Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.


• Updates on the AFS discography.
• Added info to Regal Records.
• Updates on the Do-Ra-Me discography.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Designer Records Discography (Part I)

3373 Park Avenue
3109 Park Avenue

The Designer imprint was almost exclusively used for black gospel recordings, which were produced by Wooten and his team in great quantity. Designer was Wooten's most frequently used label and ran from 1967 until 1978, when he ceased his operations. The first part of the Designer contains releases until 1973. The majority of them were recorded when Wooten was still based on 3373 Park Avenue.

45-6786: Pat Walker - The Holy City / Down from his Glory (O Sole Mio) (1967)
45-6787: The Spiritual Consolators - Lord You Know / Where Shall I Be (1968)
45-6789: The Spiritual Consolators - Dr. King We Sing #1 / Dr. King We Sing #2 (1968)
45-6794: The Spiritual Travelers - Blessing from Jesus / Mother's Prayer (1969)
45-6798: Annie Lee Akins & Henry Thomas - The Common Touch / This Little Light of Mine
45-6807: Memphis Spiritual Four - By and By I'll See Jesus / Here Am I (1969)
45-6812: The Gospel Souls - I Got the Holy Ghost / O When My Jesus Comes (1969)
45-6824: The Jubilee Hummingbirds - Stand By Me / Something Within Me (1970)
45-6830: The Breckenridge Singers - God is a Ruler from Above / Ticket to Heaven (1970)
45-6831: The Spititual Choralettes Singers - Need Prayer / Don't Let It Be Too Late (1970)
45-6847: The Sullivan Specials - More Power / Just a Little Talk with Jesus (1970)
45-6854: Pearly Gate Singers - Let Me Lean on You / Let Jesus Fix It (1970)
45-6861: The Union Gospel Singers of Benton Harbor, Mich - Nobody Knows the Trouble / Use My Lord (1970)
45-6866: The Gospel Stars - Jesus Is Calling Me / I Got the Spirit of the Lord All Over Me (1970)
45-6867: The Traveling Star - Marching Home to Jesus / Beautiful Mansion (1970)
45-6872: The Templeairs - Lord Search My Heart / I Have Done the Best I Can (1970)
45-6880: The Shaw Singers - Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone / God Has Done Much for Me (1970)
45-6883: The Greater Abyssinia Choir - I Can Depend on Jesus / He Will See You Through (1970)
45-6884: Elizabeth King - Testify for Jesus / Walk with Me (1970)
45-6887: The Johnsonaires - Come to Jesus / He's Coming to Judge the World (1971)
45-6891: Leroy Liddell and the Gospel True Singers - What Shall I Do Lord Part #1 / What Shall I Do Lord Part #2 (1971)
45-6899: Young Adult Fellowship Choir - I'll Trade a Lifetime / He'll Fight My Battles (1971)
45-6901: Faithful Aires of Jackson Tenn. - I'm Coming Home / He's a Friend of Mine (1971)
45-6906: Rev. Eugene Cochran - Wise Head Foolish Heart #1 / Wise Head Foolish Heart #2 (1971)
45-6907: The Memphis Harmonizers - Gambling Man / God Is Real (1971)
45-6913: Dynamic Hughes Gospel Singers - Beautiful City / Viet Nam (1971)
45-6914: Evelyn Taylor - This Old Soul of Mine / My Soul is Satisfied (1971)
45-6915: Breckenridge Singers - Jesus is Coming Back Again / God So Loved the World (1971)
45-6916: Thomas Ray Whitford - Jesus Rose with the Power in His Hand / Who's Going Down in the Grave with Me (1971)
45-6918: Melody Kings of Greenwood Miss - I Know It's Jesus / If You Need the Lord Call Him (1971)
45-6919: Wings Over Zion Singers - He Was a Modern Day Job / I've Got My Name on the Roll (1971)
45-6920: Echoes of Harmony of Hamsfield La. - Lord You Have Been Good to Me / What the World Needs is a Little More Love (1971)
45-6922: Gospelettes - Tribute in Prayer / Lift the Savior Up (1971)
45-6926: The Christian Ensemble - I am Going to Sing for My Jesus / I Lay Awake at Night (1971)
45-6928: Sensational Family Singers - I'll Go / Everyone Should Know Who Jesus Is (1971)
45-6931: Songs of Spiritual of Albany Ga. - We are Climbing Jacob's Ladder - It's Been a Long Journey (1971)
45-6933: L. and S. Singers of Yazoo City Miss. - Glad That Trouble Don't Last Always / I Shall Not Forget What the Lord is to Me (1971)
45-6933: Soul Stirrers of White Castle, La. - Precious Lord - Part #1 / Precious Lord - Part #2 (1971)
45-6937:  The Archie Singers - God is a Giving God / Only the Strong Survive (1971)
45-6939: Dixie Wonders of Helena Ark - If You Miss Me Singing Down Here / If the Lord Needs Somebody (1971)
45-6941: Big Milton Williams and the Sons of the South - Sure Thing / Nobodys Fault But Mine (1971)
45-6942: Doris Stewart - Pay for It All / After Awhile  (1971)
45-6945: Rev. W. C. Riley - Tell God About It - Part #1 / Tell God About It - Part #2 (1971)
45-6947: The Soul Superiors of Detroit, Michigan - What Ever You Do, Do Good / A Great Day (1971)
45-6949: Genessee Gospel Travelers - Traveling Shoes / I Thank You Lord (1971)
45-6951: Evangelist David Shows, Sr. - Lord Walk with Me / The Old and the New (1971)
45-6955: Judeans - Jesus is Coming Soon / The Meeting in the Air / Jesus is a Soul Man / The Old Rugged Made the Difference (1971)
45-6956: Sons of Joy of Canton, Ohio - God is Somebody to Know / Get Back Satan (1971)
45-6958: The Goldenaires - So Glad I Made It Over / Beautiful Mansion (1971)
45-6959: The Goldenaires - Been So Good / When You Wake Up in the Morning (1971)
45-6965: Alberta Powell - Trusted / The Same God (1972)
45-6970: Trenton Gospel Travelers - Tell Me Little Boy How Old Are You / I'll Be Satisfied (1972)
45-6971: The Boyle Brothers - Land Beyond the River / I'm a Child of God (1972)
45-6975: The Grenada Southernaires - To Bad, So Bad, Jesus Had to Die / Southernaires Junior (1972)
45-6976: The Gospel Coronetts - I'm Nothing Without the Lord / I Love Him (1972)
45-6984: The Fanstastic Stars - I Know the Lord Will Make a Way / If You Ever Change Your Mind (1972)
45-6987: Rev. W.N. Reed and the Macedonia Ensemble - Rise Up and Walk / The Old Account (1972)
45-6988: Silver Trumpets - How I Made It Over / Living Down Here on Borrowed Land (1972)
45-6989: Evangelist David Shows, Sr. - God Is My Friend / That Liar Shall Not Tarry in God's Sight (1972)
45-6990: O'Neal and the Dean Brothers - It's Your Life / Don't Give Up (1972)
45-6991: The Jubilee Humming Birds - I Got Shoes / Lord Will Make a Way (1972)
45-6996: The Royal Dixie Wonders - My Prayer / Let Me Walk (1972)
45-7004: Mighty Kings - There Is No Place to Hide / There's Not a Friend Like Jesus (1972)
45-7012: The Memphis Southernaires - Moving on Down the Line / The Holy Spirit (1972)   
45-7014: The Dixie Wonders of Memphis, Tennessee - Story of Job / Just Like Him (1972)
45-7015: Spiritual Harmonizers of Jackson, Tennessee - Working the Road / You Should Have Been There (1972)
45-7016: Fabulous Golden Wings - It's a Needed Time / I Got a Friend (1972)
45-7017: Heaven Dee-Etts of Trenton N.J. - Savior Hold My Hand / When You Bend Your Knees (1972)
45-7023: The Cooper Singers - Right to the Tree of Life / I am Troubled About My Soul (1972)
45-7026:45-7027: Garland Wilson and the Dynamic Powell Brothers - Make This World a Better Place (If You Can) / Condition (1972)
45-7028: Sensational Royal Lights - Righteous Judge / Lord, I Tried (1972)
45-7032: Mighty Echos - When the Lord Get's Ready / When Jesus Comes (1972)
45-7033: Mosby Singers of E. St. Louis Illinois - The Lord Is My Shepherd / I Got the Love of Jesus (1972)
45-7037: Cora Bell Watkins - Soon As My Work Has Ended / Pure Religion (1973)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lynn Pratt's Hornet label

