Juggy Murray

Astute founder of Sue Records

When Juggy Murray and the Harlem entrepreneur Bobby Robinson teamed up in 1957 to launch Sue Records, they only expected to sell R&B records to the African-American community in New York. But in 1960, they signed Ike and Tina Turner, whose début 45 for Sue, "A Fool in Love", crossed over into the US Top Forty, with two of the subsequent dozen singles by the duo, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" and "Poor Fool", achieving similar success.

Henry Murray (Juggy Murray), record-label owner, producer, singer and songwriter: born Charleston, South Carolina 24 November 1923; married (two daughters); died New York 8 February 2005.

When Juggy Murray and the Harlem entrepreneur Bobby Robinson teamed up in 1957 to launch Sue Records, they only expected to sell R&B records to the African-American community in New York. But in 1960, they signed Ike and Tina Turner, whose début 45 for Sue, "A Fool in Love", crossed over into the US Top Forty, with two of the subsequent dozen singles by the duo, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" and "Poor Fool", achieving similar success.

As the Sixties progressed, the Sue imprint became the label every self-respecting Mod collected religiously, especially the finger-snapping "Mockingbird" by Inez and Charlie Foxx, which became a belated British hit in 1969, and the much-covered "Let's Stick Together (Let's Work Together)", by the one-man band bluesman Wilbert Harrison.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1923, Henry Murray moved to New York and grew up in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan, dancing on street corners for nickels. He owed his nickname, "Juggy", to his near-blind grandfather, who would ask him to get his favourite jug and fill it up with liquor. Murray claimed he dabbled in real estate in Harlem and, by 1957, he certainly had enough money to launch Sue, named after his mother.

The label's first release, "Vengeance (Will Be Mine)" by the Matadors, scored a local hit and in 1958 "Itchy Twitchy Feeling" by Bobby Hendricks hit the US Top Thirty. Sue also released early recordings by the soul singer Don Covay and albums by the jazz organist Jimmy McGriff.

In 1960, Murray's ears pricked up when he received a tape of "A Fool in Love", sent to him by Ike Turner, who was making a name for himself down in St Louis with the Kings of Rhythm. "Every record company in the country had turned the song down," Murray recalled:

I didn't know Ike from a hole in the wall but I knew it was a hit and I got in touch with him and flew down to St Louis. Ike sent his driver to pick me up at the airport in this long black Cadillac and take me to his house. He was sharp and he had

pretty girls worshipping his ass, all that he wanted. That's where I met this Anna Mae Bullock. She was around, along with his other 40 women. Ike thought he was the hot shot but I blew his mind when I said I wanted to sign them up.

The astute Murray offered Ike Turner a $25,000 advance for a four-year contract. Anna Mae Bullock - who had taken the stage name Tina - had only performed the lead vocal on "A Fool in Love" because the male session singer hadn't shown up, but Murray convinced Ike that Tina should step up in front of the three other female vocalists and become the star of a stage show now called the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

Issued in the summer of 1960, "A Fool in Love" climbed to No 2 on the R&B charts, with Ike and Tina Turner subsequently appearing on US television on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and becoming national stars. In 1964, Ike Turner was offered $40,000 to re-sign with Sue but, according to Murray,

The son of a bitch would never do anything that I would tell him to do anymore. He bought a house in Los Angeles and stuck his finger up his nose.

The Sue label also hit the charts with the surf instrumental "Stick Shift" by the Duals, "Hurt by Love" by the sassy Inez Foxx and "That's How Heartaches Are Made" by Justine "Baby" Washington.

In Britain, Sue recordings were originally licensed by Decca and issued on London/ American until 1964 when Chris Blackwell, excited by the potential of "Mockingbird" which he had heard in Jamaica, offered Murray the opportunity of launching Sue under the auspices of Island Records.

Blackwell put the maverick Guy Stevens, then a DJ at Mod hang-out the Scene in Soho, in charge of the red-and-yellow Sue label, and it soon became the first cult logo. However, Murray didn't take too kindly to the British imprint issuing recordings like "Night Train" by James Brown which had nothing to do with Sue in the US, and terminated the agreement, going back to Decca in 1966. Two years later, he sold his remaining masters and publishing to United Artists, although a reissue on Sue of the infectious "Harlem Shuffle" by Bob and Earl made the Top Ten in Britain in 1969.

In the Seventies, Murray launched Juggernaught and Jupiter Records before reinventing himself as "Juggy" Jones, a recording artist. He issued three solo albums - Built for Speed (1972), Inside America (1976) and Rhythm and Blues (1977) and made the Top Forty in Britain with the title track from the second.

Sue remains a collector's delight and has been much reissued. Alan Warner compiled the excellent four-CD box-set The Sue Records Story: the sound of soul in 1994, while Ace have three volumes of The UK Sue Label Story currently available.

Pierre Perrone

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