Archive for the ‘Okeh’ Category

The Vibrations

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Misty / The Vibrations

Listen: Misty / The Vibrations

There are many, many covers of this classic. Some people will complain it’s a schmaltzy adult bore, or that it’s too camp. But be informed, the greats have done it in varying styles: Aretha Franklin, Donald Byrd, Johnny Mathis, Sarah Vaughan, Richard Groove Holmes, Donny Hathaway, Julie London, Stan Getz even Timebox. I like them all. Interestingly, it can withstand many very different interpretations.

The Vibrations, like The Contours, were in that poor man’s Temptations or Four Tops category. Consequently, both often tipped into Northern Soul. Their version of ‘Misty’ though brings me right back to the Syracuse War Memorial October 30, 1965. The Vibrations, along with Pattie La Belle & The Blue Belles, were opening for The Rolling Stones. Bravely, they performed this clad in shiny purple chino suits; and the power of the vocal had ten thousand restless kids in silent awe. Check out the final high notes here, you’ll see what I mean.

Larry Williams

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

larrywilliamsshortfat, Larry Williams, Johnny Guitar Watson, London American, Northern Soul

Listen: Short Fat Fannie / Larry Williams

Larry Williams is seldom respected as an original bad boy of RnR, but he should be. Legend has his underworld activities stretching back prior to these initial recordings. He eventually bit the bullet, literally, a victim of a suicide, although street legend claims otherwise. Having served time in the early 60′s for drug dealing, he hooked up with Johnny Guitar Watson upon release to sleaze out in late night Hollywood, which admittedly may be my self fulfilling fantasy, and also make some of the most authentic Northern Soul tracks known to mankind for Okeh.

I was excited when The Mooney Suzuki, who I looked after while at Columbia, recorded in the same studio on Santa Monica Boulevard that he and Johnny had. I literally thought about it constantly while there. I was pissing in the same toilet as the dynamic duo. No one else seemed to apprciate my excitement.

Prior to all that, he wrote ‘Bonie Maronie’, ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’, ‘Slow Down’ and ‘She Said Yeah’, my favorite, as recorded and performed by The Rolling Stones on HULLABALOO:

‘Short Fat Fannie’ goes back to pre Northern, pre Johnny Guitar Watson and pre jail time. It was actually one of his hits (#31 RnB / #35 Pop) in ’57 and comes courtesy of the Tony King Collection.

Original post: August 19, 2009.

The Vibrations

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Listen: Gonna Get Along Without You Now/ The Vibrations

According to one of my favorite books ever, THE NORTHERN SOUL PRICE GUIDE, this white label promo, in mint condition, easily goes for £50. Fun reading, but the real deal price guide these days is There you get the past several years worth of final sale amounts for any record that commanded $25 or more. According to the site, a $52 May 2012 winning bid for the wlp of ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now’ was it’s highest in three years. That’s as far as the data goes back.

Therefore my £24 (approximately $37) win was indeed a bargain when compared to the prices set in the guide. Never mind, this single’s a bargain at £100 if truth be told.

Having tastes that always ran toward the mid chart, or better yet, flop follow-ups, likewise my parallel fondness was for the seemingly second division players. Just as Inez & Charlie Foxx sat sideline when Ike & Tina Turner were in reach, so too did The Vibrations when say, The Temptations were around. According to the mainstream that is, but in my world, I coveted any single by either.

It’s seriously hard to recollect a song attempted in more diverse styles through the years than this. Country, reggae, alternative, disco, ska, Euro-dance, rock steady and even Latin via Trini Lopez, which is version that first introduced me to the track. No idea why his was played so heavily in upstate New York at the time (’67). Trust me, it wasn’t often a #93 BILLBOARD peak meant a record got hammered by both our local Top 40′s. And it’s not like there was a Latin scene going on in subzero Syracuse that winter either.

