Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Aces High

Record company exposes Nashville's R&B

By Randy Fox

AUGUST 31, 1998:  In recent years, music fans here and elsewhere have rediscovered Nashville's rich heritage as a rhythm and blues center during the '50s and '60s. Much of the credit goes to the British reissue label Ace Records, which has repackaged large portions of the famed Excello label's vast back catalog, along with a couple of CDs featuring productions by local R&B impresario Ted Jarrett.

Ace's latest--and sadly one of its last--forays into the vaults of Excello is a tribute to the label's main advertising outlet: WLAC, and the incredible voice of deejay John Richbourg. Ernie's Record Mart recreates the feel of John R's nightly broadcasts, when he'd feature Excello releases on his 45-minute "Ernie's Record Parade" segment. The show was named for Excello owner Ernie Young, who operated the label out of his store on Third Avenue North.

The CD features great Excello R&B hits like local singer Earl Gaines' "It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)" sandwiched next to obscurities and some previously unreleased gems. In fact, the track selection sort of mimicks Young's practice of advertising six records for a dollar--usually five hits along with one obscurity to help clear out stock. Not intended to be a "best of," Ernie's Record Mart recalls an era when hip middle-aged white men were turning on Southern kids to the glories of black music.

Featuring thoughtful and well-researched liner notes from former Nashville music journalist Daniel Cooper, Ernie's Record Mart is a great example of how reissues should be done. Too bad that MCA, the current owner of the Excello masters, seems incapable of following Ace Records' example. Because MCA acquired Excello Records last year, Ace won't be releasing any more collections from the label's back catalog. MCA, meanwhile, seems intent on doling out only stingy handfuls of the most well-known Excello material. For more information on Ace releases, check out the label's Web site at www.acerecords.co.uk.

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