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Al Perkins legendary Detroit DJ

Al Perkins legendary Detroit DJ cover

Al Perkins, DJ, Song Writer, Producer, Label Owner and Singer.............................

The multi faceted star shone bright for a while in Detroit. He started his DJing career down in Memphis after moving there from Brookhaven, Ms. In Memphis he honed his skill as a DJ alongside fellow jock's Jay Butler and Fred Goree, all of whom would eventually move up to Detroit and join WJLB and later Martha Jean The Queen's WQBH station on East Grand Blvd. Once on the air Al acquired the nick name 'The Perker' due to his happy upbeat style.


On route to Detroit Al spent a number of years in Chicago working around the city as a singer, put out release on C.J., Jive and U.S.A. and even had a short career as part of a duet, Al & Bunky with one release on Exodus, but by the late 60’s the call to join his old friends in Detroit got ever louder. On arriving in the city Al got to work forming a production company as well as his DJ duties. The next step was talent hunting and through a number of record hops he held at The Twenty Grand he started to gather a few group around him, Sons Of Satan, Al Hudson and from Mississippi his own sister Velma Perkins aka Vee Allen by marriage. With so much going his way next was a record label and an outlet for the first recordings on his sister, so Mier Records was formed. For all his talents, time and promotion was slipping through his fingers, he needed someone to join him to really get things kicking, enter one Ernest Kelly. Ernest was from the old 'Tin Pan Alley' school, guys that had worked around the Brill building in New York, schooled in the dark arts of record promotion.
Vee Allen & Al Hudson

 

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Together they would form a group of independent labels and promotion companies that would become a major part of the beating heart of Detroit music in the early 70's. Amongst these were the promotions companies Inter-Soul, Mier Records, But Al ambitions for success did not stop there, he still had a desire to be a singer himself. So embarked on a number of projects in Detroit, that would eventually land him contracts with both Atlantic/Atco and later Buddah Records. These threw up a number of great soulful sides ‘Yes my goodness, yes’, which many years later became popular in Europe on the soul music scene there and the equally good ‘Trust me’, ‘Yes my goodness, yes’ would appear again on Buddah in an updated form.

 

Ernest Kelly and his one time love Patti LaBelle

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Of the groups he handled, Sons Of Satan had a little local success on one of Al’s labels, Ecology, one disco hit on Buddah with ‘Dance and free your mind’ and a few releases on United Artists before changing their name to Roundtrip. Vee Allen, as Vee , Vee Allen and Vee Vee Allen has developed a successful career that eventually took her to MCA where she cut an album. Vee married Denise LaSalle’s brother Nate ‘Na’ Allen and moved on to be a school teacher. But Al Hudson proved to be Al’s ‘Golden Goose’, as the Soul Partners and then One Way the group had hit after hit. He was also able to develop several members of the band into solo careers including Alicia Myers, Kevin McCord and Oliver Cheatham, Oliver before working with One Way had also been a member of the Young Sirs, Mad Dog & The Pups and Sons Of Satan.


All seemed to be going so well for Al, until the untimely death in March 1983 at the offices he shared with Ernest Kelly on James Couzens in northwest Detroit. Police say that there was no sign of forced entry, a struggle or theft. Rumours circulated that he may have had Mob connections but nothing could be proved and a killer was never found.


Over a fifteen year period his light shone brightly and many a Detroit artist and musician saw success working with The Perker.

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I talked a lot with Oliver Cheatham (when he was signed to Move Records of Edinburgh). We spent a weekend with him in Kirkcaldy when he had a club gig there & then a night out on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh itself. Apart from the wife & I acting as his backing singers (in his hotel room, not on stage), we talked music the rest of the time.

Oliver was linked with Al's labels for quite a few years (as Round Trip, Oliver & also solo). He first got an in with Al as the studio roof was leaking & Oliver was a fully trained roofer  -- so he was invited to join 'Al's in-team' as long as he mended the roof. From there, they cut many great tracks together. 

Oliver knew the circumstances surrounding Al's death & told me the full story  -- he knew as he was around in the run up to Al's killing & knew the who & the why .... but (it goes without saying) to have told the police would probably have meant that Oliver's body was the next that would have been found. 

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