Secret Stash Records / Sonny Knight Mini-Documentary

Apr 2014

Secret Stash and Sonny Knight & The Lakers are the subject of a new mini-documentary produced by Minnesota Original, a program that airs on Twin Cities Public Television, our local PBS affiliate. The crew was a ton of fun to work with and we were VERY impressed with the amount of work they put into their productions. They are top notch pros. Anyhow, here it is. We hope you dig it.

New Sonny Knight & The Lakers Album and Release Party

Mar 2014
ssr-33 sonny knight album cover

Sonny Knight & The Lakers “I’m Still Here” album cover

 

On April 29th, 2014, the debut album from Sonny Knight & The Lakers, I’m Still Here, will be released in the US by Secret Stash Records on LP, CD, and digitally. For Sonny Knight, the making of his debut album nearly 50 years after recording his first single has effectively pushed the reset button on a long and interrupted career, bringing it around full circle musically and geographically. He and his new backing band, the Lakers, recorded I’m Still Here in a subterranean Minneapolis studio a scant seven blocks away from the basement studio beneath a long shuttered record store where he recorded his first 45 (as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols) in 1965 at age 17. 

Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.

Unbeknownst to Sonny, not only had that lone 7” record he cut as a teenager (“Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”) become a prized item in R&B collector circles in the ensuing decades, his powerful voice had not been forgotten. In the 1990s, vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young (formerly of Minneapolis soul legends the Valdons) extended him an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. When the Valdons were revived in 2012 in celebration of Secret Stash Records’ Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation, Wright and Young tapped Knight as a new member.

After six months of working together on shows promoting Twin Cities Funk & Soul, Sonny and Secret Stash founder / in-house funky drummer Eric Foss formed Sonny Knight and The Lakers. In the spring of 2013, Sonny and the Lakers hit the ground running – playing gigs a few short weeks after their first rehearsal. Within months they had grown into their own as a band. In the fall, Sonny and the guys spent a long weekend at a cabin in Northern Minnesota and it became a defining moment. Staying up late, listening to old 45s, learning gospel songs, and wood shedding tunes was a way for the band to develop a similar vocabulary and refine their direction. It transformed them from a group of good players into a band. When they returned home, they set up a string of performances and residencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. By the end of their residency at the Eagles club in South Minneapolis, virtually no breaks interrupted or slowed down their live sets. Non-stop rehearsals and live performances helped The Lakers tighten up their sound. That, coupled with the inspiration found during the cabin trip, laid the ground work for recording an album.

The way I’m Still Here was recorded was the product of many months of thought, just as the songs on the album were developed over hours of collaborative effort for Sonny and the band. The album covers a wide range of tempos and soul forms ranging from upbeat booglaoos, to beautiful ballads. Since the Lakers were spearheaded by a reissue label focused on obscure music, the band encompasses more than just Motown and Stax inspired sounds. The many hours spent digging for and listening to forgotten sixties and early seventies soul and funk records have practically oozed into the rehearsal space and studio. What stands out most are the strong performances by the band and Sonny’s exuberance and energy. As a listener, there’s never any doubt about what feelings he wants to convey.

Nearly fifty years have passed since Knight’s first recording, but for the first time he feels like the center of attention. He says, “Sometimes I wonder, why me? Why are all these great things happening now? All I can say is thanks. These are dreams that I had forgotten. Only now that they are starting to come true do I remember that I had them at all.”

To celebrate the April 29th release of I’m Still Here, Sonny Knight & The Lakers will headline a release party on May 3rd at Frist Avenue’s Main Room (Minneapolis).  The large scale show promises to be the greatest event produced by Secret Stash yet.  With the help of First Avenue and sponsors 89.3 The Current and The Electric Fetus, as well as supporting acts The Honeydogs and Southside Desire, this promises to be a night never to forget.

