Friday, November 11, 2011

the starrs

Singing Bones proprietor Ana-B wonders:

PHANTOM 200

Crying Over You

"I've got a seriously mysterious record that's been driving me nuts for over two years. A really great record. No listing for the label, no info on the group anywhere, not even a BMI listing for the b-side song, which is credited to Ike Turner, or the publishing company itself. Three other folks more savvy than I have looked into it and we can't find anything.

"The only other copy I've seen showed up on Ebay about six months ago. I contacted the seller to see if he knew anything, turned out he was a very knowledgeable dealer out of Oakland. He was like, 'I don't know anything, first time I've ever seen it, thought I'd put it up as an unknown and see what it does'... the record went for over $200, which about gave me and the seller a joint heart attack!"

SHOCK 200

I'm Hurting

"The best guess so far is that it might be Billy Gayles (post-Ike Turner?). It does sound something like Gayles' 'I'm Hurting' (also credited to Turner) on the Shock label, a record on which some people say Turner plays piano, not guitar. If this record was done around the same time, that would date it as '61 or '62, which sounds dead-on to me."

We both agreed that the Starrs 45 sounds like a New Orleans record (the flip is a cover of Ain't Got No Home), and talked about the fact that George Jackson supposedly cut his first 45 with Ike Turner down in the Crescent City around the same time that Mac Rebennack places him down there in those free and easy pre-Jim Garrison days... do you think it's possible that Ike brought Billy to Cosimo's back then to try and cash in on some of that Sugar Town chart magic?

Hmmmm.... thanks for this one Ana, your record collection continues to amaze and delight us all!

update:

OK folks, Ana did a little more digging...

"I now have slightly more info on the Starrs record than when I was last in touch... Around the same time I posted this 45 on my blog, a collection called That Kat Sure Could Play was released (very nice, btw). It purports to include every Ike Turner related cut issued between 1952 and 1957, and the Starrs 45 is included.

"However, it's the only 45 in the collection on which no information is given. Fred Rathwell, who wrote the liner notes, calls it a 'discographical blank', and opines that the singer might be Jackie Brenston (not an opinion I agree with).

"A short while after that, a friend who'd seen my blog post contacted me to say he'd traced the run-out code some months before... and hadn't he told me that it was pressed at the Monarch plant in California sometime in December 1960? Well, no, he hadn't.

"Anyway, that info has since been re-checked and is in fact correct. Which not only means that the 45 falls outside the time period supposedly covered by 'That Kat Sure Could Play', but also places it fairly close in time to the Billy Gayles 45 on Shock..."

...detectives?

james lewis fields

UK Soul Maven Nick Sands postulates:

TOP POP 2262

How Long Shall I Wait

"I have just heard for the first time (shame on me) James Lewis Fields 'How Long Shall I Wait' on the Top Pop label out of NY. As soon as I heard it I said Lee Fields (the clue is in the second and third names), as this sounds like James Brown as did Lee Fields - who was known as 'Little James Brown'...

"Looking around the net there is no reference to this, and even Mr. Ridley has a straight review of it being just James Lewis Fields. Lee Fields also worked out of NY (still does), so my guess is it's him???"

Well, as you might have guessed yourself, Sir Shambling has little use for this funky A side, and is more enamoured with it's 'deep' flip, I Really Love You. Both sides are great, as far as I'm concerned, and if this soulful slab of vinyl is indeed Lee Fields, I can't imagine why he wouldn't want to be credited for it.

What do you think?

shirley ellis

Nick Guarino, Film & TV Music Director at Universal, asks:

COLUMBIA 44021

Soul Time

"I'm sorry to trouble you, but I was wondering if you knew anything about Shirley Ellis (of The Name Game fame) and what might have become of her. I'm placing her music in a commercial and am trying to make sure that all the payments make it to her, but we've got no current contact info and very little to go on. I'm sorry if I'm imposing on you but I thought maybe you or someone in your vast Soul Network might have a lead."

I warned Nick that our 'Soul Network' was really only half-vast, and I have as yet have been unable to find out anything definite about Ms. Ellis. I find it hard to believe that someone who had been as well-known as Shirley, who had released two top 5 R&B hits that are still heavy in the rotation today, could have disappeared from the public eye so completely.

Both Google and Wikipedia lead nowhere, and there seems to be no record of her after 1968. This great 45 we have here would be her last chart appearance. It was released in the Spring of 1967. I don't know, do you think that perhaps Shirley has been overlooked by the 'serious' Soul fan out there because she was too 'Pop' or something?

Her real name was Shirley Marie Elliston, and she was born in The Bronx. A search of the Social Security Death Index yielded this:

Although Wikipedia lists the year of Elliston's birth as 'circa 1941', it certainly seems plausible that she may have lied about her age back when the phones were still ringing. Although I sincerely hope I'm wrong, this may indeed be her.

Can anyone out there shed any light on all of this?

update:

Nick got back in touch with us to report, sadly, that the SSDI entry we found did indeed refer to Shirley Ellis...
"I just spoke to Shirley's niece who says she loves the commercial... Shirley did leave the business in the late 60s and never seems to have looked back, only occasionally belting out a tune at block parties."

Well there ya go... thanks, Nick, and may she rest in peace.