Tammy Locke - C. B. Queen (Hornet HO-1013)

While there is nothing known on Tammy Locke except for the fact that she recorded one single for Lynn Pratt's Hornet label in the 1970s, Lynn Pratt's career has been spotlighted a bit more. Thus we concentrate not on Locke but on Pratt and Hornet Records in this post. By the way, does someone know where Arlue Studios was located?

By the time Lynn Pratt made his first commercial recordings in 1956, he was already 30 years of age. Nevertheless, Pratt waxed some of the hottest rockabilly music that ever came out of Tennessee. He was not one of the young singers imitating Elvis Presley. Pratt had a style of his own, developed by dint of his country music background and the unique but highly interesting musical circumstances.

Leonard Hugh “Lynn” Pratt’s birthday and birthplace are disputed. Country and rock’n’roll researcher Adam Komorowski mentions Pratt was born 1927 in Lexington, Tennessee. However, Pratt was actually born on April 9, 1926 in Sugar Tree, Decatur County. A rural area in West Tennessee, it is located on the Sugar Tree Fork about 32 miles northeast of Lexington. He was the son of Walter Erie “Dutch” (1889-1962) and Amy Pearl (Baker) Pratt (1891-1967) and had four brothers (Walter Perry, Willie Earl, Clifford Clay, Carl David) and four sisters (Bonnie Lee, Berna, Doris, Verna Mae). Pratt’s family hailed from Decatur County but lived in Henderson County by 1913. By the time Pratt was born, they were again residing in Decatur County but moved back eventually, where most of the family members would spend much of their lives.

