“ZELL’S GIRLS” is the fourth Ace CD to be drawn from the catalogue of Zelma “Zell” Sanders, the Harlem-based songwriter-producer-manager who for two decades ran the very collectable J&S, Zell’s, Dice and other labels. The collection comprises 28 all-female doo wop, R&B, soul and girl group sides spanning the years 1955 to 1970, all but one of which makes its legit CD debut here.
Zell Sanders got her start in the music biz with the Hearts. Contained here are their second and fourth singles, All My Love Belongs To You and Going Home To Stay, both released on Baton in 1955. The latter song marks the recording debut of future soul star Justine “Baby” Washington. (The group’s remaining six Baton sides can be found on “The Baton Label: Sol’s Story”, CDCHD 505.) The Hearts’ career spanned over a decade and a half, during which time some two dozen ladies passed through the group’s ranks. No Turning Back For Me and Your Little Toy are plucked from their very rare “I Feel So Good” LP of 1970. Meanwhile, the group released the $1,000-rated Where Are You Tonite as the Jay Netts (two words) and Suffering With My Heart as the Endeavors, the latter featuring lead vocals by Lezli Valentine.
Zell Sanders launched the J&S label in 1956. Among the initial batch of releases was What Makes Me Love You Like I Do by the Pre-Teens, an acme of “kiddie doo wop” today valued at a whopping $1,500. One of the most revered female doo wop groups, the Clickettes recorded five singles for Dice, of which To Be A Part Of You was the last. The Kadak’s (sic) were basically the same outfit as the Kodaks/Kodoks, who recorded for Fury Records in 1957. By 1960 the group was down to just one original member, but sounded as Frankie Lymon-esque ever on their J&S single, Don’t Want No Teasing.
Rita Zell and Neice DeZell are one and the same person separated by a decade. She released two singles on J&S: I Don’t Understand You No More as Rita in 1960 and the Aretha-style Last Night as Neice ten years later. In 1962 Sanders launched Zell’s, her fourth label. Among the first releases were Give Our Love A Chance and Oh Come Back Baby by Ada Ray and Stay Away From My Baby by Taffie Lee. Johnnie Louise Richardson’s (Zell’s daughter), most important role at J&S was as the singing partner of Joe Rivers in the duo Johnnie & Joe, of Over The Mountain, Across The Sea fame. Included here is Johnnie’s solo update of the song, released in 1970 as Miss Johnnie, along with Every Night The Same Time, a previously unissued recording of similar vintage.
The story of the Jaynetts (one word) is almost as tangled as that of the Hearts and involves many of the same vocalists. To cut a long story short: In 1963 Zell Sanders began a working relationship with songwriter-producer Abner Spector. The first fruit of the merger was Sally, Go ’Round The Roses, released on Spector’s Tuff label as by the Jaynetts, a name not seen on a record label since 1958. Sally… topped the charts, but Sanders, dissatisfied with her share of the proceeds, soon withdrew from the deal and tried in vain to cash in with a string of Jaynetts singles on J&S. The best of these are contained here.
BY MICK PATRICK