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John Smith In Conversation with

Lou Ragland

JRS: What do you remember about Jessie Fisher  

LR: Jessie, he was always around the Way Out Studios. I was the only staff engineer at Way Out from 1965 to 1967, so knew. Way Out was at 1966 E 55th Street and at that time it led everything in Cleveland. It was 8 track, so Agency and Cleveland Recording lost a lot of business to Way Out. I would unlock the studio and we would work from 8am to 8pm on Way Out stuff. During those times, I trained up Tim Lockhart as an engineer. Other artists would block book the studio, like Bobby Womack and Bob Davis would book it for his artists, he had 3 groups……...Before they were at 1966 E 55th Street, Way Out had an earlier studio at 1871 E 55th. That was used as a rehearsal studio and then it was over to Cleveland Recording at 1900 Euclid (Ave. – next to the University) to cut the record. Sometimes Schneider’s would be used as it was the only studio that could cut straight onto an acetate.…. Jessie Fisher really didn’t think that he was an artist. People would hear him sing and he had more of a gospel flair than anything. Maybe the church figured in his background. When he would come into the studio, everyone would say….we got a song for Jessie, let’s try it out on him….I think he had a day job so he would come in the evening after we had worked things out. Tyrone Henry and James McClain of the Springers wrote his track “Why” and Jessie, James Calloway and myself wrote “Little John”. We cut that there and then in the studio.  

JRS: Was he a young guy  

LR: He was a little older than us ( Lou was 24 in 1966 ), maybe a couple of years. He started coming around Way Out in 1965/66, he wouldn’t sing backing vocals or any of that. He was actually a friend of Lester’s ( Lester Johnson -- Way Out director ) and he knew the members of the Hornets pretty well. They introduced him to me. William Thompson, who was known as "Red" because he was a very light skinned black man, was the guy mostly interested in Jessie. With Lester being pals with him, he would always say….go in the back ( to the actual recording studio ) and see what these guys can pull up (cut) on you. Johnson and (Bill) Branch weren’t even in the studio for sessions. They would come along later, listen to the tracks and decide what got issued.  

JRS: I guess that if Jessie was always hanging around the studio from the mid 60’s, he cut a lot of stuff that wasn’t released.  If there was nobody around to sing, and he turned up, I guess you got him to sing ??  

LR: For two years he came to the studio solid, but I didn’t follow him much after that. ( after 1967, some new guys came on, Tim Lockhart etc. & took Lou’s place in the studio as he went out on the road playing guitar for the Terry Knight Review. Lou had sold all his instruments before taking the studio job at Way Out, so he didn’t have a guitar when asked by Tom Baker to go on the road. But he was being offered good money --  $400 a week – and he remembered that Kim Tolliver had a guitar hanging on her house wall as decoration. So Lou went and explained the situation to her and she gave him the guitar to use ). I went out on the road with Terry Knight who was originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now the Sensations (also from Michigan), they were the guys who did a lot of recording.  

JRS: So there are a lot of un-issued Sensations tracks !! Now they weren’t from Cleveland but were also from upstate Michigan (Battle Creek ?) . Did they play live shows in Cleveland.    

LR: They had no performance abilities at all, they could just make records. You had Rico (Roosevelt Simmons), John Washington and the third guy was always moving around. At one time it was Jimmy Butler (I may have misheard this name ?) and then other guys (Joe Kelly, Chester Florence).  

JRS: They were just a trio ??  

LR: Yes, just a trio. John Washington played the piano and he wrote songs from the piano. He passed out his songs to different people.  

JRS: Did you engineer or produce their tracks ??  

LR: No, I didn’t produce them, it might have been Willie Smith (Lou was the engineer on their sessions though). He was the guy down there doing that at the time. He was also the first arranger I knew of, to work there. He was from Cleveland and had learnt his trade back in the 40’s, in the big band era. He had worked with Choker Campbell ( by the mid sixties, Campbell was working in Motown’s studio as well as heading up the Hitsville tour band). Willie Smith’s still around Cleveland……… Ace Carter was the arranger producer for Joan Bias recordings, that was my second time singing in a recording session after “Never Let Me Go”.

JRS: So they just came to Cleveland to record.  

LR: No, finally they moved. You see, during those days, we thought we were gonna be the next Motown and we prepared for it. Then you had John Wooten and Jim Brown ( Cleveland Brown’s football player after whom the Big Jim label was named ), Judge Lloyd Brown and all these big guys supporting the label. John Wooten and Judge Lloyd Brown were members of the board and directors of Way Out Records.  

