Every now and then I get obsessed with a particular record - if you have become a regular reader of my humble offerings then the chances are you are also something of a vinyl junkie and will therefore probably have been there too. In the Volt discography, in 1971, sandwiched between releases from more well known acts - Major Lance and The Dramatics – came the one and only release on the label (or anywhere?) from one Joni Wilson - “Loser’s Seat”, and this was the object of a recent obsession of mine. The initial attraction came during an ebay trawl about 18 months ago, and for three reasons: a) I liked the title, b) the scan showed G.Clinton etc in the writing credit - I had only recently become aware of pre 70s George Clinton - so was this The Parliaments “All Your Goodies Are Gone” ? , and c) it had a sound clip of both A and B side. I downloaded the clips and was hooked. All the usual tell tale symptoms applied - the hairs on the back of the neck standing on end, a fluttery feeling inside, eyes closed and whisperings of “oh yes” under the breath. And that was just listening to a sound clip! I needed this record. Unfortunately the bidding ran away from me. It eventually went for either $80 or £80 I can’t remember which, but anyways it was out of my league.
For some months following I searched for other copies for sale, but to no avail, and so made do with playing and replaying the one minute clips I had downloaded. Then last summer up popped another copy on ebay. From the description it seemed it wasn’t in great shape and maybe that put bidders off, in any event I was the only bidder and picked it up for only $10. When a couple of weeks later it arrived on my turntable I was pleased to find it wasn’t in terrible shape - there is surface noise but not too much to detract from the music, and it all adds to the atmosphere anyway (it sounds better on my turntable than the mp3 copy, sorry). So now it proudly sits as a jewel in my collection.
I think Joni Wilson, and how this record came to be released, would be something that the Soul Detective could really get his teeth into, because I can find no information at all that sheds any real light. Perhaps my obsession with it is due in part to the mystery of it. The (also excellent) B side is “Flame, Flame, Flame” – a real slow burner - and is credited to Liz Bacone. Don’t know who that is. As for Joni Wilson, well she is a she - so that narrows it down a bit! There was a (large) group called Joni Wilson & The Debonaires that recorded in the 60s, Pittsburgh based(?) and had a couple of albums released on the Gateway label. I have seen a cover of one of these albums and it looks like an all male group to me. The only possible clue I can come up with is a George Clinton connection. By coincidence a girl group called the Debonair(e)s recorded for Ed Wingate’s Golden World and Solid Hit labels in the mid sixties. George Clinton and The Parliaments were at the labels at the same time and wrote songs for and produced(?) the Debonaires. A member of the Debonaires at that time was a Joyce Vincent Wilson. There is some doubt about other members of the group although Joyce Wilson’s cousin was a member. Maybe Joni was another relation and another group member, or just hung about the label?. By 1971Clinton had left Revilot and the Parliafunkadelicment tripout had launched and landed at Invictus (Parliament) and Westbound (Funkadelic). Somehow Volt seems an odd label for a Clinton song to turn up on. Ron Banks sang on an early Parliaments release “Heart Trouble” and then went onto be in The Dramatics – who recorded on Volt. At that time if Clinton was on the credit then the chances were he also had a hand in the production - the production credit is “Enigmatic Productions”, an enigma indeed but just the sort of name Clinton might hide behind. Maybe Joni was a side project he just touted around, or then again maybe there was no Clinton connection beyond the fact that he wrote the song. I’m chasing shadows I know, but that’s all I can offer.
I can only find “Loser’s Seat” included on two CD compilations: “The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Vol2”, which weighs in at a hefty price it being a 9 CD set. If you find that beyond your means, you could try “The Whole Damn World is Going Crazy (21 Stax Heartmenders)” which was a German only CD/vinyl issue on Fantasy in 2004.
For good measure I am posting three versions of this song today. George and the boys were never afraid to plunder there own back catalogue so along with Joni Wilson’s version and The Parliaments original version from 1967 you get Parliament’s (note the apostrophe) fresh take on the song that was included on the “Up For The Down Stroke” album in 1974. I leave it to you to compare and contrast, they’re all great!
Joni Wilson - (Let Hurt Put You In The) Loser's Seat 1971
The Parliaments - All Your Goodies Are Gone 1967