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  1. #1
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    Norman Whitfield's First Record Production?

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    I've recently read about an interview with Detroit's Peps'/Fabulous Peps' lead singer, Tom Storm from about 20 years ago, where he stated that his first recording was made by the songwriter and producer, Norman Whitfield, around the end of The 1950s. That song was titled, "Alone". Whitfield, born in 1940, was only 19 in 1959. His first production that I knew of, was The Sonettes' record, "I've Gotten Over You", released on his own, K.O. Records, in 1962, which was a subsidiary of Don Davis', Hazel and Robert Coleman's Thelma Records. I could imagine that he MIGHT have recorded "Alone" for Davis' and The Colemans' precursor label to Thelma, DaCo Records in late 1960 or 1961.

    But I doubt that it was released commercially, as I have never heard, nor seen any evidence of it having been pressed up and distributed to shops, even as a DJ issue. Storm said that his name appeared on the record as "Tom Storm", but no back-up group was credited. So, The Peps were not involved. That statement clearly was a paraphrasing, rather than what Storm probably actually said, making it seem like the record was, at least, pressed up. But I have my doubts about even that. I'm guessing that what he saw was a vinyl studio demo record, which maybe Don Davis had made up at United Sound Studio so DaCo could market it.

    I've never seen the record on any big Detroit collector's wants list, nor on any sales list, nor on any in-house label discographies, or even recording list. It seems as if that record had ever been pressed up, the Detroit collectors would have known about it, or the Northern Soul dealers who approached as many of the old Detroit Soul and late R&B producers as they could to find old tapes of unreleased recordings would have come across it, especially from someone so prominent as Norman. I should have found it myself during my one or two Saturday trips to Detroit to look through the record shops' bargain bins, thrift stores, junk and furniture stores from 1962-1967. Or I should have seen it in one of the collections of the other big Detroit R&B/Soul collectors.

    There are always a few new ridiculously rare old Detroit 45s showing up that no one knew about until they are discovered. But those usually come from unknown producers who were 1-man operations working out of their homes, who left the business after their one or two record productions, which never got into stores, and most of their vanity press run of 25 or 50 remained in their garages until they died, or were discovered by a Northern Soul dealer. Norman Whitfield isn't likely to have a secret first production that knows about, and was actually pressed up to be sold.

    I looked up the record on 45 Cat, and there is no entry. Nothing on Google or You-Tube. BMI.com had no song titled, "Alone", written by Norman Whitfield or sung by Tom Storm, or published by Don Davis' Groovesville Music, or Norman Whitfield's C-ASH Music [[from K.O. Records). I have never seen the record on any label discography, sales list, or record collector's wants list.

    So, I am asking if any of the posters here knows anything about Norman Whitfield's song, "Alone", sung by Tom Storm, and IF so, to what stage of production it got.

    I realise that it would have been better if I had asked this question in 2001. But, unfortunately, I hadn't yet heard about Tom Storm's interview at that time. Most of the posters who might possibly have answered this question are deceased or not posting here any more. Most of the big-Time Detroit music collectors I knew back then are gone.

    Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
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    I've never heard about this Robb.
    I've always been of the impression that his first involvement was with Thelma...and even then on a basic level. Playing tambourine etc.
    It just seems that was far too young to be writing and producing in 1959.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    I've never heard about this Robb.
    I've always been of the impression that his first involvement was with Thelma...and even then on a basic level. Playing tambourine etc.
    It just seems that was far too young to be writing and producing in 1959.
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    Exactly what I think. He's remembered his timing incorrectly. The earliest possible would be very late 1960 or 1961 while with Thelma's predecessor, DaCo. And there is an interesting possible connection with DaCo, as Storm named his first group The Fabulous Peps. And IF he'd been with Don Davis and Hazel and Robert Coleman at DaCo before they changed to Thelma, he'd have been a label-mate with The Fabulous Playboys, which might have been the inspiration for adding "Fabulous" to his own group's name.
    Last edited by robb_k; 08-13-2021 at 09:03 PM.

