Correc-Tone Story
Thanks to
Graham Finch
Artwork and Website Design
Thanks to
Lowell Boileau

Pickett began his recording career singing gospel before having success with The Falcons. The Lupine 45 climbed the national charts in the spring of 1962 and he had a great Correc-tone record that same year. His “If You Need Me” was a hit on the Double L label in 1963.

Violinaires Sign of The Judgement
Wilson PickettIf You Need Me

 Correc-tone’s studio on 12th Street started out in the music business with a bang. The first 45 on the label was a storming number by a young Wilson Picket, who was making his solo recording debut after splitting away from The Falcons.

 Born in Prattville, Alabama in 1941, Wilson had moved up to Detroit in 1955 to be with his father. Suffused in Southern Baptist gospel, the teenager was soon involved in the Motor City’s church choirs and gospel groups. He sang lead with The Pearly Gates and then joined The Sons Of Zion, before becoming one of The Violinares.

 At that time, the other members of this esteemed group were Isaiah Jones (tenor), Robert Gandy (lead vocals), Calvin Fair (tenor), Wilson DeShields (baritone and guitar) and Leo Conery (bass). Although they recorded numerous discs over many years, Wilson Pickett only featured on their Gotham label 45, singing second lead on the rousing “Sign Of The Judgement”, which was cut sometime in 1957.

 A couple of years later Pickett switched to secular music, joining The Falcons, a group that had had huge success early in 1959 with a seminal slice of Soul called “You’re So Fine”. Mack Rice had sung lead, with Willie Schofield, Joe Stubbs and Eddie Floyd backing him.

 The recording was from Detroit music entrepreneur Robert West stable of labels - initially released on the local Flick label. When United Artists picked it up it became a national smash and its success helped hone the sound of R’n’B.

Wilson Pickett wasn’t in the group when these songs were recorded.

 In mid-1960, Don Mancha was a vocalist with the pioneering Mr. West and was about to join The Falcons, telling me: “I was set up to sign with The Falcons, to replace Eddie Floyd. Then Mack Rice found Wilson Pickett and he took Eddie’s place.”

 Wilson made his recording debut with the group’s “Pow, You’re In Love” and “Workin’ Man’s Song” that came out on the United Artists label in January 1961. He also sang lead (plus co-wrote) The Falcon’s big smash later that year, “I Found a Love” - a 45 that launched Mr. West’s Lupine label. In a strange twist, the second Lupine release was “He’s So Fine” by The Corvells - an ‘answer record’ to The Falcons’ hit of ’59.

 “I Found a Love” climbed into Billboard’s chart in the spring of ’62, but by then Wilson was already thinking in terms of a solo career. He did, however, continue to tour with group to plug the hit and earn some cash.

 Other Falcons started to record by themselves and Lupine put out solo 45s on Mack Rice, Eddie Floyd and Joe Stubbs. But being highly ambitious, the 21-year-old Wilson was lured away from Robert West by Wilbert Golden and joined his newly formed Correc-tone Recording Company.

A photo of Wilson Pickett when he was a 21-year-old. His very first solo recording - “Let Me Be Your Boy” - was the disc that launched the Correc-tone label around March 1962.

 Wilson appeared at the recently re-opened 20 Grand in October ‘61, and then at the Parizian in January ’62 along with Dianne Warwick’s cousin, Marva Josie. The two gigged there for a couple of weeks and that July Marva was back in Detroit. A photo appeared in the Michigan Chronicle showing her with Mr. Wilbert Golden, with a caption saying she had come from New York to record for Correc-tone.

 By then Wilson’s Correc-tone disc was already released – it came out around March ’62. He wrote the slow-paced “My Heart Belongs To You”, which he had already published with Mr. West’s Lupine company. The studio’s keyboardist Wilbert Harbert penned the electric A-side, “Let Me Be Your Boy”, while Sonny Sanders and Robert Bateman oversaw the sessions. The 45 was also released on MGM’s Cub label, but neither copy sold well - their failure due to a lack of promotion.

“Pickett was quite a challenge.”
Robert Bateman, producer and songwriter

 Eager to make it, Wilson felt a little uneasy about Robert Bateman - famed for writing “Please Mr. Postman” - as he didn’t consider him to be the right kind of songwriter to get him a chart buster: “Pickett was quite a challenge. He said ‘Robert Bateman - I could never get a hit with him, because I was too pop’. Coming from Motown, I wouldn’t consider us an R’n’B company. It only got tagged R’n’B because we were black.”

 But Robert knew he could deliver what Wilson wanted and set about writing a song that combined commercial potential with gospel flavor: “I sat down and I had to start to think R’n’B, and I thought of Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’. Then I just put down those chords and used what we called the ra-ra.”

 The ‘ra-ra’ means slightly extending each word into a series, so ‘You send me’, becomes ‘You-oo-oo-oo se-se-se-end me-e-e-e’. This was how Wilson’s “If You Need Me” was created and as Robert rightly recalled, it started Wilson on the road to fame.

