Thursday, May 6, 2010

Okeh Records Northern Soul 45s

If you are a true R&B and Soul fanatic, there's no way to not know about Okeh Records. Based on Chicago, Okeh Records was founded probably at 1918 by Otto Heinemann who was German and migrated to the States just after the end of the first World War. For many years labeled as a "race" music company (I wanna know who was the originator of this tag to go and piss on his grave..). Of course at first was a jazz label. From early on, Okeh marketed as "black music specialists" and because of this it was a natural thing to expand on other genres like rhythm & blues at first and later on soul. From the label's roster passed many monsters like Louis Armstrong, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, Larry Williams, Johnny Watson, Johnny Otis, Jerry McCain, Major Lance, Esquerita, Dave "Baby" Cortez, Billy Butler, the Vibrations, Big Maybelle, Ida Cox, Lavern Baker, Chuck Willis among many equals even Link Wray! Not bad huh?
By the sixties the label created many groove classics and I never really understood why never had the success of the Motown or Stax. A very good sum of the later Rhythm & Soul years written on by Bill Brewster :

"In 1958 a record called ‘For Your Precious Love’ was released on Vee-Jay Records that changed the sound in Chicago. Influenced by doo-wop and gospel groups like the Inkspots and the Soul Stirrers, Jerry Butler & The Impressions had a sweet, lilting sound that was in stark contrast to the angular and gritty local blues singers. Jerry Butler and fellow band member Curtis Mayfield had been in bands together for while, beginning with the Quails, followed by the Roosters, then, when they’d finally run out of birds’ names, the Impressions. Vee-Jay, the only black-owned label in Chicago, passed up on the chance of signing the Impressions preferring instead to hold on to Butler, thus allowing Mayfield to go elsewhere (Vee-Jay also released the Beatles’ US debut, ‘She Loves You’ before EMI affiliate Capitol got smart and picked them up for the States). Although the Impressions eventually signed to ABC-Paramount, Mayfield played a key role in the resurgence of OKeh (as a producer and writer) and his unique guitar style was aped by virtually every other Chicago guitarist.
In 1962, a Chicago producer, Carl Davis, hot from success with Gene Chandler’s ‘Duke Of Earl’, was brought into Columbia in the A&R department. The effects were immediate and, within a year, he was working full-time for its offshoot OKeh. He gathered around him songwriters like Mayfield, a group of musicians that included Jerry Butler’s younger brother Billy on guitar, Floyd Morris on keyboards, Bernard Reed on bass and Maurice White (who later went on to form Earth, Wind & Fire) on drums, alongside arrangers Johnny Pate and Riley Hampton.
The first hit was Major Lance’s ‘Monkey Time’, written by Mayfield and produced by Davis, which showcased a distinct sweet, rhythmic sound with weight lent by percussive brass stabs and the bass accentuated by trombones. It reached number eight in the US and was a club smash in UK clubs like the Twisted Wheel and The Scene. Lance followed this with a string of hits with the same writer and producer, including the onomatopoeic ‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’, ‘Rhythm’ and ‘The Matador’.
Many of the artists signed to OKeh, including Lance, Mayfield and Billy Butler were not only local but came from the same housing project, the notorious Cabrini-Green (immortalised in the 1975 comedy movie Cooley High which, significantly, didn’t include any Chicago music on its soundtrack). Other Chicagoans included girl group, the Opals, who began life as backing singers for another Cabrini-Green resident Otis Leavill and the Artistics, who recorded the sublimely daft ‘Patty Cake’. Added to that were Detroit’s answer to Ian Dury, Walter Jackson (well, he had polio as a child) and the Vibrations from LA, who seemed to get through more labels than an early eighties casual.
But, like Motown, OKeh was a producer-led label and the artists were, in many ways, interchangeable. Curtis Mayfield went on to produce or write for many of the OKeh stable, Billy Butler & The Enchanters’ ‘Gotta Get Away’ and Walter Jackson’s ‘It’s All Over’, a superb beaty ballad in the Bobby Bland mould.
The demise of OKeh shows a conflict that’s been going on with major labels and black music for more than five decades now. For the most part, they still struggle to come to terms with its constantly shifting culture and when Columbia split the company into two, leaving OKeh under the aegis of newly independent Epic, Carl Davis, who had brought them so much success and prestige, was effectively forced out by head Len Levy and left acrimoniously in 1966. OKeh struggled on for the next four years, with Walter Jackson, Larry Williams and others enjoying minor hits, before finally being closed down in 1970. It was sad demise for a label that, thanks to its close affiliation with Curtis Mayfield and, indeed, Davis, had helped define not just the soul sound of Chicago, but had a profound effect on soul generally."

What i got for you guys this time is an EXCELLENT compilation from the cream of the label's Soul 45s! And when I'm saying "cream"  I MEAN IT! I found on my HDD Backups a file of 32 (yes, thirty two!) floor-fillers of the highest quality! I didn't rip them myself. Don't know where i got 'em, maybe by some old torrent download, but i did some work myself here except for re-upload them since they didn't have tags in all songs and on some other i had to make some re-search and put the right artist and title on 'em cause i never heard them before. Listening to these gems you're sure going to understand why Northern Soul-diers around the world still place Okeh beside Motown and Stax giants! Okeh?


