Richard Stamz was a colourful R&B and soul DJ who operated in Chicago throughout the 50s and 60s. A slick, jive talker who hosted a groundbreaking black TV show in the city in 1956, his on-air persona ran from crown prince to royal highness. Around 1960 he took over the Cobra/Artistic/Abco studio and the Paso label, which he continued to run alongside his own Foxy operation.
Bluesman Harold Burrage was already at Paso; he and Stamz began working closely together, with Burrage recording, composing songs, playing sessions and even voicing ads for Stamz’s radio show. Burrage’s 45s for Paso and Foxy are superb examples of early 60s blues as it moved towards soul. His extremely rare original version of Betty Everett’s ‘Please Love Me’ will be of great interest to new breed R&B fans, as will many of the tracks on these largely uncharted labels.
Blues fans will be thrilled by the presence of some of Howlin’ Wolf’s sidemen in the Willie Williams band, including guitarist Hubert Sumlin; the outfit provides three previously unreleased blues instrumentals. Influential guitarist Freddy Robinson appears as a session-man on many tracks. His own 45 from the Queen label is also included, one side in an alternate take.
Tough-voiced blues singers Mary Johnson and Flora D provide excellent R&B sides that complement the male contenders from Burrage, Lee “Shot” Williams and Detroit Jr. The uptempo decks of these discs are avidly hunted by new breed collectors. The Ideals and Ze-Majestics represent the vocal group side with R&B-flavoured numbers. The other previously unheard masters include a good R&B dance tempo song from Tony Gideon of the Daylighters, a jazz-influenced groover from Loretta Branch and the rare and mysterious Robert & The Rockin’ Robins singing about ‘Romeo Joe’.
Musicologists Richard Shurman and Patrick Roberts, the author of a book on Richard Stamz’s life, provide fascinating musical and entertaining sociological facts about the recordings and the man. Stamz’s daughter Phyllis has given the compilers and writers access to the family’s memorabilia which illustrates the package, providing a taster of Chicago musical life at the dawn of the 60s.
By Ady Croasdell