Hello my friends, after my appearance about three months ago with Kip Carmen on Jazzy Radio in Hungary and the show Soul Session, I decided to present this article. It is a great moment for me writing these words about him.
I discovered him in 2010 when I found the vinyl record 45 by the group called Compass. I noticed on both sides of the vinyl that the composer was Kip Carmen. I started searching for information about Kip. I found his website and tracked down unreleased material that was never released. I listened carefully to all the songs and I immediately liked the song 'Tecihila". A few months later in 2011 I managed to come in contact with him, something that I wanted very much! I was wondering how all of these songs remained unreleased on the shelf till that time. Finally I received an answer from Kip Carmen himself.
Kip Carmen is a guitarist, composer and singer. He started his career as a musician and songwriter in the mid 1960's at the age of 14 and later worked as a section leader in the United States Military Academy Band at West Point for 3 years. After the Army he originally wanted to be a songwriter and raise a family. Being a performer and touring came later along the way.
In 1972 he signed a contract with the label Musicor Records. It was a known label at that time with many known artists and groups. Kip released a single under the name Kip Carson, called "I'm Coming Home To You". Maybe the label forced (or strongly urged) Kip to use the "Kip Carson" name on that record, because they wanted to evoke the interest of the audience due to the fact that the name resembles the historical name Kit Carson.
On that release Kip collaborated with Rupert Holmes who was later in 1979 successful with the songs "Him" and "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)". Rupert Holmes was arranger on "I'm Coming Home To You". Produced by Danny Jordan who was also singer and songwriter from New York.
In 1973 he released a single under the name Kip Carmen & The New Frontier. The single includes two songs written by Kip himself, the first being "Loving In The Morning" and the second "That's Enough For Me".
A year later, in 1974 Kip was signed by noted Hi-Records, a Memphis based record company. Before he signed with Hi Records, he met the guitarist Steve Cropper from Stax Records, a member of the famous band Booker T & The MG's. Steve Cropper started a new company called Trans Maximus. Steve was interested in signing him too. But Kip decided to go with Hi Records. He cut two successful singles.
He released a single on the label Mach that was a subsidiary of Hi Records. The 45 includes the song "Macon Woman Blues".
At that time in order to promote the 45 "Macon Woman Blues", he joined the group Little Big Horn. All together, they did some live performances, one of which was at Holiday Inn, Brooks Rd, Memphis Tennessee in August 1974. The members of the group were Barbara Becker (female vocal), Jimmy Walker (drums, background vocals), Ben Ninmann (Hammond Organ/keyboards-key bass background vocals) and Mark Ryan (lead guitar).
Then many years of road touring followed. During those hectic years he came into contact with some of the finest musicians in the country, including Cornell Dupree and Jimmy Allen Smith from the band Stuff, with whom Kip collaborated on his two albums. During the 1960's and 1970's, Kip opened for acts such as Neil Diamond, Maxine Brown, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tanya Tucker, the James Cotton Blues Band, the Brecker Brothers, Anne Murray, and the Fabulous Platters.
Around the mid 70's, Paul Mineo, a producer and owner of a label, who had already met Kip Carmen in 1972, requested two songs from Kip in order to record them. The first song was "You Are (Spring Of My Life)" that Kip had written back in the day before he met Paul Mineo. The second one was "That's Enough For Me", which was initially recorded and released by Kip Carmen in 1973 with The New Frontier, as mentioned above. Kip gave him the permission to record these two songs with the group Compass. Singer of the group was Eddie Bruce who is a jazz singer nowadays. Both songs were released as a single in a vinyl 45 on Paul Mineo's label, True Love Records.
In the late 70's, around December of 1978, Kip with Tony Catanzaro and The Horton Brothers formed a band called Kip, Cat & The Horton Brothers. They were a hard-hitting rock band from the Huntington-Syosset area. Tony was an ex-trombonist who played bass with the group. All the band's members have had recording-studio experience, working with some most respected names in the business. Kip and Tony recorded in Memphis with Al Green and Willie Mitchell. Kevin Kelly, the band's drummer, is a regular session player at Kingdom Studios in Syosset, where he has worked with numerous Long Island groups. They mostly played every Sunday night at Lion's Cage, a Long Island venue owned by Cliff Abeles. Sometimes they also performed on Wednesday nights at the club Music Box in Bellmor and the club US Blues in Roslyn. Their chemistry when performing was apparent and they always enjoyed themselves.
Kip, Cat & The Horton Brothers used to perform original material at Lion's Cage venue. Kip decided to put together an album with this unreleased original material as well as with songs he had recorded before he met Danny Horton. He started recording the album during 1978 up to 1980 when it was finally released in October. It was released on Long Island Sounds Records. The album was called "Just For Tonight".
It is worthy to note that the album was recorded at the famous Royal Recording Studios, in Memphis, at Rockin Reel Studios, East Northport,NY. The songs "The Smile On My Face", "That Southern Feeling Welcomes Me" and "Feeling Home Again" stand out. I think that someone can easily understand that the album is influenced by the Memphis Sound.
The songs "Uptown Lady" and "One More Bottle Of Beer", included on this album and produced by Ogden Mills Fell, were originally part of a four-song demo that the band and Ogden had put together in 1979 and never released.
Ogden first came in contact with Kip in early 1979. His acquaintance with the bassist Tony Catanzaro is what brought him to the Lion's Cage venue to listen to Kip, Cat & The Horton Brothers performing. Ogden himself expressed how impressed he was by their addictive performance.
