Buena Vista Records – F-428 Released 1964
Track B – Scream Along (With The Monster)
Well it’s HALLOWEEN again, and that means it’s time to pull out some of my dearly beloved spooky records from under the bed! This year I’ve chosen to feature this incredible Kay Bell and the Spacemen track, because in my eyes it’s one of the absolute best if you’re up for spooks and frightful delights! EVERYBODY SCREAM!!!
Kay Bell was at one point, one half of the youthful and famous pop duo, The Bell Sisters, the other half being her big sister Cynthia Strother. Born in Kentucky, they have four sisters and one brother, and as performers the duo would adopted their mother’s maiden name of Bell. Cynthia 16, and Kay, being only 11, were discovered on October 31, 1951, singing “Bermuda” on a Los Angeles television program called “Peter Potter’s Search for a Song.” The song was released in 1952, it reached #7 on the Billboard charts and sold in the millions, and The Bell Sisters pretty much became a household name, particularly in the US.
They enjoyed a roller coaster ride of success, eventually releasing eleven records (22 songs) for RCA and hitting the charts again with “Wheel of Fortune” (#10). They appeared on many popular radio and television programs, including The Johnny Carson Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Perry Como Show and The Dinah Shore Show. They appeared some 14 times with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and opened for Nat King Cole in Los Angeles and also worked with greats Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Lucille Ball, Tony Curtis, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Mel Torme. They took their act on the road (during school breaks) and performed in big cities including New York, Dallas, and Las Vegas.
They also made it onto the big screens, working on the movies Cruisin’ Down the River (Columbia, 1953), Those Redheads from Seattle (Paramount, 1953) and Les Brown Goes to Town (Universal).
Kay Bell would start venturing into solo projects around 1959, singing in ballrooms and performing and broadcasting on radio. In the early sixties, Kay worked with the Space Men (Johnny Schmidt and Sonny Anderson) and scored a residency at the Disneyland Space Bar (now known as Tomorrowland Terrace). She performed with them as many as 6 nights a week, even while attending Long Beach State College for her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She recorded a single as Kay Bell & The Tuffs called Surfers’ Stomp in 1961, written by Schmidt and Anderson and released on Dot.
Kay performed on a couple of live television broadcasts from Disneyland in 1962, on what was a regularly Saturday night screening “Meet Me at Disneyland”, on the Tomorrowland theme episodes Swingin’ Through Space and Talent On Parade. In September 1963, Kay Bell and the Spacemen recorded live two tracks, Surfer’s Blues and Scream Along With The Monster, written by Kay Bell herself (and W. Anderson).
Scream Along With The Monster starts with a VERY familiar “Comin’ Home Baby” groove, which is fantastic, as many innocent listeners would believe they know what they are expecting, when I play this track. But the twist is quick, and Kay Bell is superb in her delivery, preparing you for with what you need to do when you hear green eyed monster’s horn! The energy becomes more frantic as the song progresses, and after two short versus, you can’t help but feel an obsessive need to join in with the screams! I love that this was recorded live! Surely they must have prepared the audience to give them their all, before they pressed record! It’s so much fun but just too quick, but then again, like a fast roller coaster ride, it can leave you out of breath! Surfer’s Blues starts as a bit of a Jazzy stroller but quickly unleashes into a bit of a grinding savage beast with raunchy chaos and beats! Kay really enjoys showing off her vocal skills on this one and it’s such a bonus to have it on this single!
Unfortunately this was the only release from Kay and her Spacemen, and it makes me wonder about all the fun that would be had, listening and dancing to all those live performances they all played together, in those years of the sixties.
Now it’s important I mention, everything I found about about Kay and Cynthia, and the Spacemen, is attributed to the Bell Sisters official website put together by their nephew, who has nicely packaged and categorize a great amount of articles, photos and timelines, he’s been able to unravel about his aunties. So please jump over and dig in, and find out so much more about these incredible talented ladies. There’s also a great FaceBook page with a heap of great images, memories and dedications (links below for both).
Scream Along With The Monster is the ultimate Halloween party track to have, but I really believe it’s just too good to play once a year, so if you are lucky enough to have a copy, people always need a good scream, so spread it out there!
Top Photo from Bell Sisters FaceBook page – Cynthia and Kay 1956.
Middle Photo from Bell Sisters FaceBook page – Kay Bell performing at The Space Bar (Tomorrowland Terrace) at Disneyland January 1965.
Lower Photo from Bell Sisters FaceBook page – Kay Bell and The Spacemen – performing at The Space Bar (Tomorrowland Terrace) at Disneyland.
Fire Records – Cat. # 1026 US 1960
Track 1: I Want To Know
Track 2: I’ve Got It
I have always been a big fan of the Fire label and this single from Gay Poppers, as far as I’m concerned, is one of their best releases! Please any doo wop and rhythm and blues experts please feed me more info on this one! I’ve searched for information for too long and nothing! I want to know!!!!
Their first release was under the name The Gay Poppers (losing the “The” on following releases) and released on the Savoy label. Savoy was founded in 1942 by Herman Lubinsky, specializing in Jazz, R&B and Gospel and played an important role in popularizing bebop. Savoy recorded some of the biggest names in jazz including Miles Davis, Erroll Garner, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, and Charlie Parker. But regardless of the success of the label, Lubinsky didn’t sound like a particular nice person and was commonly hated by many. If you want to know a bit more about the Savoy label check out the Wiki page link below. The A side is a great stroller called You Better Believe. The flip side carries the track I Need Your Love with both tracks listing Graham-Donn as writing credits. This single is far less sort after and quite attainable, and actually not a bad one at all to have.
The next release for “Gay Poppers”, was on the Fire label in 1960, (from New York under the parent label Fury), a label that was co founded by songwriter and producer Bobby Robinson. He was also a legendary Harlem record shop owner (Bobby’s Records And Tape Center and Bobby’s Happy House), and penned and produced numerous hit records from the 1950s up to the 1980. The BIG A side titled I Want To Know, is a dance floor monster. “Do you love me….Do you really care…I want to know… I want know… I want know now”. The opening lines are now an infamous introduction, and unless you have some kind of problematic hearing condition, this is when you drop everything and head quickly towards the dance floor, if you’re not already there. Truthfully, I wouldn’t play this out very often. This is a special one, and that would only come out for a very particular special occasion. I always believed the dance floor would need to earn this one. The flip side that is I’ve Got It, does not deserve to be ignored either, but it definitely is more suited for those gospel stomping lovers. Nathaniel Black gets writing credits for both these tracks along with Bobby Robinson as producer.
Gay Poppers final single release was again on the Fire label just a year later in 1961. The A side is a track called You Got Me Uptight written again by Bobby Robinson, but also alongside Fury Records owner Clarence L. Lewis, who is best known as co-writer of Lee Dorsey’s 1961 hit song Ya Ya. Uptight is a well paced and perhaps typical rhythm and blues track, but a pretty damn good one. However the moody B side Please Mr. Cupid, I find quite astonishing as it has that irresistible haunting mood and tempo I just die for! Nathaniel Black gets the credit for writing this beautiful piece.
You have to move quite a few years forward into the disco era actually, before any further Gay Poppers related recording is released, well at least as far as I can make out. There is a single solo release by Nathaniel Black called Keep On Steppin‘, released on NDR Records, a late-1970s era North Carolina record label, that only released another 2 singles with separate artists. With a track called Freak All night on the flip, this single, which I didn’t know about until now, seems to go for big money. I’m guessing the pressing had a very short run which would add to its desirability.
