Sonny Lester (born November 15, 1924) became a very successful producer and A&R man (talent scout) in the late 1950s. Working primarily for Time and Roulette Records, he produced a variety of recordings in the popular, jazz, blues and easy listening fields and even scored a couple of "lounge-core" hits under his own name with 1963's HOW TO BELLY DANCE FOR YOUR HUSBAND and HOW TO STRIP FOR YOUR HUSBAND.

In 1966, he partnered with engineer Phil Ramone and arranger Manny Albam to form Solid State Records, a jazz division of the large United Artists corporation. Using advanced techniques to achieve the best sound and fancy pop-art covers similar to Enoch Light's Command label, Solid State issued several very worthy jazz and easy listening projects.

Lester was at the helm of some of the period's most significant music (Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Chick Corea, Duke Ellington's 70th birthday concert) and also some of the genre's biggest hits (mostly from organist Jimmy McGriff). Solid State gradually folded when United Artists purchased the Liberty catalog and all its jazz was consolidated to the Blue Note label.

During this period, Lester helmed productions for the Minit, UA, Blue Note and Capitol labels. In 1971, he formed the appropriately designated Groove Merchant label (named after the tune Jerome Richardson wrote for the Jones-Lewis orchestra) and quickly produced some of the period's most notable soul jazz from McGriff, Groove Holmes, O'Donel Levy, Reuben Wilson, Dakota Staton and Carmen McRae.

His distribution arrangement with Pickwick Records ended in 1976, whereupon he formed the "LRC" label. Originally LRC stood for the "Lester Radio Corporation" and by the CD age, the name had evolved to mean the "Lester Recording Catalog." The few records released during this period (1977-79), all seemed to reflect the disco agenda of LRC's distributor, Florida's T.K. Records (which had disco's biggest hit makers: K.C. & The Sunshine Band, T-Connection, Foxy, Peter Brown and many others). Several LRC songs did, however, emerge as dance floor hits.

Lester also had arrangements with independent companies like Chiaroscuro and America Records to release his productions. By 1980, Lester was issuing compilations of his Groove Merchant and LRC work on the Columbia-distributed 51 West label.

He seemed to be out of business until the CD age brought him back issuing budget-priced compilations (with terrible cover art and missing or altogether inaccurate credits) available through Denon (1989-1995), Delta/LaserLight (1995-present), Beast Retro and Lester's own Groove Jams label. Lester, now a resident of Florida, has also been sporadically active as a producer during the 1990s, overseeing solid but insubstantial recordings by McCoy Tyner, Jay Leonhart, Bucky Pizzarelli and Benny Golson with Freddie Hubbard. 

Thanks to Antonio Ferrarese and Francois Ziegler for assistance.

