In my efforts to dig deep into the history of Houston soul music, I’ve regularly found myself mining seemingly endless paper caches. Some reveal little while others seem to tell you a story from start to finish. The latter are the ones I pray to find. Though most artists from this bygone era of music have nothing short of Mark Twain-esque tales to tell, when it comes to dates and who played what on specific recordings, their uncertainty is unfortunately all too common. Paper trails, while not 100% perfect, can shine a light of knowledge on forty plus years of darkened history. I figure it’s time I share a few of the more interesting things I’ve found.
By 1970, the TSU Toronadoes were one of the meanest bands in Houston. The local soul group recorded on Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide label and he also functioned as the group’s manager as well as booking agent. With major releases on industry titans like Atlantic and Volt (a subsidiary of Stax), the group garnered quite the heavy following. They were a hardworking, professional band in every sense, none of the members held any sort of day job but a lack of hits sitting on top of charts insured they weren’t selling out concerts at the Apollo either.
Here’s a letter from Frazier seeking an overdue payment for a TSU Toronadoes concert to mark the opening of a new Burger King at the intersection of Cullen and Belfort. While it wasn’t exactly a primetime slot at the Cinder Club, the Toronadoes were a working band and this was a paying gig. If you have to eat at the Home of the Whopper, at least you could listen to “A Thousand Wonders” while doing it.
TSU Toronadoes “A Thousand Wonders”