So yeah that’s it! That’s all I could really gather together regarding the Gay Poppers group, who is responsible for this killer R & B single. Always grateful for anything else! Some one out there must know something surely?
Columbia 3-41929 US 33RPM Released 1961
Track 1: Strange Man
I picked up this haunting love song a few years ago, but since, I haven’t really been able to find a lot about the singer or the release. Well, regardless of my inability, here’s a brief post hoping someone out there can shed some light on this relatively unknown singer.
So what 45Cat and Discogs are telling me, is that she did have 4 single releases from 1960 to 1963, all on Columbia. Her first single was an upbeat blues rocker called, Itty Bitty Love, flipped with the lovely slow and swaying So Little Time. Predominantly released in the US early in 1960, however 45Cat shows an odd distribution here in Australia later that same year, on the CBS Coronet label. It also actually looks like a panel sheet-sleeve came with a promotional record for this release, with a picture of the beautiful Hannah!
A 45Cat member who is fortunate enough to have a copy, also gratefully shares the back cover, and reads this about Dean…“Hannah Dean’s style is a mixture of rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer”. Irving Townsend, Executive Producer for Columbia Records in Hollywood, sent this personal evaluation of Hannah Dean’s talent to Columbia’s producers in New York along with Hannah’s first record – “So Little Time” backed with “Itty Bitty Love.”
The response was rapid. They agreed down to the last man. Hannah’s unique vocal quality is understandable because she has been a gospel singer since she was two and still sings regularly in a Los Angeles Baptist Church where her mother serves as minister. Until two years ago she was a Los Angeles house wife, completely unaware that she could be an extraordinary popular singer.
She was heard at a church by a Los Angeles talent scout who suggested immediately that Hannah should consider a popular career. Hannah told him frankly that she had no formal training and only sang popular music to herself and a few friends. Nevertheless, she was bolstered by his confidence and agreed to make the demonstration record which soon after brought her a Columbia recording contract. Hannah’s Dean’s first record launches for her a career as promising as it was unanticipated.
I also came across a fellow blogger with similar record collecting habits, and found a link on their The Listening Post blog, that pointed me to this short review from The Billboard dated September 5, 1960. It reads… HANNAH DEAN is a new name on the scene via the release of her first Columbia Record, ‘So Little Time/Itty Bitty Love’. Until two months ago she was a Los Angeles housewife whose only singing outlet was the L.A Baptist church. She was heard at the church by a talent scout who encouraged her to make a demonstration record that found its way to Columbia Records and resulted in a contract. Irving Townsend, Executive producer for Columbia in Hollywood, describes Miss Dean’s style as a “mixture of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer.”
In 1962, Dean released Open Sesame / Without your Love. At this very time, I cannot find even a sound bite of this release. There are a couple of copies on ebay (not big money) but unfortunately not one seller supplies an audio sample. So I’m at a loss to tell you anything about this one.
Dean’s Gospel righteousness roots and vocal capabilities come out for her 1963 release You, You, You. The B side High Noon has everything I love about the beautiful popcorn genre, and now makes me want to get my hands on a copy.
So back to Strange Man. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this release is quite unknown, especially as it sits on one of the bigger labels. The production is absolute killer. It has all the ingredients, the devilish blues guitar work from intro to end, the flute, Dean’s deep soul lines as well as the backing vocals, all sitting in the exact right place. When I hear tracks like this, I am aware this is no lost recording accident. Everyone in that recording studio at that time knew what exactly was being produced. Imagine as a musician, coming home from the studio late at night and realising what you were just a part of. And being in the midst of this truly holy and graceful Hannah Dean! January 16, 1961 Billboard Music Weekly states “Strange Man – On this side the thrush turns in another attractive performance on an unusual piece of bluesy material. Two sides show off her strong pipes”.
On the flip is one of many many covers of (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over, originally released in January 20, 1939, by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra, with Vocal Refrain by Bea Wain. I might go to hell for saying this, but Dean’s version is smoking hot. There’s something about her commitment that maybe can only come from that very deep part of the soul of a gospel singer. There are some beautiful versions of this song out there, from artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nancy Wilson and my personal favourite from Aretha Franklin, and this Dean version sits up high along side these.
So where does this odd 33rpm 7″ release fit in? To be honest, I’m not sure as there’s no catalogue I could find online of this particular release. There is one small hint which is Columbia Marcas Reg. appears on the label, so possibly this is a Spanish release. But Marcas is also Portuguese, and as many Brazilian 7’s come with the 33rpm format, maybe this is it’s origin?
Should we be sad that so many of these unknown songs that surface today, are hidden in the past with no real leads to the artist and their faces? Or should we respect their gospel roots and maybe it was their decision that stardom and popularity wasn’t something as important to them. Tonight, with the lights dimmed down low, I can place the needle down gently, and be grateful that singers like Hannah Dean did gift us with at least a few beautiful songs we can hear and appreciate today. And be thankful, many years ago, these great ladies did have that fleeting time behind that microphone, that is here to stay, and forever.
I hope you can also hear the honest beauty of this track and Hannah Dean. She passed away on May 6, 2004 at the age of 71.
UPDATE! So thanks to my good friend Kristy, who knows how to really dig deep into the hidden corners of the internet, some light has been shed onto Hannah and her career path. It looks like Hannah pursued an acting career in theater and also had a good run in film and TV. Although looks like many TV roles were the type cast “maid” characters and similar. Thanks to DJ Soup for also recognising her as an actress.
Here’s some, but not all of her screen appearances and plots…
The Black Six Hannah Dean as Mrs. Daniels – 1973 “Six times tougher than Shaft! Six times rougher than Superfly! See the 6 biggest, baddest and best waste 150 motorcycle dudes!” A black high school student is caught dating a white girl by the girl’s brother. He and his white supremacist motorcycle gang beat the boy to death. The boy’s brother an African American veteran of the Vietnam War hears about it and his motorcycle gang, known as the Black Six, vow to avenge his brother’s death.
The World’s Greatest Lover 1977 Hannah Dean as The Maid Directed and written by Gene Wilder Starring Dom DeLuise as Adolph Zitz and Carol Kane as Annie Hickman. A neurotic baker travels to Hollywood to attend a talent search for an actor to rival the great Valentino. Although not an actor, through blind luck he succeeds, to a certain degree.
Every Girl Should Have One 1978 Hannah Dean as Ernestine. Also starring Zsa Zsa as Olivia Wayne, and Z-man himself, John Lazar as Chris. A million dollar diamond theft involving unlikely thieves, zany lovers and a fast talking maid sets this comedy caper zooming from sophisticated discos to exciting chase scenes all in a spirit of good, innocent fun.Mother, Jugs & Speed 1976 Looks like Hannah may be unaccredited in this American black comedy film? It stars Bill Cosby as Mother, Raquel Welch as Jugs, Harvey Keitel s Tony “Speed” Malatesta, and Larry Hagman as employees of an independent ambulance service trying to survive in Los Angeles. Also stars Toni Basil as the junkie.
Out Of The Blue 1979 12 Episodes Hannah Dean as Gladys (The house keeper) This one was a popular but brief TV show about Random, an angel-in-training who is assigned to live with a suburban Chicago family, while trying to earn his wings by doing good deeds. Hannah had a big part in this series.
This article was found on the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) Sun, Sep 30, 1979.
