Produced by Lee Hazlewood but arranged and conducted by Ian Freebairn Smith, “Silk ‘n’ Honey” — side one closing track of Honey Ltd.‘s sole album — is a great piece of pop music:
“Silk ‘n’ Honey” Honey Ltd. 1969
Much appreciation to self-titled mag* [*link from 2013 no longer active] for seeking out Joan and Alexandra (“Sandy“) Sliwin of Honey Ltd. to ask about what is obviously a stand-out track:
Joan: “Silk ‘N Honey,” written by Laura [Polkinghorne] and [Marsha] Temmer, seems to be our most liked, accessible song over the years. Ian Freebairn Smith did a lovely arrangement for this song that might be the most signature track for us overall.
Alex: Yep, love the song but then, I love all of them (except “Louie, Louie”). “Lu ma / Soo wah.” (That’s the background singing phrase on “Silk ‘N Honey.” We made it up as syllables; it doesn’t mean a thing. However I’d like to think of it as a greeting, like “Namaste.” When I say it aloud, people think I’m nuts and look at me funny, like I belong to a strange spiritual tribe. Ha ha.)
Joan: Ian Freebairn Smith deserves a lot of credit for really trying to capture the essence of the original tunes. Along with “Silk ‘N Honey,” Ian arranged “The Warrior,” “No You Are,” “I’ve Got Your Man,” “For Your Mind,” “Come Down,” “Tomorrow Your Heart” and “Love, The Devil” … The list of musicians involved with us tells you we weren’t just lucky; we were blessed. It was a grand time.
Alex: It certainly was!
November 19, 1966
Light in the Attic’s Complete LHI Recordings anthology from 2013, thankfully, identifies each and every session musician who helped bring these songs to life during the group’s short existence, and it’s an impressive roster:
Bass: Carol Kaye; Chuck Berghofer*; Harvey Newmark; Jimmy Bond; Bill Pitman & Lyle Ritz
Drums: Donald Frost; Jim Gordon; John Guerin
Guitar: Al Casey; David Cohen; Don ‘Dirt’ Lanier; Donnie Owens; James Burton; Jim Helms; Lou Morell; Mike Deasy; Bill Pitman & Ry Cooder
Horns: Allan Beutlar; David Duke; Dick Hyde; James Decker; Jim Horn; Jules Chaikin; Lew McCreary; Morris Repass; Oliver Mitchell; Plas Johnson; Richard Leith; Roy Caton; Thomas Scott & Virgil Evans
Keyboards: Don Randi; Jack Nitzsche; Michael Lang & Mike Melvoin
Percussion: Gary Coleman & Norman Jeffries
Strings: Armand Kaproff; Arnold Belnick; Bernard Kundell; David Burk; Harold Bemko; Jerome Kessler; Jesse Ehrlich; Leonard Malarsky; Ralph Schaffer; Sidney Sharp; Tibor Zelig & William Kurasch
* Bassist for TV’s “Barney Miller” theme (and Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots” et al.)
Honey Ltd. had made their debut in the music trade press with Record World‘s announcement “Honey Ltd. Gets Giant LHI Drive” in the March 9, 1968 issue:
Lee Hazlewood has signed an all-girl quartet from Detroit named Honey Ltd. to his LHI label, distributed by ABC Records.
The feminine foursome’s first release will be “Come Down” b/w “Tomorrow Your Heart,” two originals. The group’s tunes are written by Laura Polkinghorne and Marcia Jo Temmer. Vocals are done by these misses and Alexandria Sliwin and sister Joan Sliwin.
All four studied at Wayne State University outside Detroit and decided to form a group in their sophomore year. This December, after a year’s experience, they took a leave of absence from school, flew to Los Angeles on their savings and walked into Hazlewood’s office one Monday morning unannounced. By Tuesday afternoon, they had signed a contract with LHI and cut their first single by Thursday.
Hazlewood is supporting their maiden effort with the largest advertising and promotional campaign in the label’s history.
