Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Question Four - Joni Wilson


Hi, folks. I was out trolling the ol' blogosphere a while back and came across this incredible song over at Darcy's great Feel It (which is currently celebrating its two year anniversary):

VOLT 4070 B

Flame Flame Flame

My kind of stuff, this one just lays me out... Joni's slow burn delivery is simply top shelf. You mean you're not familiar with Joni Wilson? Well, join the club! In the accompanying post, Darcy said; "Nearly two years after my original post on Joni Wilson and I have still been unable to find out anything more about her or this 45. Can anybody help?" He had re-activated the audio on that original post, and so (being the curious type) I clicked on over:

VOLT 4070 A

(Let Hurt Put You In The) Loser's Seat

I was astonished to see my own comments there on that post... talking about how this could be a job for Soul Detective (I had totally zoned on the whole thing, apparently). Well, better late than never, I guess... so here we go!

Here's the original Feel It post:

"Every now and then I get obsessed with a particular record - if you have become a regular reader of my humble offerings then the chances are you are also something of a vinyl junkie and will therefore probably have been there too. In the Volt discography, in 1971, sandwiched between releases from more well known acts - Major Lance and The Dramatics – came the one and only release on the label (or anywhere?) from one Joni Wilson - 'Loser’s Seat', and this was the object of a recent obsession of mine. The initial attraction came during an ebay trawl about 18 months ago, and for three reasons: a) I liked the title, b) the scan showed G.Clinton etc in the writing credit - I had only recently become aware of pre 70s George Clinton - so was this The Parliaments 'All Your Goodies Are Gone' ? , and c) it had a sound clip of both A and B side. I downloaded the clips and was hooked. All the usual tell tale symptoms applied - the hairs on the back of the neck standing on end, a fluttery feeling inside, eyes closed and whisperings of “oh yes” under the breath. And that was just listening to a sound clip! I needed this record. Unfortunately the bidding ran away from me. It eventually went for either $80 or £80 I can’t remember which, but anyways it was out of my league.

"For some months following I searched for other copies for sale, but to no avail, and so made do with playing and replaying the one minute clips I had downloaded. Then last summer up popped another copy on ebay. From the description it seemed it wasn’t in great shape and maybe that put bidders off, in any event I was the only bidder and picked it up for only $10. When a couple of weeks later it arrived on my turntable I was pleased to find it wasn’t in terrible shape - there is surface noise but not too much to detract from the music, and it all adds to the atmosphere anyway (it sounds better on my turntable than the mp3 copy, sorry). So now it proudly sits as a jewel in my collection.

"I think Joni Wilson, and how this record came to be released, would be something that the Soul Detective could really get his teeth into, because I can find no information at all that sheds any real light. Perhaps my obsession with it is due in part to the mystery of it. The (also excellent) B side is Flame, Flame, Flame' – a real slow burner - and is credited to Liz Bacone. Don’t know who that is. As for Joni Wilson, well she is a she - so that narrows it down a bit! There was a (large) group called Joni Wilson & The Debonaires that recorded in the 60s, Pittsburgh based(?) and had a couple of albums released on the Gateway label. I have seen a cover of one of these albums and it looks like an all male group to me.

"The only possible clue I can come up with is a George Clinton connection. By coincidence a girl group called the Debonair(e)s recorded for Ed Wingate’s Golden World and Solid Hit labels in the mid sixties. George Clinton and The Parliaments were at the labels at the same time and wrote songs for and produced(?) the Debonaires. A member of the Debonaires at that time was a Joyce Vincent Wilson. There is some doubt about other members of the group although Joyce Wilson’s cousin was a member. Maybe Joni was another relation and another group member, or just hung about the label?