Hannah Dean was born into music in her Native New Orleans. She was giving concerts in church at the age of 3 and literally sung her way through life. She completed a 6 month run of “The Evolution of the Blues” on stage just before the production start of “Out Of The Blue”.
After her sixth child and the Watts Riot inadvertently started her on her acting career. She had decided to cancel all singing dates until after h the birth but worked with young people in Watts teaching choral work. In 1965, following the riot, her Watts Community Youth Choir became affiliated with the Mafundi Institute…a culture center created in the devastated area. There she won a role in the stage production “Don’t Bother Me, I Can Cope”. This led to other theatrical productions that included Porgy and Bess with Mickey Rooney.
She began recording in the early 50’s with a gospel song “Every Day and Every Hour” with The Branch Gospel Singers. This was followed by “Baby My Love” on an obscure label and then she was signed by Columbia Records where she recorded “So Little Time” Without Your Love” and Itty Bitty Love (backed by The Blossoms). At this time, she meet songwriter Jon Hendrick, who had just written “The Evolution Of The Blues” Some of the numbers were sung by Mahalia Jackson at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Jackson cancelled her tour and Columbia’s Erwin Townsend Suggested Dean. She received a standing ovation which prompted Columbia to record “Evolution” with Dean singing the gospel songs. Dean went on to sing “Evolution” at the Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall and on a Canadian tour.
The Jon Hendricks LP release of Evolution Of The Blues Song from 1960 was released on Columbia and credited with The Hannah Dean & Chorus. Hendricks is one of the originators of vocalese, which adds lyrics to existing instrumental songs and replaces many instruments with vocalists, and is considered one of the best practitioners of scat singing. A very interesting article discovered here, on the live performance of Evolution Of The Blues, with a brief interview from Hendricks and Dean.
Also found this but not too sure what release it is attached too? “Hannah Dean Explains it All”
Link to Getty image of Hannah Dean publicity portrait for Columbia Records in 1963.
Track 1: Defrost 1963 Track 1: Thaw – Out 1964
Albert Collins was born on 1 October 1933, and was raised by two farming parents in Leona, Texas, approx. 100 miles north of Houston. He was introduced to the guitar at an early age through his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins, also a Leona resident, who frequently played at family reunions. In 1938 his family relocated to the third ward district in Marquez, eventually settling in Houston in 1941, where he later attended Jack Yates High School. Collins initially took piano on lessons when he was young, but during periods when his piano tutor was unavailable, his cousin Willow Young would loan him his guitar and taught him the altered tuning (that he used throughout his career). His idol when he was a teen was Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy McGriff, but the growing teenager made the decision to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing Boogie Chillen‘ by John Lee Hooker.
Aged 18, Collins started his own group called the Rhythm Rockers (a seven-piece group consisting of alto, tenor, trumpet, keyboards, bass, and drums) in which he honed his craft. But Collins would still hold his jobs which around this time, included working on a ranch in Normangee, Texas for four years, followed by twelve years of driving a truck for various companies. In 1954 Collins, then aged 22 and still without a record release, was joined in by the 17-year-old Johnny Copeland who had just left the Dukes of Rhythm (a band he had started with Houston blues musician Joe “Guitar” Hughes). Collins started to play regularly in Houston, most notably at Shady’s Playhouse, where James “Widemouth” Brown (brother of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown) and other well-known Houston blues musicians would meet for the Blue Monday jams.
By the mid 1950s he had established his reputation as a local guitarist of note and had started to appear regularly at a Fifth Ward club called Walter’s Lounge with the group Big Tiny and The Thunderbirds. The saxophonist and music teacher Henry Hayes had heard about Collins from Joe “Guitar” Hughes. After seeing him perform live, Hayes encouraged Collins to record a single for Kangaroo Records, a label he had started with his friend M. L. Young. Collins recorded his debut single The Freeze b/w Collins Shuffle, for Kangaroo Records at Gold Star Studios, Houston, in the spring of 1958, with Henry Hayes on saxophone. Shuffle is an upbeat rippin R & B groover while Freeze, in contrast, is a slow but deadly creeper with sharp plucking knife cries that Collins is so now renown for. What an incredible wax debut, and a sure definite sign of things to come from this master!
That debut 7″ really was just the begins of a long run of singles which Collins would release the next few years, for regional labels. Conflicting research is telling me that he’s big million seller Frosty (though it apparently never landed on any national chart, so it’s not easy to check that claim’s veracity), happened for him in ’62. However it looks like the release date for that one was in fact in ’64, after being recorded at Gulf Coast Recording Studio, Beaumont, Texas, for Hall Records. Owner Bill Hall, had signed Collins on the recommendation of Cowboy Jack Clement, a songwriter and producer who had engineered sessions for Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at Sun Records. Possibly there’s an earlier pressing that I can’t find any info on?
In 1963 he recorded De-Frost, a low grinding icy cool instro that burns like cold fire. With driving percussion, keyboards and horns, it’s embodies and slowly devours the listener. From that very first guitar note, most blues lovers will pick that technique and sound, and call out “The Master of the Telecaster”. The following year in 1964 he recorded Thaw-Out, which is likely a reworking of De-frost, but this time the driving is now the ploughing! The shards are deadlier and sharper, and let me tell you that this is one for the early keen dance floor, who are eager to warm up the bones.
During this period, even more of Collins’ song titles were uniquely associated with freezing temperatures, like Tremble (1964), Sno-Cone and Dyin’ Flu (1965), Don’t Lose Your Cool and Frost Bite (1966). These singles, along with his cold, crisp guitar technique, earned Collins his nickname “The Iceman.”
In ’65 Collins’ debut LP, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins (TCF-8002), was released by Hall. Mainly a collection of his singles with the exception of some label additions, Kool Aide (another De frost reworking?) Shiver N’ Shake the very sophisticated Icy Blue. In ’69 the Blue Thumb imprint repressed it with a new title and cover upgrade as Truckin’ with Albert Collins. Through the rest of the 1960s, Collins pursued his music with short regional tours and recordings for other small Texas labels while continuing with his work day jobs. In 1968, Canned Heat’s Bob “The Bear” Hite, had a very strong interest in the guitarist’s music, and took Collins to California, where he was immediately signed to Imperial Records. By later 1968 and 1969, the ’60s blues revival was still going on, and Collins got wider exposure opening for groups like The Allman Brothers at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and playing the San Francisco psychedelic circuit.
Collins didn’t have a lot of success in the most part of the seventies and actually hid into retirement as a result. It was his wife that pushed him back up on his feet and just as well! In 1977 he was offered a record deal by Bruce Iglauer of Alligator records in Chicago, which led to his most successful release Ice Pickin’. It won the Best Blues Album of the Year Award from the Montreux Jazz Festival, and was nominated for a Grammy. Finally it was time for Collins to receive some of that overdue and so well deserved success. With his new signature backing band the Ice Breakers, he would release successful “cool” themed LP’s, and take home a bunch of awards. In 1987 he won his first Grammy Award for Showdown, an impressive three-way guitar duel with Johnny Copeland and the newcomer Robert Cray.
Collins’ technique, his “attack” guitar style, and his minor tunings, were incredibly influential. In the live setting he was known for his showmanship, and his stage presence was legendary, with his famous “guitar walks” into the crowd. It was not unusual for Collins to conclude his concerts with a grandiose exit from the stage by walking straight through the crowd (with the use of his legendary 150 foot guitar cord) and out the front door of the venue, to stand in the middle of the street wailing on his guitar while bringing the city traffic to a halt.
