Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Dial O for obscure



If you are a fan of classic Soul & R&B music will undoubtedly know, and love, Joe Tex. It then follows that you will be familiar with the Dial label. In 1961 Buddy Killen set up the Dial label primarily to feature Joe Tex. Joe had the first release on the label and, fittingly, in 1979 he had the last. In between he had countless other singles released, many of which would justifiably feature in any Soul Hall of Fame. The label was primarily a Soul label – for example some other artists you will probably recognise that also had releases on the label are Clarence Reid, Bobby Marchan, Paul Kelly, and Annette Snell – but it was not exclusively so with, I believe, some Pop and Country tinged records featured. Dial was quite a prolific label, and at time of writing this there were 158 US releases documented on 45cat (albeit a few of those are promo doubles). So I think we can say it is as well known, well loved, and well documented.

Looking at the catalog numbers on 45cat there appear to be hardly any missing Dial releases. But recently whilst trawling Ebay I found one of them! I was in the process of buying something else so I thought I would scan the other items the seller had for sale to see if there was anything else worth getting and so diluting the postage cost (as you do). The Dial label caught my attention and when I went off to t'interweb to see if I could find some more info on this particular 45 … I found nothing. Nothing at all. It was not on 45cat, not on Discogs, there were no links to old sales lists or ebay listings anywhere; the only references to it were a few repeated Dial master release lists (e.g. Global Dog Productions). Likewise I could not find any info at all on the artist – Sherrie Hughes.
I was curious now and as the price was small I decided I had to have this record, so I bought it blind.

Info on Sherrie Hughes maybe elusive but not so for the songwriters – Ronnie Wilkins and John Hurley – who were prolific, writing songs for Joe Tex and also some other very well known songs and big hits – Son Of A Preacher Man and Love Of The Common People being just two.

So have I found a lost Soul classic? No. Is it even Soul? Not really. The A side I would class as Pop. My preference is for the B side (presented here) which is more difficult to pigeon hole, it has elements of Country, Soul and Pop to my ears, and on this side particularly Sherrie has a Country edge to her voice I think and is most probably white. It has some nice background vocals, I would be interested to know who the singers were. The pity is the track clocks in at just under two minutes and is sort of over before it really gets going.. But despite this not being the greatest of records it is not always what is in the grooves that counts. I have had my money's worth in researching this 45 (or attempting to) and had the pleasure of filling one of the tiny chinks in 45cat's Dial listing (yes the entry you now see for Dial 45-4043 on 45cat is mine). For these reasons this 45 will, from now on, sit proudly in my collection.

Sherrie Hughes – It's Just My Love That's Showing 1966

PS: Publishing this post sent me off on another quick bit of googling around this 45. I have now found that the A side -  I've Got A Lot Of Love (Left In Me) -  was originally recorded by Nancy Ames and was the B side to Friends And Lovers Forever which got a release (on both sides of the pond) late in 1965. It has been described as Northern Soul, but that is a bit of a stretch in my book. Nancy's version is superior I think with Sherrie's version maybe being pitched more fairly and squarely at a Pop audience.     

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lucky 13



Wake up! Wake up! You're thirteen!

If I can't muster a post on this blog's birthday – 13 on the 13th to boot – then there is surely no hope for it.

Once again I have been silent for a while – in fact, Happy New Year!

So, if there are any of you still checking in occasionally, I hear you wondering: were there reasons for the latest silence? Yes, and no. It all started with our central heating. Or rather, lack of it. We came home from our US trip at the end of last October knowing it needed some attention. The boiler, which is basically new, was happily pumping away but the radiators, one by one, had started to stop radiating. The man was called. He was puzzled, but decided some acid in the system and a flush through should sort it out. It didn't. As Christmas approached the only radiators giving out heat were in our kitchen and conservatory (they were on their own loop). As the system and the radiators were old we bit the bullet and decided to go for a re-pipe and replace most of the radiators. Unfortunately our man couldn't do it for six weeks from the point of decision. So we hunkered down in the lounge – which had a gas fire – and kitchen/conservatory over Christmas and throughout January. A couple of fan heaters were drafted in for other areas of the house. (It did make us think this was normal for our parents and us as children in the days before central heating was commonplace, and we don't know how lucky we are nowadays).