  4. #4
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    the first I remember Norman Whitfields' name was "It Should Have Been Me" Kim Weston, the flip of "Love Me All the Way" 1963 [[I think).

  5. #5
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    I have the Sonettes record and thought that was his first.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by theboyfromxtown View Post
    I have the Sonettes record and thought that was his first.
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    There were 2 Sonnettes records on Norman's K.O.[[Knockout) Records. And yes, the first one WAS Norman's first, unless Tom Storm's "Alone" was released commercially. But until we see proof that it WAS, I will believe that the "record" Tom described, which had him listed as a solo artist, was a studio demo, probably made at United Sound. I really doubt that it was released. IF it had been, the Detroit/Motown record collectors would have found out about it years ago. Norman has been available to those people, and to The Northern Soul DJs and collectors for well over 40 years now. He'd have been asked many, many times if he had any early records before joining Motown other than his two Sonnettes' releases, and his Distants on Thelma and other early Thelma productions.

    I guess "Alone" had too early a sound, and absolutely the wrong beat for Northern Soul dancing, and also for Belgian "Shag" dancing and Beach "Shag" dancing. Otherwise DJs from those scenes would have gotten tapes of it from Norman, or asked him to press up copies to use as a "new discovery" at those scenes' venues. Or else the master tape has been lost. Don Davis kept most of Thelma and related masters, rather than The Colemans. But, that wasn't among those unreleased tapes that were eventually released on vinyl and/or CD, or digital.

  7. #7
    Robb
    Harmon 1003 records [[Thelma) Roger Wade "Little Girl' & "I Can Only Hurt You" 1962 [[ also issued on Thelma 84946) written by N.Whitfield, I do recall an older one, I'll let you know if I can find it.
    Last edited by Graham Jarvis; 08-16-2021 at 01:01 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Jarvis View Post
    Robb
    Harmon 1003 records [[Thelma) Roger Wade "Little Girl' & "I Can Only Hurt You" 1962 [[ also issued on Thelma 84946) written by N.Whitfield, I do recall an older one, I'll let you know if I can find it.
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    I still absolutely HATE that this forum doesn't have the built-in feature that SAVES one's typing on a reply to a thread post, when the writer leaves the page due to a power outage or having 2 windows open, and hitting the wrong window by accident. I am a slow typist, and had been typing for over an hour answering Graham's comment on whether or not there was an earlier production by Norman Whitfield for Thelma Records than his first Sonnettes' record on K.O. Records. - BAH! HUMBUG!

    I will try to replicate it here, but it will be difficult.

    I'll type it into a text file and add it in pieces.

  9. #9
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    I sympathise, deeply, Robb!

    After losing various posts down the years, I've taken to typing my longer replies into TextPad and copying them here when I'm done. I hope you have the energy to do the same.

    Keith

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith_hughes View Post
    I sympathise, deeply, Robb!

    After losing various posts down the years, I've taken to typing my longer replies into TextPad and copying them here when I'm done. I hope you have the energy to do the same.

    Keith
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    Thanks Keith. Too bad this forum doesn't have the feature we have on Soul-Source, where if you leave the thread's page, whenever you return, the last unsaved post-in-progress on which you were working automatically is printed in the reply window when you attempt to reply again. That has saved me hours of retyping.