Solid State
Distributed by United Artists
SS-92 Various Artists Solid State Demonstration Record: Highlights From Solid State compilation
SS-93 Various Artists compilation
SS-94 Various Artists You've Got To Hear It To Believe It compilation
Manny Albam Brass On Fire 1966
Jimmy McGriff The Big Band 1966
Jimmy McGriff A Bag Full Of Soul 1966
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Presenting The Jazz Orchestra 1966
Kokee Band Exotica 1970 1966
The In Crowd Singers Will Bronson Presents 
The In Crowd Singers
Jimmy McGriff Cherry 1966
Manny Albam Introducing The Passion Guitars 1966
Joe Williams Presenting Joe Williams with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra 1966
Manny Albam Soul Of The City 1966
Kokee Band Hawaii And Other Exotic Movie Themes 1966
The Will Bronson Singers Best of Broadway
Ted Sommer Percussion Mariachi c. 1967
Nelson Riddle Music For Wives & Lovers 1967
SS-18014 Johnny Lytle A Man And A Woman 1967
SS-18015 Joe Williams Something Old, New and Blue 1967
SS-18016 Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Live At The Village Vanguard 1967
SS-18017 Jimmy McGriff A Bag Full Of Blues 1967
SS-18018 Bill Evans/Jim Hall Undercurrent reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18019 Charles Mingus Wonderland reissue (UA: 1959)
SS-18020 Herbie Mann Jazz Impressions of Brazil reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18021 King Pleasure Mr. Jazz reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18022 Duke Ellington Money Jungle reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18023 Herbie Mann St. Thomas reissue (UA: 1962) 
SS-18024 Charles Mingus Town Hall Concert reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18025 John Coltrane Coltrane Time reissue (UA: 1958)
SS-18026 Johnny Lytle The Sound Of Velvet Soul 1968
SS-18027 VA (Dizzy Gillespie) Jazz For A Sunday Afternoon (Vol. 1) 1967
SS-18028 VA (Dizzy Gillespie) Jazz For A Sunday Afternoon (Vol. 2) 1967
SS-18029 Mike Maineri Insight 1968
SS-18030 Jimmy McGriff I've Got A New Woman 1967
SS-18031 Billy Strayhorn The Peaceful Side of Billy Strayhorn reissue (UA: 1961)
SS-18032 Count Basie Basie Meets Bond reissue (UA: 1965)
SS-18033 Art Blakey 3 Blind Mice reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18034 Dizzy Gillespie Live At The Village Vanguard 1967
SS-18035 Modern Jazz Quartet On Tour
SS-18036 Jimmy McGriff Honey 1968
SS-18037 Various Artists Jazz For A Sunday Afternoon (Vol. 3) 1967
SS-18038 Vi Redd  Birdcall reissue (UA: 1962)
SS-18039 Chick Corea Now He Sings, Now He Sobs 1968
SS-18040 Billie Holiday Lady Love reissue (UA: 1954)
SS-18041 Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis/ Ruth Brown The Big Band Sound of Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Featuring Miss Ruth Brown 1968
SS-18042 Soul Strings Soul Strings And A Funky Horn 1968
SS-18043 Chico Hamilton The Gamut 1967
SS-18044 Johnny Lytle Be Proud 1969
SS-18045 Jimmy McGriff The Worm 1968
SS-18046 Monk Higgins Extra Soul Perception 1969?
SS-18047 Sonny Stitt Little Green Apples 1968
SS-18048 Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Monday Night 1968
SS-18049 Mike Maineri Journey Thru An Electric Tube 1969
SS-18050 Chico Hamilton The Head Hunters 1969
SS-18051 Randy Brecker Score 1969
SS-18052 Various Artists Jazz For A Sunday Afternoon (Vol. 4) 1967
SS-18053 Jimmy McGriff Step 1 1968
SS-18054 Dizzy Gillespie It's My Way 1969
SS-18055 Chick Corea Is 1969
(= I Giganti del Jazz GJ-3)
SS-18056 Johnny Lytle Close Enough For Jazz 1969
SS-18057 Sonny Stitt Come Hither 1968
SS-18058 Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Central Park North 1969
SS-18059 Jeremy Steig This Is Jeremy Steig Dec. 1969
SS-18060 Jimmy McGriff A Thing To Come By 1969
SS-18061 Dizzy Gillespie Cornucopia 1969
SS-18062 Ray Nance Body And Soul 1969
SS-18063 Jimmy McGriff The Way You Look Tonight 1969
SS-18064 Earth Disciples Getaway Train 1969
SS-18065 Wali & The Afro Caravan Home Lost And Found - 
The Natural Sound
SS-18066 Candido Thousand Finger Man 1969
SS-18068 Jeremy Steig Legwork 1967?
SS-19000 Duke Ellington 70th Birthday Concert 1969
Groove Merchant 
Distributed by Pickwick
GM-501 O'Donel Levy Black Velvet Nov. 1971
GM-502 Junior Parker Blue Shadows Falling 
-- or --
You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues
Nov. 1971
GM-503 Jimmy McGriff Groove Grease Nov. 1971
GM-504 Joe Thomas Joy Of Cookin' May 1972
GM-505 Groove Holmes American Pie 1972
GM-506 Jimmy McGriff Let's Stay Together May 1972
