The doo wop, gospel, blues, girl group and ballad scenes of Los Angeles fused to make it one major soul city.
Ace has very strong links with Los Angeles labels such as Modern, Combo, Flash, Flip, Mirwood, Money, Doré and Era, most of which had notable soul singles in their catalogues. Couple that with our many licensing deals of music made in that city and it is safe to say Los Angeles is just about our main area of expertise.
Those labels provide the bulk of tracks on this early 60s compilation. The recent licensing of George Semper’s music provides the Mandarins’ big city soul collectors’ item ‘That Other Guy’, as well as a previously unissued vocal group version of his popular song ‘You Better Watch Out Girl’ by the Imperialites. Gary S Paxton’s large and mixed stash of tapes included a goldmine of black music gems from soul’s first stirrings. Richard and Dorothy Berry were very involved in the LA scene and teamed up with Paxton in 1961; the obscure but pertinent Classicals, Don Wyatt and Joe Lover are also great examples of soul’s emergence. Another brilliant white songwriter-producer who loved black music was George Motola – his recordings of the Vows, Chesterfields and Sylvester Stewart are highlights.
H.B. Barnum has always been a major player in the city: his Little Star label was prolific in this period and we have included a duet by Dorothy Berry and Jimmy Norman, his two biggest solo stars. Other great LA names such as Arthur Wright, Bobby Day, Hal Davis and Ed Cobb are also involved. Kent Harris’ in-demand Phillips Sisters 45 ‘Let Me Be Your Little Dog’ features, as does another R&B gem, the Hank Graham-produced ‘Sneaking And Cheating’ by Esko Wallace who would go on to join the Exits and Visitors. Doo wop was a major part of the city’s music in the 50s and lingered longer than in most other regions. Tracks by the Wonders, Wilks & Wilkerson, the Composers and the Classicals were made around 1962 but will resonate with lovers of soul harmony of a later vintage.
The Spector sound is represented by the great Darlene Love, whose demo of ‘Let Him Walk Away’ is up there with her best released work from Gold Star studios. Future Motown star Brenda Holloway’s duet with Robert Jackson as the Soul-Mates shows her nascent talent, and young Sylvester “Sly” Stewart had a glittering career ahead of him. Tina Turner also did OK – her performance with husband Ike on ‘Lose My Cool’ is superb and still under-the-radar. There are six previously unissued tracks, including a Sam Cooke-style number from Billy Watkins cut at Modern, and Don Wyatt’s captivating beat ballad ‘But What About My Broken Heart’. The Rev-Lons go Detroit on ‘Whirlwind’, while Ray Appleberry and Bobby Swayne, aka Ray & Bob, take inspiration from the Chicago sound for the charming ‘Momma Told Me’.
We could have done a box set of the great music that came out of Los Angeles in these years – these are just two-dozen fascinating examples of how the city’s soul sound came about.