In 1939, Pratt attended a Saturday evening Grand Ole Opry show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, which impressed him very much. He had the chance to talk to some of the musicians after the show’s end and left Nashville with the determination to become a musician in his own right. While still in high school, he founded his first band. During World War II, Pratt joined the US Navy and served in the South Pacific. There, he played and performed as much as he could. After the war, Pratt began to travel through Arkansas and Missouri in order to promote products of the Continental Drug Company as a singer over radio and at personal performances. He returned to Tennessee in 1948 and made nearby Jackson, Tennessee, his home base. Pratt was earning his living as a barber at some point in his life but it is unclear if he kept it as his day job or if he was able to make his living out of music, at least for some time.

It is assured that Pratt auditioned for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, to no avail. Tapes were found in the Sun vaults under his name, including “If I Can’t Have You.” A friend of Pratt’s, Danny Hudson, recalls that Pratt began recording for Sun around 1954: “Lynn started recording at Sun Records in the 1950s before Cash, Perkins, Lewis, Presley, etc. had hits. Sam Phillips decided not to publish Lynn's songs, so Pratt left Sun […].” “If I Can’t Have You,” however, sounds it was recorded about 1956 or later. The recording featured a rhythm and electric lead guitar as well as drums plus Pratt’s vocals.

Lynn Pratt, ca. 1960s
By 1956, Elvis Presley had his first #1 hit with “Heartbreak Hotel” on RCA-Victor. Lynn Pratt was impressed with the new style of music and although Sun had refused him, he did not give up and set up his own record label he called Hornet Records in Lexington. Hornet was a tiny label operated by Pratt from his home on Summer Street. At that time, his regular band consisted of Pratt on vocals and rhythm guitar, James „Ikey“ Hauner on lead guitar, Charles F. “Charlie” Roach on steel guitar, Bill Grantham on piano, A.J. Maness on bass and Henry Hays on drums. Charlie Roach had previously performed with Red Rolison, Charles Moore, and Jimmie Rhodes in a band. He founded Westwood Records in Jackson, Tennessee, in the summer of 1959 and recorded a lot of artists from that point on. Regarding the other band members, nothing can be told of them.

Pratt organized a recording session at radio WSIX in Nashville with his band in 1956 (possibly without drummer Henry Hays) and laid down “Tom Cat Boogie” b/w “At Night Time.” The top side is a fine rockabilly song with enjoyable lead guitar and piano breaks. The songs were released that year on Hornet #1000 and proofed to be a strong seller for Pratt, at least regionally. It peaked at number one in several local charts and the success of his first single led to performances with Lefty Frizzell, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

During the next three years, Pratt cut three more singles for Hornet. The next to come after “Tom Cat Boogie” was “Troubles” / “At Night Time” (Hornet #1001), two songs that pointed more towards country music. On his recordings of “They’re Learning” and “Come Here Mama,” released on Hornet #1002, Pratt and his band however laid down two very hot cuts. “Come Here Mama” is a variation of the old folk standard “Mama Don’t Allow (No Low Down Hangin’ Round),” which had been recorded by countless artists, including Riley Puckett (Columbia #15261-D, 1928), the Allen Brothers (Bluebird #BB-5448, 1934), a rockabilly version by Vern Pullens entitled “Mama Don’t Allow No Boppin’” (unreleased, 1956), and Billy Wallace (Sims #120, with Jimmy King, 1961).
His last single on Hornet consisted of a cover of Sonny Burgess’ classic rocker “Red Headed Woman” and “I Cried All Night” (Hornet #1003). Burgess had recorded “Red Headed Woman” in 1956 for Sun Records in Memphis (Sun #247) and already at that time, it became a favorite among rock’n’roll performers in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. Bobby Crafford, the Jokers, the Rebel Rousers, and Wayne Worley all recorded this song. On Pratt’s release, he was backed by the Jubilaires Quartet, a vocal group that has remained in obscurity since.

Apart from “Red Headed Woman,” all releases were penned by Pratt, who was an accomplished songwriter and owned Hugh Publishing in Lexington. But at the time of the release, publishing credits were split between Vol. Music Publ., Old Judge Publishing, and Bluff City Publishing. Interestingly, Old Judge also published songs on Chesley Sherod’s House of Sound label in Memphis, including “Real Cool” / “Want to Be Wanted Blues” (House of Sound #C&S 504, 1957) by Aubrey Cagle and “She’s Jail Bait” / “Sputnik” (House of Sound #C&S 505, 1957). Likely owned by Charles Matthews, Old Judge also published a lot of material released on Matthews' OJ label in Memphis.

In 1959, Pratt also recorded a singer named Carne Pitrello on Hornet. Pitrello was from New York and, contrary to widely held beliefs, was not a pseudonym for Lynn Pratt. He recorded a version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” renamed simply as “The Saints,” and “You Belong to Me” (Hornet #1004) in 1959. “The Saints” was a wild version with guitar and piano breaks as well as an effective drummer’s performance. Interestingly, Pratt claimed songwriting credits for “The Saints” (Bluff City Publ.).

