01) Cherry Pie
02) Ain't That Right
03) Tell Me Darling (Long Tall Marvin)
04) Sometimes I Wonder
05) Sweet Potato
01) Tick Tock
02) Have Mercy Miss Percy (Long Tall Marvin)
03) Dear One
04) Will You Love Me
05) I Wanna
Sometimes I think of the Be Bop Wino blog as a kind of ersatz radio station, at other times I think of it as a virtual record shop. So you're walking down the street in a slightly louche quarter of a big city and you come across a shop with "Be Bop Wino - New 'n' Second Hand Records" on a faded sign above the window which contains a selection of LP sleeves beckoning, yes, beckoning, to your inner rhythmatic urges. You've just got to go in, and it's an Aladdin's cave of vinyl and even shellac and maybe some 'zines such as "Blues & Rhythm" and a few fly blown, dust covered copies of "Kicks."
Despite the slightly run down appearance of the shop which has perhaps seen better days (as has its owner), you get the impression that it is a carefully curated emporium, with the browsers clearly labelled as "Blues" or "R&B" or "Vocal Groups" or "Instrumentals" or "Soul Jazz" or "Swing."
You notice a doorway towards the rear of the shop with a hand written cardboard sign above it saying "bargain basement" and down a narrow staircase you go into a dimly lit cellar which smells slightly of damp and here they be, the bargain bins full of remaindered and second hand LPs. There's no sign of any organisation here, just browsers crammed with album sleeves. At first glance it doesn't look very promising - lots of garish cardboard sleeves in not very good condition, with promises of "Million Seller Hits," numerous invitations to a "Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party" and opportunities to "Twist" with Jimmy McCracklin or Etta James.
Unless you're one of the hip crowd, you've probably never heard of many of the artists on these albums but if you're in the know then you quickly realise that there are treasures in this most unpromising of locations.
Your eye is caught by a sleeve which is slightly less cheap looking than most of the stuff here and so you pull out this Marvin & Johnny LP which boasts a painting of the musicians. It's even got an artist's signature "Fazzio" although if truth be told the "painting" of Marvin & Johnny is in fact an airbrushed photo. Thick cardboard sleeve, no inner sleeve, no info on the back cover which is just a sheet of paper with a list of other releases on this label, Crown, and by St. Nicholas of Tosches most of them seem to be the most appalling schlock. And there's only 5 tracks on each side. But hell, it's only pennies to buy so buy it you do and once you get it home you realise you've got ten tracks of primo R&B / Rock 'n' Roll, for Crown was the budget LP outlet for the Los Angeles based Modern / RPM diskery.
And thanks to regular donor Marv for reconstituting this fine example of a cheapo LP of West Coast rhythm 'n' blues. "Marvin & Johnny" was issued in 1963 but 7 of its 10 sides were issued on singles between 1954 and 1956 on the Modern label.
"Marvin" was Marvin Phillips, once the tenor sax player in the band of The Great Gates and also one of a tenor sax duo with Emory Perry. He was friends with singer / pianist / songwriter Jesse Belvin and the pair were both members of a vocal group called Three Dots And a Dash which was formed by Big Jay McNeely to feature in his live concerts and on his recordings for Imperial in 1950-51. Belvin left the McNeely outfit and Phillips took over on lead vocals. The two were reunited as a vocal duo on Specialty Records in 1953 when they had a hit with "Dream Girl" as Jesse and Marvin.
When Belvin left for the Army, Phillips kept the vocal duo going under the name of "Marvin and Johnny" with a series of further releases on Specialty. "Johnny" was initially Carl Green (of the Turks) and then Marvin's old sax partner Emory Perry (this is the duo on the LP cover). The pair transferred over to Modern Records where they had a hit with "Tick Tock" / "Cherry Pie."
Most of the sides on this LP feature the Phillips / Perry duo. "Will You Love Me" has Rufus Anderson as "Johnny" while on "Ain't That Right" Phillips and Perry are joined by Jesse Belvin. Note that two of the tracks, "Have Mercy Miss Percy" and "Tell Me Darling" are Marvin Phillips solo efforts under the name Long Tall Marvin.
This brief article by Marv Goldberg details the various singers behind "Johnny" in the duo's 1950s recordings for Specialty, Modern and Aladdin.
Tick Tock / Cherry Pie - Modern 933 - July 1954
Ko Ko Mo / Sometimes I Wonder - Modern 949 - January 1955
Will You Love Me / Sweet Dreams - Modern 968 - September 1955
Ain't That Right / Let Me Know - Modern 974 - November 1955
Have Mercy Miss Percy / Tell Me Darling - Long Tall Marvin - Modern 933 - June 1956
Sweet Potato; I Wanna; Dear One; first issued on this LP.
Elsewhere On The Blog:
Two compilations of Aladdin sides feature some Marvin and Johnny tracks:
Cherry Pie - Ace CDCHD 509
Thanks once again to Marv for Marvin & Johnny.