JRS: They put money in ?  

LR: Yea, they threw the money in and would leave us there. We turned out so much material for their money, they left us alone.  

JRS: Were the Sensations all young guys ?  

LR: Yes, at least 10 years younger than me.  

JRS: And they had no stage presence at all ?  

LR: No, we didn’t get that artist development department started like Motown. We wanted to, but we just activated the production side.  

JRS: But you taught yourself stage presence, how come they didn’t.     

LR: Well, I kinda taught myself it. See Billy Ward and the Dominoes ( who Lou had joined as lead singer for a few months in 1965 ) taught me stage presence. 13 weeks with Billy Ward was like 2 years in college. He was a hard task master, you couldn’t be late, that was inbred in me. Your word had to mean something and you always had to get your specific assignment done. If you were ahead of time, he rewarded you. If you were late, he would close the door and then you had to learn your part through the door. Several members of new groups also did that or attempted to.  

JRS: Do you remember Mike Terry coming to Way Out ?  

LR: Mike Terry, I only met him and knew he was from Detroit.  

JRS: Norman Whitfield ?  

LR: Yes, I knew Norman Whitfield when he was in Cleveland, but he didn’t know me.  

JRS: Who produced your track “ I Travel Alone” and how come this came out on Amy and not Way Out ?  

LR: The guy who produced my 45 on Amy was Tom Baker and no one else, however there was an engineer there at Way Out named Tim Brown, but he never did anything on me. I don’t know how my recording got to Amy.  

JRS: Did you know Jessie’s brother, Richard Fisher ( later of the Jive 5 ) at all ?  

LR: I only heard about him later.  

JRS: OK, what can you remember about Harvey & the Phenomenals ( Da-wood recording artists).  

LR: Man, they were a great band. Harvey was the lead vocalist and lead guitarist and they were around at the same time as I had the Bandmasters ( early / mid 60’s ). So we would leave one club and they would follow us in ( the groups back then would do a week long stint at each club ). His exact name was Harvey Hall.  

JRS: Yes, I think he recorded solo for one of Boddie’s labels  

LR: Yes he did, Luau was one of Mr. Tom Boddie's record labels. Tom-lew was his publishing company but I was not the Lew. That was his wife's name abbreviated, her name is Louise Boddie. Boddie had his own pressing plant on the side of the garage cum studio. He cut lots of gospel stuff.  

JRS: What club were the Bandmasters house band at ?  

LR: It was called the Music Box, out on Euclid.  

JRS: Were Harvey and his group house band anywhere ?  

LR: Yes, they played at a place out on Buckeye, but I can’t remember the name right now. Almost every band around then would become house band at some place. We traded places with Don Gregory & the Monclairs, that’s how we became house band. When Don Gregory’s “Happy Feet” hit ( a Sunburst 45 in 1965 ), they went on the road and the club had to replace them, so Kim Tolliver maneuvered us into that spot.  

JRS: Right, what can you tell me about the Monclairs ? How many in the group ?  

LR: I think it was six.  

JRS: Did they play their own instruments.  

LR: Yes.  

JRS: They had 2 or 3 releases on Sunburst, which was Carl Maduri’s label thru Atlantic.  

LR: Yea, I think Jackie Cooper was their drummer and Don Gregory the base player.  

JRS: Who was the lead singer ?  

LR: They all sang. They didn’t have one lead singer, Sam Blackshall was keyboard and organist, that was the sound people would go for. Everybody played instruments, all six. One girl, who would open up the show for them.  

JRS: Was she part of the group ?  

LR: No, they started backing her up at the Music Box and she later went on to be a club owner at the Pin Wheel out around 115th Street.                              

JRS: Can you remember her name ?  

LR: No……… Let me go back to that record “Happy Feet” ( A side to the current UK favorite “ Wait For Me” ), there was a guy name of Sam Knight who actually was the MC at the Music Box. He encouraged Don Gregory and the Monclairs to record that. It was originally just a riff that they played that filled the floor, the dance floor, all the time. So they developed it and made it into a record. Sam Knight was the guy that would come out and work with Disc Jockeys and bring unknown acts to the Music Box and give them a start. Now if you were not 21, you couldn’t be in this club with alcohol. So they developed a date on Sunday afternoon, a matinee, from 3 till 5. They would cover up the liquor, no nudity or anything adult and you could bring in teenagers. So you groomed yourself in front of that crowd. Yea, they would take in tea, cool aid, sodas like that.  

