The label Creed didn’t produce

In 1973, Creed Taylor International(CTI), had a second go at a pop-label, this time Three Brothers Records. This was essentially an inhouse imprint or subsidiary. Apart from providing a business structure, licensing, copyright etc. Creed is not known to have played any role in the music.

Without being able to ask Creed, or Tony Romeo, I can’t establish if Three Brothers was set-up as a vehicle for “popular” music by Creed, most of which Tony Romeo produced; or if Tony Romeo bought the idea to Creed; or if Creed and Tony decided to use Three Brothers to enable a Lou Christie comeback, in a similar way Creed and Billy Vera had started out, 4-years earlier. The original intent would be interesting, but the result was, all those things would come true in the labels short lifespan.

I’ve put together an all vinyl mix of the tracks from Three Brothers Record label with some fun add-ons, press play and read on.

Tony Romeo – Producer

Tony Romeo was a successful writer and composer by the time he started to crank out tunes for Three Brothers Records. Tony had written the 1970 Partridge Family hit, “I Think I Love You” (the 1970 NARM Record of the year), as well as tracks for David Cassidy(solo) and many others. Romeo wrote eleven of the twelve tracks for Richard Harris’ 1972 “Slide” album, which included “Blue Canadian Rocky Dream“, the track that would become the first 45/single released on Three Brothers.

Tony formed and founded “Wherefore Productions, Inc.” as well as Wherefore Music from 441 West 49th Street in New York City, just four blocks from the CTI HQ at Rockefeller Center, with the legendary Brill Building, in between the two. Romeo had started in the music business as a recording engineer for MGM, his first record as a performer was released in 1968 on MGM. Along with Tony, the members of the group Trout, were his brother Frank, and Cass Morgan, who would also record for Three Brothers. I’ve added the track, “You Can’t Hang On” from the Trout album to the end of the mix, enjoy a piece of pure 1968 pop, with shades of Motown.

Among Romeo’s later hits was “The People Theme” for People (Weekly) TV show, for which Romeo was the musical director, for a show at it’s peak was watched by some 30-million people. The title theme would become a “disco” hit in the waning months of 1978. The track was released under the name Sacco, which was in fact Lou Christie’s family name.

Tony passed away in 1995, 56-years old.

Lou Christie – Singer

Lou Christie had been a hugely popular singer in the 1960’s, with several hits, including the 1966 #1 “Lightin’ Strikes” which Christie had co-written with long time collaborator and mentor, Twyla Herbert. Although he was initially signed to Roulette Records and later, Columbia Pictures–Screen Gems Colpix Records, after coming out of the Army Reserve in 1966, Christie signed with MGM Records. It’s likely that In 1965/66 Christie met Romeo during one or more of the sessions for his MGM tracks.

His falsetto, Four Seasons style “Lightin’ Strikes“, lives on today as part of the British northern soul pantheon. Christie left MGM records, and bounced around between labels until settling with Buddha, where he had a surprise, 1969, “Wall of Sound” style uptempo hit “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”, written by Tony Romeo wrote).

That track and the follow-up, with backing vocalist Linda Scott, which both had distinctly different videos, while successful in the US, were more successful in the UK, reaching #2 and thus became his biggest hit there. During a promotional tour in the UK, along with his success on the UK Singles Chart, Christie and long time writing partner Twyla Herbert wrote “She Sold Me Magic“, a tribute song to Diana Ross, which reached #25 in the UK charts. The track was subsequently covered by Elton John before his first hit, “Your Song”. Christie’s version was only a b-side on a 1970 Buddah single, “Love is over”.

In 1971, Christie released a concept album “Paint America Love”, it was both a serious album, and a socially conscious album written and produced with Tony Romeo and Twyla Herbert. An album that was a sprawling mixture of pop and Americana. It was released by Buddah, but wasn’t what they label had wanted, no obvious 45/single.

I wanted to do a concept album in reaction to all of the stuff going on at the time. People were in the streets protesting. They were killing people at Kent State. The Vietnam war was insane. So Twyla and I sat down and wrote that album, note for note. They didn’t even let me finish mixing the damn thing because they didn’t get it. They kept saying, “Where’s the hit? Where’s the hit?”

Lou Christie, Interviewed in Sept. 16th, 2006 issued of Goldmine Magazine #656

Best Way To See America” was the biggest clue from the album about where Christie would re-invent himself in a couple of years.

Following on from the disappointment of “Paint America Love” at Buddah, Christie turned his back on the label. During a visit to the UK, married Miss UK pageant contestant, Francesca Winfield(not the American author). He lived in the UK from late 1971 through 1974. This gave Christie a chance to re-evaluate his life as well as get straight from problems he’d been going through.

