Archive for the ‘Fire Records’ Category

Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Listen: I Need Your Loving / Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford

Despite having a Top 20 US Pop single with the edited, cleaner version of ‘I Need Your Loving’ in ’62, Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford always seemed relegated to the non-priority portion of the Fire label’s roster. Two further singles, one entitled ‘Don’t You Worry’ reaching #66, were released but still, they were dumped by the end of ’63. Don Gardner went on record stating he had never earned a cent in royalties from the company, one of the many injustices so common during the period. No surprise then that their presence and coverage on the THE FIRE / FURY RECORDS STORY box set was minimal.

In ’49, he put together his first performing band, The Sonotones, with Jimmy Smith of organ. Smith was eventually replaced by Richard Groove Holmes, who left in ’60. During March of that year, Don Gardner recruited Dee Dee Ford to double on both keyboards and as co-lead vocalist. Their call and response live shows are rumored to have been riveting as can be heard here. The single even managed a UK release on Stateside, with an invaluable deep groove promo pressing that’s basically impossible to top, in my humble opinion.

Buster Brown

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Listen: Fannie Mae / Buster Brown
Fannie Mae / Buster Brown

Buster Brown, at 48 years old, had his first BILLBOARD chart hit with ‘Fannie Mae’, scaling #1 on the RnB charts, and #38 Pop in December ’59.

Christmas in that decade meant loads of Lionel train sets under the trees, and plenty of heart attack inducing home baked cookies left out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Plus it must have been a great time to be on Fire Records. Just imagine going into the office, cupboards bulging with records, office staff in that truly giving holiday spirit and inviting you to have a pick through. Honestly, I get shivers at the thought.

Listen: Don’t Dog Your Woman / Buster Brown
Don't Dog Your Woman / Buster Brown

A few years later, he basically rewrote the song lyrically, becoming the brilliant ‘Don’t Dog Your Woman’. Everything about this, especially the harmonica, soon after identified with many of the songs on the first few Rolling Stones albums. I never recall them name checking him, though Roger reminded me that they may have recorded ‘Fannie Mae’ very early on.

Listen: The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man / The Rolling Stones
The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man / The Rolling Stones

I wonder if Buster Brown ever heard The Rolling Stones original composition ‘The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man’ and if so, what he thought of it?

I have a strong feeling they heard his.

Tarheel Slim & Little Ann

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Listen: Security / Tarheel Slim & Little Ann
Security / Tarheel Slim & Little Ann

The musical history of Tarheel Slim is a long one. As a member of The Jubilators, he and his cohorts pulled a true fast one in 1950, when the six man group drove to New York from North Carolina with a mission in mind. On a single day, they recorded seventeen songs for four different labels, under four different names.

Initially, billing themselves as The Selah Jubilee Singers, they cut four gospel songs for Jubilee Records, before moving on to Regal Records’ studio in New Jersey as The Jubilators. Then over to Newark, recording four secular blues songs, including ‘Lemon Squeezer’, as The 4 Barons for Savoy Records. Finally, they drove back to Apollo Records in Manhattan, where, as The Southern Harmonaires, they recorded four more gospel tracks. However, Apollo owner Bess Berman realized the subterfuge. She signed them to a contract which allowed the other companies to release their recordings, providing they promoted them as a secular R&B rather than gospel.

Fast forward to ’56, by which time he and Anna Lee Sanford, now married and professionally recording as The Lovers, found themselves signed to Fire Record as Tarheel Slim & Little Ann. In addition to being a much better name, seems the label steered them in a way better direction too. Suddenly they were releasing some happening 45′s, all a seemingly perfect balance between gospel, soul and rockabilly. Despite a red hot guitar break, as one reviewer described it, for some reason, ‘Security’ has remained basically overlooked.


Monday, January 24th, 2011

Listen: Sorted For E’s & Wizz /Pulp
Sorted For E's & Wizz /Pulp

Dave Bedford from Fire Records in London became quite a good friend during my days with Island in the early 90′s, as I’d be in town for two or three week stays at a time. We had, and still do have, similar tastes in both the past and present. Logically, he and I share a vinyl addiction but more importantly, a natural chemistry about so many things. Kind of like that occasional person you meet and within hours, feel as though you’ve known your whole life.

