Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vintage Recording, Pt. 5

Welcome to RANDY McNUTT's

More Historic Recording Studios and the Hits of the 20th Century


Author's Note:
This is the fifth installment of Still Too Hot to Handle,
first published in 2005 by HHP Books.

The Sounds of America

Selected Hits Singles from the Original
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio
3614 Jackson Highway, Sheffield, Alabama

“Take A Letter, Maria,” R.B. Greaves
“Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby),” Lulu, 1969
“Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, 1970
“Brown Sugar,” Rolling Stones, 1971
“Wild Horses,” Rolling Stones, 1971
“It Hurts So Good,” Katie Love, 1971
“Heavy Makes You Happy,” Staple Singers, 1971
“Don’t Knock My Love,” Wilson Pickett, 1971
“Respect Yourself,” Staple Singers, 1971
“A Very Lovely Lady,” Linda Ronstadt, 1971
“Dinah Flo,” Boz Scaggs, 1972
“Tightrope,” Leon Russell, 1972
“Starting All Over Again,” Mel and Tim, 1972
“If Loving You Is Right (I Don’t Want To Be Wrong),” Luther Ingram, 1972
“Kodachrome,” Paul Simon, 1973
“Loves Me Like A Rock,” Paul Simon, 1973
“I Believe In You (You Believe In Me),” Johnny Taylor, 1973
“Lookin’ For A Love,” Bobby Womack, 1973
“Still Crazy After All These Years,” Paul Simon, 1974
“I’ll Be Your Everything,” Percy Sledge, 1974
“Beautiful Loser,” Bob Seger, 1974
“My Little Town,” Simon and Garfunkel, 1975
“Left Overs,” Millie Jackson, 1975
“Touch Me Baby,” Tamiko Jones, 1975
“Night Moves,” Bob Seger, 1976
“Main Street,” Bob Seger, 1977

A baffle depicting the original studio. 

Elsewhere . . .


Louie, Louie“Rock Spit”

Paul Revere and the Raiders recorded “Louie, Louie” before The Kingsmen’s version hit the national charts. The Raiders had already arrived with a moderate hit called "Like, Long Hair," on Gardena Records. Both the Raiders and the Kingsmen recorded their versions of "Louie, Louie" with the same engineer [Bob Lindahl] , in the same week, with the same microphone, and at Northwest Recording in Portland, Oregon. 

Raiders lead singer Mark Lindsay told writer Richard O. Jones, “It was a big dance hit in the Northwest, and if you were a dance band—and I guess we were because we played a lot of dances—and didn’t play it two or three times a night, you were ostracized . . . Ours was released first, but I think theirs was recorded first. I remember that when we were finishing up our session, the engineer, a guy named Bob, told us we better put it out quick because The Kingsmen had just recorded a demo of it, but I think what he thought was a demo was the actual release.” The Raiders version was first released on the local Sande label. Soon Columbia Records, the largest American label, leased the master.

Lindsay recalled that Jack Ely, lead singer of the the Kingsmen, spit a lot when he sang This repulsed the studio engineer, who had just purchased a new microphone. To avoid “a lot of rock-and-roll spit,” Lindsay said, the engineer hung the mic high above the singer. But it didn’t pick up Ely’s voice too well, Lindsay said, and Ely's braces further garbled the vocals. As a result, the Kingsmen’s version came out sounding semi-unintelligible, which ultimately made it so intriguing. “We sold 6,000 copies in Portland and the Kingsmen sold 600,” Lindsay said. “Mitch Miller was the head of A&R at Columbia Records and he hated rock-and-roll, and he only signed us because of the pressure he was getting from the East Coast. So he released our record, but without any promotion. He told the West coast office to ‘let it die.’” 

As a result, the Kingsmen will always be known for “Louie, Louie,” ultimately released by Wand Records of New York. The record peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 9, 1963, and, incredibly, stayed in that position for six weeks. The record remained on the chart for a total of 16 weeks. The band's "Money" single reached No. 16, the second of nine nationally charted singles by the Kingsmen. 

But the Raiders didn't lose out with the failure of their "Louie, Louie." Columbia kept them around for decades. From 1965 to 1973, the band went on to record 24 singles that hit the Billboard chart, including "Kicks" and "Hungry." All were released on Columbia, which apparently knew a Good Thing. 




Equipment: AMPEX 300 with EMT 120 and 140
echo plates.

Thanks to Richard O. Jones of the Hamilton JournalNews for capturing a little piece of recording history on May 29, 2003, when he interviewed Mark Lindsay. Additional information came from Joel Whitburn's Top Pop, 1955-1982, and Dave Marsh's Louie, Louie. Many details of the "Louie, Louie" saga are forgotten or disputed today, but the story is a fascinating part of regional recording history. This piece represents Lindsay's take on the whole garbled saga of writer Richard Berry's "Louie, Louie."


Down in Memphis

Elvis, Bill Black, Scotty Moore, and the 
legendary engineer Sam Phillips at the console.


“BLUE SUEDE SHOES,” Carl Perkins. Summer 1956.
(First major pop hit to go to No. 1 on the country and R&B charts.)

“I WALK THE LINE,” Johnny Cash. No. 17, 1956.

“WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOIN’ ON,” Jerry Lee Lewis. No. 3, 1957.

“GREAT BALLS OF FIRE,” Jerry Lee Lewis. No. 2, 1958.

“BALLAD OF A TEENAGE QUEEN,” Johnny Cash. No. 14, 1958.

“BREATHLESS,” Jerry Lee Lewis. No. 7, 1958

“GUESS THINGS HAPPEN THAT WAY,” Johnny Cash. No. 11, 1958.

“HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL,” Jerry Lee Lewis. No. 21, 1958

“THE WAYS OF A WOMAN IN LOVE,” Johnny Cash. No. 24, 1958

“WHAT’D I SAY,” Jerry Lee Lewis. No. 30, 1961.

Regal Enterprise

Equipment at King Studio, 1966.
Courtesy Lee Hazen.



STUDIO ICON: King Records

1540 Brewster Avenue, Cincinnati, 1947-1970
Official Name: King Custom Recording Service.
Address: 1540 Brewster Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Owner: King Records Inc. (Sydney Nathan, president.)
Nicknames: None.
Opened: Early fall 1947.
Closed: Late 1970.
Shape: Square (three walls of concrete blocks abutting one of brick).
Floor: Concrete.
Manager: Johnnie Miller.
Engineers: (Selected, 1960s) Lee Hazen, Chuck Seitz, Dave Harrison
Equipment: Three to eventually eight tracks.
Afterlife: A spare-parts storage room.
Selected Clients: James Brown, Cowboy Copas, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Lonnie Mack.
Console: An early Harrison MCI console was installed later.

Quirks: The metal entrance door squeaked, and the sound could be picked up on sessions. Also, a florescent light glowed in the echo chamber, where it was not needed.

Selected Hits Cut in the King Studio 

"Daddy-O," Bonnie Lou, King Records, 1955

"Fever," Little Willlie John, King, 1955

"Please, Please, Please," James Brown and the Famous Flames, King, 1956

"Ivory Tower," Otis Williams and the Charms, DeLuxe Records, 1956

"The Twist," Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, King, 1959

"Memphis," Lonnie Mack, Fraternity Records, 1963

"Wham!" Lonnie Mack, Fraternity Records, 1963

"Lonesome 7-7203," Hawkshaw Hawkins, King, 1963

"Cold Sweat, Part 1," James Brown, King, 1965

"Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," the Casinos, Fraternity, 1967

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