Numero Group: By The Numbers

In Memoriam: Donald Coulter, A Quarter.
June 4, 2014, 1:21 pm
Filed under: Obituaries, Prix | Tags:

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This morning we lost a great friend, Don Coulter from Penny & the Quarters. His background vocals, along with his two brothers Bill and John, provided the foundation of one of Numero’s biggest “hits”, “You And Me.” He was struck tragically by a stroke almost a year ago and showed amazing resilience while attempting to recover against a number of opportunistic ailments and the inability to speak. We send our heartfelt condolences to his widow Merlene, his sister Nannie (aka Penny), his brothers, and the rest of their vast extended family and friends in Columbus.

Kenneth Latham stops by Spoonful
May 23, 2012, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Prix, Royal Esquires

“Kenneth Latham (pictured here) from the Royal Esquires stopped by Spoonful records in Columbus recently… his group is included on the Numero Group – Prix Label release. He said that they only cut the two songs and were then drafted to Vietnam.”

We’re always impressed by the DEEP catalog knowledge of Spoonful owner Brett Ruland.  Sometimes we’re convinced he might know our Ohio releases even better than we do.  That’s why it was a special joy to get this photo emailed over to us a few days ago, with Latham proudly holding up a copy of our Prix label LP.  You can check out more of the Royal Esquires story here.


You Tube Round Up, Part 3
May 30, 2011, 6:58 pm
Filed under: Capsoul, Fern Jones, Prix | Tags: , , ,

These never cease to amaze us:

Fern Jones’ “I Ain’t Got Time” lip-synched, well sort of.

Penny & the Quarters finally gets the twee rendition it’s been begging for by Designs For Living (who?).

Conor Byrne slaughters Them Two’s “Am I A Good Man, thankfully it appears that no one in the crowd is paying attention.

Finally, Marion Black’s “Who Knows” gets used as background for a school film.

The World Continues To Discover “You & Me”
March 10, 2011, 9:43 am
Filed under: Prix | Tags: ,

If you can hang in until the 4 minute mark some dude starts rapping.

You And Me
March 4, 2011, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Newsworthy, Prix | Tags: ,

“You & Me”

Sometime in 2005, a lone box of master tapes escaped an estate sale and made its way through a network of collectors, record dealers, and “junkers” into the hands of leading Ohio soul expert Dante Carfagna. Dante identified the tapes as a clutch of lost masters related to Columbus, Ohio’s mysterious Prix label, an imprint already being considered for its slot among our flagship Eccentric Soul series. The discovery of those tapes—containing finished but unissued masters and a batch of raw demo tracks—offered the ongoing Prix project a jolting shot in the arm. A bit of research turned up Prix label owner George Beter, and combining Beter’s input with that of the few Prix artists and songwriters still around, most of this generally unlabeled material was identified. All it took was an endless series of phone calls and letters and two fields trips in Columbus.

But one complete mystery managed to make its way onto the final cut of 015 Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label. “You and Me,” a simple but irrepressible demo credited only to Penny & the Quarters, was found tacked onto a studio reel of various artists. Our survey of every willing lifer left on the Columbus soul scene, including retired DJs, producers, and important local artists, produced not so much as a glimmer of recognition at the name Penny & the Quarters. Though we loved the song from the first play, it may’ve ended up a bit buried on our original compilation, as #18 of 19 tracks.

“You Are Giving Me Some Other Love”

Four years later, Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label hadn’t exactly become a huge seller, although listeners had repeatedly told us that the unfiltered studio demos that fill out the record’s back half were true diamonds in the rough. Still, neither Penny nor her Quarters had appeared to claim credit for their efforts. Then, completely out of left field, we heard from respected screen actor and avowed Numero fan Ryan Gosling that Penny’s piercing bit of stripped down doo-wop was being considered for inclusion in Derek Cianfrance’s indie-weeper film Blue Valentine. What we didn’t know was that “You and Me” had been given a major role in what became a minor hit on the indie circuit, and that Penny & the Quarters would acquire instant status as the world’s most famous unknown doo-wop group.

