Going For A Song: The Curious Case Of The Tune That Wasn’t.

A genuine Blue Note mystery from LJC reader Markus S, and his copy of Blue Hour – Stanley Turrentine with The Three Sounds BLP 4057 (1961)

Selection: Please Send Me Someone To Love (Mayfield)

.  .   .

Stanley Turrentine, tenor saxophone; Gene Harris, piano; Andrew Simpkins. bass; Bill Dowdy, drums; recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, recorded December 16, 1960, released February 1961.

Music

Subject music already posted a few years back, no need to repeat the review. This mystery takes a different turn.

Vinyl 4057 :    W63i, dg, P, RVGs

Cohen: 1st edition – W63i, dg, P, RVGs

Note: Side One Track One on label and jacket, Please Send Me Someone To Love (Percy Mayfield)’ You will need to remember this.

Another auction copy: same original pressing characteristics, same Percy Mayfield song Track 1, different water stains on the cover.

The song Please Send Me Someone To Love was written by Percy Mayfield, rhythm-and-blues singer with a smooth vocal style, recorded  in 1950 for Art Rupe’s Specialty Records. It was in the R&B chart for 27 weeks and reached the number one position, Mayfield’s biggest R&B hit.

Over the following decade the song was still earning Mayfield royalties through numerous cover versions, notably including  Dinah Washington 1951

and crooner-heart-throb, Pat Boone 1957:

More covers followed: The Moonglows 1957, Roy Hamilton 1959, Lloyd Price 1960, each time you get the tune, Percy got the royalties.

Fast forward  to February 1961, the commercial release of BLP 4057 Turrentine and The Three Sounds Blue Hour was imminent. Recording session was held in the run up to Christmas, takes selected, Van Gelder mastering, plating and metal parts completed, Keystone typeset and printed the labels, Plastylite had the first batch of several hundred pressing already completed, promos stamped  ready for despatch. Just one problem. Turrentine and The Three Sounds had opened the album with a cover version of Mayfield’s Please Send Me Someone to Love.

Cue –  Blue Note offices, 47 West 63rd Street, New York,  a frosty February morning, and the order of the day, a business update for Alfred Lion. Morning gentlemen.

Ike Quebec, Blue Note A&R : Gentlemen, we have a problem:  the Turrentine  Blue Hour licensing. Stan and the boys lead with a cover of a that Percy Mayfield hit, Send Me Someone to Love.

Lion: Jah, great tune…schvings good…

Quebec: Mayfield’s agent just called. He says our people need to talk to his people, though I don’t think he means “people”, I think he means lawyers.

Lion: Jah, big difference. We can’t afford a deal with Mayfield’s people at this stage. We already paid Rudy for the session and mastering, Reid for the artwork, the  type and cover fabrication is done, and Plastylite have started pressing.  I heard the lawyers are getting very cute on these plagiarism claims, it’s big money. No way do we go back into the studio for this. Ideas, gentlemen?

Wolff: Alfred, these Blues tunes all sound the same. Three chords.  Change the song name, something obscure, composer probably long gone. Register with the composer’s  widow, grateful for a few cents, may never need to pay out. We salvage all the spend to date, just print fresh labels and liner notes with the new title and credits, get it out. They’ll never know.

Lion: Genius, Francis!  Ike, tell Mayfield’s agent we don’t need a licensing deal. There has been a mistake in the office. Stella in accounts typed the wrong name. Ike, do you have a song credit in mind?

Quebec: Yeah, sure, I think I know just the tune, a thirties tune no-one knows, writers lost in the mists of time.  Leave it to me.

Wolff: What about the 400 copies already pressed in the stockroom upstairs, ready to go to disk jockeys and our distributors?

Quebec: We get them shrink-wrapped. There’s new postal auction service Yo’ Bay just catching on We sell them as sealed records “original, insanely rare, sealed”. Most buyers will never open them, Mayfield’s lawyers  will never get wind of it.

Lion: Great! Stella, fetch some coffee and donuts, I’m starving.

Stella: (stops taking minutes) Ok boys, wouldn’t want to make a mistake, usual order, white . . . no sugar?

.  .  .

A week later. . .

