King Records Building Rescued for the Next Generation

Written By: Ishton W. Morton – November 13th, 2016

John Watson, Jr. also known professionally as Johnny "Guitar" Watson, was an American blues, soul, and funk musician and singer-songwriter
John Watson, Jr. also known professionally as Johnny “Guitar” Watson, was an American blues, soul, and funk musician and singer-songwriter

Perhaps you can remember John Watson, Jr.  also known professionally as Johnny “Guitar” Watson, was an American bluessoul, and funk musician and singer-songwriter. A flamboyant showman and electric guitarist in the style of T-Bone Walker, Watson recorded throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s with some success. His creative reinvention in the 1970’s with disco and funk overtones, with such hits as “Ain’t That a Bitch”, “I Need It” and “Superman Lover”. His successful recording career spanned forty years, with his highest chart appearance being the 1977 song “A Real Mother For Ya.

Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker was born on May 28th, 1910 and died on March 16th, 1975.
Aaron Thibeaux “T-Bone” Walker was born on May 28th, 1910 and died on March 16th, 1975.

Aaron Thibeaux “T-Bone” Walker was born on May 28th, 1910 and died on March 16th, 1975. He was a critically acclaimed American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who was an influential pioneer and innovator of the jump blues and electric blues sound. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 67 on its list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Perhaps you can remember Joseph Arrington Jr.  better known as Joe Tex, was an American musician who gained success in the 1960’s and 1970’s with his brand of Southern soul, which mixed the styles of country, gospel and rhythm and blues.

His career started after he was signed to King Records in 1955 following four wins at the Apollo Theater. Between 1955 and 1964, he struggled to find hits and by the time he finally recorded his first hit, “Hold What You’ve Got“, in 1964, he had recorded 30 previous singles that were deemed failures on the charts. He went on to have four million-selling hits, “Hold What You’ve Got” (1965), “Skinny Legs and All” (1967), “I Gotcha” (1972), and “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” (1977).

The gifted vocalist Valerie Carr who recorded for King Records in the mid 1950's
The gifted vocalist Valerie Carr who recorded for King Records in the mid 1950’s

Perhaps you can remember this gifted vocalist Valerie Carr who  recorded for King Records in the mid 1950’s before being signed in 1958 by Roulette Records, where she remained until 1962. At Roulette, one of her 45 rpm recordings, “When The Boys Talk About The Girls,” peaked on the 1958 Billboard chart at No. 19, and reached the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart. The lack of further chart action in the UK gave Carr the tag there of being a one hit wonder.

Or Maybe and just maybe you remember Ralph Bass, Hank BallardRoy BrownValerie CarrChampion Jack DupreeIvory Joe HunterJoe TexJohnny “Guitar” Watson, and Otis Williams and the Charms rhythm-and-blues (R&B) musicians all of whom recorded with  King Records just to name a few.

The former King Records headquarters, at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio
The former King Records headquarters, at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio

According to history King Records label was an American record company  founded in 1943 by Syd Nathan in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sydney “Syd” Nathan  was born on April 27th, 1904  and died on March 5th, 1968.

Also, King owned Race Record label and the Queen Record label which was folded into King, and Federal Record label which actually launched the career of James Brown.

King had a long legal battle with James Brown after he repeatedly violated his contract with the company.

Furthermore, in 1952 King bought De Luxe Record label and the Bethlehem Records label. According to history, in 1951, the Federal Record label made the first significant crossover of an R&B record into the white pop music charts with the Dominoes’ “Sixty Minute Man” (Federal 12022).

Moreover, popular songs on the label included “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone”, “Blues Stay Away from Me”, “Chew Tobacco Rag”, “Eight More Miles to Louisville”, “Sweeter Than the Flowers”, and “Cherokee Boogie”.

Ironically, during the beginning, King specialized in country music, at the time known as hillbilly music. King advertised, “If it’s a King, It’s a Hillbilly – If it’s a Hillbilly, it’s a King.” One of the label’s hits was “I’m Using My Bible for a Road Map” by Reno and Smiley.

The Delmores and Moon Mullican
The Delmores and Moon Mullican

There are considerable others such as The Delmores and Moon Mullican who played a country-boogie style that was similar to rockabilly with important recordings in the field that were done by the Delmore Brothers and Wayne Raney. See for yourself! We should never allowed our historical landmarks to be demolished by greedy money grabbers!

Succinctly, the King’s Records label has contributed greatly to our history and need to have a permanent home.

The former King Records headquarters, at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, is still standing. A historical marker was placed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

However, on Thursday, November 10th, 2016 The Ohio Supreme Court rescued the King’s Record label building from the wrecking ball(s) of Dynamic Industries, Inc. by denied the Cincinnati company’s whom have requested a city permit to demolish the historic King Records building.

William Earl the American musician and singer-songwriter better known as "Bootsy" Collins
William Earl the American musician and singer-songwriter better known as “Bootsy” Collins

The Bootsy Collins Foundation and the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation filed an application with the city in May 2015 to have the building designated a historic landmark. Dynamic filed for a demolition permit in June 2015.

Surprisingly, during the early years when the Kings Record Label was being  founded and developed William Earl the American musician and singer-songwriter better known as “Bootsy” Collins  was just a baby. He was  born on October 26th, 1951.

However, within a few short years “Bootsy” Collins rose to prominence with James Brown in the early 1970s, and later with Parliament-Funkadelic, Collins’s driving bass guitar and humorous vocals established him as one of the leading names in funk. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with 15 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.

Nonetheless, the court’s slip opinion, Dynamic Industries, Inc. sought a writ of mandamus from the First District Court of Appeals for a permit allowing it to demolish the Evanston building.

Subsequently, The city did not process Dynamic Industries’ application or issue a permit, because the earlier-filed historic-designation application was still pending. The city’s refusal was based on its historic-preservation code, which states that no structure with historic significance may be demolished during the pendency of a historicdesignation application. See Cincinnati Zoning Code 1435-07-2-A; see also id. 1435-01-H3 (defining “historic significance).”

Since King Records was declared a historic landmark, the city required Dynamic to obtain a certificate of appropriateness to demolish or alter a historic structure.  After Dynamic filed its complaint, Cincinnati’s City Council approved the historic designation.

However, despite all of the antics from Dynamic Industries, Inc.  in court the company admitted that it had not attempted to get the certificate.

Nonetheless, “as Dynamic failed to applied for a certificate of appropriateness, it may not have exhausted its administrative remedies and the city may not have the opportunity to grant or deny the certificate.” However, the opinion stated, noting that the company has no right to request that court to order the permit until it exhausts appeal options with the city. Therefore, this seems to be a dead issue. However, Dynamic Industries’ is still trying to recover monetary damages from the city.

With extended compliments to the Bootsy Collins’ Foundation and the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation for filing application(s) to have the building designated a historic landmark on the grounds that it formerly housed King Records, which, according to the organizations, played a significant role in the 20th-century evolution of popular music the building many will continue to be inspired….

 

Author: Ishton W. Morton

Formerly, Ishton W. Morton is an educator and promoter for community advocacy which includes creating programs and services, developing partnerships, and changing public policies, laws, and practices to improve the lifestyle of all people I’m still having an overwhelming desire to provide an Outreach Continuing Education process through this media.