As far as this blog is concerned the point of all this is the record room, which is north facing and cool at the best of times, was bl**dy cold! A fan heater could warm it up but fan heaters are noisy and not conducive to listening to music. So the record room became almost out of bounds. It was the end of January – the day before the snow arrived luckily – before we could once again feel nice and toasty in our own house. The source of the original problem was never really found, but now we realise the system had not really been that efficient for years. The upheaval – floors up, furniture and stuff shuffled around, left its mark through most of February as we took the opportunity to redecorate a room and do some general sorting out. This meant the record room became a holding room so once again was almost off limits vinyl wise.

The record room is where I am typing this on my laptop, and although I could type it anywhere habit dictates that it is usually the record room, with vinyl in close proximity, where Feel It's posts are composed. That is the thing with habits too, when you fall out of them it sometimes takes a while to pick them up again. And so, now in mid March, that is how Feel It's 2019 is only just beginning. Quite frankly it was only the sudden realisation that his blog was about to be 13 that snapped me into action!

I could make a new blog year resolution to post more frequently, but I have never been one to make resolutions, so that is probably not a good idea. However, the record room is warm once again, and relatively clutter free, and I have broken the 2019 silence so there is a fair chance of some action around here again!

I have still been acquiring records (of course!), and a few have been played. One that became a real earworm was (another) Jackie Wilson single. As you dig deeper you realise there is so much to admire in his catalog. Once again peerless vocals matched by a stunning arrangement.


PS: As is tradition here on this day in March: !! Happy Birthday Candi Staton !!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Mystery lady?




I featured June Conquest's first single – Almost Persuaded, released in 1965 – earlier this year, so she was on my radar. As a result when I was flicking through that surprise box of 45s in Sandwich, MA on the last day of our holiday and I saw the flash of the striking Windy C label and her name on it my heartbeat sped up a bit.

June's known recording career spanned seven years, but in all that time she only had five singles released. I believe she hailed from the Chicago area, so her initial release on Fame is a bit of a puzzle. So too her second on Jet Set , which had a Washington DC address on the label, although I have read that at least one of the tracks was recorded in Houston. All over the map!

The record featured here was her third single and finds her in Chicago on Curtis Mayfield's Windy C label. Windy C was basically set up to feature The Five Stairsteps (a group I am a great fan of and I have just about all of their Windy C releases), June's 45 was the only one not by that group on the label. I wonder why it was decided to release on Windy C rather than another of Curtis' label – Mayfield – which was also active at the time? Maybe it was thought that the style of June's songs fitted more closely to those of the The Five Stairsteps. Whatever the reasons a few months after this 45 was released Cameo-Parkway, which distributed Windy C went out of business and that was the end of Windy C. This untimely event may well have hindered the development of June's recording career. A solo release on Curtom in early '68 – Curtom's first release by the way and one of only three as a locally distributed label – and a duet with Donny Hathaway four wholw years later were her only other releases.

Very little is known of June. The assumption is that Conquest, at least, is not her real name. Who knows? maybe she is hiding in plain sight – rather like another soul singer from the Sixties, Debbie Taylor, who had “disappeared” in the Seventies leaving a few top notch recordings behind. Many people who loved Debbie's records had wondered what had happened to her. In fact she had continued to be sporadically active in the recording arena and had also been performing live on local circuits as a soul and jazz singer under her real name Maddie “Maydie” Myles, only announcing her previous incarnation as Debbie Taylor in 2011. So, in a similar vein, could June Conquest be out there somewhere performing today?

This is another 45 with two strong sides so I'm sharing both of them.



Saturday, December 08, 2018

Holiday notes, the final instalment: "pleased as punch"


One final instalment on the vinyl hunting I managed to fit in to our New England family holiday.

