Though I don’t own any Halloween related 45s from actual Houston groups, I do own this nice little ditty by Port Arthur artists on a local label. Huey Meaux’s Jet Stream imprint made an unusual choice in direction when they decided a group from an industrious small town an hour and a half drive from Houston should lay down a Halloween inspired tune.
The Port Arthur natives, James Duhon, Talmadge Armstrong, Ken Johnson, A.C. Guillory and Al Trahan quietly forged a small batch of releases under an array of different spellings of names and or monikers, most noticeably, The Ascots. There were solo releases by Talmadge Armstrong as well as Al Trahan on the Spindletop imprint both featuring “The Escotts.” A smattering of releases by James Kelly Duhon, one of which, “Heart Breaker (Child Maker)” found a national release on the Mainstream label.
They recorded a single 45 as The Ascots for Huey Meaux’s American Playboy label in the early seventies. “Just a Few Feet From the Gutter” showcased the power that the group had but a lack of promotion and questionable management decisions by Meaux likely hampered any hopes the group had of finding the spotlight.
In the late seventies, Meaux facing a slew of tax related issues, sought to defray his bills by releasing a then unprecedented amount of unreleased material he had recorded through the years. The tax scam album as it is today known was the shady art of recording and then releasing a record for the sole purpose of claiming it at an inflated cost of production and loss come April 15th. A method for making gargantuan tax write-offs without having actually spent said costs by a long shot. It was incredibly illegal but not the easiest manner in which to be caught for tax evasion. Of the thousands of albums manufactured, The Ascots were one of the more quality related releases that sadly, were destined for the dumpster instead of record store shelves.
Here’s the flipside to “Grave Yard Creep,” Talmadge Armstrong’s “Color Me Soul,” also The Ascots with Armstrong on vocal duties instead of Duhon. The Ascots may not have found the fame they were searching for in their heyday but thankfully, this release found its way into circulation and into music lover’s hands the world over. Being appreciated forty years later is a fate most wouldn’t mind having.
For those interested in the tax scam albums, thankfully Meaux chose to sit on the albums instead of just tossing them in the trash. When his warehouse was bought out in the nineties, a slew of these turned up and today you can get your hands of some, both good and terrible at Cactus Music here in Houston.
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