Wednesday, June 10, 2009


The Magnetics (Volumes)

The Bonnie label single from the Magnetics is up there amongst the most sought after soul 45’s ever released. But until recently, the actual group’s history has been shrouded in mystery. This situation can now be corrected, thanks to the fact that the Volumes were booked to perform at the big UK Northern Soul Weekender in Prestatyn this March. During research, undertaken to enable a Volume’s bio to be pieced together, it became evident that the surviving members of the group that cut “Lady In Green” were current members of the Volumes. Not one to let such an opportunity pass me by; I took Volumes member Bobby Peterson aside to get the facts on the Magnetics.

Bobby was born in downtown Detroit in May 1939. He grew up there, as did the other members of the Magnetics & Volumes. They all went to the same schools, Bobby himself being educated at Central High School. During that period, he started singing on street corners with his friends. They soon developed their harmony skills to a level where they were good enough to perform at parties & appear on local variety shows. This was in 1959 and the group took the name, the Marvelous Marveliers. Their line-up was Bobby Peterson, his younger sister, Sharon Peterson, Tony Johnson, Jackie Perkins and Candi (Fagan) Bell. They met some guys who were so impressed with their efforts that they wanted to fund a recording session. The offer accepted, the group cut “Down (On My Knees)” and “When We Dance”, both songs being written by Tony Johnson. Under the guidance of Gil Martin (who was later to work for Motown), Tony handled lead vocal duties on both songs.

These cuts were released (as by the Marveliers) on the Cougar label in 1960 but failed to make much impact. Disappointed at the lack of success for their record, the group soldiered on but they were going nowhere and so decided a change was needed. The members of the group still got on well though, so it was decided that their new start would just involve a change of name. As a result, the Magnetics were launched onto the Detroit music scene. Under their new name, they quickly established a good following and again created enough interest to come to the attention of a local record company. The group went into Continental Recording (at 9022 Twelfth Avenue) with Popcorn Wylie and recorded “The Train” (written by Popcorn & Tony Johnson). This was released in June 1962 on Continental’s in-house label, Allrite. The other side of the single was “Where Are You” (again an R Johnson composition) which had a ‘throwback’ feel, being quite doo wop sounding. This 45 managed to gain quite a bit of radio airplay in Detroit and led to the group securing bookings at venues such as the 20 Grand, Mr Kellys, Phelps & Henrys.

A return to the recording studio was called for and the group laid down some new songs; “Wonderful Moment” and “I Walk Alone (?). Again Tony Johnson wrote the songs and sang lead on them but for some reason they were never released. The Magnetics must have been quite envious of their old friends in the Volumes who were by then touring across the States on the back of their national pop chart hit “I Love You” (by a strange co-incidence Popcorn Wylie had worked with the Volumes on “I Love You”, as he had with the Magnetics on “The Train”). Yet again, the group’s career stalled, they weren’t making any headway and were starting to become stale. So Bobby, the leader, took the decision to wind the group up and its members looked for new challenges. Tony Johnson went on to team with Tyrone Pickens and they cut "Please Operator” for Ted White’s Ram Brock / Ston-Roc set-up (as Tony & Tyrone).

Meanwhile, the Volumes were still soldiering on. The group had numerous fine 45’s released but unfortunately none of these would enjoy the success of their initial single. In 1965, the group had their last release on the American Arts label; “I Just Can't Help Myself”. Although released on a Pittsburgh based label, this track had been cut back in Detroit (at Specialty Studios on East Grand Boulevard) and featured the likes of Dennis Coffey on the backing track. But Eddie Union had become disillusioned with the treatment the group was receiving and so he quit, going solo. This resulted in a shake up of the group’s membership and when things settled down again, Gerald Mathis was their new lead singer (he had been recruited to this position as he sounded quite like Eddie). The group now consisted of Gerald (out front), Elijah Davis, Ernest Newsome, Bobby Peterson & William ‘Pete’ Crawford (who had started out in the Distants with Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams and Richard Street). With Gerald on lead vocals, the single “The Trouble I've Seen / That Same Old Feeling” was released on Impact. But since Eddie Union had gone solo, only two of the five strong group were original members. They started getting grief because of this and so (at Bobby’s prompting) they decided to take the Magnetics name for some gigs and to record.

Thus the cuts “Lady In Green” and “Heart, You're Made of Stone” escaped on a Bonnie 45 under the name of the Magnetics. Once again, Gerald Mathis handled lead vocal duties on these tracks. As they had done on their Volumes recording sessions, the group worked with Duke Browner. The guys appreciated his writing (Duke wrote “Lady In Green”) and arranging skills, so had no problem working with him yet again. In support of their new 45, they played live gigs around the Detroit area under the Magnetics name (at venues such as the 20 Grand and Mr. Kellys) and even ventured as far away as Chicago and Cleveland for other gigs. “Lady In Green” didn’t manage to make much of an impact with the record buying public (probably due to the lack of copies of the 45 in the shops) but undaunted, they returned to the studio to cut some more songs. Yet again Duke Browner was the composer of these songs; “Hard On You” was an up-tempo number with “Some Day, Some Way” being a ballad. Unfortunately for the group these two cuts didn’t even manage to escape from the tape vaults. This set-back, coupled with the general lack of progress they were making and the struggle to maintain regular live bookings led them to throw in the towel.

After Eddie Union had quit the Volumes to go solo, he found himself working with a guy who was in a soul group that was looking for a lead singer. This guy was constantly on Eddie’s case, trying to get him to join them. Finally Eddie agreed to become their lead singer, figuring that becoming a member of the Metros might not result in history just repeating itself. So Eddie sang lead with the group for a short time and they built up a decent repertoire of songs to perform. But the other guys; Gordon Dunn, Al(fred) Mitchell, Rob(ert) Suttles and Joe Buckman, soon decided that they were ready to record. This was something that Eddie didn't want to do again, so soon after his experiences with the Volumes. He told them that he just couldn't go through all the tribulations that signing a recording deal entailed and quit the group. Undaunted, the other guys (Gordon, Al, Rob and Joe) with Percy Williams on lead signed with Jack Ashford’s Pied Piper set-up and were in the studio early in 1966 laying down tracks that would be released on RCA.
After the Volumes / Magnetics members went their own way, the Volumes re-formed and went on to record yet more tracks for Harry Balk & Duke Browner. They even ended up with a 45 on the Motown distributed Inferno label in 1968 (“Ain't That Loving You”). But there was too much competition from other groups at Motown and they soon got lost in the shuffle. Eddie was recruited back into the group, re-joining Elijah Davis & Ernest Newsome, and after drifting for a while Ollie McLaughlin signed them to his Karen label. In 1970, another Volumes single escaped, “Ain't Gonna Give You Up”, but this was to be the group’s last release. Meanwhile, Bobby Peterson & ‘Pete’ Crawford went off to form a number of new groups, one going by the name of the Premiers. Bobby had decided not to use the Magnetics name yet again and some of their outfits didn't even last long enough to be given names. One such nameless group was soon singing so well together that they were taken into the studio by gifted piano player & arranger Joe Hunter. Joe had worked closely with Jack Ashford & Lorraine Chandler at Pied Piper Productions (with the likes of the Metros). But on occasions Joe also took on the producer’s role and it was in this capacity that he cut three tracks with Bobby & Petes’ new group. The songs involved were “Only A Man”, ”No Money Down” & “Love Me, Hate Me”.

If any of these tracks had been released, a name would have had to have been found for this 'new' group but local events conspired to prevent this from happening. In the early hours of Sunday June 23rd, 1967, the Detroit riots kicked off. Police abuse, segregation, lack of affordable housing and economic inequality coupled with rising black militancy meant that unrest in the city bubbled just below the surface. A heavy handed police operation sparked off events and 5 days later 43 people were dead, 500 injured, 7,200 arrested with more than 2,000 buildings being left in ruins. Many record company offices, studios and clubs were located in areas that suffered heavily during the riots and this just added to the chaos that followed. With most things being in turmoil, it wasn’t the time to be releasing 45’s. Locals had many important issues to resolve and buying records ranked low down on their list of priorities. Thus any plans Joe Hunter had for the tracks he had just cut were abandoned and so Bobby & Petes’ new group was stillborn. Bobby decided that his main priority lay with his family and so concentrated on his 9 to 5 job with Chrysler, so the group just fell apart.

With the Magnetics now just a fading memory, it wasn’t too long before the Volumes also broke up again. Ernest Newsome however was interested in staying in the business. When approached by the Fantastic Four, he joined that outfit and enjoyed even more years of recording & performing. The years passed and the oldies scene in the US developed from strength to strength. Doo wop concerts began to be staged on a regular basis and when the Volumes were approached to appear on one of these, they re-formed. The members were now Eddie Union, Elijah Davis, William (Pete) Crawford and Bobby Peterson. Unfortunately Ernest Newsome had passed away in 1990 and ex lead singer Gerald Mathis also passed away some years ago. Another of the Volume’s ex lead singers Jimmy Burger had become a minister and was no longer interested in performing secular music. Under Eddie Union’s leadership, the four guys had a great time performing on doo wop shows and soon appeared on a PBS TV special. Now re-established on the US circuit, it wasn’t too long before UK Northern Soul fans started to show an interest. They weren’t however too interested in getting the group to sing their big hit (“I Love You”) but wanted to know if the group would be willing to perform their mid to late 60’s soul tracks for UK fans. Discussions took place, a contract was offered, accepted and all the arrangements were made for the guys to fly over here to perform at the Prestatyn Soul Weekender in March 2009.

What had long been suspected by the more astute British soul fans emerged to be true. The three surviving members of the Magnetics were all in the current Volumes line up. The guys were asked if they would mind adding a couple of Magnetics numbers to their proposed show here and even Eddie (the only non Magnetic) was only too pleased to agree to the idea. So with Eddie on lead vocals, the four Volumes up on the stage at the weekender asked if there were any women in the audience dressed in green. After a positive response the guys announced … well this is for the “Lady In Green”. As the Magnetics performed the song for the first time in 40 years, the roof nearly came off the arena. The buzz around the site for the remainder of the weekender was truly incredible and the guys themselves were blown away with their reception. Bobby was so ecstatic about the audience response to their show and the interest that had been generated in them (as both the Volumes & Magnetics) that he couldn’t sleep in the hours following the show. Many questions were fired at all of them and it was ascertained that Pete was the only guy in the group to ask for (& get) a copy of the Bonnie 45 when it had been originally released. When he was told how much this 45 was now worth, he nearly collapsed. All four were truly happy with their first UK trip and are already looking forward to a return visit.

