QUESTION SEVEN - Tommy Young - 'No Explanation'?
Ok folks, this one's been on the back burner here for a while... Soul Detective Marc from Belgium contacted me a while back with this:
"I'm in touch with former Soul singer Tommie Young (nowadays Tommye Young-West)... I found this ad for 'No Explanation' by Tommy (yes, with a Y at the end) Young in Billboard (21 November 1970). Tommye doesn't remember that song, however she recognizes her picture in the advert. I'm trying to find out if some 'Pompei' 45's on 'Tommy Young' were ever issued (titles and issue numbers and more). I wonder if you would be so kind to help us with our enquiries. Any info is really appreciated."
Yes, as we've talked about in the past, the fact that almost every issue of Billboard is now part of the searchable database at Google Books is truly amazing, and provides an invaluable window into the week-to-week goings on in the record business back in the day. The issue in question, from 11/21/70, included a 'Spotlight On Texas' section, and an outfit called Pompeii Records from Dallas was all over it. They were featured in a full page profile, and bought up a bunch of ad space in addition to the 'Tommy Young' ad above.
Founded in 1968 by a nightclub owner and entrepreneur named Pat Morgan, Pompeii was nothing if not ambitious. After merging with something called 'Computer Systems Management', Morgan soon had his own record pressing plant, and created subsidiary labels Vesuvius and Turtle Creek. His bread and butter was apparently in High School 'athletic albums' and 'a series of patriotic records'. The 'executive producer for the R&B division of Pompeii records and publishing' (and only black person in the room in the staff photo at left) was named Paul Kirk.
A quick look at the listing for Pompeii over at the Texas Soul Recordings site reveals no sign of 'No Explanation', nor any other release by 'Tommy' Young. Hmm...
Tommie Young, on the other hand, was born and raised in Dallas, the daughter of a Superintendent and Bishop in the Dallas/Mid-Cities District Church of God in Christ. According to soulwalking, she "started singing in her fathers’ (Bishop T. L. Young) church, at the age of five years. Since an adolescent, she has worked and performed nationally in the Church..."
When local Dallas label Jet Star folded in 1970, Bobby Patterson signed with Stan Lewis in Shreveport, Louisiana. In addition to continuing to record his own great records on Paula, he served as an in-house A&R director, songwriter and producer for Stan's growing roster of artists. In 1972, Patterson worked out a deal with Lewis which gave him and his songwriting partner Jerry Strickland half interest in (and full creative control of) his own label, Soul Power. After cutting records on Louisiana natives Shay Holiday, George Perkins and the African Music Machine, Bobby was on the lookout for some new talent for the label.
As he told David Cole (in In The Basement #56), "...when I found Tommie Young, I was doing an album on myself and I heard Tommie singing in The Flying Fox Club [in Dallas] one night and I said, 'I'm going to make you a star' because she had a natural ability, like Aretha Franklin. She was just a natural... I said, 'I'm going to cut a record on you' and, two weeks later, I came back with the track for 'That's How Strong My Love Is'... we did a moderate number of records on that."
Her second 45 for the label was featured over on good ol' detective Dan Phillips' Home of the Groove way back in 2005, where he had this to say:
SOUL POWER 112 B
Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Their Soul
"It’s hard not to invoke Aretha when hearing Tommie Young, as they have similar vocal qualities in tone, strength, flexibility, and evident gospel roots. This song is probably not the best for a study of her voice, as it doesn’t demand much of her; but it’s mid-level funk factor made me pick it. The deep soul flip side certainly makes more clear the high quality and expressiveness of her voice..."
SOUL POWER 112 A
Do You Still Feel The Same Way
Indeed it does. This great record would break into the R&B top forty in early 1973, climbing as high as #28, and putting Soul Power on the map. (I apologize for my totally 'skated' copy here!) The follow-up, She Don't Have To See You (To See Through You) charted as well, going to #69 R&B that summer.
SOUL POWER 116 A
You Brought It All On Yourself
These great Bobby Patterson/Jerry Strickland tunes are 'deep' Southern Soul of the highest order, and Tommie's impassioned delivery certainly earns her those comparisons with Aretha... what a voice! Those great background vocalists, by the way, include 'Poppies' Dorothy Moore, Jewel Bass and Fern McKinney. There would be only two more Soul Power releases on Ms. Young, which is a cryin' shame...
