Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

March 14, 2014

“Love Is A Wailing Thing: The MGM 55000 Series” (GVC cd, UK)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 3:18 pm

various artists (circa 1954-56) from MGM’s 55000 Series, dedicated to R&B


(GVC, UK, cd–30 tracks)

available from Crystal Ball Records and other oldies collector outfits

This late in the game (60 years late),  it’s always a joy to find a unified body of top-quality musical work that’s somehow avoided reissue.  That’s what we have here in this wonderful collection of 30 sides (A & B sides of 15 singles) from MGM Records’ short-lived 55000 series, launched in 1954 as a series devoted to R&B and under the A&R direction of Leroy Kirkland, longtime session organizer and key player on the New York scene. MGM is not a label one associates with jump-blues or R&B in the late 40’s through the mid-50’s, other than the exceptions of Ivory Joe Hunter and Billy Eckstine  and the instrumental albums of Sam “The Man” Taylor  and some one-off sessions here and there, some of them in the vocal-group/doo-wop genre.  I don’t know what motivated MGM to initiate this R&B series…music historians have mentioned that 1954 was the first big year of “crossover” success for R&B, and perhaps they hoped for a taste of that…or maybe it took them that long to realize the large Black audience for the music….whatever the reason, I’m sure glad they did, and you will be too when you hear this hot collection of 30 sides, 15 singles A&B, most of which would cost upwards of $100 on the collector’s market.

It’s a varied collection of men and women (no teenagers here….MGM later had a Cub (originally called “Orbit”)  subsidiary devoted to teen music) whose music would no doubt have appealed to fans of Anisteen Allen or Jimmy Witherspoon or Roy Milton, although there are some proto-doowop vocal group sides and others that dip the toe into the bubbling waters of rock and roll. These are NEW YORK sides, so they don’t really sound like West Coast R&B or Chicago R&B, and as major label sides, they have a full sound and A-team jazz sidemen, so they don’t have the rushed quality one sometimes finds on NYC labels such as Herald or Derby. One could compare this material with the output of RCA’s “Groove” subsidiary, but there are fewer novelty songs here–only one tune halfway qualifies, and it’s mostly ‘novelty’ in the tone of the vocal. Short-sighted labels often thought a novelty number was a shortcut to a hit….fortunately, A&R man Leroy Kirkland had been around long enough to see the error in that and he knew that in the long run, solid-sending R&B with a groove is what would command those jukebox nickels and dimes, and that’s what you get here.

These are the kind of records that Alan Freed used to champion in the early 50’s, forward-thinking beat-driven booting R&B platters played by black musicians who’d paid their dues in the waning days of the swing era—-they had jazz-level chops but still realized that most popular music had to also succeed as entertainment—-people such as Mickey Baker, Sam “The Man” Taylor (who wound up as a longterm MGM artist), Big Al Sears, Taft Jordan, etc. Some artists in the 55000 series such as The Twilighters or Gladys Patrick did record for other labels before and/or after their stint with MGM, but many of the named artists are lesser-known, and at least a few are pseudonyms for the session musicians and for leader Leroy Kirkland. So what you are getting here is 15 singles, A & B sides, for a total of 30 hot tracks, coming from a great period, 1955-56, as R&B evolved into rock and roll.

The sound is fine, and the package is done up just right by respected blues archivists/scholars Victor Pearlin and Bob Fisher. with pictures and anecdotes provided by Billy Vera, who knew and worked with Leroy Kirkland, and who no doubt questioned him thoroughly during their work together. It’s a prime slice of quality material from one of the best periods ever in R&B history from one of the best locations (NYC) with some of the best musicians anywhere, at the top of their game like a seasoned athlete and probably playing  dozens of studio and live gigs a week, and thus having the kind of effortless flow that someone who’s ALWAYS playing tends to get. This has a 2009 release date on it, but it evaded me until late 2013. However, it’s still available…just google the title and you’ll find a few dealers who have it. If this description intrigues you, then you NEED this prime collection.


MGM 55000

  1. I Must Have Love – Johnny Oliver
  2. Lemonade Baby – Johnny Oliver
  3. He Ain’t Mine No More – Baby Dee
  4. When I Cry – Baby Dee
  5. Cloudburst – Claude Cloud & His Thunderclaps
  6. One Bone – Claude Cloud & His Thunderclaps
  7. Cherie – The Hide-A-Ways
  8. Me Make Em Pow Wow – The Hide-A-Ways
  9. Long Gone Lonesome Blues – Jimmie Newsome
  10. I’m Afraid I Love You – Jimmie Newsome
  11. Bad Girl – The Ramblers
  12. Rickey-Do, Rickey-Do – The Ramblers
  13. Move It On Over – Ray Reid
  14. I’ll Take the Blame – Ray Reid
  15. High Winds – Sam ‘The Man’ Taylor w/Claude Cloud & His Thunderclaps
  16. Bang Up – Claude Cloud & This Thunderclaps
  17. Daddy On My Mind – Mamie (Miss Good Blues) Thomas w/Leroy Kirkland’s Orchestra
  18. Nobody Like My Man – Mamie (Miss Good Blues) Thomas w/Leroy Kirkland’s Orchestra
  19. Unchain My Heart – Gladys Patrick
  20. The Blues – Gladys Patrick
  21. Little Did I Dream – The Twilighters
  22. Gotta Get on the Train – The Twilighters
  23. Darling Is It Time – Johnny Oliver
  24. My Lady Love – Johnny Oliver
  25. Zoom De De Ho Ho – Dolores (Baby Dee) Spriggs
  26. Unless You Love Me – Dolores (Baby Dee) Spriggs
  27. Half Angel – The Twilighters
  28. Lovely Lady (Lundy Lou) – The Twilighters
  29. Somebody Please – Gladys Patrick & the Charioteers
  30. Love is a Wailing Thing – Gladys Patrick & the Charioteers



MGM back

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