Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

August 7, 2017

WOW, WOW, BABY! 1950’s R&B, Blues & Gospel From Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, Volume 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:05 am

WOW, WOW, BABY! 1950’s R&B, Blues & Gospel From Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, Volume 3

Ace Records (UK) CD, CDTOP 1438, released in 2015

01  Heavy Artillery (aka The Solid Rock) – Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra featuring Roland Mitchell

02  Man Have I Got Troubles – Scatman Crothers

03 Wow Wow Baby – The Hollywood Four Flames

04  Pete’s Boogie – Memphis Slim

05  S.K. Blues – Jimmy Witherspoon

06  Years And Tears Ago – Little Margie with Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

07  Oh Baby – Floyd Dixon

08  Step In The Right Direction – Brother Prince Dixon

09  I Walk All Night – Johnny Fuller

10  Elaine – Scatman Crothers

11  Yak Yak Woman – Marvin & Johnny

12  Sleep, Drink And Play – Earl Burton

13  Traffic Ticket – Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

14 My Love Is Real – James Reed

15  Hey Rube – The Mellow Tones

16  Never Can Tell (When A Woman’s Going To Change Her Mind) – Floyd Dixon

17 Lonely, Lonely Woman – Little Eve with Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

18  Teenage Party – Jimmy Witherspoon

19  Fancy Pants – Tap Anthony & His Orchestra

20  Don’t Blooper – Grady Chapman & The Suedes

21  All Messed Up – Vernon Anders

22   I Need The Lord To Guide Me Everyday – Brother Prince Dixon

23   Teenagers Only – Little Margie with Big Boy Groves & His Orchestra

24  Oh Yeah! (aka Rock And Roll) – Chuck Higgins & The Mellotones


Los Angeles music entrepreneur John Dolphin first came to fame as the colorful owner and operator of a 24-hour-a-day record store DOLPHIN’S OF HOLLYWOOD (not located in or near Hollywood) , which opened in 1948 and became famous locally for having a DJ broadcasting live from its window. Dolphin soon realized that if he had his own labels and controlled all aspects of recording/pressing/etc., then he would not have to be paying OTHER people or companies, so he launched in 1950 his Recorded in Hollywood label, eventually to be followed by the Cash and Money labels. There was always a refreshing rawness and spontaneity to the Dolphin operation. Supposedly, his release schedule is a discographical nightmare, with numbers repeated or skipped, B-sides replaced without warning or logic, etc. And the recordings themselves have a refreshing, one-take quality (even if they weren’t one-take). The labels continued until Dolphin’s death in 1958….although his widow Ruth revived the Money imprint in the 1960’s and released a good number of first-rate soul singles into the early 70’s (these are collected on three Ace-label comps, The Soul of Money Records, all very much worth owning). Specialty released a compilation of 1950’s R&B from the Dolphin archive in the 1990’s, compiled by Billy Vera, and eventually UK Ace acquired Dolphin’s catalogue and so far they have issued three various artists compilations devoted to 1950’s R&B/blues from this rich archive.

Dolphin did not seem to have some grand scheme or over-arching vision for his labels; he was not searching out a particular “sound” or exploring the limits of some vision of music. He was looking for records which he could sell at his store, promote locally, and perhaps get a national or regional hit out of. His was a cash-based business, and he was not a man who wasted time with contracts or royalties. This approach might have driven a business major crazy at the time, but in hindsight it led to a wide variety of recordings (he even recorded country music, including one song I’ve heard which was composed by Murry Wilson, pre-Beach Boys!) from a wide variety of artists—-people who didn’t record for anyone else, local performers who were popular in clubs but not on record, artists from elsewhere who were temporarily in the Los Angeles area, performers whose managers/producers felt they were “on the way up” and saw Dolphin as an outlet where they could “break” their talents, and well-known professionals who could easily knock out a solid, quick session for Dolphin for pocket money and not worry about where or when or how it would be issued. With this approach, Dolphin managed to document a wide swath of the rich music and cultural scene of Black Los Angeles in the 1950’s. That’s what has made these three volumes of Dolphin material so exciting and enjoyable. YOU are there on Central Avenue during one of the great periods of music history, essentially dipping your ladle into the soup pot of Los Angeles R&B and pulling out 24 rich and delicious sips, all of which are obscure and raw and fine and flavorful.

You get two tracks from Scatman Crothers (many years ago I reviewed a compilation of Crothers’ singles for various labels, on the German “Hydra” label, for Ugly Things magazine, and you should find that comp ASAP), which alternately showcase his skills as a blues singer and as a vaudeville artiste; vocal group rarities from The Mellow Tones and The Hollywood Flames and the young Marvin & Johnny; two deep Gospel tracks from Brother Prince Dixon; rockin’ sax-led nightclub R&B from Big Boy Groves; one-off material from well-known blues artists Memphis Slim, Floyd Dixon, and Jimmy Witherspoon; and finally, an anthemic track by sax honker Chuck Higgins. It’s all hardcore Los Angeles R&B (except for the Gospel tracks, of course) and shows the diversity of the scene, and it’s all new to me, except for a handful of tracks which are either alternate versions of things issued elsewhere or taken from that 1990’s Specialty album. However, that’s not a major problem—-I can’t imagine anyone who owns that album (as I do) complaining because this 24-track collection contains one excellent track after another. It’s as if you are a fly on the wall in Dolphin’s back-room studio during one of the richest periods of Los Angeles music.

Can’t wait for Volume 4—-thanks to Ace for doing such a great job mining the Dolphin vein (and also for mining the other Los Angeles labels they control: Dootone, Combo, Modern, etc.). By the way, vinyl collectors might want to seek out an old vocal group compilation called DOLPHIN’S OF HOLLYWOOD: THE DOO WOP SESSIONS on the Swedish Mr. R&B subsidiary label “Earth Angel,” which was of course a label devoted exclusively to Los Angeles recordings. You can still find that LP for a reasonable price.

WOW, WOW, BABY! 1950’s R&B, Blues & Gospel From Dolphin’s Of Hollywood, Volume 3 offers up an instant party, one which will satisfy the hardcore collector of this kind of music and which should hook the neophyte, who will surely be ordering the other albums in the series and then Ace’s MELLOW CATS AND KITTENS series of archival digs through the Modern records catalogue. WOW, WOW, BABY! has been a regular visitor in my home and in my car for a few years now, and I want to share the excitement with YOU!


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