Stay Tuned By Stan Cornyn: The Loma Label -- Worth Remembering

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Thursday, September 19, 2013
60s
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Stay Tuned By Stan Cornyn: The Loma Label -- Worth Remembering

Every Tuesday and Thursday, former Warner Bros. Records executive and industry insider Stan Cornyn ruminates on the past, present, and future of the music business.

1964-1968

In those years, Warner/Reprise had a baby, a curious label called Loma Records. As the headline above boasts, it was “Worth Remembering,” but not because it was a success. It was a financial failure.

Warners’ Mo Ostin was reaching out for markets beyond Sinatra-pop, and other white-pop/rock/etc. To get this new material, Mo tapped on a hot-ears promotion expert named Bob Krasnow. Name an oddity, Krasnow could name its tunes.

Krasnow came aboard, running the new sub-label at WBR. It was named for a street near Burbank where Krasnow lived. Not that a big street, either.

Although Loma had between few and no hits in its early years, Krasnow’s opinions about music often sounded wise. When Mo Ostin played Krasnow an English single by The Kinks, Krasnow begged for it for Loma. (Mo kept it on Reprise.)

Krasnow reached out to original music makers without deals, and signed them for a single or two.

Few are now remembered. If you’re looking for Biggies, this is not what this post is about. But if you’d like to learn how to hear what hits sound like, hear like a Krasnow, that is what early Loma can do for you.

Not because Loma remains a collectors’ magnet. It’s nowhere near, say, Okeh Records or even Ric Tic. No, Loma never got its sales up the mast.

Then why? Because its head man, Bob Krasnow, pulled together R&B’s finest producers, arrangers, song-smiths, and, best of all, its soul singers.

As the dates up top reveal, this Loma label lasted only four years, barely four. So at this point, a detailed history of Loma doesn’t have much appeal. What might appeal is a list of those artists and their records, even though Warner/Loma seemed to have no sense of how to break their records, move an unknown up any chart, or even embrace it with the same zest that its labels embraced Freddy Cannon or Dick and DeeDee.

Loma Medium to High Lights:

So let’s look in the scrapbook, and see what we can find that’s worth a word or two.

1964. On August 23, Loma issued its first single. By Billy Storm. “I Never Want to Dream Again.” No reaction from radio or stores. Billy had been in many bands like The Sabers and The Valiants, and sang a bit like Little Richard. His Loma single is hardly remembered.

The “fringe” market in 1964 was inclined to the latest sound and dance: “The Jerk.” Tunes like it felt likely to appeal to radio. Loma responded with “The Big Jerk” by The Blue Jays, but it, too, went nowhere.

1965. The Enchanters came out with “I Paid for the Party,” listed here mainly because it had been produced for Loma by writer/producer Jerry Ragovoy. Between ’66 and ’68, Jerry became a full-time A&R man for Warners. He would become the producer for Loma’s Lorraine Ellison (see “1967” below), who became famous for her screaming “Stay with Me” and “Try (A Little Bit Harder)” album cuts, which lived on and later became hits for sister-screamer Janis Joplin.

1966. Ike & Tina Turner. “Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show” album. In 1965, Warner put out a “Live!” album which went Top Ten on the R&B charts that February (Ike Turner spread its tapes around, having given Kent Records a similar release in 1964). Ike and Turner were struggling in ’65. Then, in 1966, Loma had still another “Show!” (“2”) album out on the market. In the Warner/Loma releases, Tina Turner is at her height, shouting and screaming through songs like “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Ooh Poo Pah Doo,” ten songs in all.

But Ike and Tina had other contract obligations, and zap like that they were back on the Philles label, where they broke worldwide with “River Deep, Mountain High.”

1966. Loma released its first imported single in July. They’d already put out 50 singles without being blessed by sales. Time to look around for …. The Belfast Gypsies’ “Gloria’s Dream,” with likely sidemen Van Morrison and his band Them, produced by Kim Fowley. (Shortly thereafter, Morrison signed with Warner Bros. Records.) And the Belfast’s Gypsies wandered off into psychedelia.

