Most late ’60s/early ’70s Chicago soul labels were lucky to score any sort of hit during their brief lifespans.
Twinight Records ? or Twilight, as it was first christened ? came up big its first time out of the box with Syl Johnson?s incendiary workout ?Come On Sock It To Me? in the summer of 1967.
After a slight name alteration, the label had more success, though of its eight national R&B hits, Johnson sang seven and produced the Notations? ?I?m Still Here.?
Yet as The Numero Group?s splendid new two-CD set Eccentric Soul: Twinight?s Lunar Rotation amply illustrates, many of the label?s most intriguing platters fell through the cracks. Its 40 tracks reveal that Twinight, founded by successful indie promo man Peter Wright in March of 1967, acquired its share of outside masters in addition to keeping Johnson busy in the studio until he defected to Memphis-based Hi Records in September 1971.
The label?s offices were situated away from Record Row on South Michigan Avenue, starting out at 185 N. Wabash before settling in on the near North Side, first at 166 E. Superior and then at 233 E. Erie.
Wright had been groomed by brothers George and Ernie Leaner, owners of United Record Distributors, as a record promoter from age 17.
With Don Caron, he set up a production company in 1961 to work with Patti Drew and her Drew-Vels and other acts. Wright managed the New Colony Six, published songs under his Edgewater Music banner, and in 1965 launched Quill Records, largely trafficking in garage rock.
His partner, Howard Bedno, was a top promo man for All State Record Distributors and USA Records, the label that would handle Twilight?s pressing and distribution. Bedno earlier had partnered with Eli Toscano in 1956 to form Cobra Records, whose young Chicago blues stars included Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy.
E. Rodney Jones, a top DJ at WVON, the city?s main R&B radio outlet, helped bring Johnson into the Twilight fold.
Johnson made six 45s for Federal from 1959 to 1962, but local reaction to his ?Straight Love No Chaser? for tiny Zachron Records in 1966 was what caught everyone?s attention. The young guitarist had another sizzler in hand for his Twilight debut.
?I was playing behind a guy by the name of Little Johnny Williams,? said Johnson. ?He was a phenomenon onstage. Oh, he was like a major star. And he did like a little thing: ?Sock it to me ? uh! One time! Sock it to me two times ? uh, uh! Sock it to me three times, baby ? uh, uh, uh! Sock it to me four times ? uh, uh, uh, uh!? And that?s as far as he got. And people went wild over that. ?Oh, sock it to me, huh??
?Joshie Armstead come up with a lyric, and I came up with a groove on the guitar. My brother, he was livin? with me then. He was in the attic. He was listening to us rehearse. He said, ?Let me put an intro to it. Can I put an intro to it?? I said, ?Yeah, let me hear what you got!?? With his guitarist brother Jimmy?s lick out front, ?Come On Sock It To Me? vaulted to #12 R&B.
Two months later, Syl?s ?Different Strokes? went to #17.
In between Johnson?s first two hits, an aggregation from north suburban Evanston, George McGregor & the Bronzettes, floated into Twilight?s orbit. Their haunting ?Temptation Is Hard To Fight? was penned by George?s younger brother, Billy McGregor, known for his local 1966 hit ?Mr. Shy? on producer Don Clay?s Flash imprint.
?When he first heard it, he liked it,? said Billy of ?Temptation.? ?I said, ?Why don?t you do it then?? And then this guy named Jimmy Jones, he was the one that kind of fronted it with the money, recording it. I did the arrangement on it.?
A steel guitar threaded through ?Temptation.?
Billy, who previously had sung with George in the Antennas, duetted with his brother on the flip, ?Every Time I Wake Up.? Also debuting in 1967 on Twilight was 17-year-old John Colley, who