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Edwin Starr's Cleveland Years

Edwin Starr's Cleveland Years magazine cover

Charles Hatcher (Edwin Starr) was born in Nashville in January, 1942 but his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio while he was still young. Here Edwin was educated at the city’s East Technical High School. Whilst a student at this school his interest in singing developed. This isn’t surprising as the school seems to have been a spawning ground for male vocal groups at the time. The likes of the LaSalles & Carousels, who were both to go on to secure recording contracts, started up while the members were attending the school. Edwin also became a member of a group formed at the school, his group adopting the name of the FutureTones.

The group got its name by adapting the name of an established local group, the Metrotones. The Metrotones had started to come together as early as 1953 and they quickly built up a local following. Initially an all male outfit, the group's manager recruited Kim Tolliver to join them for a short period. The group's popularity led to them securing a recording contract and in 1958 they had enjoyed a release on the local Reserve label, “Please Come Back / Skitter Skatter”. The links between the two groups went further than just similar names though. They came from the same part of the city and the Metrotones leader, Sonny Turner, took Edwin under his wing and helped teach him to sing properly. The Reserve single was to prove to be the high point of the Metrotones career, however Sonny Turner was to go on to become lead singer with the Platters in the 60’s. Another member, Leonard Veal, ended up joining the Hesitations a few years later.

The FutureTones consisted of Edwin, John Berry, Parnell Burks, Richard Isom and Roosevelt Harris. The group performed at school shows and set about increasing their profile locally after Edwin graduated from school in 1956. They became ground breakers on the Cleveland scene as they soon became the first local outfit to be fully self contained, having their own instrumentalists as members. The musician members of the group were Russell Evans (guitar), Pinhead (trumpet), Julius Robertson (bass), Brownie (drummer) and Gus Hawkins (sax). The group would enter local talent contests such as those that were held at the Circle Ballroom. At these they would be up against other aspiring groups of young hopefuls trying to get onto the bottom rung of the ladder they hoped would eventually lead to recording success. Group names that Edwin recalls are the Sahibs, the Monarks and the Crescents.

The Sahibs had also been formed at a local school, this time though it had been Rawlings Junior High School. At the time one of their members was George Hendricks who was later to become a member of Way Out group, the Exceptional 3. A couple of years later Lou Ragland was to be co-opted into the group by its leader, James Dotson. Edwin acknowledges that the Sahib’s would almost always put on a fantastic performance, which his outfit had to strive to top. The FutureTones would usually perform the Metrotones song “Skitter Skatter” and they must have done it well as they won contests on 8 or 9 separate occasions. Edwin puts this down, in part, to his outfit’s better stage act as they were better dancers than most of their rivals. Edwin particularly remembers one contest though, at this the FutureTones and Sahibs were pitted against each other and their performances couldn’t be separated. As a result of this, the two groups were adjudged joint winners.

The leader of the Crescents was William Burrell, who adopted the professional name of Billy Wells. Billy went on to enjoy a long and successful recording career both with the Crescents and later with the Invaders and the Outer Realm. Billy relocated to Florida in the 60’s and here he cut a track, “This Heart, These Hands”, that was to go on to find favour with UK northern soul fans. The Monarks, Edwin recalls, would perform mostly El Dorados and Spaniels type tunes.

Other local outfits around at the time were the Fabulous Flames, Annuals and Cashmeres. The Fabulous Flames would enjoy releases in the late 50’s and early 60’s on Rex, Time and Baytone. Their line-up included Harvey Hall who would later go solo and record for Thomas Boddie’s Luau label. The group would alternate between having four and five members and so would always be taking on temporary members. One such member was Richard Fisher (Jessie’s brother) who was to relocate to New York in the sixties and join the Jive Five. The Annuals later secured a recording contract through their manager, Marty Conn, who started his own label, Marrconn Records. When the group broke up, members went on to join the Springers (Jeff Crutchfield) and Hesitations (Arthur Blakey). The Cashmeres, like the Sahib’s, never recorded in their own right, but the outfit’s Kenny Redd made it into the studio’s in the early 70’s when he was with Miystic Insight group True Movement.

The FutureTones, along with the other groups mentioned, would do the rounds of all the Cleveland live venues. The Mercury Ballroom, the Lucky Strike, Gleason’s, the Che Breau Club, the Rose Room at the Majestic Hotel, the Cedar Gardens, Playmor and Chatterbox Club. Joan Bias, who recorded for Way Out in 1963, recalls watching a really good FutureTones performance at the Cedar Gardens in the late 50’s. The Majestic Hotel was at that time employing two émigrés from down south, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. Eddie was employed in the kitchen while Paul was a bell hop. The pair were using their positions at the hotel to good effect though. They would rehearse songs after work from around midnight to 3am along with the third member of their outfit, Kell Osbourne. They would also occasionally secure bookings to perform properly at the hotel. However the pair soon decided that Cleveland didn’t offer them the musical opportunities they were seeking and so they moved on to Detroit.