JRS: You weren’t allowed in till you were 18 ?  

LR: No, I was in there. I sneaked in, told em I was 18 but I wasn’t. I was the leader of the band but they didn’t know how old I was. If they knew I was younger than them, they would have beaten me up or something. But I just carried myself well, I had my own car.  

JRS: What age were you allowed to drive ?  

LR: I was allowed to drive at 15. But I learnt at 10. I would always drive my mother’s car from the back garage out thru a narrow driveway and have it ready, warmed up in the winter.  She liked that. I proved I could drive, I learnt how to drive in old junk cars in the backyard.          

JRS: The Springers, how many in the group ?  

LR: Six again, all singers. Yes, so some of the harmony parts were doubles. One of the guys was the guitarist but he also sang but the other five guys just performed. They had the first record that took a Cleveland group to the Apollo in New York.  

JRS: They were more of a throw back, a doo-wop type of group.  

LR: Yea, really.  

JRS: So when it got to 1966 / 68 and it was all the Motown sound, they seemed to disappear.  

LR: Well they didn’t treat it like it. After they went on the circuit ( the chittlin club tours ), they were very disillusioned and weren’t interested in the business so they kinda split up. James McClain was in the group and he and I continued to write songs for them.  

JRS: Tyrone Henry, what happened to him ?  

LR: I don’t know, he would just go off of the deep end every now and then. He was a guitarist also. But after they had been on the road, they split up and we put all our attention on the Sensations.  

JRS: What about the Exceptional 3 with Ruby Carter.  

LR: Floyd Beck was the leader of the Exceptional Three. I just know that they were a pet group of Lester Johnson’s, he wanted to make this group into something. I can’t remember the full line-up but Ruby Carter had a great voice, she could sing.  

JRS: Laura Greene, did you know her at all ?  

LR: No, I didn’t know her at all. She came into Way Out after I went out on the road.  

JRS: The Occasions ?  

LR: Billy Carter, he sang the tenor. (Evans) Woodson, Johno (Johnnal Thompson – a female) and I can’t think of the other girl’s name, she was Woodson’s wife (Jennifer Woodson  -- all four were natives of Cleveland). They had a great sound and Jim Brown liked them a lot (their 45 was on Big Jim and it hit big on Chicago radio station WMPP, being a Top 10 chart sound there in May 1967 ). He took their records, recordings and production to MGM, that’s how he got his big break with the Originals (Friends of Distinction ?). He was the only guy ( out of the entire management structure ) who brought money into Way Out. They all bought new cars because of Jim Brown. We played his (football) retirement party with a 12 piece band. I was the band director and it was at the Cleveland Arena and featured Stevie Wonder and a bunch of Motown acts.  

JRS: So you ran the band for the whole show ?  

LR: Most of them, the Motown acts had their own rhythm section. But all the rest of em, Bobby Wade and all those guys like that.  

JRS: Bobby Wade had a release on Big Jim (“Flame In My Heart”).  

LR: Oh, yea. Thats how we got him started until he got to Black Prince (Deluxe !). We recorded him everywhere we could. On “Blind Over You” (a Deluxe 45) the backing vocals were by Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, Bobby himself and me. That was cut at Way Out. (Walter Williams and Bobby Massey wrote and produced the track). Bobby had become one of the favorite male singers then.    

JRS: He was one of the top live acts around Cleveland ?  

LR: Sure, he always had stage presence and was a consummate performer. He made his living from it, he didn’t do anything else but sing, he had the top jobs. He would work at the Theatrical Grill, with Mousy Wexler and all these big guys and make money. Mr Wexler was a big club owner in downtown Cleveland. Very high class, it was where all the real action was. Bobby would also sing at Sir Rahs House, the top echelons. That clubs still there, used to be called Sir Rahs House……. Jimmy Landers and the All Stars play their today, David Peoples’ lead singer in his band.  

JRS: Now there was a Detroit record label called Sir Rahs.  

LR: Sir Rah is actually Harris backwards. They were quite well to do financially so they backed the club, entertainers, etc. I don’t know what his first name was, there was a family of em.  

JRS: Cleveland Robinson, you say you met him a few times.  

