|Sarah Fulcher's 1971 album Sarah & Friends on TMI Records, produced in Memphis by Steve Cropper|
However, up until this time, I have never been able to find out anything about Ms. Fulcher. Google works in mysterious ways, however, and this time around I seem to have come up with enough information that I'm pretty sure I finally know something about her recording and performing history. What follows is what I believe to be the faintest outline of Sarah Fulcher's musical career, up until 1973. More importantly, I have discovered that she released an album on TMI Records in 1971, Sarah & Friends (TMI Z30968, above), produced by Steve Cropper and distributed by Columbia. How Sarah Fulcher made the connection to performing with Jerry Garcia still remains elusive, but all signs point to--Hooteroll!
|Roy Head's 1964 single "Get Back", apparently featuring Sarah Fulcher on vocals|
San Marcos, TX is on Interstate 35, midway between Austin and San Antonio. A San Marcos high school band called The Traits, featuring singer Roy Head (b. 1943) started recording in 1958. The Traits had a series of regional hits in Texas and the Southwest through the early 1960s. The Traits played a mixture of rock, rockabilly and rhythm and blues, typical of the flexible style of Texas music since its creation.
By 1964, it appears that Sarah Fulcher was a member of Roy Head and The Traits. She even apparently was featured singing with Head on a 1964 single 'Get Back"/"Never Make Me Blue" (Lori 9551, later released on Scepter). Roy Head had his biggest hit in 1965 with "Treat Her Right," and the band toured throughout America. Although The Traits faded away, Head continued to have a successful career in the rock and country fields. How long Sarah Fulcher remained a member of The Traits remains unknown.The one time I have heard Sarah Fulcher talk, between numbers on the Jan 19, 1973 Keystone tape, she does appear to have a Texas accent, so at least some pieces of the puzzle fit.
I could find no record of Sarah Fulcher's career for the balance of the 1960s. However, a series of Billboard magazine articles in early 1971 make a number of references to a Sarah Fulcher who is a singer on TMI Records. She is specifically referred to as being from San Marcos, TX, so I am confident that it is the same Sarah Fulcher. More importantly, it appears she recorded an album for TMI Records in Memphis in 1971, produced by Steve Cropper of Booker T and The MGs. Finally, since her picture is on the cover, we can now put a face to the voice.
A detailed feature in Billboard describes the backstory to Trans Maximus Inc (TMI). Manager Jerry Williams and guitarist/producer Steve Cropper teamed up to form a production company in Memphis, TN, complete with a recording studio and record label. Williams had been manager of Paul Revere and The Raiders, among many others, and Steve Cropper had not only been in the MGs, but he had written, recorded and produced many hits for Stax Records and many other labels. According to a May 29, 1971 Billboard article on TMI, Cropper had produced Fulcher's debut album for TMI, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the record.
TMI Records was a "Custom" label for Columbia Records. Structurally, this meant that the principals (Cropper and Williams) had control of their artists, but the ultimate output belonged to Columbia, the parent label. The idea was that this arrangement promoted the creative vision of the principals while leveraging the financing and distribution of a major label. This is a tried and true formula for major record companies. Columbia particularly liked this arrangement in the early 1970s, and they had a similar arrangement with Douglas Records. Producer Alan Douglas, of course, made the arrangement to have Jerry Garcia record with Howard Wales for the Hooteroll album.
Thanks to an apparently Japanese site, I found the cover and the track listings for Sarah Fulcher's 1971 album. It appears that one of the mysteries has been that Sarah Fulcher's last name doesn't seem to appear on the album, thus hiding it in plain sight all those years. Only when I found the Billboard articles was I able to connect the dots.
Sarah & Friends (TMI 30968)
Produced and Arranged by Steve Cropper
Recorded at Trans Maximus Sound Studio, Memphis, TN
1. Fly By Night (Walter Ramsey, Jr.)
2. Cycles (Sam Samudio)
3. Big City Eye (David Mayo)
4. The Natural Order Of Things (Eric Mercury & Carson Whitsett)
5. I've Told You For The Last Time (Steve Cropper & Delaney Bramlett)
6. Antique Age (Mary V. Williams & Mack Rice)
7. She Who Steals My Man (Mary V. Williams & Mack Rice)
8. Take It Like You Give It (Ted White & Aretha Franklin)
9. Like A Road Leading Home (Don Nix & Dan Penn)
10. I'm Sticking With My Man (Eddie Floyd, Mack Rice, Steve Cropper & Chester Simmons)
11. Lord I Wonder Why (Betty Cropper)
J. Spell-Piano, Organ
David Mayo-Organ, Guitar, Backing Vocals
David Beaver-Backing Vocals
Pat Taylor-Backing Vocals
I wonder what the album sounds like? Only Cropper's name is familiar to me. It may be, however, that Sarah Fulcher brought "Like A Road" to Garcia, interestingly enough.
I don't know yet what the connection was between Sarah Fulcher and the Garcia/Saunders axis, but I think it had to do with Columbia connections. TMI studios was in Memphis, and Steve Cropper recorded either there or Los Angeles, so I don't think that was the link. However, one name mentioned in the Billboard article was engineer Jim Gaines, and I know Gaines was friendly with Garcia. The only record I could find where Gaines produced and Garcia performed was Baron Von Tollbooth And The Chrome Nun. That album was recorded at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco in 1972, with Gaines as one of the engineers, so there may have been some connections there.
In any case, I think the TMI connection meant that Sarah Fulcher's singing had been heard by various studio professionals in the Columbia orbit, whether Jim Gaines or someone else. In turn, Garcia's connection to the Columbia studio orbit came from Hooteroll, so although it is a stretch, Sarah Fulcher may qualify as all Hooteroll, all the time. Here's to hoping that Sarah Fulcher or someone who knows her is still out there and can fill in some of the blanks.