In November 1970, I made my first trip to the USA as tour manager for a rock band. While there we played a four night engagement* at the East Town Theatre, an establishment situated in a mainly black neighbourhood on the eastside of Detroit. Next door to the theatre was a diner that specialised in Southern 'Soul Food'. This diner, which featured a jukebox with about 200 selections, became our regular haunt and over the next four days in Detroit, we probably spent as much on the jukebox as we did on eating.
Easily the two most popular artists on the jukebox were Bobby Bland and BB King, with BB scoring an easy win over Bland in respect of who had the most 45s on the 'box'. These blues 45s had to compete with Motown, Atlantic and other 60s and 70s soul classics and they more than held their own, in terms of the number of plays racked up by customers.
Although not a great expert on the works of BB King, I did own a copy of his first Blue Horizon album, and knew that many of these same recordings were at least 5 or 6 years old. The fact that they were still getting regular jukebox plays in late 1970 was proof positive of their popularity in the black community. I was also interested to note that out of the 20+ B.B. King sides featured, more than two thirds were on Kent rather than BB's current label, ABC Bluesway.
Now, Ace Records is pleased to present for the first time ever, a properly mastered compilation containing many of these classic 45s. Much work has gone into identifying and selecting the best quality master sources for these original mono 45 cuts.
Over the years, a lot of fans have chosen to favour the earlier RPM 45s over the Kent releases. The fact that several of the Kent 45s feature original recordings that have been altered by overdubbing has undoubtedly created a prejudice in many peoples minds.
My colleague Roger Armstrong, who was responsible for the pre-production of this CD, has generally concentrated on the most popular Kent 45s that utilised unsullied original masters. Certain successful 45 releases that featured obviously inappropriate rhythm or horn overdubs have been omitted, in order to enhance your listening pleasure. Conversely the later 45 release of Worry, Worry with its sublime Maxwell Davis overdubbed horn arrangements has been included.
This could have been a double CD if we had chosen to include both sides of all of the Kent 45 releases. Instead Roger has concentrated on what we hope you will agree is truly a 'Best Of' BB's Kent 45s.
"Kentophiles" need not spend sleepless nights, worrying about possible omissions as any missing sides will eventually see the light of day, hopefully in a more appropriate setting.
It is Ace's intention that this collection will go some way to focusing attention on the many wonderful recordings contained in BB King's catalogue of Kent 45s.
* Headliners on those shows were hometown heroes, the Stooges, supported by the wonderful Allman Brothers Band, from Macon, Georgia.
BY Ted Carroll