It was quite by accident that I first met Jim Horton. I had been doing research for Stones Throw records" deep funk archeologist Egon in Indianapolis, trying to find anyone who remembered an obscure group called the Fabulous Souls. They released only two singles in their nova-like existence: a powerful funky rock tune "Take Me" backed by a slinking saxophone rendition of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."
Jim Horton shows the original master plate for the Fabulous Souls" "Take Me" on the porch of his Shirley, Indiana Home.
If you were deep enough to know about it, you might also know of their two-sided demo, "In the Deep of the Night," and the track they recorded as King George and the Fabulous Souls. With its rolling psychedelic organ stabs and thumping bass line punctuated by congas, "Take Me" was getting regular play in the underground funk scene and Egon wanted to release it on his nascent label, Now/Again. Early in the summer, I had found a copy of the record at a yard sale just off 38th and Sherman. I put it on the turntable that night and listened for clues. One appeared that would prove vital: Ira and Alicia Raibon alternate lines in the chorus, "Why don"t you take me? Take me on a little ride!" The search begins Nobody knew the Fabulous Souls. Herb Miller didn"t seem to remember. In fact, I asked nearly every musician I knew in the city and not one person seemed to remember any consequential details about the Fabulous Souls. "Take Me" had been released in two different-colored labels: a green label with a street address from Los Angeles and a purple label with an Indianapolis street address. Which came first? Nobody knew. They sounded different, but they were clearly the same song. A new mix? Which version was better? "The Indy version," Egon pronounced. "That"s the version he had and the version we both preferred. I think it"s a much better - and way more psychedelic - mix. Very quirky and super heavy." So I looked at my copy of the record and searched for clues. It was recorded at Gilfoy Studios, produced by Jim Horton and credited to Matazz Music publishing. The writers were listed as Raibon - Speights - Sennette. I called Jack Gilfoy, who had owned a studio in Bloomington in the "70s. "Fabulous Souls? No, I don"t really remember them. Jim Horton? Yes, I remember him. A strange bird." I looked Jim Horton up in the telephone book. No listing. I wrote ASCAP, a publishers clearing house, to find a street address for Matazz publishing. It came back as a street in Shirley, Ind. I dismissed the notion that one of the heaviest bits of black music could ever have come out of the cornfields of Shirley. I was wrong. But I wouldn"t know that for several months, when I accidentally stumbled onto someone who knew Jim Horton. One step closer "Jim Horton!" said Michael Woods, the lead guitarist for an obscure group, the Soul Relation Show Band. "Of course I know Jim Horton! I"ve been working with Jim Horton for years. He helped release my record Style. He lives in Shirley, Ind." A week later, I found myself driving west of Indianapolis to a tiny town called Shirley, one step closer to finding the Fabulous Souls. Horton lives in a modest one-story home just off Main Street. A stout person with greased-back hair and tattoos, he had the stature of a man who had once been an imposing force. The list of countries where he was stationed during and after WW II is a sonnet tattooed on his forearm. Now hobbled by age, he uses a large magnifying glass to read me as he shuffled across the carpet bare-footed. We sat in his living room and went through the contents of a giant Tupperware container filled with one-quarter-inch reels, the pencil lead faded and sometimes difficult to read. Underneath it all there was a 10-inch acetate for the Fabulous Souls" "Take Me," and an incredibly warped copy of the original green-labeled pressing from Los Angeles. More than that, there were dozens of reels, many of them by groups I had never heard of. He handed me a battered photo of the Fabulous Souls and began to tell me his story. "Originally I moved to Nashville to write music," Horton recalled. "Then I went to Memphis and met George Jackson. I hired him to change my country music to R&B because it was the music that was moving the charts. We had two or three hits. I moved to Hollywood, Calif., in 1967 or "68." It was in California that he first met Ira Raibon and the Fabulous Souls. They recorded "Take Me" in a California studio and released the record in Los Angeles right before moving to Indianapolis. Horton returned to Indianapolis in the early "70s and brought the Fabulous Souls with him. He took over management of the Vanguards, who had a monster hit, "Somebody Please," in 1969. The Fabulous Souls would become their backing band for a few months and even help them record their Lamp single "Good Times, Bad Times" before the two groups parted ways. While in Indianapolis, the Fabulous Souls remixed "Take Me" at Ohmit studio and reissued the single with the help of Lamp Records CEO Herb Miller. Surely, I thought to myself, this guy will know how to get a hold of some of the band members. So where was Ira Raibon? "He married Joe Clay"s daughter. Clay owned a barbecue restaurant in Pictureville, Calif. We used to get barbecue there every time we went through town," he recalled. I knew there could not be that many people by the name of Ira Raibon living in the United States, and probably only one such man living in California. A quick Yahoo search indicated that there was, in fact, one Ira Raibon living in California. It listed an address, but no telephone number. I telephoned Egon in Los Angeles later that night and told him what I had discovered - mixdowns for the Fabulous Souls, the original 10-inch acetate from which the record was cut as well as unreleased 1-inch material recorded by the band under then-name Western Union. Excitedly he asked, "So, do you have any contact information for the band?" The next day he drove down to Ira Raibon"s house and stood outside the entire afternoon. Eventually he posted a note on the door. A day later, he received a phone call from Raibon. So it was that the Fabulous Souls had finally been discovered. A club banger Egon mulled over why the Fabulous Souls" is such a good record in today"s market. "It all comes down to Ira Raibon. He"s an amazing songwriter, very gifted in his sense of progression - and in his ability to churn out something that is at the same time rough "n" ready and commercially viable. His song is the epitome of a club banger - it still fills dance floors to this day!" Three months later a 7-inch reproduction of the Fabulous Souls is now available - in a die-cut cover that is based on old advertising from the Indianapolis Recorder. Last week, I visited Horton again in Shirley to deliver a copy of the Fabulous Souls to him. It was raining this time and Horton had just gotten out of the hospital a couple of weeks ago, beleaguered by what doctors had thought was failing kidneys. But the sight of the 7-inch record seemed to put him in high spirits again. He laughed as he looked at the image of the Fabulous Souls on the cover and turned it over as if marveling at the idea that in this digital age of CDs and MP3s anyone would want something as antiquated as a vinyl record. He handed me a fistful of promotional CDs from other projects he is working on and we talked about the old days - when he and Don Ho split the publisher"s rights to an unreleased Blue Cheer side project called Darling Meat. Who knows what other gems reside in this small town and small towns across America? These are the uncharted and untamed lands of rock and roll.