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The Blenders

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With a name that sounds like a section of an appliance store, the vocal group the Blenders made their debut at Harlem's important Apollo Theater in 1949 and snagged an exclusive recording contract with Decca shortly thereafter. As to how the situation stood at the termination of said contract, there seems to be several different stories. In one version, the group was dumped by the Decca-MGM empire, only to be picked up by savvy music business independent producer, songwriter, publisher, and label manager Joe Davis. In another version it is Davis that holds the hand of power, forming his own Jay-Dee enterprise and then spiriting off several groups, leaving the big-label honchos in tears. "He not only took the Crickets away from M-G-M, but the Blenders too," claims Marv Goldberg in his R&B Notebooks. Davis had produced a Blenders session for Decca late in the group's contract, utilizing ace players such as bassist Milt Hinton, pianist Gil Stevens, and guitarist Everett Barksdale for a truly hip sound. Sub-promotion was the best way to describe what happened next. Despite having already released nine records on Decca, the Davis-produced sides were promoted as being the work of "a vocal group new to which will surely establish itself as one of the finest around." Foul-ups such as this were part of Davis' decision to terminate his production and A&R activities with Decca and go on his own. In the spring of 1953, Davis put the group in the studio for the second time, this time liberated from all corporate controls. The most famous track from this set of recordings turned out to be a song entitled "Don't Play Around With Love," as the group was apparently instructed to record an alternate take in which the chorus would be sung as "Don't f*ck around with love." The aim of this enterprise was to create some under-the-counter specialty items for disc jockeys. As an example of the big money being made in the music business by groups such as this, author Bruce Bastin reports in Never Sell a Copyright that Blenders leader James De Loache got 80 dollars for the session, the other members 60 dollars each. As might be expected, the recording where the vocalists do the nasty turned out to be a sellable item, recouping this investment many times over. Years after the first round of releasing it, a fly-by-night operator named Wayne Kelly put out a bootleg single of the song paired with an unissued recording by the Sparrows. Both songs were still owned by Davis, who went after Kelly with the intent not of shutting him down, but just getting paid a share of the proceeds. In 1973, Davis turned around and marketed "Don't Fuck Around With Love" one more time. This time it was as a one-sided single. Ironically, back in 1963 Davis had lost an obscenity case based on the title of a song that had been printed on a sticker; and since one obscene song title per biography should be the limit, the reader should be advised to investigate the saga of Faye Richmond for details. At any rate, times had changed, and in 1973 Davis was allowed to print a certain four-letter word in letters four inches high if he wanted. The Blenders had their own, non-obscene chart hit with "Daughter" the same year Davis and Richmond were having their original obscenity hassles. Membership in the Blenders would evolve until the actual group itself had totally changed, going backwards in terms of technological inspiration from the Blenders to the Candles. If that isn't weird enough, it should also acknowledge that some of the Blenders were former Beavers. "They hadn't been working," the Goldberg reference admits about the latter band, so perhaps there were no dams that needed to be built. Ray Johnson and Dick Palmer were Beavers that transformed into Blenders, replacing DeLoach and Tommy Adams. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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