Eventually the FutureTones got to appear on a local TV show, the 'Gene Carroll Talent Show' and not long afterwards they went professional. The first engagement they secured after this was at the Chatterbox Club (which was located on Woodland near 55th Street) as support act to Billie Holliday. Edwin was totally in awe of Billie and although he got the opportunity to visit her dressing room to speak with her he doesn’t think that his attempts at conversation would have been too coherent. Further successful engagements followed and in 1959 the group secured a recording contract with Tress Records. A single, “ I Know / Rolling On” was released and made a few waves locally.

With a promising future in prospect for the group things appeared to be on the up for its members' but fate was to take a hand. In 1960 Edwin was drafted into the Army. Here his obvious talent as a singer was soon recognised and he got to perform for other servicemen at bases across the USA and Germany. Upon his discharge in 1962 he returned to Cleveland and attempted to pick up the reigns with the group again. In his absence, one of his old friends Demon (William Isom) had joined the group but they hadn’t been able to progress their career. With Edwin back in the fold they continued to perform locally but they had lost the impetus they had possessed a few years earlier. In 1963 Bill Doggett and his group swung through Cleveland and at the time Doggett was on the lookout for a new vocalist. Edwin caught his eye and so was offered the position.

He accepted, quit the FutureTones and left town to tour with his new outfit. Bill Doggett had a great influence on Edwin, especially with regard to his professional attitude to the business. He didn’t drink, always expected good discipline and insisted that those associated with him were accessible to the people they came in contact with. After a couple of years on the road with Doggett, Edwin began to develop his song writing skills and inspired by a James Bond movie he wrote ‘Agent OO Soul’. He thought the song had commercial potential but knew that to tie in with the hype currently associated with the spy movie it would have to be recorded straight away. He took the song to Doggett but, obviously not wanting to lose his talented vocalist, Doggett suggested it was too early for him to be contemplating cutting a record.

Luckily for Edwin one of their next live performances was at the Twenty Grand in Detroit. At this he was approached by Lebaron Taylor, which led to an introduction to Ric Tic Records and the rest is history.

With an instant solo hit on his hands, Edwin had to immediately put together a backing band so that he could tour to cash in on his new found success. He didn’t really know too many available musicians in Detroit so it was only natural that he returned to Cleveland to recruit the backbone of his needed line-up. The FutureTones had soldiered on after Edwin had left them but the vocalist’s in the line-up began to loose interest and gradually drifted away into normal 9 to 5 jobs. In fact no other vocalist from the group would go on to forge a career in the music industry. The musician side of the group however had gone from strength to strength. They found employment around Cleveland backing up visiting acts such as the Temptations. The respect that they commanded locally also led to them being used on recording sessions, with work on O’Jays and Intertains sessions being amongst those secured.

On Edwins return to scout out members for his tour band he sought out his old friends and in no time he had persuaded Gus Hawkins and Julius Robertson to go on the road with him. The pair stayed with him for some time before they eventually tired of living out of a suitcase and returned home to Cleveland. The pair’s departure with Edwin had finally signalled the end for the FutureTones and leader Russell Evans took a position in the O’Jays backing band. In the 70’s Gus Hawkins was to become a member of Musicor recording group S.O.U.L. and Russell Evans was to lead the backing band for Sounds of Cleveland / Devaki recording group, Truth. Edwin hadn’t finally severed his links with Cleveland though as in 1970 he returned to the city once again. This time he recruited local outfit, Mother Braintree, as his road band. After a year or so they also returned home where members were to merge with another local outfit to form the Dazz Band.

Edwin’s many years of commercial world-wide success only took off after he had left Cleveland, however he had spent his formative years in the city. Without the grounding he gained there who can say how his career would have progressed. He was still certainly well remembered by many residents of the city in the 1990's. Among the old friends that were hoping Edwin would return to the city was William ‘Demon’ Isom, who at the end of that decade still worked at Republic Steel.





Source Magazine Comments

Roburt

Posted (edited)

The El Dorados enjoyed a fair measure of success with their Vee-Jay outings ....

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Edited by Roburt
Soulfinger

Posted

Thanks very much for posting that. It's fascinating info about Edwin's climb to fame and all completely new to me.

