Kent Harris, well known to those who collect Rare Soul records because of his wife Ty Karim and his record label Romark. But there is more to the man than many will probably realise and this CD gives us an insight into just what an influence he was on the Los Angeles R&B music scene. A must have purchase for lovers of R&B.
As Boogaloo & His Gallant Crew, Kent Harris cut the original version of Bo Diddley's `Cops and Robbers' and shot to prominence when it was proved that his version of `Shoppin' For Clothes' was the original one, purloined by Leiber and Stoller for the Coasters. He was a major mover in black music in LA, appearing as DJ Stumblin' Blue on XERB, Wolfman Jack's station. He also had a string of record shops called Target Records in southern California.
His family included three sisters: Marcene ("Dimples"), Beverly and Betty who performed as the Harris Sisters. Dimples was the most prominent and it was on the flip of two of her 45s for the Trend label in 1954 that Kent first sang as Ducky Drake. Then came the Boogaloo 45s. Dimples continued to record under several different names and is featured on `Love Came Tumbling Down' which she wrote with husband Harold Jackson who is also featured on the stunning `Freedom Riders'; both are very in-demand 45s for the new R&B dance crowd.
Kent Harris concentrated on discovering and managing talent and recording them for different labels until he formed Romark in the early 60s. His protégés included Brenda Holloway and the Mighty Hannibal. He worked with LA recording stalwarts Young Jessie, Ray Agee and Jimmie Preacher Ellis as well as having his own acts: the Francettes, the Philips Sisters, the Lon-Genes and his wife Ty Karim.
This CD features a great cross-section of those artists and some previously unissued gems from the vaults. The whole family's remarkable story is told in the extensive notes.
Further reading from Ady Croasdell…
Kent Harris’ strong point was undoubtedly his witty and topical lyrics, allied to having his ear to the ground for the latest trends in black music. His most famous work — ‘Clothes Line’, recorded under his alias Boogaloo & His Gallant Crew — was plundered by Leiber and Stoller for the Coasters’ ‘Shoppin’ For Clothes’ and is already out on an Ace compilation. All four of his Crest sides are humorous, streetwise and down with the groove of the day. ‘Big Fat Lie’ concerns a visit to the pawnbrokers, which a lot of black audiences could relate to in the 50s.
Other novelty songs include ‘Big Chief Hug-Um An’ Kiss-Um’ by James Shaw, later to be known more grandly as the Mighty Hannibal, and the newly-discovered Boogaloo recording ‘I’m In The Dog House Again’. He’s so late back his woman won’t let him into the house and he has to kip down with the dog. ‘Double Locks’, which Kent wrote for Johnny Gosey, deals with an angry landlady putting locks on the tenant’s crib until the back rent is paid.
Kent’s arrangements were innovative too. On the Francettes’ ‘He’s So Sweet’, he and group manager Frances Gray combined to get the backing girls calling and responding and throwing in their own seemingly ad-libbed comments rather than just filling in the harmony.
The CD embraces the whole of the Harris family and the notes describe what an influential Los Angeles clan they were. The much missed sister Dimples is a major contributor, rocking it up with her sisters on ‘Kissin’ Bug’ from 1955 and also recording solo and accompanying her big brother under his pseudonym of Ducky Drake. She cut as a solo under her married name of Dimples Jackson in 1960 and with her new husband Harold, helping him out on his astonishing ‘The Freedom Riders’ 45. New Breed R&B lovers will appreciate Dimples’ ‘Love Came Tumbling Down’, while the new version of Donoman’s ‘I’m The Only One’ by the Phillips Sisters is a big bonus. The whole mysterious Donoman / Cry Baby Curtis story is related in the booklet. His ‘Monday Is Too Late’ has a New Orleans meets ‘Turn On You Lovelight’ vibe that will thrill traditional R&B lovers.
Though Kent Harris had many high quality soul productions (they’ll feature on a future Kent CD) he always had a bias towards the blues and you feel that the ‘You Ain’t Right’ wailer from Faye Ross was the side the musicians had their hearts in, rather than the Motown-esque ‘Faith, Hope And Trust’. Kent’s partner, and love of his life, Ty Karim, was primarily a soul singer but when they worked on a blues like ‘Take It Easy Baby’, it was as intense as anything they cut together. "¨"¨Vocal group collectors will be pleased with the new version of ‘Diddy Bop’ that predates the Valaquons’ Rayco release and the splendid Lon-Genes provide an incredibly rare harmony ballad as well as a new twist on an old dance craze. "¨"¨We have chased tapes, 45s and label scans all across the world to get the productions and recording facts of a seriously overlooked R&B producer into an accurate history. Though a large amount of information has been discovered, we are positive there are more obscure 45s out there featuring Kent’s work. If you know of any, please do let us know.
Footnote: I’ve been chasing the missing Romark 103 release by the Phillips Sisters ‘After Tonight’ / ‘The Wiggle’ for months but only tracked down a copy after this CD’s deadline had gone. I clicked on the soundfile with great hope of finding a previously unissued R&B gem, but sadly it was a disappointment. The vocals on ‘After Tonight’ leave a lot to be desired on an, at best, average song while the flip is an instrumental; at least it’s not a crucial omission on here. "¨"¨
By Ady Croasdell
Take a listen to a sample of tracks 3, 5 & 12
1. Lover Supreme - Kent Harris
2. I'm In The Dog House Again - Boogaloo And His Gallent Crew
3. Don't Just Stand There - Cry Baby Curtis
4. Long Lean Lanky Jukebox - Dimples Harris & Her Combo
5. Love Came Tumbling Down - Dimples Jackson
6. Monday Is Too Late - Donoman
7. Saint Or Sinner - Ducky Drake With Dimples Harris & Her Combo
8. Pay & Be On My Way - Eddie Bridges
9. You Ain't Right - Faye Ross
10. He's So Sweet - Francettes
11. You Stayed Away Too Long - Francettes
12. Kissin' Bug - Harris Sisters
13. Big Chief Hug 'um And Kiss 'um - Jimmy Shaw
14. Double Locks - Johnny Gosey
15. Show Me How To Shake Like That - Lon-Genes
16. Our Love Is Like The Sea - Lon-Genes
17. I Ain't Talkin' - Pat Hunt
18. I'm The Only One - Phillips Sisters
19. Someday I Won't Be Blue - Phillips Sisters
20. It's A Helluva Thing - Ray Agee
21. Freedom Riders - Harold Jackson & The Jackson Brothers
22. Don't Make Me Do Wrong Or Take It Easy Baby - Ty Karim
23. So Far Away - Hi Tensions Demo Of 45
24. Diddy Bop - Valaquons
25. Getting Down With The Game / Do It - Adolph Jacobs
26. Cops And Robbers - Boogaloo And His Gallent Crew