The New Holidays in this
photo are Jack Holland, James Holland and Maurice Wise. These
records were released in 1969. Jimmy ‘Soul’ Clark previously
recorded “If I Only Knew” in 1968.
In ’66 ex-Golden World Holiday Tony
Hester formed a songwriting partnership with Richard “Popcorn”
Wylie, whose recording career goes back to the first days of
Motown. Popcorn and The Mohawks recorded for Berry’s fledgling
company in 1961 and before that had had a 45 on Johnnie Mae
Matthews’ Northern label.
Once Popcorn hooked up with Tony Hester at Golden World, the two
forged a great partnership, penning and cutting Larry Wright’s
in-demand disc “It’s Okay With Me” and Steve Mancha’s “Friday
Night” before finding success with Tommy Neal’s “Goin’ To A
Happening”. Here’s another slice of trivia: Tommy had been in
The Majestics with Johnny Mitchell, who left in ’62 to join The
Popcorn recalled his songwriting days with Tony Hester as being
“We were on production - we would write at least four songs a
day. First I used a garage behind my house at 3044 Taylor - I
just had a home tape recorder and a desk and a piano. That’s
when I started Soul Hawk. We cut ‘Sweet Darling’ (sung by Jimmy
‘Soul’ Clark) at United Sound - distribution was set up through
Palmer, because I knew a guy there.”
That first Soul Hawk release – with its Motown-quality sound -
made a lot of people in Detroit sit up and take notice, giving
Popcorn’s label instant kudos.
In ’69, Popcorn and Tony recorded The New Holidays – now
including ex-Contour Joe Billingslea - on “Maybe So Maybe No”
and could sense the potential of the hit. They opted for
national exposure through Armen Boladian’s Westbound label,
which although just a few months old, had already shipped vast
quantities of Funkadelic’s “I Bet You”.
“Maybe So Maybe No”
The flip side on Soul Hawk – “If I Only
Knew” - is a version of a song that Jimmy ‘Soul’ Clark had a
recorded a year earlier, but Popcorn decided to put a stronger
B-side on the Westbound release. However, it’s not The New
Holidays that are singing!
Popcorn remembers “My Baby Ain’t No Play Thing” being sung by a
different group that included Willie Harvey, Bobby Martin,
Herschel Hunter and guy named Fletcher. Herschel and Bobby had
been in The Martiniques in the early 1960s, recording two 45s
for the local Danceland label.
I had wondered about it being sung by The Mighty Lovers, a group
that Popcorn had recorded around the same time, but that theory
lost credence when I played the record to one of the group’s
sisters, who declared it wasn’t them.
For some reason or another, the Westbound release didn’t takeoff
– in fact I have only seen “promotional” copies of this record.
The Westbound 45 has a different B-side to the Soul Hawk release
and “My Baby Ain’t No Play Thing” isn’t the same group. Jimmy
Holland’s Holidays were scheduled to record Tony Hester’s
composition "The Devil Is Dope" before The Dramatics.
Popcorn, Tony and the New Holidays
started working on a bunch of songs that would later propel The
Dramatics into stardom. Jimmy told me how his group missed out
on that phenomenal success:
“The Dramatics were styled after my group. “In The Rain” – we
called it pain. Several of the songs that they recorded was
stuff that… ‘The Devil Is Dope’, I have a rehearsal tape on. …We
were at Tony’s house, rehearsing those songs; scheduled to
record them. Him and Popcorn Wylie had a falling out; he took
his songs and ran over to Don Davis and recorded them. And the
Wee Gee thing - the rough-tough singing - he stylized that group
after us, because I was the guy singing all the hard stuff, like
The cabaret gig was in June 1968.