Unfortunately, The Vibrations’ version never graced my ears while current in ’66. Years later I stumbled on it, unable to ignore any Okeh single with their Cadbury purple labels and matching sleeves. One play and boom, the amphetamine mess of an arrangement and speed pitched chorus made me a fan for life.

Big Maybelle

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Listen: I’m Getting ‘long Alright / Big Maybelle

I can not lie. I get weak around any Okeh single, particularly in it’s matching stock sleeve. This certainly must have something to do with purple foil and paper wrapped chocolate bars from that first trip to Ireland when only in my single digits. We spent the summer with my aunt and grandmother in the house where my Mom grew up. Ballymoney, County Antrim. I don’t recall much, except for getting caught dipping my hand into a neighbor’s purse. The result was most unpleasant, but I needed a Cadbury marzipan bar, a flavor long since discontinued. The experience dented my brain permanently.

This Big Maybelle single from 1954 still glistens as a true visual artifact of color and design, and it’s a frequent choice when flipping through the wall shelves looking for something to play.

As with Bessie Smith, I became smitten by Big Maybelle soon after discovering both Janis Joplin and Tracy Nelson. Big Brother & The Holding Company were just releasing their first singles on Mainstream Records then, with Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson’s band also based out of San Fransisco, doing the same on Mercury shortly thereafter. Given they repeatedly name checked Bessie Smith and Big Maybelle as inspirational influences, my curiosity ran high.

Big Maybelle singles were easy and inexpensive finds for years. Album culture was fully prevalent during the late 60′s so singles simply became passé to most music aficionados of the day. This presented me with great joy as the pickings were euphoric. Marked down 7″ records being commonplace meant you could acquire the most amazing titles for a nickel or a dime. This single was one such find.

Her voice, great. The sound quality of these recordings, great. The subject matter, wow. So many Big Maybelle singles just reeked of sex. And comically presented. Surprisingly, Janis Joplin never nicked the idea, or more likely, conservative Columbia Records wouldn’t allow it.

I have to believe a sausage lyric version exists somewhere, with this cleaned up chicken take recorded specifically for the single, given ‘I’m Getting ‘long Alright’ was it’s A side.

Listen: My Big Mistake / Big Maybelle

‘My Big Mistake’, being formula bar room blues, allowed her to stomp and bully through the song in presumably very few takes. I recall hearing Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum play this straight into Mother Earth’s ‘Down So Low’ on their overnight college radio show, when underground album rock began overtaking the FM dial. WAER, Syracuse University’s student station gave all night shifts to nocturnal speed freak students who thankfully proceeded to pollute our ears with the wildest and most eclectic records around.

I bought Mother Earth’s LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS album the very next afternoon, a Sunday. We made our weekly trip to the SU campus, hanging around Discount Records or Record Runner on Marshall Street for hours, juggling what to buy. It became my purchase choice that weekend. Once home I discovered Mother Earth had modeled the majority of the album after Big Maybelle’s delivery style on records like ‘My Big Mistake’. maybe even that very song.

The Johnny Otis Show

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Listen: The Johnny Otis Hand Jive / The Johnny Otis Show

Later issued as the more familiar ‘Wille And The Hand Jive’, whatever that’s meant to mean, this original pressing went by ‘The Johnny Otis Hand Jive’. Either way, it wasn’t until many years later did I realize where the blueprint for The Strangeloves sound originated. And that’s okay, both have co-existed just fine in the record collection.

I think this was known as race music in it’s day, despite Johnny Otis himself being a white guy. Greek to be exact. Quite a compliment then.

Listen: The Watts Breakaway / The Johnny Otis Show

Seems The Johnny Otis Show’s sell by date had past by ’69, when their only Okeh release, ‘The Watts Breakaway’ hit a small smattering of record store shelves that summer. Despite fun filled lyrics like “I’m the duckin-est dodgin-est, dancin-est cat you ever knew”, the single’s theme, a new dance, was most likely considered dreadfully out of step with the times, relegating it to our favorite place in record colletordom, a flop and hard to find.

