During and just after World War II, Northern California’s San Francisco Bay Area boomed with military bases and naval yards, attracting thousands of black workers and servicemen. Cities dotting the East Bay–Berkeley, Oakland, and Richmond– developed thriving neighbourhoods with busy nightclubs. Small record companies sprang up to supply jukeboxes with local blues and jazz talent. One of them, Music City, opened around 1950 but didn’t record in earnest until 1954. Over the next two decades, owner Ray Dobard amassed 1,500 reels of recording tape that captured every form of popular black American music.
Now that Ace owns that archive, we hope to release Music City recordings for many years to come. We began in 2011 with “The Music City Story”, a 3CD set spanning 1953-1975, and followed with “Going Wild! Music City Rock’n’Roll”. Now, with “Music City Vocal Groups”, we present what originally made the label a favourite of 45rpm collectors all over the world: funky, sweaty, raw, sometimes dissonant but always sincere doo wop. By 1963, Ray Dobard was finished with doo wop groups. He moved into soul music, gospel, and the occasional novelty; his final release, in 1975, was ‘Go Down Moses’ by the Golden West Singers. He died in 2004, leaving behind a hoard of recordings that we are still sorting out.
By Jim Dawson