As I previously mentioned, there was great chemistry between Kip and Danny Horton which led them to continue as a team. So two months later, after the release of the album "Just For Tonight", they released a single in a vinyl record 45 on Reveille Records, formed by Ogden Mills Fell. The name "Monte Ridge" that you can see mentioned in the picture below as the label's founder was just a "nom de plume" that they decided to use at that time.
This vinyl 45 includes the song "This Island Is Our Home" and the instrumental "Might As Well (Give It Up)". Produced by Ogden Mills Fell and arranged by Jimmy Smith. Jimmy or James Allen Smith, who was a musical director of Kip Carmen for many years, was a later member of the band Stuff in 1991. He replaced Richard Tee who was the original member of the band.
They started the sessions at Media Sound in NYC. The first track has a nice rhythm with a taste of reggae music. You can hear Morris Goldberg's flute and the acoustic guitar of Danny. Morris Goldberg is a saxophonist from South Africa. He was a member of The Harry Belafonte band. As far as the instrumental, as always, when they finished it, Danny Horton asked the others what they should call it. He never titled the instrumentals he wrote.
It's worthy to note that this vinyl 45 was released the day John Lennon was shot, on December 8th 1980. They were unlucky in that sense, because all the radios were playing only Beatles' songs for a couple of weeks. However they managed to get recognition on BOS/POP stations. The songs had great radio impact in Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, Annapolis,Washington D.C. and Bermuda.
In April 1981, Audiofidelity Record label approached them expressing their interest in releasing the song "I Wouldn't Steal You From Him" along with "Uptown Lady" as a vinyl 45. Even though there were several concerns around this deal, they came to an agreement and in June 1981, at the same time they were performing in clubs locally, this vinyl 45 was released on Audiofidelity Enterprises Inc.
Both songs included in the vinyl were written by Kip and Danny. Produced by Ogden Fell and arranged by Jimmy Smith. In fact the song "I Wouldn't Steal You From Him" was originally decided to be released on the A side of the first release on December 1980. However the plan changed and it was replaced by "This Island Is Our Home". It is worthy to mention that the label Audiofidelity Enterprises Inc. asked to add horns on the song "I Wouldn't Steal You From Him".
The flip side "Uptown Lady" was also included on the album of 1980 "Just For Tonight" but the single's sound was different. I would say it has more R&B vibes.
The single, due to the lack of promotion from Audiofidelity Enterprises Inc., was unfortunately unsuccessful.
As Kip was a touring, working musician, he was spending more time in hotels, so he would read books to pass all the down time he had. One of the books that he read was "Hanta Yo: An American Saga" written by Ruth Beebe Hill. This book was the inspiration behind the songs "Tecihila" and "Hanta Yo", which chronicled the feelings and emotions of Native Americans. "Tecihila", in the dialect of the Lakota Sioux Native American tribe, translates to "I love you" and "Hanta Yo" to "Clear The Way" in English.
Ogden Mills Fell liked the idea behind these songs and even considered submitting them as a soundtrack to the TV series that David Wolper intended to create after having bought the book's rights.
However, in the end, they decided to record them and release them as an album along with their previous material.
The recordings took place at the studio Normandy Sound in Warren Rhode Island. Among the songs that were recorded there were "Hanta Yo", "Tecihila", "Thoughts Of Loving You", "You're The Spring Of My Life" and the famous "Stand By Me".
Unfortunately there was no interest in releasing these recordings from the major labels in New York.
In 1983 Kip and Danny stopped working as a duo because Danny Horton relocated to live and spend time together with his family.
After the leaving of Danny Horton to live with his family, Kip released another 45 on MC Records in 1984. It includes the songs "Money" and "One More Bottle of Beer". The last song was originally included on the album in 1980 "Just For Tonight". However it is a different version here. It is worthy to mention that it became a jukebox hit on Long Island. It was placed in every jukebox and was played constantly.
In the mid 80's the Doo-Wop, R&B vocal group The Flamingos covered the song, "Spring Of My Life". The song was included on the album "In Touch With You" which was released on Ronze Records. The group was re-created by Zeke Carey in 1984.
The song was played on WCBS-FM by Don K. Reed, a New York Dj and a radio host for WCBS-FM radio.
In the 80's and 90's Kip found a solid place for himself as a musician, working for some of the top orchestras in Long Island and in New York City, and leading his own very fine orchestra as well. During this time Kip opened for acts such as James Cotton, Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows, and the Stink Band featuring Peter Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Donald "Duck" Dunn. In a true high point in his career, Kip opened for Albert King at U.S. Blues in Roslyn, N.Y. in 1984.
As I told you at the start of my article, I came in contact with Kip in 2011. After a few years I connected with him again through facebook. In 2016, I came in contact with Patrick Biggerstaff from the UK. I ordered a vinyl 45 from him while he was running the label Izipho Soul Records. So we kept contact and two years later in 2018, I suggested to Patrick and brought to his attention the unreleased songs of Kip Carmen in order to release them as an album. Then I talked with Kip about the potential of his songs being released as a vinyl on this UK label. They discussed and they decided to release a vinyl 45 with the songs "Tecihila" and "Thoughts Of Loving You".
I was very pleased because I contributed to give a new life to these unreleased songs. It was indeed a successful release. Due to its positive "noise", another label from Germany approached them in order to release Kip Carmen's songs in a vinyl. So in 2019 MTMU Records released in a vinyl 12" the songs "This Island Is Our Home" and the instrumental "Might As Well (Give It Up)". This vinyl also includes the unreleased extended version of the song "This Island Is Our Home".
At this point, I would like to say some final words about this article. I would like to thank of course Kip Carmen himself and Ogden Mills Fell for their contribution and the interesting stories they shared with me about these recordings. I also want to thank my daughter Eleni who helped me to write this article.