Shreveport Southern Soul: The Murco Story
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316 Shreveport Southern Soul The Murco Story —John Ridley Smaller and lesser known than any of Stan Lewis’s labels, the short-lived Murco label is important because it documented the Shreveport soul scene. Murco’s roots were in the Bayou Records store, a retail outlet purchased by local businessman Dee Marais from Shelby Singleton in 1960. In addition to selling records, Marais occasionally recorded local musicians in the back of his store. The first few years in the 1960s brought uncertain times to Shreveport’s music scene, as the city, like the rest of the United States, struggled through an increasingly confrontational Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the escalation of the Cold War. Following the closing of the RAM studio in 1962, the city lacked a full-service recording studio for several years. Local musicians during this period had little opportunity to record a commercial 45 that might gain them airplay and exposure, or even sales to local audiences during gigs. Although Shreveport never developed as contentious a Civil Rights environment as that in the Mississippi Delta, racial clashes were not uncommon during the mid1960s . The year 1963 was particularly difficult in Shreveport because of the “Little Union Incident” that brought racial tensions to the fore. On September 22, riot-geared police arrested several local black clergy who were preparing to lead a protest march from the Little Union Baptist Church. The unnecessarily violent confrontation led to weeks of unrest and walkouts. On October 8, Police Commissioner George D’Artois ordered the arrest of legendary soul singer Sam Cooke and his band when they tried to register at the local Holiday Inn. This public encounter added further fuel to the growing fire of tension. SHREVEPORT SOUTHERN SOUL: THE MURCO STORY 317 It was during these uncertain times that Dee Marais began to think about starting a record company. Still a few more years passed before the commercial success of soul music, notably that issued by Stax, convinced Marais that a local label for soul talent might be a business success. Between 1967 and 1973, he released approximately thirty soul or soul-oriented releases, mostly on Murco but with a handful appearing on the allied labels H-Sign and Peermont. His efforts included selections by local legends like Eddie Giles and Dori Grayson. Marais’s efforts halted in 1973 due to his frustration with the industry and growing distraction by other business interests. This essay first appeared in 2000 as the notes to The Murco Story, Kent CDKEND 178. The Man and His Labels Murco and the other labels that form this compilation were the vehicles used by Dee Marais to bring his music to the public. From his base in Shreveport, Louisiana, like so many other southern record men, Marais issued most types of music from gospel through country to rock-and-roll. But between 1967 and 1973 he concentrated largely on soul, and this CD contains the best of his output from those years. This was essentially a down-home operation in the best sense of the phrase. Marais ran a local outlet for local talent, often using local studios and musicians. There aren’t many big stars here but several of the 45s have enjoyed excellent reputations among fans of southern soul for many years. This is the first time the vast majority of these tracks have ever been reissued, and the fact that they have stood the test of time so well is a tribute to the TLC that Marais put into his productions and the quality of the material. Harding Guyon DesMarais was born in Minnesota of French stock and became Dee Marais at the suggestion of Jimmy C. Newman who felt his real name was rather too much of a mouthful. He started his career in music on the country side writing the smash hit “Poor Man’s Riches” for Benny Barnes in 1956. He also did promotional and distribution work all over the South in the ’50s for labels like Chess and Old Town and tried his hand at recording both rock-and-roll and R&B at the end of the decade but without real success. Having introduced Shelby Singleton to the music business, he bought Singleton’s Bayou record shop in Shreveport in 1960, and it was from this settled base that his productions really started. Murco was founded in partnership JOHN RIDLEY 318 with Dick Martin who worked locally for the U.S. Postal Service. Early releases recorded under...


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