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HiRecords was established in Memphis, Tennessee in 1957. Hi recorded popular, country andwestern, soul, and rhythm and blues. The origin of the company belongs to Ray Harris, who had twosingles on the Sun label. Harris felt he could produce records and wanted to start a record company.Harris had two partners in Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, who had worked as producers at the SunRecord studio. In 1957, Harris was doing construction work and a co-worker was Carl McVoy, a pianoplayer and cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis. Harris, Cantrell and Claunch had McVoy cut a demo of rock androll arrangements of \"You Are My Sunshine\" and \"Tootsie\". In order to issue the record, they neededsome financing, so they went to Joe Cuoghi who owned the Poplar Tunes Record store in Memphis. Cuoghi formed a partnership to establish Hi records. There were eight partners: Cuoghi, his lawyer NickPesce, and three of their friends (Sam Esgro, Bill Brown, and Jim Clarington) who put up $500 each,along with Cantrell, Claunch and Harris, who invested their time. There were 240 shares of thecompany and each of the partners received 30 shares.Cantrell was initially appointed President, but before any records were released, Cuoghi bought outthree of the other investors, became the majority shareholder, and took over as President. With themoney raised, Harris, Claunch and Cantrell took Carl McVoy to Nashville to re-record \"You Are MySunshine\" and \"Tootsie\" which was issued as Hi 2001. McVoy secured an appearance on Dick Clark'sSaturday night national TV show, and Hi received many orders for the record -- but few payments for it.Being in a cash flow bind, Hi was forced to sell the record for $2600 to Sam Phillips, who re-released iton Phillips International 3526.Using the money they received from Phillips, Cuoghi and partners rented an old theater at 1320 SouthLauderdale and installed recording equipment. This theater became the Hi Recording Studio. The firstsixteen records issued on Hi from 1957-59 were by an array of obscure performers, most likely localartists, some of whom were heard from later. These included, in addition to McVoy, the Charmettes,Buddy Holiday, Joe Fuller, Mark Taylor, Fern Fisher, Kimball Coburn, Will Mercer, Bobby Chandler,Tommy Tucker, and Charles Cockrell. By the summer of 1959, Hi had put out 16 unsuccessful singles,and was going broke. Then Bill Black showed up. Black, of course, was Elvis Presley's original bass player on his Sunrecordings and personal appearances. Black had had a falling out with Presley and had decided to makeit on his own by starting his own band, and signed with Hi. At that time, Hi had just signed Jay B. Lloyd,who had recorded on ABC-Paramount, and backed him with the new Bill Black Combo. Lloyd recorded\"I'm So Lonely\"/\"I'll Be Alright\" [Hi 2017] which did quite well, and led to Hi records being picked up byLondon Records for national distribution. London Records distributed Hi Records until 1977. The first big national success for Hi, however, was the next single, Bill Black's Combo's \"Smokie, Part 2\"[Hi 2018]. The recording was terrific, a sure hit, but the cash-strapped company didn't have enoughmoney to pay the session fees. Cuoghi offered shares in the tune to the musicians in lieu of payment,and most of them quickly agreed. At that point, the Bill Black combo consisted of bassist Bill Black,guitarist Reggie Young, drummer Jerry Arnold, pianist Joe Hall, and Sax player Martin Willis. Willis quitshortly after \"Smokie\" was issued and was replaced by saxophonist Ace Cannon and Carl McVoy.\"Smokie\" made the national top 20 and #1 on the R&B charts. This was a big enough hit that inDecember 1959, Hi released it's first album, Smokie [HL-12001]. When Black's followup single,\"White Silver Sands,\" hit in early 1960, Hi replaced the Smokie album by HL-12002, which wastitled Saxy Jazz. The latter had 10 of the 12 songs that were on Smokie, but also includedthe new single, \"White Silver Sands.\" Shortly after the success of \"Smokie\", Quinton Claunch sold hisshares in the company to Carl McVoy. For the next few years, the Bill Black Combo would be the primemovers for Hi Records, being featured on most of their singles and garnering all of their chart hits.In late 1961, The sax player with the Bill Black Combo, Ace Cannon, recorded \"Tuff\" [Hi 2040],and became the first Hi artist to hit the national charts other than Bill Black. The song had a long history.Originally titled \"Columbus Stockade Blues,\" it had also been recorded by Bill Justis for Sun as\"Cattywampus\" [Phillips International 3529]. Willie Mitchell was signed to the label in 1963, although he was associated with the musicians of Hi foryears. Mitchell was a trumpet player with classical music training, and he had long been a performer inthe Memphis music scene, having his own band since 1954. In 1964, after several unsuccessful singlesfor Hi, he issued \"20-75,\" a foot-stompin instrumental which took its title from the record number [Hi2075]. He went on to record several albums for Hi and had several instrumental hits, but his value to thelabel was eventually far greater than the hits he had. With hits by Black, Mitchell, and Cannon, Hirecords became known as an instrumental label during the early '60s. Most of the early album releaseson Hi were by these artists. By the mid '60s, Hi record releases were sounding like dated formularecords. Bill Black died of a brain tumor in October, 1965, but the Bill Black Combo kept recording afterhis death.Hi had signed the Bill Black Combo's singer, \"Jumpin'\" Gene Simmons, to a solo contract in 1959 andhe recorded \"Goin' Back to Memphis.