It all started back in 2011 I got a phone call from Nige Brown telling me he heard a sound bite on ebay of a record he thought had something special and he would like my opinion on it before he set his bid . The record was Teri Mathews "round and Round" on the Preview label.
Nige valued my thoughts on the subject as he knew my opinion would be an honest one , I don't suffer records that don't hit the mark and I say if I think they are not very good. Anyway I heard this sound bite and I was just blown away by the artists voice , the tempo and the words . It ticked all the boxes for me . I expressed much joy in my response , in fact so much so I think Nige thought I was taking the Micky I instantly loved the record with a passion and showed my excitement with squeals of you must get this ! It had magical lyrics for anyone that spins on the floor , just the right amount of breaks and a great build up quality....Thankfully he won the bid.
When it arrived the first thing we wanted to do was find out if it was known , so I asked Dave Flynn in an email message. Dave told me he had done much research into the "Preview" label , he went on to say that there was a hell of a lot of nursery rhyme type stuff on this label to be honest absolute rubbish and lots of it. Knowing the anorak he is It quite amused me the thought of Dave with headphones combing through tons of stuff that made his ears scream with distaste and his mouth curl wincing in the attempt of finding a soulful gem. He mentioned the name Rod Kieth and the one success he had on the rare soul scene which was called "Like The Lord said"
The Preview label was starting to get under my skin , also the personality who was very much involved with running the label sounded such an extrovert . I did much research and found quite a bit of information on Rodd Keith and the Preview operation.
Basically Rodd Keith may have been thought of an extortionist he managed to secure the general publics works of art , their song poetry by placing advertisements in magazines and use them as lyrics to the musical arrangements he and his musicians created. Quite often they paid him to put their poems onto his records. he was in a win win situation basically the public helping to fund his attempt at fame.
Keith could play many of the instruments that formed the backing tracks and quite often sang on the recording , his voice wasn't too appealing hence his lack of success .The operation quite often used the same backing track and applied it to different lyrics . They also used a pool of recording artists who quite often were the same recording artist used many times but disguising them with a different name so that it appeared that that it was a different artist singing. The give away was that the artist would still retain their christian name and change the surname. Quite often the A and B side would be a different artist , Rod appearing on the A and the others promoted on the B side. Also sometimes the recording was quite short.
This story was getting more and more intriguing to me personally ,I was a developing a "Teri" obsession so I went about tracking down the label discography and tried to see how many Teri type records I could find. I found that there were numbers missing in the sequence which added to the mystery Teri Mathews Round and Round was a missing number which made it even more obscure.
In the research I realized that there was a 99% probability that Teri Mathews was in fact Teri Thornton and I found data to back this up on the internet. Thornton was an up and coming Jazz vocalist who had fallen on hard times , she performed initially in the Detroit clubs in the late 50's , she moved to New York in the 60's to find work and got some work in singing on television advertisements and making recordings for labels based in New York. It was later discovered that she had sung on various song poems for the Preview label which were recorded in LA. It is recorded that she also sang as Teri Summers. she eventually returned to New York in 83 and by th 90's revived her jazz career. In 1998 she was at the top of her game and won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz vocal completion in Washington DC. Teri died in 2000 with bladder cancer.
Teri had a very special voice in my view , her range could be soulfully sweet and haunting in
Round and Round , yet you compare it to another well known song that is Molly Marlene you would not recognise the artist because she had the ability to manipulate her vocal chords into a jazz style and make her voice to appear totally different , to be hard and strong.
We felt that it would be a good idea to sound out who we see as the oracle in record selling/collecting and decided the thing to do was to let John Manship hear the sound .We knew John was spinning locally so we took the record to where he was playing and in record room in Warrington he listened to it for the first time . He didn't know it and agreed it was something very special, something he could if fact sell to a specific person in the states who would love this record , this was the type of record his customer favored in style and obscurity. Nige decided he wanted to keep the record longer and wanted to give it a few spins himself.In the meantime we would try and source as many Teri type sounds as we could find in order to see if she had any further valuable contributions for the soulful ear.
We have collected a further two which were slow and not really appealing however having discussed the Preview label further in my own internet yahoo group my friend Alex turned up a sound bite off u-tube of and other preview Teri being ,Teri North "You mention my name" we instantly fell in love with this sound the dream to own one and one day perhaps double deck and play both Teri's was very appealing. So the hunt was on.
I contacted the source , the guy who had placed the sound bite was based in Spain , his name Alfonso . He was a lovely guy and so generous to actually place the sound bite for all to hear was a very unselfish act. Most had assumed that it was part of the record , being in a soul community that guards their treasures nobody thought Alfonso had actually offered the world the full soundbite of what was a recording of a sound that was gathering much attention from the soul community.
Alfonso who runs a club called "Double cookin" in Barcelona wasn't in the market to sell his copy , he is a DJ and is very much a notable collector , he wasn't prepared to let this copy go , but he offered assistance in helping to track one down, which was very nice of him. His said his intention is to play his copy in May at the Boiler club in Barcelona this year.
A week or so had lapsed and sometimes I do believe that fate hands you a really special hand. I was given a link to a wants appeal by Andy Garside where he too heard the Teri North sound bite and was also smitten with the need to obtain a copy. Surprisingly his request was answered by Kitch who had a copy for sale , however due to the records rarity and it being an unknown quantity he said it would be up for offers , no set price . I could see the soul sharks beginning to form a circle around the post and I thought do I have a dogs chance of getting this sound ? My head was telling me be realistic Carmen ... No
I kept a close eye on events and I could see that it was very much in the air , so I thought what the hell , threw caution to the wind and entered my plea that this record really needed to come to me and sent Kitch a bid . I felt if there was a fairness in this world after all the research surely it would end up in my hands , but reality told me it could not be the case , at the end of the day it will go to the highest bidder. And that wouldn't be me as I don't spend mega bucks on records , I can't afford to.
So I wrote a passionate plea to Kitch along with a reasonable offer in fact saying I know I don't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting this but I felt you should know about the preview research I had done, in fact I questioned why he would sell such a record , and asked him if he was really sure about selling it ? I guess the record had become personal to me , got under my skin . I could not understand why he would sell it ?
A day went by and I felt sure that it wasn't to be mine , I judged that money would win this record . How wrong can you be , Kitch let me have the record even though I wasn't the highest bidder . My research and plea "faith" in the sound won me that record , and his good nature as a collector appreciated that sometimes you give because you feel its the right thing to do. And that was the case . I really felt warm inside because it sort of makes you realize that there is good in this community of buying and selling. Its not all about making a fast buck.
So I too will play mine in May at Manchester's European Soul weekender , on the exact weekend as Teri gets played in Spain ... at last Teri Thornton gets the recognition she deserves. I still think Nige has the jewel in the Preview crown that is "Round and Round" but I am more than happy to have one of the Teri princesses. The question is , is there a third ?
I think the Rodd Keith story would make an excellent film , he was indeed an extraordinary character , unfortunately he met his death in 1974 by either suicide or accident falling from the Hollywood freeway plunging down onto the Santa Monica Blvd overpass onto the "north bound" freeway. He was a heavy drug user which prompted many to think it was a drug induced tragedy.
I do wonder what would have become of Teri if she remained in Detroit.
Carmen McCullough Feb 2013
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