L C Steels
The obscure L C Steels worked in the Texas/Louisiana region from the 50s through to the 70s without really making an impact on the wider world. But his small number of 45s are all well worth seeking out as he had a good, strong voice and wrote more than a couple of quality songs.
The earliest recording that I’ve been able to get to hear is the easy swinging blues “Don’t Play No Woman For A Fool” which was released Shreveport’s Red label subsidiary K, but by 1964 Steels was in Fort Worth, TX cutting for the truly eccentric Major Bill Smith. “Go Ahead Baby” is a superbly rocking Texas blues shuffle, with a meandering tenor sax and some very lively singing. I like the blues ballad flip I Always Will Love You very much indeed. The honky tonk piano give it considerable charm, as does the decidedly “muddy” production. Interestingly the very rare Steels issue of these sides adds background singers to both tracks indicating it was issued after the Manco.
But my real favourite of all of Steels’ work is the other 45 on his own Fort Worth label that I’m aware of - Yesterday Is Already Gone. This could quite properly be called a deep soul ballad thanks to the chord changes, instrumentation and LC’s gospel phrasing. The writer credits include Steels himself and “Jessie Mae Steels” (his wife?) whom we may well hear on the brief rap in the middle of the song. The flip is a mainly instrumental blues.
Steels’ last 45 would seem to be the one from 1974 on Faces, a tiny Shreveport concern with links to Stan Lewis’ bigger operation in the city. One side is an interesting take on Eddy Giles’ smash “Losin’ Boy” but sadly it doesn’t really add anything to the original, and is marred by some excessive “wah wah” guitar. “Pretty Black Woman” is a ballad with some really good chord changes but that guitar again intrudes. A pity.
More info on this artist would be much appreciated.
UPDATE ~ I'm delighted to say that LC's son - LC STeels' Jr - has kindly been in touch. He writes "here"s some history:In 1970 we opened Steels record shop and thats where my dad would let the young high school musicians rehearse his tunes and eventually got me interested in guitar.My dad did many gospel cuts but that im still tryin to locate the master on.He also had his own radio show from 1990 til 2002 on a local a.m. station as the Paperman. Jettie M. Steels my mom always supported my dad in all of his ventures as well as myself. Its funny how my dad didnt realize how good i had gotten on guitar until he started hearing talk about an L.C. in dallas/ft worth who is the Hottest thing in the metroplex on guitar. My dad and i were writing a gospel album just before he passed in 2002 from Lou Gehrigs disease." I'm really grateful to LC Jr for the info - and so sorry to hear that his father passed on a few years ago.
NEW UPDATE ~ In addition to LC Jr, other members of LC's family have also been in touch - his sister Mrs Bertha Gilliam and his daughter Arlener Poydras who supplied the wonderful pic of LC. I've had the pleasure of sending CDs of LC's tracks to these family memebers - and I'm very grateful to them for getting in touch.
School girl / Looking good ~ RAYLO 5027 (early 60s)
Come back Betty / Don’t play no woman for no fool ~ K 14 (1961)
I always will love you / Go ahead baby ~ MANCO 1061 / STEELS 101 (1964)
Yesterday is already gone / Looking good ~ STEELS 101 (late 60s?)
Losin’ boy / Pretty black woman ~ FACES 10 (1974)
Note ~ The late Ray Topping’s notes to the Ace UK CD “Red River Blues” (on which "Don't Play No Woman For No Fool" is included) mention a 45 on the Texas Bluebonnet label but I’ve not found any other references to it – does it exist?