LA's longest-running party for 80's-based funk, boogie, electro and modern soul expands its signature sound to the Virgil, right in the heart of Silverlake. Musical selections provided by Stones Throw artist and founder Dam-Funk, plus residents Laroj, Billy Goods, Randy Watson, Matt Respect and Eddy Funkster.
9/18: Record Release Party for "CATCH ACTION: The Sophisticated Boogie Funk Of Sheridan House Records" Compilation on Luv N' Haight / Ubiquity Records
KENT HARRIS & UBIQUITY RECORDS PRESENTS: “CATCH ACTION”
The Sophisticated Boogie Funk Of Sheridan House Records 1978 to1984
Compiled by Shane “Sureshot” Hunt
I have to be brutally honest with you, when it comes down to liner notes; I often find them to be a bit dry! Loaded with catalogue numbers, outrageous eBay dollar values of key releases, dead-wrong facts and sometimes even rude or unqualified critiques that would make even the Smithsonian bored. The truth of the matter is, music is powerful and very personal. It either resonates with you or it doesn’t. Rather than try and describe every single tune, I’m going to let the music speak for itself. I’m pretty sure that if like this era of Soul, you will love the Sheridan House sound. I certainly do. Whether your ‘Cup of Tea’ is categorized as: Modern, Two-Step, Northern, Electro, Disco, Freestyle, Synth or Boogie Funk, it’s all here and we got you covered.
The Sheridan House label initially was a bit mysterious to me, relatively unknown outside of modern soul collectors and rare funk deejays. There were no picture sleeves on any of the dozen or so vinyl 12ins I found, just plain white generic jackets with a few color variations on the inner labels. No full-length albums released either. Needless to say, there was little information for me to go on (and there still really isn’t). One thing was for certain; the high caliber production quality of all the releases weren’t your typical low-budget home bedroom studio sound you hear on many private press dance singles that flooded the market in the eighties. After some passionate detective work and a few years of digging, the results have finally come into fruition via the Ubiquity release in your hands. All of these hard to find and often-expensive singles are together for the first time. The selected tracks have been digitally cleaned up from the original
tape and vinyl sources and brilliantly mastered, sounding better than ever. Sorry if I’m sounding a bit like a late night infomercial, but we’re even throwing in some alternate mixes and unreleased songs that we’ve unearthed. Although it is technically a compilation, you’ll find the tunes really mesh together as one cohesive unit. That lush signature production touch of Kent Harris is certainly felt throughout and it’s a true snapshot of his best body of work during this unique time frame.
Before we dive deep into the Jheri curl, jumpsuits, Keytar & Linn drums period of funk represented here, let’s get familiar with a little bit of RICH royal history. Believe me, we are only going to scratch the surface! The sheer amount of: Singer, Songwriter & Production credits to Kent Harris’ name are mind-boggling. Saying this dude has had his ‘Eggs in many baskets’ is truly an understatement! He is a major player in the Los Angeles music scene: Past, Present & Future. Very few can claim a discography spanning 7 decades and even fewer with R&B, Soul, Rock & Roll, Blues, Country, Jazz, Disco and Funk musical genres included. But who is Kent Harris you ask? Well, he’s the man they call ‘Ducky Drake’, ‘Boogaloo’, ‘Roscoe Scully’ and ‘Stumblin’ Blue’ for starters and one of the most important American music icons you may have never heard of.
Kent was born in Oklahoma City in 1930 and in 1936 his family relocated to sunny San Diego, California where he still resides. His singing siblings Marcene, Beverly and Betty Harris recorded as The Harris Sisters and released 4 singles for Capitol Records including the doo wop classics “Kissin’ Bug” and “Don’t Let Me Fall In Love”. Betty was the oldest, Marcene was the next and Beverly was the youngest of the bunch. Marcene ‘Dimples’ Harris was also a pianist and songwriter for Nancy Wilson and wound up marrying & playing organ with musician Harold “Hack” Jackson (of The Treniers, The Jackson Brothers and The Tornadoes groups) and recorded as Dimples Jackson. Beverly later joined The Platters and toured around the world with the band, while Betty settled down with husband and comedic legend Redd Foxx, star of the “Sanford And Son” TV Series.