So far I've told you about Mystery Train, and the chance find of a Jackie Wilson album in a thrift shop in deepest New Hampshire. Between those two we also stumbled across a newish (open about 18 months) record shop – Revolution - in North Conway, NH of all places. Another example of the “vinyl is back” phenomenon. Spent all of ten minutes in there as we wanted to make sure we completed a scenic drive into the White Mountains in full daylight. Still managed to pick up an Eddie Harris album though. Then there was Olympic in Providence. Mrs Darce and my daughter sought out a very nice pub on Wickenden St and left me to some riffling. Unfortunately I hit the shop only 30 minutes before closing time, but I managed to buy four 45s, including two by Lee Rogers which I was very happy with.

I thought that was it on our trip as far as vinyl was concerned. We were finishing off the trip on Cape Cod where I thought finding vinyl might be a challenge, and our baggage allowance was probably close to topping out anyway, so vinyl went to the back of my mind. 

On our last day we had decided to make our way back up to Boston along the coast and off interstate again. One of the first stops was Sandwich (incidentally, twinned with Sandwich in Kent). It was a sunny day, good for a stroll. It struck us as being a very genteel place. We idly browsed a few “nick nack” shops, with Mrs Darce, as ever, on the look out for some earrings or maybe a little memento for the house. 



Macdonald's Emporium (of Sandwich as opposed to Macdonald's Sandwich Emporium) didn't look promising on that front as we approached it and we nearly didn't go in but am I glad we did! The Emporium was a slightly curious place. It seemed to be part sweet shop, part cheap clothes shop, and part consignment / second hand shop.... and surprise surprise, there were a few records. First I found a box of albums, but there was nothing of interest in it. Then I came across one of box of 45s, almost all of which no longer had their paper sleeves but each were instead housed in a flimsy plastic bag. 





I started looking through them not expecting much. There were a mixture of genres – including, slightly bizarrely, another Tom Jones single on Parrot, a feature of at least one of the other shops earlier in the trip – but nothing exciting. Then, all of a sudden, a rich seam of Soul gold – a Betty Lavette on Calla , June Conquest on Windy C, Major Lance on Okeh, and some Brunswicks. BOOM! In the end I bagged (literally) six 45s. 



OK, The Last Word 45 was a mistake, I wasn't sure it was Soul and it tuns out it is tepid Garage Rock, but I am “pleased as punch”* with the others, all in great condition considering they had lost their original sleeves at some point during their lifetime. The Betty Lavette and June Conquest 45s in particular rate as my finds of the whole trip (along with that Jackie Wilson album I regaled you with earlier).

This Betty Lavette single is a storming double header, and quite a desirable one too looking at its price history on the 'ogs. I will share the June Conquest single next time.






* Earlier in the trip a lovely lady working in a small Post Office had told us “we are pleased as punch to see you” as we bought a stamp for a postcard. She gave us a special stamp, and even signed the the back of the receipt with a little message. Thinking about it that happened to be in Center Sandwich in New Hampshire. “Pleased as punch” has now become a family saying (as it may well have been about 50 years ago!). 

Sunday, December 02, 2018

More holiday notes; and RIP Sonny

As I said in my previous post, during our recent holiday opportunities for digging were limited but I did manage to hit a few stores and thrifts.

I had a couple of record shops in Boston on the radar but couldn't work them into the itinerary. As we worked our way up coast on a gloomy and rainy day, foregoing a stroll around Rockport, the first record store I visited was Mystery Train in Gloucester, MA. Mrs Darce and my daughter generously left me to my own devices for over an hour.


Mystery Train is a great shop which I only really scratched the surface of. Tim was a very pleasant host. When I said I was from the UK he asked whereabouts. When I told him it was Bristol he said he was currently reading Original Rockers and had I read it? I have – written by Richard King it is about his time working in Revolver Records in Bristol, and the shop's history. Revolver just happened to be my go to record shop in the the late 70s! Mystery Train has an extensive range of albums and a fair amount of little ones too. Apart from a few racks of “recent arrivals” all are arranged by genre which, with my limited time, suited me very well. I furiously sifted through the Soul and R&B 45s and gave the Jazz albums section a scattergun attack. But, as I said, to do the shop justice a few hours would be needed.

