Way Out Records is just months from induction into the Eccentric Soul hall of fame. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been in especially close contact with our Forrest City allies, in search of 11th-hour odds and ends to complete this 3LP/2CD undertaking. Hunter/Gatherer, knowledgable collector, certified public accountant, and all-around good guy Cameron Kowall has been sending us mind-bending impressions from an endless stream of Cleveland Call and Post back issues that thread together numerous Cleveland titles from our back catalog. Below are a few highlights. The last clipping mention’s Lou Ragland’s debut, “Party at Lester’s,” a tribute to Way Out founder, Lester Johnson. With Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label we pay tribute to all of the men and women of this prolific imprint. With this blog entry we pay tribute to Cameron Kowall! Keep up the good work, Cameron!
Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label touches down June 24th, 2014.
Yesterday, the Numero Group lost a friend in Bill Spoon. The Numero faithful will remember Bill Spoon from Pressed at Boddie. A native of Alabama, Bill Spoon’s musical career took him first to Cleveland, then Memphis, then several decades in California, before settling most recently in Atlanta. I’d spoke with Bill a few weeks ago in preparation for Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label, where Bill had minted his first singles with the Soul Notes for the Cleveland indie in the late ’60s. We spoke of a shared fondness for the mountains of North Carolina, specifically Cherokee, where Bill and his wife trekked every few months. Bill had just been released from the hospital after a lengthy stay, but appeared to be on the mend. This news came as shock.
One experiences an assortment of feelings when one of their client/collaborators passes: gratitude for having been associated with the dearly departed, and a duty to press forward and share their music with all those willing to listen. Nestled among those feelings is a reminder that we’re all getting older, and that we must be diligent in our musical outreach, research, and reconnaissance. Our hearts go out to Bill’s friends and family.
Fortunately we have a vehicle in which to circulate some of Spoon’s early recordings. Way Out Records was a quirky little operation in East Cleveland, funded with the financial drippings of number runners, boosted by Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown, and frequented by some of the region’s most notorious soul men. “Lester Johnson decided he’d call it Way Out because it was such an extreme idea—an unlikely success story,” explained label president Bill Branch of his one-time business partner Lester Johnson. In 2014, we will see to it that all of the in-sounds from Way Out get the acknowledgment they deserve.
Filed under: Boddie | Tags: Boddie Recording Company, Cleveland, PBS, Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame
On Wednesday, Louise Boddie and our own Dante Carfagna were part of a spirited discussion at Cleveland’s Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. In anticipation of this Black History Month-focused calendar, Cleveland’s PBS affiliate WVIZ produced a short-form documentary on Thomas and Louise Boddie’s Boddie Recording Company, which can be watched in its entirety here.
This doc just scratches the surface of the Boddie’s incredible body of work, which we’ve documented in great detail on our Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio 5LP/3CD box set.
Earlier this year we teased three double 45 releases in the mysterious “700 series.” After being distracted by Buttons and Omnibus over the spring, we finally circled back around to these last week and knocked them out. Details:
701 Pretty: Mustache In Your Face
When tape rolled on these songs, guitarist Bob Theen and drummer Alex Love were a decade deep into their tenure as Kansas City rock n’ roll journeymen. After spending two years holed up in the real-life underground chambers of Cavern Recording Corporation, they emerged with eight songs and a temporary name—their fourth in a string that necessitated five business-card reprint orders. Their band—dubbed “Pretty” by engineer and producer Michael Weakley—managed to spelunk only two songs out of the cave, which were issued in 1969 as a promo-only 45 wearing the truly un-pretty Squeakie label, a madman’s face in red-on-white, howling out of the spindle hole. The rest of Pretty’s eight-song experiment was shelved, and ultimately given away to a record collector, along with a trove of Cavern tape archive spoils, when the studio closed in 1986. This subterranean body of work might so easily have been pitched into a dumpster, but instead the tapes got carefully packed away in a caring Kansas City attic.
