While I worked as a young factory clerk in the summer of 1969, I dreamed of making records. Then—right there in the office in Hamilton, Ohio—I met fellow clerk Wayne Perry, a whirling dervish with short hair. I learned that he led two lives. Four nights a week he wailed at the Half-Way Inn with a white soul band called the Young Breed, and by day he strolled the company’s corridors, picking up paperwork while singing to himself and exclaiming “Hey, all right!” By default, I became his producer, confidante, songwriting coach, publisher, traveling partner, and sort-of-manager.
At my urging, we soon joined the overcrowded ranks of America’s independent record producers, forming our own PM Productions—complete with a crescent moon logo. On our lunch hour, we held “staff meetings” over burgers and malts at Hyde’s Drive-In restaurant, not far from the factory. To me, we led the most exciting lives of anyone at the old Mosler Safe Co.
We went after white soul. In those days, many nightclubs in Greater Cincinnati were dancing spots. Horn bands flourished, but horns weren’t always necessary. Soul was. A few of the more popular white soul-rock bands were the Dapps, Beau Dollar & the Coins, Lonnie Mack and the Memphis Men, and the Young Breed. They all drew large and dependable crowds, despite the rise of what some musicians called “hippie rock.” Mack’s 1963 hit instrumentals “Memphis” and “Wham!” had started a local fascination with blues-rock—a combination of the blues, rock ’n’ roll, and a dash of country. By 1970, however, Ohio’s raucous roadhouse sound had tilted more toward rock and soul.
In Cincinnati, the best places to record such music were the iconic King Recording Studio on Brewster Avenue in Evanston (where James Brown often recorded), and guitarist Rusty York’s newer Jewel Recording on Kinney Avenue in Mt. Healthy. They were mono paradises with a lot of bottom in their sounds. When King abruptly closed in 1971, Jewel became the main venue for blue-eyed soul. Mack operated out of there. Even the Heywoods recorded there. They had horns then, long before “Billy Don’t Be A Hero.”
At 3 a.m. on a frigid January night in 1970, we finally cut the rhythm track for our first single, “Mr. Bus Driver,” on Jewel’s new 8-track Ampex recorder. We needed a B-side—fast and cheap. In desperation, we wrote our first original song, a strange mix of soul and bubblegum, in my boss’s factory office. We didn’t even have a guitar handy. Workers drifted past, watching as we gyrated and sang in the tiny windowed office. They must have thought we were lunatics. We soon returned to Jewel to record our newly written oddity, “Gimme the Green Light,” on Rusty’s older 4-track Ampex. (He charged less to use it because it was paid off.)
Six months later, with help from music veterans Harry Carlson and Herman Griffin, we received six offers for our master. Each of us working independently, we inadvertently placed the tape with three different companies—Fraternity Records in Cincinnati, Certron Records in Nashville (I was impressed; it was Clint Eastwood’s label), and with New York’s Avco-Embassy Records. Because Avco offered the largest advance, we decided to sign with it. After some delays, the company shelved the record and decided to go “all black,” as Avco’s executives described their move.
Undaunted, we continued to discover new soul-rock bands that seemed to pop up in every other roadhouse. Wayne often joined them in the studio for additional vocal punch. One of our discoveries, the Chamberly Kids of Lebanon, Ohio, played at the Half-Way Inn, a jumping roadhouse on State Route 4 between Hamilton and Middletown, north of Cincinnati. Their talented drummer, a high school senior named Rick Powell, sang with a pure rock voice. Wayne joined him on harmonies and Roger “Jellyroll” Troy, leader of the band Jellyroll, played bass. During the memorable session at Jewel, Jellyroll’s car was repossessed and he wore red, white, and blue shoes.