The Three Brothers Releases

Lou Christie and Cassandra MorganA Few of my Three Brothers Records

So Lou comes back to the United States and begins working with the late Tony Romeo, who wrote hits for the Cowsills [‘Indian Lake‘] and the Partridge Family [‘I Think I Love You‘]. Yet Lou does a country album for Creed Taylor’s fusion jazz label. So you got a guy known for falsetto 60’s pop doing country on a fusion jazz label! – Harry Young, President of the Lou Christie fan club.

https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/for-the-love-of-christie/Content?oid=898270 – Dave Hoekstra, January 28, 1999

The Romeo/Christie recordings made in 1973, at the Record Plant in New York City, started with “Blue Canadian Rocky Dream” (THB 400), a cover of a track Romeo had written and produced for the 1972 album, “Slides” by British actor, Richard Harris. The Christie version provides a look back at the singer he’d been by including a fabulous example of his falsetto voice, along with his more laid back country style.

They followed it up with a cover of the track “Beyond The Blue Horizon” (THB 402). “‘Horizon” was written for the 1930 film, Monte Carlo, and performed by Jeanette MacDonald. It was covered in the `1960’s by Johnny Mathis, Frankie Lane, and in 1970, by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees for his album “Magnetic South“. The Christie version reached #80 on the Billboard Hot 100, #12 on the adult contemporary chart, also #57 in Canada.

Confusingly, ‘Horizon was issued in the UK in 1973 on the CTI label(CTS 4002), with standard orange/brown label design. Apart from my time in the UK Northern Soul scene, where I knew “Lightnin’ Strikes” from, I was surprised and confused to hear ‘Horizon, on CTI after buying some of the more danceable CTI jazz funk.

Most will know the Christie cover from the 1988 film soundtrack of “The Rain Man“. The track was also included in the movies “Dutch” and “A Home Of Their Own“.

‘Horizon was popular and promoted in the first three months of 1974. While the January 19th, 1974 issue of the Canadian RPM magazine claims “This single was produced in England and is considered top fare for country and rock formats.” – I’ve been unable to find any evidence that the single was a UK production, Harry Young tells me that the recordings were made in America, but Christie and his wife, and their daughter were still living in the UK.

Additional Romeo/Christie recordings were done in 1974, and together with the 1973 tracks made up the Lou Christie album of the same name(THB 2000). Appearing on the album in addition to Christie, and Tony Romeo on keyboards, was Romeo’s brother Frank Romeo, Cassandra Morgan, Ralph Landis. Two additional singles by Christie were released, “Good Mornin’ / Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah / You Were The One” (THB 403), and “Hey You Cajun” (THB 405), although it appears this was only ever released as a promo/DJ copy.

LOU CHRISTIE (Three Brothers THB 405 F)
Hey You Cajun (2:29)
(Wherefore Music/Sacco Music, BMI – L. Christie, Twyla)

Lou Christie resurfaces with this good natured piece of Louisiana swamp music.
Good fiddle playing and enthusiastic support both instrumentally and vocally make
this tune a natural. Uptempo and lively, this can move. Flip: No info. available.

CashBox Magazine 1974-12-28 Magazine Review, P92

The Three Brothers “Lou Christie” album was remastered, and reissued on CD in 1998 on the Varèse Vintage Records label with the same catalogue number, THB 2000. It contained four additional tracks, recorded in 1973 and 1975.

While I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, Romero, Christie and Morgan had all recorded for MGM Records in the late 1960’s, the Three Brothers label design and color had a passing resemblance to the MGM label from that time. The publishing company and record label names were a reflection of Creed’s three sons.

In 2007, one of many Christie compilations was released entitled “LIghtin’ Strikes! (Beyond The Blue Horizon) combining tracks from both phases of his career, with a number of covers. The album was something of a success in the USA and led to an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. Asked why he never did a follow-up to the Three Brothers album, in his 2006 interview with Goldmine magazine

Why No Follow-up To This Album?

The label went out of business. Bankrupt.

Lou Christie, Interviewed in Sept. 16th, 2006 issued of Goldmine Magazine #656

As of 2020, Christie is alive and well, releasing occasional new recordings, had been making live performances. has also hosted a series of programs on SiriusXM radio for the 1960s channel. Here is an interview with Lou during a recent Cruise ship tour.

Cassandra Morgan

Cassandra Morgan, “Cass” would record an album in 1973, also with Tony Romeo, but it was never released. One of the tracks “Isn’t It Hard To Tell The Truth” was released as promo/DJ on Three Brothers Records (HB 401). I was able to speak to Cass and she didn’t recall the details but correctly remembered that she’d written all the songs but one, which was written by her then husband, Madison Mason, known as Joe Mason.

Morgan had been a prior collaborator with Tony Romeo, and had been in the band The Trout with Tony and brother Frank. They’d met while Cass was doing backing vocals for studio sessions and demos. As noted, she also did backing vocals for the Lou Christie album, for which her husband Joe, also played guitar. Cassandra Morgan went on to write, direct and perform in a number of theater and Broadway shows, there are a number of soundtrack recordings that include her performances. The most famous of these was the Tony nominated “Pump Boys and Dinettes” in 1982. Cass continues to write and perform today.