Every week is a slow news week in Columbus, Ohio, and early January 2011 found the city recovering from the thrill of elevating Ted Williams—the formerly homeless guy with the awesome voice for radio—into a national news sensation. But both major daily newspapers in town, as well as the city’s alternative weekly, also ran stories about how a lost and unknown Columbus soul group had become the musical centerpiece of a film already garnering Oscar buzz. That mainstream spotlight aimed at Blue Valentine and Penny & the Quarters did the trick: we finally made contact with the widow of Jay Robinson, lead Quarters’ singer and songwriter. Robinson, it turned out, had also been the leader of Columbus doo-wop pioneers The Supremes (later known as “The Columbus Supremes,” for reasons which should be obvious). Jay Robinson never did give up on the dream of writing a hit record; even so, the posthumous realization of his dream is cold comfort for his widow and daughter. With their blessings, we returned to those estate sale masters and pulled down another neglected track (“You Are Giving Me Some Other Love”) from the still-unknown Penny and her now-partly-known Quarters. “You and Me” is a song that could not be suppressed: not when Prix failed to release it; not when Penny & the Quarters were forgotten; not when Numero stuck it at the bitter end of a much overlooked compilation. Its evolution from estate sale trash to movie screen gold has finally returned it to big-hole 45, where it probably should have lived all along.

“I Cried A Tear”

Shipping now from our website, but should find its way into your local retail establishment in the next few weeks. The expanded MP3 edition has an additional bonus track, “I Cried Another Tear,” if that sways you in anyway.

Lost Soul In Columbus, OH
January 27, 2011, 11:05 am
Filed under: Methodology, Prix | Tags: , , , , ,

The Other Paper weighs in on the mysterious origins of Penny & the Quarters “You & Me” that is now featured in the film ‘Blue Valentine.’

“I do wish I knew who Penny & the Quarters were,” Sevier said.

The Numero Group label was founded on the principal of rediscovering not just lost music, but lost artists, and getting them their long-belated due.

“One of the main things I do is track people, and this is a situation where I feel I’ve failed,” Sevier said.

“I don’t feel like the music can be unlinked from the people who made it. And while, yes, we’re about rediscovering music, it doesn’t exist on its own. I feel like I’ve met some amazing people doing this, and their stories are every bit as beautiful as the music they’ve made. But that’s the missing piece to this song.”

So who is Penny?

Read the entire article here.

Penny, the Quarters, and where their share of the Blue Valentine quarters are
January 18, 2011, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Prix | Tags: , , ,

Four years ago when we were putting the finishing touches on Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label, we had a handful of tough choices to make about the unreleased demos from the Harmonic Sounds/Prix archive. As we’ve told you before, a box of tapes and acetates turned up at a yard sale in Columbus a few years before we started the project, finding their way to Numero staffer Dante Carfagna, who used the contents of that box to spark the conversation on the Prix label. We chose a few heart-wrenching Eddie Ray demos, Ray’s “Wait A Minute,” a weird studio jam, unreleased cuts by Joe King and Marion Black, and finally “You And Me,” a sparely arranged demo by a group referred to only as Penny & the Quarters.

Rob Sevier and Dante hit Columbus hard that Winter, spending nearly two weeks interviewing as many people involved in Harmonic Sounds and Prix as they could find. With them at all times was a CD of Prix demos, including “You And Me.” This song was played for every single person we interviewed, and not a single one of them could match the voices on that tape to a group in Columbus.

With our paperwork in order from surviving Prix-label co-owner George Beter, we moved forward with the project hoping that the group would be coaxed out by local press on the record. The Dispatch and Alive did small stories on our 15th record, but neither mentioned Penny & the Quarters. Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label ended up as one of the poorest selling titles in the series, the group remained a mystery.

Time passed and the song became a line item on royalty reports, generating literally pennies for George Beter. Two years after the record was released we began a fruitful relationship with the PR firm Biz 3, who also worked with Dead Man’s Bones, the musical project of actor Ryan Gosling. Music from Biz 3 filtered through to Gosling, and against all odds, Penny & the Quarters got stuck in his craw. So much so that “You And Me” ended up appearing in director Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 film Blue Valentine, not just as background sound, but as the very song that ties the movie’s two principle characters to each other.

