Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Cincinnati’s Bubblegum Soul

Randy McNutt gives a first-hand account of Cincinnati‘s local recording scene in the liner notes to his CD compilation Souled Out:  Queen City Soul-Rockers of the 1970s:

“[Lonnie] Mack‘s 1963 hit “Memphis” and “Wham!” [on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label] had started a local fascination with blues-rock — a combination of the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and a dash of country.  By 1970, however, Ohio’s raucous roadhouse sound had tilted toward rock and soul.

In Cincinnati, the best places to record such music were the iconic King Recording Studio on Brewster Avenue in Evanston (where James Brown often recorded), and guitarist Rusty York‘s newer Jewel Recording on Kinney Avenue in [suburban] Mt. Healthy.  They were mono paradises with a lot of bottom in their sounds.  When King abruptly closed in 1971, Jewel became the main venue for blue-eyed soul.  Mack operated out of there.  Even The Heywoods recorded there.  They had horns then, long before ‘Billy Don’t Be a Hero.’

McNutt then recounts the circumstances behind the recording of the catchy “bubblegum soul” B-side of the very first single he co-wrote & -produced with singer, Wayne Perry:

“At 3 a.m. on a frigid January night in 1970, we finally cut the rhythm track for our first single ‘Mr. Bus Driver,’ on Jewel’s new 8-track Ampex recorder.  We needed a B-side — fast and cheap.  In desperation, we wrote our first original song, a strange mix of soul and bubblegum, in my boss’s factory office.  We didn’t even have a guitar handy.   Workers drifted past, watching as we gyrated and sang in the tiny windowed office.  They must have thought we were lunatics.  We soon returned to Jewel to record our newly-written oddity, ‘Gimme the Green Light,’ on Rusty’s older 4-track Ampex.  (He charged less to use it because it was paid off)”:

Gimme the Green Light

Wayne Perry (1970)

Wayne Perry at Counterpart Creative Studios

Cincinnati’s Cheviot neighborhood

Wayne Perry

This 45 would be released three years later as Counterpart 3745 in September 1973.  Label below shows that Gene Lawson – inventor of Lawson Microphones – engineered this single.

Written and produced by Wayne Perry & Randy McNutt

As it turns out, this B-side would be Cincinnati’s contribution to a bona fide Ohio bubblegum scene via Oxford’s The Lemon Pipers (psych-pop hit, “My Green Tambourine” – video shot on the set of WCPO-TV’s Uncle Al Show) and Mansfield’s Ohio Express (“Yummy Yummy Yummy“).  Fortunately, “Gimme the Green Light’s” horns make for a much funkier confection.


July 25, 2020

Speaking of horns, Randy McNutt would reveal five years later (via email) that none other than Les Asch (of James Brown’s backing band, The Dapps) blew tenor sax on both sides of this 45:

We used a white soul band on it, The Young Breed, for which Wayne Perry sang lead.  Les wasn’t in the group.  I hired him and another guy to play horns because the Breed had no horns.  They were playing at The Half Way Inn then.

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