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Soul, Blues and Rock'n'Roll

Diz and the Doormen Image

Diz and the Doormen

Also evident was a need to cater for fans of soul music - and more especially for the diehard soul brothers who longed for the in-demand dancers from the golden era of the 60s. Ace had the music - the Modern subsidiary Kent had been a prime player - and also the man, soul aficionado Ady Croasdell, otherwise known as Harboro Horace, who compiled the first Kent/Modern long player "For Dancers Only" in 1982. It went on to sell 20,000 copies and is still in the catalogue today. The label it was on, took the name of its American counterpart (there was a precedent here) and Kent became an integral part of the Ace family.

Contemporary blues, but with a definite vintage flavour, was also getting a look in as Roomful of Blues made their way into the Ace catalogue, shortly followed by such British bearers of the blues beacon as Red Beans and Rice, Dana Gillespie and Diz and the Doormen, stars of the Hare and Hounds at Islington, who went on to record with New Orleans giants Walter Kimble and Lee Allen.

There was also a chance to hear some of these legends live when Ted organised a never to be forgotten concert featuring Young Jessie, Chuck Higgins, Big Jay McNeely and Willie Egan (now, sadly, recently departed) at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Probably not cost effective, but a gas all the same.

On the reissue front, labels whose back catalogue would be examined as eagerly as a train enthusiast looking for pre-war rolling stock, included Cadence, home of the Everly Brothers and the Ballad Of Davy Crockett, and Laurie, where "white but all right" doo woppers Dion and the Belmonts ruled supreme. The Dion reissues also displayed Ace's commitment to sound quality of the highest possible order. On a scouting trip to New York Roger had discovered that the original master tapes of the Dion and the Belmonts sessions were languishing on a rack in the RCA studios. Armed with one of the first digital taping systems, the boys from Ace were able to release, for the first time, stereo masters and previously unheard sides. The result was vocal group heaven.

That particular triumph was followed in 1984 by a deal with one of the great rock'n'roll labels of the postwar era, Specialty Records. This led eventually to another jewel in the Ace crown, the Little Richard "Specialty Sessions" box set - six CDs of vintage Penniman which captured every sniff, sneeze and A Wop Bop a Loo Bop, a Wop Bam Boom of this seminal artist during his brief, hit-making, era. Little Richard supplied the music, Ace supplied the lavish packaging and Rick Coleman and the dedicated Ace consultant, Rob Finnis, supplied the words.

Little Richard Image

Little Richard

Many of the Little Richard tracks had been cut at the famous Cosimo studios in New Orleans and Ace ventured further into Louisiana to investigate the rich gumbo stew of swamp pop, cajun and zydeco to be heard on labels such as Floyd Soileau's Jin and Swallow and Eddie Shuler's Goldband. A deal with Soileau led to some great cajun music from the likes of the Balfa Brothers and Nathan Abshire, expertly annotated by South Louisiana music buff and soon to be Ace consultant John Broven, as well as a bubbling-under UK chart hit in the shape of Rockin' Sidney's original version of My Toot Toot.

As the mid-80s approached, the technological revolution gathered pace and records which had been released on 78s were now being reissued on small silver discs that revolved a few hundred times faster. Ace embraced the new technology with a vengeance and soon Jackie Wilson, Dion and B.B. King were filling the CD racks. By this time Ace had left North London behind for the more salubrious canal-side spaces of Harlesden where yet another addition to the Ace fold, GlobeStyle Records, was born. Unlike Ace, GlobeStyle also dealt in new artists and were responsible for first breaking Ofra Haza. Many of the records were produced by Ben Mandelson.