\" [Obviously, this was a different person from the Gene Simmonswho later was part of the 1970s rock group Kiss.] Instead of putting \"Goin' Back to Memphis\" out on Hi(remember, they had a cash-flow problem in 1959), they leased the record to Checker Records inChicago. They did not record Simmons again until 1961. Simmons continued to record for Hi for thenext few years and had his biggest hit was in September 1964 with \"Haunted House\". The song wasfirst recorded in the late 1950s by Johnny Fuller for the Specialty label [Specialty 655], but didn't hit. Itwas strong enough, however, that it was a good song for live performances, and by the 1963 was beingdone by (as-yet-nationally-unknown) Sam the Sham, who performed it on a Memphis TV stationWHBQ's Dance Party. Ray Harris liked the song, and tried to lease it from Sam. When hecouldn't, he cut the song with Gene Simmons and got the hit version.In the mid '60s, Bill Black's Combo, Ace Cannon, and Willie Mitchell were all regularly on the charts, butthere wasn't much else being developed. Hi tried some forays into country music, with Jerry Jaye andNarvel Felts. Jaye's countrified version of Fats Domino's \"My Girl Josephine\" [Hi 2120] made thenational top-30 in 1967, but Felts, a veteran of the 1950s Sun days, was several years ahead of his huge1970s country chart success. By and large, Hi was stagnating. The salvation for Hi Records came asWillie Mitchell started assuming an increasing role at the Hi Studio. Mitchell had a taste for jazz, but alsounderstood what was commercial in contemporary black music. He stared moving Hi into the soul musicgenre. In 1970, Ray Harris sold his share of the company to Willie Mitchell, Michell was named Vice Presidentin June, and Joe Cuoghi died in July. By that time, only two of the original eight partners still hadownership in the company: Bill Cantrell and Nick Pesce. Willie Mitchell, long the musical leader of thelabel and now part owner, became President of Hi Records.Mitchell had brought Al Green to the company in 1969. Green, a singer with an uncommonly graceful,soulful voice which slipped effortlessly into soaring falsetto, had recorded for Hot Line records, and hadhad one minor hit in 1967 called \"Back Up Train\" [Hot Line 15000]. With Willie Mitchell arranging andproducing, Al Green started the golden era for Hi Records and became a true 1970s star of soul music. Green's records were masterful; he was able to gain pop radio acceptance without losing the black fansof rhythm and blues. His first big hit was \"Tired of Being Alone\" in 1971 [Hi 2194]. He followed that upwith \"Let's Stay Together\" [Hi 2202] and \"I'm Still in Love With You\" [Hi 2216] in 1972. All were classicsof understated passion. Green was able to follow these up with seven more Top 20 hits for Hi. Greeneventually gave up pop music to become a minister at his own church in Memphis. Willie Mitchell alsowas able to get hits with Ann Peebles, the best of which was \"I Can't Stand the Rain\" [Hi 2248] in 1973. He also had limited success with Syl Johnson, who had made an obscure album on Twinight Recordspreviously, titled Is It Because I'm Black.In 1977, the Hi label was sold to Al Bennett's Cream Records. Bennett, of course, was one of Liberty'sfounders, and operated from the West Coast. The recording moved to the West Coast, and after acouple of years of trying to record Memphis Soul in Los Angeles, Willie Mitchell left the label.When the label went to Bennett, the 12000/32000 series of albums was replaced with a 6000 and 8000series. The 6000 series seemed to be used for newly recorded music, while the 8000 series was usedfor compilations of previously released material. Since the introduction of the compact disc, Hi hasleased their material to several labels, including Motown, MCA, and Right Stuff (EMI-Capitol SpecialMarkets), with much of the label's output being reissued on CD.Hi Records is now doing business as ABS Entertainment, Inc. Which in turn is doing business asCream/Hi Records. Their web page is at www.hirecords.com. Cream/Hi is currently owned and operatedby Adalah Bennett Shaw, Al Bennett's daughter. The first Hi label was black with silver print, with \"Hi\" in red letters outlined in silver with two musicalnotes, one on each side of the name above the center hole, similar to the Canadian label shown at farleft.