It happened in Detroit, but this isn’t a story like Motown or Fortune or Revilot. There are no million-dollar payouts, gold records, or museums at the end. If Detroit was once an ocean of soul, the Big Mack label was certainly an island.
Founded in 1961, Ed McCoy’s Big Mack record company would last nearly 20 years without so much as a sniff of success. None of these records sold out of their first pressings, were reviewed in major or minor publications, or ever got more than a few spins on the radio. Their artists never toured, rarely performed, and –except in a few cases– ever recorded again. It might even be a bit of a stretch to call Big Mack a record company, as they weren’t so much in the business of recording artists, as much as they were in the business of just plain recording.
It started with an advertisement in the Detroit Free Press offering the chance for anyone to walk in off the street and cut a one take, one-off track for $14.95. Soon the McCoy Recording Company was flooded with both the ambitious and the ambiguous. One by one they would walk in, lay down their track, lay down their $14.95, and walk out. A few days later the artists would return to pick up their own, one-of-a-kind real-live acetate 45. Almost every record released between 1966-1980 came about as a result of someone walking in off the street. Young adults with awful, wonderful, and awfully wonderful voices, middle aged blues crooners, and wiry teenage garage bands, all convinced that their dreams were located at 7018 West Warren and could be bought for one day’s wages.
Eccentric Soul: The Big Mack Label examines some of the better recordings produced by Ed McCoy during an extremely fruitful period for both Detroit and popular black music. From should-have-beens Bob & Fred to the never-evers like Ms. Tyree “Sugar” Jones, yakety sax meets sultry exotica, this sound is Eccentric Soul. And right behind the board was Ed McCoy, the accidental Alan Lomax of his neighborhood, preserving a place and time that was forgotten as soon as the words “That’s a wrap” were uttered.