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GWP/Larry Banks picture

GWP/Larry Banks

By Ady Croasdell

GWP were the initials of Gerard W Purcell, an artist manager who had great success with country musician Eddy Arnold and trumpeter Al Hirt. He also worked with Lena Horne, the poet Maya Angelou and Dizzy Gillespie among many others. In the mid-60s he expanded the recording side of his business with Gale Garnett and several R&B acts, notably Benny Gordon and Kenny Carter. For the Benny Gordon releases he used veteran producer Teacho Wiltshire, but by the time of the Kenny Carter recordings he had brought in Larry Banks to produce and provide great songs. Other acts that fell under Larry Banks’ auspices were the Geminis, the Exciters and his life partner Joan Bates, aka Jaibi.

Originally married to R&B singer Bessie Banks, with whom he made the deep soul classic ‘Go Now’, Larry fell in love with Joan Bates, a singer with the Pleasures group, and they set up as a couple. He then cut another deep soul masterpiece, ‘You Got Me’ by Jaibi, this time for GWP Productions, who placed the record with the Kapp label. Still pursuing his own singing career (he originally sang with the vocal group the Four Fellows in 1955), he cut ‘I’m Not The One’, another GWP/Kapp deal.

GWP’s big hopes for the R&B market lay with the emotive vocals of Kenny Carter, who released three singles on RCA in 1966. Our excavation of the tape vault revealed another 10 sides, mainly big-voiced ballads, including some standards intended for an LP. Some sort of fall out between him, GWP and RCA led to the project being shelved; a real pity as the material is superb.

Success came GWP’s way when Cleveland vocal group the Hesitations came under Jerry Purcell’s management once Kapp decided to move the act away from the Detroit-based Pied Piper production team to GWP and Larry Banks. GWP had been responsible for bringing Pied Piper to RCA with singles from Lorraine Chandler, Sharon Scott, Nancy Wilcox, the Cavaliers, the Dynamics and the Metros, who managed an R&B hit and issued a full LP. However, GWP switched the Hesitations’ style from happening black music to sophisticated ballads and had immediate success with a soulful revival of ‘Born Free’, which became a major hit and led to two albums aimed at mature black and white markets.

When sales eventually dwindled, the Hesitations were released from their Kapp deal, which led to Jerry Purcell forming his own GWP label in 1969. Larry Banks having moved on, the new production team included acclaimed arranger Ed Bland, who was given young songwriters Ray Dahrouge and Billy Terrell to work with, along with superb vocalist Debbie Taylor and the Persians. The Persians arrived with New Jersey producer George Kerr, whose team was used on other GWP releases and productions, including Alice Clark’s monster Northern number ‘You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me)’. Ed Bland signed up very cool jazz outfit the Pazant Brothers and recruited funky females Betty Barney and Little Rose Little.

There was immediate success when the first release, Debbie Taylor’s ‘Never Gonna Let Him Know’, became an R&B hit but, despite top quality soul records and a new subsidiary called GWP’s Grapevine, the label failed to score another hit and lost its way releasing oddball pop records and a series of orchestral LPs inspired by the signs of the zodiac.

Jerry Purcell reverted to artist management and, once he retired, was happy to set up a deal with Ace Records to purchase his R&B recordings, which included unreleased masters from Benny Gordon, Jaibi, the Shaladons, Milton Bennett, Bobby Penn, the Modettes and others. The Kenny Carter sides are still in contractual dispute but we continue to work for their release. 

Selected releases

© Ace records 2012