Bobby was in the process of cutting an LP on Tommie in 1973 and, as he told David Cole, "Her Daddy was a preacher and he had a lot of influence on her, and they saw this record 'Do You Feel The Same Way' taking off, and they thought Tommie was going to be a big star, and they wanted to use her as a drawing card at her Daddy's church, so they talked her into going back and singing at her Daddy's church and it made her feel bad about singing secular music... I supported Tommie in her transition to Gospel, and we're still good friends to this day."
As Marc said, Ms. Young is now known as Tommye Young-West, and she's been singing Gospel ever since. In 1978, she worked on the soundtrack for A Woman Called Moses, and has released four Gospel albums over the past eighteen years, all of which are still available at Amazon. Her latest, Created To Worship, was issued in 2008. There are a few videos on YouTube of her performing live at the Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, and her vocal powers remain undiminished.
Here's what she told Marc about all of this:
"So elated to hear from you. My husband says that the only other song that I recorded was "He Ain't Heavy", but we don't know if it was ever released. My real secular career didn't start until I signed with Soul Power-Jewel Records, in 1972, and I don't recall the song "No Explanation". If you have a copy of that track, would you pls send me an MP3 copy? Thank you very much for your interest. Look forward to hearing from you again.
So, there ya go... only there is one thing. Here's a promotional photo of Tommie that ran in Billboard in 1973:
...and here is the cover of a Pompeii compilation LP called 'Abreast of Soul' that was released in 1970:
I've looked at the cover of this record a thousand times, and I'm still not sure, but it kind of looks like Tommie (or Tommy, if you will) there on the cover to me (even though there aren't any cuts by her listed on the album). What do you think? (Larry Grogan has already weighed in with his opinion that it is definitely not her). I don't know... Tommye has acknowledged that the photo in the ad that started all of this is indeed her, which would seem to indicate that she had some involvement with the label prior to the beginning of her 'real secular career'... Do you think it's possible that 'No Explanation' was recorded, but somehow never released?
Perhaps the truth lies with the gentleman we mentioned earlier, Pompeii's 'executive producer for the R&B division', Paul Kirk. This ad ran in that same 'Spotlight On Texas' issue of Billboard that started all of this in 1970:
Genius? Well then, I figured we needed to take a closer look... The first mention of him in Billboard appears to be from 1966:
I'm not sure if there actually is a person named Kevin Knox or not, but Kirk sure had some ambitious plans for his Enterprises! Check out the name of the inaugural release on 'the R&B label' - "NO EXPLANATION" by a group named The Jobettes. Well, whaddya know? The March article goes out of its way to point out that the group has no connection with Tamla-Motown's publishing arm, Jobete Music (one has to wonder why they chose that name in the first place), but Berry Gordy sued them anyway, and by July they had changed their name to The Dorales. I can find no record of either the Jobettes or the Dorales, and they apparently faded from the scene with 'No Explanation'...
Permit me now, dear detective, to go off on a slight tangent here, as that is essentially what it is I do:
Bert Russell Berns was involved, either as a writer or producer (or both) in some of the most hard-hitting and influential records of all time. From the Jarmels' A Little Bit Of Soap, to The Isley Brothers' Twist and Shout or The Exciters' Tell Him to the positively incomparable Cry Baby by Garnett Mimms and the Enchanters, Berns left his indelible stamp on the New York R&B scene of the early sixties. The crew at Atlantic Records was paying attention, and brought Berns in to work with artists like Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett and The Drifters, resulting in some of the biggest hits (and best records) the company would release during that period in their history.
In 1965 they made Bert an equal partner in their newly formed publishing company, WEB IV - the IV standing for the number of partners, and the WEB representing their last names, Wexler, Ertegun and Berns.
Shortly after that, they gave Berns his own subsidiary label, BANG - an acronym for (what else?) their first names Bert, Ahmet, Nesuhi and Gerald. They hit paydirt with their first release when The Strangeloves just missed the top ten with Berns composition I Want Candy (yes, the same song as the 80's Bow Wow Wow remake) in June of 1965. By August, Bang had taken over the top slot with another Berns tune, Hang On Sloopy by The McCoys. By the following Summer, Bang had brought Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich discovery Neil Diamond into the Pop Top 10 as well.