Unfortunately, all subsequent releases after “Tom Cat Boogie” failed to stimulate the same success. By 1965, Pratt and his band had given up playing music and recording. Nevertheless, Hornet was never closed down by Pratt and continued to exist well into the 1970s. Some of his friends still recorded for the label and but only few copies of each release were pressed. Pratt turned to producing and promoting in the 1960s and produced a show called “Tennessee Jamboree,” which may have been the same show that was broadcasted out of LaFollette, Tennessee, over WLAF. His friend Danny Hudson also stated Pratt was one of the persons who discovered Loretta Lynn.

Lynn Pratt, ca. 1970s. Photo taken from the back of
Collector LP #CSL 2304

In later years, Pratt was also involved in several social and municipal affairs, including the local school board, the Lexington Fair Association, and the Henderson County Cancer Society. He was also at one time the owner of the Henderson County Times newspaper. By the 1970s, Pratt’s 1950s songs were rediscovered by music collectors in Europe. In 1975, the Dutch Collector label released a LP entitled “Super Rock ‘a’ Billy,” which included several tracks by Pratt. Also, it was probably Collector’s owner Cees Klopp who first interviewed Pratt during one of his visits to the US. Since, Pratt’s recordings have been re-released on numerous compilations in both the United States and Europe.

In later years, Pratt began recording again. His first album was called “Lynn Pratt & Friends – Honky Tonk Country in Old Traditional Style.” In 1999, Pratt recorded his last full length album entitled “Country Living,” which also featured new versions of “I Don’t Need” and “At Night Time” as well as a reworking of “Tom Cat Boogie” entitled “Tennessee Boogie.”

Lynn Pratt died on January 19, 2002, in Lexington at the age of 75. He is buried at the Henderson County Memorial Gardens in Lexington.

Hornet Records Discography

1000: Lynn Pratt – Tom Cat Boogie / At Night Time
1001: Lynn Pratt & the Tomcats – Troubles / I Don’t Need
1002: Lynn Pratt and his Rhythm Cats – They’re Learning / Come Here Mama
1003: Lynn Pratt with Jubilaires Quartet – I Cried All Night / Red Headed Woman
1004: Carne Pitrello – The Saints / You Belong to Me (1959)
1012: Don Rhodes She Never Had No Intention / ?
1013: Tammy Locke – C.B. Queen / Truck Driving Daddy

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Winston Shelton on Walton

Winston Shelton and the Country Gospel Singers - On the Banks of Old Jordan (Walton 45-EP-950), 1961

Today's selection is a nice little gospel recording by Winston Shelton and the Country Gospel singers. "On the Banks of Old Jordan" is the better song on this side in my opinon. "I'm Not a Poor Man" skips at one point, unfortunately, and since it is the weaker number, I didn't include it here. No info on Shelton survived other than he recorded this EP, a single on Starday's Dixie custom imprint in 1960 ("When Sunday Comes Again" / "Mom Knows What's Best", Dixie #45-892), another 45 on Faith as well as an EP for the Richmond, Indiana, based Gospel label.

Billboard review of Shelton's Dixie single
on January 30, 1961.

The story of Walton Records, on the other side, has been researched a little better. The label was founded by Norman Walton in 1961 and was first located on 2311 Glen Court in Richmond, Indiana. Somehow connected with the Walton label were the Poor Boy and American labels. Both were run by Wayne Raney and Jimmie Zack.

The Poor Boy label was started in 1958 by Wayne Raney and Jimmie Zack. The first release (Poor Boy #100) showed a Richmond post box address. Then, they changed it to a Muncie, Indiana, post box address. Muncie is located about 43 miles southeast of Richmond on the Indiana-Ohio state border. Poor Boy releases #105 up to #107 showed addresses in both Muncie ("Home Office") and Richmond ("General Manager Office"). The final releases on Poor Boy only had a Muncie address. The label was closed down in 1960. Its last release is probably the best known: "Sweet Marie" b/w "Servant of Love" (Poor Boy #111) by the Van Brothers, Arnold and Earl Van Winkle. Both songs were also reissued by Norman Walton on the Walton label.

American was run by Jimmie Zack out of Muncie. It was only active in 1960. Wayne Raney also operated a New American label out of his Raney Recording Studio in Oxford, Ohio, that same year but it is not known to me whether the labels were related or not.

The Walton label, respectively, was founded by Norman Walton in 1961 and released a slew of country and gospel singles and EPs up to 1966. Even an album by Gil Richmond was recorded in 1964 on Walton. Several of the songs recorded on Walton were co-written by Norman Walton, including Winston Shelton's sides. Similar to Poor Boy, the record labels also showed different adresses. The adress on Winston Shelton's EP was 2923 Boston Pike in Richmond. Possibly these adresses were printed on account of the particular artist.

A complete Walton discography can be found at 45rpm records.com.