    I have not only lots of text to retype, but I also have several label scans to insert in strategic places. But that can't be done in my text file. I'll have to go back through and insert them after I've copied the text file into the reply window, and then save each time I insert a new one, to avoid losing all of the previous insertions.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Jarvis View Post
    Robb
    Harmon 1003 records [[Thelma) Roger Wade "Little Girl' & "I Can Only Hurt You" 1962 [[ also issued on Thelma 84946) written by N.Whitfield, I do recall an older one, I'll let you know if I can find it.
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    Roger Wade’s and Alberta Adams’ early 1962 records Thelma were both issued AFTER Richard Street’s Distants’ Thelma release. Wade’s was later leased to New York’s Harmon Records [[Through Bob Shad).
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    As we can see, The Distants' record has a pressing plant code starting with Columbia Terre Haute, Indiana ZTSC # 82335, which indicates early 1962, while Alberta Adams' has 82363, soon after, and Roger Wade's has 84946, indicating a few months later in the spring.
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    But, I’ve been told that the FIRST Sonnettes’ record on Whitfield’s K.O. 0001, in early 1962, was his first released production, unless his recording of Tom Storm’s “Alone” WAS actually released commercially.
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    But there is some uncertainty about exactly when in 1962 K.O. 0001 was released. So, it might be possible that Richard Street or Boladian brought Whitfield into Thelma BEFORE the first Sonnettes’ record was released. So, Richard Street and The Distants’ early 1962 Thelma issue MIGHT be the first commercially-released record which Norman produced.

    NONE of the DaCo records or leased productions I have [[Joe Weaver, O’Jays, Fabulous Playboys) had Norman’s name on their credits. And there were no DaCo master tapes found in Don Davis’ stash of masters [[although I think he had them, originally, as I don’t believe that The Colemans ended up with them).
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    The story I heard years ago was that DaCo went bankrupt, or to make their operation more professional and stable, The Colemans and Davis got their distributor, Armen Boladian to finance a restructuring of their record company, which allowed them to add staff and sign new artists. Richard Street was hired to be Davis’ assistant [[right-hand man). He had left The Distants to get into record production and concentrate more on his songwriting, and to spend more time with his new girlfriend [[presumably, Thelma Coleman [[Gordy) [[long divorced from Berry). When he and James Crawford left the group, Otis and the remaining group members needed to add 2 new members, and The Primes’ Kell Osborne left his group soon after, to try his luck in L.A. So, the remaining Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks took Street’s and Crawford’s places in The Distants, who were soon signed by Berry Gordy and Motown. They immediately changed their group’s name to The Temptations. So, when Richard Street started his new group soon after he was hired by Thelma, he was free to call them The Distants, and they were promptly signed by Davis to that label.

    Like Richard Street, Norman Whitfield, a struggling songwriter, wanted to become a record producer. He had some friends who were a girls group who he thought were really good singers. They wanted to record a record and get it released to promote their act to get work. So, Norman recorded a demo of them singing two of his songs, and started shopping it around. After no success [[presumably with Robert West, and maybe The Browns at Fortune, he ran it by Armen Boladian, who liked it so much he decided to finance a recording session and the pressing and distribution of the record. That became K.O [[Knockout) Records 0001 [[“I’ve Gotten Over You”/“Teardrops”). The record had some local sales, and Boladian brought Whitfield into Thelma to work with them. Too. K.O. was distributed along with Thelma, and seems to have become a subsidiary of Thelma. There was a second Sonnettes.’ record released in 1963, after Norman worked on several of The Thelma unnumbered issues by The Distants, Alberta Adams, and Roger Wade.
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    It was also rumoured that The Sonnettes recorded the first version of Don Davis’, Armen Boladians’ and Eddie Kendricks’ “Lonesome Native Girl”, which was used as the demo for the eventual commercial release by Scepter’s Shirelles on one of their 1963 LPs. That was probably intended for K.O. # 0003, but never pressed up, perhaps because Whitfield left Thelma/K.O. to go to work for Motown, and sales of The Sonnetts’ second record were low.

