King Records — Day of My Birth

Ruppli’s King Labels discography is a 2-volume reference set that can be hard to make sense of initially, given all the subsidiary labels and various quirks in its numbering systems, among other things.

Volume 1 features information pertaining to all the releases on the King label from 1943 to 1973, with a great many of these recordings laid down at King‘s Cincinnati studios.  It can be great fun to browse chronologically in order to determine whether any recording took place on the birthdate of someone you know, such as family members and friends.  At first I was disappointed to find out that no King artists were laying down any new sounds on the day of my birth — at least, in Cincinnati.

Page 470 concludes the post-Syd Nathan Starday-King era, with a listing for a Nashville session that took place on September 23, 1973 by a group called The B.K.‘s [Bob Kames + company], with only one song recorded “Choo Choo Choo” (the B-side of King 6426 — a 45 that appears never to have been issued).  However, pages 471-476 list a King 16000 master series of recordings that took place in Los Angeles between the years 1961-1963 (sessions with Johnny Otis and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, et al., including “Gangster of Love“).

But the real kicker is this announcement near the bottom of page 476:

Note:  Series discontinued and resumed later in Macon, Ga.”

Volume 1, thus, ends with four pages of King recording sessions between the years 1964-1965 that took place in Macon, Georgia at Bobby Smith Studios (and therefore serve as the “missing link” to all the later work* highlighted in last October’s celebration, “Bobby Smith’s King Productions“).  So, today I decided to browse these pages with a certain date in mind, and wouldn’t you know it:  The Fabulous Denos recorded two songs with Bobby Smith at the helm [“Once I Had a Love” & “Bad Girl“] on the day of my birth — April 13, 1964!

“Bad Girl”     The Fabulous Denos     1964

Bad Girl” – the featured song in this King history piece – served as the B-side of a single released in June, 1964.

Tip of the hat (again) to 45Cat contributor davie gordon for this snippet from Billboard‘s August 22, 1964 edition that shows “Bad Girl” to be a ‘R&B Regional Breakout’ for the urban centers of Atlanta and Cleveland, the city where my dad would relocate by decade’s end — foreshadowing?

Bobby Smith Productions = 1964-1965
Info from The King Labels: A Discography compiled by Michel Ruppli

<click on all song titles below for streaming audio>

Sam Anderson & the Telstars                    [No Date]
BS500    Standing at the Edge of the Sea       King 5855
BS501    Back on the Block                     King 5855

Wayne Cochran                                  [No Date]
BS502    Last Kiss                             King 5856
BS503    I Dreamed, I Gambled, I Lost          King 5856
BS504    The Coo                               King 5874
BS505    Cindy Marie                           King 5874

Alice Rozier                              March 16, 1964
BS16133  I Love You a Bushel and a Peck         unissued
BS16134  My Candy Man                          King 5896
BS16135  George, BB and Roy                    King 5896
BS16136  Love Me Like I Love You                unissued

Eddie Kirk                                March 17, 1964
BS16137  Let Me Walk With You                  King 5895
BS16138  I Just Want to Be Loved                unissued
BS16139  Monkey Tonight                        King 5895
BS16140  Mary                                   unissued

James Duncan [and The Duncan Trio]                [1964]
BS16141  Here Comes Charlie                    King 5887
BS16142  Everybody Needs Somebody to Love      King 5923
BS16143  I'll Be Gone                          King 5923
BS16144  My Pillow Stays Wet                   King 5887

Billy Soul                                March 19, 1964
BS16145  My Darlin' Honey Baby                 King 5929
BS16146  Big Balls of Fire                     King 5929
BS16147  She's Gone (Pt. 1)                    King 5904
BS16148  So Many People                         unissued

Bobby Leeds                               March 22, 1964
BS16149  Nothing Too Good for You              King 5928
BS16150  When I Fell                           King 5928
BS16151  I'm Through, I'm Gone, I'm Free       King 5903
BS16152  Big Brick Wall                        King 5903

C.V. Williams                             March 19, 1964
BS16153  I've Lost the Only One                 unissued
BS16154  My Once-a-Week Love                    unissued

Eddie Kirk                             September 8, 1964
BS16155  Hog Killin' Time                      King 5959
BS16156  Treat Me the Way You Want Me          King 5959

James Duncan                            October 11, 1964
BS16157  Three Little Pigs                     King 5966
BS16158  I Can't Fight the Time                King 5966