The Iceman was robbed of his best years as a blues performer, after a three-month battle with liver cancer that ended with his premature death on November 24, 1993. He was just 61 years old.
References and recommendations…
Track 1 – Number 9 Train
Track 2 – Wildcat Tamer
Alden Bunn, aka Allen Bunn, Tarheel Slim, was born in the country side outside of Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1924, and grew up working in the tobacco fields and listening to his mom’s Blind Boy Fuller 78’s. Eventually he learned to play guitar, and by around 20, was singing and playing in church right by Thurman Ruth, the leader of a local gospel quartet called the Selah Jubilee Singers. But before we ride on the Number 9 Train, there was quite a journey that “Slim” lead, with other groups and ventures, that we should know about.
THE JUBILATORS – THE LARKS
The story of The Larks begins sometime around 1927, when singer Thermon Ruth founded the Selah Jubilee Singers in Brooklyn, New York. Later in the 40’s, The Selah’s based themselves in North Carolina where they had a radio show…a daily program of jubilee music that aired over WPTF in Raleigh. In 1945, Ruth tried to persuade Eugene Mumford (from The Four Interns) to join the Selah Jubilee Singers, but before he could do so, Mumford was falsely charged and convicted with quite an ugly crime (1*). His incarceration would put his life on an unpleasant hold.
Allen Bunn who had joined The Southern Harmonaires in 1945, soon joined Thermon Ruth in the Selah Jubilee Singers as the group’s guitarist and second lead singer. The group recorded for Decca from 1939 to ’44, with their most well remembered recording I Want Jesus To Walk Around. Three years later, Ruth and Bunn decided to break away to form a new group, The Jubilators. They linked up with Mumford, now released from prison, and with three members of The Southern Harmonaires, David McNeil, Hadie Rowe Jr., and Raymond “Pee Wee” Barnes.
Thermon hired two teachers to get them into shape according to his standards, and for a few months they were taught how to sing together and also got a few lessons on stage presence. The Jubilators then competed against other gospel and jubilee groups in the state, even winning a 50 pound cake in a contest with the Selah Jubilee Singers!
Finally, the Jubilators decided it was time to get on record. So all six of them piled into Bunn’s car and drove up to New York. They stayed with some of Ruth’s relatives on 143rd Street in Harlem and for about a week they rehearsed constantly. Then, on October 5, 1950, they were ready, and they set out for what was possibly the most amazing day of recording in history. In one single day, they recorded 17 songs for four different labels, under four different names (2*). Apollo owner Bess Berman recognised the realm of possibilities, and signed them to a contract which allowed the other companies to release the other recordings, but wanted to promote them as an expansive R&B group rather than a gospel group. So the Jubilators faded into history (at least for several years), and “The Five Larks” emerged (even though there were still six of them). Thermon Ruth deliberately selected the name to fit in with the Ravens and Orioles, as a “bird group.”
The Larks were then booked on their first tour, and drove down to Washington, D.C., when they lost Hadie Rowe to the army (after receiving his draft notice, he was no longer able to continue on with the group…this probably is the reason why the “5” was dropped from the group’s name). In December 1950, they had their first session for Apollo, featuring Mumford on lead vocals. The session produced two masters, Coffee, Cigarettes And Tears and a cover of My Heart Cries For You (3*), but in the end, the recording didn’t even hint at the greatness inherent in the group. But on January 18, 1951, they returned to the studios to cut a couple of new tracks, which would prove far more successful and are really now Larks “classics”. With Gene on the lead once again, they laid down It’s Breaking My Heart (a pretty ballad that Apollo chose never to issue), When I Leave These Prison Walls, and Hopefully Yours. The latter two songs had been written by Gene when he was in jail and show a certain hope for the future.
On February 14, 1951, they got national exposure by singing Lucy Brown on the Perry Como TV show, a Norfolk Jazz Quartet original, which was recorded in 1938 and known as Suntan Baby Brown. Their take is a much more upbeat snappier version, and it’s dynamite! While Thermon would sing lead on the recorded version, it’s Gene out in front on the Como show. Please I beg you, look it up on you tube…Allen Bunn plays the guitar, but rarely opens his mouth to sing. If you’re into 78’s, try and get Lucy Brown as it has the great I Ain’t Fattening Frogs For Snakes on the flip.
Finally chart success would come later in 1951, with the bluesy Eyesight To The Blind, with Bunn on lead vocals and guitar… it made # 5 on the R&B charts. This was followed up by another R&B top ten hit Little Side Car, a reworking of Smokey Hogg’s Too Many Drivers, and again with Bunn on lead vocals. This is one sweet 45 and has the drifting Hey, Little Girl on the flip.
Another standout track that has to be mentioned is Shadrack written by Robert MacGimsey in 1938. While Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong and even The Wanderers all do amazing versions of this biblical classic, The Lark’s jiving version is so super! Again live footage out there with Allen Bunn singing lead! This period was the height of The Larks’ popularity, however, Bunn decided this was also the right time to go out own his own.
Going Solo – His first solo sessions were for Apollo in ’51 where he recorded two sessions that produced four singles, and were issued under the name Allen Bunn (accompanied by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee). Amongst the recordings were The Guy With The .45, Wine, Discouraged, Baby I´m Going to Throw You Out and the very down and dirty Two Time Loser. He was still touring with The Larks when he cut his first session for Bobby Robinson Red Robin label. One of these tracks is the amazing Too Much Competition (reissued in ’73), which stands mighty and tall, and you could call it the big brother to Betty James’ I’m a Little Mixed Up (it really makes me wonder sometimes, if that is in fact Bunn on that killer Betty James track).
The Lovers – Around 1955, Bunn married his sweetheart Lee Sanford, who were intertwined with deep love and affection for one another, but they also shared a strong musical chemistry. “Little Ann” and Bunn sang and recorded together, first as The Lovers, for Lamp, Aladdin’s subsidiary in 1957. Together the tight partnership would go on to release a string of 45’s for other labels including Fire, Fury and Port. They’d also have name variations on some releases, and while Bunn was now pretty much going by the name “Tarheel Slim”, his writing credits were mainly represented as Bunn. The earlier Lovers tracks were slow dancers and appropriately very cutesy love songs. Once they ditched the “Lovers” tag, I feel it was then, that they got a bit more “down with it” so to speak. Can’t Stay Away and the charming dancer Security, proved they both could let their hair down some and get a bit shakey. The heart wrenching 1959 It’s Too Late, is a stunning blues ballad with a broken hearted poor little Ann weeping hysterically… literally (this song would get a reworking as Two Time Loser a few years later, only this time it’s Slim who breaks down). I Submit To You is also high on recommendation.
Bunn also released a couple of 45’s with a group called The Wheels whom he evidently managed. Let’s Have A Ball was on Premium in 1956 and the upbeat Clap Your Hands was released on Folly in 1959.