The record sounds exactly the same as it did before, but now looks like this:

Rapid change in printed song title and composer credits, but of course the same recording. Side one track one becomes I want a little Girl, a song written written in 1930 by Billy Moll and Murray Mencher, first recorded on shellac by the popular McKinney’s Cotton Pickers:

The “little girl” of course was not, in modern vernacular, an under-age girl, though  I’m not sure many would risk that title today. All subsequent editions and reissues credit Billy Moll and Murray Mencher. A Bill Perkins laid back West Coast cool edition of I Want A Little Girl maintains the Mayfield circumvention

So this is where we end up – this becomes that.

The new shorter song title enables the track title  and composer credit to fit on one line, shifting all the text below up a line. That aside, they are identical – apart from the ink colour.

One of these is the “First First Pressing” and the other the “Second First Pressing”. Simple as that, really.

Collector’s Corner

Words are made from just 26 letters, music is made up of just 12 notes, give or take a few octaves, which together yield a practically infinite number of songs, and there is a blurred line between inspiration, imitation, and theft.

In the litigious music industry of the 60s, plagiarism law suits became a heavy industry. People could make money out of  selling records, or make money by accusing other artists of stealing their work, plagiarism or copyright theft. Blue Note found a  smart way around the Mayfield problem, attributing the song to another genuine composer, printing a fresh batch of labels and liner notes.  Who really can tell the difference between one string of blues chord changes and another?

Hold the line caller, Mr Lion, I have Mr Leadbelly’s agent on line three…”

To play you out: Phineus Newborn Jr hits the ivories with a whole album under the title Please Send Me Someone To Love (1969 Contemporary). Phineas-Newborn-Please-sens-me-someone-to-love-cover-1800-LJC-1Please Send Me Someone To Love (Mayfield)

. . .

Artists: Phineas Newborn Jr. (piano) Ray Brown (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded at Contemporary studios, LA, February 12 & 13, 1969.

Consulting Vinyl Detective LJC says: My thanks to jazz collector Markus S for the mystery. I’m told the biggest problem in the music business is not the music, plenty of that around, it is the business. I made up the story as the most likely explanation, fitted the facts, and may be embellished it a little, might even be true.

If you have any jazz mysteries, send them in. I’ll think about them.

LJC

15 thoughts on “Going For A Song: The Curious Case Of The Tune That Wasn’t.

  1. I bought more Mono copies of Blue Hour than any other Blue Note trying to find a “clean” copy.
    During the 90’s, not all early Blue Notes were going for outrageous sums like they are now. I was working for one of the main Jazz dealers in the Tri-State area helping him buy large original collections. Every W 63rd St., Deep Groove, RVG, “P”, I came across had light ticking throughout. Original Stereo copies however played clean which raised a series of questions.To add to my frustration I was asked to help pick up an almost unplayed collection that inclueded a Mono copy of Blue Hour that showed no evidence of ever being played….AND IT TICKED TOO!!
    For years I had been selling Blue Note pressings with mixed labels and jackets to someone who was trying to document all the variations(he became one of Fred’s sources for his Blue Note book). I was told that I didn’t have the expertise to proclaim that “ALL” original Mono copies were pressed from a bad master plate. About a year later he told me that I may be correct as he couldn’t find a copy that didn’t have tics also.
    Sorry for all this dribble but this last exchange happened in 2003 and I still haven’t confirmed my suspicions one way or another.
    Is there anyone out there that has a quiet, tic-free,original Mono pressing?
    My OCD just won’t let this go:)

  2. Andrew, fantastic read. Truly amazing. Your site and its amazing contributors have taught me how much that I don’t know, I didn’t know. It’s really a history lesson in recorded jazz. Thanks for helping (to Andrew, too all of you) to teach an American about – – our history and the history of everyone who has produced, recorded, and documented it. It is fascinating that the unique characteristics of America (we have more layers per capita than any other industrialized nation) can have such a profound shape on the development and recent business strategy of recorded jazz.

  3. Don’t underestimate the capacity for genuine human error when looking at these things like this. Such mistakes were no respecters of eminence either: off the top of my head, I can think of three Miles Davis LPs that have label/cover printing errors on the first pressings.

    First there’s the famous mis-spelling of “Adderly” on the cover of Kind of Blue as well as the muddling up of the order of Flamenco Sketches and All Blues. Second, the original labels of Miles (Prestige 7014) credits the record to “The New Miles Davis Quartet” when it should have been “Quintet”. Lastly, the cover of Cookin’ mistakenly includes Just Squeeze Me in the track listing instead of When The Lights Are Low.

    • That’s very true, however, what makes this particular case stands out that they made the effort to swiftly correct this error, at what likely came with a significant price tag for a small indie label. So there’s definitely a story behind this.