I loved seeing Edwin's live shows. He always gave 100%. I probably saw him live more often then any other act. It seemed like he was on somewhere in the North West all the time in the 80's. He was the only possible reason I would have gone to the Willows in Salford!

Guest Dave Turner

Posted (edited)

Me and a couple of mates at Edwin Starr's grave near Nottingham a couple of years ago.

Not very clear photo I'm afraid but the vase stands are like plastic impressions of Ric-Tic 45s (can't remember now which ones).

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Edited by Dave Turner
Roburt

Posted

When Edwin was on Jools Holland's LATER show, he said that he first got to meet Sam & Dave at a big gig they undertook at the Cleveland Arena (which must have been around Spring 1966 after S&D had enjoyed their 1st big hit).

Edwin said that Cleveland had a great entertainment scene back then with all the top soul acts playing venues in the city.

All the top acts played the Cleveland Arena back then (which when it wasn't being used for music shows was the home of the Cleveland basketball team, the Cavaliers. The venue was closed in 1974 & demolished in 1977.

........... a few top soul acts performing there ......

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soulalways

Posted

a very interesting article m8

thanks!

Roburt

Posted (edited)

I know little about the Annuals, except that they were managed by Marty Conn & had 45's out on his labels (Marconn & Conn Records; based on South Green Rd)

....... this ain't soul, its doo wop ... but this is the sort of sound Edwin's group was making back in the 50's .....

......... "Everybody talks about 'Get a Job' ... "

(should please Robb though , if he checks out this thread).

Edited by Roburt
Robbk

Posted (edited)

Nice thread. I know a lot about Detroit's and Chicago's music scene. But I never knew all that much about Cleveland's. I knew that The Moonglows were located there, recording with Alan Freed's Champagne label in 1952 (after moving from Louisville). I didn't know that The Futurtones came from Cleveland. I had thought they were an East Coast group, as Tress was a New Jersey label. I have almost no '50s music on Cleveland labels, I have some '60s a few records by The Vondells on Holiday, lots of records on Way Out, and a few on other labels, several O'Jays records on Saru and some other Saru Records, several Johnny Brantly productions on various labels, Ann Bogan and The Challengers, etc. I assume that Cleveland's music scene in the '50s was just as strong as in The '60s, but the difference was that the Cleveland artists during the R&B period had their releases on the major national labels, as well as the major national R& B labels. There weren't a lot of small R&B labels in Cleveland (they were spread around Ohio. There was a lot going on in Toledo. But it was all oriented towards Detroit. Most Toledo artists recorded in Detroit. Lots of Ohio artist recorded in Cincinnati, as King Records and their recording studio was located there. And, of course, The Hesitations (who I forgot to mention above). There was also Sonny Turner.

Edited by RobbK
Roburt

Posted (edited)

.... Ann Bogan and The Challengers, etc. I assume that Cleveland's music scene in the '50s was just as strong as in The '60s, but the difference was that the Cleveland artists during the R&B period had their releases on the major national labels, as well as the major national R& B labels. There weren't a lot of small R&B labels in Cleveland

Yes, Ann Bogan (later a Marvelette & member of New Birth) & the guys in the Challengers were from Cleveland.

George Hendricks, a current member of the Hesitations, has a long musical pedigree......

His first major singing position was in the Sahib's who around 1960 were one of Cleveland's finest soul groups (they performed on bills with the likes of James Brown, Jackie Wilson and most of the Motown acts). The group were just about the top local draw at the time but had no interest in recording and so never left a 'vinyl legacy' to look back on.

After this, he was a member of 'Ann Bogan and the Challengers' who recorded "Honey Honey Honey" / "Everyday" for the Tri Phi label. He was then to serve in Viet Nam & after returning took a break from the music biz.

Then in the 70's, he joined Red Top and the Young Family who recorded "Love Power / Barbara" released on the Tri City Label (owned by Choker Campbell). George toured the US with the group for several years.

In the late 70's he joined long time friend (& former Sahib) Lou Ragland & they formed the Chosen Few. Later still, George was vocalist for Harvey and the Phenomenals (ex of Daywood label).

.... more on George (& Edwin) here ....... http://rockhall.com/...-music-history/

Cleveland in the 50's & 60's had the artists and the recording studios (though in the 50's these were very basic) ...

..... the city never had a local guy with money who was prepared to invest cash into setting up a label and properly financing releases with decent distribution.