1966-1968. Comedian Redd Foxx came forward with four albums for Loma, making him the most sales-valuable artist on the label. Albums were (or are): 1966: “Both Sides Of…”; 1967: “On the Loose” and “Live in Las Vegas”; and finally 1968’s “Foxx-a-Delic.”

Mr. Foxx had a solid base at Warner/Loma, particularly because his releases didn’t need any “singles” airplay, either on R&B or pop stations. No one characterized him as a “soul comic.”

He succeeded just as other comedians on the Warner labels had. His records were, however, more “explicit” than most.

Post-Loma, Foxx ran on, into TV shows like “Sanford and Sun.” He kept at it for another 20+ years until his death in 1991.

1966. The Olympics. This local Los Angeles group had the original version of the hit single, “Good Lovin’,” but another act (the doo-wop Young Rascals on Atlantic) quick-cut (“covered” is the more polite term) the song, and ran theirs ahead to the top, even appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. Less exposure (“Shindig”) came to The Olympics on Loma. But it’s worth watching:

Reach back to watch The Olympics perform “Good Lovin” on Shindig here:

1966. Richard “Groove” Holmes. His Loma album, “Bowl of Soul,” came amid neo-jazz releases from other West Coast labels like Pacific Jazz.

Holmes was a hot organ player, so “soul jazz” was Loma’s approach to “Bowl of Soul.” Or as Loma now defined itself: “Uptown Soul.”

1967. Linda Jones. After several other spells with soul labels (Atco and Blue Cat), she recorded her biggest hit, “Hypnotized” for Loma. It hit both the R&B chart (#4) and the Pop Singles chart (#21). Then “What Have I Done (To Make You Mad).” Her career started moving, but she soon contracted a deadly form of diabetes. She died in her Harlem home in 1972, resting there between the matinee and evening shows at the Apollo Theatre.

Linda Jones sings “Hypnotized” here:

1967: Lorraine Ellison. She, together with Linda Jones, made Loma’s releases in 1967 sound like an all-girl label. She would graduate to being on Warner Itself within a year.

Hear Lorraine Ellison sing "I'm Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry" here:

1967. J.J. Jackson had recorded for more labels than any around, and this year he quickly authored four, including “Sho Nuff (Got a Good Thing Going,” “Try Me,” “Too Late,” “Come See Me,” “I Don’t Want to Live My Life Alone,” and more. But it was getting late for Loma. J.J. was hot, though, and Warner would keep him and his singles close.

1968. The last single on Loma was John Wonderling: “Midway Down” /“Man of Straw” (Loma 2106), and that got transferred to the Warner label. Nothing became of the record, nor of Wonderling himself. Psychedelic music had tanked. It took Wonderling another five years to create an album. I couldn’t even find a photo of him.

Loma Takes a Nap

The Loma label was being discontinued. Krasnow had moved on to launch Buddah Records.

Of the Loma artists still of interest in 1968, three vocalists – Lorraine Ellison, Linda Jones, and J.J. Jackson -- were transferred over to Warner. And since there was no Loma staff (it had just been a “put it out on a label name” since Krasnow had left), no beat was missed.

Except, wait a minute …. Forget The Marvellos. Let’s get back to some hits!

- Stay Tuned

Loma Part Two

In 1974, Mo Ostin felt that his Warner-Reprise labels, by then on top of the world, were not atop the world of black music. That year, Ostin reached out to a man whose talents had proved themselves shrewd in the six years after Loma had been abandoned.

Once again, Mo Ostin turned to Bob Krasnow, and Loma the Second was resuscitated.

(To hear what happened next – Loma Part Two – you can click on another blog post from “Stay Tuned,” called “BOOTSIE-FUNKADELIC” and learn the rest of this story. Hits!)