Sun Related Records

Contains
Biography Bill McCall owner of 4-Star Records
Lost John Hunter - 4-Star 1492
Lost John Hunter - 4-Star 1511
 
Liner notes for the 4-Star singles written by
Hank Davis (HD), and Colin Escott (CE), 2013
 

BILL McCALL - Born as William Aubrey McCall, Jr. in 1900, Allen, Oklahoma, was the owner of 4-Star  Records. A hard-nosed businessman with no musical background, McCall was notorious for exploiting the  acts on his roster and routinely awarding himself a co-writing credit on every song he published. It is highly  doubtful that McCall ever wrote a complete song on his own. Yet he managed to achieve a total of 620  entries in the BMI database, under the pseudonym W.S Stevenson. Not only did he buy many songs outright,  he also made extra money by purchasing controlling rights to songs by struggling songwriters, changing a  lyric or two, and making himself co-writer. Furthermore, he would claim composer credits on any Public  Domain songs that his artists recorded. Sometimes he would put his wife's name, Ethel Bassey on songs.  Plus, the recording contracts his 4-Star Music Sales offered had the legal boilerplate that bound artists to  record only material that 4-Star published. Needless to say, all session costs were deducted from the meager  percentage the artists received (if any).

The 4-Star label was formed in 1945 in Los Angeles, by Richard A. ''Dick'' Nelson, with his partners Bill  McCall and Cliff McDonald, as a subsidiary to their already established Gilt-Edge label. By late 1946, when  the label was on the brink of bankruptcy, the ambitious McCall invested $5,000 and acquired full control of  the company. He quickly cornered the early post-war market in the burgeoning fields of country and western  (4-Star) and rhythm and blues (Gilt-Edge). McCall moved the label out to Pasadena, California, during the  1948 AFM recording strike, employing such effective collaborators as Pappy Daily in Texas, and John R.  Fullbright and Bob Geddins, in the Bay Area, as well as sales manager Don Pierce.

Among 4-Star's early acts were T. Texas Tyler, who gave the label its first substantial hits (like "Deck Of  Cards", a number 2 country hit in 1948), the Maddox Brothers and Rose (1946-1951), Ferlin Husky (1949- 1951), Webb Pierce (1950) and Slim Willet (1952). Patsy Cline was signed to 4-Star from 1954 to 1960,  though her records appeared on Decca and Coral as the result of a licensing agreement. McCall's contractual  stipulation that Cline record only songs from the 4-Star publishing catalogue is generally perceived as having  hobbled the singer's career early on. Patsy called McCall "The Snake" and in the various Patsy Cline biographies,  numerous people who knew McCall get to have their say about him.

In 1950 McCall made the shrewd move of launching a custom pressing service whereby artists without a  record contract could pay to have 4-Star press up a limited run of discs, which they could then sell at their  gigs; this was a no-risk venture for McCall as he wouldn't lose money if the records didn't sell, but he was in  prime position to take advantage if the custom release looked like taking off. It was in this way that artists  such as Texas Bill Strength, Tommy Kizziah and Slim Willet became 4-Star signees following releases on the  "OP" (Other People) series. Other artists who recorded for 4-Star include Sammy Masters, Jimmy Dean,  Hank Locklin, Eddie Miller, Roy Clark and Charlie Ryan. Singer-songwriter Carl Belew was contracted in  1955 and introduced the standards "Am I That Easy To Forget", "Lonely Street" and "Stop The World And  Let Me Off", on all of which W.S. Stevenson is listed as co-writer. Other songs co-credited to him include  "Release Me", "Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray", "Stop Look And Listen", "Hot Rod Lincoln" and "There He  Goes" (recorded by Jerry Wallace as "There She Goes").

While 4-Star's stable of talent was impressive, most acts left the label as soon as possible because, as Webb  Pierce said, "he (McCall) thought it was a sin to pay anybody". McCall made it a regular practice not to pay  or release from contractual obligation any 4-Star artist, unless he was compelled to do so by circumstance  (such as Union intervention or physical harm). In the second half of the fifties Bill McCall relocated to  Nashville to concentrate on publishing. Gene Autry and Joe Johnson (owners of Challenge Records) bought  4-Star Records in 1961 and subsequently leased the masters to Pickwick for several years. Current ownership  is unclear. It is thought that Autry only purchased a part of the catalogue and that when Acuff-Rose Music  purchased McCall's publishing company 4-Star Sales they acquired the rest of the 4-Star master recordings.  Sony who now own Acuff-Rose certainly believe they own the label, although enquiries at their Nashville  office by Tony Rounce and Dave Penny (when Ace were issuing Hickory compilations) hit a wall when they  admitted that the 4-Star master tapes were not apparently amongst the Acuff-Rose purchase, only a hustler  like Bill McCall could sell a usually shrewd, major corporation Scotch Mist! He could do it while alive and  he is still doing it over 25 years after his death in 1978.

Copyright Dik de Heer, 2013

 


 

Ultra-rare promotional 10" inch 78rpm sampler with locked grooves including both sides of Lost John Hunter's upcoming release in September 1950.


 
Lost John Hunter & His Blind Bats
''COOL DOWN MAMA'' - B.M.I. - 2:12
Composer: - Lyndell Woodson
Publisher: - Music Clearence
Matrix number: - 3726
Recorded: Probably May 1950
Memphis Recording Service
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Released: - June 22, 1950
First appearance: - 4 Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single 4-Star 1492-A mono
COOL DOWN MAMA / SCHOOLBOY
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CD SUNBOX 7-1-1 mono digital
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Lost John Hunter - Vocal and Piano
The Blinds Bats
Unknown - Guitar
Unknown - Bass
Unknown - Drums

There was once some confusion surrounding the recording place and date these tracks by Lost John Hunter. The mystery is solved. Sam Phillips sold the tracks to 4-Star Records and the label previewed the first single on a 78rpm sampler titles ''New Releases for Week of June 11, 1950''. Billboard reviewed Hunter's single at the beginning of August. In between, Phillips wrote to Nashville's pre-eminent rhythm and blues disc jockey, Gene Nobles, stating (probably with some Exaggeration) that the record was already moving well in Memphis. The Hunter titles were among the very first blues recordings made by Sam Phillips; certainly, the first he placed with a third party. Business aside, this is a fine record, driven by Lost John's confident, upfront piano and gruff voice. In essence, it's an rhythm and blues tune without the horn section. (CE)(HD)

 
Lost John Hunter & His Blind Bats
''SCHOOLBOY'' - B.M.I. - 2:49
Composer: - Lyndell Woodson
Publisher: - Music Clearence
Matrix number: - 3727
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Memphis Recording Service
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Released: - June 22, 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single 4-Star 1492-B mono
SCHOOLBOY / COOL DOWN MAMA
Reissued: – 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CD SUNBOX 7-1-2 mono digital
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Lost John Hunter - Vocal and Piano
The Blinds Bats
Unknown - Guitar
Unknown - Bass
Unknown - Drums

Lost John Hunter joins the long list of ''schoolboys'' that includes Jimmy Reed, Peppermint Harris, Fats Domino, and the original unlikely school boy breaking his mama's rule, Sonny Boy Williamson. Hunter's song riff of Williamson's, and his confident vocal soars over the guitar-bass-piano backing. Bot his vocal and piano sound more at home on slower tempos like this. (HD)(CE)

 
Lost John Hunter & His Blind Bats
''Y - M AND V BLUES'' - B.M.I. - 3:08
Composer: - John Hunter
Publisher: - Music Clearance
Matrix number: - 3772
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Memphis Recording Service
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Released: - September 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single 4-Star 1511-A mono
Y - M AND V BLUES / BOOGIE FOR ME BABY
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310 JK-1-3 mono digital
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1959

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Lost John Hunter - Vocal and Piano
The Blind Bats
Unknown - Guitar
Unknown - Bass
Unknown - Drums

Just a few weeks after Lost John's first release came the second. It was a common enough practise in those days, albeit one that seems inexplicable today. 4-Star had been in business since 1945 when it was launched as a subsidiary of Gilt-Edge. The label's biggest selling rhythm and blues single was Pvt. Cecil Gant's ''I Wonder'', and part of Lost John's appeal to 4-Star/Gilt-Edge owner Bill McCall might have been his similarity to Gant. This mellow blues was named for the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad, a subsidiary of the Illinois Central, so it should have been V&MV, not Y-M And Y. The locomotives ran several different routes from Memphis to New Orleans, and were a familiar sight in the Delta. (CE)

 
Lost John Hunter & His Blind Bats
''BOOGIE FOR ME BABY'' - B.M.I. - 2:12
Composer: - John Hunter
Publisher: - Music Clearance
Matrix number: - 3772
Recorded: - Probably May 1950
Memphis Recording Service
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Released: - September 1950
First appearance: - 4-Star Records (S) 78rpm standard single 4-Star 1511-B mono
BOOGIE FOR ME BABY / Y M And V BLUES
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310 JK-1-4 mono digital
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1959

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Lost John Hunter - Vocal and Piano
The Blind Bats
Unknown - Guitar
Unknown - Bass
Unknown - Drums
 
''Label's to be congratulated for being honest enough to say this disking's not suited for radio broadcast right on the label copy'', noted Billboard in its review dated September 9, 1950. ''It's a crude boogie blues that might pick up some Southern juke coin''. And it was true that someone at 4-Star believed that this side was unsuitable for broadcast, while the other was okay. Phillips brought the electric guitar way up in the mix, and the guitar drives the show. Lost John starts playing the solo but stops abruptly as if he'd just remembered that this was the guitarist's space. The song's energy is accentuated by the stop rhythms, and makes up in commitment what it lacks in originality. Lost John appears to have made no other recording anytime, anywhere except for the unissued Memphis Recording Service acetate elsewhere on his session in 1950, an acetate that was essentially another version of this song. (CE)

 
 
 
 
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