Cassandra Morgan
prob. New York City: c. 1973

a. Isn’t It Hard To Tell The Truth (Cassandra Morgan/Tony Romeo) – 3:45
b. Isn’t It Hard To Tell The Truth – 3:20 edit
c. No Better Way (Cassandra Morgan)
d. Hit Song (Cassandra Morgan)
e. River Song (Cassandra Morgan)
f. Storm King Mountain (Cassandra Morgan/Madison P. Mason)
g. I Turn to You (Madison P. Mason)
h. The Sun And I (Cassandra Morgan)
i. Ghost Of A Song (Cassandra Morgan)
j. Smart Cookie (Madison P. Mason)

Note: The above detail from this unissued Three Brothers album is courtesy of researcher Harry Young.

Issues: b on Three Brothers THB 401 [45]. a & b on Three Brothers THB 401DJ [45] (promotional only).

Doug Payne – http://dougpayne.com/ctid7374.htm

Now, the only question is, do the master tapes for the Morgan album exist? Also, over the coming week, I have to tidy up the discogs entries for Cass/Cassandra Morgan and Joe/Madison Mason.

One thing Cass was able to confirm, she wasn’t Ginny Plenty, from the duo Good and Plenty, and Tony was not Douglas Good. Good and Plenty was ‘psychedelic/flower power” act Wes Farrell and Tony had produced. Who the duo were, has always been a subject of interest, as no personal information about Good and Plenty was ever released on instruction of Wes Farrell.

The Clams

Three Brothers Records also released a novelty cover of the Carpenters “Close To You“, by the Clams, done in a Spike Jones style. Produced by bassist Tony Levin, bought together a number of musicians, including drummer Steve Gadd, who had been a classmate of Tony’s at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. The tracks were recorded over a weekend at A&R Studios on 48th St in New York City. According to Pete Levin:

“Tony played bass, and also took a lead solo on saw. (Yes, “saw” … that’s not a typo)  Pete played banjo; Tony, Pete & Vinnie did the SFX, vocals and the kazoo ensemble chorus.   Looking for a different sound, Steve laid down the groove with brushes on a New York City phone book.” 

http://www.petelevin.com/clams.htm – Pete Levin

Pete also claims that when Creed Taylor found out about the record, the A&R man who signed The Clams was fired. Taylor hadn’t authorized spending any money on promotion, and pressed only enough copies to send it to radio stations. The “Close to you” track though was picked up by New York’s #1 disk jockey at the time for WNBC and the track became popular across the country on radio. Their “career” as Spike Jones impersonators over, Gadd and Tony Levin went on to join Herbie Mann’s Family of Mann and record the excellent “First Light” album, with Herbie Mann, Pat Rebillot, and David “Fathead” Newman.

In “Spike Jones off the record” by Jordan R. Young, published 1994, Young describes the Clams

There have been several attempts to recreate the Slicker sound since Jones’ heyday. The Clams came closer than most with “Close to You.” The Rubber Band (“Bye Bye Blackbird”) and The Cornball Express (“Almost Degraded”) also made admirable attempts on 45 rpm records.

“Spike Jones off the record” by Jordan R. Young, P293 – Past Times Publishing

The End?

Not quite.

While Christie’s claim the label went bankrupt post 1974 doesn’t quite hold up, and was likely caught up in the much later bankruptcy of the larger CTI parent company. It is also claimed, by among others, friend and contributor to this website, Doug Payne, that there was a further release on Three Brothers, that wasn’t quite true.

There were in fact three, Three Brothers organizations as part of Creed Taylor International.

Three Brothers Records – a full subsidiary of CTI, the label that released the Christie, Morgan and Clams records; Three Brothers Music (ASCAP) – a pure publishing company; Three Brothers Music, Inc. the company that released the 1994 Duke Jones album, Thunder Island, on CD. The difference is only minor, but legally appropriate. The confusion arose by the liner notes which include the following

Thanks to everyone at CTI/Three Brothers Records: Creed Taylor, David Bean, John Taylor, Matthew Bratter, Kim Fox, Janet Bromfield, Dan Heymann.

Duke Jones, Thunder Isalnd, CD notes – Three Brothers Music, Inc. TBM10001-2

I have yet to track down the business registrations for anything except a “Three Brothers, Inc.” which was registered in 1987, and dissolved in 1995, which might fit. One day when I have nothing else interesting to write about, I’ll see if I can produce a useful timeline of the companies that made up CTI over the years using lawsuits, financial disclosures, tax filings and sadly, bankruptcy filings. For now though, it’s farewell to Three Brothers Records.

More Information/References

Lou Christie [via wikipedia]
Lou Christie Cult Heroes [via guardian.com]
Lou Christie fan club [via lou-christie.com]
Lou Christie discography [via discogs artist page]
Cassandra Morgan [via discogs artist page]
The Clams [via Pete Levin’s website]
Tony Romeo [via wikipedia]
The Trout [artist page and discography via discogs]
Duke Jones – Thunder Island US release [via discogs]

Updated: 11/23/20 4:20pm – Harry Young corrected typos and details on Christie. Thank you.
Updated: 11/23/20 5pm – minor formatting and text correction
Updated: 11/27/20 6pm Fixed mixcloud embed

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