That same week, Cash Box included this paragraph in their “Record Ramblings” column:
Our “West Coast Girls of the Week” are Marsha (21) who writes movie shorts, Laura (21) who writes poetry, Alexandra (21) who sews all her own clothes (she was also Wayne State U.’s “Homecoming Queen”) and Joan (20) who paints. Together they’re known as Honey Ltd., a new vocal group out of Detroit who are represented this week with their first LHI single “Come Down” b/w “Tomorrow Your Heart.” The foursome formed during their soph year at Wayne State, saved enough during the year to travel to the coast and, we’re told, arrived unannounced at Lee Hazlewood’s office on a Monday morn. By Tuesday, according to an apocryphal publicity handout, they were pacted by Hazlewood and by Thursday they had already taped their sides. Lee, incidentally, is supporting their maiden effort with the most imposing promo campaign in the young label’s history.
Cash Box raved about the A-side as a “Newcomer Pick” in that same March 9, 1968 issue:
Brimming with a youthful vigor and strength, the Honey Ltd. bows on a track that is destined to make a sizeable impression on the teen market. Excellent ork and vocal harmonies combine force with a powerful dance beat to make this side a heavy candidate for breakout action.
Record World‘s review, while supportive, was a little more circumspect in its praise:
Four pretty girls and a contemporary song in these grooves. Could break through.
March 9, 1968
Cash Box‘s March 16, 1968 edition made the deal official (“LHI Pacts Honey Ltd.“), while that same issue pegged the new single at #37 on Cash Box‘s “Looking Ahead” chart (i.e., promising singles hovering just under the Top 100). Two weeks later, “Come Down” would jump twenty spots to the #17 position, with Cash Box noting the range of resources deployed – both human and tactical – on the group’s behalf in its piece “Hazlewood-ABC Join Forces in Major Honey Ltd. Promo“:
BEVERLY HILLS — Lee Hazlewood and ABC-Paramount Records are joining forces to give Honey Ltd. the strongest promotional campaign ever mounted for an artist with his LHI label. LHI is distributed nationally by ABC.
After introducing the all-girl quartet with two page ad spreads, a joint LHI-ABC venture, the campaign moved into a double mailing service, with photos being included the second week, on Honey Ltd.’s first single “Come Down.”
Hazlewood retained four independent regional promo men and ABC added nine promotion men to give the new group national penetration.
Additional promotional activity has stemmed from the the group’s management, Bernard, William & Price. An extensive TV schedule is underway, opening with an appearance on the Jerry Lewis Show March 26.
West Coast promotion trips are being made in conjunction with regional TV appearances and other special events scheduled by the management agency, LHI, and Hazlewood’s public relations firm.
In addition, the campaign has included the mailing of 500 jars of honey to deejays and radio and TV personalities.
Hazlewood said the promo drive will continue into April at which time the group — Laura Polkinghorne, Marcia Jo Temmer, and sisters Sandy and Joan Sliwin — will cut their first album. The girls, all former coeds at Wayne State University in Detroit, were signed by Hazlewood early this year after they flew out to audition for him.
“Come Down” would continue its climb to #5 on Cash Box‘s “Looking Ahead” chart the week of April 6, 1968 and peak the week of April 13 at #4.
The following month, Record World‘s Ron Baron, who had been given exclusive access to a Honey Ltd. recording session, observed that “the girls write their own material and handle their vocal arrangements” in his enthusiastic report – “Honey of a Session” – published in the May 25, 1968 issue:
LOS ANGELES — At a recent recording session held here, it was not erroneous to address all of the recording artists as “honey” for this particular quartet of girls on LHI Records are known professionally as Honey Ltd.
The girls, natives of Detroit, have already generated nationwide impact with their first single “Come Down.”
It hasn’t even been a year since Marsha Temmer, Laura Polkinghorne, Joan and Sandy Sliwin flew to California for a vacation, played a dub for Lee Hazlewood, signed a recording contract with LHI, acquired Bernard and Williams as managers, appeared on a half dozen TV shows and now have finished their next single release.
Sessions are especially exciting when there exists the aura of a smash. This hardly happens all the time, but it certainly was prevalent the night of Honey’s session. Laura Polkinghorne wrote the tunes, “The Warrior” and “Silk ‘n’ Honey.” Ian Freebairn-Smith did the arrangements, and one of the most sought-after producers in the world, Lee Hazlewood, produced the date.