Winston Shelton Discography

Dixie 45-892: Winston Shelton - When Sunday Comes Again / Mom Knows What's Best (1960)

Walton 950: Winston Shelton and the Country Gospel Singers - From Bethlehem to Calvary / Stop and Think / I'm Not a Poor Man / On the Banks of Old Jordan (1961)
Faith 1033: Winston Shelton, Red Berry, the Country Gospel Singers - The Darkest Spot Up the Mortal Soul / What Must I Do to Be Saved (1963)
Gospel No.#: Winston Shelton - Seek Ye First the Kingdom / Praise God for the Victory / ? / ? (1966)

Read more

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Travis Lee on Glo-Lite

 Travis Lee - I Wish the Sun Would Shine (Glo-Lite GL 98)

This is an interesting country rocker on Bill Glore's Glo-Lite record label from Memphis, Tennessee. It sounds it was recorded in the 1970s, although a late 1960s recording date seems also possible since Glore established Glo-Lite in 1968 and this was one of the earlier releases.

Although the record label shows an adress as of 4081 Jackson in Memphis, I believe it was recorded at 625 Chelsea Avenue, where the Glo-Lite studio was located. No information on Travis Lee can be found. There was a Travis Lee on Cal State Music, a label active in the early 1970s in Santa Monica, California. I doubt it is the same singer.

The flip side to "I Wish the Sun Would Shine" is a country ballad, "Then I'll Go." More info on Glo-Lite Records can be found here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Sparkletones on ABC-Paramount

Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones - Boppin' Rock Boogie (ABC-Paramount 45-9837), 1957

Due to the recent passing of Joe Bennett, I thought it would be a good idea to spotlight Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones' career a little bit more today. I chose not to include "Black Slacks" here but the flipside of the bands' top single, "Boppin' Rock Boogie." It is much in the same vein of all their other ABC-Paramount recordings but much lesser known.

The Sparkletones were made up of students from Cowpens High School in Spartansburg, South Carolina, formed in 1956. Joe Bennett was on vocals and lead guitar, Howard "Sparky" Childress on electric rhythm guitar, Wayne Arthur on bass, and Irving Denton on drums. The four teenagers played rock'n'roll locally. They were part of a musical transition that took place during this time: the rural rockabilly sound evolved into a smoother, urban style that was soon known as rock'n'roll.

In January 1957, the Sparkletones took part in a talent show at Spartansburg Memorial Auditorium, organized by CBS talent scout Bob Cox. The band won first prize and Cox was impressed right from the start. He was convinced the Sparkletones would became teenage stars and immidiately quit his job with CBS in order to manage the young group. Cox and his new protégés flew to New York City, where they signed a recording contract with ABC-Paramount.

Already the next day, the Sparkletones went into the studio to record the Bennett-Denton composition "Black Slacks" as well as "Boppin' Rock Boogie," written by Bennett and Arthur. Paul Anka, who had recorded hours before them in the same studio, watched them while they recorded and even sang harmony during their session. Both songs were released in the summer of 1957 on ABC-Paramount #45-9837, credited to "Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones." Cliff "Farmer" Grey was the first DJ to play "Black Slacks" at WSPA in Spartansburg. Soon other DJs also played the record and it eventually peaked #11 on Billboard's R&B charts and #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Billboard July 15, 1957, pop review

The Sparkletones set out on the road to tour the US and to promote their record. The tour took them across the country to the west coast. They would also play the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas for a couple of weeks. TV appearances on the Nat King Cole show, American Bandstand, and the Ed Sullivan show followed.

Promo picture of Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones

In late 1957, ABC-Paramount released a follow-up, "Penny Loafers and Bobby Socks" b/w "Rocket" (ABC-Paramount #45-9867), which also hit the charts but only at #42. Nevertheless, the Sparkletones kept up a busy touring schedule across the country and recorded further singles, including the great "Cotton Pickin' Rocker." Subsequent singles failed to chart, however, and ABC-Paramount did not renew their contract in 1959. At the same time, Childress left the group and was replaced by Gene Brown. Denton also eventually left and was replaced by Donny Seay.

The Sparkletones signed a contract with Jack Gold's Paris Records. On the Paris label the group had one last minor hit. "Boys Do Cry," a slower teenage pop song coupled with "What the Heck" (Paris #45-537), reached #105 on the charts in 1959. In 1960, Box Cox left the group and the Sparkletones broke up in October 1960 after years of touring, promoting, and recording. Howard Childress performed country music for some time in the early 1960s.

Eventually, all members took regular day jobs and reunited from time to time in the 1990s. They appeared at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Festival in 2011. Joe Bennett passed away on June 27, 2015, at the age of 75.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The OJ label

The beginnings of the OJ record label in Memphis probably date back to late 1956. Founded by Charles G. "Red" Matthews and Bill Biggs, OJ released a total of 15 records over a two year stretch. Although it was only a small operation, OJ managed to score minor hits with its first two releases.

While there is no information on Bill Biggs, Charles Matthews had been a songwriter for some time by 1956 but success had eluded him. With the advent of rock'n'roll and the rising of independent labels in Memphis like Sun Records, Matthews and Biggs set up OJ Records on 1018 North Watkins Avenue in Memphis. OJ was a shortcut for Old Judge, Matthews' music publishing firm. Apart from OJ material, Old Judge handled the publishing for a considerable amount of other songs in the Memphis area, including releases on House of Sound and Hornet.

