Spin The Black Circle, Floyd Ramsey; An Interview With David Hilker of Fervor Records

On the corner of 7th and Weldon in Phoenix stood Ramsey’s Radio Repair, a small business that was operated by entrepreneur Clay Ramsey in the 40s.  His son, Floyd, joined the family business after serving in the Army Air Corps from 1943-45 as a radio repairmen.  The father/son duo expanded the building where the shop stood over the course of time; a barber shop, a record store, and a television sales/repair shop soon took up residence.
What also stood on that piece of real estate that was built by the older Ramsey was a small recording studio called Recordland.  Ran along with his wife Mary, Floyd’s studio would be influential in populating the culture within the state of Arizona.  Keeping an eye on the ever changing climate of recording, Ramsey stayed ahead of the pack; his company invested in a large, state-of-the-art equipment has the years rolled on.  Musicians like Wayne Newton, Waylon Jennings, Skip & Flip, Donna Fargo, and hundreds more all worked with Ramsey’s Liberty Bell, MCI, Rev and Ramco record labels.
After selling the company in 1991, Ramsey traveled and enjoyed life to he succumbed to heart and health issues on April 17, 2008.  Leaving behind a legacy of work that will undoubtedly stand the test of time, the good people behind Fevor Records in Phoenix wanted to showcase Ramsey’s vision.  Digging through found recordings, b-sides, and favorites from the extensive catalogues, Fervor Records released the 29-song ‘Mid-Century Sounds, Deep Cuts From The Desert’.  The record label has crafted a limited run collector’s edition double LP along with a 140 vinyl with “Tip On” printing.
We recently caught up with David Hilker, owner of Fervor Records and the mastermind behind the compilation, to learn more about the great Floyd Ramsey and how this project came to be.
What inspired the label to embark on the Floyd Ramsey project?
We were discussing Floyd with our good friends at Marmoset in Portland. After many conversations we both thought this was a story worth sharing. We equate the Floyd Ramsey story to Sam Phillips/Sun Records, or Leonard & Phil Chess/Chess Records. Floyd Ramsey was on equal footing with his multitude of accomplishments. For crate diggers and vinyl nerds like us we both thought it was worth putting some muscle behind to help perpetuate Floyd Ramset’s amazing legacy.
While going through Ramsey’s extraordinary catalog, what was it that surprised you to most?
It was the diversity of the music, and the scope of his involvement. Floyd is the common thread through all these songs and was hands on in many roles from studio owner, engineer, producer, publisher, label owner etc. Some of these tracks have never been released and had never been heard since they were recorded in the 1960s and 70s! That was truly extraordinary.
To this day, is there a sense that Ramsey’s influence in music is felt in Arizona and beyond?
I think there are many that appreciate his work, probably more internationally than locally. Parts of this story have been told before by the likes of Ace (UK) and Bear Family (Germany) but never through the lens of Floyd Ramsey.
Phoenix sometimes gets a bad rap for lack of culture but this LP certainly proves skeptics wrong. I think Phoenix needs to do a better job at embracing its musical heritage like Memphis with the Sam Philips/Sun Records story, or Seattle with Sub Pop etc.
The MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) in Phoenix has a nice display on Audio Recorders, Floyd’s studio, but we want his story to resonate even louder and further.
At the time, Ramsey was doing some extraordinary things; his ideas are innovative and well beyond what was happening.  Do you think that Ramsey got his due as much as he should have?
No, and that served as the motivation for this project. We’ve had the privilege of getting to know these songs from all sides: the songwriters, producers, artists, engineers, publishers, labels, recording studio, session players etc. When you listen to this record you can tell how much Floyd appreciated all genres of music and fostered the creative process that made it happen. This represents the back-story. Floyd worked with many icons of the industry, major label acts and charting hits. While some of those have already been touched on by others Mid-Century Sounds delves much deeper. I think this record shows why Floyd Ramsey is an important figure in American Pop music and why its an important story.
Did Ramsey’s family help the label with obtaining any other collectables that could have helped the project?
Floyd’s assets were bequeathed to Arizona’s unofficial music historian John P. Dixon. Johnny D. worked for several major labels, and has been a DJ on scads of local AZ radio stations. John brought this to Fervor Records in 2007 and has provided tons of photos etc. He has done an amazing job at preserving the assets, many would have landed in a trash bin if not for Mr. Dixon.
The label typically focuses their attention towards releasing music online.  With this project, you released it on vinyl.  What was the reasoning about that?
We felt vinyl was the right vehicle to tell this story. There’s a picture on the inside cover of the LP showing Floyd working on the same Neuman gear used to master this record at Telegraph Mastering (see attached photos). This was a huge part of his business at Audio Recorders, mastering and cutting lacquer for Wakefield Pressing plant here in Phoenix. Vinyl was truly apropos for the project.
You had an abundant amount of choices to select when putting this compilation.  What was about the final selections that drove you to pick them in the end?
We felt these songs represented an amazing musical breadth of scope. Even with the musical diversity we feel is a great cohesive listen from start to finish.
Is the record label thinking of doing another project like this one in the near future?
We are now re-visiting the multi-track sessions in Floyd’s archive with John Dixon and are uncovering more treasures! The Floyd Ramsey story is bound to continue.
Fervor Records is always digging deep to find great music and have lots of exciting compilations in the queue.
Click on the links below to hear some of the music accompany ‘Mid-Century Sounds, Deep Cuts From The Desert’.