That Summer of 1966, Berns decided to go back to doing what he did best, making Soul records. Forming his own Shout label, he hit the R&B top twenty that Fall with Donald Height's My Baby's Gone. As 1966 gave way to 1967, Berns broke things wide open with one of the best tunes he'd ever written.
SHOUT 207 A
Are You Lonely For Me
Berns knew Freddie Scott from his Brill Building days, when Scott was working both as an artist and songwriter for Colpix Records. He had charted three times in the early sixties for Colpix, but this was different. The absolute ferocity of Freddie's voice on here was reportedly achieved after Berns drove him on over 100 takes until he got what he wanted. The record buying public 'got it' as well, and this amazing song would spend an entire month at #1 R&B, while breaking into the Pop Top 40. They just don't come much better than this one, boys and girls!
Never content to just sit around, Bert Berns had spent time in the U.K. (where he was somewhat of a celebrity) and produced hit records for the European Decca label on Lulu and a Northern Irish garage band named Them. After the group broke up, Berns flew the lead singer to New York in March of 1967 to create what may just be his most heard production ever. He brought in The Sweet Inspirations and cut Brown Eyed Girl on Van Morrison the first day of the session. It would spend the entire Summer of Love on the charts, while climbing into the Pop Top 10. It has been played to death ever since. I only bring this up to kind of put all of this in context... Berns was on fire.
Erma Frankln had been around the record scene in New York for years, and had recorded some truly middle-of-the-road material for Epic in the early sixties, just as her sister had been doing for Epic's parent label, Columbia. She had become a part of Lloyd Price's revue in 1961, and stayed with them until she got a 'day job' at IBM in 1966. Jerry Wexler had brought her in to sing background (along with her other sister Carolyn and Cissy Houston) on Aretha's breakthrough album I've Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You in February of 1967 (that's them on those "RE-RE-RE-RE - RE-RE-RE-RE-SPECTs..."). Erma's manager wanted her to record on her own again, and got her signed to Shout on the condition that she could keep her job at IBM. After a single that didn't do much, Berns brought her in one night after work that Fall to cut what many consider to be his (and Erma's) crowning achievement.
SHOUT 221 A
Piece Of My Heart
As good as the Freddie Scott record was, this one's better. Written with Berns' sometimes collaborator Jerry Ragovoy, Erma shows just what an amazing singer she really was, joining with Cissy's Sweet Inspirations to build a record as good as anything Aretha ever recorded. Wow! I don't have any session details here, but check out that bass player! Any of you detectives out there know who that might be?
Piece Of My Heart went Top 10 R&B that November. "...they put the record out and I didn't think too much about it," she recalled, "Next thing I knew, I started getting calls at home about it and one day, Bert phoned up and told me to get down to the office - and fast! When I got there, I found the record was on the Top 100 and I was just knocked out... I began having a real mental tussle trying to decide what to do. We did three or four sessions in all. I think. I remember the one where we cut the follow-up, 'Open Up My Soul' in particular -remember we did this during my lunch hour at IBM! After a great deal of thought, seeing the reaction to the record, I reluctantly decided to quit my job..."
"Bert had called me up and told me we ought to work on an album. I had rehearsed some of the material and... when I called up the office, there was no reply and I thought it was strange because everyone had told me how important it all was to get out an LP to capitalize on 'Piece Of My Heart's success... so I tried Queen Booking, who were in the same building. Imagine my shock when they said 'Didn't you know? Bert Berns died this morning!' I was really crushed, because aside from the fact that he'd been helping me build my career, he had been a really wonderful guy, and this came at a time when it looked like things would really happen for me..."
Just terrible news, as Berns was truly 'at the top of his game'.
Here's that follow-up single:
SHOUT 230 A
Open Up Your Soul
Again written with Jerry Ragovoy, and obviously employing the same studio musicians as on Piece Of My Heart, it's somehow not as monumental a recording. It remains interesting nonetheless as it was apparently Bert Berns' final production. According to Erma, "After Bert died his wife Ilene took over the company but frankly, she didn't know what to do... Then Shout Records lost the master tapes from some of the sessions..." Imagine? Apparently left without a B Side for this follow up single, Ilene turned to Freddie Scott.