LR: Met him in Cleveland Recording studio and talked to him. He would always be down there, doing something. I liked his voice always, he was a quiet guy who kept himself to himself. By him being older than us young hoods, coming up, making all this noise.  

JRS: Yes, he’s about 10 years older than you.

LR: Close to it.  

JRS: Yes, he was telling me he only started recording around the same time as you, 1962.  

LR: Well my first recording was 1961, “Never Let Me Go / Party at Lester’s” and then they didn’t release it till 62.  

JRS: Were Cleveland’s records popular around Cleveland.  

LR: Almost everyone of them.  

JRS: They got radio air play ?  

LR: Anybody could get air play in Cleveland. Go in WJMO. Ken Hawkins, J L Wright and several other people. JMO was the station that would make stars out of Cleveland people and give them a chance. Sort of like that station up in Detroit that played the Motown and Golden World tracks.   

JRS: Wasn’t Eddie O’Jay based in Cleveland.  

LR: Yes, he was working at (W)ABQ at that time. He was helpful to one of the local acts, the O’Jays, you know that !!!!!  

JRS: So you were part of the house band at the Music Box from age 16 ?  

LR: Yea, till about 23. That house band was called Lou Ragland and the Bandmasters and that’s who I did my first recording as, we played behind Kim Tolliver. She was our female vocalist. At the time you had a female in front of the band, she came out and did so many songs but we did the bulk of the work.  

JRS: How did that fit in with the vocal group you were a member of in the early days ?  

LR: The Sahibs, two of the guys, George Hendrix and……..after they broke up we all became musicians. The bass singer started playing bass. The vocal group had one guitarist who would never show up. Because he never showed up, I started playing  guitar. I couldn’t play everything but I could play “Twist & Shout”, you know, those three chords. I also used to play at the Hut, a wooden framed building on East Boulevard and 116th. The Pin Wheel Club was just down the road. There was also the Mayflower club. We also backed Kim Tolliver at Gleeson’s Show Bar and Ken Hawkins  put a show on at the Circle Ballroom with Marvin Gaye. The payment for that show was $75. Otis Redding’s last ever show, that was at Leo’s Casino. He went by Kim Tolliver’s after the show (the show at Leo’s Casino had followed a Cleveland based TV appearance on ‘Upbeat’, on which he sang a duet with Mitch Ryder, they performed  “Knock on Wood”) and we were invited to go with him, on his private plane, to Milwaukee. Luckily we didn’t, as it crashed and Otis was killed. 

JRS: I never realised that ! ….What can you remember about the Imperial Wonders ?  

LR: Avon Wells, he was the brother of one of the guys in the Bell Telefunk group. He was the baby of the family, everybody in his family had deep voices, even his sister. But these guys approached Bob Davis and he wanted to produce them for this label, Day-Wood. And I don’t know if he had a second label, him and this juvenile court judge were involved with it and they recorded most of their acts at Boddies Recording. But I had gotten to be good friends with Arnie Rosenburg at Agency (Recording) on 24th and Payne, so I suggested if they wanted to get a different and better sound and go to 16 track instead of 8, lets go to Agency Recording. Their track “Zip-A-Dee Do Dah” (A side was “Just A Dream”)  was recorded and released in 1969. I was paid $300 to produce that.  

JRS: How did you hook up with them ?  

LR: Bob Davis brought them to me. Incidently, they had a sister group, the Ebonettes. Cynthia Woodward (Cindy of Bobby & Cindy on Shaker Records), Sharon Shanks, Debra Chapman and one other.   

JRS: So you had already established a name for yourself ?  

LR: Well, I was with the O’Jays so that made me stand out a bit. I was the road manager for the O’Jays, they couldn’t talk to the O’Jays much so they talked to me.  

JRS: When did you go with and leave the O’Jays ?  

LR: 1968 to 1970. “Working On Your Case” was popular in the UK I think, William Powell sang lead on that. Did you know their "I'll Never Forget You" was cut at Motown. They were gonna sign with Motown but their contract was sold to Imperial.

JRS: The Rotations (the groups members included Sonny Thompson & Bobby Starr {Day ?} and cut the popular  -- in the UK  -- “I Can’t Find Her” released in 1970 on Debrossard)  

LR: They always wore blue jump suits and went on to join………….  