JOHN SMITH; April 2009

Sunday, March 11, 2007



Only the most gritty of soul singers would qualify to be described as just ‘too darn soulful’. Morris Chestnut, the guy who cut the song of this name, only ever recorded a small number of tracks as a solo singer. However, he has enjoyed an extended career in the music business. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he started out singing in school. He then went into the Services, being posted to Hawaii with the Air Force. After his discharge, he ended up in Los Angeles where he met up with members of doo-wop group, the Vows. His cousin Ralph was a member of the group that had a record released on Markay in 1961, this being produced by George Motola. Via the Vows, Morris got to know Motola, who impressed, signed Morris to his L&M label. Motola cut him (using the Vows on backing vocals) on a song that Morris had written himself, “I Need Somebody” and this was released under the name of James Washington Lee. Musical styles were moving on though and the line-up of the Vows was revised, Morris became a member himself and the group hooked up with Jobete Music’s LA office team. They cut some demos of songs the team had written and these were forwarded onto Detroit to be considered by Motown’s hit acts as future recording material. If these songs were rejected, the LA team had a deal with Motown that allowed them to cut them locally and release them on a LA based label. This arrangement resulted in a Vows 45 being issued in 1964 on the Tamara label. Using the revised name of the Vowels, Morris also fronted an outfit that had a couple of singles released on the Le Bam label.
Motown hadn’t given up all interest in the Vows though and in 1965 they were signed to a deal, cut some tracks and enjoyed a 45 release on the VIP label, “Tell Me” (# 25016 -- May 1965). Promotion of this single was only half-hearted and it sank without a trace. Unfortunately, despite further tracks from the group being submitted, this was to prove to be their only Motown release and so the group moved on. Morris had already teamed up with Roy Haggins, David & Robert Jones to form the Sound Masters. Herman C Allen signed the group to Julet Records and the 45 “Lonely, Lonely” (Julet # 102) was released. Morris’ stay with the group was to be short lived however. Next he teamed up with Jones, Bledsoe & Smith to form the Attractions. The group secured a contract with Bell Records, their first release being “Destination You” (# 659) in January 1967 (also issued on Renfro). Two further 45’s followed later that year, “That Girl Is Mine” (# 674) in June and “Why Shouldn’t A Man Cry” (# 690) in September. Morris must have been extremely busy that year as around April his NS anthem “Too Darn Soulful” was released on Amy (# 981), another of Bell Record’s family of labels. None of these records enjoyed any great measure of commercial success and no more of the group’s releases were to escape on Bell. By 1971, under the revised name of the Hollywood Attractions, they had a last release on the Sugar Shack label.
It would be a while before Morris got to enjoy his next record release. This occurred in 1975, after he had teamed up with ex members of the Marvellos (Loma, WB & Modern) to form Street Corner Symphony. This new group were signed to a deal with Bang Records and working with producers Michael Zager & Jerry Love they cut a number of tracks. The label released 2 singles and the album ‘Harmony Grits’ in 1975/76 and these created enough interest in music circles to secure the group a deal with a major label, ABC Records. ABC sent the group back into the studio late in 1976 and early in 1977 this resulted in the release of their album ‘Little Funk Machine’ (ABC # AB-974). In April 1977, the album was followed by the 45 “Funk Machine”. These recordings were to prove to be Morris’ last. However by this time, UK soul fans had discovered his old solo recording, “Too Darn Soulful”. This had become a top sound due to initial plays at Blackpool Mecca and as a result the single had been bootlegged. To rectify this situation, John Anderson licensed the track and issued it on his Grapevine label in 1976 (# GRP128).
Back in LA, Morris remained blissfully unaware of the popularity of his old cut here in the UK and with the passage of time; he had moved on to lead a gospel outfit. At times this group even included old Vows member Helen Simpson amongst its number. Just over a year ago, Morris was told about the popularity of his old records. He therefore now knows that cuts such as “Too Darn Soulful”, the Vows “Tell Him”, along with the Sound-Masters “Lonely, Lonely” plus the Attractions “Destination You”, “That Girl Is Mine” & “Why Shouldn’t a Man Cry” are highly prized collectors items. Indeed, ten of his old recordings are currently available on CD; his solo outings “Too Darn Soulful” & “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” plus 2 cuts from the Vows (“Tell Me”, “Show Girl”) & the Sound-Masters (“Lonely, Lonely”, “I Want You to Be My Baby”) with 4 in all from the Attractions (“Destination You”, “Why Shouldn’t A Man Cry”, “Find Me”, “New Girl In the Neighborhood”). The continued popularity of his old recordings has finally resulted in Morris being booked to come over here to perform for his many UK fans.
Morris will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March 2007) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).



“Something New To Do”, “Once I’ve Been There”, “How Can I Go On Without You’, “I’m So Happy’, “Forever And a Day”, “Home Is Where The Heart Is”, “Startin All Over Again”, I Don’t Do This (To Every Girl I Meet)”, “Hitch-hike to Heartbreak Road” and “Free For All”; fantastic songs recorded by great soul singers. All have one thing in common, they were written by Phillip Mitchell. His song writing abilities however have somewhat overshadowed his own efforts on record, a great pity as Phillip is also a highly talented singer.

Born in 1944 in Louisville, Kentucky, Phillip started singing at an early age. He learnt to play the trumpet, guitar & piano and by the age of 8 was already attempting to write songs. From singing in school and on street corners, he soon progressed to cutting singles with both the Checkmates & the Premiers. In 1963, the Checkmates won a Louisville talent contest, their prize of a recording session for Correc-tone Records unfortunately never materialised. Disillusioned, Phillip teamed up with Alvin Cash & the Crawlers but his new start was brought to an abrupt end when he was called up for a short stay in the military.

Next he joined a touring musical revue and eventually ended up in the recording hot bed of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Here he introduced himself to Fame Studio’s Rick Hall who cut him on the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham song “Keep On Talking”. Although recorded in 1966, it would be 2 years before this outing was released on Smash. In the meantime, Phillip had traveled to LA, but Muscle Shoals soon beckoned him back. On his travels, Phillip had amassed a bag full of select songs and this helped him secure a contract with Muscle Shoals Sound studio (started by the Fame musicians). It wasn’t long before Barry Becket & Roger Hawkins decided to cut him on his song “Free For All”. This was leased to Shout Records who later that year (1969) also issued his “I’m Gonna Build California All Over the World”. However Shout was slipping towards oblivion following the death of its supremo, Bert Berns, and neither single managed to make any real impact.

Phillip then penned “Starting All Over Again” for Sam & Dave but Atlantic’s A&R guys passed on it. In 1972, Mel & Tim were recording at MSS so “Starting All Over Again” was dusted off. Their version, when released on a Stax 45 entered the US soul chart in July 72, climbing to peak in the Top 5. Phillip’s own recording career had become moribund, but the success of his song resulted in Hi Records signing him. 3 singles followed, but with Hi putting all their efforts behind Al Green, Phillip’s releases were lost in the mix. He did however get to cut Beau Williams (Bo Bo Mr. Soul) for Hi on his impressive song “Hitch-hike to Heartbreak Road”. Meanwhile back at MSS, both Bobby Sheen & Bobby Womack recorded song’s penned by Phillip (in 1972 & 1973 respectively). Sheen cut “Something New To Do” with Womack including “If You Can’t Give Her Love” on his ‘Facts of Life’ album (Mary Wells also cut this). Mel & Tim’s second Stax album was released in 1974, this including “Forever And a Day”, yet another outstanding song Phillip had written,

Phillip himself signed with Event Records and the 45 “There’s Another In My Life” became his first ever chart entry in March 1975. Bobby Womack cut Phillip’s sublime song “Home Is Where the Heart Is” (Columbia) at MSS & this became a hit late in 1976. Meanwhile, Phillip had been recruited by drummer Norman Connors to handle lead vocal duties with his band. This association resulted in Phillip singing lead on the Top 20 hit “Once I’ve Been There”. At about the same time, Atlantic Records teamed Ben E King with the Average White Band for a joint project and they took Phillip’s song “A Star in the Ghetto” into the Top 30 in October 77. So Phillip, again without a recording deal, was offered a contract with Atlantic. Sent to record an entire album for the first time in his career, Phillip produced ‘Make It Good’ in ABC’s LA studio. The album (featuring all his own songs) escaped in March 78. The first single taken from it, “One on One”, charted in June. A second 45, the classy “You’re All I’ve Got in the World”, followed later in the year but didn’t sell as well.

For his next album, Phillip headed back to his spiritual home, Muscle Shoals Sound studio. ‘Top of the Line’ (June 79) again featured his own compositions with both of the resulting singles enjoying commercial success. Aided by the release of 12” remixes, “Let’s Get Wet” made the charts even before the album had hit the shelves. “If it Ain’t Love, I’ll Go Away” followed this into the national charts in August (the magnificent “I’m So Happy” featuring as its B side). Disco then took over, so Phillip let his songwriting royalty’s takeover paying the bills. Ichiban Records eventually coaxed him back and “You’re Gonna Come Back to Love” (from his ‘Devastation’ album) returned Philip to the charts. Surprisingly it would be 1991 before a follow-up album (‘Loner’) would be issued.

Interest in his back catalogue however just grew with a number of his songs gaining anthem status. Their standing here resulted in Phillip making his first visit to the UK to perform live. Further trips ensured interest in his past work didn’t wane and this encouraged Grapevine Records to raid the Muscle Shoals Sound studio tape vaults for his un-issued cuts. The 2 CDs they have released (‘In the Beginning’ & ‘Pick Hit of the Week)’ have included such classics as “Home Is Where The Heart Is”, “How Can I Go On Without You”, “Trippin On Your Love” & “I Don’t Do This (to Every Girl I Meet). So this time, when Phillip sings for his British fans, he will finally be able to claim full ownership of the superb songs he will be performing.
Phillip will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).



What kind of lady is Dee Dee Sharp? Well obviously she‘s talented but she’s also educated, socially aware, charitable & passionate. On top of all that, she’s one hell of a singer. Born Dione LaRue in Philadelphia in 1945, she began singing in her grandfather’s church. She learnt to play the piano and to read music at an early age. This combination of skills helped secure her first recording studio work whilst still only 13 years old. Four years on and she was ready to take on lead singer duties herself. Signed to a contract with Cameo Parkway, she initially duetted with Chubby Checker on “Slow Twisting”. This Parkway label 45 gave her a first chart entry when on 24th March 1962 this entered the national R & B Top 100. The cut would stay on the charts for 3 months and rise to make the top 3 on both the US R & B and pop charts. In fact, the duet would have gone even higher had it not been for a song titled “Mashed Potato Time” from Dee Dee herself. This solo outing (a Cameo label release) had entered the charts just 7 days after “Slow Twisting”, which it overtook on its climb to reach the No.1 spot in late April.

Further hits followed in quick succession; “Gravy, For My Mashed Potatoes” (June 62), “Ride” (December 62), “Do The Bird” (March 63), “Where Did I Go Wrong” (February 64) & “Wilyam, Wilyam” (also February 64). Still in her teens, she was now touring all over the US and Europe on packages that also featured many of the times top hit acts. Dee Dee’s commercial success resulted in her also enjoying album releases and for one of these she cut a great version of Chuck Jackson’s “Any Day Now”. Being based in Philadelphia also helped get Dee Dee some national TV exposure. The city was the home of the top US TV pop show, American Bandstand, and she appeared on the show twice in both 1962 & 1963. In January 1966, “I Really Love You” (b/w “Standing In The Need of Love”) became her last hit single on Parkway, however she had continued to release great sides on the label during the intervening period. One of the best of these, her 1964 outing “Deep Dark Secret”, has recently gone on to garner a strong following.

By 1966, Cameo Parkway was no longer the powerhouse outfit it had been 4 years earlier, so Dee Dee moved on. She was signed to Atco where her first outing was the classy Jimmy Bishop / Kenny Gamble penned song “My Best Friends Man” issued late in the year. A further Atco single escaped in 1967 but by that time Atlantic had decided to cut her down south. So she was sent to work with Chips Moman in his Memphis studio. Her first single release in 1968 however was another duet, teamed with Ben E King, they re-worked Doris Troy’s “What’cha Gonna Do About It”. This was followed by 45’s featuring her Memphis recordings; “A Woman Will Do Wrong” with “Help Me Find My Groove” becoming her 3rd single release that year. Unfortunately, even though her sterling vocal efforts on these songs helped produce cuts dripping in emotional intensity, they sank without trace. None of her five outings on Atco had enjoyed any real success and as a result both parties lost interest.

Luckily, Dee Dee still had Kenny Gamble in her corner (they had married in 1967). So he took her straight back into the studio where they cut some Gamble / Huff songs and a 45 was released on his Gamble label. Even though “What Kind of Lady” is up tempo Philly soul at its very best, it failed to return her to the charts (it was good enough however to gain a UK release on the Action label). Other duties then took precedence in her life and it would be 1970 before she gained her 2nd Gamble release. Gamble & Huff did a deal with CBS that resulted in their Philadelphia International imprint coming into being in 1981. One of the labels early releases featured Dee Dee on yet another duet, this time she was teamed with Bunny Sigler on “We Got a Good Thing Going On”. The likes of Billy Paul, the O’Jays and Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, all signed to the new label, were soon enjoying massive hits, so Dee Dee again took a backroom job ((running Huga Management).

She returned at the start of 1976 when her album ‘Happy Bout the Whole Thing’ was released on Philadelphia International, with the up tempo title track also escaping on a T.S.O.P. label 45. A cover of the pop hit “I’m Not In Love”, finally returned her to the US soul charts following a 10 year break. She was back on the singles charts again (reaching # 4) in the summer of 1977, this time as a member of the Philadelphia All Stars on their release “Lets Clean Up the Ghetto”. Her 2nd solo PIR album, “What Color is Love” was also issued that year & tracks were again lifted from this to form singles. Another break followed before her ‘Dee Dee’ album came out. “I Love You Anyway” (b/w “Easy Money”) was taken from this album and issued on a single and in March 81 this became her last soul chart entry. Later that year, “Breaking & Entering”, became her final single and this was so popular in clubs that it topped the US dance chart.

