Red River Rock” for King the previous year.
Brian Powers’ King Records Scrapbook informs me that Redd, originally a session player and King artist who became a talent scout for the label, would go on to do arrangements for Kool & the Gang, for which his son, Gene Redd, Jr., served as manager.
Session guitarist Mickey (“Love Is Strange“) Baker — whose work would grace dozens of releases by King Records and its subsidiaries — would end up being allotted exactly one solo album by the label as an artist in his own right: 1963’s But Wild.
Recorded in Paris in June of 1962, this album would feature Baker’s guitar (as Michel Ruppli’s King Label discography would seem to indicate) overdubbed onto instrumental tracks – licensed from the Versailles label – of French studio musicians.
I’m a little surprised more ink has not been expended on a snappy early reggae 45 from 1970 on the Doctor Bird label that can command up to £200 [i.e., $300ish] at auction:
“Rum Bum a Loo” The Message 1970
“Rum Bum a Loo” was produced for the UK market by an entity named Philligree, which Discogs informs us, is the production team of Graeme Goodall and/or Phil Chen:. Meanwhile, the “reggae formation” known as The Message would release no fewer than four singles in 1970.
Desmond Dekker fans will recognize “Rum Bum a Loo” as a near-instrumental version of Dekker’s 1st place winner of the 1968 Jamaica Independence Festival Song Competition, “Music Like Dirt (Festival ‘68).” That same year the song would also be issued in the UK, though with the B-side (“Coconut Water“) imaginatively re-titled as “Coconut Woman“!
“Initially a ska label, Doctor Bird was started in 1965 by Graeme Goodall; it issued its first single in 1966 and put out around two hundred more before expiring in 1969. It qualifies for a mention in this list because Trojan revived it briefly in the early 1970s, for a handful of reggae singles.”
By then, Ken Khouri had moved his base of operations to 220 Foreshore Road, an industrial area west of the wharf, to establish Federal, the first fully fledged recording studio and pressing facility on the island. It was officially in use from October 1957. For his resident sound engineer, Khouri chose Graeme Goodall, an Australian radio technician trained in London who initially came to Jamaica to set up RJR’s cable service.
“After [Dyke & the Blazers leader Arlester] Christian was shot to death in Phoenix, Arizona, another great soul-funk act arose like a phoenix. Christian’s final sides were recorded with the guitar-bass-drums nucleus of the nascent Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. Led by Fred Smith, Watts began as the Soul Runners, a hip group similar to Booker T. & the MGs, with singles on a soul-food theme. The classic version of ‘Spreadin’ Honey,’ for instance, appeared on both sides of the name transition and was remade by Watts on their first, underrated LP of cheery, adventurous, mod soul. But, not quite making it as either funk or soul jazz, the band sorely needed a charismatic vocalist to front the band, another Arlester Christian [i.e., future front man, Charles Wright].”
“As the Soul Runners, the group scored a 1967 hit with the instrumental ‘Grits and Cornbread’; rechristened the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, they scored again later that same year with another instrumental, ‘Spreadin’ Honey,’ and with the support of comedian Bill Cosby (whom they’d previously backed in the studio) were signed to Warner Bros. soon after.”
David Gordon – on Yahoo’s ‘Southern Soul List‘ – does his own dot-connecting, as he links The Soul Runners with Charles “Packy” Axton (son of Stax co-founder, Estelle Axton) of The Packers, among other related groups. “Grits and Corn Bread” would be released January, 1967 – according to Gordon.
Meanwhile, over at Spectropop’s Group Discussion, “Davie” Gordon would post an even more elaborate discography that links Magnificent Montague, The Soul Runners, and countless related artists.
Podcasts are great and all, but nothing compares to the magic & excitement of live radio!
A recent exchange with WPFW radio’s Andrea Bray – at Andrea’s Fine Hats in DC just over the line from Silver Spring – unexpectedly resulted in an invitation to join her on the air this past Saturday to celebrate the musical legacy of Bill Doggett, whose career spans the more traditional blues, jazz, and swing eras into the new R&B and funk ushered in by his King Records labelmate, James Brown. Bill Doggett’s spirit turns 100 years today, and Doggett’s nephew, Bill Doggett II, joined us on the “The Andrea Bray Show“ from the west coast to inform WPFW listeners how an improvisation started by Bill Doggett’s bandmates in a Lima, Ohio hotel room became “the most important and first R&B instrumental of the early rock & roll era to cross over” into the pop market. “Honky Tonk” would show remarkable staying power as it entered the Billboard Top 100 chart on August 18, 1956 and – according to those fine folks at Ace UK – “stayed in the national pop listings for 29 weeks, peaking at #2 (naturally it went to #1 R&B).” Keeping it from the top spot, unfortunately, was that dastardly Elvis double A-side “Hound Dog” b/w “Don’t Be Cruel”!
