Monday, July 15, 2013
Since I can't tell you anything about Juanita Williams, I'll tell you about Golden World Records, and its sister labels Wingate and Ric Tic. I promise, it's a good story.
Golden World Records was started in 1961 by Detroit businessman Eddie Wingate and his partner, Jo Anne Bratton. Wingate was a known wheeler-dealer about town, and by the early 60s owned a taxicab company, several cafes, a motel and, eventually, Detroit's most famous supper club, The Twenty Grand. In fact, he was so well-known within Detroit that Berry Gordy, shortly after forming Motown, asked Wingate to be his business partner. Eddie turned him down flat, figuring he could do what Berry was doing and make all the money for himself!
By January, 1962, Golden World had its first release - "I Wonder" by Sue Perrin. For the next year and a half, Golden World (and its subsidiary Ric Tic) would release eight singles, none of them even coming close to being a hit - not even in Detroit. One reason for this may have been that they weren't Detroit records - Wingate did all of those early recordings in New York City, mainly because he couldn't find studio musicians in Detroit that were up to his standards. But the talent pool must have gotten better by the summer of 1963, because that's when Wingate decided to record exclusively in Detroit. Wingate redesigned the label art for his records and started a new numbering system for his catalog (1962-1963 Golden World 45s were in a 100 series - the new system started at 1). In September, 1963, the revamped Golden World released its first single - Willie Kendrick's "Take This Train". But, despite some good releases, Wingate's companies still didn't have anything resembling a hit.
Enter The Reflections. A white doo-wop group from Detroit, they had a smash hit with their first waxing for Golden World - "(Just Like) Romeo And Juliet". The record sold close to a million copies, and Eddie Wingate was in the money. The first thing Eddie did was form a new label and name it after himself - Wingate Records. The second thing he did was build his own recording studio, called Golden World.
Here's where it gets interesting: Wingate was always on the lookout for the best musicians in Detroit, and some great musicians came to Golden World from an unlikely source - Motown Records. Seems that Berry Gordy, Jr. was a bit stingy when it came to paying his house band, so whenever they got a chance, The Funk Brothers would lay down tracks for Eddie Wingate at Golden World. It didn't take long for Gordy to find out what was going on (hell, all he had to do was listen to some Golden World/Ric-Tic 45s) and, the next time the Funk Bros. came to Motown to play, he fined them $100 each. Eddie Wingate got wind of this and, according to legend, crashed the Motown Christmas party and paid the guys back double on the spot!
Gordy had good reason to be angry - not only did Wingate make him look like a fool at his own office party, but Golden World's sound was getting a little too close for Motown's comfort. Not just the sound; Wingate even had singers who sounded like established Motown artists. Motown had Diana Ross, Wingate had Barbara Mercer ("Hey!!", "Doin' Things Together With You"). Motown had Little Stevie Wonder, Wingate had Little Carl Carlton ("Nothin' No Sweeter Than Love"). Motown had Marvin Gaye, Wingate had J. J. Barnes ("Say It"). That's not even counting Edwin Starr, who made some of the best non-Motown Motown 45s for Ric-Tic in 1965-1966. The competition was too fierce; something had to be done.
Gordy finally set up a meeting in September 1966, and made Wingate an offer he couldn't refuse; a reputed $1 million for the studio, the house publishing company (Myto Music) and the entire artist roster of Golden World and Wingate (which wasn't much at that point), PLUS Edwin Starr's contract. Eddie was allowed to keep the Ric-Tic label active (where the hits continued with artists such as The Fantastic Four, The Detroit Emeralds and The Flaming Ember), but closed Golden World and Wingate Records.
Apparently, around 1968 Eddie Wingate got tired of the record biz, and called on Berry Gordy once again. Gordy bought out what was left of Wingate's empire (though he only got the Fantastic Four out of the deal) and the Golden World/Wingate/Ric-Tic label family was no more.
The Juanita Williams 45 above (remember what I was talking about originally?) is a great example of the way Wingate operated - a high-quality production by a great singer singing a great song, but six months later you'd find yourself asking "whatever happened to....?" I don't know what happened to Juanita Williams, but she (and Eddie Wingate) made one hell of a good record here.
NOTE: I woulda posted this A LOT sooner, but DivShare apparently decided to hire lobotomized monkeys to oversee their servers and I couldn't upload the audio file. Honestly, DivShare, you have ONE job - to store mp3's. If this is too hard for you, you should shut down and refund my money. Morons.
Juanita Williams - Baby Boy (Golden World 18) - 1964