Way Out came the closest to becoming an established label (& their studio was really more of a front for 'number runners'). Way Out established deals (for distribution) with the likes of Atlantic & MGM but still didn't have the money to really go for it big time. Their biggest investor (after the start up) was Amer Football player Jim Brown (hence their Big Jim label). But Brown hooked up with the Friends of Distinction & went off to Hollywood to star in film's & build that group's career.

Too many Cleveland soul 45's say ... 'from the album ????' but those albums never got released (even though the tracks were cut) because of lack of funds.

Many of the master tapes for loads of unreleased 60's soul cuts lay locked in a studio vault just outside the city to this day. If they aren't 'rescued' soon, they will fall to pieces and the cuts will be lost forever.

Edited by Roburt
Roburt

Posted (edited)

Like every big US city, Cleveland had its own TV version of 'American Bandstand'.

Cleveland's equivalent went out weekly on ABC from 1964 to 1971, it was called UPBEAT.

Loads of top acts got to appear on the show including some local soul acts.

The O'Jays were on, as was Sonny Turner with the 60's Platters.

Otis Redding was on in December 1967, he sang solo ("Respect" backed up by the Barkays) & then did a duet with Mitch Ryder ("Knock On Wood"). He was in the city to do the show & play a gig at Leo's Casino.

After the show, he touched base with Kim Tolliver who was back home after being a member of Otis' touring review.

After that he headed to the airport & his private plane to get to his next engagement.

The plane crashed en-route & Otis + some of the Barkays were killed.

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Edited by Roburt
Robbk

Posted

Yes, Ann Bogan (later a Marvelette & member of New Birth) & the guys in the Challengers were from Cleveland.

George Hendricks, a current member of the Hesitations, has a long musical pedigree......

His first major singing position was in the Sahib's who around 1960 were one of Cleveland's finest soul groups (they performed on bills with the likes of James Brown, Jackie Wilson and most of the Motown acts). The group were just about the top local draw at the time but had no interest in recording and so never left a 'vinyl legacy' to look back on.

After this, he was a member of 'Ann Bogan and the Challengers' who recorded "Honey Honey Honey" / "Everyday" for the Tri Phi label. He was then to serve in Viet Nam & after returning took a break from the music biz.

Then in the 70's, he joined Red Top and the Young Family who recorded "Love Power / Barbara" released on the Tri City Label (owned by Choker Campbell). George toured the US with the group for several years.

In the late 70's he joined long time friend (& former Sahib) Lou Ragland & they formed the Chosen Few. Later still, George was vocalist for Harvey and the Phenomenals (ex of Daywood label).

.... more on George (& Edwin) here ....... http://rockhall.com/...-music-history/

Cleveland in the 50's & 60's had the artists and the recording studios (though in the 50's these were very basic) ...

..... the city never had a local guy with money who was prepared to invest cash into setting up a label and properly financing releases with decent distribution.

Way Out came the closest to becoming an established label (& their studio was really more of a front for 'number runners'). Way Out established deals (for distribution) with the likes of Atlantic & MGM but still didn't have the money to really go for it big time. Their biggest investor (after the start up) was Amer Football player Jim Brown (hence their Big Jim label). But Brown hooked up with the Friends of Distinction & went off to Hollywood to star in film's & build that group's career.

Too many Cleveland soul 45's say ... 'from the album ????' but those albums never got released (even though the tracks were cut) because of lack of funds.

Many of the master tapes for loads of unreleased 60's soul cuts lay locked in a studio vault just outside the city to this day. If they aren't 'rescued' soon, they will fall to pieces and the cuts will be lost forever.

Numbers running was one of the major sources of income which could be laundered through record labels and recording studios and record distributorships owned by MANY of the African American entrepeneurs. Otherwise, we'd have seen a LOT fewer decent-sized Black-owned labels. Ed Wingate (Golden World), Wilbur Golden (Correc-Tone). etc. Some, like Diamond Jim Riley, had nightclubs as well, but also probably also had numbers feeding into their "empires".

Roburt

Posted

Some mid 1950's shows in Cleveland.

Groups featured include the El Dorados, the Metrotones, the Hornets and others.

The Hornets were another local outfit that recorded.

In 1953 they were doing well, their lead singer being Johnny Moore. The Drifters came thru Cleveland for a show, spotted Johnny and recruited him to join their group. So he packed a bag & went on the road as a Drifter. He had a solo spell after his run in the military (as Johnny Darrow) and then went back to the Drifters when a vacancy occurred,

It was Johnny who led the Drifters when they relocated to the UK in the 70's.

