West Grand Blog

B-4 'Do I Love You' and After

NEW INSIGHTS INTO FRANK WILSON’S MASTERWORK

 

Is there anything left to learn about “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”?

      Much is familiar: that the late Frank Wilson’s original 45 has become one of the world’s most valuable records; that this occurred because on the eve of its release in late 1965, Wilson chose a career of writing and producing at Motown, instead of singing; that his decision saw the release cancelled, leading to the single's scarcity and later to its extraordinary value, as it was sought after and worshipped by Britain’s Northern Soul community.

      Most recently, Detroit record collector and retailer Dan Zieja sold a copy of the original test pressing to Jack White’s Third Man Records, which had it re-vinyled as a replica to sell during this year’s Record Store Day.

DILY disc.jpg

      A thorough backstory about “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” was written nine years ago by Andy Rix, with recollections from Wilson himself, among others. Even so, some key facts were missing – which have now come to light through the prism of paperwork obtained by musicologist Andrew Flory, author of the essential I Hear A Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B. The document is a “B-4,” used to log details of recording sessions undertaken by members of the American Federation of Musicians, such as those who played on “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).” So now, indeed, there is more to know about this moment in Motown history.

      Familiar to many in the music business, the AFM’s B-4 personal services contract identified union members on a recording date, who hired them, who led the session, and which “tunes” were laid down. There were also sections to note the wages earned, and what percentage of the pay was set aside for the AFM members’ pension fund.

      Motown devotees (and insiders) have often gossiped about the company’s dealings with the union in Detroit during Hitsville’s early days, and about the availability of B-4 data. On the west coast, at least, some documentation appears to have been preserved. And so the AFM contract for this singular session reveals that:

  • It took place on Saturday, October 9, 1965;
  • The studio was Harmony Recorders in Los Angeles;
  • Two tunes were cut in four hours;
  • Five AFM players were present.

      The tracks recorded were “Do I Love (Indeed I Do)” and “All Your Love.” The songwriter of both was Wilson, although that information was not required for the contract. It’s not apparent whether Hal Davis  and Marc Gordon were behind the studio console, although they were credited as producers on the label copy of the aborted Soul Records single. Nor is it clear whether Wilson recorded only the instrumental tracks at the session. He may have cut his vocal at a later date, perhaps when strings, horns and background vocals were added.

DILY B4.png

      Moreover, there is no vocal version of “All Your Love” – not by Wilson, anyway. Brenda Holloway recorded the song, almost certainly with the instrumental track cut at Harmony on October 9, although it was unreleased at the time. Eventually, it appeared on a U.K. various-artists compilation in 2002, A Cellarful Of Motown!

      Some of the B-4 details are interesting, while others are downright illuminating, such as the identity of the musicians. Many Los Angeles studio players have claimed to be on Motown hits of the 1960s, and probably more than would fit into a studio at any one time. At least for this session, there should now be no dispute.

      A key component of “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” were the vibes. If ever there was a sound guaranteed to send Northern Soul dancers out on the floor – then and now – it’s those ringing metal bars, played with panache on this date by Victor Feldman from Edgware, London. He was 31 years of age when recruited for this recording, with 25 years of musicianship already to his credit. A child prodigy, he took up the drums at age six, then learned the vibraharp as a teenager. Feldman developed a career in jazz in his homeland, then emigrated to the U.S. in the ’50s, where he worked with Woody Herman in concert, and recorded with the likes of George Shearing, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley.

      Like so many jazzbos, Feldman doubled as a studio cat in Los Angeles during the 1960s, where such employment increased in line with the city’s growing importance for the recording industry. And in 1973, when producer Ed Townsend and arranger René Hall sought recruits for Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On sessions, Feldman was there.

      So was Arthur (Art) Wright. By his own account, this versatile musician played on or arranged more than 5,000 recordings on the west coast, but he’s probably most celebrated for the smokin’ guitar runs on Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover.” Wright, who was also proficient on bass guitar, was close to Motown in California and, in particular, to Hal Davis. “He knew what he wanted,” Wright once told me. “He not only knew what was selling in the marketplace, he knew records, he knew the sound – and what would work with each artist that he worked with.” For "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)," Art was wanted.

   Frank Wilson 1940-2012

Frank Wilson 1940-2012

      At age 23, Anthony (Tony) Mathews was the youngest of those who helped to fuel-inject Wilson's vehicle. Yet this guitar-wielding native of Oklahoma went on to be employed by the great and the good, including Ray Charles, Billy Preston and Little Richard. His resume also ran to making blues records of his own for several labels, and a stint in a stage play in Los Angeles about Hank Williams.

      Earl Palmer knew Little Richard, too, and, oh, one or two others, such as Fats Domino and Lloyd Price. This drummer – if that’s an adequate description – from New Orleans was a foundation stone of post-World War II popular music. “It was Earl Palmer who transformed rhythm & blues’ lope into the full-tilt thrust of rock ’n’ roll,” wrote his biographer, Tony Scherman, in Backbeat. After relocating to Los Angeles in 1957, Palmer became one of the town’s studio stars, powering platters by Sam Cooke, Eddie Cochran, Bobby Vee, Bobby Darin, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers and many more, including some of the hitmakers of West Grand Boulevard.

   Arthur Wright 1937-2015

Arthur Wright 1937-2015

      “See, at that time,” Palmer told Scherman, “if you doing [sic] a session with vocals, the vocalist had to be there. Say you did a session with Diana Ross: you could not bring the musicians in and do tracks for her to sing over later. Other companies were willing to abide by that, but Motown wanted to cheat. I don’t know whose idea the scheme was; I assume it was the two guys that led those sessions, Frank Wilson and Hal Davis. It saved Motown money for a while, but as soon as the union found out, Motown had to pay up.”

      Not that Palmer himself lacked for reward, or bookings. Three weeks before stepping into Harmony for “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” he was on stage at the Monterey Jazz Festival in an orchestra hand-picked by Dizzy Gillespie, no less. And one month after the Wilson date, he was drumming on Motown tracks used for the SupremesI Hear A Symphony album.

   Victor Feldman 1934-1987

Victor Feldman 1934-1987

      Harmony Recorders was located on North Vine Street near the intersection with Sunset Boulevard; close by was Motown’s L.A. outpost in Suite 804 of 6290 Sunset. Owner Bob Ross, stepson of Elvis Presley’s manager, had made the facility popular with a variety of artists, from Brian Wilson to Jim Reeves. It was small – one former engineer called it a demo studio – but sufficient and accommodating.

      The first time that I spoke to Frank Wilson, we discussed mostly the artists he had written material for and produced, such as the Supremes and Eddie Kendricks. Whether or not he would have remembered the musicians on “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” I neglected to ask about them. Most have since died, so we may never know whether Art Wright played bass instead of rhythm guitar that day, or whether it was Tony Mathews. Still, the B-4 revelations are most welcome, and only magnify the magic.

      In his later years, Wilson created value in different ways, forming a ministry to help inner city youth, and a fellowship where, he told me, “I work with artists like Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, Smokey Robinson – basically, to help them maintain their equilibrium in a highly competitive industry and, at the same time, be a positive role model for the young people.” Robinson reciprocated on at least one occasion, agreeing to take part in a benefit tribute for Pastor Wilson and his wife Bunny in September 2012.

      You could call that love (indeed you could).

 

Music notes: over the years, at least two different mixes of “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” have been in circulation on legitimate Motown compilations. Today, they can be found on streaming and download services such as Spotify and Apple Music. You might even want to supplement your listening with the track’s assessment by Motown Junkies, a website always worth reading.

Adam White18 Comments