...All I needed was to find some talented artists. My dreams came true [with] a knock on my front door one night at midnight, and when I answered there stood [songwriter] Roosevelt Jamison with James Carr and OV Wright. They told me that Jim Stewart of Stax Records had sent them. They had with them a small tape recorder, and wanted me to hear what they had. Though (the tape) was somewhat crude, I could not believe my ears when I heard all that talent coming from this small recorder. I signed them to Goldwax...and began to search for songs...
Unbelievable to think that one of the most beloved imprints in the history of soul - not to mention some of the genre's most-favoured talents - got started thanks to the 'generosity' of an extremely-prominent Memphis label head and the musical passion of a local songwriter-producer, whose career-to-date had been spent working mostly within the boundaries of hillbilly music. But that's exactly how Goldwax Records was born in 1964 - as the label's co-founder and chief arranger Quinton M Claunch is happy to confirm above!
Some might say that Claunch's fellow fiddle-playing, hillbilly music-loving, McLemore Avenue-based contemporary dropped a 'guitar-groups-are-on-the-way-out-Mr-Epstein'-sized clanger by referring two of the greatest voices of our time to a soon-to-be-competitor. And to be fair to Jim Stewart, with a roster that already included both Otis Redding and William Bell, Stax probably didn't need OV Wright or James Carr just then. But Claunch and Goldwax most certainly did need 'em, and The Rest is indeed History as far as soul music is concerned.
The 60+ singles and handful of albums subsequently released on Goldwax between 1964 and 1971 represent the musical apex of Southern soul. Almost all of the catalogue is highly collectible. To that end, The Goldwax Story Volume 1 is merely the hors d'oeuvre of a feast of fantastic music that will be coming your way between now and 2003.
Claunch kept his roster small, with repertoire tailored to suit the artists who recorded for him. (Who better to write for James Carr than Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, for instance?) But although James was the rightful mainstay - nay, the backbone - of the catalogue, his was by no means the only great voice to spring from the grooves of a Goldwax 45 during the label's lifetime. Overton Vertis Wright's seminal original version of That's How Strong My Love Is would be a highlight of any deep soul collection, just as it is here. And the underrated Spencer Wiggins (represented by four of more than a dozen killers he cut for Goldwax) is the recipient of one of Penn & Oldham's most compelling slowies. Solomon Burke was barely in the ballpark when he tried (and failed) to better Wiggins on Uptight Good Woman, barely a year after the original was cut at Sam Phillips' studios on Memphis' Madison Avenue. And the awesome QM Claunch composition The Power Of A Woman offers a performance that will leave you shocked, stunned and staggered that Wiggins' name isn't up there with the all-time greats of his genre...
...all this, and we haven't even mentioned the Ovations yet. Legendarily visited by the ghost of Sam Cooke with a message to carry on his legacy, lead singer Louis Williams is by far the most uncanny Cooke-alike anyone's ever heard or is going to hear. Listen to the opening bars of Penn & Oldham's I'm Living Good - later exquisitely revived by another Cooke disciple, Arthur Conley - to confirm that for yourselves.
Lesser-known names on GS1 are no less talented. George (Jackson) and (Dan) Greer was a nom-du-disque for two of Memphis' seemingly inexhaustible stockpile of superior songwriters, and their driving You Didn't Know It, But You Had Me was subsequently revived by that man Carr. Wee Willie Walker cut great music all over Memphis without scoring a hit of any consequence, but his riveting revival of There Goes My Used To Be (previously seen inhabiting the down deck of OV's That's How Strong...) shows that he - like other Memphian label-hoppers here such as ex-Volt distaffer Dorothy Williams, former Sun man Jeb Stuart and arranger/saxblaster-about-town Gene Bowlegs Miller - deserved the kind of contemporaneous appreciation that they'll now be afforded thanks to this release. Ditto blue-eyed soul brother Ben Atkins, whose fine and hitherto-unissued rendition of I've Been Loving You Too Long confirms what any sane person knows i.e. that skin colour and soul are not mutually exclusive.
About the Lyrics and the Five C's I can tell you nothing, other than that the former's Darling was Goldwax's first release and that both tracks uphold standards set elsewhere. But Eddie Jefferson and Percy Milem actually had their excellent sides released here on Stateside, back in the days when forward-thinking label managers like Bob Killbourn and Ace's own Trevor Churchill were not afraid to take a punt on something so severely specialist. Likewise, Barbara Perry's plaintive Unlovable also found its way, rather belatedly, onto a UK 45 when it came out here via reggae specialists Pama in 1970. Nobody released Timmy Thomas singles over here, but Why Can't We Live Together broke him worldwide. Before this, though, he cut a handful of fine vocal and instrumental sides for Goldwax.
The loving care and attention that Quinton Claunch put into the creation of these two dozen soulful statements is enhanced by our usual first-rate remastering and packaging. Volume 2 and other future releases aim to continue to preserve the Claunch legacy with similar affection and attention to detail. For the record, Quinton himself is very thankful...that Ace Records has acquired all the old Goldwax masters and will be issuing them in years to come, as it will give future generations a chance to hear my music when I am no longer around. Here is the perfect place for those future generations to start, and a perfect record for them to start with...
By Tony Rounce