JRS: Soulsville Productions and Law-ton Records in New York ?  Lets try A C Jones & the Atomic Aces

LR: I don’t know them at all. That’s just a name that sounds like one of those groups from back then.  
JRS: Leroy Smalley ? ( Leroy cut one of the first releases on Golden World Records out of Detroit, # 107 around 1963).  

LR: Leroy, he played left handed guitar. He recorded at Boddies and was in Sam Cooke’s back-up band before Golden World.  

JRS: Jerry G & Co.  

LR: Jerry G, I think they were so young too, I mean you heard about em but they weren’t in the working area at the same time I was. I had moved on by the time they received popularity.  

JRS: Bobby Dukes ?  

LR: Bobby Dukes was a phenomenal person and keyboard player. Played percussion and could sing, write, perform, an excellent dancer. I knew him, I went to school with his older brother, who we just called Dukes. He was always telling us about his younger brother from Quincy who could sing and dance and play. Just like Bobby Johnson and David Johnson, both bass players and guitar players. I knew them when they were kids, like 12, 13 years old.  

JRS: You were telling me that you lived a couple of doors away from Johnny Moore of the Hornets.  

LR: No, Johnny Moore of the Drifters.  

JRS: But he started out in the Hornets.  

LR: Oh, well see, I didn’t know that.  

JRS: Well originally, I hadn’t realised he had lived in Cleveland.  

LR: Oh yea, I lived right next door to him, in big mamma’s house.  

JRS: The Hornets recorded a couple of things that were released on Way Out around 62.  

LR: Yes, Ben Iverson and the Hornets. Lester Johnson was the lead singer on Ben Iverson's "Wedding Day" (a 1962 Way Out 45 by the Hornets – Lester Robertson is listed as the groups usual lead singer. The group had earlier recorded for Flash and States. Johnny Moore had sung lead on the groups 1953 single for Chicago based State Records. Ben Iverson was, very briefly, lead singer with Ike Perry & the Lyrics).  

JRS: What other acts do you remember ?  

LR: The Out of Sights. That was one of the groups I promoted at Saru. They started out recording at Way Out studio’s but we ended up takin them to a studio at Payne, I can’t even think of the name of it now. It had a different kind of name (Motion Picture Sound Studio was in this area). They were Paul Woodhall, Henry Steward, Harry Steward, Stan Reeves, Michael Booth and Greg Still, all from JFK High School.  

JRS; Your 45 that came out under the name Volcanic Eruption, was that a group ? (Volcanic Eruption had a Way Out 45, “Red Robin / I’ve Got Something Going For Me” around 1969)  

LR: Well, Yea. I always wanted to have a group in the sixties, we had girls in it. I decided to make it happen. Volcanic Eruption was Jimmy McClain, Robert & Verna Middlebrooks  (Verna & Rob – Way Out artists in their own right) along with myself. I just talked with Verna a couple of weeks ago. She’s still teaching school in Cleveland. Verna & Rob were married, but they’re divorced now.       

JRS: Who did you engineer and produce for at Way Out ?

LR: Well, I did stuff for Bobby Womack when he would come down there. We did a few things with Edwin (Starr), we did a lot on Bobby Wade, the Sensations, the Boss Singers….

JRS: The Boss Singers were a gospel group (they had a Way Out 45 " So Many Years / My God On High").

LR: Yea, but they had such a beat and a driving rhythm, they were the best. Randy was the lead singer, there were four of them, all male (I have James Bullard noted down as the group’s lead singer !). Man, they could sing. They were almost like the Staple Singers, they could go either way (gospel or soul). You would like their rhythm and all. I think they recorded some that became records too.

JRS: Yes, they had a 45 out on Way Out ("My God On High / So Many Years")

LR: I can’t remember the guy who was their manager. I don’t know if he sang or not but he also had this little label (DeBrossard ?) and he had something to do with Big Jim. He produced and promoted the Boss Singers.

JRS: The Rotations ? (also on DeBrossard, "I Can’t Find Her")

LR: That was one of those groups that just……they were younger than us, they recorded and they mimicked everything the Sahib’s did ! I Can’t remember their names because in the time they came up, the Intertains were the top act around…..they (the Intertains) had four members at one time.

JRS: Larry Hancock !

LR: Yea, when he left, there were a couple of other guys that took his place. I think he went to the services….the Intertains kept going after he left.

JRS: The Ambassadors, who were on DeBrossard.

LR: That’s that label I was telling you about, DeBrossard ! I don’t remember the Ambassadors, no I don’t. An earlier outfit was the Opollo’s. They were together in the late 50’s and included Bobby Dukes older brother in their line-up.