Although she hasn’t recorded for a number of years (her last effort being “What a Way to Love” in 1984), she has continued to perform live. Indeed in July 2003 she starred (along with Chuck Jackson & Smokey Robinson) in a big concert held at the Telluride Conference Centre, Colorado. So just what kind of lady is Dee Dee Sharp – she’s the special kind.
Dee Dee will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).

Friday, November 24, 2006


UK Soul Weekender 2006

Friday 9th to Sunday 11th June.

Sun, sea, soccer, scintillating sixties and seventies soul with still more sun -- that was Cleethorpes 2006. Cleggy veterans stream into the Beachcomber Centre from early afternoon even though the music rooms don’t kick off until 8pm on the Friday. This year, the sea was actually in view during the drive along the resort’s front en-route to site and an unrelenting sun shone down. Assumptions were quickly drawn that the sun’s attendance would be purely fleeting but this was not to prove the case as it hung around for the full duration of the event.

Proceedings kicked off in the main room at the allotted time. Despite his squad of DJs being veterans now, Ady had decided to yet again stick with his long serving established players. Roger Banks opened proceedings, with the likes of Ginger, Butch & Mick Smith also making an early impact. Midnight came and went, by which time the strong second team were also making a good impression in the modern room. Before the dance competition commenced back in the main room, an intrigued group of spectators took their places on the balcony overlooking the rear of the room. Carl Carlton, Darrow Fletcher and their travelling partners were in the arena getting their first feel for a Northern Soul event. After absorbing the atmosphere they headed back to their hotel, by which time the third music room was also up and running (R&B ruling the roost here). The massed dancers enthusiasm and high energy antics engendered a stimulating ambience in the rooms. Only after dawn had broken and that relentless sun was once again climbing into the sky did the crowd start drifting away towards their accommodation.

The Saturday afternoon session is usually a low-key affair but with England playing a world cup game, most males headed straight for the upstairs bar area where a giant screen TV had been set up. The plucky endeavours of the international DJ line-up therefore went largely ignored and the wares on offer in the record bar also garnered little interest. As the under attended afternoon record sessions drew to a close, the backing band arrived to set up in the main room. Instruments were plugged in, sound levels balanced and the initial run through commenced. As is usual, proceedings were running behind schedule and a major problem became apparent at 7.30 when Darrow and Carl arrived to add their vocal input. Carl had put his back out earlier in the afternoon and was now in so much pain, he could hardly move. Because of this, Darrow took first turn but a more cursory run through than is usual was all that could be managed. Carl was then assisted onto stage and at least finished rehearsing one number before the artist entourage headed out to get him sorted out.

The short sound check meant that the main room was ready ahead of its 9pm opening time and so the queuing hoard was promptly allowed access to claim seats in readiness for the long nights proceedings. With an exuberant spirit in the rooms, the midnight hour soon arrived. The best of the modern room DJs were Ivor, Mark Randle (who played Beverley Skeete’s “I Have A Dream” & Jasper St Co “Till I Found You”), Fish (Maysa “Runnin”), Terry Jones (Chantay Savage “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head”) & Cliff Steele (Village Choir “Sweet Hot Lips”) but hardly any brand new releases lit up the dance floor. In the main room, Ginger (who even played the Hamilton Movement’s “Shes Gone”) finished a good spot and handed straight over to the night’s live entertainers.

Carl was up first and showed no signs of his earlier problems. Looking resplendent in a bright yellow suit, he launched into an energetic and vocally near perfect show. “Nothing No Sweeter Than Love”, “So What”, “I’ll Love You Forever” and his 70’s outing “You Can’t Stop A Man In Love” were all delivered with immaculate showmanship. The biggest crowd reaction however came as the backing band struck up the opening chords to “Competition Ain’t Nothing”. How Carl so closely reproduced the vocal performance he had committed to vinyl whilst still a teenager I don’t know, but reproduce it he did. The song was given an extended treatment as he segued into “Uptight” before switching back into “Competition..” to close. Overjoyed with the crowd’s reaction, Carl jumped down into the audience to greet many fans personally. Once rescued from the floor of the room, he gave a final wave before disappearing from the stage he had triumphantly dominated during his all too short show. Darrow Fletcher was quickly introduced and he launched straight into his songs; “Gotta Draw The Line”, “Changing By The Minute” and “My Young Misery”. His first recording and biggest hit “Pain Gets A Little Deeper” followed and then it was his final release from 1979, “Rising Cost of Love” and the mid 60’s “What Have I Got Now”. All were more than adequately delivered to a good reception, but it was evident that (unlike Carl) it had been some time since Darrow had performed before a live audience. Despite looking dapper in his white jacket, he struggled to maintain the electric atmosphere that Carl had just generated. For the finale, both singers returned to the stage as “Competition Ain’t Nothing” was performed once again. Carl, who had changed into casual clothing, was far more at ease but this was partly because they were singing his song. At times Darrow struggled to make much impact, but both guys deservedly received tumultuous applause from the ecstatic crowd. All too soon the live show was over and after a brief spell backstage to change and unwind, both singers were escorted upstairs for the ‘meet the fans’ autograph & photo session.
Sunday was once again hot & sunny, so personal energy levels were now down in the red zone. The ‘Autograph Hunters’ team from Macclesfield won the afternoon’s soul quiz and their determined efforts were partly in support of team leader Glen who still felt aggrieved over the way the early hours artist autograph session had been run. By Sunday evening the stamina sapping sun and relentless pace of the event had caught up with most of the crowd. Some had already exited the arena and were heading home but most season ticket holders were steeling themselves for the Sunday night anthems party sessions. It was after 10pm when the final stragglers dragged their weary bodies into the music rooms and by then proceedings were already in full swing. The fancy dress competition had come and gone but had assisted in breaking down the barriers to ensure everyone entered into full celebration mode. At 1am, as the bar closed in the modern room, the DJ pairing decided an appropriate track to play was Maze’s “Joy & Pain”. This resulted in the dance floor quickly filling up and as L.J. Reynold’s “Key To The Word” followed, no floor space was freed up. The anthemic theme continued in both rooms. As “Independent Woman” and “Don’t Send Me Away” pleased dancers in the modern room, “Hand It Over”, “In Orbit” and “Gotta Have Your Love” did a similar job in the main room. “Nine Times” was played in both rooms in quick succession but no one seemed to mind. The popular choices spun helped persuade tired feet to stay in action right up to 2am when proceedings were finally drawn towards a close.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006



Charles Hatcher (Edwin Starr ) was born in Nashville in January, 1942 but his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio while he was still young. Here Edwin was educated at the city’s East Technical High School. Whilst a student at this school his interest in singing developed. This isn’t surprising as the school seems to have been a spawning ground for male vocal groups at the time. The likes of the LaSalles & Carousels, who were both to go on to secure recording contracts, started up while the members were attending the school. Edwin also became a member of a group formed at the school, his group adopting the name of the FutureTones.
The group got its name by adapting the name of an established local group, the Metrotones. The Metrotones had started up a year earlier and had quickly built up a local following. Their popularity soon led to them securing a recording contract and in 1958 they had enjoyed a release on the local Reserve label, ‘Please Come Back / Skitter Skatter’. The links between the two groups went further than just similar names though. The two groups came from the same area of the city and the Metrotones leader, Sonny Turner, took Edwin under his wing and helped teach him to sing properly. The Reserve single was to prove to be the high point of the Metrotones career however Sonny Turner was to go on to become lead singer with the Platters in the 60’s while another member, Leonard Veal ended up joining the Hesitations a few years later.
The FutureTones consisted of Edwin, John Berry, Parnell Burks, Richard Isom and Roosevelt Harris. The group performed at school shows and set about increasing their profile locally after Edwin graduated from school in 1956. They became ground breakers on the Cleveland scene as they soon became the first local outfit to be fully self contained, having their own instrumentalists as members. The musician members of the group were Russel Evans (guitar), Pinhead (trumpet), Julius Robertson (bass), Brownie (drummer) and Gus Hawkins (sax). The group would enter local talent contests such as those that were held at the Circle Ballroom. At these they would be up against other aspiring groups of young hopefuls trying to get onto the bottom rung of the ladder they hoped would eventually lead to recording success. Group names that Edwin recalls are the Sahibs, the Monarks and the Crescents.
The Sahibs had also been formed at a local school, this time though it had been Rawlings Junior High School. At the time one of their members was George Hendricks who was later to become a member of Way Out group, the Exceptional 3. A couple of years later Lou Ragland was to be co-opted into the group by its leader, James Dotson. Edwin acknowledges that the Sahib’s would almost always put on a fantastic performance, which his outfit had to strive to top. The FutureTones would usually perform the Metrotones song ‘Skitter Skatter’ and they must have done it well as they won contests on 8 or 9 separate occasions. Edwin puts this down, in part, to his outfit’s better stage act as they were better dancers than most of their rivals. Edwin particularly remembers one contest though, at this the FutureTones and Sahibs were pitted against each other and their performances couldn’t be separated. As a result of this, the two groups were adjudged joint winners.
The leader of the Crescents was William Burrell, who adopted the professional name of Billy Wells. Billy went on to enjoy a long and successful recording career both with the Crescents and later with the Invaders and the Outer Realm. Billy relocated to Florida in the 60’s and here he cut a track, ‘This Heart, These Hands’ that was to go on to find favour with UK northern soul fans. The Monarks, Edwin recalls, would perform mostly El Dorados and Spaniels type tunes.
Other local outfits around at the time were the Fabulous Flames, Annuals and Cashmeres. The Fabulous Flames would enjoy releases in the late 50’s and early 60’s on Rex, Time and Baytone. Their line-up included Harvey Hall who would later go solo and record for Thomas Boddie’s Luau label. The group would alternate between having four and five members and so would always be taking on temporary members. One such member was Richard Fisher (Jessie’s brother) who was to relocate to New York in the sixties and join the Jive Five. The Annuals later secured a recording contract through their manager, Marty Conn, who started his own label, Marrconn Records. When the group broke up, members went on to join the Springers (Jeff Crutchfield) and Hesitations (Arthur Blakeley). The Cashmeres, like the Sahib’s, never recorded in their own right, but the outfit’s Kenny Redd made it into the studio’s in the early 70’s when he was with Miystic Insight group True Movement.
The FutureTones, along with the other groups mentioned, would do the rounds of all the Cleveland live venues. The Mercury Ballroom, the Lucky Strike, Gleason’s, the Che Breau Club, the Rose Room at the Majestic Hotel, the Cedar Gardens, Playmor and Chatterbox Club. Joan Bias, who recorded for Way Out in 1963, recalls watching a really good FutureTones performance at the Cedar Gardens in the late 50’s. The Majestic Hotel was at that time employing two émigré’s from down south, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. Eddie was employed in the kitchen while Paul was a bell hop. The pair were using their positions at the hotel to good effect though. They would rehearse songs after work from around midnight to 3am along with the third member of their outfit, Kell Osbourne. They would also occasionally secure bookings to perform properly at the hotel. However the pair soon decided that Cleveland didn’t offer them the musical opportunities they were seeking and so they moved on to Detroit.
Eventually the FutureTones got to appear on a local TV show, the Gene Carroll Talent Show and not long afterwards they went professional. The first engagement they secured after this was at the Chatterbox Club, which was located on Woodland near 55th Street, as support act to Billie Holliday. Edwin was totally in awe of Billie and although he got the opportunity to visit her dressing room to speak with her he doesn’t think that his attempts at conversation would have been too coherent. Further successful engagements followed and in 1959 the group secured a recording contract with Tress Records. A single, ‘ I Know / Rolling On’ was released and made a few waves locally.
With a promising future in prospect for the group things appeared to be on the up for its members but fate was to take a hand. In 1960 Edwin was drafted into the Army, here his obvious talent as a singer was soon recognised and he got to perform for other servicemen at bases across the USA and Germany. Upon his discharge in 1962 he returned to Cleveland and attempted to pick up the reigns with the group again. In his absence, one of his old friends Demon (William Isom) had joined the group but they hadn’t been able to progress their career. With Edwin back in the fold they continued to perform locally but they had lost the impetus they had possessed a few years earlier. In 1963 Bill Doggett and his group swung through Cleveland and at the time Doggett was on the lookout for a new vocalist. Edwin caught his eye and so was offered the position. He accepted, quit the FutureTones and left town to tour with his new outfit. Bill Doggett had a great influence on Edwin, especially with regard to his professional attitude to the business. He didn’t drink, always expected good discipline and insisted that those associated with him were accessible to the people they came in contact with. After a couple of years on the road with Doggett, Edwin began to develop his song writing skills and inspired by a James Bond movie he wrote ‘Agent OO Soul’. He thought the song had commercial potential but knew that to tie in with the hype currently associated with the spy movie it would have to be recorded straight away. He took the song to Doggett but, obviously not wanting to lose his talented vocalist, Doggett suggested it was too early for him to be contemplating cutting a record.
Luckily for Edwin one of their next live performances was at the Twenty Grand in Detroit. At this he was approached by Lebaron Taylor, this led to an introduction to Ric Tic Records and the rest is history. With an instant solo hit on his hands, Edwin had to immediately put together a backing band so that he could tour to cash in on his new found success. He didn’t really know too many available musicians in Detroit so it was only natural that he returned to Cleveland to recruit the backbone of his needed line-up. The FutureTones had soldiered on after Edwin had left them but the vocalist’s in the line-up began to loose interest and gradually drifted away into normal 9 to 5 jobs. In fact no other vocalist from the group would go on to forge a career in the music industry. The musician side of the group however had gone from strength to strength. They found employment around Cleveland backing up visiting acts such as the Temptations. The respect that they commanded locally also led to them being used on recording sessions, with work on O’Jays and Intertains sessions being amongst those secured.
On Edwin’s return to scout out members for his tour band he sought out his old friends and in no time he had persuaded Gus Hawkins and Julius Robertson to go on the road with him. The pair stayed with him for some time before they eventually tired of living out of a suitcase and returned home to Cleveland. The pair’s departure with Edwin had finally signalled the end for the FutureTones and leader Russell Evans took a position in the O’Jays backing band. In the 70’s Gus Hawkins was to become a member of Musicor recording group S.O.U.L. and Russell Evans was to lead the backing band for Sounds of Cleveland / Devaki recording group, Truth. Edwin hadn’t finally severed his links with Cleveland though as in 1970 he returned to the city once again. This time he recruited local outfit, Mother Braintree, as his road band. After a year or so they also returned home where members were to merge with another local outfit to form the Dazz Band.
Edwin’s many years of commercial world-wide success only took off after he had left Cleveland however he had spent his formative years in the city and without the grounding he gained there who can say how his career would have progressed. He is certainly well remembered by many residents of the city, among them old friend William ‘Demon’ Isom who today works at Republic Steel.

