• Added info on Jimmy Ford, thanks to Volker Houghton. • Extended and corrected the post on Happy Harold Thaxton (long overdue), thanks to everyone who sent in memories and information! • Added information to the Jim Murray post, provided by Mike Doyle, Dennis Rogers, and Marty Scarbrough. • Expanded the information on Charlie Dial found in the Little Shoe post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Carl McVoy on Hi

Carl McVoy - Tootsie (Hi 45-2001), 1957

Another bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin 

Carl McVoy was Jerry Lee Lewis's older piano playing cousin. He worked construction in the Memphis area with Ray Harris. Harris knew Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch who were songwriters and workers at Sun Records, in some capacity or other as well. Harris wanted to start his own record company. He also had no maney. He wanted to record Carl McVoy. McVoy had been in the studios at Sun with Harris, Cantrell, and Claunch and they taped some things, none of which impressed Sam Phillips in the slightest. They did do a demo of "Tootsie" and McVoy's arrangement of "You Are My Sunshine."

They took that to a record shop owner in Memphis named Joe Cuoghi and talked him into getting together the financial backing to put this record out. Coughi and his lawyer and a couple of friends managed to scrap up $2500.00. Not much even in those days. I don't know how many copies of Hi 2001 were pressed, even at .25 cents a piece or less, I'm guessing 5000 copies max were printed. The cost of shipping out the records, the cost to take this into a modern custom studio (probably RCA or Starday) in Nashville and re-recording the new master tapes and the other added expense of incidentals ate up the money.

Here's where my speculation comes in based on the facts as I read them. Cuoghi had friends in the juke-box and distribution business and could get the record placed in those distributors hands and juke boxes fairly easily. Probably on spec. None of that initial offering of "Tootsie" went to radio stations or only a very few, so far as I can tell, due to the rampant and crazy payola being paid under the table to D.J.'s at the time. The distributors got the records and farmed them out to the juke-box operators on their bills of lading and got paid for them.

Here's where I come in. In late 1957, the juke-box operator in our town put a copy on the teen hang-out across the street's juke box. I heard it there the same day and walked over to his shop and bought his only other copy. I liked it and I kept it for years.

Joe Cuoghi bought out his partners before this first record was released. Harris, Cantrell and Claunch had equal shares of stock at the inital set up of the company. After that buy-out, Cuoghi owned all but 90 shares of the initial stock, and became head of the company.

After the records were shipped, the record distributors in large part refused to pay for them (maybe Cuoghi owed them money from previous dealings. Who knows.) At just about the same time in early February 1958, Carl McVoy secured a spot on one of Dick Clark's first Saturday Night Programs on ABC TV to do "Tootsie". (Dick Clark never could be touched concerning the mob or payola, but it was highly suspected that Nick Mamerella, Dick Clark's number 2 man had mob ties in Philadelphia for years.)

That TV exposure brought in orders for the record which Cuoghi and Company couldn't fill, since they hadn't been paid for what was already shipped and now had no money to work with. They took it to Sam Phillips right away and he bought it to re-issue on his Phillips International label right away, but by the time he actually got the record out and it was starting to get radio air play. The momentum had passed and the record died. (Phillips paid $2600.00 for the record and bought it outright. In 1970, after Shelby Singleton bought Sun Records copies of the record were still in the warehouse, either returns or unshipped stock and priced to sell at $5.00 a piece). Cuoghi just about broke even.
Sometime after that in 1958, the company was reformed with the original four, plus Coughi's lawyer and two "silent" partners and they had an influx of new capital from the "silent partners". Fresh capital was floating around at that time from many sources. Hi Records was then able to release 15 more 45's unsuccessfully into late 1959, when they secured a National Distribution deal with London Records New York Branch which stayed in place for 18 years. London did not distribute much except their own American and English out-put. This was virgin territory for them and they made a fortune in time. The whole company turned then, with Bill Black's Combo gettin radio air-play, juke-box slots nationwide, and a new aggressive venture into the field of LPs which was a success from the start.

Bill Black Combo - Do It Rat Now (Hi 45-2064), 1963 - with Carl McVoy on piano

In 1960, Carl McVoy bought out Quinton Claunch's stake in the company. I'm thinking he got it pretty cheaply since he was probably owed money. McVoy, by this time, was the pianist/keyboard player for the Bill Black Combo which was churning out hit records right and left. Bill Black died in 1965. McVoy quit shortly after that and took a buy-out and went into the contruction business. He died in 1992. Carl McVoy was a talented musician and arranger make no mistake about that and his contributions may have slipped through the cracks.


Alex said...

Great story...nice writen...fine job!
Thank You!

purebobby said...

What a shame that carl mcvoy got short changed in the circle of life. I can see where jerry lee copied him, only jerry lee made out big and carl took the back seat.