Turning up this seemingly factory fresh copy, with it’s sparking new and unblemished Okeh stock sleeve, in a $1 box full of 80′s hits was terribly baffling. How did it get there? And where are all the other records it’s been coexisting with for around four decades? Never content I guess.

Admittedly, it’s rude to keep pounding $1 finds, but let me advise you all, finding 60′s and 70′s soul, jazz and RnB 7″ valuables laughably underpriced at hipster indie rock shops is a miracle that still exists in real time. That’s all I’m saying.

Walter Jackson

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Listen: Deep In The Heart Of Harlem / Walter Jackson

Never reaching above #88 in the BILLBOARD Top 100, his mid chart RnB successes kept him very much out of the mainstream eye. With his thunderous, powerful baritone voice, it was hard not to notice the occasional bland, safe choices of singles from time to time.

Originally signed to Columbia in ’62, but being moved to their newly formed Okeh imprint by ’64 meant an out of jail free card was granted to him, given that label’s groovy personality.

In short, never pass up an Okeh single.

His version of ‘My Ship Is Comin’ In’ personally rivals The Walker Brothers’, which is saying a lot. Yet it’s his non-chart 7″, ‘Deep In The Heart Of Harlem’ a thematically updated version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Chain Gang’ in the message department, that stakes claim as my favorite of the Walter Jackson Okeh singles.

Despite a seemingly RnB track polished up in hopes of reaching the safe, white American adult stations, there’s no diguising the lyrical reality of the underlying message. It’s become a real period piece of 60′s struggle amongst the underprivileged.

The Vibrations

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Listen: End Up Crying / The Vibrations VibrationsEndUp.mp3

Been meaning to create a section somewhere on the blog’s layout for great double siders. Once I do, this will reside in a new home. Until then….

I admit it, my knees go weak for the sight of a 60′s Okeh pressing in it’s original company sleeve. Usually I prefer a dj copy of any record, but with a few labels, Okeh being one, I love both.

These records always struggled for pop airplay in those days, well it’s still that way I guess. Just baffles me how something as good as ‘End Up Crying’ didn’t catch fire. Probably down to hindsight being 20/20. At the time, this was most likely considered just another Motown-lite, having peaked at 130 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart in May ’65. If not for that, there’d be no Northern Soul, so give thanks at the end of the day.

Listen: Ain’t Love That Way / The Vibrations VibrationsAintThatLove.mp3

To think though, Carl Davis and Curtis Mayfield were all over Okeh releases, this being just one. Talk about an insurance policy. Despite all eyes and Northern Soul book values focusing on the A side, ‘Ain’t Love That Way’ feels equally deserving of such status. It might be the one I ultimately favor. I think.

Check my previous post on The Vibrations, and how I was lucky enough to see them live as a little kid, vivid memory cells still intact of their on stage somersaults, backdrops and flips.

Until you find your own version of this 7″, I can’t recommend strongly enough getting THE VIBRATING VIBRATIONS:THE OKEH AND EPIC SINGLES 1963-1968, released last year by UK’s Ace/Kent label – if only for the booklet.

The Persuaders / Junior Tucker

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / The Persuaders PersuadersLuck.mp3

Only in hindsight did I hear The Persuaders version of ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’. God only knows how that happened. I worked at a one-stop in Fall ’73, delivering records to accounts, and to my apartment….bad karma. I thought there wasn’t a 7″ I had left out of those personal allocations, but obviously I was wrong.

Add to that, how did I miss it on the radio? There was nothing else to listen to while doing those said deliveries and this one went pop, peaking at #39 in Billboard that very November.

Eventually, around the Christmas season, I got moved inside, pulling orders and restocking. At this I was a whizz. Could do it in my sleep – and loved it. I was in the LP department – all organized by label, then chronologically by catalog number within each. Can you imagine sections for King, Okeh, Fontana, Sue, Deram, Philips, Parrot, Stax, Smash…….ok enough torture.

