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As some people will be aware, my fiancé is called Jessica, so it came as no surprise to discover that she was collecting the Jessica label, and that she had also made the connection with the Essica label. There were however, several gaps in the numbering system used by the label, and we were never sure whether that was because we just didn’t know what the missing releases were, or whether they even existed.

After a considerable amount of digging to try and find out what the missing numbers were, we finally made contact with Curtis Smith, and interviewed him by phone last weekend.

Here’s what we found out:

The label is definitely from St Louis, and was owned by a gentleman called Matt McKinney, whose wife was called, you guessed it, Jessica.

Curtis doesn’t really remember too much about Matt McKinney, other than the fact that he was a big friend of Harvey Fuqua, and had ambitions to get into Motown with his recordings. That didn’t happen of course, so I’m still searching for a contact with Matt McKinney. The only possible thing I’ve turned up so far is this recording:

Danright DR115 - Matt McKinney - Ballad of My Lai / Hungry Road - 1970

And as this is a Nashville label, I’m not convinced it’s even the same Matt McKinney.

Unfortunately Curtis was unable to explain why the label name changed from Jessica to Essica either.

So, onto the individual releases:

Jessica 401 - Willie Small - How High Can You Fly / Say You Will - 1965


Firstly, this is Curtis Smith. He wasn’t under contract to Jessica at the time this record was released, so it was put out with the fictitious name of Willie Small. The catalogue number is also interesting as well. At the time this was released Curtis was working at the ‘401’ club in Powderly, Birmingham, Alabama. (I believe the club was owned at the time by John Hayden, an Alabama resident, but unfortunately he passed away in 2012, and his brother Danny Hayden.) That’s how the record came to be released as Jessica 401.

There are actually two different design labels for this release: The first shows Eddie Silvers as the writer, presumably because Curtis couldn’t be associated with it, the second shows, correctly, Curtis Smith

There is also, somewhat surprisingly a Dutch release of this record, although I do have certain doubts regarding its legitimacy.



Curtis Smith is the second from the left in this photo.  
Jessica 402 - Rozetta Johnson - That Hurts / It’s Nice To Know – 1965 (Also released on Atlantic 2297)

At the same time that Curtis was working at the 401 Club, so was Rozetta Johnson (The correct spelling of her name is Roszetta Johnson), and her single was issued with catalogue number 402 because just up the road from the 401 Club was the 402 Diner !

She was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and grew up singing in her local church choir. She joined a gospel vocal group, the Violet Harmonettes, and after her parents separated moved to Birmingham, Alabama, (and later McIntosh, Alabama). She started her singing career at the 401 Club, and the release on Jessica was her first recording. Following her stint at the 401 club she was then hired as a featured singer at the A G Gaston Lounge & Supper Club, subsequently toured as part of the Bill Doggett Revue, and then recorded several singles for the Clinton Moon’s ClinTone label

CT-001 - A Woman's Way / Mine Was Real - 1970
CT-003 - Who Are You Gonna Love / I Can Feel My Love Comin' Down - 1971   
CT-006 - Holding The Losing Hand / Chained And Bound - 1971
CT-007 - Can't You Just See Me / To Love Somebody - 1972
CT-008 - How Can You Love Something You Never Had / Personal Woman - 1972

Curtis has no knowledge of how the Jessica release also came to be released on Atlantic, however, as the ClinTone singles are all distributed by either Atco or Atlantic, and have Atlantic Master numbers, there must be some connection there.

By the late Seventies Roszetta had left the music scene and followed a career in education.

Later in life, she returned to singing, primarily as a Gospel singer, and went onto international success using her married name Roszetta Johnson Scovil.

Sadly Roszetta passed away on the 24th March, 2011.



Jessica 403 - ?


Curtis doesn’t think there was an actual release on this number, or if there was, he has no knowledge of it.


Jessica 404 - Almost certainly released as Essica 404

Curtis doesn’t know of a Jessica 404 release, so would lean towards agreeing that it was actually released as Essica 404
Jessica 405 - Little Edith - I Couldn’t Take It / I Believe In You - 1965

Again, Curtis doesn’t know anything about this release, or Little Edith.

There appear to be two different labels on this release as well. The first one is numbered Jessica 405 whereas the second is clearly numbered 1603 as well as 405, the flip side is number 1602, although the records are the same on each version.