"By 1971 Clinton had left Revilot and the Parliafunkadelicment tripout had launched and landed at Invictus (Parliament) and Westbound (Funkadelic). Somehow Volt seems an odd label for a Clinton song to turn up on. Ron Banks sang on an early Parliaments release 'Heart Trouble' and then went onto be in The Dramatics – who recorded on Volt. At that time if Clinton was on the credit then the chances were he also had a hand in the production - the production credit is 'Enigmatic Productions', an enigma indeed but just the sort of name Clinton might hide behind. Maybe Joni was a side project he just touted around, or then again maybe there was no Clinton connection beyond the fact that he wrote the song. I’m chasing shadows I know, but that’s all I can offer..."

Here's the original Parliaments version from 1967:


All Your Goodies Are Gone (The Loser's Seat)

It definitely is the same backing track, including the background vocals. What a trip, right? In the comments on that post, we went on to establish that Rob Bowman (aka Mr. Stax/Volt) had failed to mention this 45 either in Soulsville USA or the liner notes of The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Volume Two. Our man Larry Grogan also added; "Joyce Vincent Wilson (and Telma Hopkins) who later ended up singing with Tony Orlando as Dawn, also sang backup on some of Jerry-O's Shout singles (like Karate Boogaloo)."


The song is a take off on the Hertz rent-a-car commercials that were begun in 1966...

After I (rather belatedly) told Darcy I was going to take on the 'case', here I asked him if he had a scan of the 45. He didn't, but suggested that I check eBay. It's funny how these things happen... while I couldn't find one, I was able to locate a scan of the flip side, 'Don't Be Sore At Me':

If you look there on the left, you'll notice the publishing credit listed as 'Groovesville Music'... now, as we all know, Groovesville can only mean one thing: Don Davis! I'm not sure how a George Clinton song came to be published by Davis (as I admit I'm not that schooled in the intricacies of Detroit Soul), but there, I believe, is your Detroit/Memphis connection.

After Al Bell imported Davis to Stax, he had made his mark as a proven hitmaker, producing Johhnie Taylor's unprecedented string of consecutive top ten R&B hits. In the three years between 1968 and 1971, Taylor's Stax 45s would spend 131 weeks on the Billboard charts... that's over 2 1/2 years! Suffice it to say that by the time Volt 4070 was released, Davis could do whatever he wanted at the company. Maybe he was doing someone back home a favor? Hmmm...

One more thing I was able to find out; Elizabeth Bacone (the composer of Flame, Flame, Flame) is listed in the BMI database as having written 38 other songs. She is also listed in the Songwriter's Hall of Fame as having co-written two songs with Kenneth Gamble. So now we've got Philadelphia added to the mix...

Any ideas?

Thanks, Darcy, this should be interesting!


Alright, everybody. I've actually been working on this question since early April, but a record I ordered back then just showed up last week! Talk about 'media mail', huh?

Anyway, let's take a closer look...

According to the wonderful Soulful Detroit website; "The Debonaires had started out as a trio consisting of Elsie Baker, Dorothy Garland and Joyce Vincent...


Please Don't Say We're Through

"Please Don't Say We're Through... was released on Golden World 17 in October 1964. Both songs were Sammy Lowe arrangements, written by the Hamilton Brothers and Freddie Gorman. The song was performed without a lead singer."
It was apparently also issued as the B side of Golden World 26, Eenie Meenie Gypsalinie, which is where this decidedly lo-fi rip we have here came from.

The site goes on to say that the Debonaires added a lead vocalist named Diane Hogan, who would record with them for their final two Golden World releases in 1966. No mention of anyone named Joni.

After Golden World was bought up By Motown, The Debonaires would release two more singles on a label called Solid Hit in 1967. According to this label scan of Loving You Takes All My Time (#102), it was written and produced by George Clinton, published by Groovesville, and distributed by 'Revilot Productions, Inc. Detroit'. Just to add to the confusion, somebody left off the 'e' in 'Debonaires' as well.

