It was Dante Carfagna who first suggested that we compile all the records from Miami’s first black-owned record company: Deep City. At the time, the 40-year chain of title was a bit unclear, but we kept seeing the same three names on every record: Johnny Pearsall, Willie Clarke, and Clarence Reid. With Pearsall dead and Clarke in the wind, Clarence would be our first point of contact.
My first encounter with Clarence Reid came during the 2005 edition of SXSW, in the green room of Emo’s. I’d brought print outs of 45 labels baring the Deep City, Lloyd, and Reid imprints, and he thumbed through them slowly while I asked a series of extremely specific questions. Who owns the rights? When was the last time you talked to Willie? Who were the Delmiras? I prattled on for a few minutes before Clarence stopped me and told a story about his experience in the music business:
If you get fucked up the ass by a dinosaur once, you blame the dinosaur. But if you get fucked up the ass by a dinosaur again? Boy, that’s your own goddamn fault.
Reid had been burned many times in his career; Sold off his publishing at a low point in the ‘80s, his masters in the early ‘90s. About the only thing he had left was the mask and cape he donned to perform under his alter-ego Blowfly. That night he had little interest in my schpiel about how we could resuscitate his career. He had songs to sing about rappin’ dirty and shittin’ on the dock of the bay.
Numero did finally track down Willie Clarke, and the first Deep City came out in 2006 sans any Clarence Reid songs. Most of the masters, as it would turn out, were sold to Dial and Jamie-Guyden. But there were publishing royalties due. Not much, but some. Our first check to him was around $350. He called up a few days after receiving it to tell me something I’ve since heard dozens of times, but which still gnaws at me:
This is the first royalty check I’ve gotten in my entire life. I got advances, I got cars. But no one ever bothered to tell me where I was at. Thanks for that. Now I’m going to watch jai alai. Fuck you later.
As Chicagoans, adopted or otherwise, everyone at Numero shares in the mourning after the recent passing of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. We’ll leave the eulogizing to the sports writers, but we wanted to take an opportunity to share a little known aspect of Banks’ storied career. Like many other ball players, Banks’ issued a novelty disco 45. In fitting with Banks’ fabled sportsmanship, it was an ode to his principles rather than a swaggering, self-aggrandizing paean to victory. Banks will be missed. As a tribute, make sure you play it twice.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of another member of the Numero Group family. Central to Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg, this pioneering figure in the Arizona music departed January 15th. Beginning in 1962, Lenaburg began issuing singles by a Who’s That? of Phoenix artists, including Sheila Jack, Michael Liggins, Small Paul, Ronnie Whitehead, Lon Rogers, We The People, the Newlyweds, and the soul trifecta of Super Souls, Soulsations, and Soul Blenders. Over the next 50 years, Lenaburg engaged Phoenix scenesters via multiple record stores, record labels, and radio shows, and was even inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall Of Fame in 2013. It is the Numero way to remember people through their music. Likewise, we encourage you to check out (or revisit) the soul music oasis afforded to us by the Mighty Mike Lenaburg.
We don’t deal in the world of celebrity over Numero HQ very often. Our business is the obscure. And yet, there was a dark cloud over 2348 S. Marshall Boulevard yesterday afternoon. Robin Williams was dead.
We’re in the death business, no doubt. Every week or so we get news of another artist we work with falling out, or we discover the guy we’ve been searching for has actually been dead for six months. When we started working on Cavern, we had no idea we’d need to talk to John Mosley—keyboardist for the second incarnation of the Royal Guardsmen—and when we did know, it was too late. Mosley had been dead a matter of days.
The news of D-list celebrity deaths comes like the tide these days. No one will mourn the death of Dustin Diamond. And if you were big in the ‘50s and not named Betty White, chances are you’e a CNN sub-headline for a few hours before being replaced by some Kardashian mishap. For us to really turn our heads, we need someone major to die, preferably in their prime, but we’ll take just past in a pinch. And let’s be honest, Robin Williams was a decade past. When you’re making CBS sitcoms with Sarah Michelle Gellar, your best days are behind you. But it’s impossible to deny how major he was.
We do obits now and then, but no one visiting this space is here to read our musings about Mork, Garp, or Smoochy. And unless Robin was in a Chicago garage band in the late ‘60s, this will likely be the last time we ever discuss him in this space. While TMZ is going through his trash looking for what type of rope he used to hang himself, we’ll focus on something we have some expertise on. In tribute to the man who gave us Jumanji, here are five great musical moments in the filmography of Robin Williams:
#1 Shelley Duvall “He Needs Me.” From the 1980 film Popeye.
#2 Professor Longhair “Hey Little Girl.” From the 1989 film Dead Poets Society.
#3 Ry Cooder “Tattler.” From the 1990 film Cadillac Man.
#4 Fletcher Henderson “Shanghai Shuffle.” From the 1990 film Awakenings.
#5 Elliot Smith “Miss Misery.” From the 1997 film Good Will Hunting.
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.
Filed under: Obituaries
We were extremely saddened over the weekend to hear of the untimely passing of Wicked Lester bassist and lead vocalist Mark Cleary. Pat Singleton sent us a few words about his lifetime friend and bandmate:
Mark Joseph Cleary was born in Cleveland Ohio on November 4, 1963. He was popular, good at sports, and mischievious. Mark began taking guitar lessons at age 10 and soon switched to bass. He formed Fyre with St Mel Grade School classmates Pat Singleton, John McLaughlin and Brian McIntyre. They made their debut at Dailey’s Bar on Cleveland’s west side in early 1977. Two years later, McLaughlin and Singleton formed Wicked Lester- soon adding Mark and drummer Bill Arth to the lineup. By then Mark was attending Holy Name High School from which he graduated in 1982. He found work as a security guard and continued to be employed in that industry off and on throughout his life. His true love however was songwriting and performing and over the next few years Mark became the visual focal point of Wicked Lester when he moved from bass guitarist to front man. The band enjoyed local popularity and airplay, even sharing the stage of the original Cleveland Agora with hard rock legends Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush. They recorded at Bodie Studio and later Soundstage 25. Mark penned several of their in-concert favorites. The final line-up of the band included Bob Strauss on bass with Brian McIntyre returning on drums for their final shows in 1986.
Mark relocated to Los Angeles where he took acting classes and then to Phoenix Arizona where he won several trophies as a body builder and became proficient on the flute. His last recorded performances were on Pat Singleton’s 2004 solo album “Red Skeleton In The Closet”. He was the flute player and featured vocalist on 3 songs.
On July 5, 2013 under mysterious circumstances, Mark died in his car in the desert of Apache Junction Arizona. He is survived by 4 children, including his son Christian Cleary who is a talented drummer and guitarist.