MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

Earlier this year, Ace Records released Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair in June 2014. It featured fifty tracks from the Music City Vaults. Released to critical acclaim, Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair was a tantalising taste of the delights within the Music City discography. A followup, it seemed, was almost inevitable.

Ace Records haven’t wasted time. Just four months later, Ace Records recently returned to the vaults of Music City Records. This meant a trip state side. Compilers Roger Armstrong and Alec Palao headed to San Francisco and dug deep into Music City’s back-catalogue. This crate-digging expedition proved fruitful. 

Having dug deep, Roger and Alec returned with the thirty uptempo tracks that comprise Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. They’re a mixture of old favourites, classics, hidden gems and unreleased tracks, that played a part in the Music City Story.

 Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It  includes The Holidays, The Klixs, 4 Deuces, The Midnights, Gaylarks, The Holidays, 5 Rovers, The Spinners, The Marcels and The Emeralds. These groups  play their part in what’s described as “a second volume of rare doo woo delights.”  Before I pick the highlight of Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, I’ll tell you about Ray Dobard’s Music City label. 

Its origins can be traced back to 1950. That’s when Ray formed a record shop, Berkeley’s Music City in Adeline Street, San Francisco. Not long after that, Ray founded his first record label Delcro Records. This was Ray’s latest business.

Ray was born in New Orleans, on 31st August 1920. He Dobard was born into a working class family and was a born entrepreneur. This became apparent when he moved to Berkeley, California, with his wife Jeanne. His first business venture was a construction company. Soon, Ray was buying up properties. He soon had a vast property portfolio. However, like all good entrepreneurs, Ray realised the importance of having a diverse portfolio.

So in 1950, Ray decided to open a record shop, Berkeley’s Music City in Adeline Street, San Francisco. Not long after that, Ray founded his first record label Delcro Records. Three years later, with his latest business expanding his record store, now called Music City Record Store moved to new premises.

Music City Record Store’s new premises were at 1815 Alcatraz Avenue. Behind the shop, there was an empty space. Ray decided to build a small studio. This meant he could record artists, release their music on his own label and sell them in Music City Record Store. That was the plan. However, things didn’t get off to a good start.

In the early days, Ray recorded everything from jazz, jump blues and gospel in his studio. There was a problem though. The records he recorded and released weren’t selling. Then his luck changed when and R&B quartet called The Stars entered Music City Record Store to record a song midway through 1954.

The song The Stars wanted to record was Annie Pulled A Hum Bug. It  was the answer to The Midnighters’ Annie singles. Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug was a song The Stars wrote. They wrote all their own material.  Melvin Dennis was the lead singer and drummer. He was one of three soldiers from Camp Stoneman army base, thirty miles away in Pittsburgh. Artis Johnson was he other member of The Stars. He was just sixteen and in still in high school. Despite their different backgrounds, The Stars gelled musically. Immediately, Ray like The Stars and decided to take a chance on them. There was one thing he didn’t like, their name.

Ray decided that The Stars should change their name They became The Midnights. There was a problem though. The Midnights could be confused with The Midnighters. So, Ray signed an indemnity, stating that The Stars “were not to be confused with The Midnighters.” Having covered himself legally, he released Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug. 

On its release, Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug was a commercial success. Ray’s luck had changed. Following the success of Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug, Ray decided to release further vocal group singles. However, this wouldn’t include The Midnights. The Camp Stoneman army base closed. Its personnel were sent to other bases. As a result, The Midnights only released one more single, Cheating On Me. However, The Midnights played an important part in Ray’s nascent label. So did the groups on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It.

There’s a total of thirty tracks on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. Of these thirty tracks, twenty-seven have never been released before. They make their debut on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is The Holidays’ Wouldn’t Believe. Recorded on 30th July 1958, Wouldn’t Believe, which sees doo wop meet rock ’n’ roll, has never been released before. There’s also a driving cover of  John and Lonnie Foster’s Hoochi Coochi Man. It was recorded at a session on 12th April 1958. Again, it makes a welcome debut. So does an alternate take of Church Bells Will Ring. This is a later recording, which took place on 21st December 1959. Just like the two previous tracks, Church Bells Will Ring was never released on Music City. Somewhat belatedly, this trio of tracks make a welcome debut and are a reminder of another musical era.

Opening Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is The Holidays’ Wouldn’t Believe. Recorded on 30th July 1958, Wouldn’t Believe, which sees doo wop meet rock ’n’ roll, has never been released before. There’s also a driving cover of  John and Lonnie Foster’s Hoochi Coochi Man. It was recorded at a session on 12th April 1958. Again, it makes a welcome debut. So does an alternate take of Church Bells Will Ring. This is a later recording, which took place on 21st December 1959. Just like the two previous tracks, Church Bells Will Ring was never released on Music City. Somewhat belatedly, this trio of tracks make a welcome debut and are a reminder of the Music City label.

