Thomas and Louise Boddie ran a recording studio and record press out of their Cleveland home for decades. They offered teenage hopefuls, gospel ensembles, jazz musicians and ministers a low-cost and, if needed, portable method to record themselves as well as produce inexpensive but serviceable demos and copies for distribution. In the end Thomas and Louise became caretakers of a sort, recording the voices, sounds and styles of an ever-changing medium.
In 2006 Thomas Boddie passed away leaving Louise literally a lifetime of recordings and memories. For three years after his death they sat unattended but silently waiting for their time as Louise mourned. In 2010 The Numero Group (www.numerogroup.com) purchased the rights in full to the Boddie collection and began to sift through the recordings.
The Boddie Recording Box Set is a selection of six of those long-forgotten gems. The glorious mystery of these particular recordings is that the performers are completely unknown. The tapes were found in unlabeled storage cans and boxes with no record of the singers or musicians to be found.
The Numero Group clearly holds the Boddie collection in high regard and has lovingly recreated the appearance and feel of acetate productions. The set includes three 45s pressed on 48 gram vinyl and labeled with reproduction stickers of Boddies’ original acetate labels with typeset spelling out the song names.
To open the reproduction tape box the listener must first cut through the Boddie Recording packing tape and is greeted with brown kraft paper sleeves. For those of you not hip to the vinyl option all the songs are available in an MP3 version as well, although half the fun of this set is the packaging.
The first 45 contains “Let the Children Play” with a gospel and soul influence and features the laughing and chattering of children in the background. Side B is a typical soul number entitled “Never Let You Go” with group harmonies and falsetto lead.
“Girl Across the Street” is Side A of the second record that also features group harmonies with some clear Motown influence. This song in particular shows its’ demo roots with some areas in the recording sounding flat, as if something is not quite right. The flip side is a 1965 Billy Stewart cover “I Do Love You”, it’s a slow soul jam sung with honest conviction even if the vocals need a little work.
The third record starts on Side A with a cover of a Brenda and the Tabulations’ number called “When You’re Gone” although Boddie had the song labeled “Good-Bye Baby” and Numero kept the misnamed song title. This version of the song is downplayed from the original with a simple drum, guitar and the sweet voice shining through. Side B is “Selfish One” a cover of a Jackie Ross’ 1964 pop hit and is well delivered.
Who would have thought that these recordings would find a voice so many years later with stark anonymity? The only thing lacking from this well-created set is a finger-snapping-get-on-the-floor number. Each song here is worth a listen and certainly more than one spin, but there is never a point where the urge to jump up and dance overcomes the listener.
Perhaps Numero will correct slight lapse later this week with its’ Record Store Day (RSD) release. This special set will include 16 Boddie recordings and will be available, in limited numbers of 1000 each, on vinyl and cd and 300 cassette copies.
Numero shows great reverence and respect in the production, packaging and release of these classic forgotten songs and provides a glimpse into the musical history recorded and tended by the Boddies for so very long.
Written by Meredith Underhill