Beginnings of John Dolphin

Dolphins Of Hollywoodimages.jpegDJ Forrest “War” Perkins, a partner in Roy Milton’s Miltone label, acquired the Mosby & Spikes record shop, perhaps L.A.’s oldest black-owned retail outlet, which had been at 4011 S. Central Ave. since 1929. Perkins also ran a pressing plant, and record dealer John Dolphin bought directly from him, instead of dealing with distributors. When Perkins moved to the Philippines in about 1948, he sold the shop to John Dolphin.In 1948, John Dolphin’s shop was located at 4105 S. Central Ave., across from the Elks on the east side of Central. Dolphin then moved to the old DWP building on Vernon west of Central, and the Muslims bought Dolphin’s old property there. Dolphin then opened his world famous Dolphin’s Of Hollywood Records at 1065 E. Vernon Ave., next door to the existing site of the Murray Record Shop at 1055 E. Vernon Ave., known to be just west of S. Central Ave. in 1947.At the time, War Perkins ran a pressing plant, which had pressed the Roy Milton/Miltone series of labels, and according to Andy Williamson, he and Dolphin would buy directly from Perkins, instead of dealing with distributors. There was also the Modern pressing plant at 37th near Main where Dolphin would buy 78s or 45s for a dime. After Dolphin moved in 1950, his Central Ave. site was acquired by the Nation Of Islam. Even later, a nearby property was occupied by the Black Panthers.

The Recorded In Hollywood (RIH) label was begun in 1950 by John Dolphin, owner of the Dolphin’s Of Hollywood record shop at Vernon (“20 magic steps west of Central Ave.”) to both promote his shop and to make money on the occasional hit, of which he had several. A few of these early RIH releases were by jazz cocktail-hour pianist Errol Garner, but most were of the rhythm and blues, blues and harder jazz genres. In two years (1950 and 1951), close to a total of 200 RIH 78s were issued.The first few RIH 78s (no 45s were issued in these earliest years), which were generally available only at the store, were credited to gospel groups like the Heavenly Bound Gospel Singers, the Roberta Martin Singers and the WMA Soul Stirrers Of Houston Texas. Though on a very early RIH pressing, Roberta Martin’s “Only A Look” was released in 1951.

The debut of Scat Man Crothers on RIH was in 1951 under the name Scat Man Carothers with Riff Charles. “Elaine” used deathless rhymes like “Elaine, get off that train” and sounding for all the world like “Brown Gal” the Brown Dots, later much better known as “Bad Boy” by the Jive Bombers. The flipside, ”Man, Have I Got Troubles” had much more prominent guitar, but with a novelty-style vocal. Scat Man’s next, “I Like Your Mother Better” b/w “I’d Rather Stay In The House With The Mouse” by the Jackson Trio. In 1953, he was Scat Man Caruthers on “Waiting For My Baby” b/w “Easy Money,” a pari-mutuel adventure with a racetrack fan fare opening.After “Easy Money,” things get confusing. On the earliest RIH release to be issued on 45 rpm at the point of release, Scat Man Crothers was spelled correctly. Backed by the Red Callender Sextet, “Papa (I Don’t Treat That Little Girl Mean)” was an “answer” record to Ruth Brown’s 1953 Atlantic label mega-hit, “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” even though the catalog issue number placed it immediately after “Elaine.” Trusting the issue number would have meant it was released in about 1951, or a year and a half prior to the record it answered.Most likely what happened was that the RIH label had label paper left-over from the Callender-backed Imogene Meyers 78rpm flop, “Tonight Of All Nights” b/w “How Come, Baby,” an earlier example of RIH 142 issued in 1951. Alternatively, was Dolphin deviously using old label paper in an ill-advised attempt to establish his version of the material as the original, about a year and a half before Brown’s release?As Callender was featured name on many sequential 78s, it’s not out of the question that Callender’s name would have been pre-printed on many labels with only the vocal artist and title remaining to be added, thus forever confusing discographers. The flipside of the Crothers’ disc was Red Callender’s “Till I Waltz Again With You,” probably on labels printed up at the same time as that rash of Callender issues from 1951. All of that indicates that another side like the Meyers was removed as the Crothers disc was considered a sure fire hit. Didn’t hit, mattered little to Dolphin. The pairing of Crothers and Callender moonlighted on the new Aladdin subsidiary, Intro on “A-Gruntin’ And A-Groanin’,” combining R&B with professional wrestling, which was just getting some high profile popularity on TV out of the Olympic Auditorium in L.A. After Crothers next, “King Berman’s Stomp” b/w “Just Like Two Drops Of Water,” the Intro label became an outlet for a weird mixture of mainly western and pop music. J