Thirty years later, we’ve secured these tapes, and are reissuing the two song 45 alongside a twin single of previously unreleased material. Group members have been sourced, interviewed, and paid. Sessions photos have been secured. Replicas of the original labels are being printed now. Feast your eyes:
702 Wicked Lester: You Are Doomed
Gene Klein and Stanley Eisen had moved well past the calling themselves Wicked Lester by 1979. Known to the record-buying world as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, they’d ditched their original handle back in 1973, to take on the name and greasepaint combo that catapulted them to worldwide rock superstardom: Kiss. Repossessing Wicked Lester would take a certain level of gumption, but none too much for Bill Arth, Pat Singleton, and John McLaughlin, three West Side Clevelanders plotting their own rock ascent while riding the St. Edwards High School football team’s bench. Mark Cleary, the fourth Wicked Lester, went to Holy Name, but he and Pat had been neighbors since the age of five. They’d already burned through the Fyre and Decoy brands before coming of high school age. Wicked Lester, named after and in awe of Kiss, was to be a more serious endeavor.
Wicked Lester’s sole vinyl release, a 1981 7” that Thomas Boddie jotted down as W-8110, paired teener throwback and distorted guitar on “Here Comes My Girlfriend” with the shifting meter, lovesick late Pink Floyd moves, and creepy kid laughter in the coda of “Say Your Prayers,” recorded on the same ominous day that John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan. The single proudly wears Louise Boddie’s hand-scratched label design, with Wicked Lester’s brash “WL” logo, nicked whole-cloth from Van Halen’s early LPs and displayed brazenly during Lester stage shows. Much to the chagrin of VFW patrons who happened to be hanging about the Halls they sometimes played to, Wicked Lester hung an altered American flag, with that flashy logo replacing our 50 stars, as their backdrop. The band also put the Boddie cassette duplicators to work, though only briefly. With a five-song demo cassette run of no more than 100 tapes, Wicked Lester barely had enough to place in the hands of classmates and friends.
Four of those songs are now being unleashed from the Boddie tomb. Housed in an attractive gatefold sleeve, Rob Sevier’s essay attempts to capture the angst of suburban Cleveland hard rock in the early ’80s. Success abounds.
703 Cave Dwellers: Run Around
In Jack McPhal’s August 20, 1965, article on the Cave Dwellers for the Chicago Sun-Times Midwest Sunday magazine, the esteemed crime reporter considers himself “a square, unable to appraise judiciously the nuances of rock ‘n’ roll.” He spends the bulk of the five-page article discussing the group’s hair, quoting an aggressive and unidentified mother with “If a boy looking like that came calling on my daughter, I’d kick him out of the house.” Cave Dweller organist/guitarist Gary Goldberg offered this sheepish justification: “You gotta do it. Ever since the Beatles, the kids expect it. A new rock ‘n’ roll group with crew cuts couldn’t get off the ground.”
The Cave Dwellers’ “You Know Why” was recorded at Universal Studios and laboriously laden with horns and strings, Buckinghams-style, after the fact. Given just a few minutes to produce a b-side, the Dwellers unleashed their primitive and theretofore-unheard power. “Run Around” ended up a punk precursor that took contemporary rock to its tough, angry, and logical conclusions, scorching past anything the radio ran in its day. Intending only to tear off something fast and easy, the Dwellers had achieved one of Chicago garage rock’s most ferocious moments.
Trading in the mid hundreds, the Cave Dwellers loan single is finally rejoining society, paired with two previously unissued cuts from 1967. Requests for Gary to cut his hair for the reissue have gone unanswered. We’ll keep trying.
All three titles in our 700 line should be available in late September.
Although we feel Love Apple’s Boddie-minted rehearsal tape is worth of all manners of praise, it’s always nice to hear sentiments like that echoed by National Public Radio. With the trio’s entire recorded catalog gathering dust in a converted dairy barn for the better part of three decades, NPR recently saw fit to honor Cleveland, Ohio’s Love Apple, along with a handful of other soulful women whose careers have been recently revisited.