#1 in zero to 180’s book
What great and glorious fun it was to chat up Ms. Andrea about King Records history, as we played “Honky Tonk,” examined the Bill Doggett legacy, and then followed the song with its funky ‘re-boot’ from 1969 (produced by James Brown) on which Doggett is backed by The J.B.’s – “Honky Tonk Popcorn“:
“Honky Tonk Popcorn” Bill Doggett 1969
Doggett II would point out that Nathan was initially opposed to releasing “Part 2” – a jukebox favorite, interestingly. According to the liner notes in Ace UK compilation, Honky Tonk! The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals: “The late Jim Wilson (King’s branch manager in Detroit) insisted, however, that [King A&R director, Henry] Glover must take credit for convincing Syd Nathan to release the record in two parts.” According to Greg Evans, in the June 1986 issue of Cincinnati Magazine, “[Doggett’s] biggest hit, the song his audiences still request, remains ‘Honky Tonk, Part 2.'”
Live radio is an improvisational dance, and the joint really got jumping when another former Cincinnatian – a caller named Benjamin who grew up around the corner from King – phoned in and regaled listeners with stories of Cadillacs pulling up to the King studios, famous sightings (Ruth Brown, Johnny Ace, Hank Ballard, Tiny Bradshaw, JB, of course) and most of all, stealing items from the “pink ashcan” – rejected/warped King vinyl that played like new after attaching a silver dollar with a rubber band to the turntable’s tonearm!
Greg Evans would write his Cincinnati Magazine piece while Doggett was still performing (even though, as he playfully observed, “baby, that organ gets heavier every year”) and include numerous quotes from the Hammond master himself about the “tremendous operation” of Syd Nathan, who – according to Shad O’Shea (or ‘O’Shay’) “was the one single man who can be credited with bringing black music to the masses.” Doggett, for example, would note that “When I recorded for King, you could do a session at 2 in the afternoon, finish by 5 or 6, and have the records on a truck to the distributors by 8 the next morning. It was a complete, total operation.”
Zero to 180 with DC community fixture & national treasure, ms. Andrea Bray
Also worth emphasizing that Doggett’s relationship with James Brown in the 1960s was not strictly a one-way affair, as Geoff Brown would write in his biography of James Brown:
“Not surprisingly, after the success with ‘Mashed Potatoes’ in the guise of Nat Kendrick and the Swans, [King Records label owner, Syd] Nathan relaxed his views about recording the band on instrumental releases. ‘Hold It’, credited as James Brown Presents His Band, was the first, and a riff from the Bill Doggett hit would form the link he used to segue between songs in the breathless, non-stop Revue that seared across the States as he forged his reputation as The King of the One-Nighters.”
Says UK’s Ace Records, who put out a compilation in 2012 bearing the same title as the 1969 funk track:
“The most obvious manifestation of [Doggett keeping pace with contemporary music trends] was his collaboration with James Brown and his JBs, who were incredibly tight on the top-side of the super-rhythmic ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’. The popcorn was Brown’s dance rhythm of the year: he had made #1 R&B with ‘Mother Popcorn’, #2 with ‘Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn’. The B-side of the single was Doggett’s funk update of ‘Honky Tonk’, which worked even better than Brown’s own 1972 remake.
King then gathered up a bunch of recent Doggett recordings to make the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” album. It was marketed as a James Brown production but, other than the two single sides, it contained no cuts produced by Brown. Instead it featured a fascinating mix of grooves that evoke smoky clubs and juke joints. ‘Mad’ and a scorching version of Edwin Starr’s ‘Twenty Five Miles’ were released as singles.”
Hip hop fans might be intrigued to know that Pete Rock samples the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” – JB’s scream, specifically – for 2004 “One MC One DJ.”
Bill Doggett II invites you to join the Bill Doggett Centennial celebration at his website, where you can hear his uncle’s music, absorb some history, and sign the Guest Book.
Hat Lady and Long-Time Community Fixture: On the Air with Andrea Bray
[Click on triangle above to play Andrea Bray’s interview with Chris Richardson]
Andrea Bray, who spent nearly 20 years working in radio broadcast news with media companies such as WRC and WTOP in Washington and WDJY-FM in Atlanta, died Wednesday, reported WPFW-FM in Washington, where Bray was known as the “queen of old-school rhythm and blues.” The Pittsburgh native hosted the popular “Andrea Bray Show” until May 2016. Bray ran a hat shop [still active] in Silver Spring, Md., where a spokeswoman said a memorial service would be held in about 30 days.
Bill Doggett and his Hammond organ, in 1957, would breathe (via flute) fresh life into Tiny Bradshaw‘s “Soft” from 1952 – both versions released on King. Even though Doggett’s “Soft” would ‘only’ peak at #51, Billboard’s “Hot 100 Chart History” indicates this song to have spent 14 weeks on the chart – impressive staying power for an instrumental:
The song would endure into the 1970s. However, King Records would do a curious thing. On the one hand, King would reissue “Soft” as a single in 1971 – though as a B-side (!) – while just the year prior, the song had been deemed fit to serve as the title track of a Bill Doggett LP compilation. What gives? Perhaps the 1971 single was an attempt to give record buyers a “double A-side” release with two solid tracks and no filler, so perhaps I should lighten up a little.
1971 King LP — “Soft” as title track 1970 King 45 — “Soft” as B-side
It’s the Bill Doggett Centennial!