Essica 404 - Curtis Smith - The Living End / Blank - 1965 (DJ Copy only)
Essica 404 - Curtis Smith - The Living End / Say You Will* - 1965 (*Also released on Doma 101)
Essica 404 - Curtis Smith - The Living End / How High Can You Fly - 1965 (To complicate matters more, the two labels actually read the same, i.e. ‘The Living End / Say You Will’ . It’s only from listening to the records or checking the matrix numbers that you know that ‘Say You Will’ plays ‘How High Can You Fly’ which is identical to ‘How High Can You Fly’ by Willie Small)

To start with, Curtis has no explanation as to why the miss-press of the single appeared. The Doma release is also something of a puzzle because it was released after the Essica single, on a label owned by Eddie Silvers

Doma 101 - Curtis Smith - Say You Will / I Like Everything - 1965

He was born, raised, and lived all his life in Atlanta, but was involved in the music business as a guitarist from a very young age, and this led to him working all over the States, particularly involved with Chicago area bands and singers though.

He also worked as a session musician at various times, in particular playing guitar on Gladys Knight and the Pips original Vee Jay recording of ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’, although he wasn’t on the re-recorded version that was later released on Fury.

Vee Jay 386 - Every Beat of My Heart / Room in Your Heart - 1961

Between the years 1961 to 1964 he led the band that supported Piano Red, also known as Dr Feelgood and The Interns. A local Atlanta band they were extremely successful, releasing several singles on Okeh. During this period Roy Lee Johnson, another guitarist in Dr Feelgood, & The Interns recorded a song ‘Mr.

Moonlight’, that would in 1964 be covered by The Beatles on their fourth album. It was originally released as the flip side to a Dr Feelgood & The Interns single:

Okeh 7144 -
Dr Feelgood & The Interns - Dr Feelgood / Mr Moonlight - 1961

Curtis also played guitar on Roy Lee Johnson’s other Okeh and Columbia recordings:

Okeh 7160 - Roy Lee Johnson - Too Many Tears / Black Pepper Will Make You Sneeze - 1962
Okeh 7182 - Roy Lee Johnson - Nobody Does Something For Nothing / Busybody - 1962
Columbia 43286 - Roy Lee Johnson - My Best Just Ain't Good Enough / When A Guitar Plays The Blues - 1965

There were also four other tracks recorded by Curtis Smith during this period, but they remained unreleased until 2009 when the Bear Family label released them on their ‘Roy Lee Johnson, featuring guest Curtis Smith’ CD ‘When A Guitar Plays The Blues’. The titles were:

Don’t Do This To Me
Two Wrongs (Won’t Make It Right)
Come Here Baby
I’ve Got A Feeling

Around 1965 Curtis returned to Atlanta and formed his own band Count Curtis & The Counts, and they worked successfully for several years supporting visiting acts and playing their own local gigs. Curtis has also worked as a guitarist for Joe Tex and Aretha Franklin at various stages during his career.
Essica 002 - Ruff Francis And The Illusions - Give Me Mercy / Misery Loves Company - 1966

Ruff Francis & The Illusions were a typical 1960’s showband, they played lots of local gigs, and a variety of music, Rock & Roll, R & B and Soul, and covered pop hits of the day. They were also used as backing bands for several big name acts who visited New York. The group appeared with Wilson Pickett; The Duprees; Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels; The Orlons; Johnny Thunder; The Flamingos; The Dave Clark Five; Gary Lewis and  the Playboys; The Isley Brothers; Jimi Hendrix

In 1966 Ruff Francis & The Illusions consisted of Eugene Boiani (Guitar); Jack (NewPort) Pender (Tenor & Alto Sax); Ruff Francis (Leader, Vocal & Fender Jazz Bass); Phil "T McNasty" Bazicki (Tenor & Alto Sax) and Mike "Mickey" Caruso (Drums).

Essica 002 was their first ever recording. Despite there being a website for Ruff Francis, the contact email address doesn’t work, so I’ve been unable to find out why a New York band had their first release on a St Louis label.

In November of 1977 Ruff Francis and some members from the original group and the 1967 group re-recorded "Give Me Mercy" as an up-tempo party sound at Cathedral Sound in Rensselaer New York. Musicians included Ruff Francis (Vocals); Lyman "Butch" Strong (Organ); Nick Brignola (Baritone Sax); Tony Sano (Guitar); Mark Galleo (Drums); Jack Pender (Tenor Sax); Larry "Mad Dog" Jackson (Percussion & Vocal) and Phil Bazicki (Tenor Sax).