Tarheel Slim – So now to the real reason why we’re here reading all this. While “Slim” made his official entrance in 1958 with his wife Little Ann, it was the next year when he would release his solo and most desired red hot screamin’ 45 on Fury. The A side Wildcat Tamer is a perfect rhythm and blues dancer. Nice and raw and perfectly tempo-ed. But despite the track name, it’s more of a tempting entree of what’s to come steaming your way when you journey to the flipside. And the monster that awaits is named Number 9 Train. Tarheel’s vocals and rhythm here is sharp and classic blues rocker material. But there’s another element going on here underneath, that’s adding even more to the fire, and the name of that wild spark is Wild Jimmy Spruill. Although session guitarist Spruill is best known as a sideman (4*), he was a wild and sought after guitar player. His sound was unconventional, notable for its hard attack and sense of freedom, unexpectedly going from assertive lead parts to rhythmically dynamic, scratching rhythms. At no time did Spruill use picks or any effects on his guitar – his sound was solely the result of his fingers. You can hear more of his impeccable finger work on his solo recordings, notably Hard Grind from ’59, The Rooster and Cut and Dried from ’64 and I believe he also played on Tarheel Slim’s Security. Together these two cats mix up a storm, and make both sides of this 45 hard to pass. Train really does come to life when it’s up loud on a worthy amplifier…and preferably with a dance floor close by!
Unfortunately Taheel Slim and Little Ann’s career seemed to fade away around the early 60’s and nothing was heard from them until the early 70’s when blues researcher Peter Lowery dug up Tarheel Slim to play a few gigs where he performed with an acoustic guitar in the style of “folk blues”. Slim played a few festivals in 1974 and was well received, and even got back into the studio and would release a couple albums for Pete Lowry’s Trix label, which harked back to Bunn’s Carolina blues heritage. The 1972 single release No Time At All is a beautiful melon collie finger picking instrumental which I believe was his last 45. These later sessions would prove his last. In 1977 he was diagnosed with throat cancer and died from pneumonia brought on by the chemotherapy.
(1*) On July 1945, Mumford had been arrested and jailed by the army Military Police who were rousting people looking for marijuana. They turned him over to civilian authorities, whom he satisfied of his innocence. But just as he was leaving police headquarters, a white woman pointed him out as a recogniseable criminal. Subsequently re-arrested, he was charged with attempted rape, housebreaking, and assault. The case took a year to come to trial and, in spite of an alibi, he was found guilty, a conviction that was upheld in the subsequent appeal. Sent to prison, Mumford spent two and a half years on a prison work gang. Finally, enough evidence came to light that he was granted a full pardon from the governor of North Carolina. (This was treated as a miracle; a black man in the 1940s South being pardoned after having been accused by a white woman.) On June 1949, after having served 29 months in jail, Gene Mumford was a free man. For a more detailed account of his sentence, click onto Marv Goldberg’s in-depth Larks entry below.
(2*) Initially, billing themselves as the Selah Jubilee Singers, they recorded four gospel songs for Jubilee Records, before moving on to record as The Jubilators for Regal Records in New Jersey. Then they drove to Newark, recording four secular blues songs, including Lemon Squeezer, as The 4 Barons for Savoy Records. Finally, they drove back to Apollo Records in Manhattan, where, as The Southern Harmonaires, they recorded four more gospel tracks. For a more detailed account of this day, click onto Marv Goldberg’s in-depth Larks entry below.
(3*) My Heart Cries For You was a hit for Guy Mitchell, Dinah Shore and Vic Damone.
(4*) Other notable Wild Jimmy Spruill moments are The Happy Organ by Dave “Baby” Cortez, Wilbert Harrison’s Kansas City, and Bobby Lewis’s no.1 hit Tossin’ and Turnin, which by the way, Peter Criss from KISS covered on his solo album! Also check out Dale Hawkins version of Number 9 Train!
Referencing and recommendations…
The Larks photo from top left clockwise…Allen Bunn, Gene Mumford, Raymond Barnes, Thermon Ruth and David McNeil
Track 1 – Pretty Little Girl Next DoorTrack 2 – Buzz Buzz Buzz
Okay, first thing’s first…Robert Byrd, alias Bobby Day, of the Hollywood Flames, who were formerly The Flames, is not to be confused with Bobby Byrd of the Famous Flames, who were formerly…The Flames…got that? Good!
Robert James Byrd was born July 1, 1928, in Fort Worth Texas, and moved to Los Angeles in 1947. His first vocal group, The Flames, originated in 1949, when all members were in there teens. They all met at the Largo Theater in Watts at a talent show given by the theater’s owner, which brought together many singers from various high schools in Los Angeles.
Bobby strung together tenor David Ford, second tenor Willie Ray Rockwell and eventually Curlee Dinkins, who sang baritone and bass (Byrd would sing bass, baritone, tenor). They quickly learned how to sound pretty darn good together, and as they all needed to earn some dosh, they decided to brave up to an audition they had heard about at the Johnny Otis owned Barrelhouse. They started winning a few prizes here and there and were offered a few little jobs, sometimes making five dollars each.
The Flames existed from 1949 to 1966. In that time, they recorded under a bewildering variety of names (Four Flames, Hollywood Four Flames, the Jets, the Ebbtides and the Satellites), for a bewildering number of labels, with a bewildering cast of personnel.
In ’57, Byrd penned and recorded the great, Buzz Buzz Buzz, (Earl Nelson on lead) as The Hollywood Flames on Ebb. When the song became a hit, Bobby found out that he didn’t have any publishing rights and only half the writer credit…and never received any money owed to him. That same year with his back up group the Satellites, he also wrote and recorded (as Bobby Day) the fab foot tapping hand clapping Little Bitty Pretty One, released by Class in August. Popularized with success for Thurston Harris, whose release beat Bobby’s out the gate, it reached No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B chart…but I much prefer Bobby’s!
But the next year Day was the first to record Leon Rene’s (under the pseudonym of Jimmie Thomas) Rock-in’ Robin…the perfect counter attack, and Day’s most recognize and successful recording, which became Number 2 hit on the Billboard charts! Its flip, “Over and Over,” was a hit in its own right, and a cover by Dave Clark Five in ’65, brought a much more hip, modern youthful version back to the dance floors!
Bobby Day went on to partner with Earl Nelson and recorded as Bob & Earl from 1957 to 1959 on Class.
Moving on to 1963, and Bobby releases the incredibly uplifting Pretty Little Girl Next Door on RCA. I’m sure everyone reading this, has one song that they can rely on, that will always bring themselves a big damn smile, no matter what life is throwing at you! This is mine! From beginning to end, it’s a quite the pleasant build up. With it’s sweet caterpillar like beginnings, it quickly sprouts it’s wings and soars! The slinky groove grows, and it soon smothers you. And I’ve proved that this song can and will draw everyone within a kilometer radius of your turntable, onto your dance floor. Day gives it his all…he really shines in this one, and of course those gorgeous female backing vocals brings it all into perfect harmony! Imagine seeing this performed live by Mr.Day in ’63!
And on the flip, what a delight to have a revisit of his early Buzz Buzz Buzz! Just as great as the original, however this version may have a slower tempo, but certainly holds a stronger groove…and much more developed for the early sixties hipster dancers. Both tracks produced by genius Jack Nitzsche!
Bobby Day died from cancer on July 27, 1990, in Los Angeles and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. He was survived by his wife, Jackie, and four children. He may not have had the successive chart success he very well deserved (he never achieved another Top 40 Hit apart from Rock-in’ Robin), but in my book, he was just as important as the best of them, especially with his major part in the early days of doo wop! He always lifts me, and Pretty Little Girl just makes me drunk with happiness!
Essential reading for a very in-depth and thorough journey with Bobby Day and his Hollywood Flames, by Marv Goldberg…The Hollywood Flames.
Caprice 120 US Year 1963
Born Alonzo W. Lucas, 16 August 1914, Pritchard, Alabama, Buddy moved to Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of three. In years to come, a good neighbour noticed the young 11 year old’s interest in music and gave him a clarinet. This kind act must have been the true begins of where it all really started for Buddy! In the late 1940s he went to New York City, where he met drummer Herman Bradley, who helped him get his gigs and record dates.
