Dave Rimmer passed on word of an article that he has posted on his SKM website after an interview with Curtis Smith.
A few preview clips follow below, for the full meaty article you will need to get yourself over to the SKM website (link to the article at the end of the page)
As some people will be aware, my fiancé is called Jessica, so it came as no surprise to discover that she was collecting the Jessica label, and that she had also made the connection with the Essica label. There were however, several gaps in the numbering system used by the label, and we were never sure whether that was because we just didn’t know what the missing releases were, or whether they even existed.
After a considerable amount of digging to try and find out what the missing numbers were, we finally made contact with Curtis Smith, and interviewed him by phone last weekend.
Here’s what we found out:
The label is definitely from St Louis, and was owned by a gentleman called Matt McKinney, whose wife was called, you guessed it, Jessica.
Curtis doesn’t really remember too much about Matt McKinney, other than the fact that he was a big friend of Harvey Fuqua, and had ambitions to get into Motown with his recordings. That didn’t happen of course, so I’m still searching for a contact with Matt McKinney. The only possible thing I’ve turned up so far is this recording:
Danright DR115 - Matt McKinney - Ballad of My Lai / Hungry Road - 1970
And as this is a Nashville label, I’m not convinced it’s even the same Matt McKinney.
Unfortunately Curtis was unable to explain why the label name changed from Jessica to Essica either.
So, onto the individual releases:
Jessica 401 - Willie Small - How High Can You Fly / Say You Will - 1965
Firstly, this is Curtis Smith. He wasn’t under contract to Jessica at the time this record was released, so it was put out with the fictitious name of Willie Small. The catalogue number is also interesting as well. At the time this was released Curtis was working at the ‘401’ club in Powderly, Birmingham, Alabama. (I believe the club was owned at the time by John Hayden, an Alabama resident, but unfortunately he passed away in 2012, and his brother Danny Hayden.) That’s how the record came to be released as Jessica 401.
There are actually two different design labels for this release: The first shows Eddie Silvers as the writer, presumably because Curtis couldn’t be associated with it, the second shows, correctly, Curtis Smith
There is also, somewhat surprisingly a Dutch release of this record, although I do have certain doubts regarding its legitimacy.
Curtis Smith is the second from the left in this photo.
Jessica 402 - Rozetta Johnson - That Hurts / It’s Nice To Know — 1965 (Also released on Atlantic 2297)
At the same time that Curtis was working at the 401 Club, so was Rozetta Johnson (The correct spelling of her name is Roszetta Johnson), and her single was issued with catalogue number 402 because just up the road from the 401 Club was the 402 Diner !
She was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and grew up singing in her local church choir. She joined a gospel vocal group, the Violet Harmonettes, and after her parents separated moved to Birmingham, Alabama, (and later McIntosh, Alabama). She started her singing career at the 401 Club, and the release on Jessica was her first recording. Following her stint at the 401 club she was then hired as a featured singer at the A G Gaston Lounge & Supper Club, subsequently toured as part of the Bill Doggett Revue, and then recorded several singles for the Clinton Moon’s ClinTone label
CT-001 - A Woman's Way / Mine Was Real - 1970
CT-003 - Who Are You Gonna Love / I Can Feel My Love Comin' Down - 1971
CT-006 - Holding The Losing Hand / Chained And Bound - 1971
CT-007 - Can't You Just See Me / To Love Somebody - 1972
CT-008 - How Can You Love Something You Never Had / Personal Woman - 1972
Curtis has no knowledge of how the Jessica release also came to be released on Atlantic, however, as the ClinTone singles are all distributed by either Atco or Atlantic, and have Atlantic Master numbers, there must be some connection there.
By the late Seventies Roszetta had left the music scene and followed a career in education.
Later in life, she returned to singing, primarily as a Gospel singer, and went onto international success using her married name Roszetta Johnson Scovil.
Sadly Roszetta passed away on the 24th March, 2011....
article clipped and end preview
The ‘For: “Wes”’ track was arranged By The Soul Merchants, written by Eddie Silvers, Dawson & Hill, and produced by Eddie Silvers, The ‘Light My Fire’ track was conducted by him.
There was also a release on Unisfere that he appeared on (and wrote the flip side to)
UniSFERE 700 - Robert, Ron, & Eddie - Love Potion #9 / Robert & Ron - I Ain’t Finish yet - 1969.
So that’s it, the story of a little label in St Louis that released seven singles, recorded by artists from as far afield as St Louis, Atlanta, Washington, Birmingham, and New York.
Dave Rimmer & Jessica Wecker
As always, if anyone can add further information relevant to this article please get in touch with me through the email address email@example.com
Label scans - Jessica Wecker
Photos: Curtis Smith, Ruff Francis & The Illusions website: www.rufffrancis.com
Liner Notes: Roy Lee Johnson featuring guest Curtis Smith CD (Written by Martin Goggin)
ok that's the end of the previews, so get yourself over to SKM for the rest - more photos, info and words link here
full on details and over 30+ photos/scans to go with the many words of info