February 1999


Sonny Turner -- the Platter's lead in the 1960's

The Platters were the most successful vocal group of the 1950's, however U.K. soul fans value the group's 1960's recordings a lot higher. Their usual lead vocalist in this period was Charles 'Sonny' Turner. Although Sonny quit the group over 25 years ago he has remained in the business and continues to perform to good reaction today.
Sonny was born in 1941 in Fairmont, West Virginia. His father was a boxer and his mother a gospel singer. His father received an injury in the ring so when Sonny was 4 years old the family moved to Cleveland so his father could get a new job. However shortly after the move his father died but even this did not deter Sonny from trying to follow in his footsteps as he also attempted to establish a boxing career. After a couple of years in the game though he hadn't made any real progress and so his mother suggested a change. As a result, in high school, he started singing. In 1955 while still a teenager he formed a group, the Metrotones, with some other locals and they progressed from amateur shows to local club dates and concerts. They learnt their trade this way, picking up pointers along the way from top groups with whom they performed on tour dates in Cleveland. Sonny was still underage and therefore he had to use a friends I.D. to play club dates and so at the time he went by the name of Sonny Dinkes. The group soon made a name for themselves locally and as a result were signed by Henry George to a recording contract with his Reserve Record label. The groups' members were Sonny, Melvin Smith, James Frierson, Leuvenia Eaton and Leonard Veal. Leonard Veal was to become a member of the Hesitations a few years later.
The group went into the studio in 1958 and cut 4 songs and a single was issued shortly afterwards, "Please Come Back / Skitter Skatter" (Reserve 116). The record enjoyed some success in the Cleveland area and this led to tours across the north-eastern states. The group were progressing and seemed to have an assured future however two members went into the army and this started their break up. Sonny decided to try and make it as a solo act, he entered the top local talent show which was held at weekends at Gleason's Music Bar on 55th St. and Woodland in Cleveland. His performance was well received and led to him securing some bookings, before long he was performing as far afield as Detroit and various venues in Canada.
Across America in L.A. though events were unfolding that were to have a major effect on Sonny's future. Tony Williams, the 'voice' of the Platters had decided to quit the group to pursue a solo career. Buck Ram, the group's manager and mentor, had put the word out that a replacement was urgently needed and a search to find a similar sounding vocalist had commenced. L.A. D.J. Bill Crane was despatched by Buck Ram to scout around the country to find the right person to replace Williams. Thus Crane found himself at the Music Box in Cleveland late in 1960 watching the opening act, Sonny Turner. Crane liked what he saw and so after the show he talked with Sonny, who confirmed his interest in joining the group. A session at a recording studio on Prospect Avenue (in Cleveland) was quickly arranged for the following day and at this an audition tape of top Platters tunes was made. This was forwarded on to Buck Ram who liked the contents and so a live audition with the group was arranged. Bill Crane and Sonny caught a night sleeper train to Millwaukee and the next day at Henry's Club in the city he stood in with the group on a few tunes. The try out went well, even Tony Williams liking Sonny's performance and so he was chosen from the long list of hopefuls to be the new lead singer with the Platters. Two weeks of hurried rehearsals were followed by his first full appearance with the group at the Lotus Club in Washington.
The group’s record company, Mercury, weren't happy with the personnel change and so initially they continued to release tracks featuring Tony Williams on lead vocals. Sonny's first recording with the group was "It's Magic" which was to become the group’s first release of 1962 (January). The first single to feature Sonny's vocals was "Song For The Lonely / You'll Never Know" (Mercury 71904) released in November 1961. However times were moving on and the ballad style tunes with which the group had enjoyed such success in the 1950's were going out of style. Mercury were reluctant to allow the group to change to the new style and as a result the chart hits dried up. Live work kept the group busy but personnel changes continued to occur, Nate Nelson (originally of the Flamingo's) and Sandra Dawn replacing Paul Robi and Zola Taylor. In 1965 the group’s line up was David Lynch, Herb Reed, Sandra Dawn, Nate Nelson and Sonny. Their last Mercury release had occurred in 1964 and in 1965 they had one single, "Run While It's Dark", released on the small Entree label. However by the end of the year a new contract had been secured with Musicor Records which was run by former Mercury Records man Art Talmadge. The New York based company decided a new sound was required for the group and so a search for the right producer was instigated. This eventually led to the appointment of the experienced Luther Dixon to the job and along with his new wife, Inez Foxx, he wrote the song which was to become the groups first single "I Love You 1000 Times" (Musicor 1166). The group’s new sound was based on the highly successful Motown sound although their vocals were not cut in Detroit. The record, which featured Sonny on lead vocals, was released in April 1966 and immediately started breaking big in a number of U.S. cities. It soon entered the national charts, eventually making Top 10 R & B and Top 40 Pop.
The follow up "Devri" (Musicor 1195 : August 66) was also a Dixon / Foxx composition and Dixon production but this failed to repeat the success of its predecessor (however recently this has been the groups most popular cut with U.K. soul fans). A return to the charts was made early in 1967 when "With This Ring" (Musicor 1229) was released. The instrumentation to this Popcorn Wylie / Tony Hestor / Luther Dixon composition was cut in Detroit as were many of the groups backing tracks in this period. However the group was so busy with live engagements that they added their vocals when and where they could. Sonny remembers well one occasion when he left the group on the completion of a booking at the Newport Hotel in Miami. He flew to New York and laid down the vocals over 8 pre-recorded backing tracks assisted by session backing vocalists. Two days after he had left them he was back on a plane on his way to rejoin the rest of the group ready to start their next engagement. In 1967 Larry Johnson replaced David Lynch in the group. On the groups albums lead vocals were shared by the members of the group, for instance Larry Johnson featured on "Get A Hold Of Yourself", Nate Nelson on "Why Do You Wanna Make Me Blue", even bass singer Herb Reed was given his chance. However Sonny was the more usual lead vocalist and he was featured on hit tracks such as "With this Ring". Two more singles were released in 1967, "Washed ashore" (Musicor 1215) and "Sweet Sweet Lovin" (Musicor 1275) and both of these also enjoyed chart success. Their U.S. success was reflected here in the U.K. as a number of singles and L.P.'s were released by EMI on the Stateside label. After these though the groups U.S. releases were less successful even though their quality remained high. Sonny again supplied the lead vocals on the song "Hard To Get A Thing called Love" which was recorded at Groove Sound Studio in New York and released on a single (Musicor 1322) in July 68. Sonny's contribution to this single went further still as he wrote the song, "Why", which was to feature on the B side. Later in 1968 "Fear (Of Losing You) " (Musicor 1341) was released as a single again without much success and shortly afterwards Herb Reed, the last original member of the group quit.
When Sonny had joined the group in 1960 he made $250 a week as a new starter which was not a bad sum at that time, but by 1970 this had only risen to $750 a week. He decided the time was right to try to establish a solo career. He quit and his departure resulted in the complete break-up of the group. Buck Ram immediately put together a completely new 5 strong line-up so he obviously had a financial incentive in keeping the group going. Sonny secured himself a solo recording contract, again with Musicor and he put together a backing group, Sounds Unlimited. They went on the road and started to record some tracks. Sonny also acted as producer on some of their recording work however his first release was the single "Atlanta" (Musicor 1420) which was produced by Kelso Hersten. At around the same time, the summer of 71, the Platters last Musicor single (which incidentally featured Sonny on vocals) was also released.
By this time, back in the U.K., many of the groups earlier Musicor recordings were popular on the 'Northern' scene and this prompted Pye (who now held the rights to the U.S. companies material) to start releasing tracks. Their first effort in May 71 was the album "Our Way" (Pye International 28149) which included re-workings of old standards together with "Devri". This was quickly followed by a more astute release, the single "Sweet Sweet Lovin / Going Back To Detroit" (25559) in July and as this sold well a second single "With This Ring / Washed Ashore" (25569) followed in October. The frantic release schedule was continued in December 71 when the cut-price compilation L.P. "Two Decades Of Hits" (Pye PKL 4411) hit the shops. This included a mix of the groups 60's hits, re-recordings of their 50's hits and lesser known tracks (such as "Doesn't It Ring A Bell", "Fear Of Losing You" and "Love Must Go On"). A few months later, in March 72 a various artist album "The Bumper Funk Book" (Pye Int. 28159) was issued and this included both the Platters "With This Ring" and Sonny's solo effort "Atlanta". The renewed British interest in the group resulted in Herb Reed's Platters (not Buck Ram's official line-up) being booked for a U.K. tour. Naturally Buck Ram was none too pleased with the number of rival line-ups of the Platters that had sprung up and was particularly vindictive towards Sonny's activities at the time (his line ups recording contract had been ended by Musicor while they had offered Sonny a contract).
Musicor released an album on Sonny, "Standing Ovation" and in June 72 this was followed by another single "Chicago Woman" (Musicor 1459) but none of the records faired too well. Sonny and his group were kept busy though continuously touring, with bookings as far afield as Japan, Italy and the Middle East. In 1973 Sonny was reunited with one of his earliest musical associates as Leonard Veal (ex Metrotones / Hesitations) joined Sounds Unlimited, a position he was to retain until 1977. In the late 70's the 'Beach music' scene in the Carolinas picked up on the Platter's 60's material and as a result Sonny started to undertake a lot more live work in the area. This popularity led to an album release for him on Christopher Records of Greenville, South Carolina in 1984, the album "The Touch" containing a re-recording of "With This Ring". Sonny relocated to Los Angeles but after his wife died in 1986 he moved again, this time to Las Vegas. Today he mainly appears at casinos in the city and at similar venues in Reno and Atlantic City, supplementing these with overseas bookings.
To get a full appreciation of the quality of Sonny and the Platters work for Musicor I could do no better than recommend you obtain a copy of the Kent CD "The Platters - The Musicor Years" (Kent CDKEND 116) which features 28 of the best tracks that the group recorded between 1965 and 1969.
Jan 1997