Honey can’t spread itself thin. The group has the ultimate to offer in musically satisfying melody and harmony. The girls write their own material and handle their vocal arrangements. The single will be released in a few weeks with their first album to follow later.
Six months later, a bomb suddenly detonated:
As reported in Billboard’s Nov. 9, 1968 edition =
NEW YORK — Lee Hazlewood has severed his ties with ABC Records to develop his LHI label as a complete independent, and, at the same time, has ended his team-up arrangement with Nancy Sinatra, to work along similar production and duet lines with Ann-Margret.
In winding up his ties with ABC, Hazlewood said, “In today’s competitive record market, the advantages of an independent record producer to have his own label distributed by a major is rapidly dwindling. Most major companies in effecting dealings with independent producers are really only looking for an automatic hit and not the ‘work’ record. The emphasis by a major company is to work on its own product where its profit margin is highest. If the independent producer creates an automatic hit, then it works out fine. Otherwise to create an artist who sustains over a long period of time, a great deal of promotional work must be invested.”
The first LHI push will be on Ann-Margret and will be tied in with her CBS-TV special set for December 1. She will be going out on a 14-city personal appearance tour in conjunction with the sponsors of the TV special, Canada Dry. Following Ann-Margret’s solo disk release will be an album by the Surprise Package. After the first of the year, LHI plans to release duets by Ann-Margret and Hazlewood.
Hazlewood’s dueting with Miss Sinatra on the Reprise Records LP, Nancy and Lee, is nearing the gold record award category. It is also a top seller in England, Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries. Hazlewood was responsible for Miss Sinatra’s first big single, “These Boots are Made for Walking,” which was released in 1966. It is understood that there are no Lee Hazlewood-Nancy Sinatra duets left in the can at Reprise.
LHI recently took additional space at its headquarters in Los Angeles. The staff of LHI includes Hazlewood as general manager; Gil Bogus as manager of sales and promotion; S.J. Hokum as advertising and packaging manager; Sue Jennings as office manager, and C. Haro as assistant office manager. Red Steigel has been set as West Coast promotion man and a network of local promotion men is now being set up.
Bogus recently lined up 26 distributors in the U.S. and Canada. LHI presently has a deal with Decca Records Ltd. for England and Germany, and with Festival Records for Australia.
Hazlewood is also being lined up for three TV specials. The first will be “Trouble Is a Lonesome Town,” to be co-produced by Roger Smith and Hazlewood. Smith, a film producer, is Ann-Margret’s husband. Another special now in preparation by Winters/Rosen Productions is “Ladies of the World of Lee Hazlewood.” Winters/Rosen produced the upcoming Ann-Margret special on CBS-TV. Also, Hazlewood will be the musical director and appear in the TV special, “The Spring Thing,” which will be shown in April on NBC-TV.
That same week, Cash Box also reported on Hazlewood’s big move, albeit in less dramatic fashion, in a news item entitled “Hazlewood Charts Indie Course for LHI“:
NEW YORK — After several distribution deals, Lee Hazlewood’s LHI operation is going totally indie.
Hazlewood, who formed the label through Decca Records in 1967 and more recently through ABC, feels that today’s competitive demands necessitates the move. He sees as “rapidly dwindling” the advantages of an indie record producer in having his label distributed by a larger company.
“Most major companies in effecting dealings with indie producers,” he says, “are really only looking for an automatic hit and not the work record. The emphasis by a major company is to work on its own product where its profit margin is highest.”
In deciding to put all his energies into the development of LHI, Hazlewood said that he would no longer produce or sing with Nancy Sinatra on Reprise. He said he has also received his release from Reprise. Instead, he will form a new duo of Ann-Margret and Lee Hazlewood for LHI. Other acts on LHI include The Surprise Package, a Seattle-based underground group, another underground team from California, the Aggregation, and the Honey Ltd. The Margret-Hazlewood duo will debut in January. Meanwhile, a solo single by the singer-actress is due soon with 14-city tour by the star to help the disk along.