But it wasn’t until ’51, when Lucas would make his first vocal recording on Soppin’ Molasses, for Jerry Blaine’s Jubilee label. Jubilee specialized in rhythm and blues and was the first independent record label to reach the white market with a black vocal group, when The Orioles recording of Crying in the Chapel reached the Top Twenty on the Pop charts in 1953. Lucas became leader of the house band and renamed his combo “The Band Of Tomorrow”. Scoring a #2 hit on the R&B charts in 1952 with the slow revived Diane, may have given the saxophonist some attention, but the flip Undecided is far more foot tapping and exciting! This set the pattern for most of his following Jubilee singles : a lush ballad on the A-side and an R&B sax led instrumental on the flip.
Lucas had one other hit on Jubilee, Heavenly Father (I Love You is the much preferred flip), sung by Edna McGriff (# 4 R&B in 1952), before moving on to RCA and its subsidiary Groove. Releasing a handful of 45’s, including the raw Greedy Pig, my pick of this bunch would have to be the Groove two sider My Pinch Hitter (along side Almeta Stewart, who I honestly have to say, I do not know enough about) and of course the great flip I Got Drunk! The title alone tells you that this here track was always going to be good! Also No Dice (flip to High Low Jack), should NOT be ignored, as Buddy really gets the opportunity to have some sexy fun with his sax and harmonica skills here!
From ’56 to ’57, Buddy had seven 45’s released on Bell Records, a budget label specializing in covers of the big hits of the day, including Hound Dog….okay stuff. BUT also in ’57, he comes out with the hammering Bo-Lee, on the Luniverse Records label. Established in 1956 by struggling songwriters Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodma, but ceasing production in 1959, this label, with a few exceptions, were nearly all Buchanan-Goodman titles. As much as I admire Budy’s instrumentals, I think his vocal releases are just the bomb, as is the case with Bo-Lee!
in 1958, he became the nucleus of the Gone All Stars, George Goldner’s session band for his Gone Label. Fun stuff, but no real earth shaking releases, well especially compared to the previous Luniverse monster.
Carlton released Beulah in ’59…fantastic stuff, but incredibly similar, if slightly more bizarre, to Bo-lee!
Many more releases were to come in the next few years from Lucas on various labels including Vim, Tru-Sound and Pioneer (I recommend Get Away Fly on the latter label), but let’s move to 1963 and this mind blowing Caprice release!
At just age 28, Gerry Granahan became the youngest record executive in the music biz to that time, when he formed his own company, Caprice Records. He was a former disc jockey at WPTS in Pittston and in 1957, he was the first white artist on the Atlantic’s subsidiary label, Atco. He had a lot of success with numerous solo and group projects (including as pseudonym Dicky Doo and the Don’ts and group The Fireflies), but in 1960, he found being a performer, composer and producer for all his different acts, was too much to handle and realized his future success would come from sitting on the other side of the desk. Granahan had used Buddy’s talents on some of his own previous recordings, so it’s no surprise he brought him over to his new label. I can’t really find out much about the Gerry Granahan Orchestra that accompanies Buddy’s composition. While the label did have some major successes (and why this track wasn’t one of those I’ll never understand…although I have to suspect poor marketing perhaps?), the label folded in ’63 due to some dodgy “off the books sales” from a business partner.
I Can’t Go is an absolute Big Buddy gem! He writes about finding love and fame, and not holding onto to either tight enough. It’s blues…I guess…but so contradictorily upbeat! The cheeky keyboards, the wriggling bass and the outstanding dry production are all perfectly synced. Sometimes I really struggle to understand how music can be this great! And I’d love to find out who is responsible for the fabulous backing vocals…perhaps again former Granahan collaborators?
After researching this great musician, it seems evident that Buddy is much more known and credited for his prolific tenor sax and harmonica contributions, than as the cool cat vocalist that he certainly was. And he did put down some mean grooves with plenty of talent. In the 50’s he worked with Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers on Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and also with Little Willie John on his remarkable Fever take! He would work with blues and soul queens Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and Nina Simone! He would also get wild with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Smith and Count Basie. It’s obvious that here was a man with incredible talent to share, and I’m sure many friendships were made in his lifetime. And while his recording credits can be all laid out to a point without too much unraveling, it kinda saddens me that I can’t seem to find out much more about the man himself, behind those great notes, with such an important historic relevance to soul and blues. There must be interviews out there somewhere with either himself or collaborators. Even some photos?!
Buddy would continue to work with countless more musicians including Hendricks and George Benson, offering his harp and sax skills. In 1980, Buddy had his right lung removed after cancer was discovered, but continued to play alongside his old friend Herman Bradley, that he meet back in the ’40’s. In December 1982, due to ill-health, he finally had to give up doing what he loved most. He passed away on March 18th, 1983.
Referencing Dik from Black Cat Rockabilly
Also great Buddy discography here at Hallelujah Rock ‘n’ Roll
…and here at WangDangDula
And some definitive reading on Caprice Executive Gerry Granahan
Okeh 4-7147 US Year 1962 Marie Roach was born June 1, 1925, in Sanford, Florida, and grew up in Newark. At the sweet little age of 5, she impressed the congregation at her parents church by singing the gospel song Doing All the Good We Can, and of course later became a soloist in her church’s youth choir.
In 1939, the young lady first toured with Evangelist Frances Robinson, touring the national gospel circuit (she married preacher Albert Knight in ’41 but divorced later).
In 1946, she made her first recordings as a member of The Sunset Four (aka Sunset Jubilee Singers) for Signature and Haven (these labels would merge, but became defunct at the end of 1960 after being purchased earlier in the year by Roulette Records), and released a mighty fine handful of spiritual releases.
The now legendary guitar playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was a major recording artist on the Decca Records label, and who many would say, brought gospel music to a broad audience, first heard Knight sing at a Mahalia Jackson concert in New York in 1946. Tharpe recognized “something special” in Marie’s contralto voice, and two weeks later, she showed up at Knight’s house in Newark, N.J., to invite her to go on the road with her.
Tharpe and Knight toured through the late ’40s, appearing in clubs, arenas, churches and auditoriums, sometimes acting out the parts of “the Saint and the Sinner”, with Tharpe as the saint and Knight as the sinner.
Together they had plenty of successes, including Up Above My Head, credited jointly to both singers, and reached # 6 on the US R&B at the end of 1948. The great Didn’t It Rain also did well and Knight’s solo version of Gospel Train reached # 9 on the R&B chart in 1949.
Knight left Tharpe to go solo around 1951, and released further more gospel recordings on Decca. But around April 1954, Marie Knight makes a change as she records straight ahead R & B songs I Know Every Move You Make and You Got A Way Of Making Love. These Rhythm & Blues tunes may have turned away a great many of Knight’s gospel fans, but she continues this move with a release during July of This Old Soul Of Mine and I Tell It Wherever I Go, and a November release of Trouble In Mind and What More Can I Do.
Both Knight and Tharpe’s friendship has stayed very strong and close, and in ’55, they get back into the recording studio together and release Stand and Storm on Decca, and together they score a two week stand at Chicago’s Black Orchid. In October, Knight lands a part of the lineup of the “Lucky Seven Blues Tour” along with Earl King, Little Willie John and other greats! Soon after the tour is over, she signs on for another all star touring show called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Jubilee which kicks off at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium and again features star players including B.B. King, the classy Shirley Gunter, and sax cat Hal Singer.