Monday, November 06, 2006


Midnight Hour UK Soul Weekender -- 2003

PRESTATYN SOUL WEEKENDER; 28th Feb -- 3rd March 2003
The weather was fine, the location admirable and with 2000 other like minded soul fans also in attendance, this weekender promised much. Proceedings kicked off in the main northern soul room at 7pm Friday and went non-stop through till 2am Monday morning. With 4 different music rooms on offer plus a 24 hr radio station, finding time to eat and sleep was no easy task.
The atmosphere soon built up as Friday evening ebbed away but the night’s big event took place just after 1am in the modern soul room. Ann Nesby, the ex lead singer of the Sounds of Blackness now pursuing a solo career, hit the stage with backing from a select band of UK musicians and singers. This lady, with her long apprenticeship in the gospel world, has all the vocal power & skill anyone could need and then some. She knew what was expected of her as she delighted the appreciative crowd with old favourites such as “Pressure” and “I’m Goin All The Way”. Moving on to songs included on her recent solo album, she was joined on stage by her husband who, taking the part of Al Green, helped her perform “Put It On Paper”. “Let Your Will Be Done”, "Tonight’s the Night", "Let It Be" (?) then followed before she finished off with "In The Spirit". All too soon the performance was over, but not before Ann had abandoned the stage to roam around amongst her ecstatic audience on the dance floor.
So live performance wise, Friday’s show had truly got the proceedings off to be a brilliant start. Responsibilities were now passed to an earlier generation as the 60’s singers were handed the batten for the main entertainment on Saturday. The scene was set around 4pm as Don Gardner, Gwen Owens and lastly Lou Pride joined me to undergo a verbal grilling on one of my weekender radio shows. All three seemed in good spirits and appeared to be fully charged up for their impending performances. With so much to do and so many old friends to catch up with, time just flew by and a number of important DJ spots were missed in both the main 60’s and modern soul rooms. However amongst the top sounds featured were Ralph Graham “She Just Sits There”, the Passions “If You See My Baby” and Arthur Willis & Soul Dynamics “Hurting Is Over” in the 60’s room, plus Dante Thomas "Never Give Up", R Kelly “Step In Name of Love" and Incognito "Can't Get You Out of My Head" in the modern room.
As midnight approached, the local backing band kicked proceedings off on the main room stage via an introductory instrumental number (“Tune Up”). With Andy Rix acting as MC, Lou Pride bounced onto stage. Now the stage area in Pontins main event room is truly massive and it takes a mighty big man to command it. Lou Pride is however such a big man, both physically, vocally and in terms of presence. With the crowd in the palm of his hand, he roamed the entire area available to him whilst delivering near perfect versions of “Your Love Is Fading”, “Love For My Baby“ and ”Bringing Me Back Home” (one of his 2002 recordings). The crowd were fully behind him in every way by now but as he broke into a monologue about being back home they got the message and simply erupted as the familiar opening notes of “I’m Comin Home In The Mornin” rang out. Lou is still a regular live performer back in the US and all his experience shone through as he carried everyone in the room with him to the end of his allotted numbers.
The show had been extremely well organised and even before the cheers for Lou had died away Don Gardner was centre stage commencing his opening number. Don is now in his seventies and so wasn’t able to pull off as mobile a performance as Lou had just delivered. He was however still equipped with all the necessary vocal ability to do his 30 year old numbers full justice. He opened with his rare 45 anthem Cheatin Kind” and followed this with “Is This Really Love”. Next came “My Baby Likes To Boogaloo”, a song that recreates just about the best of the 60’s dance crazes. Don seemed extremely happy as the audience fully surrendered to him. Next up was ex-Detroiter Gwen Owens who had fetched her son and daughter along to provide backing vocals. I had met Gwen earlier in the day and she had appeared to be a quiet and thoughtful lady. On stage she was simply transformed and dressed to the nines came across as a true diva. She opened with her 1973 recording “You Better Watch Out” and followed this with a un-issued 60’s Golden World track “Hit & Run”. The crowd had been waiting in anticipation for a particular track and as the band and Gwen broke into “Say You're Wanted & Needed” the mass soul clapping signalled that the wait was over.
Lou Pride and Don Gardner now returned to the stage and performed a duet on Lou’s “I’m Comin Home In Morning”, then it was time for Gwen to repeat “...Wanted and Needed”. She then surprised the assembled horde by breaking into a version of the old northern soul anthem “Time Will Pass You By” and to say she did the song full justice is an understatement. It was now finale time and with all three artists on stage they improvised lyrics over the refrain of “Tune Up” (the entire line-up on stage even included a few of the DJ’s, helping out with vocal duties). An extremely slick show, due in large measure to the expertise of the backing band, was thus concluded and the crowd gradually thinned in the main room.
A quick recovery was however necessary, as was a change of scenery. People migrated down to the modern soul room and at 2am live proceedings kicked off there. First up was FER recording group Headquarters and to say that their Anjelai Anuford is extremely pleasing on the eye is just stating the obvious. Luckily for those devotees of vocal prowess in the audience, the ladies vocal skills match her physical beauty. Thus we were treated to renditions of “I Want U”, “Set Your Spirit Free”, “Come To My World” and “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me”. Label-mate Gary Des-Etages was up next and although a bit constrained by the use of backing tapes, he treated us to “Dance With Me”, “U Don’t Try To Change Me”, “No Compromise”, “Too Much To Loose” and finished off with a rousing version of “Glow of Love”.
By now my energy had completely ebbed away and so I retired to the tranquillity of my bed. Sunday dawned much too soon and in no time at all it was time to head back into the modern soul room for a PA from Lou Pride. Lou’s Sunday show was set-up to showcase his recent recordings. Thus he opened with the title track of his most recent album, “Words of Caution”. The deep soul gem “You Are My Rainbow” was executed in perfect fashion, so much so that DJ Ivor Jones was moved to jump onto the stage to shake Lou’s hand as he finished the song. “It’s A Good Thing” came next and then Lou once again sang “Bringin Me Back Home”. Even though the crowd was much smaller than that which had witnessed him render it on Saturday, the reaction was still warm enough to prompt a repeat interpretation.
The weekend was now winding down towards its end, so what overall impressions had I been left with. Firstly Pontins great organisational efforts, together with the friendliness of their staff and security personnel. Some great live performances, good music on disc and the camaraderie of all the soul fans in attendance. Heck, you even get served decent food in the site restaurant and the chalets are warm and inviting. Roll on next year, but it will be a big challenge for them to equal the success of this year’s event.

J R Smith

Sunday, November 05, 2006


The "ALL I WANT IS YOU" story

Around 1978, Cleveland based Dunn Pearson wrote a song titled “ All I Want Is You”. It is just one of hundreds of songs that Dunn has written but apart from it being a classy composition, it also acts as a classic example of the good and bad events that can overtake soul recordings and the tunes involved.
Dunn Pearson had started out in the music business in Cleveland backing groups such as the Ponderosa Twins + One and the Imperial Wonders. From there he progressed to leading his own group, 9th Street Exit and also writing for, arranging and producing other recording artists. He joined the O’Jays backing band, all the time expanding his musical knowledge and increasing his experience. His compositional skills were also becoming more widely recognised and soon his songs were being recorded by a number of other artists.
Although still associated with the O’Jays, Dunn secured himself a recording deal with Almeria Records in New York and they issued his track “Groove On Down” in 1978. Just prior to this, Tony Richburg, the O’Jays tour manager had taken an interest in a group made up of four guys from Chicago, the Four Flights. The group were fetched to Cleveland and placed under Dunn’s supervision. He had written a song that he thought would suit the group and so “All I Want Is You” was cut on them. Today, Dunn can’t recall any names of the group’s members (their association being a one off affair), however his cousin John Wilson remembers meeting up with the group. He had met them at the Shaker Records (an O’Jays label) building in Miles Avenue in Cleveland and remembers one of the Four Flight members well. The member in question, an extremely stout guy had gone by the name of "ROUND POUND" due to his weight and stature. Dunn really liked the resulting cut and decided to offer it to the people at Almeria Records. They were also impressed with Four Flights and Dunn’s efforts, so licensed the track for release. To everyone's relative surprise, the record was really well received and garnered some good radio exposure. Although the groups release had created some interest, the O’Jays and Dunn had careers of their own to sustain. So with no one really masterminding any future for them, the group gave up and returned home to Chicago .
Just like Dunn, his relative John Wilson was also actively engaged in the music business. In the early 70’s he had formed the group Sly, Slick and Wicked and they had gone on to enjoy releases on the Paramount, People, Shaker and Ju-Par labels. The line up of his trio had changed with the passage of time but John had soldiered on. In 1978 he recruited two new members in order to keep the group going. Scott Pitman became ‘Slick’ and Jerome Pratt ‘Wicked’ (John obviously being ‘Sly’). At the same time that Dunn was working with the Four Flights, Carl Maduri, a veteran of the Cleveland recording scene (he had produced Lou Ragland’s 1973 WB 45 “Since You said You’d Be Mine”) was just setting up a new label, Sweet City. Carl obtained national distribution for his label via Epic Records and as John knew him well, he arranged a meeting with Carl with a view to securing his outfit a recording deal. At this meeting John played Carl the song Dunn had written and Carl liked the song as well. As he had also always liked John’s group, he signed Sly, Slick & Wicked’s new line-up to Sweet City Records. John called Dunn and asked him if he still had the master tape from the Four Flights session. Dunn confirmed he did and so a short while later, Sly, Slick & Wicked added their vocals (at the Painsville Studios) to the original musical track. John had developed an opening dialogue to precede the music track and he also handled lead vocals duties on the cut. Everyone involved liked the results of the session and the track was subsequently released on a Epic / Sweet City single (Epic 9-50758). Unfortunately once again, little or no promotion was put behind the release of the song on 45 and so it didn’t make any major commercial impact.
Dunn’s links with Almeria lapsed and he struck up a new musical partnership with Philadelphian, Bruce Gray. The duo signed with Devaki Records as Dunn & Bruce Street and subsequently went on to enjoy both single and album releases on the label (some of these even gaining UK releases at the time). His old song had gained a few influential admirers along the way though and hadn’t been completely forgotten. Recording industry stalwart Greg Carmichael had also had connections with Almeria Records at about the same time as Dunn was placing product with them. His New York based Red Gregg Enterprises had signed their artist Ben Wiggins with the label in 1978. Almeria had subsequently released Ben’s cuts "Its All Over / I Love You Too Much" as a single (Almeria 4003). In 1980 another version of “All I Want Is You” was released, this time on Sam Records. The group who had cut this third version going by the name of Conversion. A familiar figure was associated with their effort, it’s producer being none other than Greg Carmichael. Matters with regard to this release were not altogether straightforward though. The song had now been assigned to a publishing company that Dunn had no knowledge of and it had also acquired an extra writer along the way (a certain J Carter). In fact Dunn had only been made aware of the new version by accident. His attorney (at that time) was representing the composers of the song on the other side of the Conversion single and in passing had happened to notice Dunn’s name on the label of the record. As a result, he got in touch with Dunn and needless to say, legal action seemed appropriate.
So this one song had, in a short space of time, managed to attract enough interest to gain three different released versions. All three of these recordings have stood the test of time well and are still much sought after today by soul music collectors from around the globe. Thus good things were achieved by the song, however the murkier side of the business had also been demonstrated by the third version of it that had been cut.
J R Smith