Filed under: Boddie, Uncategorized | Tags: Boddie Recording Company, Hard Rock, Kissarmy, Wicked Lester
It’s been almost a year since our limited Pressed at Boddie edition (an LP whose release date coincided accidentally with Record Store Day 2011) and we’ve had many questions come through our website and blog about the mysterious groups contained therein. To refresh your memory, the compilation was built around a very obscure concept: these were all selected from records pressed at the Boddie Recording Company‘s tiny backyard plant. Certainly a strange link between all the different artists, we realize, but it resulted in a phenomenally diverse compilation that really only shared “obscure” as a descriptor. All of the collection was licensed from the individual artist, but in many cases we had the original production masters from Boddie’s archives. One track, however, was never pressed at Boddie… it was only dubbed at Boddie, a fairly inconsequential distinction. However, Wicked Lester’s demo was pressed in such miniscule numbers (resulting in no known copies in the collector’s market) that the small taste of it that we gave hard rock fans was more of an affront. We have a cure for rare hard rock blueballs: Wicked Lester’s Boddie recording sessions issued on 2 7″s, replete with notes and photos. As the title of the final song on the record succinctly expresses: “You Are Doomed”. But in a good way.
One part War, two parts Santana, a dash of Motown, immersed in a rich Puerto Rican stock, Los Nombres were the undisputed kings of Northern Ohio’s rust-belt barrios. Following successive explosions of brown-eyed and Latin soul in Los Angeles and New York in the mid and late ’60s, Lorain, Ohio’s Boricua underdogs went on a recording tear in nearby Cleveland, going all-in on a series of no-budget recordings at Boddie and Way Out. With a voice that rivaled any on the Fania roster, Willie Marquez led the rotating cast of Latino teens through numerous underfunded recording sessions for the Day-Wood, Beth, and Lorain Sounds imprints, the lo-fi fruits of which are compiled here.
Sign up for a 2012 Vinyl or CD subscription, should you wish to ring in the new year with this fantastic collection of Latin funk and lowrider soul. Should you wish to buy it a la carte, check back January 2nd.
Filed under: Boddie, Eccentric Soul 45s, Father's Children, Lists, Methodology, Nickel & Penny, Stone Coal White, Titan, Willie Wright
Every year we take the temperature of the Numero office to find out what people thought of all the crap we dreamed up in a year. Here’s the top 10 (of 14) weighted amongst the 11 full and part time staff members of the label.
Being the youngest employee at Numero, it seems fitting that Little Ed and the Sound Masters would be my first full design project. I throw around the term “pixel pusher,” but seriously, by having an extra hand in the design department, we were able to integrate design into every element of this release, making this box set more than just a few records thrown haphazardly into a box. For those familiar with Light: On The South Side, the Little Ed box answers any remaining questions about this family bar band backed/fronted by their 8 year old drumming brother. For those who aren’t, may I suggest you buy both? —Nate Phillips
09. Doc Rhymin “Dictionary Rap”+2 12″
Rap was its own greatest recruitment tool; what rap fan in the late ’80s wouldn’t want to be a rapper? Lyrical marathons of this ilk start in the cafeteria, gain momentum by the lockers, and are debuted on the bus. Was enough afterschool revenue squandered to record, but not enough to press? Unfortunately, these rhyme practitioners still elude us. Even contributors from the Cleveland Style compilation, a regional rap survey from the same era, failed to recognize any of these three impressionable emcees by name or nature. The lone rap entry in Thomas Boddie’s everyman recording log, Doc Rhymin’ is a idyllic artifact of inland rap in its emergent stages. Short explanation: It’s bonkers. —Jon Kirby
I admit it, I can be had by colored vinyl. So I felt no burn when a scant 500 copies of this dove headlong into the red—a translucent red, no less, about as transparently candy-like as the bulk of the pop confections within. Numero’s first foray into the non-black, 024V upgrades the tidy original 2CD package’s contact-sheet chic into an assault on the senses carried out by pic sleeves, glossies, and mimeographed posters, all in glorious 12×12. The hook-mining of Titan’s Mark Prellburg and Tom Sorrells, though, is the coup de grace, especially considering the LP version’s 10 extra tracks, all future candidates for that “Wait a second, I’m singing along to this” moment. You know it’s coming, too. —Judson Picco
