Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - the MGM label

MGM launched its record label in 1946, initally for movie soundtracks. In 1951, however, they discovered country music, and in particular Hank Williams, and the label quickly became one of the US majors. In the UK MGM was released by EMI during the 50s and 60s. Many of its releases were rather middle of the road, but here's a mixed bunch with quite a few of interest as well. Check out the Youtube links.
1. Marvin Rainwater - Gonna Find Me A Bluebird/ So You Think You've Got Troubles. MGM 961. Mint value £30.
Part Cherokee, Marvin Rainwater liked to wear native American themed clothing and veered between country and rockabilly, his number one UK hit Whole Lotta Woman being a prime example of the latter. This earlier US hit is much more country flavoured. He still performs occasionally today.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RO1_0nx06k
2. Dickie Barrett - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/ Remember Me. MGM 976. Mint value £60.
Better known as Richard Barrett, or indeed Ritchie Barrett (Some Other Guy), Barrett promoted or discovered Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, The Chantels, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Valentines (for whom he sang lead) and The Three Degrees. This dramatic cover of the Platters hit shows how good a singer he was and would appear to have been his first solo outing.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAUOJMmsr6U
3. Clyde McPhatter - I Told Myself A Lie/ The Masquerade Is over. MGM 1014. Mint value £20.
Few, if any, R and B singers had a better voice than Clyde McPhatter as his brilliant work for Atlantic, both with The Drifters and as a solo artist, shows. This double sider was his first release for MGM and subsequent records for MGM and Mercury were less successful, but the beauty of his voice still shone through. After moving to the UK in 1968 drink took hold and he sadly died in 1972. The Youtube clip features both sides of this record. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0kvq-ReSnY
4. Jimmy Jones - I Just Go For You/ That's When I cried. MGM 1091. Mint value £12.
Jimmy Jones, who died recently, had huge UK success with Handy Man and Good Timin' but this, his third release on MGM (the Cub subsidiary in the US), written by Don Covay, inexplicably failed to make it. It was one of the highest scoring records of 1960 in my personal top ten and is a great double sider - take a listen to the Jackie Wilson-like flipside. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHzRnoWpfq8   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ait87GNx3_o
5. Conway Twitty - What A Dream/ Tell Me One More Time. MGM 1095. Mint value £6.
Born Harold Jenkins, Conway Twitty was a mainstay of the MGM label in the early sixties with a string of successful records beginning with the smash hit It's Only Make Believe. The 'man with a frog in his throat' was instantly recognisable and and this version of the Chuck Willis song is well up to his usual standard. Later of course he concentrated on country music and set up the entertainment resort Twitty City near Nashville.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f6hg3fYQTU
6. Connie Francis - Mr Twister/ Don't Cry On My Shoulder. MGM 1151. Mint value £6.
Connie was even more of a mainstay of MGM and, despite a long runs of hits including Who's Sorry Now, Lipstick On Your Collar, Stupid Cupid and Robot Man, she is now rather forgotten. Featured on one of her more collectable LPs, Do The Twist, this rather basic dance number was recorded in Japanese, Spanish and Italian, as well as English.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1Ed1LeH8XM
7. Sam The Sham & the Pharaohs - (I'm In With) The Out Crowd/ The Hair On My Chinny Chinny Chin. MGM 1326. Mint value £8.
Texan Sam Samudio brought good time rock and roll to MGM with his 1965 smash Woolly Bully and followed it up with a string of slightly offbeat novelty rockers, including this tongue in cheek answer to Dobie Gray's In Crowd. The band dressed in Arab style outfits but faded from view in the late sixties. This one was a two sided minor hit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VhuhdggrhE  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4Ual01qmkA
8. The Stereos - Sweet Water/ The Big Knock. MGM 1328. Mint value £5.
This doowop double sider was first issued in 1961 and reissued in 1966. The Stereos emerged from several doowop groups, including the Buckeyes, and had a first release on MGM (Cub in the US) with I Really Love You. Later they did the instrumental Stereo Freeze, which came out on the US Cadet label. I think Sweet Water and The Big Knock is a cracking double sider: I foolishly mislaid a review copy I had back in the day, so recently bought this copy from Ebay.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alIsf4cKRwM  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA3Cqp6wnyY
9. Lucas with the Mike Cotton Sound - We Got A Good Thing Going/ Mike Cotton Sound - Soul Serenade. MGM 1398. Mint value £40.
Trumpeter Mike Cotton and his band went from trad jazz to R and B, backing Zoot Money and American visitors such as Solomon Burke and Stevie Wonder. The addition of American former GI Lucas from Cleveland boosted their credibility. Sadly I couldn't find this Mike Raven  produced A side on Youtube, so here's the flip - a fine version of the King Curtis tune (minus Lucas).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTbryz2Xt9E
10. The Formations - At The Top Of The Stairs/ Magic Melody. MGM 1399. Mint value (demo copy) £220.
This is a Northern Soul classic which gets played frequently but went unnoticed when first released in 1968. Reissued on the Mojo label in 1971, it was originally recorded for the US Bank label and produced by Leon Huff. As this Philadephia group didn't meet success initially they reformed, first as the Corner Boys and then as the Silent Majority.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Un-q9fISwE


At 8:13 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice selection. I have the Marvin Rainwater, but sadly without the centre. The Jimmy Jones and Conway Twitty 45's are great choices. Wasn't expecting the connie Francis choice; not one I'd have thought of, but cool nonetheless.
Have you got the 2 Lee Hazlewood's on the label? 'My Baby Cried All Night Long' is a cool bass driven song.

John S

At 8:43 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks John. Very hard choosing a Connie Francis track so I thought I would go for one of the more obscure ones - similarly with Jimmy Jones and Conway Twitty there were a lot of tracks to choose from. I don't have either of the Lee Hazlewoods on MGM - I will keep an eye open for them.


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