San Francisco T.K.O.’s: Herm + Ooh Baby Baby
From 7″ (Golden State, 1971/2)
This past week, with the help of the Record Jungle’s Andy Perez, I was able to scratch off one of the holiest of my holy grail records. It’s one of the rarest (and best!) Bay Area soul/funk releases I know of, one of those 7″s in which both sides are absolutely killer.
First you have “Herm,” which is a fantastic, funky slow-groover. To me, it sounds loosely influenced by something like “Cleo’s Back” but with a heavier, ’70s feel. Great brass section on here especially.
However, while “Herm” makes the 7″ worth the price of admission alone, what turned this into a grail for me, personally, was the flip side, a cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Ooh Baby Baby” featuring Penny Lewis on vocals. Y’all know my weakness for cover songs in general and this is a fantastic version in particular…somehow managing to sound both raw and polished at once.
From what I could dig up, the group was created by “Hard Punchin'” Herman Henry, a director at S.F.’s soul station, KSOL. Supposedly, at various points, the group had a multiracial band, befitting its Bay Area roots but best I can tell though, they never got around to recording much beyond a handful of songs. “Herm/Ooh Baby Baby” was the only U.S. release the group ever put out but what’s crazy to me – and I still don’t know the story behind this – is that the T.K.O.’s also released “Herm”…in New Zealand, with a different flip, “Acid Lady.” There is also another release by them, with the great, Northern-y “Make Up Your Mind” was (from what I can tell) bootlegged from a 2000 Kent comp.
(In a sense, this was the last of my “original holy grails” I was able to procure. In other words, starting about 10 years ago, I created a list of my absolute top wants and since then, one by one, I’ve crossed the titles off the list. I still have an extensive want list but right now, there’s almost nothing on there that’s remotely in same stratosphere as something this T.K.O.’s 7″ or the Billy Gardner single. All that means is that I need to start listening more!)