Matthews' first artists were Bobby Chandler and the Stardusters, a white teen rock'n'roll vocal group from Little Rock, Arkansas. The Stardusters were founded in 1956 while Chandler was a student at Little Rock high school. It included Chandler, Bill Sharp, Bobby Blount, Bill Glasscock, and Bill Dedman on guitar. Later on, also Trumann Mitchell and Bob Walters sang with the group. The Stardusters appeared at local high school dances in Little Rock and were signed to a recording contract by Matthews in 1956. Their first release comprised the Quinton Claunch/Bill Cantrell penned "Im Serious" and "If You Love'd Me." The coupling appeared in either late 1956 or early 1957 and saw review in Billboard on February 2, 1957. Although the magazine was sceptical about the single's hit potential, it eventually entered several local charts in Tennessee as well as Arkansas and even peaked at #38 on Billboard's Hot 100 charts. Chandler and the Starduster became OJ's most prolific recording artists with a total of three releases. Chandler also had one release on Hi ("The Voice of a Fool" / "By-O", Hi #2012, 1958). He toured the US a couple of years before returning to Little Rock. Chandler died in 2012. Visit his website here.

Charles Matthews also placed several of his own compositions with his artists. Dave Gardner, who went on to fame as comedian Brother Dave Gardner, recorded his "White Silver Sands" in 1957 for OJ. Gardner, born in Lexington, Kentucky, had previously recorded for Decca in 1956 and then for OJ in 1957. "White Silver Sands" was coupled with "Fat Charlie" on OJ #1002 and became the label's second hit. "White Silver Sands" peaked at #28 in July 1957 on the Billboard Hot 100. Don Rondo also recorded a version for Jubilee, which became a #7 hit that same year. "White Silver Sands" was eventually also recorded by Owen Bradley, Bill Black's Combo, as well as Sonny James and was voted #27 in Billboard's "1957 Top Tunes."

Gardner recorded a second single for OJ that same year as a follow-up on OJ #1006. "Mad Witch" was a spooky rocker written by Matthews, while "Love Is My Business" was again a Claunch/Cantrell penned song, which was later also cut by Cliff Gleaves (an unreleased take for Sun and a released version on Summer) and Bobby Wood (Vin). Gardner's version seems to be the first one recorded. However, it appears that there was a second version of this single released with "Love Is My Business" as the top side and a different flip, "I'll Never Make You Blue."

Both OJ #1000 and OJ #1002 became the label's biggest sellers. There are still many 45rpm and even 78rpm copies popping up. Other artists on OJ were less successful, though probably not less talented. Wailin' Bill Dell, Nancy Lee, the Rockin Dukes, and Charles Senns also had releases on OJ but they didn't caught on with the record buyers back then. Another singer worth mentioning is another Jackson, Tennessee, native, namely Wink Martindale, who started his career on OJ with two records. Martindale also hosted "Top Dance Party" on WHBQ already since 1956 in Memphis. In June 1956, he had a special guest on his show: Elvis Presley. Martindale began recording for Dot in 1958 and continued to release disc for the label well into the 1960s. He eventually became a famous game show host.

By 1958, OJ's last records were released and Matthews finally closed down the label. Interest in the OJ label has been limited in recent years to unknown reasons. Some releases like "Mad Witch" by Dave Gardner or the Rockin Dukes' record, nevertheless, became collector items. 

thanks to DrunkenHobo and Xavier Maire

OJ 1000
Bobby Chandler and his Stardusters
I'm Serious (Claunch; Cantrell) / If You Love'd Me (Bobby Kindred)
M-1005 / M-1006
1957 (BB)

OJ 1001
Chester Guyden
Miss Fannie Brown () / You Gotta Help Me Some ()

OJ 1002
Dave Gardner
White Silver Sands (C. Matthews) / Fat Charlie (G. McCarty)
M-1011 / M-1012
1957 (BB)

OJ 1003
Wailin' Bill Dell and the Bachelors
Do You Care (B. Dell) / You Gotta Be Loose (B. Dell)
M-1016 / M-1017 

OJ 1004
Nancy Lee and the Bachelors
You're My Inspiration (A. Doddona; J. Ayre) / My Heart Has Wings ()
M-1018 / ?

OJ 1005
Bobby Chandler and his Stardusters
Shadows of Love (Matthews; Biggs) / Me and My Imagination (Claunch; Cantrell)
M-1009 / M-1010

OJ 1006
Dave Gardner
Mad Witch (Matthews; Baffa) / Love Is My Business (Claunch; Cantrell)
45-1020 / 45-1022

OJ 1006
Dave Gardner
Love Is My Business (Claunch; Cantrell) / I'll Never Make You Blue (Ollie Shepard)
M-1022 / 45-1024

OJ 1007
The Rockin Dukes
Angel and a Rose (Butts; Robinson) / My Baby Left Me (L. Grant)
45-1032 / 45-1034

OJ 1008
Princess Ming Chu
Island of Love () / Hearts are Trumps ()

OJ 1009
Wink Martindale
Thought It was Moonlove (C. Matthews) / Love's Got Me Thinkin' (Matthews; Hunter) /
M-1038 / M-1040

OJ 1010
The Escorts
Arrow Two Hearts (Biggs; Matthews; Tate) / Misty Eyes (Nelson; Parker; Roberts)
45-1044 / 45-1045

OJ 1011
Wink Martindale
Love Brooke Loose (Singleton; Cathy) / I Don't Suppose
45-1041 / ?