What I love about this record is not just its casual, tossed-off, one-take vibe, its youthful innocence, or its almost-Motown-if-only-for-lack-of-a-full-production potential. No, what I really love about “You And Me” is that it’s a hit. The sole musical focus and turning point of “Blue Valentine,” an independent film that found its way out of the art houses and into the hearts of couples everywhere, “You And Me” sold like McFuckingRib. At its peak we were averaging 500 downloads a day and burned through our first pressing faster than the FBI burned through Waco. A great song? Yes it is. A great song that everyone loves? Shit, isn’t that what this business is supposed to be about? —Tom Lunt
In the liner notes to Cali-Tex’s first album in three years you’ll find the words, “as unique as anything recorded anywhere at the time”. It would be quite hard to argue with that statement. The rare sound of these hazed out psych-funk trailblazers is unprecedented, no matter how deep you dig. The 45’s captured on this release, plus the additional four we scraped off a waterlogged tape, shine a light on a midnight hour, raw as steel, black as smoke motorcycle scene that no other place and time could ever replicate. Stone Coal White just feels like a dark relic that has every right to be preserved, up there with the finest to come from the already unique Dayton, Ohio funk scene. Also, we got an actual tombstone cut for the cover, which sits in our yard and is pretty awesome. —Ryan Razowsky
This nugget of previously unreleased soul from D.C.-based vocal group Father’s Children might of been the most slept on Numero release of year. In 1972 Father’s Children found their home outside the Chocolate City, nestling into DC’s vanilla suburbs at Robert “Jose” Williams DB Sound Studios. Like Kohoutek, touted by Time Magazine as “The Comet of The Century,” Father’s Children passed by Earth in 1973 and was quickly forgotten. Who’s Gonna Save The World is a hypothesis of the album that could have been, a comet for this new century that’s still circling around your local record store. —Zach Myers
The first time I heard Willie Wright’s Telling The Truth was when our friend Douglas Mcgowan of Yoga Records had sent us MP3s of that LP which he had found in a Massachusetts thrift store. Needless to say, we listen to a lot of music at the office and our attention span is pretty kinetic and highly opinionated—Numero HQ is not for the faint of heart. But Willie Wright’s soulful folk songs seemed to immediately transcend all of the snarkiness and critical nature of everyone’s various tastes in music. And therein lies the beauty of this simple but unforgettable album. To me, it crushes anything in Terry Callier’s catalog—the immediate touchstone for this type of music. It was my go to album throughout most of the year because really, what is better to put on then some breezy sunshine music as a coping mechanism to get through the wretched Chicago winter, or to cruise around with the windows down along the Pacific Coast highway. According to my iTunes & iPod I listened to these crude MP3s over 150 times before we got the new masters late in 2010, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since then. For some reason these simple songs never get old to me, they just keep getting better. — Michael Slaboch
The cuts compiled from Pegue’s Nickel and Penny labels are, in a way, a love letter to the magic of the man himself. He was moved by these tracks, and he wanted to share that with the masses. Admittedly I’m generally not into ballads, but the opening to “Never More” by Little Ben & the Cheers just sends chills down my spine. And it just gets better from there; the groovy, girly sounds of “Fall In Love Again”, Jerry Townes’ rockin’ “You Are My Sunshine”…and then Little Ben and the Cheers just absolutely slay it on “Mighty, Might Lover” a choice mid-album burner. Things heat up even more with a couple of stunners by the South Shore Commission, and ultra funky, but not related, Brothers & Sisters. Then, as the album progresses, the production gets weirder and weirder, culminating in the completely whacked out “Sign of the Zodiac” by South Suburban Electric Strings, a nice little instrumental cut with a bit of off-kilter drumming complimented by brilliant orchestration and some great funk guitar work. Then to bring it all full circle, “The Ember Song” is the perfect capstone, because the ember of Pegue’s influence really is and should be forever.