After high school, Kent joined the Air Force and spent four years overseas in Japan. Upon his return to the states, he joined his sister Dimples band and began playing the vibes under her direction. Dimples had previously been busy gigging around the L.A. nightclub circuit and her first platter cut for Savoy’s Regent subsidiary was receiving repeated spins from ‘Hunter Hancock’, the number one disc-jockey on the air at the time. Kent’s first recording gig was during the spring of 1954 under the alias ‘Ducky Drake’ on a song called “1992” (This was actually the B-side of his sister’s 7in single entitled “Hey Mr. Jelly”) recorded for Albert Marx’s L.A. based Trend label. Dimples already had a contract with Trend records and wanted Kent to sign with them as well, but there was a minor problem, nobody liked his real birth name! So Dimples asked Kent “Why don’t you be Ducky Drake?” and his reply was simply “Oh, now that
sounds good…. okay, I’m Ducky Drake!”. The name stuck and later that same year they released their second shared 45 ”Saint Or Sinner” b/w “Long Lean Lanky Juke Box”.
Just like ‘Dimples’ was a childhood nickname given to his sister, ‘Boogaloo’ was Kent’s moniker as a kid. The following year he recorded the rip-roaring “Talk About A Party” as ‘Boogaloo and His Gallant Crew’ on Crest Records, a label operated by Sylvester Cross and headquartered on the trendy Sunset Boulevard Strip. Les Brown And His Band of Renown did a cover version with vocals by Butch Stone for Capitol Records in 1956 and country star Roy Clark later recorded the song twice, once solo and once alongside blues legend Gatemouth Brown. The flip of the Crest 45 is yet another blazing rocker written by Boogaloo entitled “Big Fat Lie”. The original 1955 version of “Talk About A Party” still gets spun at parties globally such as ‘Lost & Found - Jump & Jive’ hosted by DJ Andy Smith (of Portishead fame) at the legendary Madam JoJos venue in London. What goes around comes around, especially if you’re talking about the little
records with the big holes.
In 1956, Boogaloo penned the classic “Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)” for the Crest label. The Coasters had a big hit with their version released in 1960 on Atco records renamed “Shoppin’ For Clothes” with a noticeably jazzier vibe thanks to King Curtis’ moody sax. The first pressing however was falsely credited to its producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller under the pseudonym of Elmo Glick as writers. Kent handled his business and got in touch with the Coasters and it was straightened out immediately, the second pressing song title was properly named “Clothes Line (Wrap It Up)” and Kent Harris was given writers credits. Featured in the Eddie Murphy film “Norbit” and proving lyrically this song is just as relevant today as ever. Swag is timeless, Nuff said.
Amazingly, the flip side of the “Clothes Line” single was a tune entitled “Cops And Robbers” in which Kent tells the funny tale of falling victim to a car jacking by a would-be bank robber. Bo Diddley did a cover version that blew up and hugely influenced the Rolling Stones early American Blues sound and they ended up recording the song in the early 60’s! The Stones also cut “Down Home Girl” by the Coasters that has become a hip-hop classic and sampled by Pete Rock, The Beatnuts, Chubb Rock and many others. Kent Harris sustained his relationship with his old buddies throughout the years and later wrote ‘The Big Rip Off’ featured on the Coasters rare 1979 ‘Coasting’ LP on Salsa Picante records. The Crest label released one more blues single by Kent titled “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark (When You Come Round)”, but this time his distinctive vocal style of comedic storytelling was done under yet another alias ‘Roscoe Scully’.
Kent started spending less time singing and more time behind the scenes producing records & writing songs throughout the 1960’s & 1970’s for artists including: The Duals, Hank Jacobs, The Mighty Hannibal, Jimmy Ellis (The Trammps), Adolph Jacobs (Coasters), The Sevilles, Prentice Moreland, Dorothy Berry and on and on. He often took young talent under his wing, which could lead to getting record deals signed through Kent’s guidance and connections in the business. A few prime examples are: twin brothers Walter and Wallace Scott who were a doo-wop vocal duo called the Utopians living in Compton and just kids when Mr. Harris took them to Hollywood and secured a contract with Imperial Records. Later they would form the legendary soul group: The Whispers! Crazy right? One of the most truly groundbreaking of all the Kent Harris related side productions (in my humble opinion) has to be a group called the Duals and their top 25 pop hit in 1961 named
“Stick Shift”, credited as the first record to chart in a mostly Southern California phenomenon known as ‘Hot Rod Music’. This surf guitar sound was not by a bunch of bleach blond, longhaired & barefooted white guys but rather by a couple of young African American kids from South Central Los Angeles! Henry Bellinger played lead guitar and Johnny Lageman was on rhythm guitar. Harris got them in the studio and took the recordings to producer H.B. Barnum (who has arranged for Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, Al Wilson and others) whom added some more layers and sold the final product to Juggy Murray’s New York based Sue Records label that pressed up the 45 & full length LP. The rest is history. Kent also helped discover a teenage Brenda Holloway in 1962 and the two would spend hours hashing out songs together on her home piano. This resulted in a recording agreement with Bob Keane’s Del-Fi Records and then cutting a few records with them. Brenda
Holloway signed with Motown Records in 1964 and went on to becoming a renowned singer and songwriter who co-wrote “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” which became a hit for jazz-rockers Blood, Sweat & Tears.
A publishing and songwriting deal with Chuck Landis and Gene Norman allowed Kent to focus on creating tunes for Jazz giants like Les Brown, Joe Williams & The Count Basie Orchestra. Chuck Landis & Gene Norman owned the legendary Sunset Strip Jazz club the “Crescendo”. Chuck also owned a high-class strip joint called The “Largo”. The Largo later became the infamous “Roxy” nightclub. Gene Norman formed the GNP Crescendo Record Label around 1954 and would distribute live jazz recordings made at concerts he promoted. A few of the featured ‘Just Jazz’ series artists were: Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The label later signed the celebrated Los Angeles Garage Punk band ‘The Seeds’ and released 6 of their albums! Disco DJs and hip-hop producers will certainly recall the Crescendo 12in “Shangri La” by La Pregunta, sampled by many and featured on the Ultimate Breaks & Beats series. Gene’s son Norman, a
successful recording artist specializing in Science Fiction film scores such as multiple Star Trek soundtracks, currently runs GNP. We’ll get into some more juicy details about the full circle of L.A. nightlife a little bit later on.
For a few years during the early 1970’s, Kent was a popular radio station Disc Jockey going by the name of ‘Stumblin’ Blue’ on XERB. He helped break many Soul & Funk records when they first dropped. Call sign station XEG / XERB dubbed “The Original Soul Monster” was the station made famous by the legendary ‘Wolfman Jack’ & the soundtrack source for the George Lucas Motion Picture “American Graffiti”. Live shows were recorded in Los Angeles and the tapes then shipped to Tijuana Mexico to be aired earning the nickname ‘Border Busters’. The station is apparently still alive & kicking but now specializes in Ranchera music. Constantly evolving, Kent decided to take a stab at the retail game: opening, owning and operating the ‘TARGET DISCOUNT RECORDS’ chain during the 70’s & 80’s. Target was THE place to be for the latest and greatest record releases. At the 6 locations covering the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, you could
get autographs and personally meet popular R&B artists at the time like Barry White and The Whispers. This now leads us to the ‘Birth’ Of The Sheridan House Record Group Label.
There are numerous family elements that are intertwined throughout the labels distinctive history. For starters, the label was named after Kent’s son Sheridan. The tall, strikingly beautiful and dynamic singer Ty Karim was Kent Harris’ wife! Shortly after meeting Ty, Kent wrote and produced her first hit single “Lighten Up Baby” for CAR-A-MEL records. This soared to the top of the charts in the U.K. and earned her the title “Queen of Northern Soul”. To this day, she is still a legend in England. The Romark 7in inner labels of her classic “You Just Don’t Know” 45 notably state “A Sheridan-House Production”. Ty is now singing in heaven after passing on in 1983 from Breast Cancer. Her vibrant beauty is still very much alive through Ty & Kents’ daughter Karime Kendra (Karime Harris) who is blessed with a gorgeous singing voice just like her mother. She can be heard gracing vocal parts of the featured “Catch Action” and currently
lives in the UK where she performs her parent’s songs on the Northern Soul circuit. Ironically, Karime recorded for the Ubiquity label some years back and was instrumental in helping me locate Kent in California. Her resume is pages long, providing vocals for the Talkin’ Loud, Acid Jazz, Tummy Touch & Warp labels and singing lead for The Killer Meters, Shawn Lee, The Solsonics and many others. A modern reggae version she cut of the Gwen McCrae soul classic “90% Of Me Is You” (written by Clarence “Blowfly” Reid) released on Scenario records, never leaves my DJ crates.
Towana Hill is Ty Karims’ daughter. Kent noticed his stepdaughter had pipes and could undoubtedly sing, even at the tender age of 4. Under her parent’s supervision, this creative talent blossomed and recorded her first record at age 14 and second at 15. Deep soul collectors praise the addictive 1974 rare groove gem “Wear Your Natural, Baby” by Towana & The Total Destruction (Kent Harris) on the Romark label, Featuring Ty Karim on Vocals. Timeless afro-centric lyrics preach about rocking your hairstyle ‘Au naturel’, a look that resonates with contemporaries like Erykah Badu & Angie Stone. In 1980, Ty & Towana invited veteran male R&B vocalist O’Malley Jones in on the fun with their party themed anthem “Catch Action” that definitely made the cut on this compilation. His Earwave label released 7in “Layin’ For You Girl” from 1983, is currently getting a lot of love in the Sweet Soul scene. Towana later became an evangelist and
spread the gospel in her own church in Marietta, GA. On an interesting side note, Glen Campbell is the guitarist on “Tell Me How It Is” by Towana. The in house guitar player had to cancel on the recording session, so Kent called the musicians union guild and asked for someone with soulful chops. A young, little known (at the time) Glen Campbell showed up and got funky!
From what I can gather, the very sexy and glamorous vocal trio ‘Something Unique’ spent the most time performing live and touring out of the Sheridan House camp. They met by chance in Hollywood at a birthday party given for Stevie Wonder and within days, they began rehearsing and the group was solidified. Karen Browne and Marcellina ‘Marcie’ Hawthorne were originally Philadelphia gals and Sandra ‘Sandy’ Zahir hailed from Los Angeles. Renowned Blues singer Bessie Smith was a cousin of Marcie’s and Sandy was exposed to showbiz at the age of six, appearing with the late Nat King Cole during a performance of “Route 66”. Before relocating, Karen & Marcie worked together as telephone operators in Philly and would practice singing in the ladies room during their breaks! Fellow colleagues encouraged them to pursue their singing dream and make the move to California. In 1981 they hit the studio and released their only 12in for the label. The
fantastic up-tempo disco A side “Catch Action” was backed with the laid back two-step jewel “This Feeling Between Us” on the B side. The group then toured throughout the US, Europe, The United Kingdom, Iceland and even Singapore. The Kasbah Mandarin club touted “Three vibrant personalities in a fusion that’s something unique, each sparkling with bubbly charm. Together they bring you their impressive repertoire, ranging from cool rhythm and blues to fiery disco beats”. Their exciting and charismatic stage act continued for a few years and was often compared to the likes of ‘The Three Degrees’, ‘Labelle’, ‘The Pointer Sisters’ and ‘The Supremes’ at the time.
Deborah Foster was born in Atlanta and raised in Los Angeles and also stems from a deep musical family tree. Inspiration came directly from her father Leon Foster, whose ‘Untouchables band’ included the gifted James Anthony Carmichael, who performed and produced successful albums for many super stars including Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, The O’Jays, One Way, The Commodores and Atlantic Starr. The song title “Sweet And Sassy” fit her personality like a glove. Before recording her 3 singles for Sheridan House in 1983 & 1984, she was already creating an industry buzz working with some big name music legends. Impressed with her distinctively smooth yet powerful vocal style, she secured clientele including Stevie Wonder, Ike and Tina Turner, Marilyn McCloud, Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields and Mel Bolton. Boogie DJs will recognize guitarist, singer and producer Mel Bolton from his group ‘Mighty Fire’ and his monster “Start It Up” tune from
1982. Deborah’s 12in “Whip It On Me” was arranged by Rich Cason of ‘Formula IV’ & ‘The Galactic Orchestra’ fame and co written by Byron Holeman, who did the similar sounding electro vocoder “Bootie Whip” jam by Tony Davis the same year. Additionally, Byron Holeman aka ‘Bro Byron’ released the mega rare “Booty Whip” L.A. hard funk 45 on Alma Lee in the early 70’s.
The multi talented singer, songwriter, dancer and actress Janette Renee put in tremendous work honing her craft. Frequently appearing on Don Cornelius Productions ‘Soul Train’ and Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’, the super popular dance-party television shows of the era. Vocal performances were prevalent throughout L.A.’s hippest hangouts like the ‘Playboy Club’ and the ‘Rose Tattoo’ and in Vegas at the ‘Sahara’ and on ‘The Buddy Hackett Musical Revue’. According to her Curriculum Vitae, Janette appeared in Paramount Pictures 1976 remake of the classic 1933 “King Kong” giant ape film by Dino De Laurentiis and John Guillermin. Additionally she appeared on an independent flick “Hurry Tomorrow” By Richard Cohen and Kevin Rafferty, the 1975 film exposing dehumanizing and brutal practices inside a locked men’s psychiatric ward at the Metropolitan State hospital in Norwalk, California. After watching the film, then and
current California Governor Jerry Brown pledged to spearhead an investigation into state hospital conditions. Janette then moved to Japan from Los Angeles and positioned herself as an international vocalist extraordinaire. She performed to enthusiastic audiences throughout Japan, Australia and the Far East. Her stunning vocals can be heard here on the head-nodding mellow groove of “What’s On Your Mind” and the dance floor aimed “I’m Gonna Be Your Lover”.
The very persuasive Beverly Cason most definitely knew how to get things done, having no time for games when it came to her career. She was a former schoolmate with some original members of the renowned ‘Kool & The Gang’ funk band. Beverly mentioned she could get the ‘Gang’ to floss on some of her songs as they were already in Hollywood on tour, performing at the famous outdoor L.A. Amphitheatre. To Kent’s surprise, her word was bond and they actually showed up for the studio session! Getting down to business and knocking out a healthy portion of tasty funk for her debut single “Love Me”. In somewhat of a contrast with her sweet sounding velvety-smooth style, she was known to step up and take control in the studio. Often leaving everyone around in a pleasant state of shock. Armed with a beautiful smile and rooted with a strong work ethic, she got results. She recorded all of her background vocals herself, wrote her own lyrics and released
2 singles through the label in the early 80’s. We certainly couldn’t forget to include the synthesizer heavy cut “Frenzy” that is sure to please boogie fans globally.
Tammy Hanson (A.K.A. Tammy Hansen) is the daughter of Kent’s sister Beverly Harris and was born in Beverly Hills, California. Showbiz is in her blood and first manifested when she began ice-skating at age 6. This skill set later paid off as she became a pro roller derby skater and landed the roll of “Tammy Terrific” on the popular 1989-90 TV show ‘RollerGames’. Two of her songs “Hit And Run” and “Bad Attitude” made the 1989 CD Soundtrack for the show. The Konami Company released 2 video game versions of ‘RollerGames’, a coin operated and a home console version for the Nintendo Entertainment System. There was even an arcade pinball machine manufactured by the Williams Company. Gifted with both beauty and brains, Tammy became a successful model, actress and photographer. She played the character “Rosa” in the significant ‘Boyz N The Hood’ film starring Ice Cube (his acting debut), Cuba Gooding Jr. and Larry Fishburne. It was
nominated for both Best Director and Original Screenplay during the 1991 Academy Awards, making John Singleton the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director and the first African–American to be nominated for the award. That same year, she appeared in the con man themed comedy ‘Another You’ by Maurice Philips. The film starred and was the final pairing of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Her stepfather, Victor Hanson, had two masters’ degrees from UCLA for Theatre Arts and Cinematography. She learned about cameras and became interested in acting through his supportive influence at an early age. Tammy attended New York Film Academy in Los Angeles and presently is a cinematographer and enjoys making films. The Kent Harris produced single “So Weak” was written by Beverly Cason & “Uncle” Kent specifically for Tammy and features several Kool & The Gang band members spicing up the beat.
Many of the Labels songs and all of Ty Karim’s recordings were cut at Ray Charles’ studio and Ray was actually the engineer on most of these tunes! Ray didn’t rent out his private studio much but would always reserve time for his friend Kent and his projects. Additionally, The Jazz Crusaders were the session players on “Keep On Doin’ Whatcha Doin” and others. Kent grew up with Joe Sample and Wayne Henderson and featured them on various Sheridan House recordings, always putting quality first and sourcing only the finest musicians.
As I mentioned earlier, Kent Harris has cultivated a California sound since the 1950’s, not by tooting his own horn, but by producing, promoting and showcasing some of the finest in the local Los Angeles scene. Whether it was from running various record labels, Dee-Jaying live on the airwaves or even pushing new sounds from his record stores, history was being made. From the beginning years of gigging with his sisters group at suit & tie supper clubs, to the blues and soul sounds of his 60’s artists to the disco and boogie funk styles of the 1970’s & 80’s Sheridan House bands and beyond… most of Kent’s artists were based in California and performed regularly around Hollywood. A great deal of the L.A. musical nightlife culture starting with the early Jazz era was centered on or around the Sunset Strip and the “Strip” has unquestionably changed with the times. The following is a break down of some famous nightlife spots past and present.
As Chuck Landis so eloquently said “If you weren’t on the Strip, you weren’t in the business”.
In the 1920’s, what is now West Hollywood was located just outside the boundary of Los Angeles, and thus outside the jurisdiction of the LAPD. The Police department’s relaxed manner toward the area allowed it to rapidly expand into an entertainment playground and thus dubbed “The Sunset Strip”, a strip of un-patrolled land that consequently invited the disorderly. The French themed ‘Café Trocadero’ (which is still a popular watering hole today) was where notorious gangsters would mingle with Hollywood celebrities like Fred Astaire, Clarke Gable, Jean Harlow, Bing Crosby and Jackie Gleason while high rollers played their hands at poker in the back room. Swinging Jazz could be heard blasting into the early morning hours at the intimate ‘Melody Room’ venue in the 1940’s, a reported hang out and gambling den of the infamous mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen, that later became ‘The Central’ club during the 70’s & 80’s and is
now the legendary ‘Viper Room’.
Jazz was literally over-flowing all over town! There was the ‘400 Club’, ‘Jazz City’, ‘The Topper’, ‘The Macombo’, Dean Martin’s ‘Dino’s Lodge’, jazz drummer Shelly Manne’s ‘Manne-Hole’ and ‘The Red Velvet Club’. Perhaps the most luxurious of all the Jazz joints however was ‘Ciro’s, with it’s elegant baroque interior and a reputation for booking all star performers including Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee and Xavier Cugat just to name a few. ‘Ciro’s’ opened in 1940 by Billy Wilkerson (of the Hollywood Reporter) and later switched from a Jazz venue to a Rock & Roll club in the 60’s altering the name to ‘Ciro’s Le Disc’. The folk rock band The Byrds got their big break playing there in 1964 before the space changed hands to the tripped out “Now Sounds” of club ‘Spectrum2000’, then “It’s Boss’ rock club and ultimately becoming ‘The Comedy Store’ in 1972. Kent
Harris and his sisters’ old stomping ground was the glamorous suited & booted jazz joint ‘Crescendo’ that transformed into the very mod and psychedelic ‘The Trip’ club in 1966 and hosted parties featuring the Velvet Underground & Nico.
One of the longer running nightspots ‘Villa Nova’ was open from 1933 to 1972 and owned by film director Vincente Minnelli who was married to Judy Garland. The renowned bar & grill is where NY Yankee Joe Dimaggio met Marilyn Monroe on a blind date in 1952 and is reinvented currently as ‘The Rainbow’ in tribute to Judy Garland. It’s been mentioned in numerous band lyrics and is a popular late night destination with rock groups & their groupies. The hair metal band ‘Rainbow’ was even named after the place!
The Hyatt House AKA “The Riot House” and formerly the Gene Autry Hotel, got the nickname during the 1960’s for the wild behavior of rock & rollers like The Who and The Rolling Stones who stayed there while performing on the Sunset Blvd Strip. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was reported to have ridden a motorcycle down the hallways and Jim Morrison lived there until he was evicted for hanging out his room window by just his fingertips. The hotel was featured in the films “Spinal Tap” and “Almost Famous”, but these days you’re more likely to get caught in the middle of a reality show filming of VH1s “Basketball Wives” on the Andaz roof top pool (which recently happened to me), than to witness Keith Richards tossing a television out his window.
Nearby on Santa Monica Blvd was Elmer Valentine’s nightclub ‘P.J.’s’, named after a Manhattan, NY bar called ‘P.J. Clarke’s’ and open after hours cleverly pulling in crowds when the other venues closed for the night. The hip yet casual atmosphere was ideal for live acts to perform such as Rufus Thomas, The Standells and The Bobby Fuller Four and provided the perfect vibe for recording live albums including those by Trini Lopez, The Barney Kessel Trio, Eddie Cano and Timi Yuro. Anyone with a half decent funk collection will have the Kool And The Gang “Live At P.J.’s” record in their crates. Recorded on May 29th, 1971 and containing one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop history, the ambiguous jam “N.T.” (Which I’m guessing stands for “No Title”?). Bits of the original can be heard on more than 125 rap masterpieces by: Diamond D, Nas, Main Source, N.W.A. Q Tip, The Wu-Tang Clan & others and inspiring The Beastie Boys song
title “Live At PJ’s “ off their 1992 “Check Your Head” album. The Sunset Strip’s ‘Whisky A Go-Go’ was also from the mind of visionary and former Chicago policeman Elmer Valentine (owned with co-owner Philip Tanzini). Modeling the space after a Parisian club he visited while overseas, he suspended the first female DJ above the dance-floor in a cage and dressed his female staff in white boots and mini skirts thus creating Go-Go girls. The in-house band was originally Johnny Rivers and later The Doors (in 1966) and honestly, the list is just way too long to mention all the Rock & Roll legends that have gigged at this famous L.A. establishment.
Club ‘PJ’s’ was later sold to convicted mobster Eddie Nash (Adel Nasrallah) and became the renowned “Starwood Club” running from 1973 to 1981, specializing in cultivating the local Glam Rock, Heavy Metal and New Wave scenes. It’s credited as being the very first venue to showcase & promote early L.A. Punk groups like Black Flag, Weirdos, The Plimsouls, X, and The Germs, creating national attention which led to record contracts. Nash once operated more than 20 bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the Hollywood area including: ‘Ali Baba’s’, ‘Paradise Ballroom’, ‘Seven Seas’, ‘Kit Kat Strip Club’, ‘Soul’d Out’, and ‘Odyssey Disco’. Clubs marketed toward and attracting every possible demographic you can think of, as everyone was welcome because everyone’s money was green. For several decades Adel Nasrallah was the wealthiest and most dangerous gangster operating on the West Coast. He pleaded guilty to federal RICO
act charges including drug trafficking, money laundering and jury tampering and is most notorious for his involvement in the quadruple “Wonderland Murders” in 1981 that quickly brought down his Hollywood reign and consequently the demise of the long-time ‘Starwood’ rock emporium.
Most of the groundbreaking pillars of the Los Angeles Mod, Soul, Jazz, Go-Go, Psychedelic, Disco and Funk era scenes have come and gone like fashion. Clubs like ‘Pandora’s Box’, ‘Haunted House Club’, ‘Warlocks’, ‘Hullabaloo’, ‘The Store’, ‘London Fog’ and ‘Gazzarri’s’ (later ‘Billboard Live’ and the ‘Key Club’) are now just faint memories for those who were patrons. The holy grail of them all has to be the famous ‘Climax Nightclub’ that once stood on the corner of La Cienega & San Vicente, where the bankrupt Loehmann’s retailer and The Beverly Center are today. The 15,000 square foot exterior of the futuristic mid-century building design was completely covered with an insanely beautiful collage mural entitled “Beverly Hills Siddhartha” that was both epic in grandeur realism and scale. Painted in 1969 by a crew of 4 artists naming themselves ‘The L.A. Fine Art Squad’, which was comprised of members:
Victor Henderson, Terry Schoonhoven, Jim Frazen, and Leonard Coren. Sadly, this groovy artwork piece lasted only 2 years and then was painted over in plain white. The club went through many owners and names such as ‘1520 AD’, ‘Cabaret’, ‘Climax II’, ‘Gaslight’ and then had it’s “Last Dance” as ‘Osko’s Disco’ which was fictitiously dubbed ‘The Zoo’ in the 1978 disco themed movie “Thank God It’s Friday” featuring Donna Summer and The Commodores with music by Giorgio Moroder, produced by Motown Productions and Casablanca Filmworks for Columbia Pictures.
Tower Records set up shop in 1971 where the ‘Classic Cat’ burlesque club once stood. Elton John founded ‘Le Dome’ restaurant in 1977 and it proved to be popular with Hollywood agents & music industry heavyweights alike, such as David Geffen and Berry Gordy, who were distinguished regulars. The ROXY Theatre owned by Lou Adler joined the strip in 1973 and a year later became host to the insanely popular play “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” which of course wound up becoming the cult-classic film it is today. The late 70’s disco sound spread like wildfire throughout the hottest night clubs in Los Angeles like ‘Gino’s II’ on Vine, ‘The Blue Parrot’ on Santa Monica, ‘Studio One’ on LaPeer Drive and ‘Circus Disco’ on Lexington. The Sheridan House trio “Something Unique” performed frequently at these disco venues and at the ‘Palomino Club’ on Lankershim Boulevard (featured in several films including 1978’s ‘Every
Which Way But Loose’ staring Clint Eastwood). Up To Date Los Angeles magazine reviewed one of their gigs at Palomino boasting “Dressed in tight white pants, sheer white tunics and sporting yellow and white flowers in their hair, all backed by a boisterous seven piece band with brass, Something Unique staged a solid hour of disco and rhythm and blues. These Girls have a good show to demonstrate, mixing familiar favorites with originals of their own”.
What’s old is new again and that early 80’s post disco sound of synthesizer bass lines & loud handclaps have come full circle and today inspires a whole new modern boogie sound that’s gaining popularity globally through record labels like: Ubiquity, Peoples Potential Unlimited, Uncut, MoFunk, Cherries, Liquid Beat, Omega Supreme, Voltaire, Stones Throw, Campari, Numero Group and many others keeping that funk alive and pressing up wax for the Djs. I hope you have enjoyed the liner notes and that I was able to shed some light on the Sheridan House label and Kent Harris’ amazing legacy.
I want to personally thank the crews putting in work and spreading that boogie fire at: Funkmosphere (L.A.), Sweater Funk (S.F.) Funk Freaks (O.C.), Austin Boogie Crew (ABC) getBKfunk (Brooklyn), FFFreak (Sacramento), Lazer Funk (Davis) and Midnight Hotline Rendezvous (Seattle). I look forward to hearing these rare recordings bumpin’ at your parties!
Crank it up and enjoy,
Shane “Sureshot” Hunt
New sound system, live stage, full bar, valet parking, 21+ & FREE!! Not to mention a taco truck outside! Come join us on Thursday nights, where funk is not a fad....it's a way of life.
We thank U for 7 years of support, worldwide. See U there!! (And, spread the word. *Thank U.) - Dam-Funk