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RobbK

New Motown Discovery-Popcorn Wylie 1959 Rock & Roller

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According to a Richard "Popcorn" Wylie discography, the following 2 cuts on Australia's and New Zealand's Leedon Records in 1959 were also on an unnumbered Motown 45, ostensibly before TLX2207, "Bad Girl" by The Miracles, which came out in September of 1959. Here are scans of the Leedon sides:

PopcornWylieAustralia1.png

PopcornWylieAustralia2.png

I looked up the record and songs on "Don't Forget The Motor City", and they weren't listed. I looked up the songs on BMI.com and ASCAP.com, and the songs weren't listed. I never saw nor heard those 2 cuts on tapes or acetates in The Motown Vault, or on any official or unofficial Motown recordings or record list. They do sound like 1959 Motown recordings, with Popcorn playing the piano, and someone sounding very much like Beans Bowles on the sax, and with Motown's early house band (Joe Hunter's Band, but with Popcorn on piano, rather than Joe) doing the backing.
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Edited by RobbK

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Here are links to the cuts for you to listen:

 


Leedon was Australian record label owner Lee Gordon's label. It has been surmised that Gordon, while in Detroit in 1959, visited Motown, and apparently, liked "Rumble", and leased the 2 cuts from Motown, for immediate release on his Australian and New Zealand labels. Either he had a connection in Detroit, from whom he was referred to Motown (possibly promoter, Mickey Schorr?), or while there, he heard "Rumble" played on the radio. The rumour is that a small press run of unnumbered pink Motown pressings were made to hand out to DJs. I really wonder if "Rumble" was played at all by Detroit DJs. IF so, Gordon may have heard it on the radio. Do any of you old-time Detroiters remember hearing "Rumble" by Popcorn Wylie on the radio in summer 1959?

 

I find it interesting that neither song has rights owned by Jobete, Bengal, Fidelity, Ro-Gor, Stein and Van Stock, or any Motown-related music publisher, currently listed on BMI.com or ASCAP.com., and even more interesting that Australian label-owner, Lee Gordon, listed himself as co-writer of the two songs (together with Popcorn Wylie) on the pressings of his New Zealand (and likely his Australian) releases.  THAT makes me wonder if he did that as he was giving Wylie his only chance to get artist publicity and songwriter royalties, as this was the two cuts' only commercial release (e.g. Motown never released this record).

Edited by RobbK

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No Motown completists here interested in this find?  I am surprised.  We have an e-mail in to Al Abrams, to see if he remembers anything about these recordings.  Clearly they were just demos to test the newly acquired recording equipment, and the rumour about them being pressed on an unnumbered pink Motown 45 issued before The Miracles' "Bad Girl" is inaccurate, based on misconceptions and quotes taken out of context.  I'm wondering if Wylie just sold the tapes to that Australian guy, because Gordy had no plan to use them for anything.

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Festival Records in Australia had no formal connection with Herb Abramson's Festival US outfit.

As for Lee Gordon's connection to Detroit,   Gordon was in fact an American, born and raised in Detroit.   He came  to Australia in 1953 and was a pivotal figure as a concert promoter during the early rock'n'roll era in Australia.

He was based primarily in Australia until his death in 1963 although he spent much of 1958-59 back in the US.

His record label Leedon was established in 1958 and distributed by Festival Records (Australia). All the early releases on Leedon were by overseas artists. It wasn't until late 1959 that Australian artists appeared on the label.

On the Australian Leedon issue of the Popcorn record is noted "Lee Gordon Publishing Company". The composer credit is "R Wylie".

 

Edited by sunnysoul

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Detroit rocker Johnny Powers (also on Motown at one time), I believe was managed by Micky Shorr. Lee Gordon released on his Leedon Label a 2 45s by him "Mama Rock" and "Indeed I Do" under the moniker Johnny "Scat" Brown. Flipside of both were different artist. Aus/NZ Festival distributed Leedon and later fully took over Leedon as Lee Gordon had continual money problems. 

Micky Shorr was most likely the source of the Popcorn Wylie tracks. Lee Gordon as said above was from Detroit

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The Man Behind Mickey Shorr

Mickey Shorr grew up in the metro Detroit area and was working in the radio business at age 14. At 15, he opened a downtown disc recorder concession with money saved from a paper route.

Shorr dropped out of high school and worked in several radio jobs including an all night spot he called "Corn til Morn". Following an Army tour, Mickey went to New York and worked burlesque with a comedy act. After coming back to Detroit he opened up a used car lot called "Joe's Jalopies". The cars were junkers and the business didn't make it.

Mickey started doing his own radio ads selling seat covers. That led into being the top rated DJ overnight. Shorr promoted rock in roll and met many people in the recording business like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. and was earning $100,000 in 1959.

But Shorr's success fell as quickly as it rose.

Mickey said he was fired Thanksgiving Day for payola. "For something I didn't do...I was blackballed for five years. No one would talk to me." He moved to Florida, then California where he peddled from a car loaded with cookware and tools, did some theatrical productions and even made a hit record that, according to Shorr, was "a corny take-off on Ben Casey. I lived on that for a year."

