I first heard of the Dealers in January 2005 when a UK seller offered a 45rpm acetate on eBay. The disc had white labels on both sides with text printed in red: "Stea-Phillips SOUND STUDIOS JUdson 2-5692". Under this one side had the typed text "45 RPM", "You Got It" and "The Dealers" and the other "45 RPM", "We're So Glad We Made It" and "The Dealers". Both sides had a handwritten text under "The Dealers", "with Jimi Hendrix". Here's the original auction description:
"This is an original 45 rpm Acetate by 'The Dealers' with Jimi Hendrix. It is in Ok and playable condition although with signs of age and some scratching. The song title is - 'You Got It' and the flip side song is - We're So Glad We Made It'. Below the groups name on the label is written in pen 'with Jimi Hendrix'. You will see from the photos that it is done on both sides and I am quite confident that this was done in period and not added later. I am no expert so I am not suggesting that it is signed by Hendrix (although it could be) and I do not know and cannot trace anything about this band or the record but I have been told by a local record dealer that it could be quite rare. I have also listened to it and there is certainly one bit in it where you can definately here some Hendrix - like quitar in the background."
This didn't give me much confidence in the authencity of the disc, obviously the handwritten "Jimi Hendrix" had been added post-1967 and not at the time the tracks were recorded as Jimi didn't go by that name before late 1966. Searching the net did not bring up any info about the Dealers or the tracks on the acetate. eBay was and is full of fake items and the acetate had a starting price of $250 (reserve not met) and no audio samples available so I did not bid but I did save the auction page just in case.
More recently I was sorting through old files and came across the auction again. This time a search for the 45 immedeately brought results. It had been released on a label called Big Bunny (BB-507) . Both sides of the single, "You Got It" b/w "(We're So) Glad That We Made It", are credited to "Thomas-Johnson-Thomas" and "Arr. L. Youngblood". L.Youngblood is quite likely to be Lonnie Youngblood with whom Jimi of course made several recordings.
Based on this background information it now seemed entirely possible that Jimi could be playing on the disc so I bought myself a copy.
Firstly, the matrix numbers, T4KM-4174--1 R and T4KM-4175--1 R on the vinyl give some additional info (thanks to www.anorakscorner.com/PressingPlantInfo.html):
The single was mastered and pressed by RCA based on the following codes:
T= the year of mastering, 1966
4= the type of account: Custom - re-recorded from client's furnished tapes -i.e. the client recorded at their own venues, then took the tapes to any of the RCA studios which then cut the lacquers.
4174= tape master number
4175= tape master number
R= Pressing plant: Rockaway, New Jersey
So the disc had been pressed by Rockaway in New Jersey in 1966, the same time and area as Jimi's already known recordings with Lonnie Youngblood. The writing on the acetate could have been added later after Jimi got famous by someone originally associated with the recording sessions, unfortunately the auction description included no info on how the seller got the disc. I emailed the seller (who's still active on eBay) about the acetate but received no reply.
What about the music then? Unfortunately it isn't immedeately clear wether Hendrix plays on the tracks or not. Both songs and the recordings sound very much like those cut by the Icemen. The guitar parts sound very similar as well but unfortunately the guitar is mixed way back and there are no solos, just rhythm parts. Based on what can be heard I do belive that this could be Jimi, the rhythm playing sounds very much like him. All of the written & aural evidence seems to support his involvement but definate proof is lacking, it's a matter of opinion at this stage.
The personelle for the Dealers would appear to have been as follows:1
Claude Johnson, Doc Morris, Charles Thomas (aka Don Thomas, later of The Drifters), Melvin Thomas
Before recording as the Dealers the group made several singles as the Mystics, it is unknown if the line-up was the same for all the recordings including the Mystics and the Dealers and wether all of the persons listed actually appear on the Big Bunny 45.
Listen to "You Got It" on YouTube:
1 I had assumed that the composers Thomas & Thomas would be May Thomas and Lonnie Thomas ie Lonnie Youngblood and his wife (see the Lonnie Youngblood discography and recordings -entries) and posted this assumption on the website. 26 June 2013 I received an email from Jeff Beckman, one of authors of the book "Soul Harmony Singles 1960-1990" who supplied a personelle listing for the Dealers. As this includes two persons named Thomas and one named Johnson it is more likely that they were the composers of the tracks. Unfortunately he couldn't say anymore what the source of the info used for the book was.