In attacking the Jazz section, knowing that time was limited, I decided I would target certain artists only. One of those is Sonny Fortune. Until earlier this year I had been unaware of him, but then I picked up a copy of his 1976 album Waves Of Dreams. It was so much more than I expected. Being released in 1976 I think I expected it to be a fusion album and maybe a tepid one. But it contains much in the straight jazz vein, Sonny's playing is terrific and it is very enjoyable. 

So Sonny has been on my radar ever since and I was happy to find two more of his albums at Mystery Train. 



What I have only just discovered is that Sonny Fortune died from complications of a stroke on 25/10/18. That just happened to be the day we were flying back home from our holiday, with two Sonny Fortune albums – Serengeti Minstrel and Infinity Is - in our luggage. Here are two tracks from Sonny, one from each of these two albums for you to enjoy. From 1977 and 1978 these albums do see Sonny moving into an increasingly funkier fusion setting, consistent with the times and his, then new, label, Atlantic. Where have I heard that before? I was left thinking on a few occasions on first listening to Infinity Is. None more so than on the track A Ballad For Our Times. On this album was Sonny simply being derivative? Or was he in fact laying down melodies and motifs that others would follow? Given that Sonny was a well accomplished, and respected, player I suspect it would have been the latter. As for A Ballad For Our Times, he must have simply been paying homage to an iconic track and album, I will leave you to identify which piece of music that is.



I was going to expand a little on Sonny's career here but in fact his recent obituary in the New York Times does that much more ably and concisely than I could manage.

RIP Cornelius “Sonny” Fortune 19/5/1939 - 25/10/2018.


Monday, November 19, 2018

New memories


Last month we had a lovely family holiday in New England. Our daughter is 30 and son 27 now and it is a few years since we have been on a holiday together, so this was really special. It was essentially a road trip – I shared the driving with my daughter, and Mrs Darce was in the back, like the Queen! - starting at Boston, where our son joined us for a couple of days, and going anti clockwise up coast to South Portland , across into the White Mountains, down to Providence (where we hooked up again with our son who is doing a research placement at Brown), across to Cape Cod and finally back up the coast to Boston. A truly memorable trip all round.

I managed to fit in a little bit of digging along the way, as you do if you're a vinyl addict like me. What follows is just a taster.

Planning our trip along the scenic byways between Franconia, in the White Mountains, and Providence we noticed there was a township (if that is the right term?) in New Hampshire that shares our family name so it was of course a necessity to pay it a visit along the way and get a family picture next to the town's sign. Just as we drove into the town's outer limits I spotted a thrift store so I just had to haul the rental car in the car park outside stop and have a look inside. Yes, they had some records, and yes they looked like they had mostly been there a long time, and would be spending a lot longer there too! But I was chuffed to find this one particular album and I duly paid my $1.

Jackie Wilson's Higher And Higher. What can I say? What an album this is! This copy - a mono press on nice thick vinyl - has spent 51 years on this planet, has lost its inner sleeve along the way, and bears the marks of much love and attention by the looks of things. The scuffs and small scratches on the vinyl result in some crackle from the speakers, but that is part of its charm really and cannot dim the magnificence of the music contained in the grooves. I am a fan of Jackie's but only possess a handful of his singles (and coincidentally earlier this year I finally got 'round to buying Higher And Higher on 45). It's a while since an album has stopped me in my tracks and demanded my full attention, and it sort of made me feel like a kid again. It's only taken me 51 years to find it! There are so many so many great tracks on this album it blows me away, and I have to say playing it for the first time a week or so ago I got quite emotional, it's that good to my mind.

I will, of course, because of the circumstances, always remember where I found this album. And now every time I play it (and that will be more than a few times, I'm sure) those memories will be triggered, and when Jackie sings over the sublime song arrangements I think it's a safe bet I will shed a few tears of joy each and every time.