      • Yes, that’s a good point – thank you for drawing my attention to it. However, it is possible that they waited until the next pressing run as the first economically/logistically sensible point to make the correction. If that was the case, then the price tag may not have been such a factor. It would, of course, have been a significant factor if they had needed to withdraw the copies with the error. I don’t know if there’s any evidence to support that scenario or not?

        • Printing corrected labels and rear sleeve slicks wouldn’t have been expensive, unique slicks were printed just for promotion at that time, and as I mentioned previously I’m surprised they didn’t paste over a corrected track listing as was reasonably common practice for printing errors on sleeves, so likely nobody spotted the error until after the records were out in the retail market and recalling them would have cost money. The fact they didn’t correct it until the second run means it may well have been feedback from buyers that pointed out the error, after all it had got past everyone at Blue Note the first time round.

          • And this supports the theory that the pressing with the Mayfield listing is an authentic first, while the other one, with the Moll-Mencher listing, would be a second pressing, even with DG, despite being previously considered a first pressing. And I say that with beaming happiness (and a little bit of hope for this theory being correct), as my copy has the Mayfield listing.

  4. Interesting to see that you approached this from a different angle, Andy. But I still think that the theory that the Mayfield tune itself borrows from the Moll-Mencher tune is a bit more likely. If the issue was that they wanted to avoid potential litigation with the Mayfield estate, why rename the song to an already existing tune from the 1930s and open up yourself to another potential lawsuit? Why not make up an entirely new title and give Turrentine or Harris credit?

    But then I also think that Klaus’ theory is plausible – a simple mistake. I guess we will never find out, since everyone involved with this session is long gone. Add it to the long list of Blue Note mysteries.

  5. looking at the liner notes, there’s an evident difference when the song ” I Want a Little Girl” is cited.
    on the second first you can read: Old Count Basie fans will remember Jimmy Rushing’s original vocal plea of I Want a Little Girl. The entire phrase is missing if the record brings Please Send Me Someone To Love. left column, last two lines of last but two paragraphs.

    • Such attention to detail Dottore, I compliment you. Surgery to the liner notes, of course, obvious with hindsight. As they say, hindsight is 20:20, but the rarest of qualities is foresight. I never saw that coming.

  6. Two months between recording and release. Perhaps a lapse in quality control in their rush to get it out the door. Or maybe Rudy just wasn’t familiar with the tunes and wrote down the wrong title. In any case, I was wondering about the stereo release of this recording. It came out in August of ‘61. Is there evidence that the alt labels exist on the stereo release?

  7. Over the years I’ve been involved in putting music out there have been more instances than one would expect where musicians have “borrowed” from a song without realising it, until pointed out, have given themselves composition credits for someone else’s song thinking they’ve written it, (had one or two heated discussions there), or just got the title of what they are covering wrong. Musicians, engineers, even A and R people are just as fallible as anyone else, perhaps more so. Based on my experience Klaus has a very plausible explanation, whoever wrote the session notes got it wrong. I’m surprised they didn’t paste over the incorrect title, I suspect they didn’t spot the error until the first batch was sold.

  8. I know both songs fairly well and if you listen to the melody again I’m sure you’ll end up with a different scenario:
    Feb. 61, Stanley Turrentine visits the Blue Note Office.
    Lion: Hallo, Stan, gut to see you, vee have finished your album with the Three Sounds, look, here’s the cover!
    Stan: Uh-uh, you got something wrong here, we didn’t play “Please Send Me Someone To Love”.
    Wolff: But that’s what Rudy wrote down, here, listen.
    Stan: Nah, that ain’t Percy’s tune, that’s “I Want A Little Girl”!
    Lion: Verdammt! Now we have to print new labels and back covers.

    Besides, by 1961 Mayfield’s days as a good-selling artist were over, he made his living as a songwriter (among others for Ray Charles) and I’m sure he would have appreciated someone covering his song, which meant income for him. On the other hand, if any copyright lawyers representing the writers of “I Want A Little Girl” would have noticed that someone else is getting royalties for their song, that would’ve meant trouble.
    I think it becomes very clear that they indeed play “I Want A Little Girl” if you compare it to a vocal version:

    • I like the Germanic phoenetics. Occam’s Razor strikes again, the simplest explanation is the most likely. It’s a weakness, I know, but as a story teller, I delight in complexity. Most likely it was a simple mistake.

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