In the spring of ’56, Knight follows her close friend Tharpe, from Decca to Mercury Records. While a couple more gospel releases sprouted once again, Knight decides to release another R&B beauty Grasshopper Baby (flip to Look At Me). In march of 1957 Mercury brings out the doo-wopping Am I Reaching For The Moon? and I’m The Little Fooler. In ’59, Knight and Tharpe record together again, and release Shadrack on Decca, which has to be one of my top picks from their almighty strong partnership!
1961 saw the release of the Knight bomb To Be Loved By You on Addit…you need to hear this if you don’t know it…amazing! That same year she recorded Come Tomorrow, released on Okeh, a tune which became much more famous after it was covered four years later by British rockers Manfred Mann.
And in ’62, she hits us with this…Come On Baby (hold my hand), again on the Okeh label. Quite slinky for Miss Knight, and you can’t help but feel this kinda tune has been waiting to burst out from her for some time. Another heart felt sound about love, but much more personal here than say spiritual. Not a lot can be found about this Roy Glover arranged session, and why this track is very rarely mentioned when reading up on Knight is a mystery to me, but it is well respected in the R&B community and on many collector’s want list for good reason.
Knight recorded and released a bunch more 45’s with various labels up til about 65, then slowly faded away from the scene. Her ripping version of Cry Me a River reached # 35 on the U.S. Billboard R&B charts in ’65, and was a powerful stamp to close an important chapter.
Knight remained friends with Tharpe, and helped arrange her funeral in 1973. In 1975, having given up performing secular music, she recorded another gospel album, Marie Knight: Today.
In 2002, Knight made a comeback in the gospel world, recording for a tribute album to Tharpe. She also released a full-length album, Let Us Get Together, on her manager’s label in 2007. She died in Harlem of complications from Pneumonia on August 30, 2009, but her legacy will live on…no doubt about it!
As I’m researching this fabulous piece of R&B dance floor femme gem, I quickly discover that there is actually a lot of conflicting and confusing information (again!) out there, regarding this 5 pc. Miller Sisters vocal group and Sun’s Rockabilly sibling partnership that were around at a similar time, with the same name. Two completely different groups yet both so brilliant. I will be posting on the Elsie Jo and Mildred Miller sisters soon I promise!
The Miller Sisters (from Long Island, NY) are Jeanette, Maxine, Nina, Sandy and Vernel, and were the talented daughters of music entrepreneur William Miller, A&R director for Hull Records.
They first recorded Hippity Ha with the adorable flip Until You’re Mine for Herald back in 1955, the same year they also scored a starring role in Fritz Pollar’s R&B picture Rockin’ the Blues, which also included the Harptones, Hurricanes, Wanderers and the great Lula Reed.
In ’56, after releasing Guess Who / How Am I To Know on Ember, they moved to Hull Records, which was the label former Herald Records executive Blanche (Bea) Kaslin’s established along with Billy Dawn and Mr. Miller (apparently Kaslin had just had enough of seeing artists being mistreated, not paid appropriately, and being taken advantage of with contracts). The label had some great R&B success with their very first release from The Heartbeats Crazy For You / Rockin-‘n-Rollin-‘n-Rhythm-‘n-Blues-‘n in ’55. While the sisters were at Herald records, their father obtained their release from an exclusive contract that they held with the label and would thereafter freelance for Hull, ACME, Onyx, Riverside, Roulette, Capri and others.
Moving forward to ’61, and it was hully gully fever that was scuffing the dance floors, and the Glodis release Pop Your Finger (flip to You Got To Reap What You Sow) certainly would have been getting some heavy rotations around the dance halls.
1962 brought some crackers for the girls, firstly Rayna’s superb release Dance Little Sister (flipped with I Miss You So), and this is the stuff that just thrills me. Slow and swinging, but heavy on the rhythm, and brutally charming vocals with more sass than one can handle. Then on Riverside, the dizzyingly beautiful ballad Tell Him (flipped with Dance Close).
But the year also brought out this beast…The Hully Gully Reel! It’s a mass of rhythm delivered by a thundering steam train. A good one to drop when the dance floor is all warmed up and salivating. Feels very Eddie Bo…it’s got that empowering rhythm, but it’s the legendary Big Joe Burrell with his big Sax driving the orchestration with full pelt. Burrell would work with the Sisters on tour and other recordings for a big part of their career, and it’s obvious a match made in heaven. If 2.15 minutes of non stop frantic hully gullying rocks your boat, then you’re getting you money’s worth here on this 45! Not for the faint hearted! And by the way, how good is that electric organ?! It’s on fire!
In ’64, Big Joe and the ladies struck again with Cooncha – Hey You which they recorded in Quebec for Capri in ’64, supposedly while on tour together…driving stuff! (Their father was credited as “Pop Miller” on the label). The Sisters weren’t done though as far as killer 45’s go. A much more soulful I’m Telling It Like It Is on GMC from ’65 is also very desirable!
The Miller Sisters recorded around 22 singles for various labels, and as is the case with this one, some are not easy to find. I feel very fortunate to have my hands on this one, and have made an oath to share it on as many dance floors as I can!
Discography : (as far as I can make out from Goldmine and other sources)
1955 – Hipetty Ha / Until you’r mine (Herald 455)
1956 – Guess Who / How am i to know (Ember 1004)
1956 – Please Don’t Leave / Do You Wanna Go (Hull 718)
1957 – Sugar Candy / My Own (Onyx 507)
1957 – Let’s Start Anew / The Flip Skip (Acme 111)
1957 – You Made Me A Promise / Crazy Billboard Song (Acme 717)
1958 – Let’s Start Anew / The Flip Skip (Acme 721)
1960 – Oh Lover / Remember that (Miller 1140)
1960 – Pony Dance / Give me some old-Fashioned love (Miller 1141)
1960 – Just Wait And See / Black Pepper (Instrumental) (Hull 736)
1961 – You got to reap what you sow / Pop your finger (Glodis 1003)
1962 – I miss you so / Dance little sister (Rayna 5001)
1962 – Walk on / Oh Why (Rayna 5004)
1962 – Roll Back The Rug (And Twist) / Don’t You Forget (Hull 750)
1962 – Cried All Night / Hully Gully Reel (Hull 752)
1962 – Dance Close / Tell him (Riverside 4535)
1963 – Baby your Baby / Silly girl (Rolette 4491)
1964 – Cooncha / Feel good (Stardust 3001)
1964 – Cooncha / Hey You (Capri 950) Quebec
1965 – Looking over my life / Si Senor (Yorktown 75)
1965 – Your Love / Please Don’t Say Goodbye Dear (GMC 10003)
1965 – I’m telling it like it is / Until you comme home, I’ll walk alone (GMC 10006)
Hip cat Bobby Scott (born Robert William Scott, in 1937, Mt. Pleasant, New York) is one of those mysterious lost and shadowed artists that really deserves to be pushed into the brightest spotlight, and for those of you out there that love your RnB snappy and snazzy and don’t know this one…well, you should!
Scott was a gifted music prodigy, one who could play piano, double bass, cello, vibraphone, accordion, clarinet, and of course knew how to use his voice box just fine! He studied under Edvard Moritz at the La Follette School of Music at the age of eight, and then in 1949 studied composition with Edvard Moritz, a former pupil of Claude Debussyand, and was working professionally at 11.
It was the early 50’s and despite his early classical training, Scott followed his teen callings towards jazz and played with small bands led by the great Louis Prima and Gene Krupa and cut some tracks for Verve Records with a few of these great small groups.
