The fourth installment of the One-derful! Collection focuses on Halo, the gospel imprint of this legendary R&B label group. Halo is preceded by the One-derful!, Mar-V-Lus, and M-Pac! compilations and will be followed by releases of the Midas and Toddlin’ Town sub-labels. This series marks the first in-depth study of what was once one of Chicago’s most prominent African-American run labels.
Halo Records is available in 2xLP and CD formats, and within the grooves of these 25 tracks lie soulful songs from groups like the Salem Travelers, the Gospel Souls, Lucy Rodgers, and the Redemption Harmonizers, plus 9 tracks that were never issued! Halo’s focus and determination was to make gospel music that secular ears could hear and enjoy. They were trying to make R&B gospel, and the main producer behind its aesthetic, Monk Higgins, later took this sound and had great success at Chess Records.
Central to Halo is the Leaner family. In the early 1960s when brothers George and Ernie Leaner added the Halo sub-label to their One-derful! label, they were revered figures on Chicago’s Record Row and beyond. They distributed material from labels like Motown and Stax and they attracted top talent. It wasn’t uncommon for a WVON DJ to help the Leaners sign their newest discovery, or for their singers, musicians, songwriters, or producers to have Chess or Motown on their resumes.
Nearly 20 years prior, George and Ernie started work at their sister’s Groove Record Shop. Before long, George was an assistant to legendary blues producer Lester Melrose, and later the brothers helped run Parkway Records â€“ recording historic 78s featuring Little Walter and Muddy Waters. They did all of this before launching United Record Distributors in 1950 â€“ regarded as the nation’s first black owned record distributor. In addition, their uncle Al Benson was the most influential Radio DJ on Chicago’s South Side. His on-air support and occasional partnerships with the Chess brothers proved crucial to their early success. He also helped many DJs get their start, including Vivian Carter who later formed Vee-Jay Records. In fact, United Record Distributors hosted her wedding. The Leaner name also turns up in connection with many of the greats in blues and soul: George Leaner produced an early release for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label, and in the 1970s Ernie Leaner and Stax’s Al Bell partnered to form Ernie’s Onestop and a chain of Record World stores. The Leaner family were among the most important black businessmen of music’s golden era, yet much of their history has only been superficially documented until now.
Between 1962 and 1971, the One-derful! family of labels released 180+ 45s of stunning soul, funk, and gospel. Over two years of painstaking research and work, including countless hours spent cataloging, transferring, and mastering 250 of the label’s tapes, has contributed to an amazingly extensive reissue collection. In addition, some of the world’s leading experts have contributed liner notes and interviewed virtually every known surviving artist, producer, and otherwise involved party. In total, the six volumes of the One-derful! Collection include 12 LPs/6 CDs with 147 tracks, 57 which were never issued, and 144 pages of 12″ x 12″ liner notes stuffed full of rare and never before seen photos and memorabilia. Spanning 1962 to 1971, these compilations bring forth a wealth of overlooked and never before heard recordings and history.