 

Otis Clay Is Coming To Minneapolis

Mar 2014

We’ve spent the last few months buried in master tapes from the One-Derful! Records catalog….not that we’re complaining. We’ve been listening to rare and unreleased material from on of the world’s great collections of 60s R&B. It’s crazy to think that only a few people ever have heard some of these recordings. Among the hundreds and hundreds of tapes are recordings by one of the label’s flagship artists, Otis Clay. Some of his stuff (released and unreleased) in here is absolutely breathtaking.

Normally when a guy like Otis comes to town, we get pretty excited. But now that we’ve spent months so close to his work, we’re beyond thrilled! That’s why we partnered with his management and our friends at The Dakota to give away a pair of tickets to his concert this Saturday (9PM show). To enter the contest, shoot on over to our Facebook page. All you’ll need to do is follow the super simple instructions from there.

We’ll see you at The Dakota!

“Otis Clay has one of the best!
presentations — a combination of gospel!
passion, heavy grooves and a positive!
attitude… Intensity and grace!
simultaneously.” – N.Y. Times

New Reissue Announced: Harry Mosco “For You Specially”

Feb 2014


 
In the early 1970s, Harry Mosco formed the now legendry funk-rock band, The Funkees. In search of greater opportunity and a wider audience, the group moved to London in 1973. Four years and two albums later they disbanded. Meanwhile, back in Nigeria, prominent businessman G.A.D. Tabansi was interested in getting into the music business, and signing the Funkees was his top priority. He traveled all the way to London to meet with the band only to find out they’d broken up. Tabansi returned home with no record deal.
 
Mosco had already formed a new group called Africanium with drummer/singer Willie Bestman. Later that same year (1977), they recorded an album at TMC Studios in London. It was originally intended for release by EMI, but instead, Mosco licensed the album, titled For You Specially, to Mr. Tabansi for release on his new label. In an attempt to make the album more commercially viable, it was released under the artist name Harry Mosco rather than Africanium (a largely unknown band). In an even further attempt to appeal to the masses, the word FUNKEES was printed on the cover to help consumers make the connection between Mosco and his former band.
 
Despite Tabansi’s attempts to capitalize on the success of Mosco’s previous recordings with The Funkees, For You Specially was released with very little commercial success. Undaunted by the poor sales of their first attempt, Tabansi and Mosco tried again and released Country Boy in 1978. It would go on to become one of the best-selling Nigerian records of all time. To this day, many people mistakenly credit Country Boy as Mosco’s first solo record. In fact, before his death in 2012, Mosco told Uchenna Ikonne (co-producer of For You Specially reissue) that he himself had forgotten all about For You Specially. Mosco did however recycle some of the songs from that album in releases during the 1980s.
 
Secret Stash Records is proud to present the first ever reissue of this rare Nigerian funk gem from one of the most influential musicians in the genre. Co-produced by Uchenna Ikonne (Brand New Wayo, Who Is William Onyebar?), this reissue has been lovingly remastered and meticulously restored.

New Valdons 45, LTD ED Afrobeat LP, And Massive Sale

Nov 2013

It’s almost time time for our annual  Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale!  As an added bonus, this year we’re releasing a Ltd Ed colored vinyl pressing of Peter King’s Omo Lewa (standard version due out in Jan) exclusivel through our webstore.  We are also releasing a new Valdons 45.   The sale will begin at midnight Central Time on Friday, Nov 29 and run through 11:59 PM on Monday, Dec 2.

 

All in-stock back catalog titles will be available from 12%-40% off. On top of that, we’ve got a couple DEEPLY DISCOUNTED items including a limited-edition screen printed concert poster reproduction, and CDs from Ghanaian Highlife legends The Sweet Talks (courtesy of the folks at Tropic Vibe Records).

 

As a very special added bonus, we raided the store room and came back with some limited edition pressings that have been unavailable for months, or even years. You see, every time we do a limited edition pressing, we hang on to a few extra copies (that still fall within number scheme) just in case someone’s record shows up damaged, or worse yet, doesn’t show up at all. Enough time has passed that we can finally unload some of these extra copies. We have very limited quantities of this stuff and it will only be available during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday sale event.

 

Also, starting on Black Friday you will FINALLY be able to purchase the brand new single from The Valdons.