JRS: Boddie had a couple of labels.

LR: He sure did, Soul Kitchen (Jackie Russell, "If You Don’t Want Me, Let Me Be")

JRS: Luau ?

LR: Yea, everytime he would bring in a different partner, to keep the economics separate, he’d make a label so you knew what everything was. His partners name was Melvin Woods, who was also a part of Day Wood……that’s how that came about, Bob Davis and Melvin Wood.

JRS: Warren Lanier, from Jackson, was also involved with local artists and labels.

LR: Warren Lanier was involved with Black Prince. He arranged for the Imperial Wonders release on the label ("Trying To Get To You").

JRS: Another local label owner, not unlike Tom Boddie, was King Tolliver ?

LR: Yea, Cleve -Town and Buckeye Sound were recording labels he owned and operated. King Tolliver was the older brother of Kim Tolliver and John Brinson was their arranger / producer. Later he was also the producer of "Independent woman" recorded by Jan Jones. I think the masters for all of Jan Jones work could be located by tracking down Bob Davis. Jan recorded on his Daywood label.

JRS: Just prior to 1965, when you became the Way Out Studio engineer, local singer and group leader Ike Perry produced a couple of the things for the label ( Springers "I Know My Baby Loves Me So", etc). Were you involved with these at all ? Likewise Joe Marszal.

LR: No I don't know about Ike Perry and his work at Way Out Recording before I became the engineer there. Ike Perry sang with a group called Ike Perry and the Lyrics. They were one of the first singing groups to make a name for themselves locally. Lester Johnson was one of his best friends and they sang together in the early days. Joe Marszal used to play jazz tuba I think, but I didn't know much about him.

JRS: Who did you work with at Way Out during those times ?

LR: James McClain, as well as being a member of the Springers, he was a good song writer and we worked together often. Michael Chavers and Norman Scott were very close buddys. Michael arranged the horns on and co-produced Norman’s tracks "Baby Don’t Go / Ain’t That A Heartache". Fred Towles recorded "Too Much Monkey Business" for Way Out, his recording was done at the same time as my "I Travel Alone" but he never cut another Way-Out record.

JRS: A US friend of mine told me about a 45 by the Al Serafini Orchestra & the Sir Alberts that you had some connection with ( Hey, Soul Man (t. baker, l. ragland) / Lil Rosey (t. baker, l. ragland) -- audio fidelity 174).

LR: I was just as surprised as you were when I first heard about those songs in 1971. When I recorded "I Travel Alone" in 1967, Tom Baker arranged and produced the tracks (more than the two cuts that were released on Amy being cut at that time) and he apparently kept copies. He then made some other songs with them & gave me half of the song credits, I have never heard them, I only know about them because of air play royalties I receive from BMI. I would love to hear what the songs sound like. They were released in Canada and not the US as far as I know.

JRS: I only recently realised that the group the Swordsmen, who recorded a 45 for New York based Ninandy Records ("Oh My Soul / Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin You") before being picked up by RCA, were from Cleveland. I got a copy of their first self titled RCA LP from 1969 and the sleeve notes detail that the duo, Eddie Anderson and Raymond Thompson were based in Cleveland. Eddie being born in the city and Raymond moving there as a teenager. Do you remember the Swordsmen playing live around Cleveland ?

LR: No, I don’t remember the duo at all. I remember Eddie Anderson playing live gigs around Cleveland though, he used to appear solo at the Music Box a lot.

JRS: Thats strange as they were still recording as the Swordsmen in 1971 when RCA released their second album, ‘What’s It All About World (RCA LSP-4544). Later on, around 1973, you and Hot Chocolate organised having a live performance recorded didn’t you ?

LR: The Agora was a club that was downstairs, under Agency recording. Agency recorded several groups live, they had a cable permanently connected through from the Agora. Lou Ragland and Hot Chocolate was one of the groups that they cut this way and I have a great copy of that session (other soul / rock acts were recorded at the club and it became so well known that a club scene for the 1980 film ‘One Trick Pony’ starring Paul Simon was shot there. Sam and Dave also appeared in the film).

JRS: Beloyd (Taylor) was a local musician (he was a member of S.O.U.L.) who later went on to greater things with Earth, Wind and Fire. Did you know him ?