OJ 1012
Bobby Chandler and the Escorts
Winter Time (Nelson; Crutchfield) / Junior Prom (G. Nelson; F. Burch)
J8OW-1140 / ? (RCA)

OJ 1013

OJ 1014
Charles Senns
Gee Whiz Liz (Halen Hudgins) / Dig Me a Crazy Record (C. Matthews)
J8OW-1137 / J8OW-1138 (RCA)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Freshest Live Albums in 50 Years plus

Another Bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin!

After the recent passing of blues Icon B.B. King, I read somewhere and probably more than once that his recording of "Live at the Regal" was the definitive live blues performance on record. I bought that record when it first came out and it was a favorite of mine and my now 50 years old son used to dance to it in his playpen. He also still likes it (I warped him early. He's a blues freak still.) In any case, I get the record out and gave it a play, and yes it's still fresh and alive as the first time I heard it. I wondered how many "live" recordings from the late 1950s and the 1960s would still be fresh after 50 years the way they were when they debuted.

B.B. King - "Every Day I Have the Blues"

I thought immediately of "James Brown Live at the Apollo" recorded on October 2, 1962, and I knew it was a multi-million selling LP. I played that and confirmed again that it was also as fresh and dynamic as the first time I heard it. Let me digress for a moment. From 1959 well into 1961, I had the opportunity to catch both performers live doing pretty much the same program and in the same order in San Jose, California, along with the likes of Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, and others. So I was familiar with the programs, somewhat, before the LPs were ever recorded. Also just for the record, I got to see and hear Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs & The Foggy Mtn. Boys in concert in much the same time frame, but later, at lesser venues in the East, probably late 1962 or early 1963. The James Brown LP was more theatrical in nature and had to be seen to get the whole picture, but the sound version is indeed a ground-breaking historical R&B definitive live show unmatched to this day. The sound quality of the recording is fantastic. James Brown produced this recording and the sound engineer was Chuck Seitz of Columbia Records in charge.

Introduction to James Brown by Fats Gonder

James Brown - "I'll Go Crazy"

Live LPs from about 1951 forward were in monaural and on small jazz labels such as Fantasy and Verve among others. Big Bands were breaking up due to the financial considerations more than anything else and were not doing live recordings. Occasionally a big pop star such as Lena Horne would do a live LP and have a hit record. Her recording of "Lena Horne Live at the Waldorf Astoria" on RCA-Victor jumped high onto the Billboard charts giving her a major hit LP for several weeks in 1957. She became the largest selling female artist on RCA-Victor for quite some time after this hit. As the recording techniques improved during the late 1950s, with the introduction of first, high fidelity sound and then stereophonic recording, "Live" became more practical and sold very well in the jazz and popular music categories, while at the same time most of the new music (rock'n'roll, country, R&B and the such geared to a younger audience) was being served by the 45 RPM 7" record (the 78 RPM went defunct in 1957). Sometimes it crossed over but most of the jazz and pop music was by and for older adults who had a lot of money to spend and they bought LPs and "Hi-Fi's" and stereo's and such and in some cases in elaborate furniture pieces with 12 inch stereo speakers. However, now 50 years later or so, do any of those live recordings still stand up as fresh and contemporary as back then?

Most of those musicians and their audience is long deceased, but as for the music... I have two great examples coming up. Ahmad Jamal had been a jazz/lounge style piano player for a few years with a light style and touch with a trio consisting of piano, bass and guitar and it was bland but successful, somewhat, and did some early recordings for CBS/Epic records. When he changed out the guitar for more percussion in the person of Vernell Fournier, the entire trio seemed more complete. On January 16, 1958, at the small Pershing Club in Chicago, Jamal recorded the entire 43 song evening for Chess Records, 8 cuts were released as Argo LP 628. "But Not For Me" and a rather long version of "Poiniciana" at 8:07 caught the ear of the American public and the album took off like no other into the "Pop" music scene with a vengeance. 107 weeks in the Billboard album charts, millions of units sold of the LP and more with follow-up and repackaged LPs over the next several years. A footnote today. The one thing I always liked about Jamal was his sense of whimsy. He played a variety of songs, pop song hits, show tunes and others that allowed him to play with the music and in doing that play with the musical sensibilities of the audience. On this LP I have chosen "Music, Music, Music," a pop hit for Teresa Brewer and the Ames Brothers in 1950 to illustrate my point. 