Bill Doggett, who recorded an instrumental in 1956 (“Honky Tonk”) that sold over 1 million copies — a ridiculous number, especially for King Records. 2016, therefore, means that “Honky Tonk” turns 60 (which is the new 40, anyway), and the artist who recorded it was (curiously enough) 40 years old at the time, as Bill Doggett was born exactly one hundred years ago. I have to confess: I didn’t figure this out on my own. This information would come directly from Bill Doggett II, nephew and namesake, who recently reached out to Zero to 180 in response to the precarious future of the original King Records historic site in Cincinnati:
“King Records and its building are to Cincinnati Music History what Capitol Records and its building are to Los Angeles and West Coast r&b and jazz. Preserving the building and turning it in to a restored TOURIST Destination will bring Tax revenue dollars and TOURISM. Think BIG….not small. THIS YEAR is The BILL DOGGETT CENTENNIAL 1916-2016 and THE 60TH Anniversary of the landmark KING Gold Record: HONKY TONK Parts 1/2.”
“Honky Tonk”: Promotional video from Bill Doggett Productions
Browse Doggett’s many releases from the 1950-1970s and beyond at Discogs.com
In the early part of this century, reissue label, Hip-O, put out a comprehensive series of James Brown single releases that were issued from 1956-1981. Historians & researchers will no doubt be studying these liner notes in decades to come as they try to organize and make sense of the James Brown legacy, particularly given the volume of recordings issued over the course of his lifetime.
One thing I discovered by simply looking at the musician credits: those bongo drums sound unusual on “Let Yourself Go,” because bongos – believe it or not – were not part of JB’s pioneering percussion sound, generally speaking. According to the musician credits in this singles series that someone kindly posted on the Discogs website, I only see a handful of recordings (five by my count) between the years 1966-1973 that include the bongos.
Thanks to the missus, I am fortunate to own the 2-volume reference set, The King Labels: A Discography as compiled by Michel Ruppli. And yet I am discovering time and again that Ruppli’s discography is not authoritative as I had originally assumed. Thank goodness, therefore, for the input of other music fanatics and actual participants who were there when history took place. For example, if I simply relied on Ruppli, I might have continued to labor under the delusion that the Famous Flames backed James Brown on another great single from 1967 when, in fact, it was The Dapps.
James Brown & The Dapps (Les Asch holding horn)
My appreciation to Mitch Bowman, thus, for pointing me to James Brown’s “Funky Soul #1″ b/w “The Soul of JB” 45 originally released on King. Ruppli tells me that the A-side was recorded on August 17, 1967 in Cincinnati but has very scant information about its mate. Moreover, the B-side is attributed (wrongly) to “James Brown and the Famous Flames” and adds (incorrectly) “probably band without James Brown.” That’s about it for the historical details – only the year is listed, no musician credits – although Ruppli does add, intriguingly, that another composition of “unknown title” was recorded but remains (to this day?) unissued.
Thanks to James Brown – The Singles, Volume 5 (1967-1969) for affirming Bowman’s assertion that his brother-in-law, Les Asch, and his fellow Dapps were the musicians who backed James Brown on this double A-side instrumental excursion. Gather around everybody for a musical fight, and hear for yourself as the organist and saxophonist duke it out on their respective instruments:
Organ: James Brown Guitar: Eddie Setser & Troy Seals Bass: Tim Drummond Piano: Tim Hedding Drums: William ‘Beau Dollar’ Bowman Trumpet: Ron Geisman Alto Sax: Alfred ‘Pee Wee‘ Ellis Tenor Sax: Les Asch Baritone Sax: David Parkinson Producer & Arranger: James Brown
If I were in the producer’s chair (I see you rolling your eyes), I would have followed James Brown organ solo in the left speaker with Pee Wee Ellis’s alto sax solo in the right speaker in order to underscore the dueling aspects of this musical match. As it stands, both solos erupt from the west. Note, too, the writing credits that include Gladys Knochelman – would love to know her role in the creative process, as her name appears ever so infrequently in the epic story of James Brown.**
There’s no denying the global impact of the fresh funk created by James Brown and his various support players over the years, much of which was recorded in Cincinnati — note the impact felt as far away as Japan, as this web tribute to JB attests. Hey, check out some of the prices that Dapps singles command on Ebay.
Don’t believe the hype: The Dapps are the backing band here
Biff! Bam! Pow! This is the thirteenth bout tagged as a Musical Fight
Tony Oulahan would subsequently contact Zero to 180 to shed light on this piece’s playful reference to Gladys Knochelman‘s artistic contribution to “The Soul of JB”:
“So my grandmother was Syd Nathan’s assistant for most of her time at King records. She also was a copywriter at one point as well. She died close to 20 years ago. She had close relationships with James, his band and many of the other artists at King. She had a couple of engraved jewelry pieces that James gave to her. I wish I could say otherwise, but she had nothing to do with the creative process on the album. And from what I know it wasn’t James directly that gave her the credit. She loaned someone in his group some money and they couldn’t pay her back. They gave her this credit in lieu of payment. It could have been his manager or someone else in the band. I’m almost positive that it wasn’t James himself, I can’t remember exactly who it was.”