Holy grails don’t get any holier than this, especially for Northern Soul acolytes.
Going up for auction, starting March 14, is one of only two known copies — and the only one in acceptable playing condition — of Frank Wilson’s “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” considered by many to be the most valuable ultra-rare 45 record in the world.
U.K. dealer John Manship, who specializes in Northern Soul rarities, expects strong interest for the piece, currently owned by Kenny Burrell. Manship is holding the auction of this prized item, which stands to fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000.
Manship thinks it may, however, go all the way to $100,000 (some think the writing on the label could lower the value, but others don’t believe it will affect it in the slightest).
A little background is necessary, although details of the story behind the record are a little fuzzy, according to Manship. Frank Wilson was a producer — well-respected in Northern Soul circles — for Motown, who, in late 1965, was hired to lead Motown’s West Coast operation in Los Angeles. Reportedly, the catch was, Wilson had to forego his recording and performing career.
However, promo copies of Wilson’s debut single for Motown (Soul 35019) had been pressed … allegedly without Berry Gordy’s blessing. Not going through proper channels was a sin at Motown. Gordy, known for his tough management style, allegedly didn’t appreciate Wilson recording the track without his OK.
“It never got out to reviewers or radio stations,” says Manship.
It is thought that six test pressings were made, and Gordy reportedly ordered them all destroyed. Two were thrown away. However, two copies did eventually surface.
One, however, is allegedly badly warped. The other, the one that’s being offered for sale in March, and which will stay up for sale for a month, is in good shape.
It first surfaced about 15 years ago, according to Manship, and was discovered by Motown sound engineer Ron Murphy in the label’s archives. It was brought to England by Martin Koppel, who acquired it from Murphy.
In 1998, the second copy was reportedly sold for £15,000, making it one of the most expensive records in history, if not the most expensive ever.
It figures to fetch that and a lot more this time around. At the time of that sale, it reportedly held a grade of Mint-Minus. There is some question as to what that grade is now, seeing as how this copy has been played somewhat frequently since then.
And, of course, how appropriate that this ultra-rare piece of Motown Tamla vinyl would go up for auction this year, the 50th anniversary of Motown. Making it even more special is how absolutely stunning a piece of music this is. Exuberant, with a big, sweeping chorus, many consider its majestic grandeur — “The drum rolls at the beginning are considered to be the best soul drumming ever,” says Manship — to be the finest Northern Soul work ever recorded, even though it never got past the test-pressing stage.
“And it’s not an indie record either,” says Manship, eagerly pointing out for emphasis that this is Motown we’re talking about after all.
Wilson’s recording first surfaced in 1977. Tom Dieperro, a Motown archivist in the mid-’70s, found a file copy of it. What happened next is a little cloudy, according to Manship, but it seems that Northern Soul collector and record producer Simon Soussan discovered it among a batch of 45 curiosities Dieperro gave him to listen to.
Because the record was so rare, it was ideal for the Northern Soul scene, where rarity is prized among DJs.
“What he did then was bootleg it,” says Manship, and somehow, it ended up with the name Eddie Foster, instead of Frank Wilson. The record was also speeded up.
The song became a hit in the scene, especially at the legendary Northern Soul venue the Wigan Casino.
According to a posting on www.barlow.force9.co.uk, written in 1998 by Kev Roberts, a former owner of the record, in 1978, the true identity of the artist behind “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” was revealed, and the record began changing hands. Soussan reportedly sold it for $500 to a collector named Les McCutcheon, who, as the story goes, lent it to a DJ named Russ Winstanley.
Winstanley was integral to the record’s subsequent success. Unfortunately, at the Wigan, this copy accidently developed an edge warp. McCutcheon got the disc back and sold it to Jonathan Woodliffe for a reported £250. In an exchange involving a clutch of records, Roberts wound up with it for £350.
That seems a pittance today, considering Roberts would sell that copy to Tim Brown for £5,000 — then a new world record.
Then along came a second find, Murphy’s copy, and the whole game changed. In the late ’90s, Burrell reportedly purchased it for £15,000. Wilson eventually signed the label of the record for Burrell.
For details of the auction, go to www.raresoulman.co.uk