    The fact that Tom Storm mentioned that he and Eddie Kendricks were good friends throws a little light on Kendricks writing some songs for Thelma Records, after Storm and his Fabulous Peps were signed to the label. One or the other must have gotten the other into the company. Norman or Eddie could probably have gotten Storm into Motown in 1962, IF Storm’s mother hadn’t refused Berry’s 13-year 1% artist contract in 1959.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by robb_k; 08-16-2021 at 07:42 PM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    Roger Wade’s and Alberta Adams’ early 1962 records Thelma were both issued AFTER Richard Street’s Distants’ Thelma release. Wade’s was later leased to New York’s Harmon Records [[Through Bob Shad).
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    As we can see, The Distants' record has a pressing plant code starting with Columbia Terre Haute, Indiana ZTSC # 82335, which indicates early 1962, while Alberta Adams' has 82363, soon after, and Roger Wade's has 84946, indicating a few months later in the spring.
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    But, I’ve been told that the FIRST Sonnettes’ record on Whitfield’s K.O. 0001, in early 1962, was his first released production, unless his recording of Tom Storm’s “Alone” WAS actually released commercially.
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    But there is some uncertainty about exactly when in 1962 K.O. 0001 was released. So, it might be possible that Richard Street or Boladian brought Whitfield into Thelma BEFORE the first Sonnettes’ record was released. So, Richard Street and The Distants’ early 1962 Thelma issue MIGHT be the first commercially-released record which Norman produced.

    NONE of the DaCo records or leased productions I have [[Joe Weaver, O’Jays, Fabulous Playboys) had Norman’s name on their credits. And there were no DaCo master tapes found in Don Davis’ stash of masters [[although I think he had them, originally, as I don’t believe that The Colemans ended up with them).
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    Name:  JoeWeaver[[DaCo).jpg
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    The story I heard years ago was that DaCo went bankrupt, or to make their operation more professional and stable, The Colemans and Davis got their distributor, Armen Boladian to finance a restructuring of their record company, which allowed them to add staff and sign new artists. Richard Street was hired to be Davis’ assistant [[right-hand man). He had left The Distants to get into record production and concentrate more on his songwriting, and to spend more time with his new girlfriend [[presumably, Thelma Coleman [[Gordy) [[long divorced from Berry). When he and James Crawford left the group, Otis and the remaining group members needed to add 2 new members, and The Primes’ Kell Osborne left his group soon after, to try his luck in L.A. So, the remaining Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks took Street’s and Crawford’s places in The Distants, who were soon signed by Berry Gordy and Motown. They immediately changed their group’s name to The Temptations. So, when Richard Street started his new group soon after he was hired by Thelma, he was free to call them The Distants, and they were promptly signed by Davis to that label.

    Like Richard Street, Norman Whitfield, a struggling songwriter, wanted to become a record producer. He had some friends who were a girls group who he thought were really good singers. They wanted to record a record and get it released to promote their act to get work. So, Norman recorded a demo of them singing two of his songs, and started shopping it around. After no success [[presumably with Robert West, and maybe The Browns at Fortune, he ran it by Armen Boladian, who liked it so much he decided to finance a recording session and the pressing and distribution of the record. That became K.O [[Knockout) Records 0001 [[“I’ve Gotten Over You”/“Teardrops”). The record had some local sales, and Boladian brought Whitfield into Thelma to work with them. Too. K.O. was distributed along with Thelma, and seems to have become a subsidiary of Thelma. There was a second Sonnettes.’ record released in 1963, after Norman worked on several of The Thelma unnumbered issues by The Distants, Alberta Adams, and Roger Wade.
    Name:  Sonnettes2.jpg
Views: 159
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    It was also rumoured that The Sonnettes recorded the first version of Don Davis’, Armen Boladians’ and Eddie Kendricks’ “Lonesome Native Girl”, which was used as the demo for the eventual commercial release by Scepter’s Shirelles on one of their 1963 LPs. That was probably intended for K.O. # 0003, but never pressed up, perhaps because Whitfield left Thelma/K.O. to go to work for Motown, and sales of The Sonnetts’ second record were low.

    The fact that Tom Storm mentioned that he and Eddie Kendricks were good friends throws a little light on Kendricks writing some songs for Thelma Records, after Storm and his Fabulous Peps were signed to the label. One or the other must have gotten the other into the company. Norman or Eddie could probably have gotten Storm into Motown in 1962, IF Storm’s mother hadn’t refused Berry’s 13-year 1% artist contract in 1959.
    Great stuff robb k !! Digging the DACO artwork !

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