Jack Nitzsche at Spectropop presents
Prod. by Marty Cooper
Arr. & Cond. Jack Nitzsche
|Blowing their own trumpets
It's only natural that Marty Cooper and Jack Nitzsche, two eager-to-learn white guys with a love of music and based in the r'n'b/pop melting pot that was Hollywood at the time, should find themselves working together. That their first collaboration should be an instrumental was most apt; a genre that would soon provide one of the pair's biggest selling and most enduring compositions, "The Lonely Surfer".
In late 1960 Marty Cooper founded his first record label, Capella. The first release was The Ineligibles "Do The Groove"/"Just The Things That You Do", Capella 501. There will be more on this later but, jumping the gun, the next 45, Capella 502, was released in January 1961. Released by a studio group dubbed The Greensleeves, the cuts were a re-working of "Greensleeves" adapted by Maye, Turnbull and Cooper, and "Horse Opera" written by the trio. The arranger on the session, one of his first, was Jack Nitzsche. "By the time Jack was signed for his first session we had been hanging out for a long time. He was married, I was single and I spent a lot of time with Jack and his wife Gracia." "Greensleeves" is a rocking take of the old English folk tune written by a former king of England, Henry VIII. This and the b-side "Horse Opera" are strong tunes with bluesy rocking beats. It was a goodie, but sales were marginal, and apparently no further releases appeared on the label. Cooper on the credits is obvious, Turnbull is discussed later, but I would love to know more on the identity of 'Maye'. Could it be Gracia Nitzsche using her maiden name, May(e)?
Although it's proved impossible to accurately date, I'd assume the next Cooper - Nitzsche collaboration was "Salvation City" by a studio 'band', modestly named The Cooperstown Volunteer Band. Pressed on another Marty Cooper label, Interlude Records, this appears to have been the only release. Not only that but the few records I know of featured the same track on both sides. (Naturally, any more information on this or any of the other records mentioned is eagerly sought.) Utilizing part of the tune from "Horse Opera", the take is very different but equally as good. Big drums, trombones, trumpets, and horns, sounds like, in fact it is, a brass band or, as it is termed in the US, a marching band. It may not seem a recipe for chart action but if more people had heard the tune it sounds to me like it could have been.
The next 45 to bear the Cooper - Nitzsche credit was a vocal, Sherrell Townsend's "He Thinks I Still Care" on Gone Records. One of the first 'obscure' Nitzsche records I bought and I was blown away. The song, written by Dickey Lee Lipscomb, was a big country hit for George Jones and fast became something of a country classic. There have been many releases of the song but surely none compare to Sherrell's version. Sherrell, possessing one of those voices that sucks you in and spits you out spent, imbues the song with longing and passion. Thanks to Westside Records and compilers Mick Patrick and Malcolm Baumgart, the track is available on the CD "Girls Will Be Girls - Vol. 1". When compiling the CD, Mick was able to not only 'cop a look' at the tracks master-tapes but to scan the box and accompanying note from Marty to Gone Records head honcho, George Goldner. He's kindly shared these bits of esoteric paraphernalia with the site. The b-side to "He Thinks..." has also been re-released on Westside's double CD "George Goldner Presents The Gone Story: Doo-Wop To Soul 1957-1963". The song "Glass Of Tears", a bluesy run-through with little of the arranging magic heard on the a-side, is one of only two compositions that I know of to feature a BERNARD Nitzsche credit.
"Dear George, Here are your master tapes. I sure hope we can move fast on this - until I talk to you Monday afternoon, Marty Cooper"In the early 60s Jack worked with some amazing female vocalists, The Blossoms (who seemed to be on almost all his records), Merry Clayton, Ramona King and Dorothy Berry amongst them. Even if they didn't all go on to find fame and fortune they all received a high measure of respect. Sherrell seems to have missed out on this, but put this down to a lack of 45s (under her own name at least) rather than a lack of talent. Despite being released twice, first on Lute in April '61 and then on H.B. Barnum's Little Star label approximately mid-62, (perhaps trying to cash-in on an expected success for the Gone release), the only other songs to bear her name were Lester Carr's "Summer Days Are Here" and Carl White's "I Love You Alone". Both records bear the frustrating "An HB Production" credit which, as usual, lists no arranger. Jack was working and learning a lot from HB at the time and I'd like to think he was involved with the recording. Both sides are excellent soulful productions, good songs with delightful, strong vocals from Sherrell. When Marty and Jack decided to record their version of "He Thinks I Still Care" I'd guess Jack had no hesitation in recommending Sherrell for the lead vocal. Sherrell most likely made at least one other credited appearance on vinyl. Supplying backing vocals on Denny Brooks' self-titled LP on Warner Brothers was a Sherell Townsend Atwood. She joined singers (and possibly old friends) of the stature of Clydie King, Gloria Jones, Merry Clayton, Carolyn Willis and Oma Drake.
