Tales from the Private Press: Jr. and His Soulettes

We joined forces with one of New York’s finest record fairs, Brooklyn Flea. It’s here that you’ll (hopefully) find some of the weirdest tracks ever committed to wax. Enjoy the Experience is an upcoming book that celebrates the culture of cratedigging, pulling together a collection of private press records that often defy description. One such record featured in the book is Jr. and His Soulettes’ Psychodelic Sounds. Excerpted below is Rich Haupt’s tale of what happened when he met those responsible for the record

Musta been the late ’80s or early ’90s… my partner Mark and I took a trip up to Oklahoma City to look for records. Most of the day we hit various flea markets with pretty good success. Our last stop of the day was a place called The Memory Market, which is still there today. It’s a large metal building that housed about 10 to 15 various antique dealers who specialized in “junk.” The back third of the building was run by two elderly women who dealt in nothing but records. Tens of thousands of records, LPs and 45s. We started digging in and it was apparent that we were the first ones to go through this stuff that were looking for what we were looking for. The first hour yielded titles like Badge & Co., a very beat up copy of The Marble Phrogg, Darius, Trizo 50 and many more.

The market was going to close at 6 PM, and it was about 5:45 when I came across an amazing looking record titled Psychodelic Sounds by Jr. and His Soulettes. The cover was a “10” with Jr. playing a Gibson Firebird behind his head while doing the splits on stage. I called Mark over, we pulled out the little Big Bird record player we carried with us and put the LP on to give it a spin. It was beyond warped, totally destroyed with only about 20% of the surface area being playable… enough though for us to know we had found a MONSTER, yet bizarre LP. Mark pointed out that it had an Oklahoma City address on the back.

We paid for all the LPs and headed straight for the pay phone in front of the place. We looked in the phone book and sure enough, we found a Harold Moore Jr. and Sr. at the same address. I called the number and was greeted by something that could only be described as sub-human animal sounds… Uhhhhhoooerrruggyhg… I could not make out a single English word this guy might be uttering. Then a second party picked up another line and told “Jr.” to hang up. It was Harold Moore, Sr. and he was one very friendly guy.

It was late winter and by 6 PM it was starting to get dark, yet Harold Sr. invited Mark and I over to his house with the promise that he had “a whole suitcase filled with those old rekkids, you fellas come on over.” We got directions and began to drive to the house… It wasn’t long before we realized we were going to the worst part of OKC.

In the South it’s pretty well known that if you live near the railroad tracks or by the river, you’re probably in the bad part of town. The Moore house was built on stilts, with the river on one side and the railroad tracks on the other. We parked, went to the front door and rang the bell… no answer. Then we knocked on the door pretty hard… again, no answer. Mark walked around to the side of the house and followed some very loud disco music to a room in the back of the house. He looked inside and saw Harold Sr. sitting in front of a column of amps and receivers that were producing this very bass-heavy music. He banged on the window, got Mr. Moore’s attention and he waved for us to go back to the front door.

Harold Sr. opened the front door and acted as if we were long lost friends… he quickly invited us in while yelling up the stairs at “Jr.” while apologizing to us for his “effed up son.” He brought us back into the “music” room and it was pretty bizarre. In the middle of the room stood a camera on a tripod. In each corner of the room that the camera was facing were little triangular stages built into the floor with a full-length piece of Plexiglas from floor to ceiling in front of each “stage.” The stage was about large enough for one person to stand on.

Our goal was to get some LPs and get back to Dallas, but Harold had a lot to talk about and wanted us to stay. After being there about 15 minutes Harold says, “You boys wanna see my puppet?!?!” How do you answer that question to a grown man? Of course we said, “Sure!” He opened his drawer and pulled out a puppet made out of a sock. You know, one of those winter socks that they make sock monkeys out of. He said, “This here is my snake.” And, I’ll be damned, the thing had a hat that could not be described as anything but a “pimp” hat and a big fat set of lips.

He then went on to explain that everything in the room was set up for the puppet… the music, the camera, the stages. He also explained that all his grandkids loved the puppet but he couldn’t tell them about the puppet’s “night life.” He then pulled out a video, put it into a VCR and began to show us just what the puppet was all about. Before I attempt to explain what we saw I have to say that this moment was surely the most surreal in my life, and I’d have given anything to have had a camera as I knew I would have to repeat what I saw and that no one would believe it.

The video starts off with that same bass-heavy, thumping disco music and the pimp puppet “dancing” to the beat. Then a naked black woman comes into the frame and begins to dance with the puppet. This goes on for about five minutes with the puppet doing various obscene things to what appears to be this super-imposed naked woman. The video stops, a new song starts to play and now the puppet starts dancing with a different, nude, black woman. Friggin’ Amazing!!!

After about ten minutes we’ve seen enough and tell Mr. Moore that we have to be going. Harold then explains at Mark’s request just how he makes these movies. On a Friday or Saturday night Harold usually goes out and picks up a hooker. Not for sex, but to dance with the puppet. The naked hooker stands behind the Plexiglas in one corner of the room while Mr. Moore operates the puppet behind the second piece of Plexiglas in the opposite corner. The way the camera is set up on the tripod, it is able to not only record the puppet, but uses the Plexiglas to make a reflection of the woman in the opposite corner so he gets the effect that they are actually dancing together!!! GENIUS!!!!

Getting down to business, we asked for the LPs, promising to pay him some big bucks. He goes into a closet and drags out a very old and beat up suitcase. He opens the suitcase, which is FILLED with sleeveless 45s. Not an LP to be seen. “Oh you boys are looking for those BIG rekkids,” he said. “I don’t have any of those, they were all ruined.” Needless to say we were disappointed, but we bought a few of the four different 45s from him, two of them being non-LP cuts. Harold apologized for not having any of the LPs and told this story…

He had four children, Jr. and his three sisters who had been abandoned by their alcoholic Mom. Harold Sr. worked for a very rich Jewish woman who took a liking to the kids and bought them musical instruments and paid for lessons. She made the kids a deal that if they learned how to play at least three songs she would get them a slot on some local TV telethon. The kids took to music very quickly and within a year were appearing on local TV. The response was so good that the woman paid for them to record an LP but suggested they write “original” songs.

This is where Harold Sr. comes in, writing all the songs that appear on the LP, with most of them being attacks on the drunken and supposedly abusive ex-Mrs. Moore… “Mama drinks Tequila / She stays drunk all the time.” Once the LP was recorded and pressed, the next step was to get them in the local record stores. At least one store told Mr. Moore that they could not stock them unless they were shrink-wrapped. Harold went to a butcher shop where his brother worked and used their shrink-wrap machine to seal the LPs… unfortunately, this was a high heat machine, and he melted every single LP in the process. This wasn’t discovered until someone bought one and brought it home. All the LPs were pulled from the stores, and rather than re-press it, the woman decided to release some 45s.

The 45s themselves are a work of art… with photos of each of the kids’ heads on the label… very homemade and cheesy looking. As Mark and I were leaving the Moore’s home he asked for two favors. One was to write to The Guinness Book Of World Records and request that his kids be put in as “The youngest group to make an LP and play their own instruments,” which we did, to no avail. The second was to never tell his grandkids what we saw the puppet doing… which has not been a problem to uphold.

By Rich Haupt on April 9, 2013

On a different note