The Music City Story Various Artists (Music City)


Rhythm & Blues
Ace Records
Catalogue Id:

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The Music City Story (MP3), MP3 (£23.97)

Ray Dobard’s Music City Records of Berkeley, California, across the Bay from San Francisco, is a catalogue of mythic proportions that has been cherished for decades by a small hardcore of R&B, vocal group and, latterly, soul fanatics. Based on the available evidence – 50-odd 45 and 78rpm releases – and a lot of hearsay and rumour, many have spent hours fantasising about the purported riches in the possession of its famously protective, zealous owner.

Ace Records is thus proud to unlock the Music City vault for the edification and entertainment of the world at large with the 3CD set “The Music City Story”, an unprecedented survey of the label’s 25-year operation, and an excellent primer for Ace’s forthcoming genre- and artist-based compilations of Music City material, telling the story with many rare gems from the catalogue and a surfeit of previously unissued goodies.

Although Ray Dobard experimented with recording a variety of genres, the legend of Music City is predicated on its role as a premier exponent of black rhythm and blues styles, with a strong regional flavour. Most significantly, the sound of Music City was street. Much of what appeared on the label and lies in its voluminous cache of unreleased recordings can be said to reflect the evolution of black popular music between the early 50s and the mid-1970s. It reflects reality: this is what was heard in clubs and juke joints, at high school auditoria and rec centres, rent parties or literally out on the sidewalk, with all the dissonance and unoriginality that might imply, but matched equally by huge, invigorating dollops of innocence and exuberance, and a surprising amount of inspiration.

Amongst the set’s 78 tracks are names familiar to doo wop and blues collectors – the Crescendos, Gaylarks, Rovers, 5 Lyrics, Alvin Smith etc – while behind several others lurk famous names (James Brown, Lou Rawls) or others soon to be famous (Sugar Pie DeSanto, members of Sly & the Family Stone). From the raucous jump blues of Del Graham’s ‘Your Money Ain’t Long Enough’ to the hip street soul of Darondo, the breadth of genres represented is extensive, but the overall emphasis in “The Music City Story” is upon the black vocal group, be it 50s, 60s or 70s vintage. It is the rich seam of Bay Area groups mined by Music City that collectors most closely associate with the label. Dobard had only a couple of minor hits – the 4 Deuces’ popular ‘W-P-L-J’, Johnny Heartsman’s raucous ‘Johnny’s House Party’ – but kept the tape machine running pretty much constantly for much of his quarter-century in the business.

It has been many years since as significant a stash as Music City’s has come to light, and accompanying the tantalising musical treats is an extensive, heavily-illustrated sleeve note detailing the label’s history. Given that the late Dobard was notorious evasive, an air of mystery has always surrounded his activities in music, but this is the first time a recounting of the Music City saga has been based upon hard data, rather than supposition. Documents, letters, tape box annotations, discographical notes, session chatter, even recorded phone conversations form a considerable body of evidence, that helps bring into focus what this fiercely independent and pioneering black entrepreneur achieved. Ray was no Dootsie Williams or Jake Porter, but nevertheless, a picture emerges of a fascinatingly complex figure, whose role in the black music scene in the mid-20th century cannot be discounted. As venerable East Bay bandleader Johnny Talbot puts it, “to me, Ray Dobard was the foundation of Bay Area music. There was hardly anyone who did anything later who didn’t bump into Ray, so he had to be a foundation.”

By Alec Palao


Track listing


Side 1

  • 01 Preview W-P-L-J - The 4 Deuces

  • 02 Preview Your Money Ain't Long Enough - Del Graham with Que Martyn's Orchestra

  • 03 Preview Keep Me Satisfied, Baby - Golden Boy with Chick Morris & His Band

  • 04 Preview A Prayer - Al Joseph Harris with Chick Morris & His Band

  • 05 Preview Guitar Blues - Sidney Grande

  • 06 Preview On My Way - Alvin Smith

  • 07 Preview Here Lies My Love - Mr Undertaker

  • 08 Preview Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug - The Midnights