The Gems:

01. Come Back - Ken Williams
02. Gonna Get Along Without You Now - The Vibrations
03. I'm Coming To Your Rescue - The Triumphs
04. I Still Love You - The Seven Souls
05. Gone But Not Forgotten - Johnny Robinson
06. This Heart Of Mine - The Artistics
07. Your Gonna Make Me Love You - Sandi Sheldon
08. A Quitter Never Wins - Larry Wiliams and Johnny Watson
09. A Little Bit Of Something - Little Richard
10. Let My Heart And Soul Be Free - The Tan-Geers
11. You Don't Want Me No More - Major Lance
12. What's The Use Of Me Trying -  The Tan-Geers
13. I'm So Afraid - The Opals
14. My heart Is Hurtin' - Billy Butler
15. I Dont Want To Discuss It - Little Richard
16. I Can Do It The Autographs
17. So Glad Your Love Don't Change The Little Foxes
18. I'll Leave It Up To You - The Artistics
19. Don't Fight It Major Lance
20. The Right Track - Billy Butler
21. It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom - Walter Jackson
22. Investigate - Major Lance
23. This Old Heart Of Mine - Johnny Watson
24. Finding Out The Hard Way - The Vibrations
25. Taking On Pain - Tommy Tate
26. Nothing Can Stop Me - Major Lance
27. Too Late - Larry Williams and Johnny Watson
28.Everybody Loves A Good Time - Major Lance
29. Call Me Tommorow - Major Harris
30. Ain't No Soul - Major Lance
31. You Can't Take It Away - Azie Mortimer
32. After You - Walter Jackson



  1. Thanks for this. Got a couple of sides by Major Lance. I've also got an official album called 'Okeh Soul' that i downloaded from Twighlight Zone blog (i think) a couple of years back. Not so many tracks or variation as this one though. There was also others in the series call 'Okeh R&B' and 'Okeh RNR'. They were vinyl rips. I've just noticed your sidebar menu - mmmm, i think i'm gonna like your blog!!

  2. Can't wait to listen to this. "Investigate" by Major Lance is one of my all-time favorite songs. Thanks.

  3. SWEET ;-)
    You're driving me silly Moe

  4. VERY OK ! Many thanks for the share!

  5. Okeh also had a fairly strong presence in the Western Swing market before turning, um, solely to soul in the '60s. Included on the roster were Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, THe Sons of the Pioneers, The Light Crust Doughboys, Spade Cooley, and Leon McAuliffe and Western Swing Band.

    BTW, Carl Davis was one of the factors leading to the decline and failure of Stax... Chicago soul and Memphis soul were like oil and water. Of course, Davis wasn't the biggest factor -- that would have been All Bell, with Union Planters Bank close behind.

  6. the vibrations were a great group,that didnt get the recognition that they deserved.i saw this group many times,and they always put on exceptional stage shows whatever the venue was.why this group )vibrations)were pushed over to the side is strange to me.the vibrations had great harmonies,and they had many hits.the records were watusi,peanut butter,cindy,sloopy,and my favorite was finding out the hard way.these five guys were ,a class act they had great choreography,plus these guys were above average dancers.i truly hope that one day,the vibrations will get the respect that they deserve. sincerely yours,michael mcgehee

  7. @ michael mcgehee: I always fantasize myself living in the past and have the chance to catch many of the things i listen to it today. I'm really jealous Michael now! I would give easily a part of my collection to catch just for one night the Vibrations play and dance on a small stage just a few meters ahead of me...Thanks for stopping by.

    @ Steve: Thanks a lot for the information!

  8. many many thanks for sharing

  9. I was just looking through some "78's" that belonged to my parents. They purchased these records in the late 1940's -1950's. I saw a few with OKEH labels, so I went to this web-site. I'm 64 yrs old and grew up along 63rd street in Chicago, so I remember the music of Jerry Butler, the great Curtis Mayfield, the superb Walter Jackson, Major Lance, the Artistics and I think Carl Davis owned a club I frequented. I'm sure I have theier music on 45's and 33rpm vinyls.....This was an excellent history lesson......Thanks.


  10. the vibrations were one great group,they always worked very hard to please the audience.but why were the vibrations always taken for granted?this group has never gotten the credit that they deserved,for being an outstanding stage act.many groups copied off the vibrations their patterned dance steps.the music this group produced is very rarely played on the radio. this outstanding group has been ignored for to long in the music business.the vibrations,gave so much to the industry,its about time that they recieve something for their contributions to the music industry.sincerely yours,michael mcgehee

  11. Sorry, where is the link?

  12. Yep, sorry Bobby. They deleted most of my links some time ago. I'll do my best do re-upload many of your requests. Be patient if you can and stay tuned.

  13. A link soon to listen to this very good shit ?

  14. i've been looking all over for a comp of okeh soul! please re-up if you can, man! (also, your blog rocks!)

  15. This is hot! Good write up indeed. Got the re-up, maybe email me:

  16. Any chance you could re-upload??

  17. yeap would be superb if you could put up a re upload indeed