Sound Advice: Hard-to-find single is part of a bigger treasure

By  Tim Neely

The Bell Records single “That’s What I Like” came from the movie “Living It Up,” which was a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis vehicle released in 1954.

The Bell Records single “That’s What I Like” came from the movie “Living It Up,” which was a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis vehicle released in 1954.

Question: I was a deejay at a college radio station in the Midwest during the mid- to late ’60s and still have an aircheck of a song I played called “My Son” by The Lyrics (a 45, GNP Crescendo 381) but have had no luck finding it.

I’ve put ads in Goldmine and searched the Internet to no avail. Do you know anything about this record and how/where I might find it? P.S. I had made it my “pick hit,” but apparently it never became one! — Gary Munday, El Paso, Texas

Answer: The record is out there, but be prepared to pay for it.
The Lyrics, from San Diego, were an interesting group. In their short recorded legacy, they recorded a song that is considered a garage-rock classic, another one that is sought after by Northern Soul aficionados and others that are sought by fans of psychedelic music.

They recorded a single on Era 3153, “So What!!” / “They Can’t Hurt Me,” in 1965, with lead singer Chris Gaylord, who was later ousted from the band. “So What!!” appears on one of the early Pebbles compilations and the more recent Rhino Nuggets box set.

After a change in lead singer to Craig Carll and a new record label, The Lyrics’ sound changed to blue-eyed soul for one record. Their first single on GNP Crescendo was the song on your aircheck, “My Son.”

It’s the other side of the single, “So Glad,” that has become more collectible in recent years. That may be why you haven’t been able to locate it, because it’s more frequently sold under the “So Glad” title.

The Lyrics recorded a follow-up that was equally unsuccessful, “Mr. Man” / “Wait” (GNP Crescendo 393), which had them dabbing in psychedelia. In early 1968, one more 45, “Can’t See You Any More” / “Wake Up To My Voice” (Feather 1968) emerged.

“So Glad” has gained new life as a “rare soul” collectible; I’ve seen prices for it online ranging from $50 to $200 or more. It’s even been bootlegged! I was able to find sound clips of both sides of GNP Crescendo 381, and in particular, “My Son” has kind of a Righteous Brothers vibe because of its Spectorian production. “So Glad” is less ornate, but it definitely has that mid-1960s soul feel to it.

Question: There is only one record in my 45 collection that I have no information about: Vocal “The Bellecats,” Larry Clinton Orchestra, “Runaround” backed with “That’s What I Like” (From Picture “Living It Up”). Bell Records, #1078, late 1950s. — Howard Sweitzer, Margate, Fla.

Answer: This is a “cover record,” recorded to capitalize on the success of a song and then sold at a fraction of the cost of the hit version.

Bell Records was originally the vanity label of Benny Bell, who became newly famous in 1975 when “Shaving Cream,” recorded in 1946, became an unexpected hit.

In 1953, Bell sold the label to Arthur Shimkin, who then turned it into mostly a cover label. Though there were a few non-cover releases on Bell, they were far outnumbered.

The best-known — and the most collectible — Bell single from the cover-record era is “Baby Talk,” a cover of the Jan & Dean hit recorded by Tom & Jerry (later known as Simon & Garfunkel) in 1959 and issued as one side of Bell 120.

As for your mystery record, “Runaround” was a hit for The Three Chuckles, originally released on the small Boulevard label in 1953, then picked up by the RCA Victor subsidiary “X” and issued in September 1954.

“That’s What I Like,” from the movie “Living It Up,” was a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis vehicle released in 1954. Based on this information, your record most likely came out in late 1954.

In addition to the 45, Bell Records also released the two songs on a seven-inch 78 rpm with a small hole.

As to the origin of the Bellecats, most likely they were a studio concoction created specifically for this record, as there’s no evidence that any group by that name made another record in the same era. Bell Records also had anonymous vocal groups called “The Three Belles” (female) and “The Four Bells” (male) in this same period, which it used to record covers of records by such groups as The McGuire Sisters and The Four Aces.

In the early 1960s, after the affiliated Amy and Mala labels were started and the market for sound-alike records declined, Bell faded. Under the leadership of Larry Uttal, the Bell label returned as a regular label in the mid-1960s. It was the home of James & Bobby Purify, Merrilee Rush and The Partridge Family, among others, before Bell was replaced by Arista in 1975.

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