Sunday, April 29, 2012

Top ten 45s - the Action label

Here's the latest record label in my Vinyl Obscurities series.

Action is one of the most collectable UK record labels of the late 60s, releasing soul and blues classics from Duke, Peacock, Backbeat and Kent, among others. Launched by John Abbey, it replaced the UK Sue label and was distributed by Island. In its two year life Action issued 57 singles and 12 LPs. Here are the top ten Action 45s in my collection.

1. Wilmer and the Dukes - Give Me One More Chance. ACT 4500 Up tempo number by New York R & B band, recorded for Aphrodisiac.
2. Minnie Epperson - Grab Your Clothes (And Get On Out). Willie Mitchell production for Peacock. ACT 4503
3. Buddy Ace - Got To Get Myself Together. ACT 4504 Another Willie Mitchell production - this time for Duke.
4. O V Wright - Oh Baby Mine. ACT 4505 Yet another Willie Mitchell production - for Backbeat.
5. Harmonica Fats - Tore Up. ACT 4507 Darcey recording - first issued in the UK on Stateside.
6. Ernie K-Doe - Gotta Pack My Bags. 4512 Produced by Henry Boozier for Duke.
7. Eddie 'Buster' Forehand - Young Boy Blues. ACT 4519 Written by Phil Spector, produced by Herb Bernstein and Mickey Elshner for Josie. Also known as Little Buster.
8. Z Z Hill - Make Me Yours. ACT 4532 Originally recorded (and written) by Bettye Swann.  Recorded for Kent.
9. Bobby Marchan - Ain't No Reason For Girls To be Lonely. ACT 4533 Written and produced by Gamble and Huff. Bobby was a New Orleans favourite.
10. Wash Hopson Singers - He's Got A Blessing - ACT 4546. Gospel.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top ten 45s - Coral

John Spencely has prompted me to speed up my vinyl obscurities series by listing my favourite 45s on various labels. He listed his top Coral singles (excluding Buddy Holly) on Facebook so here are mine:
Jackie Wilson - Reet Petite
Frances Burnett - Please Remember Me
Bob McFadden & Dor - The Mummy
Jackie Wilson - Doggin' Around
Crickets - Baby My heart
Jackie Wilson - A Woman A Lover A Friend
Count Victors - Road Runner
Jackie Wilson & Linda Hopkins - Shake A hand
Jackie Wilson - No Pity (In The Naked City)
Young Holt Trio - Wack Wack
Here's Road Runner on YouTube