Cody Black: From Cincinnati to Detroit

Cody Black must have a very agreeable personality as many of his associations which started out being business related have blossomed into long lasting friendships, no mean feat in a recording industry where rip-offs were an everyday occurrence. He grew up in Cincinnati only a stones throw from the King Record’s headquarters / studio. As a result of this, he got to know King’s owner Sid Nathan at an early age and their friendship would prove to be useful many years later. He cut his first record, “Come To Me (Girl) / Stranger Than A Fairy Tale”, while still in Cincinnati and it was released there on the Pamela label around 1961. I believe he also had a 2nd 45 released whilst in Cincinnati but not too much later he took the decision to relocate to Detroit.
This almost instantly proved to be a good decision as he hooked up with Mike Hanks and recorded the Rudy Robinson / Mike Hanks written song “These Chains of Love”. This was released on D-Town Records in 1964 (the song would later be cut by J J Barnes). A year later Cody enjoyed his second release on the label when “Mr. Blue” was released. The 45 didn’t really sell that well at the time but subsequently it has become a much sought after single with soul collectors around the world. “Too Many Irons In the Fire” came next and once again Mike Hanks and Rudy Robinson were heavily involved with it’s recording. Whilst at the label, Cody also schooled some of the other acts, the Precisions being amongst these. Cody’s follow up was allocated a release under the Wheelsville logo, “”I Will Give You Love” being another Mike Hanks effort and by this time Cody and Mike had forged a strong friendship. Later that year (1966) Cody moved across to yet another new record label, having “It’s Our Time To Fall In Love” released on G.I.G. Once again this 45 has become a highly prized collectors item and changes hands for up to £1500 a copy.
Another label change came in 1967 when in conjunction with his friends Rudy Robinson and Grant Burton, Cody wrote and produced both sides of a single released on Groove City, “Because You First Loved Me / The Night A Star Was Born”. The established pattern wasn’t broken by his next release, “Going, Going, Gone” escaping on Ram Brock in late 67 / early 1968. 1968 was to prove to be a busy year for Cody, a song called “I’m Slowly Moulding” had already been cut on another artist but its producers weren’t happy with the vocalist’s efforts. They asked Cody to give the song a run through and he quickly nailed it. A label had to be found who would issue the track and so Cody made use of his old friendship with King’s Sid Nathan and an approach was made to that organisation. King took up the offer and the track was soon made available to the record buying public. The Ram Brock label decided to try again, as it reissued Cody’s old cut “The Nite A Star Was Born”, this time coupling it with “Life Goes On”. A 3rd Ram Brock 45 made it into the shops in August 1968, with the release of “Love Like I Never Had”, again written and produced by the Black / Robinson / Burton (BRB) team.
By the late 60’s Cody’s writing had become accomplished enough for Mike Hank’s to use a couple of their joint compositions on other artists. The Magictones recorded “Together We Shall Overcome” for Mahs and Toby Lark cut “Lots of Hearts” for USD. Cody was by now quite an established figure on the Detroit recording scene and his status helped him gain many bookings as the opening act on live shows by big stars (Gladys Knight & the Pips, etc.). This action must have raised his profile sufficiently to interest Ted White (Aretha Franklin’s husband). He had just started his own label, Ston-roc and Cody was signed to it. A single was released in 1969, “I Still Love You / Ice Cream Song”. Unfortunately it again failed to chart although “Ice Cream Song” would become a hit in March 69 for another Detroit recording outfit, the Dynamics. Releases on Ston-roc must have created some sort of attention though as Capitol Records signed the company to a national distribution deal. Two 45’s by Cody were issued on Capitol under the deal, “I’m Sorry” (written by Tony Johnson of the duo, Tony & Tyrone) in mid 1970 and “Ain’t No Love Like Your Love”.
Cody then took a short break from the recording scene but bounced back by starting his own label in 1977. He formed Renissance Records and put out “Keep On Trying / Steppin On Toes” that year. By now, Cody was so steeped in and accomplished at the tasks associated with song writing, producing and singing that he handled all these duties himself. The following year the label issued a 2nd single, “What Goes Around”. This was to prove to be Cody’s last release as although he continued to record right through to the mid 80’s, none of his later efforts were to escape from the tape vaults. Today, over 40 years after he first started recording, Cody still has a very good reputation as a live performer and his old recordings are regularly included on compilation CD’s of in-demand old soul classics.
JOHN SMITH; Feb 2004


Cleveland Gospel -- the Bounty Label

In the 1960's / 70's, Tom Boddie ran a studio & pressing plant out of his residential property at 12202 Union Ave (on the junction of 128th St & Union Ave).
The house was in the front & had a big black sign outside that said Boddies Recording Studio. The studio was an extention to the garage in the back. His main soul labels were Luau, Soul Kitchen & Cookin but he also had a dedicated gospel label, Bounty. On this, he must have released about 20 gospel 45's (Boddie also had his Tom-lew publishing company to keep all the rights connected to his recordings in-house). Boddie also hired his studio out to 'outside' artists (acetates exist of some of these cuts -- he pressed them up under his own Boddie Recording Studio logo). The first recording by an early incarnation of Sly, Slick & Wicked (under the name, the Mod Squad) was made at Boddies in 1970, the group recording covers of popular songs that at the time formed their live act. This recording was probably typical of many demo's cut & pressed up at Boddies -- only 6 copies of the resulting LP being made.
It is likely that the majority of copies of the Bounty label gospel 45's were taken away by the artists who cut them (most of these outfits not being locally based -- the Victory Five for instance were from Detroit). The 45's would then be sold at the group's gospel shows, this is probably the reason why copies of these 45's are extremly hard to locate in the Cleveland area.

5023 J.C. Akins & the Dukes "New Dance/ Searching For Someone" (soul)
5589 J.C. Akins & the Dukes "You Upset My Very Soul/ Pt. 2" (soul)
5591 Dolores White "Why Don't He Understand/ Lovers Paradise" (soul)
5592 The Friendly Brothers "Jobe/ Near The Cross" (gospel)
5595 Mitchellairs Gospel Singers "Trust In Jesus Always/ Happy With Jesus Alone" (gospel)
B-7171 The Celestial Coeds "My Last Move/ ???" 1971 (gospel)
B-7203 Jubilee Specials "Where E'er He Leads Me/ Nobody Knows" 1972 (gospel)
B-7205 Sarah Battles "Holding My Savior's Hand/ His Eye Is On The Sparrow" 1972 (gospel)
B-7207 The Stars of Faith "I'm Looking For A Home/ 99 ½ Won't Do" 1972 (gospel)
B-7209 The Silver Kings "Meeting Tonight/ Trouble The Water" 1972 (gospel)
B-7218 Brother Bill "Wha's Happ'nin/ All He Wants Is You" 1973 (B-side by Rev. William T. Sawyer)
B-7221 Nellie Dinkins"All the Way/ Search Me Lord" 1972 (gospel)
B-7313 The Ohio Silvertones "He Laid His Hand On Me/ Working In The Building" 1973 (gospel)
B-7362 Wings of Faith Juniors of Grand Rapids, MI "Send It On Down/I Can't Thank Him Enough" 1973 (gospel)
B-7406 The Victory Five "Have You Been To The Pool/ Prayer Is The Key" 1974 (gospel)
B-7411/12 Cleveland Golden Echoes "Used To Live On Broadway/ 30 Pieces Of Silver" 1974 (gospel)
B-7418 Union Star Gospel Singers "He's My Rock/ Be Not Dismayed" 1974 (gospel)
B-7442 The Dynamic Gospel Keys of Gary, Indiana "That’s Alright/ On The Right Road" 1974 (gospel)
B-7538 Reese Spirituals "It's A Lifetime Job/ Things I Used To Do" 1975 (gospel)
B-7602 Victory Five of Detroit, MI "Don't Leave Me/High Mountains" 1976 (gospel)861 Chosen Few of Cleveland, Ohio "You Don't Know Like I Know/ The Lord Will Make A Way" (gospel)
ALSO, one of the known Boddie acetates is a gospel outing.....Ohio Spirituals "Hold On/ The Will Of The World"

Victory 5 --- Something About The Lord Is Mighty Sweet


Lou Ragland Remembers....


