Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - Parlophone label

Parlophone's roots go back to 1896 when the label was founded in Germany. In the UK it was launched in 1923 as a jazz label and was, of course, the home in the sixties of the Beatles and other beat groups such as the Hollies, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, the Fourmost and Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. It remains a major label today with acts like Coldplay, Gorillaz and Kylie Minogue.
For my Vinyl Obscurities I am focussing on a dozen of the great American releases from its mauve and, later, red heyday (1953 to 1962), from US labels such as King, Cameo, Ember and Gone. Check out the Youtube links as well.
1. Bonnie Lou - Tennessee Wig Walk/ Just Out of Reach. MSP6048. Mint value £50.
King recording artist Bonnie Lou bridged the gap between country and rock and roll, becoming one of the earliest female stars of the rock era. This 1953 release (one of the earliest 45s to be released in the UK) was her only UK hit, reaching number four. Great B side too - later immortalised by Solomon Burke.
2. Otis Williams & his Charms - Ivory Tower/ In Paradise. CMSP36 (export issue). Mint value £300.
Cincinnati born Otis formed the Charms in 1953 and had doowop hits on Deluxe with Hearts of Stone, Ling Ting Tong and Two Hearts. When the group broke up he formed a new set of Charms and had a further US hit with Ivory Tower, which was covered by Cathy Carr and Gale Storm.
3. Bill Doggett - Slow Walk/ Peacock Alley. R4265. Mint value £15
Best known for Honky Tonk, Bill Doggett was a jazz and R & B pianist and organist who enjoyed considerable success on the King label. Prior to that he played with the Ink Spots, Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris and Louis Jordan.
4. Charlie Gracie - Butterfly/ Ninety nine ways. R4290. Mint value £50.
Charlie needs no introduction as he still performs today and is a regular visitor to the UK. After some early records with Cadillac and 20th Century, he made it big with this excellent double sider on Cameo and had more success with Fabulous, Wandering Eyes, Cool Baby and Crazy Girl, among others.
5.The Silhouettes - Get A Job/ I Am Lonely. R 4407. Mint value £100.
Get A Job was one of the biggest doowop hits of the fifties and its lyrics are still relevant today. Recorded in Philadelphia the group appeared on Dick Clark's Bandstand show several times and the result was a multi million seller - not that the group members (Bill Horton, Raymond Edwards, Earl Beal and Richard Lewis) enjoyed much financial success as a result. It spawned answer discs (including Got A Job by the Miracles) and turned up in several films including American Graffiti, but the band only had one further UK release, Headin' For The Poorhouse, and soon broke up.
6. Little Willie John - Let's Rock While The Rockin's Good/ You're A Sweetheart. R4472. Mint value £70.
Little Willie John is one of my all time R & B favourities and made some wonderful records for King, including Fever, Need Your Love So Bad, All Around The World, Talk To Me, Leave My Kitten Alone and Sleep. This is one of his more upbeat numbers and well up to his usual standard. Such a shame that he was a victim of alcohol abuse, was convicted of manslaughter in 1966 and died, allegedly of a heart attack, in prison in 1968.
7. Bobby Freeman - (I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy/ You Don't Understand me. R4684. Mint value £20.
San Franciscan Bobby Freeman had a huge hit with Do You Wanna Dance, which was later covered by everyone from the Beach Boys to Cliff Richard. Similar dance numbers followed, including Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes, Shame On You Miss Johnson and Mary Ann Thomas. In the sixties he had hits with C'Mon and Swim and The Duck. This was his only Parlophone release, recorded for Deluxe in the States.
8. Billy Dolton - Winkie Doll/ Girls R4733. Mint value £15.
This Ricky Nelson styled number, co-written by Jerry Fuller, was apparently an early recording by Glen Campbell. Not a bad one either.
9. Cathy Jean & The Roommates - Please Love Me Forever/ Canadian Sunset. R4764. Mint value £60.
I really like this innocent sounding girl group style record, and the Youtube clip shows that Cathy Jean still has a great voice 50 years later. But apparently New York-born Cathy, who was just 14 at the time, never met the original Roommates, who were brought in by Valmor label owner Jody Malis to overdub the harmony. It still sounds fresh today.
10. Hank Ballard & the Midnighters - The Continental Walk/ What Is This I See. R4771. Mint value £30.
One of the all time R & B greats, King recording star Hank Ballard had several brilliant releases on Parlophone, including the original version of The Twist, Finger Poppin' Time, Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go and Let's Go Again. But this one is a bit different: as you can see from the photo it came with a pull-out sheet explaining the dance steps for The Continental Walk. Altogether now, you put your left foot in... Great B side too.
11. Bobby Lewis - Tossin' and turnin'/ Oh Yes I Love You. R4794. Mint value £20.
Born in Indianapolis and raised in an orphanage, Bobby moved to Detroit aged 12 and met Ritchie Adams of the Fireflies, who co-wrote this monster hit, which was the biggest US single of 1961 staying at number one for seven weeks. Amazingly it didn't do a thing in the UK. Bobby had a great follow up in One Track Mind, but soon faded from view.
12. Ral Donner - Please Don't Go/ I Didn't Figure On Him. R4859. Mint value £25.
Elvis sound-alike Ral Donner is best known for his hit You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It) and his cover of The Girl Of My Best Friend. After a couple more records for Gone and then Reprise and Red Bird Ral disappeared from the scene, but narrated Presley's voice in the 1981 film This Is Elvis.


At 7:55 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shitting hell - what a great selection. I've only got the Ral Donner, Charlie gracie and Bobby Lewis from you selection. I always keep an eye out for the Bonnie Lou and LWJohn, but have never seen a copy of either. Ivory Tower is a mega rarity on UK release. To I'm impressed is an understatement! Going to be uploading a few photos onto facebook tonight - a mixture of new purchases and a few more US issues I thought I'd put on, but apparently hadn't!
John S


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