Bobby Skelton                                  [No Date]
BS16159  It Goes Without Saying                King 5897
BS16160  Just Two People in the World          King 5897

The Fabulous Denos                     November 23, 1964
BS16161  Hard to Hold Back Tears               King 5971
BS16162  I've Enjoyed Being Loved by You       King 5971

King Keels                                 April 4, 1964
BS16163  Wondering, Wondering, Wondering       King 5969
BS16164  I Hear Love Bells                     King 5969

James Styles                               April 4, 1964
BS16165  Sweeter Than a Flower                  unissued
BS16166  I'm on My Way                          unissued

Bobby Cash                                April 12, 1964
BS16167  I Don't Need Your Love and Kisses     King 5894
BS16168  Answer to My Dreams                   King 5894

Dennis Wheeler                            April 12, 1964
BS16169  Down in Daytona                       King 5898
BS16170  Rock Bottom                           King 5898

The Fabulous Denos                        April 13, 1964
BS16171  Once I Had a Love                     King 5908
BS16172  Bad Girl                              King 5908

Bennie Anderson and the Teals             April 28, 1964
BS16173  Little School Girl                    King 5893
BS16174  Sugar Girl                            King 5893

Billy Soul                                March 19, 1964
BS16175  She's Gone (Pt. 2)                    King 5904

Oscar Toney Jr. (& The Kayos Band)        April 19, 1964
BS16176  You're Going to Need Me               King 5906
BS16177  Can It All Be Love                    King 5906

Wayne Cochran                           January 17, 1965
BS16178  Think                                 King 5994
BS16179  You Left the Water Running            King 5994

James Duncan                              March 12, 1965
BS16180  All Aboard                             unissued
BS16181  My Baby Is Back                        unissued

Alice Rozier                           February 24, 1965
BS16182  Lonely Girl                            unissued
BS16183  Hold on to You                         unissued

Oscar Toney Jr. (& The Kayos Band)    February [ ], 1965
BS16184  I've Found a True Love                King 6108
BS16185  Keep on Loving Me                     King 6108

James Duncan                              March 12, 1965
BS16186  Guilty                                King 6013
BS16187  Mr. Goodtime                          King 6013

Stanley K.                                      [No Date]
BS16188  unknown title                          unissued
BS16189  unknown title                          unissued

Zero to 180 on his Father’s lap – Cincinnati, OH – March, 1966

*Brian Powers was, indeed, correct in his assertion (back in October, 2018) that Bobby Smith Studios had been up and running prior to 1966

For Serious King Records Fans OnlyPage 481

Check out these random bits of King recording session info on the very last page of Volume 1 that fall under the catch-all title Additional King Sessions — including a live James Brown & the Famous Flames set at Baltimore’s Royal Theater in 1963.

Bobby Smith’s King Productions

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:

[click on song titles below for streaming audio]

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” b/w “Just Be Glad”    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)?

NOTE:  Check out the “prequel” to this piece via King RecordsDay of My Birth, which includes session information for Bobby Smith Productions 1964-1965 

In the course of browsing the Federal Records section of Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography, I couldn’t help but notice one particular James Duncan session** that took place in Muscle Shoals, Alabama — not Macon, Georgia.  But wait, Bobby Smith’s name is attached to this entire August 14, 1969 recording session — is it possible that Smith traveled to Muscle Shoals to record James Duncan?   Listen to the classic guitar work on “I Got It Made (in the Shade)” — sure sounds like Eddie Hinton, right? Compare with “This Old Town” by Wilson Pickett, a song previously celebrated here.

“I Got It Made (in the Shade)”     James Duncan     1969

As it turns out, the ‘Musical Columbo’ – Soul Detective – had already pondered this question ten years earlier, having discovered a key piece of research in John Ridley’s liner notes to Volume 2 of the Ace UK/Kent anthology series, King Serious Soul that affirms Ruppli’s assertion, pointing out that James Duncan’s Federal singles “were mainly cut at Muscle Shoals [Sound] and were uniformly of a very high standard indeed.”

Liner notes for King’s Serious Soul Vol. 2:

James Duncan

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.”

** Zero to 180 would subsequently stumble upon Bobby Smith’s productions for King and assemble a “prequel” research piece, King Records — Day of My Birth, posted April 25, 2019.