The front half of the warehouse was dedicated to the 45′s. Maude did my version of the job up there, and she had a Kevin pile – one of everything. Well, sometimes 5 or 10, depending on varying factors. Once a one hundred count box was full, off to the tape dispenser, then on to the cart, bound for the delivery truck, it went. Oh to go back in time.

Still, I didn’t end up with a copy of this one for years.

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / Junior Tucker JuniorTuckerSomeGuys.mp3

Fast forward. 1980.

Oldest trick in the book: cover classic soul songs in a reggae style. Pretty much works every time. In this case, beyond great.

I fell in love with Junior Tucker’s ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’ upon release. I dare say it got played hundreds and hundreds of times in my record room that year, and on my radio shows.

Corinne and I were both reggae lovers, having been weened on the hard corp Lee Perry and Jack Ruby releases Howard was sending our way starting in ’76. An all time favorite series, THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC, especially Volume 3, became our crowd’s anthem anthology. And I dare say all my best friends from that period can be transported back to some of the greatest times of our lives when we spin it nowadays.

Had I known then, that about ten years after Volume 3′s release, I would one afternoon walk into Chris Blackwell’s office, and suggest reviving the series with a Volume 4 and 5 (Volume 5 exclusive to reggae style RnB covers – this was included), and that he would say “Yes”, my heart would have frozen.

Little Richard

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Listen: Get Down With It / Little Richard

It has been written, by Charles White, that this is the greatest rock and roll record ever recorded in England. Who is Charles White? Good question.

The answer: he’s aka Dr Rock, is the official biographer to Little Richard and author of the books ‘The Life And Times Of Little Richard’ and ‘Killer – The Jerry Lee Lewis Biography’. All of the preceding info I lifted from the liner notes of the cd reissue GET DOWN WITH IT – THE OKEH SESSIONS. But beware.

I was well excited when I saw this one on the Sony release schedule back in 2004. The packaging turned out great. The detail being particularly good. Unfortunately, it’s all the stereo versions which have been restored, remastered, cleaned, polished, shined with every bit of dirt, grime, filth and slime removed. Little Richard without the dirt, grime, filth and slime is just not…very appealing. Try finding the vinyl singles, especially ‘Poor Dog’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Discuss It’, and the LP, THE EXPLOSIVE LITTLE RICHARD, all on the Okeh label instead. If you do buy this cd, keep the booklet but toss the disc.

Even if you accomplish all the above, you won’t be done, because during Little Richard’s tenure with Okeh, he recorded that aforementioned ‘greatest rock and roll record’ in London during December ’66. It was called ‘Get Down With It’. The cd was quite rightly titled after it and that particular single was only ever released in the UK on Columbia, Okeh’s British distributor. God knows why. So basically, to really complete your journey, you’ll need to own this UK 7″. Good luck. I do wish you it, but don’t wait up. It’s a pretty hard one to locate.

Unexpectedly, ‘Get Down With It’ was produced by EMI’s Norman Smith, who also took on said chore for both The Pink Floyd’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN and The Pretty Things’ SF SORROW albums. This track perfectly documents that intoxicating and lost in history delta, chitlin’ circuit, sweat and liquor drenched roadhouse sound. To think, this studio version never saw the light of day in the US until the cd came out in ’04. I wonder why they didn’t issue this at the time, and why the mono version of ‘Get Down With It’ wasn’t included as a cd bonus track at least?

As for Charles White’s statement that this is the greatest rock and roll record ever recorded in England, he just might be right.

Red Saunders & His Orch. / Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

RaySaundersHambone, Red Saunders & His Orch., Okeh, Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids

Listen: Hambone / Red Saunders & His Orch. with Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids

Red Saunders found his first successful footing in the depression era Chicago clubs. His endless singles, on many labels, seemed to finally reach an early doo wop/RnB mix of ghetto wildness, a frenzy evident here.