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Roburt

Posted (edited)

Losing their lead singer finished off many a group, but when Johnny Moore jumped ship to join the Drifters, the Hornets soldiered on.

The group's new leader was Ben Iverson and they stuck with the plot through to the early 60's when the group landed a record deal with Way Out. Eventually they gave up due to changing music styles but Ben Iverson still wasn't finished.

He relocated to New York and continued his music career as both a solo artist and as a group lead singer.

He helped form the group Ben Iverson & Nue Dey Express who had a 45 out on Britne. The group then landed a deal with RCA and had the track "(You Can't Bend My) Super Rod" out that featured Ben on lead vocals (on the voc side of that single).

The group teamed up with new producers & for whatever reason (conflict between those producers & Ben who saw himself very much as the group leader or the producers not liking his old style vocal delivery) Ben was ousted from the group. Their producers & RCA re-named them; Crown Heights Affair) & they went on to have worldwide hits.

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Edited by Roburt
Roburt

Posted

Edwin back in Cleveland (ahead of him signing with RicTic) ...

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Roburt

Posted (edited)

Edwin Starr was recruited by Bill Doggett in 1963 and went on the road with Bill's revue (singing lead vocals) from then. One of the early things Edwin must have done (though he wasn't using the name Edwin Starr yet) was to play percussion on the tracks included on Bill Doggett's ABC LP 'Wow' (cut in 64, released in January 1965). This album was issued in the US, Canada, UK, India & other regions, with a 7” jukebox 'Little LP' escaping in the States in May 65.

However, Edwin can't have been on the road solidly with Bill's outfit all the time throughout 1964 (and up to June 65) as he isn't name checked on some shows that took place during that period. On August 23rd 1964, Bill Doggett's Orchestra played Carr's Beach in Maryland and for that show the featured people were Betty Everett, Billy Garner & Betty St Clair. On a show in Cleveland on Sunday March 21st 1965 at the 'House of Blues' (really Gleason's) — see attachment above -- Edwin, along with Betty St Clair were the featured singers with the review. Next time they turn up on a live show (that I know of) was in mid May 1965 when the ensemble had a week long engagement at the 20 Grand Club in Detroit. For this engagement, the featured people in the review were Edwin & Vanilla Thomas. It must have been after one of these shows that first Holliday Records & then Golden World signed Edwin to a record deal (the 1st contract was allowed to lapse when Golden World got involved). Edwin had been looking to cut a song he had recently written, “Agent OO Soul” but Doggett had been against the idea. So Edwin jumped ship, went into the Golden World studios in June 65 and his 1st Ric Tic 45 was cut, pressed & in the shops (+ on the Detroit charts) by the beginning of July 65. The rest is history ….......

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Edited by Roburt
Roburt

Posted

Edwin Starr back in Cleveland (after he had gone solo) ......

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Roburt

Posted

To follow on from the above club ad .... ... Edwin's Motown publicity shot .........

I believe it's well known that Edwin had been touring in the UK when Golden World was taken over.

He returned to the States & turned up for his 1st gig back there to be greeted by a Motown artist on the same bill (a Temptation I think).

The guy welcomed Edwin to Motown and it was the first he knew about the change to his contract status.

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Roburt

Posted

The Sahibs were rated by most as just about the best local black group in 1960.

Unfortunately they had no interest in recording ......

..... but the other guys in the group did provide backing vocals on the 1st (Way Out) 45 made by member Lou Ragland.

A picture of the group, a young Lou is on the left end .....

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Roburt

Posted (edited)

When "Agent OO Soul" hit from day one of it's release .....

Edwin had to instantly get himself a backing band & start to play gigs ....

... so he went straight back to Cleveland and recruited some guys he knew from the Futuretones days.

Here's the guys he got to back him .....

from left to right in the picture: Victor Stubblefield (trumpet; Cleveland), Tyrone Hite (drums), Anthony Hawkins (guitar), V.C. Veasey (bass) and Gus Hawkins (sax: Cleveland). This outfit backed Edwin during his Ric-Tic period (before the pair got homesick & heading back to Cleveland).

Edwin's big hit was of course "AGENT OO SOUL", I've no idea how he came up with the name the SOUL AGENTS for the band !!!

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Edited by Roburt
Roburt

Posted

The non-brass players in the Soul Agents added one members younger brother to make themselves back up to 4 strong and became the rock group Black Merda.

They cut stuff for Chess (& were heavily influenced by Hendrix) ...............

Roburt

Posted

However they mellowed out a bit and backed other vocalists up on more soulful tracks ........

......... Linnie Walker was one such singer ...........

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hMRCMtgrcM



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