SSR-1003 Valdons single label

 

Lastly, we’re releasing the limited edition (coke bottle green w/pink splatter) vinyl pressing of Peter King’s Omo Lewa on Black Friday. This title is in stock and will ship immediately. This is not a “pre-order.” You place your order, it ships. This 350 unit pressing is only available on our website.  The standard edition vinyl and CD versions of this record wont be out until Jan 21, 2014.

 

SSR-LP-31 Peter King Cover

 

DISCOUNTS
-12%-40% off all back catalog

-$5 Sweet Talks CDs

-$5 screen printed posters

-Discounted 7″ bundles

 

BACK IN STOCK!
-Twin Cities Funk & Soul 2xLP
-Long Live Boogaloo CD

 

SALE EXCLUSIVES
We have very limited quantities of the following. They will only be available during this sale event.
-LTD ED Nkengas pink LP+45
-LTD ED Pazy green LP/Jacket
-LTD ED TC Funk purple 2xLP+45
-LTD ED Vis-A-Vis LP + 45
-LTD ED Valdons 45 (reissue)
-LTD ED Oscar Wright 45

Malort, Hot Dogs, Deep Dish Pizza, and Moldy Master Tapes

Nov 2013

Last Friday we drove from Minneapolis to Chicago to pick up some master tapes for two different catalogs of music that we’ve licensed the rights to. After fueling up with some homemade egg sandwiches courtesy of super producer John Miller, Will, John, and I hit road for the windy city. We actually drove straight to Eric Leaner’s place just outside the city. We spent the evening there taking an inventory of all the tapes for the One-Derful!, Midas, Toddlin’ Town, Mar-V-Lus, and M-Pac labels. We talked for hours about Eric’s father and uncle, and the empire they built (he may or may not call it that, but we certainly do). Then we broke bread… well, actually Eric ordered pizza from Beggars. Damn, that was good. After copious amounts of pizza and an ice cold beer, it was time to be on our way. We loaded all 240+ tapes into the Green Machine (a 2002 VW Eurovan) and drove up to our apartment in Ukrainian Village. It was about the same price as a hostel, but gave us the security to store the tapes for the weekend. Plus it had three bedrooms which meant I didn’t have to listen to the John man snore.

Hanging with Eric Leaner.  He and his family own the rights to the One-Derful! catalog.

Hanging with Eric Leaner. He and his family own the rights to the One-Derful! catalog.

 

Once we got settled into the apartment, we had to celebrate with a little champagne (okay, and maybe a bit of bourbon). With the tapes safely stored in the apartment, we woke up the next morning and took the Green Machine to Kalamazoo, MI, where we met Abike Martins (but not before betting some amazing hot dogs from Devil Dawgs on Sheffield). Abike’s grandfather owned the Flaming Arrow and Crow labels in Detroit, though most of the musicians were from Georgia. She passed off her family’s tapes, for which we already licensed the rights, and we turned right back around for Chicago (it was almost a 3 hour drive). Upon our return to the Windy City, we dropped off the tapes at the apartment and hit the streets for some authentic Chicago style pizza. A friend suggested Pequods. Their crust was amazing. You can’t really get crust quite like that in Minneapolis.

John and Will digging through the One-Derful! tapes once we got them back to the apartment.

John and Will digging through the One-Derful! tapes once we got them back to the apartment.

mmmmmm.....

Devil Dawgs, mmmmmm…..

Just a couple of the tapes from Flaming Arrow

Just a couple of the tapes from Flaming Arrow

After the ‘zza we made it over to Reckless Records in Wicker Park before they closed. This is a GREAT record shop. We spent an hour or so grabbing up killer records for reasonable prices (both new and used) and went on our way. We figured the best possible way to complete our short lived Chicago experience was with a bottle of Malort. Boy, were we wrong. Chicago, we love you. Seriously, you are a hell of a town. But this stuff is nasty! If anyone out there can give us some advice on how you choke down this swill, we’d appreciate it, especially since we’re still sitting on 7/8 of a bottle of it.
Anyhow, we spent the remainder of the night geeking out over all the tapes and trying to come up with the best strategy for cataloging and releasing material from both catalogs. We woke up and loaded all the tapes back in the Green Machine and said goodbye for now to the beautiful city of Chicago. Thankfully, as things progress with the One-Derful! catalog, we’ll be back.

