Lou Rawls: Strange Dirt (A&R, late ’60s, Lou Rawls Sings For Cold Power Powder)
I was at Andy Zax‘s house recently and pulled out what had been one of his biggest white whales for me to check out: Lou Rawls Sings for Cold Power Powder.
This wasn’t an album; it was a 10″ upon which Rawls recorded ten short, minute-long ads for Cold Power washing detergent. The fact that big stars recorded ads is nothing new but the fact that any of these records, which were intended to be played on radio stations and later discarded, survived is pretty damn extraordinary.
Andy thinks H.B. Barnum is behind the production here and I see no reason to disagree; it’s certainly right for the late 1960s, which is when the EP was likely recorded and distributed. Musically speaking, it’s competent enough though nothing will necessarily blow your mindâ€¦except for listening to Rawls shill for a detergent company, which is its own kind of awesomeness.
Thanks to Mr. Zax!
UPDATE: After this originally ran in 2012, someone wrote to contribute valuable new information:
Jim Ellerbrake: “I worked as a Brand manager at Colgate-Palmolive from 1966 to 1969. In 1968 I was one of the people that came up with the idea of using Lou Rawls for Cold Power. I called the local DJ at the Harlem radio station and asked for a recommendation for an artist to sing the praises of Cold :Power….the first suggestion was Mahalia Jackson, whom we could not afford…then he recommended an up and coming male singer by the name of Lou Rawls. We contacted his agent and Lou agreed to do the recording in New York, where he was scheduled to appear. We gave his arranger the creative strategy for Cold Power along with product benefits…the arranger came up with the words and music, which were terrific….we recorded the songs in studio in the evening and worked till 1:00 AM to complete the gig……..Lou was great to work with…The use of Lou for Cold Power was later reported in Newsweek Magazine as a “great concept”…for ethnic advertising….I remember when we did the recording his arranger would say “take 1 for ETHNIC ADVERTISING”.”
365 Days of Soul, #150