Never did Dave make a suggestion about a band that wasn’t eye to eye with my tastes, so when he nudged me rather relentlessly about seeing Pulp in December ’91, somewhere along Portobello Road near the Rough Trade shop on Talbot, in a small pub, I was interested. Apparently, they were looking to get out of Fire and really worth checking out.

Why not? Howard was in town, so I suggested we all meet up there, see the band and have some food together. Howard brought David Field and a few friends as well. Everyone was in.

Before leaving the Island office, I asked a some of the A&R guys to join. Pulp were deemed damaged goods at that point, having gone from indie label pillar to post for several years, treading water and considered to be at a low point of no return career-wise. My invitations were met with disinterest and I’m sure a few rolled eyes once I turned away. No worries, I was planning my exit a few months down the road to start The Medicine Label. Just trying to be nice fellows.

The pub was miserably empty when Pulp went on, maybe thirty people tops. Most dwindled off after a few songs, even our posse, sans Dave Bedford, decided to go down the road for a drink and wait for us to finish having a look.

I was in awe. They seemed fantastic. Dave was right. Jarvis (one of the best radio presenters in the world at the moment btw) doing his routine, fitted out in a wide wale brown hip hugger corduroy suit replete with white belt. Literally straight out of a Scott Walker photo essay, no surprise there.

Next day in the office, I couldn’t shake the previous night’s show. They were clearly too English to try working with for US only, and the London office were sternly not interested. No one was waiting for me to walk away before rolling their eyes now. So I just drifted off rather defeated, accepting I was born in the wrong place, wrong time to do anything professional with Pulp, just needed to be content staying a fan.

Six months later, I was setting up my label through Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, and the new regime at Island UK were signing Pulp.

Good for them. For my money, the band’s first proper Island album was DIFFERENT CLASS, a picture perfect creative culmination of all their new found confidence yet not so distant hardships at being kicked about for years. DIFFERENT CLASS become a stake in music history’s timeline.

“Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, having maybe the best title ever for a song and despite being spotlighted by the mainstream press as obviously drug related, hurled itself to #2 in the UK singles chart. Not initially, which was frustrating, but eventually pressed on 7″ vinyl, the single finally graced the library shelves. Fun and funny as it is, there’s some chilling lyric bits and all too true. A desert island single. Hands down.

Listen: Disco 2000 / Pulp
Disco 2000 / Pulp

Fuck me, did this sound good compressed as hell via Radio 1′s signal and coming out of the car dashboard. Those opening chords had every shotgun seat occupant diving for the volume dial. Involuntary reaction.

Listen: Disco 2000 (7″ Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (7

I seem to remember this single mix being done for the US. God knows why. I mean, the band came over and supported Blur in ’94, thereby building a nice following and deserved airplay, but of course radio…..

The Blur / Pulp tour played at New York’s Academy. Remembered this well, it was Corinne’s birthday, September 29, 1994. Seeing Pulp was a perfect present, she loved them from day one. Only problem being she wanted to do something or other straight afterwards, hence dragged my ass out just as Blur were hitting their third number. Bummer, but it was her birthday.

Listen: Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp

Nice thing about the above ‘Disco 2000 (7″ Mix)’: it gave Island an excuse to press up a jukebox single, basically the trend amongst the labels at that time. These singles were low end design, paperless label, large center hole and very limited, literally for jukeboxes.

It was coupled with ‘Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix)’, a near eight minute techno club version that made it’s way onto a rather nice promo 12″ some months earlier. The 12 was played a lot, like a real lot, in the house on the Dual stacking turntable I’d bought at the Warner Brothers Records used equipment sale for employees. $10, and still works like a charm to this day.

One of Pulp’s crowning moments was headling an all day event at Finsbury Park on July 25, 1998. It was a Saturday, I desperately wanted to get back home after a week in London, but decided it could be worth pushing my flight back by a day. Turned out being one of my better decisions in life.

Buster Brown

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Listen: Two Women / Buster Brown BusterBrown2Women.mp3

Another Detroit find (see previous post).

Buster Brown had his first hit, ‘Fannie Mae’ in, ’59. He was almost fifty at that point. He’s recorded for some of the best RnB labels ever: Fire and Checker, as well as small locals like Serock.

I learned a long time ago to never pass up a Buster Brown record. If you love the early Rolling Stones, here’s why.