Urged on by rare soul collector Gilly, who had solved the Northern Soul mystery of “What was the identity of the singer who recorded the Rose Valentine cover-up ‘When He's Not Around’?” (as played on acetate by Richard Searling in the latter days of Wigan Casino), Ace Records went ahead and purchased the tapes and rights to the work of Detroit producer Dave Hamilton. Gilly told me how Dave had been an original member of Motown’s Funk Brothers, had played guitar on ‘Reet Petite’, ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Please Mr Postman’, had recorded the Chalfontes for Mercury and had run the Topper label. He also said there were some great unissued numbers that Dave had copied onto a reel for him to get played on the Northern Soul scene.
I was not that knowledgeable about the Wigan cover-up, but I realised it made a great story and would create much interest. After Dave’s untimely death, I visited his widow Alice and listened to some of his tapes. I thought they were worth gambling on. At the time I could identify only one full CD’s worth of material with a few spin-offs for other compilations. We shipped the tapes back to London, allowing us the luxury of time to fully explore the material.
Our first “Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Dancers” CD featured most of the tracks that had drawn us to the catalogue. In further researching the tapes we began to discover unheard gems such as ‘Who Are You Trying To Fool’ by Little Ann (the true artist on that Rose Valentine cover-up), a recording later described by Ian Levine as the best non-Motown Detroit soul production. The rare soul collecting scene continued to view Dave’s work favourably and records such as ‘Sweep It Out In The Shed’ by Tobi Lark, Dottie & Millie’s ‘Talkin’ About My Baby’ and James Lately’s super-rarity ‘Love, Friends And Money’ went from strength to strength. Then the rare funk scene exploded and Dean Rudland was able to compile a BGP CD of late 60s and early 70s grooves. Additionally Dave’s jazz productions on himself and his tight band came out as the unreleased “Soul Suite” LP he had hoped would make his name in the late 60s. Dave’s jazz background also led to several of his tracks featuring in our “Mod Jazz” series and there were some excellent modern soul recordings from artists such as of Gil Billingsley and James Carpenter.
Meanwhile, we had been sitting on many unmarked tapes. Every few years we would haul a couple of boxes up from our storage facility, don the headphones and plough through several days’ worth of recordings. These varied from poorly copied old jazz radio shows to fully produced versions of songs Dave was trying to get to Motown’s Jobete Music publishing company. Tapes for some incredibly rare 45s eventually turned up, along with odd acetates, allowing us to release a third volume of “Detroit Dancers” and a new volume of funk, followed by a general “Detroit Soul” CD.
The EU then joined in the fun with a request from the Finnish company Timmion to issue an LP of Little Ann’s recordings. The faux 60s album was a great hit, particularly among the younger soul demographic, and it led to a similar project on O.C. Tolbert, who also cut enough tracks for a very impressive Kent CD of his own.
That one mythical 1966 recording that remained embedded in an old acetate was responsible for eight great CDs and we’re still counting. From small acorns, mighty oak trees do grow, and we’ve not even started on the gospel tapes yet.