SHOUT 230 B
I'm Just Not Ready For Love
Produced by Scott with a more immediate rock & roll sound, this one just cooks, with Erma belting it out at the top of her range. Very soulful, indeed, and once again, check out that bass player! I don't think Mrs. Berns appreciated what she had, and at that point Erma says she decided to 'sit out her contract'.
Now, here's where things really get interesting...
After the whole 'Jobettes' debacle, our man Paul Kirk had gotten a job with Billboard writing the R&B industry gossip column and news round-up, Soul Sauce. In April of 1968, he handed the reins to a guy named Ed Ochs.
In May he was out there hobnobbing with the stars, and is stiil referred to as 'Billboard's Paul Kirk' in the photo above.
By July, he was 'formerly of Billboard' in the press release he sent to Ed Ochs informing him that he was now Shout Records' Executive Producer. Kirk also makes it a point to mention ol' Kevin Knox Enterprises as well. Ed goes on to say that Kirk has "polished off what Freddie Scott began - Erma Franklin's latest, 'I'm Just Not Ready For Love'..."- huh?
SHOUT 234 A?
I'm Just Not Ready For Love (remix)
Kirk had apparently remixed Scott's production, and added background vocals to it. The first thing you notice is that it's been slowed down considerably... the next thing is that the ladies singing background are most definitely no Sweet Inspirations. Despite Kirk's assertion that the record now had 'all the drive of Aretha's Think', it seems Ochs was having a little fun when he said that Kirk had 'polished off' the record, rather than 'polished' it!
Apparently everyone else agreed, as a month later Kirk contacted Ochs to flip the record over to plug the other side.
SHOUT 234 A?
The Right To Cry
Although there is no mention of it on the label, this is obviously a Berns production, Sweet Inspirations and all. I'm guessing that Ilene must have turned this one up among those 'lost' session tapes. Written by Berns compatriots Carole King and Gerry Goffin, this is New York Soul all the way, if perhaps a trifle over-dramatic. Great guitar! Any idea who's playing it?
Erma Franklin signed with Brunswick after her Shout contract ran out and, although she hit the R&B top 40 for them in 1969, the label was unable to reach the heights she had ascended with Bert Berns at Shout. She passed away in 2002.
By October of 1968, Paul Kirk was no longer affiliated with Shout, and Ed Ochs reported that he had just finished producing a guy named Al Volpe for a label called Divinis. I can find no record (literally) of either one, and the next time there is mention of him is when he is proclaimed a genius by Pompeii in November of 1970.
POMPEII 7002 B
Get Your Own
Here is Paul Kirk's lone release on Pompeii. Not much of a record, at only a minute and 44 seconds, the label says it was produced by 'Wayne Money & Kevin Knox Enterprises, Ltd'. I'm beginning to believe that Kevin Knox was Kirk's corporate alias, and that he used it to avoid any personal responsibility. Anyway, it sounds to me like the drummer and the bass player are playing two different songs on here or something... definitely not the work of a genius, my friends.
So - is there 'No Explanation'?
This just in!!
An anonymous tip down there in the comments alerted us to the existence of this:
How do you like that? The Jobettes single of 'No Explanation' actually was released after all... written by Kevin Knox, it was a 'Kevin Knox Ent. Ltd. Production, on a label named Kevin which was a division of Kevin Knox Enterprises, Ltd. Got that?
Our anonymous benefactor goes on to say that the flip of the 45 was called 'What You Gonna Do', and that "both sides were released on Cd's. "No Explanation" was released in 2005 in the U. K. on a GOLDMINE Cd 'Rare Soul Review' GSCD173. While the flip 'What You Gonna Do' was released in 2004 on a CRYSTAL BALL Cd of dubious origin 'Rarest Of The Rare The Girl Groups Vol. 1' #1056."
Any of you deep-crated detectives out there have a copy of these sides?
You can't make this stuff up! Thank You!
OK, Detective Marc (the guy who started all of this in the first place) came through for us with this:
With an arrangement essentially lifted from Martha & The Vandellas' Nowhere To Run, it's a small wonder why Kirk went out of his way to try and pre-empt Berry Gordy's legal interest in the group's name. As I said earlier, I don't understand why they went with that moniker in the first place... once again, it's not much of a song, with the same kind of background vocal whoops that he would later use on the Erma remix (you think maybe that was the Jobettes - or, excuse me, Dorales - on there?). It's hard to imagine Tommie Young singing this one. Perhaps it's best that it wasn't released.