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - Stateside demos

Demos are much in demand among some record collectors, and this is particularly true, it seems, with original Northern soul records, where demos sometimes sell for double the price of stock copies. For my Vinyl Obscurities this time I've chosen ten interesting demos from the Stateside label which, after London, probably released more great 45s than any other UK label. Some of them are Northern favourites and therefore carry much higher values than stock copies.
1. Gabriel & the Angels - That's Life (That's Tough)/ Don't Wanna Twist No More. Released on Stateside SS150 in 1963. Mint value - £20.
This was a real favourite of mine when it came out but it seems to have been largely forgotten. It's a white doowop song with lead vocals by Richard 'Gabriel' Kellis who asks 'What's Life?' with the response from the Angels (possibly in reality black female doowop group the Swans) 'A magazine'. 'How much does it cost? - It costs 20 cents. But I've only got a nickel. Wo, oh, that's life - that's tough'. The band was a one hit wonder and it's been suggested that they were connected to a black doowop group the Five Sharps. I don't think so: according to the one photo that seems to exist these guys were white.
2. The Jaynetts - Sally Go Round The Roses/ Sally Go Round The Roses (instrumental). Released in 1963 on Stateside SS227. Mint value - £20.
This is another record by one hit wonders and another one with an air of mystery, despite being a big hit in the US, reaching number 2.  It's a haunting girl group record with what's been described as a 'mystical' air written by Zell Sanders, owner of J &S Records, and Lona Stevens, wife of Abner Spector, who produced the record. It's been rumoured that there were as many as 20 voices on the record and that it cost an unheard of $60,000 to produce. Among the Jaynetts were Yvonne Bushnell, Ethel Davis (aka Vernell Hill), Ada Ray Kelly and Johnnie Louise Richardson (of Johnnie and Joe).
3. Martha & the Vandellas - Quicksand/ Darling I Hum Our Song. Released in 1963 on Stateside SS 250. Mint value (demo copies) - £100.
This was written by Holland, Dozier and Holland and was the second Motown release by Martha and the girls on Stateside. It's very similar to its predecessor Heatwave and is still a soul favourite.
4. Martha & the Vandellas - Live Wire/ Old Love. Released in 1964 on Stateside SS272. Mint value 9 demo copies (£100).
Why give up on a successful formula? This was another Holland, Dozier and Holland song and another Tamla Motown hit for the girls.
5. The Temptations - My Girl/ (Talking 'bout) Nobody But My Baby. Released in 1965 on Stateside SS378. Mint value (demo copies) - £150.
This one needs no introduction as it's hardly obscure - indeed the song went on to become the Temptations' signature song - but demo copies are not so common. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, it was the first Temptations 45 to feature the voice of David Ruffin.
6. The Invitations - What's Wrong With Me Baby/ Why Did My Baby Turn bad. Released in 1965 on Stateside SS478. Mint value (demo copies) - £300.
This is a real Northern favourite and a great record. Recorded for DynoVoice, the Invitations were Herman Colefield, Gary Grant, Bill Morris and Bobby Rivers. It was reissued in 1972 on Mojo but this original goes for big bucks.
7. George Stone - Hole In The Wall/ My Beat. Released in 1965 on Stateside SS479. Mint value - £20.
Another Northern favourite - this time a jazzy, soulful instrumental - this was written by Booker T and the MGs and also recorded by The Packers, who may have been Booker T and the boys doing a bit of moonlighting. As for George Stone, I know nothing about him, but this was his only UK 45.
8. Ronny & the Daytonas - Sandy/ Sandy (instrumental). Released in 1965 on Stateside SS484. Mint value - £20.
Ronny & the Daytonas were a surfing/drag racing band formed far from the sea in Nashville who had a big hit with GTO. This Amy Mala recording was a much softer song similar to some of the Beach Boys records of the time.
9. Jay W King - I'm So Afraid/ I Don't Have To Worry. Released in 1966 on Stateside SS505. Mint value - £22.
I know nothing about this Eddie Holman style soul ballad other than that it was recorded for the Skyscraper label and was written and performed by Jay W (Windsor) King. Another one hit wonder. Any information anyone?
10. The Coasters - Cool Jerk/ Talkin' Bout a Woman. Released in 1972 on Stateside SS2201. Mint value - £30.
This late Stateside cover of the Capitols soul hit failed to make it and may well have been withdrawn shortly after it was issued. According to Bill Millar's book 'The Coasters' it had been recorded for Columbia in 1967 but remained on the shelf until released as a follow up to Love Potion No 9. Bill wrote: 'Leiber and Stoller had tinkered with the Columbia tape but, without hearing the original, it's not possible to say what improvements were gained. Scarcely any, perhaps.'

Friday, April 20, 2012

Britain's 'Mr Guitar' dies

A final Vinyl Word for Britain's influential 'Mr Guitar' Bert Weedon, who has died aged 91. He made numerous instrumental records from 1956 onwards and had success with Guitar Boogie Shuffle, Nashville Boogie, Sorry Robbie and Ginchy among others, but it was his seminal work 'Play In A Day' for which he will be best remembered. As an instructional text book on learning to play the guitar it had a major influence on numerous musicians - from The Shadows to The Beatles, Eric Clapton and Brian May. By the mid 60s Bert's music sounded rather square, but his influence in the early days of British rock and roll cannot be overestimated. Here's the self-penned Ginchy on YouTube