A man from Chicago approached Mickey about setting up an FM station. At that time FM was just getting off the ground. The innovations Shorr brought helped them become the first FM to make it into the top ten. He had 25 female announcers from different nationalities and accents as well as sports done in "street language".

Tapes were becoming popular and so were car stereos. So Mickey came home to Detroit and got on the bandwagon with $1000 and one installer. He opened up a shop on Davidson in Detroit. He was told he couldn't open his doors with so little but Mickey pulled the deal together anyway. The day before opening he was affectionately greeted by a man saying "Mickey, my man, how you doin?". Mickey said "He said it like I had never been gone and I knew from that moment I was going to make it. We opened the next day and sold 300 tapes."

He suffered four heart attacks since, retired for 5 years and put the business up for sale. Driving over to sign the deal Mickey told his wife, "I can't sell. I'll die if I do." So, he didn't sell.

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Detroit rocker Johnny Powers (also on Motown at one time), I believe was managed by Micky Shorr. Lee Gordon released on his Leedon Label a 2 45s by him "Mama Rock" and "Indeed I Do" under the moniker Johnny "Scat" Brown. Flipside of both were different artist. Aus/NZ Festival distributed Leedon and later fully took over Leedon as Lee Gordon had continual money problems. 

Micky Shorr was most likely the source of the Popcorn Wylie tracks. Lee Gordon as said above was from Detroit

Thanks Dave.  Micky Shorr was a popular DJ on Detroit radio station WXYZ.  He knew many, if not most of the early Motown staff and artists.  He probably knew Gordon as well, and turned Gordon onto the fact that Gordy wasn't going to use Wylie's 2 demos for anything (knowing that Gordon was trying to promote recordings, and get into the music business.  Maybe he did that on behalf of Wylie, so Popcorn could get the cuts released}.

 

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Sold it for £100 - hope it doesn't turn out to be a real rare one!

I imagine it is pretty rare, as Gordon didn't have all that much money, and it was pressed up for a small market for US Black music in 1959 in Australia and New Zealand.  I've only ever seen the one that was recently sold, and had never heard of it before, despite having been in the loop of US Detroit collectors since the early 1960s, and having worked for Motown during most of the 1970s.  I'd guess that most of Motown's staff never knew that Gordon got hold of Wylie's demos and released them Down Under.  A limited pressing in both Australia and New Zealand, 56 years hence.......I'd guess it would be extremely rare both on Australian and New Zealander Leedon.

 

Just an aside, ....... I wonder what the "Lee" in Leedon stands for.  Just surmising, but I'd bet a fellow named Lee (probably an Aussie businessman) was Gordon's financial partner in his labels.

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I absolutely HATE being senile!  :ohmy::ohmy::ohmy:  I, myself, mentioned the label owner as Lee Gordon at least 6 times in this thread alone.  My memory for details from 1949-1979 is second to none.  But, I can't remember anything from 5 minutes ago or 2 seconds ago.  I guess I'd be in an oldies' care home, already, if I didn't eat fish every day and drink fish oil.

Edited by RobbK

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Was Popcorn formally tied to Motown in 59 when it was still as a company in its infancy and probably couldn't afford to retain a team of writers, I though it was a year later when the ties were more formal.  Popcorn was also recording himself elsewhere and writing for others so maybe it was simply two tracks he hawked round various parties and sold to the only interested party.  I don't see the obvious motown link only a tenuous one.

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Was Popcorn formally tied to Motown in 59 when it was still as a company in its infancy and probably couldn't afford to retain a team of writers, I though it was a year later when the ties were more formal.  Popcorn was also recording himself elsewhere and writing for others so maybe it was simply two tracks he hawked round various parties and sold to the only interested party.  I don't see the obvious Motown link only a tenuous one.

Good point, Chalky.  Popcorn recorded for Johnnie Mae Matthews' Northern Records near the beginning of 1960.  Berry Gordy was friendly with Popcorn, and used his band on some sessions in 1959.  And, he easily could have been asked by Berry to test the new equipment he bought from Bristoe Bryant in late 1959 (as Al Abrams has attested.  But, like other recording session musicians at that time, I believe he did NOT have a contract with Tamla, or Motown, and so, was free to sell his songs to anyone he chose.  Furthermore, the recordings were test recordings, and not really finished.  So Berry didn't want them.  And, as the main purpose was just to test the equipment, Gordy probably made the deal with popcorn that the latter could keep the tapes afterwards, and do what he pleased with the music and the songs rights.  THAT, must certainly be why those 2 songs weren't published by Jobete Music, as Gordy was very careful to keep all rights possible, after getting none or very little of the money from record sales when having his songs pressed and distributed on other people's labels (such as George Goldner's End/Gone/Mark-X and Vega, and Robert West's Kudo, and Atlantic and Chess, etc.).

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