Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

It’s Yaphet Kotto’s Scene, Ya Dig?

Yesterday’s piece about Gary Usher and his work on indie label, Vault, led to a discovery:  veteran stage and screen actor, Yaphet Kotto (Lt. Al Giardello in TV’s Homicide:  Life on the Street), once cut a record for a label, Chisa, that was at one time distributed by Vault.

Yaphet Kotto AYaphet Kotto B

That’s right, as the Summer of Love gave way to Autumn in October of 1967, Chisa would issue Kotto’s one and only 45 release, “Have You Ever Seen the Blues” b/w “Have You Dug His Scene:

Could the song title be a wry reference to the singer’s primary occupation?

Chisa was founded in 1964 by Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine and named for the Zulu word for burn, according to Discogs.

Kotto’s single, interestingly enough, would be reissued two years later for the same label, although this time distributed by Buddah Records.  According to Both Sides Now Publications, “Vault was being distributed by Autumn Records [where Sly Stone served as house producer] in San Francisco.  Just a few months later [in 1966], Autumn would run out of money, and Vault ended up with the entire Autumn catalog, possibly partly due to money owed.”

Mayf Nutter and The Chamber Brothers, among others would help Vault evolve from its original surf-rock roots.  But alas, Vault would only hold on for a couple more years before being sold to National Tape Distributors in August 1969.

1969 reissue on Chisa

Now distributed by Buddah

Yaphet Kotto AA

Thanks to IMDB, I have learned that Kotto is (1) the son of a Cameroonian crown prince; (2) has a Bay-Area hardcore punk band named for him; and (3) although he didn’t enjoy filming Midnight Run, the character of Agent Alonzo Mosley remains his favorite.

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