Growing up in suburbs of Chicago, I’ve always loved the role that WGCI has played in Chicago’s soul scene. To me, the old soul and dusties that were played were almost otherworldly compared to the alternative rock radio and pop overload I was used to. And nobody championed those dusties better than WGCI’s own Richard Pegue. When he told you he was playing “the best music of your life,” it wasn’t just hyperbole. Pegue meant it, and it was gospel truth. Because when you heard those cuts, they became part of you, and not in that annoying can’t get it out of your head sort of way, this was deep. Real deep. — Dustin Drase
Our only regret this year was making the record so limited. Just 1000 LPs, 1000 CDs, and 300 cassettes exist, which is a shame for a record of this caliber. Such is the life of a mix tape. When we first excavated the Boddie archive in the summer of 2009, we were pleasantly surprised with the volume of tapes by non-Boddie labeled artists that were still on the premises. And not just tapes, but unused labels, order forms, stampers, dead stock, jackets, test pressings, acetates, and all manners of record pressing-related ephemera. We knew a project existed among all this detritus, we just needed to listen to the tapes to find it. Using Dante Carfagna’s discography and a red binder kept in Thomas Boddie’s desk drawer that listed nearly every record ever made on site, we cobbled together a dream compilation. We assigned a half number not to denigrate the album, but rather to tie it in as a companion to the larger Boddie box we knew was coming (The concept was grabbed from the classic “split label” releases that Dischord employed in the ’80s and ’90s). Tracks like the Imperial Wonders, Los Nombres, and Harvey & the Phenomenals were shoe-ins, but it’s the outliers that really made this record special; Slippery When Wet, Donald Eckert, and Wicked Lester are among my favorite discoveries of the year. And that’s saying a lot because we uncover cool shit almost everyday. Perhaps most remarkable is the possibility of a sequel, as we left an equal number of treasures on the cutting room floor. I suppose this is what 10 year anniversary editions are made for. —Ken Shipley
It’s no surprise that Boddie Recording Company galloped easily to the #1 slot. Six years in the making, with over two years spent just evaluating the material. Five trips to Cleveland, countless meals at Yours Truly, hundreds of master reels listened to, thousands of pages of documents sorted, dozens of letters written to artists and group members… the Numero office has really been the Boddie Historical Society for the last few years. To see the massive, extraordinary results is a triumph around here. Sure, it was delayed weeks by a shipping crisis involving a lost trucking container and a drunken train conductor. But as Boddie was plagued by rotten luck during their time, we expected some of it would rub off on our box.
Some have called Boddie our finest work and wondered where we can possibly go next. The kids in the mail order department have pleaded with us to not do anything like it again. Only one group is going to be disappointed. Sorry Nate Phillips, it’s going to be yours. —Rob Sevier
NPR’s Tell Me More recently showcased the first hand accounts of two people integral to our recent 035 Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland Ohio collection. Cleveland music matriarch Louise Boddie makes a rare trek to downtown Cleveland to tell her side of the story.
This is more of a personal exercise, as any one reading this spot has likely already bought Boddie Recording Co. That said, the unprint media seems to like our most recent opus, and since we like to brag, we will.
“There is a certain optimism and spirit of hard work in these recordings that makes them an exciting body of work to listen to all at once.”
“This sort of dedication to source materials is something of a Numero standard, but in this particular case it still has the power to astound. Echoing the ethos of Boddie’s original venture, this thing is a labor of love and it shows in every aspect.”
“The only problem with all of this outpouring of archival largesse from The Numero Group is that they keep setting the bar higher and higher.”
“This package is as memorable for the unbridled works of genius it brings to light as for the sheer oddities, eccentricities and impressive flops.”