Ahmad Jamal - "Music, Music, Music"

Frankie Carle, pianist and band leader from the 1930s had a string of hits and covers on Columbia Records into the 50s at which time he signed with RCA-Victor Records and put out several albums which sold well enough to warrant a live LP, "Top of the Mark" as by Frankie Carle & His Orchestra (RCA-Victor LSP-2233?) was recorded on May 7, 1960, a deluxe LP with many pages about San Francisco in words and pictures and short on songs. It's as slick as it could be, but I doubt it made its negative cost back. It's a great overlooked LP. I was in the San Francisco area at the time, but alas I had no tuxedo nor the $50.00 dollars per ticket to get in either. What's a twenty year old to do in such a sophisticated world, anyway? I ran across this LP still wrapped several years later. I love it. (Truth behind the story.) My father was a giant Frankie Carle fan for years. He played Frankie Carle records all the time. I heard them all from a very young age. The opening song "Beg Your Pardon" was a personal favorite of my father's and it's included here. So sue me.

Frankie Carle and Orchestra - Intro and "Beg Your Pardon"

In the late 50s and early 60s, the two major labels doing live LPs were RCA-Victor mostly out of L.A. (Hollywood) and Capitol Records which was doing recordings of Louie Prima and Keeley Smith with Sam Butera and The Witnesses in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, and other locations as well. On May 4, 1959, at the first Grammy Awards in L.A., Louie Prima & Keeley Smith got the award for "Best Vocal Performance," on the strength of an album cut which went to the top 20 and a gold record for "Old Black Magic" in November of 1958. With a lot of million selling "groups" having hit records, it's a little dubious that they should win the Grammy, but they did. Vegas? Reno? You do the math. The first commercial country music LP was "Hank Thompson at the Golden Nugget" (Capitol Records LP S1632) which was recorded in March 1961. It was a fine showcase for Hank and his large western swing type band featuring Merle Travis on lead guitar and it is still fresh today as far as traditional "golden age" country music goes.

Hank Thompson & the Brazos Valley Boys - "Honky Tonk Girl"

"Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys at Carnegie Hall" (CBS/Columbia CS8845), recorded on December 8, 1962, is the definitive live recording of the group and it also included Merle Travis. In 1998, however, the tiny label Koch Records reissued the complete concert of 32 songs on Koch-CD 7929 and that CD is the more definitive Flatt and Scruggs live concert. It is beyond that even. It is the only bluegrass album you really need to own. Those 32 songs run the gamut of bluegrass as defined then in 1962 and now. Even if you came down from Mars or somewhere, this is the only Bluegrass album you need to have to know the genre.

Flatt and Scruggs - "Salty Dog Blues"

Jerry Lee Lewis over the years recorded several live albums and they run from grade "A" to grade "D" and never doing a really bad one. Jerry's first live LP was recorded on April 5, 1964. "Live at The Star-Club" for the Dutch label Phillips and it was a "grade A" monster LP across Europe, very popular LP with a terrific number of units sold and due to legal conflicts was never issued in North America. This is the opening song attached.

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Mean Woman Blues" (live at the Star-Club)

Three months later on July 1, 1964, at the Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham Alabama, Jerry recorded what was supposed to be the American equal to the "Star-Club" LP. It wasn't. It was a much larger room, the sound was somewhat off, the song selection somewhat off as well. The opening number tells all. The LP "The Greatest Live Show on Earth" as it was titled, wasn't. It came onto the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 albums before falling off quickly and was in the cut-out bins by years' end. "Grade D."

Jerry Lee Lewis - "Jenny, Jenny, Jenny" (live in Birmingham, Alabama)

Johnny Cash had two "Live at" LPs in 1968 and 1969. "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" in 1968 and "Johnny Cash at San Quentin" in 1969 and they are bookends. One pretty much equals the other. The "Folsom" album sold well and was high in the charts. The "San Quentin" album was a smash album and went to number two on the album charts. The song "A Boy Named Sue" was number one on the country charts and number two on the pop music charts. Written by humorist and sometime Playboy cartoonist Shel Silverstein, the song went on to win a Grammy award and a CMA award as "Single Of The Year."

Johnny Cash - "A Boy Named Sue"

With a nod to my European readers, I am including a live album cut from 1968 by Israeli singer and light comedian Aliza Kashi, who was taking America by storm in the late 60s both in live performances and on television on many national programs with an eclectic mix of songs in various languages and from many different sources. Her last American album was "Hello People" (Jubilee JGS-8012) recorded live at the Caesar's Monticello supper club in Framingham, Massachusetts. Aliza was 28 years old at the time and at the very top of her game. I chose the song from the LP that I've always liked "Mala Femmana." Except for the English language songs, it's the only one I understand all the way through. It could have been recorded yesterday. Viva Aliza!

Aliza Kashi - "Mala Femmena"

Finally this final cut is from July 22, 1954. "Wailin' at the Trianon" (Columbia LP CL711) by Lionel Hampton And His Orchestra and it's a train wreck. The Trianon Ballroom until shortly before this point in time was a segregated white only venue, even though it was located in the blackest section of South Chicago. On this night, after Lionel himself kicks off the opening line to the song "How High The Moon," a pop hit from 1951, the band, the audience and all got into the act as the various forms, big band, jazz, R&B and whatever else came to mind, came together on a jam session that has to heard to be believe. It will wear you out listening.

Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra - "How High the Moon"

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Enjoy all of these. My best to you all.