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark and Levon Helm RIP

Sadly The Vinyl Word must report two significant deaths in the world of music - Dick Clark and Levon Helm.
I don't know why but for some reason I thought that Dick Clark had passed away long ago. But the highly influential host of American Bandstand and, later, Where The Action Is, lived on and it's only now that he has died aged 82. So it's a fond farewell to the man whose support helped make the careers of dozens of US rock and roll and soul acts - from Buddy Holly to Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checker and Stevie Wonder. He made Philadelphia a major centre for rock and roll and if you appeared on American Bandstand you had arrived. Dick was undoubtedly a major force in US music in the 50s and 60s. He avoided the Payola scandal through some nifty footwork and continued to have a successful career as a game show host and presenter of a regular New Year's Eve show in the States. His Caravan of Stars shows brought some of the major acts of the era to the US in an integrated show from 1959 to 1965 , with greats such as Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and many others taking part.
Born in Elaine, Arkansas, Levon Helm, who was 71, grew up watching Elvis and other Sun stars and joined Ronnie Hawkins' Hawks in 1957 as drummer, enjoying major hits with Forty Days and Mary Lou, also appearing on American Bandstand. The Hawks broke with Ronnie and became Bob Dylan's backing band, eventually setting up in Woodstock and becoming The Band, who had massive success with hits such as The Weight and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The Band broke up in 1976 with a host of global stars joining them for their farewell The Last Waltz including Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. Levon went on to record several successful solo albums and turned his hand to acting in The Coal Miner's Daughter and The Right Stuff.

The Mighty Mississippi

I caught up on the Mighty Mississippi series last night, in which veteran newsreader Trevor McDonald takes an 'epic' trip along the Mississippi. I missed last week's series opener, in which Sir Trev visited New Orleans, but last night he visited Clarksdale and Memphis, both of which I've been to several times, including on my own 'epic' road trip in September.
To be fair, the programme was well done, with some excellent photography of the river and some interesting interviews. Trevor chatted to Morgan Freeman who was born in Mississippi and chose to move back there and become co-owner of the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale (see photo above). He recalled the apartheid system of his youth and the fact that even today there is a separation between blacks and whites in the south. It's only three years since the first integrated school prom night in the town. This legacy was underlined by a sequence in Memphis dealing with the assassination of Martin Luther King and the subsequent decline of the city. It's never occurred to me that the two are linked, but certainly the depressed centre of the city, apart from the tourist trap of Beale Street, seems to have emerged since the tragic events of 1968. Prospects have improved somewhat since Fedex started taking over the airport at night to make it its international hub, employing 10,000 rather poorly paid mostly black people who do, at least, enjoy the sort of health insurance that we in the UK take for granted.
Music wise, the programme focused on Beale Street, Sun Studio and Elvis Presley, including an interview with an early girlfriend Barbara Hearn, now living in Trenton, Tennessee (see photo). There was no mention of Stax or Hi, but at least Sir Trev avoided the cliche of a visit to Graceland.
Next week he continues his trip in St Louis, where we began our own trip last year. I will watch with interest.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - the Fontana label