By the time we get to #104, Headache In My Heart, the distributor is now listed as 'Groovesville-Revilot Productions, Inc. Detroit'. This, in my opinion, establishes the direct connection between Don Davis, George Clinton, The Debonaires, and the Revilot label which, as you may recall, was home to the original Parliaments version of All Your Goodies are Gone:

According to Dave Moore over at the Hitsville Soul Club (which is where I finally found this scan); "The label was owned by LeBaron Taylor and Don Davis and was based out of Detroit. There are a number of 'theories' about the name Revilot. Some say it was Taylor's middle name TOLIVER spelt backwards (I can find no existence of his middle name) and others believe it was the name of a club in Buffalo NY where Darrell Banks played..." Be that as it may, by mid 1968, Davis was at Stax...


Now, this is one of those things you really can't make up. As Darcy pointed out earlier, a Google on Joni Wilson invariably pulls up a reference to the 'Exciting Debonaires'. Bingo! I mean, that's got to be our girl, right?

Well, after much searching, I found us an affordable copy of an album on the Gateway label out of Pittsburgh by none other than Joni Wilson and the aforementioned Exciting Debonaires... but, wait a minute, I don't see any ladies on the album cover. What gives?

Joni's Idea

Well, according to the short biography of Wilson on the back jacket, this Joni is a he! The album was released in 1965, and while it's not bad, I think it would be safe to say that this Joni Wilson and these Debonaires are totally unrelated to the ones we've been discussing here.

So, where does that leave us? Well, judging from all of the Don Davis/George Clinton/Debonaires connections I'd be tempted to go with the hypothesis that the Volt single is actually by our girl JOYCE Wilson, and that they got the name wrong when they printed the label down in Memphis... except for one thing:

In a 2002 post in the Soulful Detroit Forum that was apparently written by Mike Terry (famed Detroit producer) it says: "To add a little more to the fire, after the original Debonair group broke up (marriages, etc), Joyce and her sister teamed with Telma {Hopkins - who, along with Joyce, would become Tony Orlando's Dawn} and they became 'The Main Rent', a background girls group... I used them on many sessions..."

So, there you have it. Joyce Wilson had a sister. A sister that sang. Think she was named Joni?


Well, well. It's funny how these things happen. While researching a completely different subject for The Cosimo Code, I came across something.

It was almost six years ago now when we wrote: "Rob Bowman (aka Mr. Stax/Volt) had failed to mention this 45 either in Soulsville USA or the liner notes of The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Volume Two..." as it turns out, that is not entirely accurate:

That's right, Joni Wilson does indeed get mentioned on page 220 of Soulsville, USA! The fact that LeBaron Taylor was a Philadelphia dee-jay in 1971 is correct, but he had only moved there the year before from Detroit where, as mentioned earlier, he was a co-owner of the Revilot label with Don Davis. According to a 2001 post on the Soulful Detroit Forum, LeBaron was in full possession of the Revilot Masters when he moved. When fellow radio man Al Bell came knocking on his door looking for product, it certainly seems plausible that he dipped into the Revilot vault and came up with the heretofore unreleased Joni Wilson record... which, of course, still doesn't get us any closer to finding Ms. Wilson, but I'd say we can finally put the whole 'Debonaires' thing to bed.

As I've always said; "A Soul Detective case is never closed."


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joyce Vincent's sister is Pam Vincent.

August 6, 2008 at 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Liz Bacone was a Philly producer, she had her own label (Bacone) and already had another record produced for volt (the Limitations).

August 28, 2012 at 12:44 AM  
Blogger Darcy said...

Hi Red,

Feeling a bit nostalgic so was reading thru this again!

Set me off another trawl with nothing really new to report.

Two possibilities though:

1. Joni is in fact Joyce Vincent. I found a comment on Manship's site (no longer there though) that said as much. I'm not sure though, Joyce did become Joyce Vincent-Wilson. That was after she married Rothwell Wilson. I don't know when they married though. Together with Pam Vincent and Telma Hopkins, Rothwell Wilson and Joyce (as plain Vincent) were credited as backing singers on Dennis Coffey's 3rd Album Goin' For Myself recorded in 1972. A year after the Volt release then. Rothwell was Joyce's husband and manager by 1975 according to a Jet magazine article I found.

2nd possibility - Joni Wilson could be a sister of Rothwell Wilson?

November 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM  

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