  • 09 Preview Late Last Night - The Twilighters

  • 10 Preview Ichi-Bon Tami Dachi - The Rovers

  • 11 Preview Johnny's Stomp (early version) - Johnny Heartsman

  • 12 Preview Tell Me, Darling - The Gaylarks

  • 13 Preview I'm A Workin' Man - The 5 Lyrics

  • 14 Preview Morrine - The 5 Campbells

  • 15 Preview I Don't Stand No Quittin' - Gloria Jean

  • 16 Preview Crossing The River - The Dreamers

  • 17 Preview This Wicked Race - The Golden West Singers

  • 18 Preview Jerry - The 3 Dons & Donna

  • 19 Preview Lil Tipa-Tina - The 5 Swans

  • 20 Preview The Wheel - Jimmy Nelson

  • 21 Preview Wrong Doing Woman - Jasper Evans

  • 22 Preview Ding Dong - The Gayteens

  • 23 Preview From The Bottom Of My Heart - Leon Pryor

  • 24 Preview Bury Me In The South - Al Bennett with The Country Travellers

  • 25 Preview The Wallflower - Unknown Duo

  • 26 Preview Big Six radio ad - Spoken Word

Side 2

  • 01 Preview Johnny's House Party Parts 1 & 2 - Johnny Heartsman with The Rhythm Rockers & The Gaylarks

  • 02 Preview Rockin' Satellite - The 3 Honeydrops

  • 03 Preview Just One More Chance - Lord Luther

  • 04 Preview Love Me Tender - The Fidels

  • 05 Preview Gonna Blow Out The Lamp - Gene Lee & The Blues Rockers

  • 06 Preview Are You My Boyfriend - Wally & Theresa

  • 07 Preview Indian Jane - The Marcels

  • 08 Preview I Need You Baby - Robbie Meldano

  • 09 Preview Flippin' & A-Floppin' - Pee Wee & Sugar Pie

  • 10 Preview Station L-O-V-E - The Holidays

  • 11 Preview Blues All Around My Bed - Jimmy Raney

  • 12 Preview Elaine - The Klixs

  • 13 Preview Music City Hop - Johnny George

  • 14 Preview Heaven's Own Choir - The Five Crystels

  • 15 Preview Dynamite - Kary Lynn

  • 16 Preview Lover's Plea - The Pagans

  • 17 Preview The Slopp - Willie Moore

  • 18 Preview Beverly My Darling - Joe Blackwell & The Individuals

  • 19 Preview Party At Vern's - The Satellite Band

  • 20 Preview My Heart's Desire - The Crescendos

  • 21 Preview You Gave Me Love - Lee Durrell & The Tamaras

  • 22 Preview I Walk In Circles - Little Lynn

  • 23 Preview Church On The Hill (Take 2) - Bob & Jessie

  • 24 Preview Love You All Night Long - Little Willie Littlefield

  • 25 Preview Mirage - The Night Caps

  • 26 Preview Magnificent Montague radio spot - Magnificent Montague

Side 3

  • 01 Preview Scheming - Wanda Burt & The Crescendos

  • 02 Preview All Around The World - Vermettya Royster with James Brown's Band

  • 03 Preview Ocean Of Love - The Franciscans

  • 04 Preview The Kasavubu Waltz - D'Vonya White

  • 05 Preview Nature Boy - The 4 Rivers

  • 06 Preview Lonely One - The Derbys

  • 07 Preview Don't Fence Me In - Jackie Day

  • 08 Preview I Feel So Blue - The Italics

  • 09 Preview I'm Waiting - The Fantastics

  • 10 Preview What To Do - The Swingin' Brothers

  • 11 Preview You Are My Lover Girl - The Powell Brothers

  • 12 Preview I Can't Take Any More - Johnnie Marie Thorne

  • 13 Preview Something In My Eye - The Music City Soul Brothers

  • 14 Preview Passing Thru Music City - Music City Swingers

  • 15 Preview Do The Philly - The Music City All Stars

  • 16 Preview Too Late To Cry - Lou Rawls

  • 17 Preview Feeling Fine, Feeling Good - Wanda Burt

  • 18 Preview She's Coming Back - The Soul Brothers

  • 19 Preview He's All Right - The Heavenly Tones

  • 20 Preview Stop Telling Me - The Two Things In One

  • 21 Preview A Man That Is Not Free - Soul Sensations

  • 22 Preview Didn't I - Darondo

  • 23 Preview Loving You Isn't Enough - The Ballads

  • 24 Preview When We Get Married Part 2 - Tear Drop Tears

  • 25 Preview Farewell Goodbye My Love - The Performers

  • 26 Preview KYA Newsbeat spot - Spoken Word

Delivery & Returns


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You have the right to cancel your order within seven days of purchase, or seven days of receipt of the goods (whichever is the longer). If you choose to cancel your order, full payment will be returned to you. Returned items should be sent to: “Returns” c/o Ace Records, Such Close, Letchworth Garden City SG6 1JF, United Kingdom. Music downloads should be returned to us via the email address: including a copy of your notice of cancellation and order number.

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