Leon, J.J., and the Super Dupers
Having grown tired of the fourteen-hour days in the recording studio playing on other people’s records, Leon Russell decided in 1965 to work for legendary producer Snuff Garrett, who was starting his own independent production company and record label, Viva Records. Snuff hustled the business and Russell handled the production chores, which included arranging, producing songwriting, and sometimes as a musician. Along with his considerable talents, Russell also brought along fellow Tulsan J.J. Cale, who along with his own list of talents, also acted as chief studio engineer.
Building on the success of a cartoon character record that Garrett, Russell and Cale had produced with Cale as the artist in November, 1965 (Dick Tracy – Liberty Records), the trio conceived an entire album of cartoon songs, which they hoped would also build on the success of the upcoming TV series on ABC-TV – Batman!
Garrett and Russell successfully pitched the idea to Mercury Records producer Shelby Singleton, and the group headed to New York City to work on the project.
Among the musicians hired to work on the album were a band out of Florida that had just been signed to Mercury’s sister label, Smash Records, named The Spotlights. Two members of The Spotlights would later go on to form the highly successful Allman Brothers Band – Gregg and Duane Allman.
According to Cale, he was in one room writing lyrics, and Russell was in the studio leading the musicians to play his original arrangements. When needed, Russell also played and sang on some of the tracks. The resulting album was meant to be released on Smash Records with The Spotlights listed as the artist, and a catalog number was even assigned, however the final release never occurred. The result was a phantom album, which has never been seen by even the most hardcore collector. The songs eventually surfaced on the budget label Pickwick Sales on their Design Records subsidiary, and billed as The Super Dupers. It also spawned many reprints as well as numerous 45 RPM releases under various labels and artists. The Spotlights eventually did release two 45 singles from the sessions on the Smash Records label in 1966, including “Batman and Robin,” “Dayflower,” “Dick Tracy,” and “Little Orphan Annie.”
Author: Steve Todoroff