First released in February 1952, the record was accompanied by large display ads in Billboard showing The Hambone Kids performing in front of Red Saunders and his drums. The originally issued take of ‘Hambone’ included Dolores Hawkins’ whistling but lacked her vocal interjections that appear on this version; it also included a brief passage for the full band and a tenor sax solo. The Kids’ rhythmic practice was known as hamboning or patting juba: slapping various body parts as a substitute for drumming. Dee Clark, one of those Hambone Kids, also loudly stamped his heel on the 2nd and 4th beats.

Peaking at #20 on the Billboard RnB chart, it was, like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’, a consistent seller. By ’63, parent company CBS decided to reissue ‘Hambone’ as Okeh 7166, pictured here. And then again in ’67 (Okeh 7282). These reissues used an alternate take running 2:13, in which The Hambone Kids and Dolores Hawkins are accompanied throughout by guitar, bass, and drums only; the rest of Red Saunders Big Band / Orchestra contributing only shouts of “Hambone!” at the beginning and end of the piece.

There are many versions of ‘Hambone’ floating around this earth, as was the case with all big selling black records in the 50′s, endless vanilla white artists watered them down for middle America consumption. This here is the real deal though.


Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Two For The Price Of One / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson

Listen: Two For The Price Of One / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson 01 Two For The Price Of One 1.mp3

These guys teamed up around ’66 and reportedly invented the term ‘party animal’ Hollywood style. Fantastic stories of cocaine and sexual escapades surround the myth. The whole time, they were contracted to the Okeh label, as both solo artists and a duo; as well writers and producers. That label’s output in the the mid 60′s is pretty flawless, and feeds the Northern Soul fetish solidly: Little Richard, Cookie Jackson, Billy Butler & The Enchanters, Sandi Sheldon, The Vibrations etc. The singles and the LP they did together, TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE, are all musts for a proper record collection. The autobiographical 7″ of the same name tells you the story.

Mercy Mercy Mercy / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson

Listen: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson Mercy Mercy Mercy.mp3

Then it’s their East LA/Watts version of ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’ which packs soul grease (as the DISC & MUSIC ECHO review described it) into the otherwise bland Pat Boone style rendition The Buckinghams bravely brought to US Top 40. Not surprisingly, Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson’s version went unheard. Ahh – American radio.

Billboard Magazines

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

I got a fantastic email today from a reader in France, Bands Michel, who alerted me to a site whereby you can read just about every BILLBOARD from the 50′s, 60′s and onwards. These are mesmerizing. Scrolling through the weekly singles reviews whereby they predict records that will achieve Top 20, Top 60 or simply a ‘Chart’ placing alone is worth the visit. Most of the greats are in that later section, although many a ‘should have been a hit’ record features in the other two as well. Not to mention stunning full page tip sheet adds for singles by The Herd, The Who, Mary Wells, Scott Walker, Ike & Tina Turner, The Small Faces, multi artist adverts for Mercury, Okeh, Motown, Fontana, Deram, Ric Tic, Bang, Sue Records plus hundreds and hundreds more. Do yourself a favor:



Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Gabbin' Blues / Big Maybelle

OKeh Ep

Listen: Gabbin' Blues / Big Maybelle 2-11 Gabbin Blues.mp3

I love Big Maybelle. She’s way up there on that list of singers I wish I’d seen before she passed. ‘Gabbin’ Blues’ is the one that got me into her. It’s raw, racey and funny. There’s so much history to catch up on – go to Wikipedia to get started. Her Okeh material is pretty flawless. Great voice, great sense of humor too. She must’ve been a real firecracker.
This is from a nice promotional only vinyl EP Sony did to market their Okeh Records box set back in ’93. Very beautifully done, and a collectable in it’s own right today.