Zell Sanders and J & S Records©2003JCMarion


Zell Sanders first came to prominence as the manager of The Hearts, a female vocal quartet who recorded for the Baton label in the early and mid fifties. The group composed of Hazel Crutchfield, Joyce West, Forestine Barnes, and Louise Harris, recorded some of the mosy dynamic vocal group sides of the fifties. In May of 1956 Sanders decides to start her own record company. The label to be called J & S Records signs a group called The Climbers and a young trio under 10 years of age called The Pre-Teens. In June The Pre-Teens record "What Makes Me Love You Like I Do" and "Pass It On" on J & S #1756. The label releases a gospel side by The Pilgrim Pioneers with the songs "The Wooden Church" and "Is There Anybody Here?" on #1755. In July the label releases The Shytone Five's "Disc Jockey Kick Off" and "My Shoulder To Cry On" with vocal by Manda Hopper on #1759 , and `"Turn The Lamp Down Low" and "Running Home To You" by vocalist Freddie Scott on #1760. In October the label has their first big success with the release of Johnnie & Joe's "I'll Be Spinning" ("Feel Allright" is the flip) on #1763. Sales are so widespread that Chess Records of Chicago picks up the distribution and issues further copies on their label. At year's end The Jaynetts record "I Wanted To Be Free" and "Where Are You Tonight?" for J & S on #1765.

In 1957 the first release for the label is a gospel side by the renamed Pilgrim Harmonaires on "He Said He Would Move" and "Any Way You Bless Me" on #1651. The Gospel Wonders follow with "He's My All" and "I Want To Live Live Live" on #1652. In March of 1957 J & S Records releases "Over The Mountain" by Johnnie & Joe (flip side is "My baby's Gone On") on #1664. The record begins to sell locally in New York, then reaches Philadelphia where it catches the ear of one Dick Clark who plays it on his nationally televised American Bandstand show. The record explodes across the country, and once again Chess Records picks up distribution and issues further copies on their label. It is one of the biggest sellers of the entire decade. Meanwhile J & S rolls on with The Shytone Five "Smitty's Boogie" and "Every Day" with vocal by "Baby" Washington on #1656. After a huge run on "Mountain", Johnnie & Joe are back with "It Was There" and "There Goes My Heart" on #1659. Zell Sanders plans this time to handle the record nationally by herself rather than sell the master and split distribution with Chess as she had in the past. A new version of Zell's original group The Hearts, now consisting of "Baby" Washington, Theresa Chatman, Joyce Peterson, and Anna Barnhill, are out on J & S Records with "You Say You Love Me" and "So Long Baby" on #1660. The instrumental combo Hal Paige & The Whalers record "Thunderbird" and "Sugar Babe" which is released on #1601. In October The Plants on J & S #1602 record "Dear I Swear" and "It's You".

In January of 1958 "Baby" Washington records as a solo with "Congradulations Honey" and "There Must Be A Reason". The next month Johnnie & Joe return with "Who Do You Love" and "Trusting Me", in an attempt to make it four huge hits in a row. In April Zell Sanders launches Scatt Records as part of the J & S family. The Bell Tones record "The Merengue" and "I Love You Darling" on #1609. In May the little label that could from the South Bronx releases "From Me" and "My Girl" by The Plants on #1617, The latest from The Shytone Five - "The Grande Guitar" and "Rock Sock" on #1621, V and BB's "Just Rockin' And Rollin'" and Begin Again" on #1623, and three new gospel sides on Scatt (with the same numbering system) - The Gospel Wonders "Calvary" and "Only Jesus Can Save" on #1612, The Pilgrim Harmonaires "In The Beginning" and "Blessed Jesus" on #1613, and Cross Jordan Jubilee Singers with James Milligan on "I Don't Mind" and "If You Miss Me" on #1615. In October Zell Sanders further expands the J & S sphere of influence. A new label based in New Jersey called Neptune Records with J & S behind the distribution releases #101 - "The Time" and "You Could Never Be Mine" by "Baby" Washington. The top selling duo for J & S, Johnnie & Joe, start their own label called Dice Records and release their first side by The Clickettes with "But Not For Me" on #100, and The Hearts record "I Want Your Love Tonight" and "Like Later Baby" on J & S #1627. In November a new group called The Ascots records "What Love Can Do" and "Everything Will Be All Right" on #1628. At year's end Johnnie & Joe return on J & S #1631 with "Warm, Soft, And Lovely" and "False Love Has Got To Go".

In early 1959 "Baby" Washington is back on the J & S label with her recording of "I Hate To See You Go" and "Knock Yourself Out" on #1633. The Kodaks record "Don't Want No Teasing" and "Look Up To The Sky" on #1683. In June Johnnie & Joe try again with the pop oldie "Red Sails In The Sunset" and "Where Did She Go?" on #1701. On their own Dice label The Clickettes record "Grateful" and "Lover's Prayer" on #97. Meanwhile on Neptune Records "The Time" proved to be a big seller and "Baby" follows it up with "The Bells" and "Why Did My Baby Put Me Down" on #104, while Cliff Driver's Combo records two instrumentals "Driver's Roll" and "Drive On" on #102. "The Bells" turns in to a good seller through the summer and the next record out by Washington on Neptune Records is "Let's Love In The Moonlight" on #107. By the turn of the decade the time had seemed past for Johnnie & Joe and J & S Records.But this was the story of the label from the South Bronx, and a woman that bucked the odds and made it a success. Zell Sanders was quite a woman of the times, and her J & S label made the world sit up and take notice with some monster hits by Johnnie & Joe featuring Zell's daughter at the forefront. And let us not forget the final ingredient of the mix - Rex Garvin - pianist, arranger, vocalist, and everything else for J & S records. This was a most unique moment in the history of America's music.

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