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.