on 21 June 2014
Founded by the legendary - and myopic - Syd Nathan in 1943, by the 50's this was the go-to label for artists in the r&r, r&b, rockabilly, doo wop and country world. King (and its subsidiaries) could offer the complete package, from recording, pressing, publishing and distribution. It's said the only item they had to buy in was the paper inner sleeves for albums.
This triple set of 75 tracks is a reasonable overview of the King output of the period, majoring on r&b, what with names such as Roy Brown, Little Willie John, James Brown, Wynonie Harris, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lula Reed, Big Jay McNeely, Bill Doggett, Little Esther (with McPhatter & Dominoes on one track) etc. Then there's your doo wop, to include Billy Ward & The Dominoes (the ponderous "Over The Rainbow", which doesn't really count as doo wop), The Charms, led by Otis Williams and, erm, not much else. R&b vocal groups, The "5" Royales, The Dominoes, 'country' from such as Grandpa Jones, The York Brothers, Bonnie Lou, Reno & Smiley, The Delmore Brothers and others. Sole rockabilly, "You Ain't Treatin' Me Right", Mac Curtis, not his best. The cute but suggestive Ruth Wallis - or do I have a dirty mind? Blues from Lonnie Johnson, even jazz, Roland Kirk and Ace Harris spring unbidden to mind, urgh! Mostly solid r&b tho, followed by 'country', plenty banjo and fiddle.
If you can live with the mix - I was happy to, minimal jazz content apart - rich rewards, at silly money. Or if you need more r&b, seek out 'The King R&B Box Set' (1995) - now that IS silly money! The dates in the title of this set bear scrutiny, much from the early 50's, in fact first track, "After Hours" by Ace Harris, goes back to 1948, when it was released on Hub. Finally, if you want the back stories on these One Day label 'stories' releases, suggest you shell out on John Broven's mighty tome, 'Record Makers & Breakers: Voices of The Independent Rock'n'Roll Pioneers'.