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Monday, 16 March 2020

Marvin & Johnny (Crown LP 5381)

Side 1:
01) Cherry Pie
02) Ain't That Right
03) Tell Me Darling (Long Tall Marvin)
04) Sometimes I Wonder
05) Sweet Potato

Side 2:
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.

 Original Releases:

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:

Recommended Purchase:

Cherry Pie - Ace CDCHD 509

Thanks once again to Marv for Marvin & Johnny.


The Magnificent Goldberg said...

Lovely description of lots of record shops. Kelly's, Cardiff, Mole, Collett's & Dobell's, Paris Jazz Corner and Yenbanga, in Nagoya, Japan (but no vinyl there).


boogiewoody said...

Thanks Allan, I had a mix of shops in mind - in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Camden Town and of course Dobells. But the Be Bop Wino shop of my mind's eye is much grungier! I forgot to mention the cardboard box of old issues of Famous Monsters Of Filmland just at the foot of the staircase ...


The Magnificent Goldberg said...

Ah yes, I bought a copy of Gene Ammons' 'Woofin' and tweetin'' at Vinyl Villains in '93 on one of my rare trips to Edinburgh. It's the only album I've ever bought in Edinburgh.


Bob Mac said...

Many thanks BW, it's been a long time since I last rummaged through a record shop. Back in the 70s I was pretty well doing so on a daily basis but for the past couple of decades all my "rummaging" has been in blogs like this. Anyway, I'm looking forward to giving this a spin, and I love the old Crown front covers. Hope you are well, take care of yourself my friend.

Susan Donimus said...

Thanks to Boogiewoody, all the Marvins, and all the Johnnies.

Chi-Town said...

Another wonderful LP !! Thanks BW and Marv (whichever one you are).


boogiewoody said...

Thanks for commenting, folks and thanks for your well wishes, Bob. I'm almost self isolating at the moment, especially as social occasions are closing down rapidly here - no sports fixtures, no University classes, etc. I'm not travelling to visit family members either! That's more time for blogging.

Marv, the donor of this album is simply known as Marv, and is not Marv Goldberg to whose articles I frequently refer. The Magnificent Goldberg who commented on this Marvin and Johnny post is not Marv Goldberg either! Just to add to the confusion, I was listening to a Marv Johnson / Falcons LP last night ...

Stay safe y'all


Tony aka Pismotality said...

I reckon there's a little Marv in all of us ... You have reminded me that the basement of Listen Records (the Renfield Street shop) was where I picked up many curios for 50p a pop - most notably Original Oldies Vol. 18 which included Golden Teardrops with guitar and the Spaniels' remake of Baby It's You by the Mark II version of the group. What a wonderful mix of LPs down there to take a chance on, inc doo wop and R&B ...

boogiewoody said...

Hi Tony

I'd forgotten about the Renfield Street (Glasgow, folks) Listen and its basement. I can't really remember much about it. I did have in mind Hades in Bath Street which had a basement which may have been lit by a red bulb. And just along the street was 23rd Precinct which WAS a basement, but it did have a back room with all kinds of obscure delights including cut price blues imports if I remember correctly.

BTW I came across a quote of "Sweet Words Of Pismotality" by The Penguins in "Memories Of El Monte." Still don't know what it means though ...


Tony aka Pismotality said...

Hi BW,

Yes, I remember 23rd Precinct - in fact I bought a couple of ultra-cheap American 5 LP sets of Roulette etc material there in the seventies. And that was my first introduction to the Medallions' The Letter, along with a fair amount of other classics, including the Valentines' Tonight Kathleen. I think it also stocked jazz - at least I remember seeing a vinyl set of Jelly Roll Morton's Library of Congress recordings, also in the seventies.