The photos show Ruff Francis & The Illusions, Ruff Francis with Wilson Pickett, Ruff Francis with Mitch Ryder, and below, Ruff Francis & The Illusions backing The Orlons, and finally Ruff Francis with The Flamingos.
Essica 004 - C-Quents - It’s You And Me / Dearest One - 1966 (Also released as Captown CTN4028)

Captown is a Washington DC label, and I believe that the C-Quents were also from that area, so this is another strange release to end up on Essica. Unfortunately Curtis Smith doesn’t remember the single, so can provide no explanation as to why there was an Essica release.

There was also a release on the Quest label, another Washington DC based label:

Quest 262 - C-Quents - I’ve Got To Love You Baby / Easy For You Baby

Essica 005 - The Sharpees - Just To Please You* / Hug Me Tight - 1966 (*Also released as One-derful 4839)
Although I’ve never seen a copy of this single on Essica, without prompting Curtis said that he played guitar on both this recording by the Sharpees, and on ‘Do The 45’, another One-deful recording, and respected Chicago collector Bob Abrahamian says he knows someone with a copy of it, so I have no doubt that it actually exists – if anybody has a copy for sale, please let us know.

The Sharpees were originally a St Louis group, and were originally known as The New Breed, members at this time were Benny Sharp, Stacy Johnson, Vernon Guy and Horise O'Toole. Vernon Guy and Stacy Johnson then left the group for a while and released a couple of solo singles each

By the time the group reached Chicago, and recorded their first single for One-Derful Records, Vernon Guy had already re-joined, and Stacy Johnson re-joined when Horise O’Toole had to leave the group for medical reasons.
One-Derful! 4835 - Do The 45 / Make Up Your Mind - 1965
One-Derful! 4839 - Tired Of Being Lonely / Just To Please You - 1965 

The group went on to record two more singles for One-derful, although Curtis Smith wasn’t involved in them.

One-Derful! 4842/4843 - I've Got A Secret / Make Up Your Mind - 1965
One-Derful! 4845 - The Sock / My Girl Jean - 1966

Stacy Johnson also recorded one solo single for M-Pac!

M-Pac! 7230 - I Stand Alone / Don't Try To Fool Me - 1966
Jessica 001 - Reuven Kall & Margaret Hines - Main Man / Misty - 1982
I know nothing about this single, but there is also a slight possibility that this is the same label because of the St Louis connection


That’s about all that is known about the artists who recorded for Jessica and Essica. However, there is one thing that runs through most of the releases and would explain the Chicago connection to Jessica and Essica.

The name of Eddie Silvers or Angie Music Productions appears on all of the above releases, with the exception of the Ruff Francis release. (The Doma release by Curtis Smith is also an Angie Music Production)

Eddie Silvers, was originally a saxophonist from Chicago, working for Bobby Bland at one point, who started his own Production / Arranging / Publishing company, and called it Angie Music (After his wife). He worked as an independent producer and arranger for a multitude of small labels across Chicago (and obviously St Louis) until he became the Music Director for
George and Ernie Leaner’s One-Derful Records, in around 1966. This would certainly explain why the Curtis Smith release on Essica is distributed by One-Derful, and also confirm the Sharpees connection to Essica, because Eddie Silvers was involved with all the Sharpees’s releases on One-Derful.

Further proof of the St Louis and Eddie Silvers connection is the fact that he wrote and produced several of Alvin Cash and The Crawlers singles for Mar-v-Lus Records, and of course Alvin Cash is originally from St Louis.
By the late Sixties, Eddie Silvers was also working as saxophonist with his group The Soul Merchants, and they recorded at least three singles which were released on the Weis label. (He’s the guy in the middle in the photo)

Weis 3001 - For: “Wes” / Light My Fire - 1968
Weis 3436 - For: “Wes” / Light My Fire - 1968
Weis 3439 -
For: “Wes” / Little Green Apples - 1968

The ‘For: “Wes”’ track was arranged By The Soul Merchants, written by Eddie Silvers, Dawson & Hill, and produced by Eddie Silvers, The ‘Light My Fire’ track was conducted by him.

There was also a release on Unisfere that he appeared on (and wrote the flip side to)

UniSFERE 700 - Robert, Ron, & Eddie - Love Potion #9 / Robert & Ron - I Ain’t Finish yet - 1969.


So that’s it, the story of a little label in St Louis that released seven singles, recorded by artists from as far afield as St Louis, Atlanta, Washington, Birmingham, and New York

Dave Rimmer & Jessica Wecker

As always, if anyone can add further information relevant to this article please get in touch with me through the email address

Label scans - Jessica Wecker
Photos: Curtis Smith, Ruff Francis & The Illusions website:
Liner Notes: Roy Lee Johnson featuring guest Curtis Smith CD (Written by Martin Goggin)