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Artist Discographies


The Young Disciples
St Louis, Ill.
1968 - 1973

By Malcolm Collins

Records labels come about in many ways. In East St. Louis In the late sixties as with many regions in America, urban poverty, social & racial unrest were commonplace.
As one of the more impoverished communities in Illinois, East St. Louis struggled, but where there is struggle there is always the opportunity for expression.  

The Young Disciples was a collective formed around a local community project called the ‘South End Center’ located at 1501 Russell, E. St Louis.  Allan Merry a successful
Musician and Recreational Director joined in partnership with a serving Vista Volunteer
(Volunteers In Service To America) called Mark Swansa, to use their combined know
how to help kids in the local community. Both men shared a theory that one-way to help was to teach through music. To this end they formed ‘The Young Disciples’, the
idea being local kids could use the experience to improve their own lives as well as earning additional money for themselves.

By 1967 Allan was already an accomplished musician, he was lucky enough to be taught at high school by Curtis Amy who happened to be with Ray Charles’s band. Curtis
remembered Allan as a young pupil and persuaded Allan’s parents to allow him to join Ray’s Band. Naturally with the Young Disciples Allan took care of all things Musical
leaving Mark to become business manager, booker, sound and lighting man, in fact just about everything that wasn’t musical Mark did it! 

The Young Disciples band or ‘the big band’ as it was also known originally comprised of around 22 members who either sang or played an instrument, which turned into small
combos or groups. I was lucky to talk with Gus Thornton an original member who attended Lincoln High School E. St Louis. Around 66-67 Gus hung out with a High School
band called the Stimulations comprising of Daphine Williams (lead Vocals), Charles Berkley, Brently Gillespie, and Aulander Grey.  Gus, Daphine and Charles lived near to
each other and met Allan Merry through the community center and joined as an already formed rhythm section. 

As the Young Disciples they performed their first concert on Halloween night 1968 at the South End Center. That night all 22 members performed 13 numbers in front of 800
people, which Mark related to me went down so well when they got to the end of their show they simply had to perform the 13 numbers over again, its all they knew!   

Proceedings on the night were kicked of by the Young Disciples troop of Black Afro Dancers comprising of four boys and six girls. They boasted a comedy act as well as at
least six
vocal groups. There were the Primes, the Primettes (after the Motown groups), the Debonaires and the Debonettes, The Georgettes, the Gents and the Meditations.
Allan told me that every one was playing somebody else, so you got the Meditations or the Gents who could have been the Jackson Five, and the Primes who were the
Temptations and so on.

With the success of their first concert the Young Disciples started to get regular gigs at community centers around the local area, until Mark secured bookings on university
campuses in Illinois and Memphis performing for College students. They made appearances at the local State Fair, the Mississippi River Festival and various free concerts
sharing the bill with the Chi-Lites and O.C Smith. Allan told me “they loved us, everybody loved the Young Disciples”. 

Later that year Allan and Mark made the decision to change the name Young Disciples to YODI proper, Allan had used the abbreviation on the first release on Daphine
Williams, but as there was a militant political group in Chicago called the ’Black Disciples’ and they didn’t want the Label associated with such groups especially as they
had both been harassed by local gangs due to growing popularity. Mark added it was also beneficial from a commercial point of view as YODI was far more marketable name,
they thought the Young Disciples had too many gospel overtones. Mark’s involvement with YODI drew to an end in 1971, the same year the first release on the recognizable yellow, pink and
orange swirl label design was released, which incidentally had been designed by Mark.   

YODI went on to release 10 more singles over the next year or so, some of which are very obscure. Here’s what I know about those releases and the artists: 

Daphine Williams

Allan Merry remembers Daphine as a kid of 15 years, a tenor who could not hold pitch; and although I’ve heard various stories about his waywardness I’ve got to say he
probably recorded one of the best tracks on the label as well as some nifty ad-lib on the beginning of The Young Disciples ‘Crumbs under the Table’ released on the local Gateway label.  

Sharon Clark & the Product of Time

Sharon Clark was from East St. Louis and was brought to YODI by one of the girls in either one of the female groups. Having sung locally with Oliver Sain one of the biggest
Band leaders in St Louis, her first single ‘I’m Not Afraid Of Love‘ was recorded at the Fame studio’s in Memphis and got to No 8 in Memphis and New Orleans R&B
charts receiving a fair amount of airplay. 

According to Allan, having had the single picked up by Apt / ABC through his ‘on the road’ contacts he thinks Sharon was sidelined at ABC due to them having just signed
the Four Tops. YODI persisted with Sharon and sent them out on the road, they toured in Illinois and played in Detroit but the single eventually died. Luckily for us they did
release a second single, which was recorded at Sam Philip’s Sun Studio’s in Memphis. 

Also brought in to help on the production side of the first release and subsequent releases was Gene “Bowlegs” Miller who was a very successful trumpet player as well as
having being heavily involved in Hi Records in Memphis. Gene got involved in allot of small projects such as YODI at this time, stuff like Horns on Bobby Fosters- Building up
for a let down on Sound Plus and production, writing and arrangement credits on the classic ‘I don’t know why I love you’ by Ollie Nightingale on Memphis records.

Bobby McNutt

Funk Collectable that’s a sought after track! Bobby McNutt was a male vocalist and original Young Disciple. Also released ‘I'm Getting' Ready’ for Roulette records post
YODI as well having writing credits on a small string of releases in Chicago, most notably on USA records.  His one and only release on YODI was recorded at Fame studios in Memphis.