My Vinyl Obscurities this time are from the UK Fontana label, which issued a wide variety of pop, folk, soul and blues 45s from the time of its launch by Philips in the late 50s through to the early 70s. As well as UK hits by the likes of the Mindbenders, the Troggs and Manfred Mann there were some interesting US releases, as at various times Fontana issued records from the Tamla Motown, Veejay, Vanguard, Okeh and Mirwood labels among others. The following 10 releases are a mixture of US and UK recordings, all of them interesting in their way. Check out the Youtube links for each one.
1. Roy Young - Big Fat Mama/ Just Keep It Up. Released in 1959 on Fontana H200. Mint value - £25,
Roy Young is, of course, still rocking his way through the Little Richard songbook on a regular basis and remains a dynamic performer over 50 years on. He made his name on the Oh Boy and Drumbeat shows and this is his first UK single. Big Fat Mama is a wild self penned rocker and was written in honour of his mum, or so he told the 2Is show audience a year or so back. The other side is a competent cover of the Dee Clark hit.
2. James Brown & Famous Flames - This Old Heart/ Wonder When You're Coming Home. Released in 1960 on Fontana H273. Mint value - £30.
This was the second UK 45 by the king of funk and comes from the period when Fontana occasionally issued records from King/Federal. This Old Heart is a pretty good mid tempo swinger but attracted little interest at the time, while the B side has a bluesy flavour to it.
3. Roy Hamilton - You Can Have Her/ Abide With Me. Released in 1961 on Fontana H298. Mint value - £15.
Roy Hamilton is a Northern soul legend with the 1964 MGM 45 The Panic Is On going for big money. His later recordings such as The Dark End of the Street show just how soulful he could be and his death in 1969 cut his career short, but this record is more typical of his earlier more middle of the road smooth voiced R and B and pop material on Epic and was his last substantial US hit. Later covers of the song included Charlie Rich, Waylon Jennings and a live performance by Elvis.
4. Marie Knight - Come Tomorrow/ Nothing. Released in 1961 on Fontana H354. Mint value - £20.
Marie Knight was a major gospel star from the 1940s, when she teamed up with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, until her death aged 84 in 2009. As late as 2002 she recorded a tribute album to Tharpe and her gospel back catalogue runs into hundreds of tracks. She also recorded some secular R and B material including Come Tomorrow, recorded for Okeh, which was to become a hit for Manfred Mann in 1965.
5. Marvelettes - Please Mr Postman/ So Long Baby. Released in 1961 on Fontana H355. Mint value - £50.
Fontana issued a mere four Motown 45s before passing the baton to Oriole and Please Mr Postman is by far the best known because of the Beatles cover of the song on the With The Beatles LP. This was the first single by the Marvelettes and a personal favourite. Songwriting credits have varied over the years but this original version attributes it to Marvelette Georgia Dobbins, her friend George Garrett and 'Brianbert' (Brian Holland and Robert Bateman). Later Freddie Gorman also got a credit.
6. The High Numbers - Zoot Suit/ I'm The Face. Released in 1964 on Fontana TF480. Mint value - £600.
I had to include this one as it's the most valuable 45 in my collection and was bought at a car boot sale a few years ago for a mere 20p. Definitely my lucky day! The High Numbers were of course an early incarnation of The Who, who recorded this one single aimed at the mods of the day. I was one of their number and rode my Lambretta to Hastings and Brighton for the mod/rocker Bank Holiday confrontations of that year (I didn't see many rockers there but it was good fun).
7. The Anglos - Incense/ You're Foolin' Me. Released in 1965 on Fontana TF589. Mint value - £25.
Just who were the Anglos? No one seems to know for sure. It's an extremely soulful American sounding 45 which has been linked to Steve Winwood, but I'm pretty sure this is a US original and there have been numerous online discussions trying to pin it down. Best guess seems to be that it was issued originally on the US Orbit label and came out in the UK on the short lived Brit label, before being reissued shortly afterwards on Fontana, and later on Island.
8. Jackie Lee - The Duck/ Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide. Released in 1965 on Fontana TF646. Mint value - £40.
This is another Northern soul favourite with a secret, as Jackie Lee was in fact Earl Nelson, one half of Bob and Earl who made it big with Harlem Shuffle. Jackie was apparently Nelson's wife's name and Lee his middle name. Recorded on the Mirwood label, this is a great dance number and still gets plenty of plays today .
9. The Olympics - We Go Together/ Secret Agents. Released in 1966 on Fontana TF678. Mint value - £30.
Yet another Northern favourite by a group who started life in 1957 as a doowop band who had a smash hit with Western Movies. Follow ups were equally good rock and roll numbers, including Private Eye, I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate and Little Pedro, and they enjoyed a second lease of life in the 60s with more soul orientated dance numbers such as The Bounce, Baby Do The Philly Dog and We Go Together.
10. Lowell Fulsom - Tramp/ Pico. Released in 1966 on TF795. Mint value - £35.
One of the leading West Coast bluesmen, Fulsom recorded many great blues records from the 1940s through to the 90s, including Three O'Clock Blues, Every Day I Have The Blues and Reconsider Baby. But Tramp, co-written with Jimmy McCracklin and recorded for Kent, became a soul classic, breeding excellent covers by Otis and Carla and Joe Tex (Papa Was Too). Fulsom died in 1999.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Andrew Love RIP

The Vinyl Word raises a glass to Andrew Love, tenor saxophone player, one half of the Memphis Horns and a key player on numerous great Stax sides by the likes of Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Sam and Dave and many others, who has died aged 70.
The Memphis Horns were central to the Stax sound and the band emerged from the Mar-Keys, who had one of the first Stax hits with Last Night. Along with trumpeter Wayne Jackson, he featured on such great Memphis recordings as Dock Of The Bay, Soul Man, Hold On I’m Comin’, Try A Little Tenderness, Think, Born Under A Bad Sign, Mustang Sally, Land Of 1000 Dances and Knock On Wood. After Stax the Memphis Horns recorded for Hi, including Al Green's Let's Stay Together, and backed numerous other artists, including Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond and James Taylor. In recent years I saw the Memphis Horns, including Love and Jackson, at Porretta a number of times and without fail they produced the authentic Stax sound. In February of this year they received a Lifetime Achievement Award but by this time Love, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's, was too unwell to attend. Here's the story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Friday, April 06, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - the RCA label

Continuing my occasional series on Vinyl Obscurities, I am focusing this time on the UK RCA label. This follows a chat in the pub the other day with John Spencely about the merits, and otherwise, of this major, but in my view somewhat unimaginative, record label. It's most famous of course for records by Elvis, Sam Cooke, Neil Sedaka, Don Gibson, Duane Eddy and the Isley Brothers among others, but I'm not featuring those artists (with one exception - I couldn't leave Sam out). I am instead looking at RCA obscurities - the 'pointless' answers that most people wouldn't know. I'm including YouTube links so you can judge for yourselves. So here goes:
1. Sammy Salvo - Oh Julie/ Say Yeah. Released 1958 on RCA 1032. Mint value - £30.
Oh Julie was overshadowed by the original version by the Crescendos in the US but it's not bad. Better though is the B side Say Yeah - a cover of the Wayne Handy record which would set you back £200 if you were lucky enough to find the London 45.
2. Ronald and Ruby - Lollipop/ Fickle Baby. Released 1958 on RCA 1053 Mint value - £30.
Interracial duo Ronald and Ruby (Ronald Gumm (or Lee Morris - sources vary) and Beverly Ross) did the original version of this but it was The Chordettes and, in the UK, The Mudlarks, who had the bigger hits. It's a song that keeps turning up - in TV ads and movies. Beverly, who co-wrote the song with Julius Dixson, went on to write many other songs including Candy Man (Roy Orbison) and Judy's Turn To Cry (Lesley Gore).
3. Jesse Belvin - Guess Who/ Funny. Released in 1959 on RCA 1119. Mint value - £15.
Jesse Belvin could have been bigger even than Sam Cooke had he not died in rather suspicious circumstances in a car crash in February, 1960 in Hope, Arkansas, immediately after the state's first multi racial show, which also featured Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Marv Johnson. Indeed, RCA viewed Sam as Jesse's replacement. Like Sam, he had earlier recorded for Specialty, having had an R and B hit with Marvin Phillips on Dream Girl. He wrote the Penguins hit Earth Angel and had a hit of his own on Modern with Goodnight My Love. He was also one of The Shields (along with Johnny Guitar Watson) who had a hit with You Cheated. A great loss to soul music.
4. Johnny Restivo - I Like Girls/ Dear Someone. Released in 1959 on RCA 1159. Mint value - £20.
Johnny Restivo is best known for The Shape I'm In, which he recorded aged just 15 (with Paul Simon on guitar). This was the New York born singer's rather tame follow up single, after which he failed to have any more hits but toured the world for many years.
5. Mary Petti - Hey! Lawdy Lawdy/ Gee, but it hurts. Released in 1961 on RCA 1239. Mint value - £50.