Red Callender also backed the first RIH artist to chart nationally. Jimmy Grissom (B: Leland, Ms ) hit with “Once There Lived A Fool” in late Feb. 1951, apparently selling more than twenty thousand copies during the first week of release. Though it wasn’t a chart burner, “Once There Lived A Fool” was covered by Dusty Brooks & His Tones on Columbia, Charles Brown on Aladdin, Big John Greer on RCA, Savannah Churchill & the Striders on Regal, Anita O’Day on London, Jimmy Witherspoon on Modern, Tommy Edwards on MGM and Tony Bennett on Columbia. Only Grissom’s original charted, at #7 R&B on the national level.Witherspoon recalled that Grissom original. He had a hit record and we covered it on Modern Records with the same instrumentation, Maxwell Davis on both of them. Modern had distribution, Dolphin didn’t. The Bihari brothers hired Maxwell Davis as musical director. He couldn’t record with John Lee Hooker, because John Lee made 36 bars or 8 bars or 4 bars.” Grissom’s next, “I Lost My Inspiration” b/w “Once In Love Blues” was twice issued on RIH, then the b-side came out on the Federal label, b/w “I’ll Still Keep Loving You,” originally the b-side of Grissom’s only “Once There Lived A Fool,” Grissom’s only RIH hit, one of about 40 recordings King/Federal acquired from RIH. However King/Federal issued only a handful.Grissom’s recorded “The Hole In The Wall” b/w “Walkin’ Blues” and “So Help Me I Love You” before going to a more major role with the Duke Ellington Orch., In April 1955 Grissom returned to Dolphin’s newly formed Cash label with “I Had To Find Out For Myself,” a Leon Rene composition and a remake of the Drifters release from 1950 b/w “Listen Pretty Baby.”

“Homesick Blues” was the first record by Alvin Smith (B: Monroe, La., Aug. 1926) & His Clouds Of Rhythm with Que Martyn, tenor sax. Martyn was the credited artist on the flipside, “Calypso Jump.” Smith went on to record for Music City out of Berkeley in 1954 and with the Angels on Irma out of Oakland in 1957, Gedinson’s and Art-Tone in 1962. Smith returned to L.A. in the late 1960s to record for Modern and Kent labels.

Gene Forrest with the Eddie Beale Fourtet Gene Forrest (b: San Antonio, TX; Sept. 3, 1931) arrived in L.A. in early 1940s, went to school at St. Patrick’s. First recorded.with the Eddie Beale Fourtet on “It Was You” b/w “Everybody’s Got Money,” a rather ordinary urban blues.“That was the thing for singers at the time,” said Forrest. “I started as a single. I was just walking down the street one day and I went in John Dolphin’s office. I asked him if he’d record me. He cut me. I was scouting around at the time. I didn’t know the business too much. First record I did pretty well. That was the only songs, just whatever came to mind.” The session was conducted by pianist Monroe Tucker, who Forrest described as “a cripple, very deformed. He couldn’t walk, you had to carry him when you’d go.” According to Forrest, Tucker played the introduction, but Forrest backed himself on piano.Other artists would wait their turn during sessions. “A lot of us were in line. I didn’t have no business with them.” Forrest recalled that Dolphin “took advantage of you. He wouldn’t want to do business. He would outtalk the devil, if the devil would listen. He was fast-talking before you could tie your shoes. He was so arrogant, he would treat you like dirt, try to ride you in the background, stick that cigar in your face for emphasis. He usually worked out of any back alley he could find. I did my session at Jefferson and Main, right over an iron company.”Forrest was also the first local act to perform at the brand new 5/4 Ballroom at 54th and Broadway in South L.A. Forrest next recorded with the Freddy Simmons Quintet on the slightly more riveting “Thrill Your Soul” b/w a Freddy Simon instrumental, “Hollywood Bound.” As the Gene Forrest Combo, he recorded “Picture On The Wall” b/w “Little Children,” about Forrest’s children. “They were little enough to have me sing, ‘come to your mama and papa.’”After Dolphin, Forrest left RIH “Aching and Crying” at RPM. “It was a random thing. You go to one company, they’ll cut something. No special contract. They liked the song, I’ll cut it, a hustle and bustle thing. I played at that time with Chuck Higgins, so he was probably on it, blowing tenor sax.Higgins backed Forrest with the Four Feathers on Aladdin, then Forrest hooked up with Eunice Levy as half of Gene & Eunice, whose “Ko Ko Mo” went straight to the top in 1955.



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