On a recent visit to Las Vegas, I took the opportunity to trap Lou Ragland, produce my tape recorder and quiz him on all the aspects about Cleveland soul that I could recall before he
could escape my clutches. Much to his credit, Lou took the time and effort necessary to
help me and I must say although his memory isn’t 100% perfect, it’s not far off this level of perfection. Since returning home, I have asked him further questions to fill in some gaps and
I hope you will agree that the following data is very illuminating with regard to the happenings
on the city’s soul scene over a 20 year period…….
JRS: What do you remember about Jessie Fisher
LR: Jessie, he was always around the Way Out Studios. I was the only staff engineer at Way Out from 1965 to 1967, so knew. Way Out was at 1966 E 55th Street and at that time it led everything in Cleveland. It was 8 track, so Agency and Cleveland Recording lost a lot of business to Way Out. I would unlock the studio and we would work from 8am to 8pm on Way Out stuff. During those times, I trained up Tim Lockhart as an engineer. Other artists would block book the studio, like Bobby Womack and Bob Davis would book it for his artists, he had 3 groups……...Before they were at 1966 E 55th Street, Way Out had an earlier studio at 1871 E 55th. That was used as a rehearsal studio and then it was over to Cleveland Recording at 1900 Euclid (Ave. – next to the University) to cut the record. Sometimes Schneider’s would be used as it was the only studio that could cut straight onto an acetate.…. Jessie Fisher really didn’t think that he was an artist. People would hear him sing and he had more of a gospel flair than anything. Maybe the church figured in his background. When he would come into the studio, everyone would say….we got a song for Jessie, let’s try it out on him….I think he had a day job so he would come in the evening after we had worked things out. Tyrone Henry and James McClain of the Springers wrote his track “Why” and Jessie, James Calloway and myself wrote “Little John”. We cut that there and then in the studio.
JRS: Was he a young guy
LR: He was a little older than us ( Lou was 24 in 1966 ), maybe a couple of years. He started coming around Way Out in 1965/66, he wouldn’t sing backing vocals or any of that. He was
actually a friend of Lester’s ( Lester Johnson -- Way Out director ) and he knew the members of the Hornets pretty well. They introduced him to me. William Thompson, who was known as "Red" because he was a very light skinned black man, was the guy mostly interested in Jessie. With Lester being pals with him, he would always say….go in the back ( to the actual recording studio ) and see what these guys can pull up (cut) on you. Johnson and (Bill) Branch weren’t even in the studio for sessions. They would come along later, listen to the tracks and decide what got issued.
JRS: I guess that if Jessie was always hanging around the studio from the mid 60’s, he cut a lot of stuff that wasn’t released. If there was nobody around to sing, and he turned up, I guess you got him to sing ??
LR: For two years he came to the studio solid, but I didn’t follow him much after that. ( after 1967, some new guys came on, Tim Lockhart etc. & took Lou’s place in the studio as he went out on the road playing guitar for the Terry Knight Review. Lou had sold all his instruments before taking the studio job at Way Out, so he didn’t have a guitar when asked by Tom Baker to go on the road. But he was being offered good money -- $400 a week – and he remembered that Kim Tolliver had a guitar hanging on her house wall as decoration. So Lou went and explained the situation to her and she gave him the guitar to use ). I went out on the road with Terry Knight who was originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now the Sensations (also from Michigan), they were the guys who did a lot of recording.
JRS: So there are a lot of un-issued Sensations tracks !! Now they weren’t from Cleveland but were also from upstate Michigan (Battle Creek ?) . Did they play live shows in Cleveland.
LR: They had no performance abilities at all, they could just make records. You had Rico (Roosevelt Simmons), John Washington and the third guy was always moving around. At one time it was Jimmy Butler (I may have misheard this name ?) and then other guys (Joe Kelly, Chester Florence).
JRS: They were just a trio ??
LR: Yes, just a trio. John Washington played the piano and he wrote songs from the piano. He
passed out his songs to different people.
JRS: Did you engineer or produce their tracks ??
LR: No, I didn’t produce them, it might have been Willie Smith (Lou was the engineer on their sessions though). He was the guy down there doing that at the time. He was also the first arranger I knew of, to work there. He was from Cleveland and had learnt his trade back in the 40’s, in the big band era. He had worked with Choker Campbell ( by the mid sixties, Campbell was working in Motown’s studio as well as heading up the Hitsville tour band). Willie Smith’s still around Cleveland……… Ace Carter was the arranger producer for Joan Bias recordings, that was my second time singing in a recording session after “Never Let Me Go”.
JRS: So they just came to Cleveland to record.
LR: No, finally they moved. You see, during those days, we thought we were gonna be the next Motown and we prepared for it. Then you had John Wooten and Jim Brown ( Cleveland Brown’s football player after whom the Big Jim label was named ), Judge Lloyd Brown and all these big guys supporting the label. John Wooten and Judge Lloyd Brown were members of the board and directors of Way Out Records.
JRS: They put money in ?
LR: Yea, they threw the money in and would leave us there. We turned out so much material for their money, they left us alone.
JRS: Were the Sensations all young guys ?
LR: Yes, at least 10 years younger than me.
JRS: And they had no stage presence at all ?
LR: No, we didn’t get that artist development department started like Motown. We wanted to, but we just activated the production side.
JRS: But you taught yourself stage presence, how come they didn’t.
LR: Well, I kinda taught myself it. See Billy Ward and the Dominoes ( who Lou had joined as lead singer for a few months in 1965 ) taught me stage presence. 13 weeks with Billy Ward was like 2 years in college. He was a hard task master, you couldn’t be late, that was inbred in me. Your word had to mean something and you always had to get your specific assignment done. If you were ahead of time, he rewarded you. If you were late, he would close the door and then you had to learn your part through the door. Several members of new groups also did that or attempted to.
JRS: Do you remember Mike Terry coming to Way Out ?
LR: Mike Terry, I only met him and knew he was from Detroit.
JRS: Norman Whitfield ?
LR: Yes, I knew Norman Whitfield when he was in Cleveland, but he didn’t know me.
JRS: Who produced your track “ I Travel Alone” and how come this came out on Amy and not Way Out ?
LR: The guy who produced my 45 on Amy was Tom Baker and no one else, however there was an engineer there at Way Out named Tim Brown, but he never did anything on me. I don’t know how my recording got to Amy.
JRS: Did you know Jessie’s brother, Richard Fisher ( later of the Jive 5 ) at all ?
LR: I only heard about him later.
JRS: OK, what can you remember about Harvey & the Phenomenals ( Da-wood recording artists).
LR: Man, they were a great band. Harvey was the lead vocalist and lead guitarist and they were around at the same time as I had the Bandmasters ( early / mid 60’s ). So we would leave one club and they would follow us in ( the groups back then would do a week long stint at each club ). His exact name was Harvey Hall.
JRS: Yes, I think he recorded solo for one of Boddie’s labels
LR: Yes he did, Luau was one of Mr. Tom Boddie's record labels. Tom-lew was his publishing company but I was not the Lew. That was his wife's name abbreviated, her name is Louise Boddie. Boddie had his own pressing plant on the side of the garage cum studio. He cut lots of gospel stuff.
JRS: What club were the Bandmasters house band at ?
LR: It was called the Music Box, out on Euclid.
JRS: Were Harvey and his group house band anywhere ?
LR: Yes, they played at a place out on Buckeye, but I can’t remember the name right now. Almost every band around then would become house band at some place. We traded places with Don Gregory & the Monclairs, that’s how we became house band. When Don Gregory’s “Happy Feet” hit ( a Sunburst 45 in 1965 ), they went on the road and the club had to replace them, so Kim Tolliver maneuvered us into that spot.
JRS: Right, what can you tell me about the Monclairs ? How many in the group ?
LR: I think it was six.
JRS: Did they play their own instruments.
LR: Yes.
JRS: They had 2 or 3 releases on Sunburst, which was Carl Maduri’s label thru Atlantic.
LR: Yea, I think Jackie Cooper was their drummer and Don Gregory the base player.
JRS: Who was the lead singer ?
LR: They all sang. They didn’t have one lead singer, Sam Blackshall was keyboard and
organist, that was the sound people would go for. Everybody played instruments, all six. One girl, who would open up the show for them.
JRS: Was she part of the group ?
LR: No, they started backing her up at the Music Box and she later went on to be a club owner at the Pin Wheel on the corner of E.116th and Nelson.
JRS: Can you remember her name ?
LR: No……… Let me go back to that record “Happy Feet” ( A side to the current UK favorite
“ Wait For Me” ), there was a guy name of Sam Knight who actually was the MC at the Music Box. He encouraged Don Gregory and the Monclairs to record that. It was originally just a riff that they played that filled the floor, the dance floor, all the time. So they developed it and made it into a record. Sam Knight was the guy that would come out and work with Disc Jockeys and bring unknown acts to the Music Box and give them a start. Now if you were not 21, you couldn’t be in this club with alcohol. So they developed a date on Sunday afternoon, a matinee, from 3 till 5. They would cover up the liquor, no nudity or anything adult and you could bring in teenagers. So you groomed yourself in front of that crowd. Yea, they would take in tea, cool aid, sodas like that.
JRS: You weren’t allowed in till you were 18 ?
LR: No, I was in there. I sneaked in, told em I was 18 but I wasn’t. I was the leader of the band but they didn’t know how old I was. If they knew I was younger than them, they would have beaten me up or something. But I just carried myself well, I had my own car.
JRS: What age were you allowed to drive ?
LR: I was allowed to drive at 15. But I learnt at 10. I would always drive my mother’s car from the back garage out thru a narrow driveway and have it ready, warmed up in the winter. She liked that. I proved I could drive, I learnt how to drive in old junk cars in the backyard.
JRS: The Springers, how many in the group ?
LR: Six again, all singers. Yes, so some of the harmony parts were doubles. One of the guys was the guitarist but he also sang but the other five guys just performed. They had the first record that took a Cleveland group to the Apollo in New York.
JRS: They were more of a throw back, a doo-wop type of group.
LR: Yea, really.
JRS: So when it got to 1966 / 68 and it was all the Motown sound, they seemed to disappear.
LR: Well they didn’t treat it like it. After they went on the circuit ( the chittlin club tours ), they were very disillusioned and weren’t interested in the business so they kinda split up. James McClain was in the group and he and I continued to write songs for them.
JRS: Tyrone Henry, what happened to him ?
LR: I don’t know, he would just go off of the deep end every now and then. He was a guitarist also. But after they had been on the road, they split up and we put all our attention on the Sensations.
JRS: What about the Exceptional 3 with Ruby Carter.
LR: Floyd Beck was the leader of the Exceptional Three. I just know that they were a pet group of Lester Johnson’s, he wanted to make this group into something. I can’t remember the full line-up but Ruby Carter had a great voice, she could sing ( I also have George Hendrix as being a member !).
JRS: Laura Greene, did you know her at all ?
LR: No, I didn’t know her at all. She came into Way Out after I went out on the road.
JRS: The Occasions ?
LR: Billy Carter, he sang the tenor. (Evans) Woodson, Johno (Johnnal Thompson – a female) and I can’t think of the other girl’s name, she was Woodson’s wife (Jennifer Woodson -- all four were natives of Cleveland). They had a great sound and Jim Brown liked them a lot (their 45 was on Big Jim and it hit big on Chicago radio station WMPP, being a Top 10 chart sound there in May 1967 ). He took their records, recordings and production to MGM, that’s how he got his big break with the Originals (Friends of Distinction ?). He was the only guy ( out of the entire management structure ) who brought money into Way Out. They all bought new cars because of Jim Brown. We played his (football) retirement party with a 12 piece band. I was the band director and it was at the Cleveland Arena and featured Stevie Wonder and a bunch of Motown acts.
JRS: So you ran the band for the whole show ?
LR: Most of them, the Motown acts had their own rhythm section. But all the rest of em, Bobby Wade and all those guys like that.
JRS: Bobby Wade had a release on Big Jim (“Flame In My Heart”).
LR: Oh, yea. Thats how we got him started until he got to Black Prince (Deluxe !). We recorded him everywhere we could. On “Blind Over You” (a Deluxe 45) the backing vocals were by Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, Bobby himself and me. That was cut at Way Out. (Walter Williams and Bobby Massey wrote and produced the track). Bobby had become one of the favorite male singers then.
JRS: He was one of the top live acts around Cleveland ?
LR: Sure, he always had stage presence and was a consummate performer. He made his living from it, he didn’t do anything else but sing, he had the top jobs. He would work at the Theatrical Grill, with Mousy Wexler and all these big guys and make money. Mr Wexler was a big club owner in downtown Cleveland. Very high class, it was where all the real action was.
Bobby would also sing at Sir Rahs House, the top echelons. That clubs still there, used to be called Sir Rahs House……. Jimmy Landers and the All Stars play their today, David Peoples’ lead singer in his band.
JRS: Now there was a Detroit record label called Sir Rahs.
LR: Sir Rah is actually Harris backwards. They were quite well to do financially so they backed the club, entertainers, etc. I don’t know what his first name was, there was a family of em.
JRS: Cleveland Robinson, you say you met him a few times.
LR: Met him in Cleveland Recording studio and talked to him. He would always be down there, doing something. I liked his voice always, he was a quiet guy who kept himself to himself. By him being older than us young hoods, coming up, making all this noise.
JRS: Yes, he’s about 10 years older than you.
LR: Close to it.
JRS: Yes, he was telling me he only started recording around the same time as you, 1962.
LR: Well my first recording was1961, “Never Let Me Go / Party at Lester’s” and then they
didn’t release it till 62.
JRS: Were Cleveland’s records popular around Cleveland.
LR: Almost everyone of them.
JRS: They got radio air play ?
LR: Anybody could get air play in Cleveland. Go in WJMO. Ken Hawkins, J L Wright and
several other people. JMO was the station that would make stars out of Cleveland people and give them a chance. Sort of like that station up in Detroit that played the Motown and Golden
World tracks.
JRS: Wasn’t Eddie O’Jay based in Cleveland.
LR: Yes, he was working at (W)ABQ at that time. He was helpful to one of the local acts, the O’Jays, you know that !!!!!
JRS: So you were part of the house band at the Music Box from age 16 ?
LR: Yea, till about 23. That house band was called Lou Ragland and the Bandmasters and
that’s who I did my first recording as, we played behind Kim Tolliver. She was our female vocalist. At the time you had a female in front of the band, she came out and did so many songs but we did the bulk of the work.
JRS: How did that fit in with the vocal group you were a member of in the early days ?