We continued mixing and matching musicians to create our own bands. We spent our entire $2,000 in “up-front money” to record two more singles at Jewel. By necessity, I selected the material and Wayne picked the musicians—some of Cincinnati’s finest blues-rockers. All the while, I pressed him to write his own songs. He learned fast. When he liked one, which was often, he’d call me and sing it over the telephone. I’d make suggestions on the spot—lengthen the chorus, or change the title or a word or a phrase. Meanwhile, our fledgling production company limped along, recording Rick Powell and other acts on a new 16-track recorder at Shad O’Shea’s Counterpart Creative Studio. A few years later, we graduated to 24 tracks and to other studios.
The tracks on this album represent only a part of the work that Wayne Perry and I did in the 1970s. We recorded together well into the late 1980s, trying gospel, country, pop, and rock for Wayne and other acts in Nashville and Cincinnati. As a talented singer, writer, and producer, he was heavily involved in every facet of the process. The work gave him invaluable experience, which he later took to Music City when he pursued a songwriting career and wrote hits for the Back Street Boys, Lorrie Morgan, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Joe Diffie, Holly Dunn, and other stars.
While preparing these old tracks, I decided to restore credit to the original bands—the way Wayne and I intended it to be. (Sometimes we had to change the names for more practical reasons of the day.) Thus, the Young Breed now performs a version of “Mr. Bus Driver,” and Little Flint does its own version of “Gonna Have A Good Time.”
I’ve also included one black soul recording, “Right Or Wrong” by the Westbound Freeway, a R&B group we found in a Cincinnati TV studio while they were rehearsing for a local soul program. Wayne’s original demo is also featured here for comparison. The Freeway’s record, recorded on an 8-track Ampex, demonstrates the inevitable merger of white and black soul in Cincinnati in the mid-1970s.
In 1977, our friend Herman Griffin, lead vocalist and co-producer of the hit R&B group the Boys in the Band, asked us to help him assemble an album that would return the group to vinyl. He wanted to blend white and black sounds—a soul-rock sound. Wayne became one of his studio singers. Unfortunately, a recession hindered Herman from getting a deal and making a comeback.
By then, the influence and popularity of white soul-rockers had diminished around Cincinnati due to all-pervasive disco, which dominated radio and our culture. Instead of offering the usual blue-eyed soul bands with horns, local clubs hung disco globes and hired club disc jockeys.
Looking back on those times, I realize now that Cincinnati’s soul-rock era—roughly 1963 to 1975—was a special time. Its songs have survived disco, rap, and this negligent producer’s steamy attic, where decades ago he stashed old recording tapes in two large plastic garbage bags. Recently rediscovered, they are now unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.
If I close my eyes, I can almost hear a deep-voiced MC as he stands on stage: “Ladies and gentlemen, introducing . . . the Young Breed . . . Rick Powell and the Chamberly Kids . . . and, for your rocking pleasure, Mr. Wayne Perry!”
Hey, all right! Yeah!
Thanks to these musicians (and to the others that are forgotten): Roger “Jellyroll” Troy, bass, Rick “Bam” Powell, drums, and Gene Lawson, piano, on “Good Time”; Rusty York, dobro, Wayne Bullock, B-3 organ, Bill Jones, bass, and Les Asch and Craig Shenefelt, saxes, on “Bus Driver”; Terry Burnside and Les Asch, sax, on “Pain”; Gary Boston, guitar, Jerry Love, drums, and Roger Troy, bass, on “Pain”; Terry Hoskins, B-3 organ, on “Pain,” “Good Time,” and “Green Light”; Dave Fields, sax, and Mike Hodges, electric piano, on both versions of “Right Or Wrong”; Dave Fields, sax solo on “Take A Chance”; Dan Moonitz, trumpet and horn arrangements, on the master version of “Get ’Em Hot”; Denzil “Dumpy” Rice, piano, and Junior Bennett, violin and arrangements, on “Waiting For You”; and Gary Griffin, keyboards, on “Take A Chance.” Finally, thanks to the Jordan-Parker Revue for singing backup on the “Bus Driver” single, and to the revived Charmaines for their sultry sounds on the “Get ’Em Hot” master.