The tapes stayed dry and warm inside the Green Machine

The tapes stayed dry and warm inside the Green Machine

-Eric Foss
Secret Stash Records

Secret Stash Records to reissue lost soul music from Chicago’s One-Derful! Label Group

Oct 2013

onederful
For Immediate Release:

Archival Gems From Influential Chicago Soul Catalog Leaner Music Group To Be Reissued By Secret Stash Records. Entire 1,000+ song catalog to be digitally archived for the first time; film and TV sync rights also included.

Though “Shake A Tail Feather” by The Five Du-Tones is perhaps the best known song from brothers Ernie and George Leaner’s record label endeavors of the 1960s, the Leaner family’s achievements and legacy reach far and wide. Secret Stash Records is proud to announce an agreement with Leaner Music Group granting the Minneapolis-based label access to the entire LMG catalog. This massive archive of influential soul recordings includes releases on the One-deful!, M-Pac!, Mar-V-Lus, Midas, Halo, and Toddlin’ Town labels. Many of the tracks contained in the catalog were thought to have been lost and virtually all have been out of print for decades.

While never quite achieving the national notoriety of other Chicago labels such as Chess or Vee-Jay records, the Leaner brothers released a steady stream of R&B by dozens of artists like Alvin Cash, McKinley Mitchell, Otis Clay, and Betty Everett that helped make their independently owned music group a thriving business decades; no small feat for a black-owned label in the 1960s and ’70s.

However, one of the most interesting finds in the catalog was never released. In 1967 the Leaners produced the first known studio recording of The Jackson 5. As told in an incredibly in-depth Chicago Reader article from September 2009 by Jake Austen, a master tape from July 13, 1967 containing a rendition of “I’m a Big Boy Now” by The Jackson 5 has been unearthed from LMG’s collection of tapes. This predates the version of the song released on Steeltown Records that has long been touted as the Jacksons first recording by a full six months.

Today the entire catalog of copyrights owned by George and Ernie is now owned by their children. “Thankfully, the family has been very responsible with their inheritance. Though the tapes have not yet been digitized, they’re all safely stored in Chicago. They really seem to take great pride in their family’s legacy and have been waiting for the right partner to help preserve that legacy,” says Secret Stash co-founder Eric Foss.

But, before Secret Stash can start releasing selections from the LMG vaults, they must first take on the daunting task of digitizing the entire catalog. “Rather than try and make a compilation based on a selection of recordings that are already on our radar, we thought it would be a good idea to digitally archive the entire collection first and then step back and decide how best to move forward with releasing records,” says Secret Stash GM, Will Gilbert.

Beyond creating packages to sell to consumers, Secret Stash now has the rights to license all 1,000+ tracks to film and television. Because LMG controls the publishing rights to much of the content, this catalog will become one of the greatest one-stop shops for the synchronization licensing of R&B and soul music in the world.
Exactly how many releases will come from this new partnership is unclear at this point. But, what is clear is that, for the first time ever, this gigantic collection of timeless music will be properly archived and backed up so that it may exist for many years to come. From there we’ll just have to wait and see.

###

For interview requests with Secret Stash Records or Leaner Music Group please contact Larry Kay at Night Train PR: nighttrainpr@voicenet.com or 215-370-9498

NEW music from the Valdons!!!

Oct 2013

CLIFF
Great to see our friend Clifton Curtis from the Valdons today. He stopped by to check out the new Valdons single we are about to drop, “Stop, Wait a Minute Girl” b/w “Whatcha Gonna Do”. We’ll be posting info on when you can snap up these two sides of sweet soul loveliness very soon so keep an eye out. In the meantime, Have a listen!!

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