Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dolphin's Of Hollywood LP

Earth Angel, JD-906
Side A
01 Grady Chapman And The Suedes - Don't Blooper
02 Grady Chapman And The Suedes - I Need You So
03 Lee Maye - Honey Honey
04 The Falcons - I Miss You Darling
05 The Falcons - Tell Me Why (You Made Me Cry)
06 The Robins - School Girl Blues
07 Lee Maye - Will You Be Mine
08 The Turbans - No No Cherry
09 The Voices - Two Things I Love
10 The Robins - Early Morning Blues
Side B
11 Lee Maye - Pounding
12 The Turbans - Tick Tock A-Woo
13 Lee Maye - All I Want Is Someone To Love
14 Cry Baby Curtis - I Wanna
15 The Voices - Takes Two To Make A Home
16 Bobby Relf - Our Love
17 The Voices - I Want To Be Ready
18 The Turbans - When I Return
19 The Gassers - Tell Me
20 Cry Baby Curtis - Did You Think I Care

Lee Maye - Will You Be Mine

Mystery contributor (MC from now on) strikes again. MC has kindly written some words, mainly using the LP notes with a few links contained. You may be able to read the LP notes from the jpg provided but be careful not to give yourself a headache.


John Grattan Dolphin was a record store owner, music publisher and record company operator who in the 1950s ruled the Los Angeles Rhythm and Blues scene until his murder by a disgruntled songwriter in 1958. Dolphin was born in Mississippi and raised in Detroit, Michigan, where he put together a grubstake selling cars. In the late '40s, like many other blacks, he moved to Los Angeles. In the words of an acquaintance, Dolphin "smoked the biggest cigars, wore the biggest hats, the widest collars, talked the biggest, and made the biggest promises."

Dolphin became aware that the music market was changing from jazz and country blues to a developing teenage market who wanted wild screaming saxes and teen vocal groups. He jumped in and cornered the market on R&B on the West Coast during the 50s.

There are many fine sites on the internet documenting Dolphin's life and business dealings, so to say too much would just be repeating them. Have a look here for a more detailed history including photographs. This short essay over at Steve Propes 45 blog is also worth a read.

Now some info on the groups..... 

The Robins were the quintessential West Coast group, formed in San Francisco in 1947 as the A Sharp Trio: Terrell Leonard (known professionally as Ty Terrell) and twins Billy and Ray Richard. They moved to Los Angeles in 1949 and performed at band-leader Johnny Otis' famed Barrel House in Watts. To fatten up the trio's sound, Otis made them a quartet by adding Bass singer Bobby Nunn. Later that year, because of contractual obligations elsewhere, Otis and the Robins, supplemented by Little Esther sound-alike Mickey Champion, recorded a session for Modern Records as the Nic Nacs. From Modern the Robins went to John Dolphin's Recorded In Hollywood label. For their second record for the label they reworked an earlier tune, "Double Crossing Blues" and called it "School Girls Blues". Again they recruited Mickey Champion to play the jailbait role.  That's Bobby Nunn singing on the flip, "Early Morning Blues". The Robins went on to record for RCA and had a couple of hits on the Spark label. Mickey Champion still performs around LA and is responsible for the Northern Soul stormer "What Good Am I"

High tenor Grady Chapman joined the Robins as a lead singer in 1953 while they were recording briefly for RCA and followed them to Spark Records.  He left the Robins briefly to avoid a scandal over his drug conviction. Taking advantage of the sabbatical Chapman recorded "I Need You So" and "Don't Blooper" on Dolphin's Money label (204) with a group he called The Suedes. His subsequent return to the Robins precluded any follow-ups.

Nothing is known about the Falcons other than they are not the popular Falcons from Detroit whose "You're So Fine" was a 1959 hit on the Unart label. "Tell Me Why" and "I Miss You Darling", with white drummer Jimmy Wright's band, was Dolphin's second release on Cash Records in 1955.