At 16, he started recording for several other record labels including Bethlehem, Savoy, and ABC, who in 1956, released the hit “Chain Gang” written by Sol Quasha and Hank Yakus, which peaked at #13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100!
In 1960, Scott began teaching music theory and harmony and returned to his studies under Moritz. He also signed with Atlantic, releasing a trio of albums under his own name, and started working with other artists, notably Bobby Darin, who he would become a very dear friend to.
That same year, Bobby Scott wrote the title theme for the Broadway version of Shelagh Delaney’s 1958 British play “A Taste Of Honey”, which was exotically made famous by pianist Martin Denny. The instrumental tune was soon given lyrics and was stylishly recorded by the beautiful Julie London, and also Sarah Vaughan, Bobby Darin and by some band called The Beatles. All these versions are quite unique to each other, and I’m sure Mr.Scott must have been pretty chuffed with every interpretation.
Bobby’s big hit won him a Grammy in 1962, but thanks to Herb Alpert’s US Top 10 take, 3 more were added to the list 3 years later. It has been covered so many times by so many great artists but it’s Martin Denny’s 69′ Exotic Moog version I find the most intriguing.
Around 1962, Scott entered one of the few stable periods of his career, taking on as staff producer at Mercury records and working extensively with Quincy Jones. There he would output four albums including the vocal release When the Feeling Hits You, which also happens to be the flip of this killer 45!
Moanin’ first appeared on the self titled Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers album, recorded in 1958, and was written by pianist Bobby Timmons. Soon after, the composition was given lyrics by Jon Hendricks, who is considered one of the originators of “Vocalese”, and was taken up by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross who released a really super smooth vocal version on Columbia, which even sounds better with a Martini or two!
But it’s Scott’s version that blows the stripey socks off! His mod take is tempting from the first few seconds the open piano chords call. It’s jazz, but it cops a big whack with a broken bottle of rock ‘n’roll, and that mix is deliriously delightful! And again, here we get some extra topping, quite a lot actually, with some killing twang! One of my favourite guitar jigs to dance to, it’s relentless, stabbing and stabbing, but the blade is blunt and dirty. You step to the left, then side step to the right, but it just keeps on gettin’! On his return, Bobby is a slight crazed, and disheveled, then we see him fade into a dark lane far too quickly…and we’re left wondering if that all really just happened?!
Bobby Scott continued to compose up until the mid to late 70’s, but recorded a final farewell album For Sentimental Reasons in 89′. He died only 18 months after, succumbing to lung cancer on November 5, 1990 at the age of 53 in New York City. He was as a top-flight pianist, composer and arranger who was so important to the jazz world, but with a release like this one, for a brief moment, he was the king of snap jazz n’ pop!
Referencing and recommended reading…..
“She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment.” Official ninasimone.com.
As we all know, she was arguably one of the most important and influential women of the soul, blues and jazz genre, and I think the only real place to start a 45 collective journey is at the beginning. And it was in the early 60’s, a time when Nina was singing some of her most intimate and bluesy compositions of her career, when this little fiery monster surfaced amongst it all!
But first a little bit about Eunice Kathleen Waymon. She was born in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933, the sixth child to a Methodist minister mother and a handyman and preacher father, and started playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her parents taught her right from wrong, to carry herself with dignity, and to work hard, which would in time mold her into the incredibly strong woman she grew up to be. She played piano in her mother’s church, displaying remarkable talent early in her life, but didn’t sing at that time.
Able to play virtually anything by ear, she was soon studying classical music with an Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich, and quickly developed a lifelong love of Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven. After graduating from her high school, her local community raised money for a scholarship to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Eunice’s hopes for a career as a pioneering African American classical pianist were dashed when the school denied her admission. To the end, she herself would claim that racism was the reason she did not attend.
To survive, she began teaching music to local students, and also began singing in bars, which Eunice’s mother would refer that practice as “working in the fires of hell”. But quickly she attracted club goers up and down the East Coast with her unique jazz-blues renditions of Gershwin, Porter and Rodgers standards. And then Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone, taking the nickname “Nina” meaning “little one” in Spanish and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret.
At the age of 24, Nina came to the attention of Syd Nathan, owner of the Ohio-based King Records, and was signed to his Jazz imprint, Bethlehem Records. While at first Nathan had insisted on choosing songs for her debut set, he eventually relented and allowed Nina to delve in the repertoire she had been performing at clubs and was well known for. What I think is one of her most outstanding jazz compositions on Bethlehem is the B sided African Mailman released in 1960, and one you really need to check out!
Nina’s stay with Bethlehem Records was short lived and in 1959, after moving to New York City, she was signed by Joyce Selznik, the eastern talent scout for Colpix Records, a division of Columbia Pictures, founded in 1958. Her stay with Colpix resulted in some incredible recordings, including 9 albums, and some mighty fine 45’s including Forbidden Fruit and her beautiful version of I Got It Bad.
Produced by big band legend Stu Phillips, Come On Back, Jack is Nina’s response to Ray Charles dance floor bomb Hit The Road Jack, (written by rhythm and bluesman Percy Mayfield) which was released that same year! But while it does share a similar riff and beat, I have to say it’s Nina’s jam that has got Jack running the fastest and packs as much, if not more, dance floor impact. Unavailable on LP, this is a prized diamond hidden amongst so many jewels in Nina’s treasure trove that’s worth hunting for!
Finally, this post is only a very small chapter of this remarkable woman’s life and her recording career, but please stay tuned for future Simone posts here, as there’s certainly a few more 45’s that deserve to be spotlighted!
To find out so much more on this incredible woman’s highly influential life and music visit ninasimone.com.
And also….I Put A Spell On You: The Autobiography Of Nina Simone
Track 1 – I Know How It Feels Track 2 – Wondering If You Miss Me
This heart wrenching soul ballad is an absolute pearl and one I keep very close to my heart. A song to play late at night, with a stiff hard drink, on your own (well maybe with a pet friend), and not one that I play in public too often. A mysterious recording, certainly not an easy one to find particular specs on, so I had to visit my fav’ research web site Soulful Detroit once again for most of the info here.
Laura Johnson, an amateur singer from Detroit, who happened to work in the Correc-tone’s offices, paid for her own studio time and recorded these two stirring tracks at Wilbert Golden’s legendary Correc-tone studios. The self-penned “Wondering If You Miss Me”, and “I Know How It Feels”, which was written by infamous Popcorn Wylie and Motown’s Janie Bradford, and produced by Robert Bateman, were released in ’62 on Bob Shad’s New York Brent label. It’s likely that Correc-tone’s session musicians of that time, bassist James Jamerson, drummer Benny Benjamin and guitarist Robert White recorded on these tracks, but I can’t confirm that. I’m pretty sure that’s the incredibly beautiful “Andantes” backing her up here.
Laura also had a hand in writing a couple of gems cut by Marva Josie, including the excellent “Later For You Baby” which was released on Brent’s sister label,Time, also released in ’62.
“I Know How It Feels” was earlier released by The Satintones on Motown (the first band to ever record for that label) in ’61, then also with The Marvelettes on their Please Mr.Postman LP debut, that same year in November. Both versions are a delight in their own ways, but Johnson gets the badge of honor for me.
Seems not too many people out there really knew much more about this elusive artist and these remarkable isolated recordings. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Johnson was to ever record again, and with that remarkable tone, it’s the greatest shame!