Bobby Robinson was a Harlem record store owner who, along with his brother Danny, started up a variety of labels in the early fifties that helped to document the thriving Doo-Wop scene in New York, where there seemed to be a vocal group on every streetcorner.
In 1959, he would hire an ambitious fellow Southerner named Marshall Sehorn as a combination talent scout and A&R man. Whether it was Sehorn who brought him Wilbert Harrison or not (both claim to have discovered him), there seems little doubt that Marshall was the first on the scene at Cosimo Recording, luring The Clowns away from Johnny Vincent at Ace, and cutting a 45 there by 'Bobby Marchan and The Tick Tocks Formerly Huey Smith's Clowns' in early 1960. Although we have established that it is actually John 'Scarface' Williams singing lead on the top side, This Is The Life is pure Marchan. Vincent would file suit once Marchan's next record for the label went to #1 R&B that Summer, reportedly settling out of court.
According to Robinson's own comments in The Fire/Fury Records Story, he didn't record there himself until the following year. "My first sessions in New Orleans were with Elmore James and Sam Meyers. I recorded both Elmore and Sam in the Summer of '61 when we worked at Cosimo Matassa's studio in the French Quarter. Shake Your Moneymaker, one of my favorite tracks that Elmore cut came from those sessions." This would also almost certainly be when Robinson first met Lee Dorsey.
"Lee Dorsey was a terrific vocalist who I worked with in New Orleans at Cosimo's Studio beginning in 1961. After hearing Lee sing, I sat down and wrote Ya-Ya in a local bar. I tried to hire Allen Toussaint to play piano on Dorsey's sessions, but Allen was 'on staff' for another record company... Harold Battiste, who was another great New Orleans musician, got the band together for me. He wrote the arrangement overnight." When the record was released that August, it shot straight to #1 R&B, and climbed to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This was also the Summer that Marshall Sehorn's name first appeared on Bobby's 45s, which were now labeled as 'A Sehorn & Robinson Production'."I always recorded Lee in New Orleans," Bobby said, "We cut Do-Re-Mi on my second set of sessions with Lee there." Written by Earl King, this follow-up single wasn't quite the smash that Ya-Ya was, yet still made a respectable showing in the charts, hitting #22 R&B, and breaking into the top 30 on the Hot 100 in early 1962.
When we were putting together the song selection for Cracking The Cosimo Code - 60s New Orleans R&B and Soul earlier this year, John Broven asked his friend Rob Santos, Vice President A&R at Sony Music Entertainment, if he would be kind enough to rummage around in the vaults for the mono master of the specific Lee Dorsey recording we had chosen (more on that in a moment). While he was digging, he discovered these tucked away in a tape box:
...the original session sheets from Robinson's next trip to Cosimo Recording in January of 1962!
"...I remember writing Eenie Meenie Miny Moe on the airplane flying down. I was going with two different girls at the time and couldn't decide which one to keep," Bobby said. Despite a four-star rating from Billboard (and major promotion from the label), the record never dented the charts, and sank like a stone. Robinson would release one more single on Dorsey, but within a year he was forced out of the business for a variety of reasons, none of them good.
After Fury went belly-up, Dorsey's next release would appear on Smash, a one-off deal no doubt put together by Huey Meaux for Shelby Singleton. Sehorn, meanwhile, had landed on his feet and went to work for Ewart Abner's Dart Record Sales in Chicago in early 1964. One of the first things he did was sign Lee Dorsey to Abner's Constellation label, and cut two singles (now credited as 'Marshall E. Sehorn Productions') at Cosimo's that went absolutely nowhere. In early 1965, Sehorn shopped Dorsey's contract to the man who had purchased his earlier Fury masters (in what has been described as a 'fire sale') from Robinson's creditors the year before, a man named Larry Uttal.
Uttal had also recently bought out Bell Records (along with subsidiary labels Amy and Mala), and was poised to take the company to the next level and became a major player on the Southern Soul scene.
His first release on Lee Dorsey (the timeless Ride Your Pony) would soar right back into the R&B top ten in the Summer of 1965. It was Lee's next chart hit (#5 R&B), however, that was the one we wanted for the CD. As alluded to earlier, Rob Santos at Sony had agreed to seek out the original mono master of Get Out Of My Life, Woman, and we were absolutely thrilled when he was able to locate it! Interestingly, when Roger Armstrong at Ace got a hold of the tape, we discovered that the initial US 45 pressing (linked above) had been 'speeded-up' prior to release, a gimmick that was not uncommon in those days.
At first we considered speeding up the master as well, so that the version presented on the CD would match the 45 release. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and it was decided to present it as originally recorded by Cosimo on Governor Nicholls Street, in glorious mono - 'Produced By Tou-Sea Productions for Marshall E. Sehorn Productions, Arranged by Allen Toussaint'. Great Stuff!