The Story of “Pain”
Little Flint Featuring Wayne Perry
By RANDY McNUTT
If you dance and you live in the UK, you might have heard my record “Pain.” Its evolution is a bit long, as is the story behind it. So here we go. I must warn you that this is without a doubt the most confusing, weird, convoluted, overwritten, and strange record story I have ever heard. If you understand it, you are a likely candidate for a doctoral degree in insanity. Even I get lost, and the ride happened to me. So if you have a headache right now, put off reading this story until you have a clear mind. Please.
“Pain” began in 1972, when Wayne Perry and I were very young independent record producers in Cincinnati. One label guy in Nashville asked us if we were too young to sign a contract. We were not, but we certainly weren't record-biz veterans.
Wayne did a lot of the arranging in the studio, and I picked all of his material and sought leasing deals. Where I found the rock song "Pain," I don't recall, but I believe it came from a Grass Roots album. I do know that I had not heard of Novas Nine's original version on ABC Records, from 1968. Since those days, I’ve heard at least five different single versions of the song, but none were cut in the style that Wayne and I recorded it. Ours was faster, with the force of a hurricane.
The song I found was credited to "B. Mann." I knew it wasn't the legendary Barry Mann, so I assumed it was a studio musician named Bob Mann. As I understand the story today, the song was actually written by his son, Brian Mann, who played with Novas Nine. Brian once said he composed “Pain” in about 30 minutes. It was only the second song he had ever written. Because at 17 he was too young to sign a contract with the publisher, his father signed it for him. Thus, the B. Mann meant Bob Mann. Novas Nine, from North Carolina, was a popular club group in that area. It broke up a few years after ABC released the band’s version. (Sadly, Brian died in 2018.)
I played the song for Wayne, he liked it, and we decided to do it in the style in which we worked: power soul-rock. They call it Northern Soul in the UK. We call it funky roadhouse rock here in Cincinnati. These white soul groups were all over Cincinnati at the time. The most well-known one was the Dapps, a King Records act that often backed Hank Ballard. The band once featured the funk drummer Beau Dollar. Wayne and I were influenced by the Dapps.
We cut "Pain" in the summer of 1972 at Rusty York’s Jewel Recording in suburban Cincinnati, where we did much of our local work. Now this part is important--vital--to understanding this story: We cut two versions of the song. Both shared the same rhythm track, so they sound nearly identical. Wayne sang the first version; Wayne and a guy from Alaska sang the second as a duet. Their voices sounded a lot alike, and they sang the choruses together and exchanged on the verses. Shortly after recording the duet version of “Pain,” the narrative began to get muddied. We had two vocal versions that used the same rhythm track.
The track cooked from the start. This was due to the musicians. They included Roger "Jellyroll" Troy, a singer-bassist who led the group Jellyroll on Kapp Records. Roll, as we called him, had come home on vacation, and Wayne asked him to play on the session. On drums was Jerry Love, a popular blues-rock drummer in Cincinnati. He did a lot of sessions over at King Records. He was a favorite of guitarist Lonnie Mack, the father of Cincinnati's blue-eyed soul movement. The B-3 organist was a kid (only 17) named Terry Hoskins, who lived in our home city, Hamilton, Ohio, about 25 miles northwest of Cincinnati. We just let him wail on that song. We had to get his father's permission to take him to the studio with us. On guitar we hired Gary Boston, a freelance session man at King and a local band veteran. Like so many of these guys, Gary also did some work at King's studio and at times worked on sessions with James Brown. (Today, I use Gary on new recordings.) The horn guys, both sax men, were Craig Shenafeld and Terry Burnside. They also played on some James Brown sessions over at King. On the day we cut the rhythm track, we were all standing in the little studio, talking about the song, and suddenly a guy we didn't know walked in and asked, "Hey, who owns the cool Firebird sitting out front?" Jellyroll said proudly, "Why, I do!" The guy said, "Well, it just got repossessed."
When we finished that day, I asked Wayne if he wanted his name on the record. Without much thought, he said let's put it out as Little Flint. Such a "group" did not exist, but in those days producers used this routine quite often. We made plans. I founded the tiny label Beast Records. In 1973, I made plans to release the Wayne-Alaskan guy's duet on Beast, which had a logo of a big gorilla throwing a paper airplane from the Empire State Building. Our plan was to make the A side “Gonna Have a Good Time,” an Easybeats song we had recently done with a Lebanon, Ohio, band called The Chamberly Kids. They were led by a high school senior named Rick “Bam” Powell, a soulful rock vocalist and drummer. (We loved his voice and drumming. Rick went on to play with many area bands, including the Blue Birds.) The single's B side would be "Pain," the duet version, not Wayne's solo one. Both "Good Time" and the duet "Pain" would be credited to Little Flint.
The problem was money. Neither Wayne nor I had much. About this time, Wayne’s father asked me what I planned to do with the songs and, being a college student, I said I didn't have the money to press it as a single. Wayne’s dad, a wonderful man, wrote a check to me on the spot to pay for the pressing. I went to Cincinnati and asked my friend Shad O’Shea at Counterpart Records to take care of the pressing end of it for me. He asked if I wanted Counterpart to distribute Beast, and I was elated. Counterpart was a successful regional label with rock bands such as the Fifth Order from Columbus, Ohio, and the Mark V from Dayton. As our cockeyed plan took shape, "Good Time" came out as Side A and "Pain" the duet as Side B. ("Good Time"? A bad judgment call on our part.)