Move Office Space
LHI recently took additional space at 9000 Sunset Blvd. There’ll soon be a network of local promo men. The current exec line-up at LHI includes Hazlewood, general manager; Gil Bogus, manager of sales-promotion; S.J. Hokum, manager of advertising and packaging; Sue Jennings, office manager; C. Haro, assistant; Red Steiger, west coast promotion manager. Company’s legal counsel is the firm of Marty Marchat.
Bogus has step-up 26 distribs within the US and Canada to service and distribute the LHI line. LHI is presently under arrangement with British Decca Ltd. for England and the German territories and with Festival for Australia.
Hazlewood will this year appear on three television specials, two of which are being built around him. The first television special will be “Trouble Is a Lonesome Town” to be co-produced by Roger Smith and Lee Hazlewood. Roger Smith is the husband of Ann-Margret and the producer of many motion pictures.
Another special is being prepared by Winters Rosen Productions entitled “The Ladies of the World of Lee Hazlewood.” Winters and Rosen produced the Ann-Margret Special which will be seen on CBS on December 1, 1968 in the Smothers Brothers time slot. Also, Hazlewood will be the musical director and appear in the television special entitled “The Spring Thing” to be shown in April, on NBC.
Billboard, reporting from Tokyo in its January 29, 1969 edition, noted that “ABC group Honey Ltd. were a big hit on the Bob Hope Christmas special tour of the Far East.” And yet, when one examines the group’s single releases under Lee Hazlewood’s direction, it’s hard to fathom why the producer did not place greater trust in his artists’ talent. Honey Ltd.’s first 45 for LHI (recorded December 1967, according to 45Cat) had featured original compositions on both sides. The next single – a promotional 45 released in August 1968 – quizzically, was a cover of “Louie Louie” and hardly the best showcase for the group. February 1969 saw the release of Honey Ltd’s next double-sided disc, and in a more musically just world, “Silk ‘n’ Honey” would have been the A-side. Tragically, that honor went to a track written by Laura Nyro (“Eli’s Coming”) and produced/arranged by Mike Post, although not included on their hard-to-find 1968 full-length LP [according to one Discogs contributor, “so small was the stock copy it may not have actually been properly released to [J]oe [P]ublic” — a claim borne out by auction prices].
Record World‘s review from their February 22, 1969 issue:
The Laura Nyro song done with a galvanic girl chorus. This song is going to break through.
Indeed, the song did break through later that year — for Three Dog Night.
B-Side: Coulda Been a Contender
The next single release, frustratingly enough, though only a promo, would follow the same pattern: A-side non-original (“Silver Threads and Golden Needles“) produced and arranged by Mike Post (but not included on the album), paired with a fresh pop tune from the pen of Marsha Jo Temmer and Laura ‘Creamer‘ Polkinghorne — in this case, “No You Are.” Ultimately, the only Honey Ltd. releases that saw any kind of chart action were the ones written by Polkinghorne and/or Temmer.
Stunning to see the prices paid years later for a copy of the original 1968 Honey Ltd. LP: $1975 (in 2006); $1637 (in 2011); and $1500 (in 2011).
Toward the end of the group’s run, Hazlewood singled out Laura Polkinghorne as a potential solo artist — as noted in Billboard‘s August 2, 1969 piece, “Hazlewood Doubling As Act, Producer on Label” — although no solo recordings appear to have ever been released:
LOS ANGELES — Lee Hazlewood is working on four record projects for his LHI Records, including two albums featuring himself as an artist.
He will work with vocalist Suzi Jane Hokom for an October LP release, and sing with a 40-piece orchestra in [Forty], an album recorded in England and due for an Aug. 1 release.
Hazlewood would also produce an album for Laura Polkinghorne, lead singer for Honey Ltd., an LHI group, and another for Ann-Margret, with the film star singing solo. Her initial effort for LHI combined her with Hazlewood in Cowboy and the Lady.
Albums distributed by LHI are part of a three-year tape production arrangement with Ampex, whereby LHI will produce at least 30 albums over a three-year span.