This is the record that got John and I discussing RCA and it's a great double sided cracker. The A side is a Brenda Lee style rocker while the B side is a sensational soulful ballad. No one seems to know much about Mary, although John found a photo of her which he put on Facebook.
6. Jimmy Elledge - Funny How Time Slips Away/ Swanee River Rocket. Released in 1961 on RCA 1274. Mint value - £15.
Jimmy Elledge and Joe Hinton both recorded excellent versions of this Willie Nelson song with Jimmy's version selling over a million copies. Nashville born Jimmy was discovered by Chet Atkins and went on to record for the Hickory label in the 60s. While touring the bars of Metairie, near New Orleans, in the early 90s some fellow Woodies and I discovered that Jimmy was playing piano and singing in a neighbourhood bar. He showed that he still had a sweet, smooth voice. A gig to remember.
7. The Lafayettes - Life's Too Short/ Nobody But You. Released in 1962 on RCA 1299. Mint value - £10.
I guess you would call this great single an early example of garage punk. Certainly it has a fantastic feel to it and it's surprising that this Baltimore band didn't have more success. After this one they recorded the equally good Caravan of Lonely Men, before fading from the scene. Life's Too Short was featured in the 1987 film of Hairspray.
8. Pat Hervey - Tears of Misery/ Brother Can You Spare a Dime. Released in 1963 on RCA 1332. Mint value - £7.
I don't know much about Pat Hervey except that she came from Toronto and recorded a few singles in the early 60s. This double tracked effort is quite an attractive 'girl group' number.
9. Gale Garnett - I'll cry alone/ Where do you go to go away. Released in 1965 on RCA 1451. Mint Value - £60.
Why is this record apparently worth so much? I really have no idea, as it's a fairly standard mid tempo number sung in a deep voice. Gale - a New Zealander who settled in Canada - had an earlier hit with We'll Sing in the Sunshine and went on to enjoy a successful acting career, most recently in My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002.
10. Sam Cooke - Sugar Dumpling/ Bridge of Tears. Released in 1965 on RCA 1476. Mint value - £40.
I just had to include a Sam Cooke number in this RCA round up and this posthumous release is the most collectable of all his many RCA UK 45s. Just a great little number.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Lee Fields in Islington

It seems that retro soul has quite a following these days. The Islington Assembly Hall was crowded last night with a mostly young audience enjoying the very sixties style soul of Lee Fields and his band the Expressions. Like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley with Daptone, Lee has recorded a couple of retro soul albums of original material in the last few years for the Truth and Soul label - Faithful Man and My World. But he is a soul survivor whose first recording was back in the sixties and who had a hit called Let's Talk It Over in the seventies, so he can lay claim to being the genuine article.
His act is a high energy cross between Otis Redding and James Brown and most of his numbers were upbeat soul songs, but with a few slower songs included to give him a chance to cool down a bit. His set included Still Hanging On, Ladies, Wish You Were Here, Money Is King, Who Do You Love, You're The Kind Of Girl, Faithful Man, Honey Dove and, as an encore, Love Comes and Goes (check out the YouTube clip) - all from the two recent albums.The crowd loved him - there was a young very tall long haired guy in front of me who couldn't keep still (bastard!) and you can see why he's popular. His is authentic sixties style soul and it's as if the decade never ended and Otis lived on.
Lee was my third live music gig in five days. On Sunday I went to the Scatchers pub in Godalming with John Spencely to catch Jackie Lynton, fresh from his success at the 2Is gig in January. As ever, he was best on rock and roll numbers such as Reelin' and Rockin' and Mess of Blues and adequate on the blues numbers, interspersed with his usual blue jokes. But after a while the set descended into a Status Quo tribute so we made our excuses and left.