GM-507 O'Donel Levy Breeding Of Mind August 1972
GM-508 Lucky Thompson Goodbye Yesterday August 1972
GM-509 Jimmy McGriff Fly Dude October 1972
(= I Giganti del Jazz GJ-69)
GM-510 Dakota Staton Madame Foo Foo October 1972
GM-511 Reuben Wilson The Sweet Life October 1972
GM-512 Groove Holmes Night Glider October 1972
GM-513 Junior Parker Love Ain't Nothin' But A Business Goin' On (reissue of The Outside Man / Capitol ST-564, issued 1970) Sept. 1972
GM-514 Larry Willis Inner Crisis 1973
GM-515 McGriff/Thompson Concert - Friday the 13th - Cook County Jail January 1973
GM-516 Ramon Morris Sweet Sister Funk 1973
GM-517 Lucky Thompson I Offer You 1973
GM-518 O'Donel Levy Dawn Of A New Day c. 1972-73
GM-519 George Freeman New Improved Funk 1973
GM-520 Jimmy McGriff/Groove Holmes Giants of the Organ Come Together c. May 1973
GM-521 Dakota Staton I Want A Country Man 1973
GM-522 Carmen McRae It Takes A Whole Lot Of Human Feeling 1973
(= I Giganti del Jazz GJ-21)
GM-523 Reuben Wilson The Cisco Kid c. July 1973
GM-525 Mike Longo Funkia 1973
GM-526 O'Donel Levy Simba 1973
GM-527 Groove Holmes New Groove c. October 1973
GM-528 Buddy Rich The Roar Of '74! February 1974
GM-529 Jimmy McGriff If You're Ready, Come Go With Me 1974 compilation
GM-530 Chick Corea Sundance 1974
(= GM-2202)
GM-531 Carmen McRae Ms. Jazz 1973
GM-532 Dakota Staton Ms. Soul 1974
GM-533 Zoot Sims Nirvana 1974
GM-534 Jimmy McGriff The Main Squeeze Dec. 1974
GM-535 O'Donel Levy Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky c. 1974
GM-2201 Count Basie Evergreens Feb. 1972
(= MPS 15 264)
GM-2202 Chick Corea Sundance Feb. 1972
(= GM-530)
GM-2203 Jimmy McGriff Black And Blues c. 1963
GM-2204 Jeremy Steig Fusion (reissue of Energy / Capitol ST-662, issued February 1971 - with extra tracks) March 1972
GM-2205 Jimmy McGriff/
Junior Parker
Good Things Don't Happen Every Day (reissue of The Dudes Doin' Business / Capitol ST-569, issued Feb. 1971) May 1972
GM-3300 Jimmy McGriff/Groove Holmes Giants Of The Organ In Concert 1973
GM-3301 Buddy Rich Very Live At Buddy's Place 1974
GM-3302 Buddy Rich/Lionel Hampton Transition 1974
GM-3303 Buddy Rich The Last Blues Album Volume 1 1974
GM-3304 Mike Longo 900 Shares Of The Blues 1974
GM-3305 George Freeman Man & Woman 1974
GM-3306 Lee Konitz Chicago n'all That Jazz 1975
GM-3307 Buddy Rich Big Band Machine 1975
GM-3308 Lonnie Smith Afro-desia 1975
GM-3309 Jimmy McGriff Stump Juice 1975
GM-3310 Joe Thomas Masada 1975
GM-3311 Jimmy McGriff The Mean Machine 1976
GM-3312 Lonnie Smith  Keep On Lovin' August 1976
GM-3313 O'Donel Levy Windows 1976
GM-3314 Jimmy McGriff Red Beans 1976
GM-3315 Joe Thomas Feelin's From Within 1976
GM-4400 Lionel Hampton The Works compilation
GM-4401 Carmen McRae Velvet Soul compilation
GM-4402 Groove Holmes Hunk A Funk = GM 512/GM 527
GM-4403 Jimmy McGriff Flyin' Time compilation
GM-4404 Reuben Wilson Bad Stuff = GM 511/GM 523
GM-4405 Various Artists Live Blues In Concert compilation
GM-4406 Chick Corea/Mike Longo Piano Giants =GM 530/GM 3300
GM-4407 Buddy Rich Tuff Dude = GM 528/GM 3301
GM-4408 O'Donel Levy Hands Of Fire = GM 526 + ?
GM-4409 Jimmy McGriff/Groove Holmes Supa Cookin' comp. of GM 520 + part of GM 3300
GM-4410 Dakota Staton Confessin' = GM 510 + ?
GM-4411 Lucky Thompson Illuminations = GM 508/GM 517
Distributed by T.K. 
9312 Lonnie Smith Keep On Lovin' = GM-3312
9313 O'Donel Levy Windows = GM-3313
9314 Jimmy McGriff Red Beans = GM-3314
9315 Joe Thomas Feelin's From Within = GM-3315
9316 Jimmy McGriff Tailgunner 1977
9317 Lonnie Smith Funk Reaction 1977
9318 Joe Thomas Here I Come 1977
9319 O'Donel Levy Time Has Changed 1977
9320 Jimmy McGriff Outside Looking In 1978
9321 Joe Thomas Get In The Wind 1978
9322 Jimmy Ponder All Things Beautiful 1978
9323 Lonnie Smith Gotcha 1978
9325 B. Baker Chocolate Co. B.  Baker Chocolate Co. 1979
9327 Joe Thomas Make Your Move 1979
51 West
Distributed by Columbia. 
Q-16072 Lucky Thompson Back To The World GM compilation
Q-16073 Dakota Staton Moonglow GM compilation
Q-16074 Lionel Hampton Good Vibes GM reissue
Q-16075 Carmen McCrae Livin' GM compilation
Q-16076 Harry "Sweets" Edison Seven Eleven America reissue
Q-16077 Buddy Rich Strike It Rich GM compilation
Q-16078 Chick Corea Jazzman SS compilation
Q-16079 Zoot Sims Zoot Sims compilation
Q-16108 Brad Baker Hot Chocolate GM/LRC compilation
Q-16110 Jimmy McGriff Alive and Well GM/LRC compilation
Q-16118 Jimmy Ponder Ponder'n GM/LRC compilation

www.dougpayne.com. all rights reserved.

GEMM is your best source for impossible-to-find music!