Third Flight

From E. St Louis, Third flight comprised of Belgian Conrad (lead singer), Bobby Waters, Mike Leigh and a guy called ‘Funny’ obviously his nickname! They were said to be
very influenced by the black militant movement of the time and as a teenage ‘Gangster Group’ they recorded just one single for YODI before their influence was deemed counter productive;  ‘Love, Love, Love’ is very much a psychedelic soul sound of the late 60’s with ‘Third Flight’ more of a driving funk track, very much influenced by George Clinton, Parliament and Funkadelic. 

Eddie Fisher, Dealth Merry & the Yodi Gang

Without doubt the rarest of the Yodi releases. Allan Merry told me it never came out and in my conversations with collectors and members of the Young Disciples
I have only come across one copy in the collection of Kurt Alt, although Sharon Clarke remembered it straight away; the track also shares a release number with the third Flight single. 

Eddie Fisher has been an established Jazz Guitar player for over a quarter of a century, and I’m told also owned his own recording studio, as well as being heavily involved with the local Jazz in St Louis regularly playing at the Blue Note Club. Allan remembered having some extra funds in the YODI coffers allowing them to record, according to him “this was the YODI teachers ‘doing their thing!”  Dealth was Allan’s nickname from his college days. 

De De Turner

De De was a male singer that came to Yodi via a famous football player who played for the Kansas City Chiefs. YODI at the time were trying to reach out to various areas
looking for new singers and groups to record, reflected in their release ‘Outside of Memphis’ perhaps? Sonny Craver also cut the track on the west coast.  

Lavel Moore

Very little is known about Lavel Moore, but I’m told he had his own group ‘The Meditations’ which was a baby group like Michael Jackson / Jackson Five. Lavel
was the lead singer. His one and only release on YODI was recorded at Universal studios in Memphis.

Ames Harris Dessert Waterbag

Again I know very little about this release, but one item that every vehicle needed during the 1930s was a trusty waterbag.  These were often seen dangling from the front
bumper where they could be reached at anytime that water was needed should they overheat. The Desert Water bag was made by the Ames Harris Nevelle Company in San
Francisco, who used the name Ames Harris, said to be the first Black Cowboy. Its fare to say this was another in house track featuring varied Young Disciples.

The Georgettes

One of many vocal groups to be formed from within the Young Disciples, After their YODI release Eddy Harris took them to Atlantic Records but they were
told to come back after some work on their intonation. There seems to be a couple of releases by varied groups called the Georgettes, I’d assume they
are not connected but who knows? 


In October 2005 the remaining members of the Young Disciples held a reunion in East St Louis. I can report that Gus Thornton is working on a new CD of Blues numbers
which he is looking to complete, he’s also scheduled to do some touring with Bo Diddly this coming September. 

Eddie Fisher is very prominent in St Louis and has just released an LP entitled “Eddie Fisher, the next hundred years” having weathered decades of changing styles in music
Sharon is still alive today and occasionally sings on the Jazz circuit, she is in regular contact with Allan Merry and Gus Thornton and we can only dream of the chance of her
re-recording her YODI material. 

Mark is now a successful attorney living in Atlanta Georgia. As for Allan, he teaches Music at a Mill school in East St Louis and told me he would love to re-record some of
the YODI material for future release. I must say one thing I did pick up from our conversation was his continuing belief in Young Disciples and what that stands for. As far as
he’s concerned after all these years, he’s still teaching Young Disciples! And long may he continue.

January 2016

Soon after the above was feature was published I was contacted by the Numero Group of labels in Chicago who went onto release a full CD of the Yodi records catalogue of
songs on their ‘Eccentric’ record label. They really did a brilliant job, you can find out more about the Young Disciples’ and order the CD direct from Numero records here
The Young Disciples’



16857 - Daphine Williams - I Love You / I’m Your Man - 1968 (A Premier Film & Recording Corp. (Custom Press))
1000 - Sharon Clark & The Product Of Time - I’m Not Afraid Of Love / Mama Didn’t Lie - 1971 (Also released on APT 26009)
1002 - Bobby McNutt - Hold Tight / Country Lovin’ Country Style - 1972              
1003 - Eddie Fisher, Dealth Merry & the Yodi Gang – Homeboy Part1 / Homeboy Part2 - 1972
1003/4 - Third Flight - Third Flight / Love Love Love - 1972                                  
1004 - De De Turner   Happening - Out Side Of Memphis / Anyone Or Anything - 1972                 
1005 - Lavel Moore - The World Is Changing / I Just Want To be your man - 1972
1006 - Sharon Clark & The Product Of Time - That’s A Good Reason / It’s Not Your Business - 1972
1007/8  - Ames Harris Desert Water Bag Company - People / Checking Myself - 1972
1009/10 - The Georgettes - Hard Hard / Would You Rather - 1972            

 Related Records: 

Merry Records (Soul Sounds East)

Merry 1006 - The Debonettes - Tears / Choose Me    

Gateway Records 

Gateway 16475 - Larry Williams & The Young Disciples & Company - Crumbs on the Table / Girls Girls Girls
Gateway 5836 - The Young Disciples - Bang Bang Bang / One For Hank

Written By Malcolm Collins, with special thanks to Allan Merry, Gus Thornton, Mark Swansa, and Kurt Alt. First appeared in Derek Pearson’s ‘Shades of Soul’ issue 32, Dec 2006.

Mal can be contacted through his website: