Chicago's Neighborhood Independent Label(2) - States Records ©JCMarion


In May of 1952, United Records president Lew Simpkins announces the start of a new record label to be called States Records in affiliation with United. The first two releases hit the streets at this time. They are States #101 - "I Like Barbecue" / "Marie" by the Guy Brothers and #102 - "Blackout" / "Blues And The Beat" by Paul Bascomb. In some great advertising hyperbole, the trade press announces that the Guy Brothers side is the hottest thing to hit Chicago since the great fire, and that the Bascomb record will create a stampede to juke boxes everywhere. Lew Simpkins was certainly a man ahead of his time. The next release on the label is a gospel recording by The Caravans : "Tell The Angels" and "Think Of His Goodness To You" on #103. "Late One Night" / "Let's Drink" by the Gilbert Holiday Combo is #104. The strangely named Tommy Dean & His Gloom Raiders provide States #106 - "Cool One Groove Two" and "Lonely Monday" with vocal by Jewell Belle. Late in the year #107 features Browley Guy on "You Ain't Gonna Worry Me" and "Blues Train", The Caravans gospel record of "Get Away Jordan" and "He'll Be There" on #109, Paul Bascomb's "Got Cool Too Soon" and "Coquette" on States #110 and another by Tommy Dean & His Gloom Raiders "Raining" and "Foolish" with Jewell Belle on vocal for #111. States ends the year with a rather prolific six months of recording some of Chicago's better local R & B talent.

In 1953 States Records begins with release #112 by Cliff Butler - "Adam's Rib" and "Benny's Blues" with Benny Holton. Grant (Mr. Blues) Jones follows with #114 "Stormy Monday" and "Heartache Blues". Sax Kari has his first outing for the label with "Down For Debbie" and "Daughter (That's Your Red Wagon)" featuring Gloria Irving on vocal on #115 in March. The Caravans gospel tunes "Blessed Assurance" and "God Is Good To Me" for States on #116. Sax Kari and Gloria Irving combine again for a May release on #117 "You Let My Love Run Cold" / "Henry" and Jimmy Coe offers "After Hours Joint" and "Baby I'm Back". In late May, recording company president Lew Simpkins dies at age 35, and partner Leonard Allen takes over full duties. The Caravans newest gospel recording is States #119 "On My Way Home" / "Why Should I Worry". Tommy Dean's "Scammon Boogie" / "Why Did I Let You Go" #120 came out in August as did budding blues superstar Junior Wells recording of "Eagle Rock" and "Now Cut That Out" on #122. Edward Gates White's recording of "Mother-In-Law" and "Rock-A-Bye-Baby" was #124. Through the summer there are surprising sales for the Gloria Irving and Sax Kari recording of "Daughter (That's Your Red Wagon)" across the Midwest. Jack Cooley has his first release for States with #125 on "Rain On My Window" / "Could But I Ain't". States recording #126 is by Helen Thompson "All By Myself" and "Going Down To Big Mary's". A vocal group recording was the next release, States #127, by The Hornets "I Can't Believe" / "Lonesome Baby" which was out during the last days of 1953. States #131 "The Moon Is Rising" by Maggie Campbell is recorded but not released for two years.

The first release for States in 1954 is #132 by T.J. Fowler"The Queen" and "Tell Me What's The Matter" with vocal by Frank Taylor. Local musician Cozy Eggleston and his combo record States #133 "Big Heavy" / "Cozy's Boogie", while Junior Wells has #134 "HooDoo Man" and "Junior's World". The tunes "Companion Blues" and "Weeping Willow" are recorded by L.C. McKinley for #135. The Caravans release a powerful gospel recording featuring the lead voice of Albertina Walker on "The Angels Keep Watching" and Bessie Griffith on "Since I Met You" on States #136. The States label is listed in a poll of the top dozen independent record labels in the country serving the musical fields of Rhythm & Blues and Gospel. The Caravans return with #137 on "Jesus Is A Rock" and Bessie Griffin on lead vocal on the tune "Blessed By The Lord". Helen Thompson who has found success with her previous recording "Going Down To Big Mary's", has a new record out on #138 ""Troubled Woman" / "My baby's Home" as does Junior Wells with "'Bout The Break Of Day" and "Lawdy Lawdy" on #139. James Bannister is featured on #140 with "Blues And Trouble" and "Gold Digger". Junior Wells closes out the year for the label with "So All Alone" and "Tomorrow Night".

In 1955 new label artist Harold Burrage records #144 "Feel So Fine" and "You're Gonna Cry". Future blues legend Big Walter Horton has his first for States on #145, "Going Back To Mama" and "Hard Hearted Woman". A Chicago vocal group The Danderliers record "Chop Chop Boom" / "My Autumn Love" on #147, and The Caravans "Old Time Religion" / "The Solid Rock" on #149. The Danderliers return on #150 in July with "Shu-Wop" with Dallas Taylor on lead vocal and ""My Loving Partner" with James Campbell on lead. The group's initial release "Chop Chop Boom" proves to be a huge seller and a national hit. The group ends the year with their third outing for the label on #152 - "May God Be With You" / "Little Man" and a new gospel group the Lucy Smith Singers on #153 "Someone Bigger Than You And I" and "I Feel The Spirit".

The Five Chances vocal group records States #156 "Gloria" / "Sugar Lips" during the spring of 1955, and Artie Wilkins & The Palms recording of "Darling Patricia" and "Please Come Back" is released as #157. The Danderliers record "She's Mine" / "My Love" on #160, and continuing the late push toward vocal groups, The Strollers record "Go Where Baby Lives" and "In Your Dreams" on #163. By this time Leonard Allen was in need of an infusion of money that was not forthcoming and leased some sides to other labels and shut down operation of the United and States label. The last States release came in late 1957.

In retrospect, the States label was noted for providing early opportunities for R & B giants Junior Wells and Big Walter Horton and some fine Midwest gospel singing by The Caravans. The biggest record the label ever had, The Danderliers "Chop Chop Boom" remains one of the best vocal group recordings of the 1950s. I can recall finally deciphering the lyrics from a song sheet in Rhythm & Blues magazine back in the mid fifties and getting a kick out of the song about a lovable rogue named Cat Ace and how he came between the narrator and his girl. The performance by the group is superb and it was a national best seller. The second unique recording on the label was the Cozy Eggelston Combo's "Big Heavy". It probably would have met the fate of the majority of the States releases by going mostly unnoticed outside of Chicago except for the fact of the lawsuit against Alan Freed in 1954 which enjoined him from using his radio persona of "Moondog". Because of this Freed decided to begin anew and use a new theme song rather than his old "Theme For The Moondog" by Todd Rhodes (also known as "Blues For The Red Boy" and "Blue Night"). And so he picked the loping sax led "Big Heavy" and it became a 'must have'. And so I like many others got my own copy of the record on a red plastic States 45. The theme must have certainly racked up impressive (and surprising) sales. States, like its sister label United, remains as a historic landmark to the drive and vision of its founder, Lew Simpkins.

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