Shad told me to take two of my records over to his distributor, A-1 in downtown Cincinnati, and in the rain that day I lugged two boxes into the company's old office. Being inexperienced in distribution matters, I assumed Shad meant two boxes. The crotchety old fellow who co-owned A-1 looked at me and said in disdain, “Kid, I need two records, not two boxes!” I returned to my car to find a parking ticket, which I could hardly afford. Frustrated and trying to make it in college, I gathered all the boxes of records, with a total of 500 copies in them, and took them to the basement of my mother’s house. I placed them on a wooden work bench that was once my grandfather’s. There they sat for 25 years, or who knows how long, gathering dust and obscurity. During that time she repeatedly suggested that I throw them away, but I wouldn’t part with them. Years passed. So did other records. After I moved, most of the boxes mysteriously disappeared. (The suspect, my mother, proclaimed her innocence.) Then one day, years later, a songwriter friend called me and said, “Man, your record is all over You Tube.” I assumed he meant one of my a country records that had been on the Cashbox chart and other ones. But he meant "Pain," both Wayne's solo version as well as the duet version. By then both tracks had appeared on a 2012 CD compilation called “Souled Out” on the Fraternity label in New York. The CD included a lot of other soul-rock tracks that we had recorded in the 1970s and leased to Avco-Embassy and other indie labels across the country. Unbeknownst to me, the UK dance-club DJs were playing both "Pain" versions, which they had picked up from "Souled Out."
Then, in 2018, Nik Weston at Mukatsuko Records in London contacted me about releasing Wayne’s solo version as a single. Nik, a record producer and buyer for Juno Records, is known for introducing Japanese music to England. He said "Pain's" popularity had made the song something of an underground hit among club dancers. He wanted to release it as a vinyl 45. After some negotiating with Fraternity, Nik obtained the UK rights. "Pain" the duet by Little Flint was the B-side on Beast, and the B-side of his record as well. However, the acts had different names. The "Souled Out" CD had credited Wayne's solo version to a group called the Boys in the Band. Instead of Little Flint, Nik used the Boys in the Band name for his A-side. As release time approached, Nik wanted to use an instrumental of the song for his B-side, but an instrumental did not exist. So in 2018, I recorded from scratch an instrumental B-side of "Pain" for him. Unfortunately, I did it too late. Instead, as his B-side he used the duet version under the name Little Flint. Nik got the version he wanted, Wayne's original, as his A. By then, my head was spinning faster than a 45.
Here's how the Boys in the Band came into the picture. In 1977, a producer friend named Herman Griffin, Motown’s first artist, cut an original track with us. (You can hear it on "Souled Out" as Wayne's "Get 'Em While They're Hot," by the Boys in the Band.) Meanwhile, I played "Pain" for Herman, and he asked if he could use the duet version on an album he was recording for his Boys group, which only a few years earlier had hit the national R&B and pop charts, on Polydor Records. Like Little Flint, the Boys in the Band didn't exist. It was a paper band with Herman singing lead. His studio players were hired. Unfortunately, a recession hit in the mid-1970s, and by the late '70s its effects were still being felt. As a result, Herman was unsuccessful in placing his album with a New York label. He dropped the project. I thought Wayne's duet version of "Pain" had died with Beast. As for Wayne's solo track, it was never released until it landed on the "Souled Out" CD. By this time I had mothballed Beast and considered it a one-record label.
More years passed. I became a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, and freelancer. By this time, Wayne had moved to Nashville, where he wrote five No. 1 country hits and did some movie-music work. He got off the soul train. I thought I had too. I segued into rockabilly in a big way and wrote books on music and other subjects. At times I made records for other artists, and one for Wayne. We remained close friends. Eventually, he stopped singing except for doing demos of his own songs. I temporarily quit producing, taking a 16-year hiatus until my ill-fated "Pain" instrumental came along.
Wayne died in 2005. No longer could we laugh at our stories and misadventures in the pre-digital record business, and at what a pain the business could be at times. With my new instrumental version of the song in the can (I cut it on tape, of course), I decided to call it "Pain" by the Fabulous Coins. I had rounded up a bunch of the original players, and let them rip. The track is named in honor of another white soul band from Cincinnati.
The fascinating part is, our 1973 "Pain" record was 47 years old when Nik released it in another country. Despite its mileage, it is still appreciated by fans of Northern Soul and dance music. This B-side-turned-A-side, by two groups that never existed and two singers who did, simply refused to die.
Nik rescued what I believe is one of the better efforts by PM Productions. I wish I could tell Wayne about it, and Herman too, and Shad as well. I can almost hear their laughter in the air. I appreciate the dancers' interest, and Nik’s persistence and encouragement, in making "Pain" a viable disc again.
By the way, Nik's "Pain" 45-rpm disc "sold out" in three months.
When and where will that record end? Or start again?