LHI will concentrate on about seven artists, said Hazlewood, including Miss Hokom, Danny Mich[a]els, the Aggregation, the Surprise Package, Honey Ltd., Laura Polkinghorne and Ann-Margret. Hazlewood will also record for the label.
Hazlewood plans to emphasize the company’s two publishing firms, Lee Hazlewood Music (ASCAP) and Guitar Music (BMI). He’s looking for additional writers to complement himself, Miss Polkinghorne, Larry Marks and Jeff Cain.
Hazlewood’s bid for independence, sadly and shockingly, only lasted one year — as reported in Record World‘s November 22, 1969 issue:
According to a joint announcement, Jimmy Bowen’s Amos Records will immediately assume management and administration of Lee Hazlewood’s LHI Records.
Hazlewood stated: “I will still maintain complete artistic and financial control of LHI. This management agreement will free to concentrate more on TV production and films.” Hazlewood has just completed his first film assignment for Filmways and MGM, “The Moonshine War.”
Effective immediately, LHI Records will be housed in the Amos Record offices at 6565 Sunset Blvd., Suite 120, Hollywood, Calif. Bruce Hinton, General Manager of Amos Records, stated that distributors for the joint venture will be announced momentarily.
Bowen told the press the alliance would not affect in any way Amos Productions. Bowen stated, “It’s a new, unique move and we believe it is a sound innovation which will give the combined label additional strength from a distribution and promotional standpoint.” Amos Productions will continue to produce for other labels; the engineering division will remain as is; and the production company will continue under its previously set up organization with Bowen as President and Tom Thacker as VP.
Hazlewood has recorded his first record under the new arrangement, “Trouble Maker,” shipped to over 2000 radio stations in four days. At press time, the record, according to Hi[n]ton, “is breaking in several markers with over 40,000 shipped already.”
Honey Ltd. would get one final mention in the music trades when Cash Box‘s “Insight & Sound” column in their August 8, 1970 edition posted this news item:
HOMECOMING QUEEN at Wayne State U. in Detroit (1966), Alexandra (Sandy) Sliwin came to L.A. as part of the Honey Ltd. foursome who recorded for LHI Records. The group, now known as Eve, still works studio dates with Sandy but most of her working hours are spent as receptionist at Amos and secretary for v.p. Tom Thacker. Sandy is blonde, 24 and enjoys sailing, modeling she’ll occasionally pose on behalf of Commercials Unlimited and vocalizing. Current pet project: the fourth annual Amos Invitational Golf Tournament (committee headed by Tom Thacker, Dave Pell, Piggy Smith and Artie Valando with Jimmy Bowen hosting the Aug. 9th meet at Los Robles in Thousand Oaks). Sandy is in charge of the entry list. She’s also our breathtaking West Coast Girl of the Week.
Eve, according to the blurb in Discogs, had recorded under the name Honey Ltd. “until Alexandra Sliwin dropped out to marry John David [J.D.] Souther.” The group’s 1970 album release for LHI Records includes four originals: “Dusty Roads” (by Laura Polkinghorne Creamer & Marcia Jo Temmer), “Could You” (by Creamer), “My Man Sunshine” (by Temmer), and “Take It and Smile” (by [future Eagle] Glenn Frey & Laura Creamer). This album – entitled Take It And Smile – was produced by Tom Thacker and features top-notch instrumental support from the following musicians:
Drums: Hal Blaine & Ron Tutt
Bass: Joe Osborn
Rhythm Guitar: Mark Creamer & Ry Cooder
Bottleneck Guitar: Ry Cooder
Lead Guitar (Dobro): James Burton
Pedal Steel Guitar: Sneaky Pete
Electric Piano & Organ: Gary Illingworth
Organ & Piano: Larry Muhoberac
Hazlewood would, again, select a non-original (Bacharach & David’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart”) for a promo 45. .However, a second promo 7-inch saw release that same year — Dylan’s “You Go Your Way” b/w title track, “Take It and Smile” — though not on the LHI label, but rather Bell Records, curiously enough. .Worth noting that Eve’s sole LP – which generally commands two figures at auction – includes a version of John Randolph Marr’s “Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham” — a song previously celebrated by Zero to 180.