The Turbans -an Oakland-based sextet, led by baritone Harry Caesar.  Not to be confused with the Philadelphia group who had a minor hit with "When You Dance".  Other members- Al Williams (1st tenor), Burl or Berlin Carpenter (2nd tenor), Charles Fitzpatrick- tenor, Willie Roland- 2nd baritone , Ezra or Andre Goodwin- bass. "Tick Tock A-Woo/ No No Cherry" was released on Money in 1955. Instead of a real follow up, Dolphin slapped their only other recording, "When I Return" on the B-side of the first record by Gaynel Hodges' Turks.

The Gassers- a sort of vehicle group for Tommy "Buster" Williams, a vocalist who was championed by Jesse Belvin. Known by many as the father of LA doo wop, Belvin persuaded Dolphin to release Hum De Dum and its flipside, "Tell Me" which is featured here. Gasser is a reference to the hair straightening process many blacks went through. 

When singer Robert Byrd (aka Bobby Day left the Hollywood Flames in 1955, he formed a studio group called The Voices to explore his growing fascination with studio technology. He used the new development of overdubbing to sing various harmony parts. When his first release, the mambo-flavoured "Two Things I Love" became a West Coast hit, he was forced to form a trio to play live. "Takes Two To Make A Home" backed with the gospel influenced "I Want To Be Ready" was Byrds third Voices release. Byrd abandoned the project after his fourth Voices release, a Christmas boogie, went nowhere. Byrd went on to have big hits with Rockin' Robin and Over and Over as Bobby Day.

Not to be confused with Bobby Day, Bobby Relf also recorded under many different names.  On "Our Love" however, he used his own name. Bobby Relf is more famously known as one half of Bob & Earl and the song 'Harlem Shuffle.' In fact, Bobby Day was the original member of Bob & Earl and Bobby Relf replaced him.

Cry Baby Curtis' gimmick was apparently imitating other singer like James Brown and Lloyd Price. Other than the fact he lived in LA little else is known about him. His single "I Wanna/ Did you Think I Care?" was released on Cash after Dolphin's death, by his widow Ruth, in 1962.

Arthur Lee Maye, considered to be one of the finest tenors from the Los Angeles scene, is best known as the lead singer of the Crowns on Modern and the Jayos on Dig. He had a solo West Coast hit, Gloria on Speciality in 1957.  Nearly all his songs feature the bass vocal of Richard 'Louie Louie' Berry who also wrote many of Maye's songs.  Incredibly, as if having a successful music career wasn't enough, Maye was also a popular baseball outfielder with a .300 batting average (for those of you who don't know anything about baseball, that's not too shabby) who played for the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, the year after they won the World Series.  He chose to concentrate on his sports career, because in his own words, "In those days, none of us ever made much money in music, even when we wrote and sang hit records."  Maye managed to get a recording session in during the early 1960s, whilst the Braves were in LA to play the Dodgers, and the result was two excellent singles for Cash, "Will You Be Mine/ Honey Honey and  "All I Want Is Someone To Love / Pounding". Truly a phenomenal life, more on Maye can be found here
"We didn't realize that we were creating our own musical history, 'cause we were too busy having fun." Arthur Lee Maye (1934-2002)
Dolphin was a businessman first and foremost, he had no musical skill or knowledge, he relied on musicians such as Red Callender, Eddie Beal and Ernie Freeman to put together arrangements and organize sessions. Ernie Freeman was A&R man for Dolphin from 1954 to 1956, as well as producing, arranging and playing piano on nearly all Dolphin's vocal group recordings. After Freeman hit big for Dolphin with the quarter of a million seller "Jivin' Around" he was immediately signed up by Imperial Records and Dolphin had lost one of his most valuable talents. Freeman went on to have a successful and extremely lucrative career.

The End

Dolphin's empire came to an end on 2 February, 1958, when songwriter Percy Ivy shot him in a dispute over unpaid royalties. The murder was witnessed by future session drummer Sandy Nelson and eventual Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, who had come to Dolphin's office to try and sell him some songs.