There’s a quartet of tracks from The Klixs on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. The first is It’s All Over, which The Klixs released on Music City in 1958. A soulful and catchy slice of doo wop, this whets your appetite. He-A-Woe is the first of three unreleased tracks from The Klixs. Recorded on 2nd July 1959, it’s a driving, dramatic track that surely influenced surf music. The other two unreleased tracks are Oobie Doobie Baby, an irresistible fusion of rock ’n’ roll and doo wop recorded in 1958. Two years later, The Klixs recorded Bye Bye Louie at a session on 9th August 1960. It’s a doo wop track where hurt and heartbreak shine through. These four tracks are the perfect introduction to The Klixs, one of Music City’s best kept secrets.

In late 1954, The Midnights released She Left Me as a single. This was right at the start of the Music City story. Having changed their name to The Midnights, they released Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug. It was their biggest single. However, the version on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is an alternate take. This allows us to hear a new take on a Music City classic. Sadly, when the army base The Midnights were stationed at closed, their nascent career was all but over. A reminder of what they were capable of this is Lindy, an unreleased track recorded on 3rd May 1955. Beautiful and melancholy, it’s a reminder of a much more innocent musical era.

The Four Deuces were one of Ray Dobard’s earliest signings to the Music City label. Theirs is a case of what might have been. Although they released a couple of minor hit singles, The Dour Deuces could’ve, and should’ve, reached greater heights. That’s apparent on the five tracks they contribute. They were recorded between April 1955 and 1956. The accusing What’Cha Gonna Do? showcases The Four Deuces’ vocal prowess, literally oozing emotion. Italian Swiss Colony Wine Spot/W-P-L-J, is essentially a jingle cut in May 1955. However, it does demonstrate the Deuces’ soulful side. The Nest Is Warm (But The Goose Is Gone) is a deliciously soulful slice of doo woo from 1956. So is Down It Went aka It Went Down Easy. It’s a fusion of soulful doo wop and R&B. However, Down It Went (aka It Went Down Easy) is The Four Deuces at their best. There’s even a nod to The Drifters, as The Four Deuces at their smooth and soulful best, remind us what they were capable of.

The Gaylarks were founded in Mision High School, San Francisco. Before long, they were one of the city’s most popular and prolific groups. Their first contribution is an a cappella of Teenage Mambo. Written by Ben Richards, it was recorded in 1957, but never released. Somewhere In This World is an uptempo, hopeful slice of doo wop. Recorded in 1957, it was released in 1958, and gave The Gaylarks a local hit single. That’s not the last we’ve heard from The Gaylarks. Look Into The Darkness and Ding Dong are both alternate takes. Neither track has been released before. That’s until now. Recorded back in 1957, these tracks showcase one of Ray Dobard’s  most talented and successful signings as they showcase their unique brand of doo wop. 

My final choice from Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, is If You Really Want To Know, a previously unreleased track recorded in 1958, The Spinners. However, this isn’t The Spinners that enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim under the guidance of Thom Bell. Having said that, The Spinners don’t lack in soulfulness. They combine doo wop and soul on If You Really Want To Know, two minutes of musical magic from Music City.

Featuring thirty tracks, Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It picks up where Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair left off. This means classics, old friends, favourites, hidden gems, singles and rarities. Some of the tracks are real rarities.

Some of the tracks are real hidden gems. They’ve never been released before. Indeed, the majority of the tracks have never been released before. Sixteen tracks make their debut on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, which was recently released by Ace Records. It’s best described as a tantalising taste of the treasure trove that’s Ray Dobard’s Music City label.

This includes The Holidays, The Klixs, 4 Deuces, The Midnights, Gaylarks, The Holidays, 5 Rovers, The Spinners, The Marcels and The Emeralds. These groups  play their part in what’s described as “a second volume of rare doo woo delights.” These tracks are Uptempo, joyous, emotive, slick, soulful and full of hooks. They’re also a reminder of another musical age.

As musical ages go, it’s a musical age that was much more innocent. Then came Elvis and The Beatles. Music was transformed. The age of innocence was gone. Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll replaced doo wop. No longer did a group of guys sing on the street corner for fun. No. They sung for money, and a taste of what music had to offer. This meant sex, drink, drugs, carnage and chaos. It was a long way from the days of 4 Deuces, The Midnights and The Gaylarks. These days it seemed, were gone forever.

Not any more. Now you can remember what was a much more innocent time, courtesy of Ace Records.  They recently released Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. It’s the latest chapter in the Music City story, and a reminder of a more innocent musical age.

MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

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