Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from Hoss Allen and Myself

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to everyone. I thought this might be a good day to share with everyone "He Went to the Mountain Top," an extremely rare Starday tribute to MLK by famed WLAC disc jockey Bill "Hoss" Allen. Allen, widely known in the '60s for creating and hosting the legendary The !!!! Beat TV show (one of my favorite shows!!) and DJing at the highest wattage clear channel R&B radio station (WLAC, Nashville), recorded this tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Starday Sound Studios in Nashville, TN. Most of the releases of this record were white-label promos with the flipside Earl Gaines track released on both sides. After looking for it for nearly 10 years, I finally tracked down a copy with the Allen track on the flip and just today uploaded it to YouTube.

Recorded in early '68, shortly after King's assassination in April of that year, by Hoss Allen with Billy Cox on bass and possibly Skippy Brooks or Ray Valentine on piano and/or organ.

During the mid to late '60s Allen was recording and producing R&B, blues, and soul sessions at the Starday Sound Studio nearly every weekend, as well as renting out office space at the Starday offices for his Rogana production company. The Allen-produced recordings were made at the Starday Studios (as well as a few others) and then leased to a slew of other independent labels including Excello, Copa, Bragg, Rich, Hit Sound, Chess, Sound Stage 7, and later Allen's own Hermitage label to name just a few. Allen's presence around the Starday offices even convinced Don Pierce to revive his Hollywood R&B label.

Just prior to his involvement with Starday, Pierce bought the Hollywood label from R&B mogul John Dolphin in L.A. (for more on this, check out Chapter One in the Starday Story). Though Pierce wasn't really personally invested in the label (he just funded it), the early R&B hits on this label helped to keep Starday afloat during the very early years ('53-54). John Dolphin continued to produce most of the Hollywood recording sessions until he was murdered in 1958. As a side note, I remember Don telling me how shook up he was about this because a.) John was his friend and b.) it was just a year or so after he had moved to Nashville from L.A. and he had given his old office space, desk, and chair to John Dolphin and it was while he was sitting at in Don's old office and at his old desk that John was murdered by Percy Ivy, a songwriter upset by the lack of royalties he had received.

After 1958, the Hollywood label became mostly dormant. It wasn't until the mid '60s, when Allen began renting office space in the Starday offices, that Pierce decided to revive the label and with a new look (the rainbow logo). Twenty-four outstanding soul and blues singles were released on the Hollywood label before Pierce merged his Starday label with the King label and sold them as a package deal. This particular MLK tribute, like many of the Rogana productions, was released on the new-look Hollywood label, which clearly stated at the bottom of the label that it was a product of Starday Records. The flip side was another tribute to MLK, 'Our Friend Is Gone,' written by Allen and performed by Allen's close friend and R&B legend Earl Gaines. Allen's vocal side, a rarity in his long career in the music business, was written by Jim Thomas and credited to "A. Friend" for the release.

Enjoy, and Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, all!

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