 Needing cash, Mr. Golden sold the publishing rights to the song, which came as something of a shock to Robert: “I was over in Chicago at the time, at VeeJay. Mr. Abner was only interested in the Wilson Pickett material – ‘If You Need Me’. I called back and talked to Wilbert, and he tells me he has sold the publishing to “If You Need Me” to Atlantic. I said, ‘Wilbert, how could you sell the publishing if you are not the publisher?’ and he says, ‘Well, we all get some money, man. There’s money for the writers too’. I could have nixed that. I had already copyrighted it. But I thought - I wrote that and I can write another one.”

 Instead of Wilson’s song, Robert Bateman managed to sell Mr. Abner a Pyramids’ Correc-tone recording instead – “What Is Love” – that subsequently came out the VeeJay label. And he felt a bit better once he got paid from Atlantic via Wilbert Golden: “I think they gave him about $1,500-$2,000 dollars and the writers - I think we got about $1,000 a piece, as an advance. It didn’t seem too bad to me, but I didn’t realize the value of publishing at that time. Back then, we were only paying musicians $5 a side, so those tunes only cost about $30 (to record).”

 Without the publishing rights, Robert decided his best bet of getting royalties was to travel over to New York and agree a deal with a big national label to release it. However, with Atlantic having earmarked “If You Need Me” for their established star Solomon Burke, few recording companies were eager to take it.

“The record came on and he fell over backwards.”
Robert Bateman, producer and songwriter

 “I took Wilson’s record - ‘If You Need Me’ - to New York. I went to Cub; they wanted the record, but I said Solomon Burke was going to cover it and… Then I went to ABC, and they loved it, but… I went to all the majors first. Then I went to the small labels, but nobody wanted to fight with Atlantic. Then I ran into Lloyd Price on the street, and he was just going into the business. By then I said, ‘Shit, I’m not going to tell these guys about Solomon Burke’. We went over to Bell Sound and had about five acetates cut.”

 Armed with these five discs, Robert went to New York’s number one radio jock, WWRL’s ‘Burn, baby! Burn!’ Magnificent Montague.

 “He was the hottest thing to hit the radio - played that record back to back. (Atlantic boss) Jerry Wexler tells me he was in his office the next day, leaning back in his chair, and the record came on and he fell over backwards.”

 “If You Need Me” was released by Lloyd Price on his Double L record label and sold well. It didn’t, however, quite outdo Solomon Burke’s cover, which reached number 2 of Billboard’s R & B chart in May ’63 - Pickett’s original peaked at 30 that same month.

 Instead of this success being the start of Correc-tone’s rise to fame and fortune, things began to unravel. What Mr. Golden hadn’t done was get Wilson to sign a contract - the two simply had a handshake agreement along the lines of if Wilson hadn’t tasted success within a year, he was free to leave. Very honorable, but not very professional.

 To compound that error, Mr. Golden confined the fact to Wilson Pickett’s ex-manager, Mr. West: “Robert West was supposed to be a friend of mine. He used to come and we talked to each other.” No doubt Mr. West was pretty unhappy about Wilbert having lured Wilson away from his Lupine label and he soon let Atlantic boss Jerry Wexler know. He in turn informed Pickett and Wilbert then got a telephone call from New York: “Wilson Picket called me up and said, ‘What are you trying to do? I said, ‘I’m not trying to do anything. I fed you when couldn’t feed your family.’

These two 45s were recorded in New York.

 Wilson opted to leave Correc-tone and Robert Bateman opted to stay in New York to produce other songs on Wilson Pickett (also Buddy Lamp & Shawn Eliott) for Double L at Bell Sound, most famously “It’s Too Late”, which became a massive hit for Wilson in August 1963.

 With Wilbert Golden lacking funds, Wilson had paid for some the sessions out of his own pocket and felt no guilt about leaving Correc-tone. The songs he cut formed an LP that Double L released soon after “Its Too Late” charted. However, the only other 45 on the label was “I’m Down To My Last Heartbreak”, which came out towards the end of ’63.

 Wilson inevitably decided to sign with Atlantic to further his career. His first record on the label - “In The Midnight Hour” – topped Billboard’s R & B chart in the summer of ’65. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 Don Mancha penned an answer to Pickett’s hit - “I Need You” - that Lillian Dorr recorded for Correc-tone and empathized with his pal Pickett, as he had seen what had transpired at Correc-tone: “Little did they know that Pickett was cutting his own deal (with Atlantic). Pickett was desperate; he had took his last $700 - it cost to do the album – his last bit of money that he had saved up. He paid for his own sessions, cause Wilbert was out of money.”

 Minus Robert Bateman and Wilson Pickett and short of dollars, Correc-tone’s future looked bleak. Surprisingly, Wilbert Golden kept going and Correc-tone got a hit in ‘64.


Correc-Tone Story
Thanks to
Graham Finch
Lowell Boileau