By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon
Hank Mullen was a dynamic performer who was a staple of the Buffalo Soul/R&B club scene of the 1960s. Unfortunately it took awhile for him to get into the recording studio and his first effort, on a local label with no significant promotion or distribution, didn’t bring him any attention from the national recording industry. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Shortly after the single’s release Hank had a heart attack and passed away. He was only in his mid-20s.
The Avengers was a Soul/R&B band formed in Buffalo, NY in the mid 1960s. The band was known for its tight sound and hot players. At one time guitar wizard Alyn Syms played with the band. Many of you will recall Syms’ later efforts – following a stint with Rick James early on he founded his own Hard Rock band which made an album and played constantly on the local scene. On the YouTube video for this Mullen tune he commented “I played with Hank in the late 60’s. I was a junior in high school playing out four nights a week with Hank Mullens & the Avengers, the best soul band I ever played in. I was wearing tailor made suits while everyone else was wearing tie dyed shirts and coming to school on acid”. Obviously, this was a serious band who wanted the best players, age or race notwithstanding.
Besides playing locally the band toured the Midwest and South as the backing band for Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley, Betty Wright and Betty Swann. For their own material the Avengers used three lead vocalists (Mullen, Moe Jones and Carlena Weaver) though Mullen was the main man. And so when they recorded, Mullen was featured.
Listen / He Upset Your Dreams was issued on Audel Records in 1970 (some sources say 1967 but 1970 seems correct). The artist credit is to Mullen but the record states ‘arranged by The Avengers’. I’m pretty sure The Avengers do play on this and if so they do an admirable job covering the Southern Soul sound; the brass has the tight and punchy sound of the Fame/ Stax/ Muscle Shoals hits of that era.
Another reason for that sound- the production people behind it were all steeped in the Southern Soul tradition. Their manager was Macon, Georgia native James Reese. He recorded them at Capricorn Records Studio in Macon. Both tunes were penned by Earl Simms & Alan Osborne, staff writers for Redwal Music (a music publishing company formed in 1965 by Otis Redding with later Capricorn owners Phil & Alan Walden). Earl Simms had worked as road manager for Otis Redding and Arthur Conley and wrote for Conley).
While there they cut another single, this time featuring and crediting Carlena Weaver. This was also issued on Audel. Carlena later spent time singing with the Ikettes and issued another single locally on MO-DO Records.
Audel was a label run by East Side record stores Audrey & Del’s. I believe they were originally two separate stores – Audrey’s and Del’s – who combined their businesses. They also ran a One-stop operation for Soul and R&B music. But these were the only records they ever issued under their own imprint.
Listen / He Upset Your Dreams is a high quality record, and like many a high quality Soul records, has found a new audience in the Soul fans of Europe. Such that it was recently reissued by Daptone Records subsidiary Ever-Soul. Both sides are great and while I usually go with uptempo sides for this 45 Friday feature the Listen side is so great – a soulful slow-burner – I had to feature it.
I’m always looking for more info, corrections, additions. Always looking for more local recordings to feature. If you made a record locally and would like to see it featured here contact me!