Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - early Columbia

EMI's Columbia label issued hundreds of 45s during the 50s and 60s. The majority were recorded in the UK (Cliff Richard, Helen Shapiro, Frank Ifield, Gerry and the Pacemakers etc etc) but at various times some of the great US labels had Columbia as their UK outlet, among them Atlantic, Vee Jay, Roulette, Del Fi and Ace. For my obscurities this time I've picked a dozen of the earlier Columbia singles from the rock and roll era, most of them American and some of them true R and B or rock and roll classics. Check out the Youtube links - some great stuff here.
1. Ivory Joe Hunter - Since I Met You Baby/ You Can't Stop This Rocking And Rolling. Released in 1956. Mint value £250.
Ivory Joe Hunter was born well before the rock and roll era began - in 1914 - and had already enjoyed success in the R and B field with Blues At Sunrise and I Almost Lost My Mind among others. This classic recording was another huge success, recorded for Atlantic, and is hard to find on 45. Joe died in 1970.
2. Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers - Goody Goody/ Creation Of Love. Released in 1957. Mint value £20.
The sad story of Frankie Lymon is well known and is an early example of pop music damaging its most talented stars. A hitmaker aged 14 with Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Frankie became addicted to heroin and was dead aged 25. Goody Goody was Lymon's eighth release in the UK and, although it is credited to the Teenagers, he had actually split from the group by this time. He dared to dance with a white girl on Big Beat, an American TV show, and the show was promptly scrapped after protests from southern white TV station owners. By this time Frankie was on heroin and his career quickly declined.

3. Huey (Piano) Smith & the Clowns - Don't You Just Know It/ High Blood Pressure. Released in 1958. Mint value £85.
This is undoubtedly one of the greatest double sided rock and roll records of all time (I must do a blog on great double siders some time). One of many great R and B pianists to come out of New Orleans, Huey's band featured a number of vocalists, including Bobby Marchan, Gerri Hall and Frankie Ford. This was a million seller but after some less successful follow ups under various band names (the Hueys, the Pitter Pats for example) Huey left the music business and joined the Jehovah Witnesses. It was rock and roll's loss.
4. Janice Peters - This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'/ Kiss Cha Cha. Released in 1958. Mint value £30.
Janice Peters is just a footnote in British rock and roll history with just two Columbia singles, which is a shame as she had a strong voice and could really rock, as she demonstrated, especially on the follow up to this lively Ruth Brown cover, A Girl Likes.
5. The Drifters - Feelin' Fine/ Don't Be A Fool (With Love). Released in 1959. Mint value £50.
Another British recording - this time by the Shadows before they changed their name to avoid confusion with the US soul group. It's a vocal track, very much in the light pop style of the time and not at all like Cliff's Move It which was recorded around the same time.
6. Dickie Pride - Fabulous Cure/ Midnight Oil. Released in 1959. Mint value £40.
Discovered by Larry Parnes and given a typical over the top Parnes-styled name, Dickie looked for a while like a British rock and roller who had real potential. He appeared on Oh Boy and Wham but never had a major hit. Sadly, he went on to become another example of a pop star who became addicted to drugs and, allegedly after a lobotomy was carried out, he died aged just 27 in 1969.
7. Buddy Knox - I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself/ To Be With You. Released in 1959. Mint value £20.
Rather a depressing song title from a singer who made his name with the much happier Party Doll in 1957, recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. He made several more decent records for Roulette, including Somebody Touched Me and this bouncy little epic of lost love, and also several for Liberty in the 1960s, but faded from the scene. He died in 1999.
8. Chan Romero - The Hippy Hippy Shake/ If I Had A Way. Released in 1959. Mint value £100.
Later ruined by the Swinging Blue Jeans, this great rocker is very much in the Ritchie Valens mould, and in fact was released on Del-Fi, Valens' label, a couple of months after his death. Romero had just one more Columbia release and today lives in California.
9. Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks - Mary Lou/ Need Your Lovin'. Released in 1959. Mint value £50.
This was the second UK release by Arkansas-born rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins, with his band the Hawks, many of whom went on to become The Band. It's another rock and roll classic, originally recorded by Young Jessie.
10. Rock-a-Teens - Woo-Hoo/ Untrue. Released in 1959. Mint value £40.
The Rock-A-Teens, an early garage rock outfit from Richmond, Virginia, were the archetypal one hit wonders. But what a hit! It's since turned up in the film Kill Bill and (covered by Japanese girl punk band as an advert for Carling beer. Unfortunately, despite an LP on Roulette, the band never repeated their original success.
11. Charlie Gracie - The Race/ I Looked For You. Released in 1960. Mint value £10.
This came out several years after Charlie's big hits Butterfly, Fabulous, Wandering Eyes, Cool Baby and Crazy Girl but it's a pleasant enough number - and Charlie is still actively performing today.
12. Dee Clark - Don't Walk Away From Me/ You're Telling Our Secrets. Released in 1961. Mint value £40.
Dee Clark had one of the best R and B voices of the time - similar to Clyde McPhatter and Marv Johnson - and made some really good records, including Nobody But You, Just Keep It Up, Hey Little Girl, How About That and Raindrops, his biggest hit. This one was the follow up to Raindrops and for some inexplicable reason it was a flop and signalled a decline in his career, although he had a UK hit in 1975 with Ride A Wild Horse.


At 9:10 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice selction again of early Columbia 45's. Sad to see no Johnny Duncan included, though I'm pleased to see the great Rockateens 'Woo-Hoo' and the late Charlie Gracie (both leased from roulette in the US?).


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