LR: I only knew Beloyd Taylor when he was in Cleveland. He also was one of the writers of "Get Away" which Earth Wind and Fire recorded.

JRS: As well as being a musician, you have always been interested in art and design havn’t you ?

LR: Yea, in fact I designed the Way Out label that had the "swirls" in it, Jesse Fisher’s "Super Funky" was the first release put out on it. The company’s other label designs were not mine.

JRS: After the "Since You Said You’d Be Mine" release and the conflict the 45’s billing caused, you split with Hot Chocolate / Seven Miles High, and went solo on SMH. Then in 1975 came the SMH 45 "Tend To Your Business" by Wildfire. This was your group again wasn’t it ?

LR: Yea, Norman Scott was in the group and sang lead. I do have a photo of us, from a newspaper ad. We produced those cuts ourselves, after that I became an independent producer.

JRS: I have a 1972 Way Out label released 45, "Everlasting Love / Honey Coated Lovin" by Betty & Angel on Every Day. The label gives the arranger as Tom Baker and producer as Lester Johnson. I didn’t think Lester usually got involved in the studio ?

LR: I Know for sure that Lester Johnson produced Betty and Angel on that record. Betty is Betty White, we thought she was going to be our shining star, but she didn't keep up with the pack.

JRS: Now apart from your singles on Co-Co Cleveland, I believe there was also another release.

LR: Yes, that’s right. Back in Cleveland I still have copies of some old records. There’s several of the white label DJ copies of my very first Hot Chocolate 45 and also the standard release on the yellow label ("We Had True love / Good For The Gander" – Co-Co Cleveland). There will be quite a few of the Donations "I'm Gonna Treat You Good" single, this is the group Walter Johnson was in. Also "Tend To Your Business" by Wildfire (on SMH), "What The Doctor Prescribed" Lou Ragland and Hot Chocolate (his 2nd Co-Co Cleveland 45), "Super Funky" by Jesse Fisher (a Way Out single) and the record you are talkin about, "The Next World" by Love For Dollars and Cents.

JRS: That’s not a record that I knew about. What are the details on it ?

LR: Love for Dollars and Cents, the song is titled "The Next World" and as I said the label is Co-Co Cleveland Records, record number is F0100/F0101. The song was written by Love For Dollars & Cents and Lou Ragland, published by Ragland Publications BMI. The horns on the track were supervised by Richard Shann and I produced the track. It was recorded and released in 1972 and we only pressed 1000 copies of the record. Love for Dollars and Cents was a trio, three guys, Roland Heard, Ruben Chaney and Anthony Smith. The group performed all over Cleveland and they were young and popular with the fans.

JRS: What can you remember about working live with the Hesitations ?

LR: While I was the road manager for the O'Jays, the Hesitations would be included on several of the package shows. In Philadelphia, PA at the Uptown Theater on a show in 1968 or 69 we ( the O’Jays package) played with the Winstons, the Jackson Five and the Hesitations. Junior Walker and the All stars were the starring act on the bill.

JRS: You also wrote and produced Sonny Lovall’s Miystic Insight 45 "Ghetto Boy" from 1974.

LR: I co-wrote the song and co-produced that recording on Sonny Lovall. His name was mis-spelt on the record label. His name is Lavell Cochran (so the label on the 45 should have read Sonny Lavell) and he was also co-writer of my Warner Brothers B side "I Didn't Mean To Leave You" (incidentally the arrangers on these Miystic Insight tracks were John Brinson and Dunn Pearson).

JRS: What about local radio stations in the sixties ?

LR: The main radio stations were WJMO and WABQ in Cleveland.

JRS: And what about Cleveland record shops through those years ?

LR: The Record Rendezvous shop was the first place local soul artists could get their records sold. As a result of that, he would enable us to extend our talent out of our own neighborhood, the shop was in downtown Cleveland. Another record store was the Crowd Pleaser, this was on Kinsman and it was operated by Robert Palmer.

JRS: Quite a lot of old Cleveland soul artists are now based around here (Vegas), Sonny Turner, Bobby Wade, Joan Bias and Paul Stubblefield (ex of S.O.U.L.). Plus Bill Spoon is over in California, do you hear from any one else from back home ?

LR: Gene Ross, another of my old buddies from the group the Chosen Few from the old days stays in touch. He comes to Vegas often and calls. I know he talks to several of the Sahibs and old Hot Chocolate members. Another old group guy is in town at the moment, Eddie Williams.

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