Jazz-Soul Groove Part Four

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As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always wise for a blogger to pick artists that either have plenty of biographical details already out there or new, original stuff that you have unearthed yourself. In the face of this sound advice my next disc is by an artist that, like Jackie Ivory only appears to have issued one 45 before sinking into oblivion and he is RUSSELL EVANS & THE NIGHT HAWKES who gave us ‘The Bold’ on UK Atlantic 584010 / US Atco 4611.

I did however unearth plenty of info on this guy courtesy of a famous teenage friend; Evans hailed from Cleveland and was in the Futuretones with Charles Hatcher aka Edwin Starr. The band had a vocal line up of Hatcher, John Berry, Parnell Burks, Richard Isom and Roosevelt Harris and also musicians Russell Evans on guitar, ‘Pinhead’, trumpet, Julius Robertson, bass, ‘Brownie’, drums and Gus Hawkins, saxophone.

The group played hometown venues such as the Chatterbox, Gleason’s, Lucky Strike, Rose Room, Cedar Gardens, Che Breau, Playmor, Majestic Hotel and the Mercury Ballroom. They also appeared on the Gene Carroll Talent Show on local TV which led to them turning professional and their first date was support to the great Billie Holliday at the Chatterbox.

In 1959 they secured a recording deal with Tress Records and ‘I Know’/’Rolling On’ which sold few copies and a year later, on the brink of wider fame Hatcher was drafted with William Isom replacing him. When Hatcher returned from Germany he re-joined the group but all momentum and purpose was gone and he soon signed with Bill Doggett. Because most of this Futuretones information is associated with Edwin Starr’s roots, the minute he quit the info trail goes cold and it can only be assumed that the Futuretone ground to a halt soon after and Evans moving on to this gem of a record.

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Probably the most well-known artist in this issue’s bundle is GOOGIE RENE, born Rafael Leon Rene in March, 1927. Since before WW2, Googie had been brought up in a music related environment becoming a pianist but also the son of a record label man.

After a stint in the US Army in Europe he returned to his native Hollywood in 1950 where his father Leon’s Exclusive Record label was based but had just gone bust. This was his second label, the first being Ammor which lasted about a year between ’43 and ’44. In ’53 Leon launched his third venture, Class Records but due to his disappointing track record he leased the early material to Modern and RPM Records for the first couple of years until the launch of Class with a local group, the Drifters.

As with Exclusive, Class had scores of releases well into the next decade with a break in production in 1955 and Googie making his debut on the new 200 series in ’56 with ‘Wham Bam’ the first of twenty sides by him for the label. At some point in the late 50s Googie was given creative control of the venture and in ’63 ‘Flapjacks parts 1 & 2’ Class #305 reached #25 in the R&B charts.

His biggest hit came in ’66 with ‘Smokey Joe’s La La’, a play on the Coasters smash hit which was issued on the UK black Atlantic label due to Atco handling Class in the States as they also did with ‘Chica-Boo`’ that gained UK release in June of that year on red Atlantic. So, I hope that this short offering of jazzy/R&B instrumentals has tempted you to check the genre out as they are relatively easy to obtain and are all inexpensive.