LR: The Sahibs, two of the guys, George Hendrix and……..after they broke up we all became musicians. The bass singer started playing bass. The vocal group had one guitarist who would never show up. Because he never showed up, I started playing guitar. I couldn’t play everything but I could play “Twist & Shout”, you know, those three chords. I also used to play at the Hut, a wooden framed building on East Boulevard and 116th. The Pin Wheel Club was just down the road. There was also the Mayflower club. We also backed Kim Tolliver at Gleeson’s Show Bar and Ken Hawkins put a show on at the Circle Ballroom with Marvin Gaye. The payment for that show was $75. Otis Redding’s last ever show, that was at Leo’s Casino. He went by Kim Tolliver’s after the show (the show at Leo’s Casino had followed a Cleveland based TV appearance on ‘Upbeat’, on which he sang a duet with Mitch Ryder, they performed “Knock on Wood”) and we were invited to go with him, on his private plane, to Milwaukee. Luckily we didn’t, as it crashed and Otis was killed.
JRS: I never realised that ! ….What can you remember about the Imperial Wonders ?
LR: Avon Wells, he was the brother of one of the guys in the Bell Telefunk group. He was the baby of the family, everybody in his family had deep voices, even his sister. But these guys
approached Bob Davis and he wanted to produce them for this label, Day-Wood. And I don’t know if he had a second label, him and this juvenile court judge were involved with it and they recorded most of their acts at Boddies Recording. But I had gotten to be good friends with Arnie Rosenburg at Agency (Recording) on 24th and Payne, so I suggested if they wanted to get a different and better sound and go to 16 track instead of 8, lets go to Agency Recording. Their track “Zip-A-Dee Do Dah” (A side was “Just A Dream”) was recorded and released in 1969. I was paid $300 to produce that.
JRS: How did you hook up with them ?
LR: Bob Davis brought them to me. Incidently, they had a sister group, the Ebonettes. Cynthia Woodward (Cindy of Bobby & Cindy on Shaker Records), Sharon Shanks, Debra Chapman and one other.
JRS: So you had already established a name for yourself ?
LR: Well, I was with the O’Jays so that made me stand out a bit. I was the road manager for the O’Jays, they couldn’t talk to the O’Jays much so they talked to me.
JRS: When did you go with and leave the O’Jays ?
LR: 1968 to 1970. “Working On Your Case” was popular in the UK I think, William Powell sang lead on that. Did you know their "I'll Never Forget You" was cut at Motown. They were gonna sign with Motown but their contract was sold to Imperial.
JRS: The Rotations (the groups members included Sonny Thompson & Bobby Starr {Day ?} and cut the popular -- in the UK -- “I Can’t Find Her” released in 1970 on Debrossard)
LR: They always wore blue jump suits and went on to join………….
JRS: Soulsville Productions and Law-ton Records in New York ? Lets try A C Jones & the Atomic Aces ?
LR: I don’t know them at all. That’s just a name that sounds like one of those groups from back then.
JRS: Leroy Smalley ? ( Leroy cut one of the first releases on Golden World Records out of Detroit, # 107 around 1963).
LR: Leroy, he played left handed guitar. He recorded at Boddies and was in Sam Cooke’s back-up band before Golden World.
JRS: Jerry G & Co.
LR: Jerry G, I think they were so young too, I mean you heard about em but they weren’t in the working area at the same time I was. I had moved on by the time they received popularity.
JRS: Bobby Dukes ?
LR: Bobby Dukes was a phenomenal person and keyboard player. Played percussion and could sing, write, perform, an excellent dancer. I knew him, I went to school with his older brother, who we just called Dukes. He was always telling us about his younger brother from
Quincy who could sing and dance and play. Just like Bobby Johnson and David Johnson, both bass players and guitar players. I knew them when they were kids, like 12, 13 years old.
JRS: You were telling me that you lived a couple of doors away from Johnny Moore of the Hornets.
LR: No, Johnny Moore of the Drifters.
JRS: But he started out in the Hornets.
LR: Oh, well see, I didn’t know that.
JRS: Well originally, I hadn’t realised he had lived in Cleveland.
LR: Oh yea, I lived right next door to him, in big mamma’s house.
JRS: The Hornets recorded a couple of things that were released on Way Out around 62.
LR: Yes, Ben Iverson and the Hornets. Lester Johnson was the lead singer on Ben Iverson's "Wedding Day" (a 1962 Way Out 45 by the Hornets – Lester Robertson is listed as the groups usual lead singer. The group had earlier recorded for Flash and States. Johnny Moore had sung lead on the groups 1953 single for Chicago based State Records. Ben Iverson was, very briefly, lead singer with Ike Perry & the Lyrics).
JRS: What other acts do you remember ?
LR: The Out of Sights. That was one of the groups I promoted at Saru. They started out recording at Way Out studio’s but we ended up takin them to a studio at Payne, I can’t even think of the name of it now. It had a different kind of name (Motion Picture Sound Studio was in this area). They were Paul Woodhall, Henry Steward, Harry Steward, Stan Reeves, Michael Booth and Greg Still, all from JFK High School.
JRS: Your 45 that came out under the name Volcanic Eruption, was that a group ? (Volcanic Eruption had a Way Out 45, “Red Robin / I’ve Got Something Going For Me” around 1969)
LR: Well, Yea. I always wanted to have a group in the sixties, we had girls in it. I decided to make it happen. Volcanic Eruption was Jimmy McClain, Robert & Verna Middlebrooks (Verna & Rob – Way Out artists in their own right) along with myself. I just talked with Verna a couple of weeks ago. She’s still teaching school in Cleveland. Verna & Rob were married, but they’re divorced now.
JRS: Who did you engineer and produce for at Way Out ?
LR: Well, I did stuff for Bobby Womack when he would come down there. We did a few things with Edwin (Starr), we did a lot on Bobby Wade, the Sensations, the Boss Singers….
JRS: The Boss Singers were a gospel group (they had a Way Out 45 “ So Many Years / My God On High”).
LR: Yea, but they had such a beat and a driving rhythm, they were the best. Randy was the
lead singer, there were four of them, all male (I have James Bullard noted down as the group’s lead singer !). Man, they could sing. They were almost like the Staple Singers, they could go either way (gospel or soul). You would like their rhythm and all.
I think they recorded some that became records too.
JRS: Yes, they had a 45 out on Way Out (“My God On High / So Many Years”)
LR: I can’t remember the guy who was their manager. I don’t know if he sang or not but he also had this little label (DeBrossard ?) and he had something to do with Big Jim. He produced and promoted the Boss Singers.
JRS: The Rotations ? (also on DeBrossard, “I Can’t Find Her”)
LR: That was one of those groups that just……they were younger than us, they recorded and they mimicked everything the Sahib’s did ! I Can’t remember their names because in the time they came up, the Intertains were the top act around…..they (the Intertains) had four members at one time.
JRS: Larry Hancock !
LR: Yea, when he left, there were a couple of other guys that took his place. I think he went to the services….the Intertains kept going after he left.
JRS: The Ambassadors, who were on DeBrossard.
LR: That’s that label I was telling you about, DeBrossard ! I don’t remember the Ambassadors, no I don’t. An earlier outfit was the Opollo’s. They were together in the late 50’s and included Bobby Dukes older brother in their line-up.
JRS: Boddie had a couple of labels.
LR: He sure did, Soul Kitchen (Jackie Russell, “If You Don’t Want Me, Let Me Be”)
JRS: Luau ?
LR: Yea, everytime he would bring in a different partner, to keep the economics separate, he’d make a label so you knew what everything was. His partners name was Melvin Woods, who was also a part of Day Wood……that’s how that came about, Bob Davis and Melvin Wood.
JRS: Warren Lanier, from Jackson, was also involved with local artists and labels.
LR: Warren Lanier was involved with Black Prince. He arranged for the Imperial Wonders release on the label (“Trying To Get To You”).
JRS: Another local label owner, not unlike Tom Boddie, was King Tolliver ?
LR: Yea, Cleve -Town and Buckeye Sound were recording labels he owned and operated. King Tolliver was the older brother of Kim Tolliver and John Brinson was their arranger / producer. Later he was also the producer of “Independent woman” recorded by Jan Jones. I think the masters for all of Jan Jones work could be located by tracking down Bob Davis. Jan recorded on his Daywood label.
JRS: Just prior to 1965, when you became the Way Out Studio engineer, local singer and group leader Ike Perry produced a couple of the things for the label ( Springers “I Know My Baby Loves Me So”, etc). Were you involved with these at all ? Likewise Joe Marszal.
LR: No I don't know about Ike Perry and his work at Way Out Recording before I became the engineer there. Ike Perry sang with a group called Ike Perry and the Lyrics. They were one of the first singing groups to make a name for themselves locally. Lester Johnson was one of his best friends and they sang together in the early days. Joe Marszal used to play jazz tuba I think, but I didn't know much about him.
JRS: Who did you work with at Way Out during those times ?
LR: James McClain, as well as being a member of the Springers, he was a good song writer and we worked together often. Michael Chavers and Norman Scott were very close buddys.
Michael arranged the horns on and co-produced Norman’s tracks “Baby Don’t Go / Ain’t That A Heartache”. Fred Towles recorded “Too Much Monkey Business” for Way Out, his recording was done at the same time as my "I Travel Alone" but he never cut another Way-Out record.
JRS: A US friend of mine told me about a 45 by the Al Serafini Orchestra & the Sir Alberts that you had some connection with ( Hey, Soul Man (t. baker, l. ragland) / Lil Rosey (t. baker, l. ragland) -- audio fidelity 174).
LR: I was just as surprised as you were when I first heard about those songs in 1971. When I recorded "I Travel Alone" in 1967, Tom Baker arranged and produced the tracks (more than the two cuts that were released on Amy being cut at that time) and he apparently kept copies. He then made some other songs with them & gave me half of the song credits, I have never heard them, I only know about them because of air play royalties I receive from BMI. I would love to hear what the songs sound like. They were released in Canada and not the US as far as I know.
JRS: I only recently realised that the group the Swordsmen, who recorded a 45 for New York based Ninandy Records (“Oh My Soul / Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin You”) before being picked up by RCA, were from Cleveland. I got a copy of their first self titled RCA LP from 1969 and the sleeve notes detail that the duo, Eddie Anderson and Raymond Thompson were based in Cleveland. Eddie being born in the city and Raymond moving there as a teenager. Do you remember the Swordsmen playing live around Cleveland ?
LR: No, I don’t remember the duo at all. I remember Eddie Anderson playing live gigs around Cleveland though, he used to appear solo at the Music Box a lot.
JRS: Thats strange as they were still recording as the Swordsmen in 1971 when RCA released their second album, ‘What’s It All About World (RCA LSP-4544).
……..Later on, around 1973, you and Hot Chocolate organised having a live performance recorded didn’t you ?
LR: The Agora was a club that was downstairs, under Agency recording. Agency recorded several groups live, they had a cable permanently connected through from the Agora. Lou Ragland and Hot Chocolate was one of the groups that they cut this way and I have a great copy of that session (other soul / rock acts were recorded at the club and it became so well known that a club scene for the 1980 film ‘One Trick Pony’ starring Paul Simon was shot there. Sam and Dave also appeared in the film).
JRS: Beloyd (Taylor) was a local musician (he was a member of S.O.U.L.) who later went on to greater things with Earth, Wind and Fire. Did you know him ?
LR: I only knew Beloyd Taylor when he was in Cleveland. He also was one of the writers of “Get Away” which Earth Wind and Fire recorded.
JRS: As well as being a musician, you have always been interested in art and design havn’t you ?
LR: Yea, in fact I designed the Way-Out label that had the "swirls" in it, Jesse Fisher’s “Super Funky” was the first release put out on it. The company’s other label designs were not mine.
LR: After the “Since You Said You’d Be Mine” release and the conflict the 45’s billing caused, you split with Hot Chocolate / Seven Miles High, and went solo on SMH. Then in 1975 came the SMH 45 “Tend To Your Business” by Wildfire. This was your group again wasn’t it ?
LR: Yea, Norman Scott was in the group and sang lead. I do have a photo of us, from a newspaper ad. We produced those cuts ourselves, after that I became an independent producer.
JRS: Did you produce any other tracks around that time ?
LR: Yea, there was a thing we released on Co-Co Cleveland. The group was called Love for Dollars and Cents and the song titled “The Next World”. The song was written by the group’s members and myself. The horns done by Richard Shann and I produced the 45. We recorded it in 1972 and only pressed 1000 copies.
JRS: I have a 1972 Way Out label released 45, “Everlasting Love / Honey Coated Lovin” by
Betty & Angel on Every Day. The label gives the arranger as Tom Baker and producer as Lester Johnson. I didn’t think Lester usually got involved in the studio ?
LR: I Know for sure that Lester Johnson produced Betty and Angel on that record. Betty is Betty White, we thought she was going to be our shining star, but she didn't keep up with the pack.
JRS: What about local radio stations in the sixties ?
LR: The main radio stations were WJMO and WABQ in Cleveland.
JRS: And what about Cleveland record shops through those years ?
LR: The Record Rendezvous shop was the first place local soul artists could get their records sold. As a result of that, he would enable us to extend our talent out of our own neighborhood, the shop was in downtown Cleveland. Another record store was the Crowd Pleaser, this was on Kinsman and it was operated by Robert Palmer.
My interview had been grabbed at various opportunities over a couple of days
as Lou met up with me and ferried me around Vegas. At the end of the process
we were joined by his old friend, Abdul (Eddie Williams), who was in town visiting.
EW: I remember the early groups, the Crescents ( lead singer Billy Wells would move on and later record the popular northern soul track “This Heart, These Hands”), Ike Perry, the Hornets and Carl ‘Sonny’ Turner. Also Edwin Starr, he really loved Chuck Jackson’s singing. So when he was in the Futuretones, he would sing lots of Chuck Jackson’s songs.
JRS: You were in a group ?
EW: I was in the El Deons with Larry Banks, Kenny Head, Michael Turner and Randy Hardy.
We recorded at WERE Radio station, in the basement. The engineer was Arnie Rosenburg.
Our 45, “It’s Raining”, came out on the Parma label in 59. We had a sister group , the El
Deonettes and both outfits were managed by Walter Randcliff. He also managed the LaSalles (the Tan Tams) who cut “Chopsticks”. He made the money, not the group members. I left the El Deon’s and joined the Sensations (not the Philly outfit or Way Out group) who included two ex members of the Crescents in the line-up. We were all together for about a year before I went into the army in 1961. In the summer of 61 we auditioned for Harvey Fuqua, who was back in town promoting the Spinner’s first hit (“Thats What Girls Are Made For”). We impressed Harvey and he gave us his card and told us to go to Detroit. We were all young guys, I had just been laid off by Ford, and we didn’t have the knowledge to leave Cleveland.
I recently met Anna Gordy and she told me that if we had turned up with Harvey’s card, we
would have been signed to the label. Anyway, I went into the army and didn’t get back till 1965.
J R SMITH Oxford, April 2001

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?