Next up was a dance number entitled "The Cinnamon Cinder", named after a popular nightclub of the day and written by a friend and associate of Marty's, Russ Regan. Gathering a group of LA's finest in the studio, the names of which are lost in the mists of time, the 45 was released with high hopes on the mainstream Warner Brothers label. The Pastel Six soon dashed Marty's assumption that he had an exclusive on the song when Russ released his own version. The Cinders is a good record but for my taste just a bit too 'polite'. The Pastel Six's rougher, live sound won the chart battle. Flip the Cinders 45 over though and here on a Cooper - Nitzsche composition "C'mon Wobble" you do get a tougher more meaty side. I'm not sure if both tracks were laid down at the same time with the same personnel but on this side Darlene Love's wailing can be easily enjoyed. Marty does recall some of the session:"C'mon Wobble. Don't know the personnel but I do remember that I had the brilliant idea to use two drummers. Jack couldn't see it at all but called them anyway and of course he was right. It was stupid."
Another instrumental followed the Cinders' 45. The artist, or I suppose more accurately the duet, was the intriguingly named Bernardo Martini. You don't need to be the brains of Britain to work out that Bernard(o) is Nitzsche and Martin(i) is Cooper. As well as arranging and producing, they co-wrote the b-side, "Silver Dust". And what do you know? It's the third take of "Horse Opera" - "Salvation City". It's a strong tune, so the pair can't be faulted for sticking with it. This time, as is the flip, it was arranged as a cowboy-western theme. The a-side, "Ghost Town", was a solo Turnbull tune and it is not hard to imagine it booming out from the big screen's speakers as John Wayne rides into a deserted shanty town. Graham Morrison Turnbull, aka Scott Turner*1, was by this time, the early sixties, well established as a writer. He was a musician and prolific writer either solo or in partnership with Herb Albert, Harry Nillson and many others. "Greensleeves" and Bernardo Martini were not the only Turnbull - Nitzsche collaborations. He wrote "Chivaree" and its flip, "Tell Your Story Walkin'", both tunes arranged by Jack for another instrumental studio group, the Crab Creek County High School Band. Lee Hazlewood produced this single for Old Town. Scott Turner wrote a tune with Jack called "Go Shout It From A Mountain" which was released by Jamie Horton on Joy. Jack also arranged the cut but the song is not one of the pair's strongest. When I began my research on this article I dropped Mr. Scott Turner a line. I'm delighted he took the time to reply. His letter is re-printed on the right.
Jack and Marty had so far collaborated on five recordings. The sixth, in 1963, was just as different from the previous five as they were from each other. Another instrumental, another studio group, this time the interestingly named Edgar Alan and the Po' Boys. It was another LA recording studio, although this time the tracks were licensed to the main east coast subsidiary of Laurie, Rust Records, and it was another new sound. "Panic Button" wasn't the horror that might have been expected, a drum-intro mid-tempo dance number, cool handclaps, plucked mandolin strings and groovy beat. Best heard at the 'Go-Go' club, wearing your diamond-patterned polyester sweater, grooving on the dance floor but still carefully nursing your dry Martini and lemonade. "Lenore" on the other side is a slow and bluesy honky-tonk piano based jazz workout. Best heard late at night, in a sleazy nightclub, bourbon in one hand, dame on the other studiously wiping away your tears. Marty Cooper and Jack Nitzsche were working well together but the best was still to come.
*1Scott Turner's career in music from his early compositions for Slim Whitman and Tommy Sands to working with Buddy Holly, Herb Alpert, Audie Murphy et al. makes for a fascinating story and some great music. You can now hear Scott narrating his story, some songs never previously released and some rare photos. Twenty-one 90-minute cassette tapes are available from the Music Morsel web site.
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