[Update: The link to "I'm Hurtin" should be fixed. Sorry about that.]
This record takes some explaining, so if you'll bear with me I'll do my best to keep it short.
First off let me say that this record was posted more than two years ago by another blogger. By which I mean this exact same copy. It came to me through an incredible act of generosity on that person's part. I contacted him about buying it, instead he gave it to me. At the time, I was poorer than the proverbial church mouse and remember thinking how relieved I'd be if he didn't accept my offer as it represented a couple of days worth of food. In the end, he wouldn't even let me pay the postage. I'll never forget it.
In keeping with that spirit this 45 has since been passed around amongst several friends, always for free, always with the stipulation that they could keep it as long as they felt entitled to it. Ya see, that single act of generosity had a big affect on me. It made me realize that the essence of collecting can be a profoundly greedy pre-occupation, and that unless I manage to balance my acquisitiveness with charity I will forever feel uneasy with my little treasures. In that way, this 45 has become a personal talisman representing the charity I hope to show others.
I'm sure that sounds sappy, but it's the truth. These days, my charitable donations are directly tied to the amount of money I save by not buying records during a specific period of time. I figure the amount based on a yearly average of spending per month.
I have at times considered sending the record back to it's original owner with my total gratitude, but I'm not sure he would understand and I tend to think there's some aspect of kharma involved. If undoing the original act of charity means that my "debt" is cancelled, then I think it's probably best if I continue to feel indebted.
So, why all the fuss in the first place? It's a great record. Maybe not the single greatest record ever made, but it's good. And so far, no one I know has been able to come up with any info on the artist, the label, or even the b-side song credited to Ike Turner. That's after two years of trying.
Last summer another copy appeared on Ebay and I sent a note to the seller to see if he knew anything. Turned out he was a very knowledgeable dealer out of California. His response was that he knew nothing at all, had never seen another copy, and thought he'd just put it out there as an unknown and see what happened. And "what happened" made my eye's bug out. The 45 went from about $15 to over $200 in the last ten seconds of the auction [it was in much better condition than this copy].
While there are folks in this world who will pay that kind of money for a good unknown record, it does also seem possible that someone out there knows something. If I'd had my thinking cap on I'd have re-connected with the seller after the auction and asked, just as a courtesy, if he'd be willing to see if the high bidder had any info. Unfortunately, I did not do so.
As I said above, there is no available info on the label. There is however another record on a label named Phantom, but the two records appear to be totally unrelated. Not only are the logo's different, but the other record is a fairly well-known garage rock 45 undoubtedly recorded several years after this record and clearly pressed as a private one-off issue.
My friend C. is one of those who've "owned" this record for a time. He's also the one who pointed out the similarities with the last record made by Billy Gayles for the Shock label in 1962. At first I was skeptical of the connection but with time and repeated listening I've come to think he might be right even though the vocal pitch is slightly higher.
Is it a lost Billy Gayles recording? Use your own ears and see what you think. I'm including an mp3 of "I'm Hurtin" from the Shock 45 for comparison. While "I'm Hurtin" is clearly a killer of a tune and The Starr's record is in roughish shape, I'm hoping you won't let either of those facts distract you from giving both a good listen. I'd love to hear what you think.
I initially became interested in this record because it sounds very "New Orleans". While a good bit of searching has been done to see if there's a local connection, nothing has popped up suggesting it's true. Actually, I'd be a little surprised if there is much of a local connection outside of influence. I've long thought the 45 to be a fascinating example of trying to sound "New Orleans".
I'll post the a-side soon...it's a cover of Clarence Henry's "Ain't Got No Home".
The Starr's, Crying Over You
Billy Gayles, I'm Hurtin'
[btw, I've never been able to trace the run-out code which I believe shows that the 45 was pressed by that huge plant out in California, the name of which I simply can not remember. Anyway, if someone has the resources to look up Δ37317-X, I'd totally appreciate it.]
[update: I bought the recently issued comp "That Kat Sure Could Play" [highly recommended] which was brought to my attention by a reader in the comments. It purportedly includes every recording on which Ike Turner played between the years 1952 and 1957, and as far as I can tell is the first time the Starr's 45 has been comped. I was hoping the liner notes might shed some light.
They do not. Here's what Fred Rathwell, who put the collection together, has to say about the record, "The Starr's are a complete discographical blank although the lead sounds suspiciously like Jackie Brenston. Both sides have a distinct New Orleans feel, "Crying Over You" [written by Ike Turner] sounds like a Huey "Piano" Smith record and "Aint Got No Home" is the Clarence "Frogman" Henry hit which at least dates this recording to after September 1956 when the Frogman's record was made." That's all he has to say.
It's the only 45 on the comp about which nothing is known. It's inclusion within the collection's time frame is little more than wishful thinking. In fact it's still unclear whether there's any proof at all of an Ike Turner connection. As far as the singer sounding like Jackie Brenston, that's just Mr. Rathwell's opinion, and honestly speaking, it's not one I agree with.
Perhaps more importantly, the record itself sounds nothing like any of the other included cuts and given that it does sound quite a bit like Billy Gayle's "I'm Hurtin" from 1962, I'm gonna stick to my guns and say I still think the Starr's recordings are from the early '60's. In this case, my opinion is just as valid as Mr. Rathwell's....at least until someone dates the run-out code on the 45.
So, the question remains: is the Starr's 45 Ike Turner related? While I happen to think it is, I'd still like to see a tiny bit of proof. Anything at all.]
[update: I just got an email from a friend saying that he traced the run-out code on the Starr's 45 some time ago but forgot to tell me. It dates the record as having been pressed at the Monarch plant in December 1960, which means it's inclusion on the Ike Turner related comp "That Kat Sure Could Play" is incorrect. If it's even possible to speak of such as thing an "release date" for the 45, I think you'd probably have to say it was sometime in 1961. My ears are by no means perfect, but on occasion they do serve me fairly well.]