Via The London Times:

…[the song]was given by Ryan to the director Derek Cianfrance when he was asked for a tune that would represent his relationship with Michelle Williams in the movie. Derek – who has spent 13 years trying to make the film – said he envisaged the pair having a song and he told Ryan to keep it away from Michelle. He said: “I said that’s great. Just keep it from Michelle. Don’t play it to anyone.”

The movie dives directly toward NC-17 just after the clip above, but that’s hardly mattering to the millions of people who have by now seen the film. “You and Me” has gotten stuck in the world’s craw, generating not a ton of money for Numero or George Beter, but enough so that we’ve re-opened its cold case in the hopes of sharing the revenue with Penny, the Quarters, or their decedents. Others have speculated that some kind of infringement of rights has taken place, but rest assured that we have worked in concert with the Prix label owner since the onset of this project, and he is just as interested in solving the Penny & the Quarters mystery and remunerating the artists as we are.

Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label gets a makeover
September 9, 2010, 9:46 am
Filed under: Newsworthy, Prix | Tags: , ,

Regular readers may recall our April 2009 pledge to update a handful of LP titles as they went out and back into print. Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil was the first to go under the knife, putting our initial offering to shame easily with it’s crisp photos and updated liners. When Grand Bahama Goombay slipped out of circulation earlier this year, we gave it a similar treatment, fixing the short spine, giving the liners a fresh edit, and sharpening the photos.

Prix had always been one of those titles we were  disappointed with on LP. For openers, the labels were swapped on the first and third pressings. The spine was always off and the layout inside left a lot to be desired. We got the new Prix back in last month, but between the Boddie Acetate Box, the Four Mints 45, and the Lonestar Lowlands LP, it got lost in the shuffle. Take a peak at the new features:

The front cover image has been sharpened, giving that natural Polaroid wear and tear some real shine. Eddie Ray’s teeth have never been so shiny and bright.

Dante Carfagna’s notes have been given a once over, corrected and updated in spots where necessary. The center spread for the CD edition has been added in at a robust 6″ X 11″s.

In our teens we were still toying with the idea of how to budget an album. We cut photos or made them smaller, cool ephemera like check stubs and invoices were usually cast aside. You can see micro-details like these in this new edition, along with all four label variations, and Prix and related labels discography.

Procure your 2010 150 gram double album edition here.

An Eccentric Partnership
April 15, 2010, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Methodology, Prix | Tags: , , ,

Sometimes when we take another look at an old project we catch some fascinating bits of history that we missed the first time around. In this case, we were revisiting some of the Prix archives that Dante Carfagna kept and found an illuminating letter from George Beter to Clem Price. Beter and Price were the folks behind the Prix label and, like most of the mini-moguls behind eccentric soul labels they never got to quit their day jobs. Price was a defense contractor, developing weaponry for the U.S. Air Force, and Beter was a prosecutor in the States’ Attorney office in Columbus, Ohio. Working closely to get their label off the ground, however, led to another unexpected layer of their collaboration. This letter reveals that after they began working together to set the world on fire with productions of Eddie Ray, the Royal Esquires, and the Soul Ensemble they concocted a prototype for a device that could detect the presence of narcotics in a small area, and could theoretically pinpoint the location of a large narcotics stash from a distance.

The letter occurs while they are attracting great resistance. Beter relates a meeting with a police narcotics officer: “The indication was that the proposal was absurd & that I was some kind of nut!” No details of the device’s functions are ever discussed, it’s merely about the unnavigable bureaucracies faced in both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice in order to get funding. “[Justice] could care less, and makes more effort to avoid work than to give attention to honest efforts. As far as we know, no such device was ever created by anyone (although surely in the minds of conspiracy theorists it’s used everyday). What’s interesting is the crossover of our little soul history project into the realms of near-science fiction. Perhaps if we were more technologically-inclined we’d be digging up the blueprints of lost ideas and repurposing them for a new century.

More from the Prix cutting room floor
July 28, 2009, 9:39 am
Filed under: Prix, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

From longtime Numero subscriber Alejandro Borrero comes a an item he felt was unjustly left off Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label. We’re always after the cream, and my personal feeling is that this live Eddie Ray cut falls somewhere in the murky middle, but let us know in the comments section if it was a crime against nature to not issue it.

I stand accused