El Paso and Las Cruces in the 60s and early 70s produced some of its rarest and most sought after records. Artist locally caught on early that we were all alone geographically, with no major labels or industry people to sign and promote the talent, in a national or international fashion. Thus, the DIY approach was the way to go, and there were tons of local labels that sprouted, documenting the desert sounds of west Texas.
There was plenty of local labels, to me there’s what I call the big 4—Steve Crosno had Frogdeath with its mainly surf and soul groups, Bobby Fuller had Exeter Records with some of El Paso’s most sought after rock & roll and garage, Coronado Records had garage and soul , and Suemi Records with psych and soul. All the labels produced some of the most top notch sounds of El Paso/Las Cruces of the 60s and 70s.
Down in the west Side of El Paso on Lindberg St off of Doniphan, was the legendary Suemi Records recording studio. This is where many super rare El Paso records were produced—The Sojourners, The Embers and one of their biggest records, the I Love You Gorgo compilation which included Truth, The Intruders and Lode Star. Suemi Records started in the 60s and went on into the 70s. Its most sought after record was a small pressing of Lou Pride’s northern soul stomper, “Im Com’un Home in the Morn’un”.
Pride was born in Chicago, IL. After his stint in the United States Army, he married and settled in El Paso TX. He and his wife performed as a duo in El Paso before he decided to perform solo. He connected with the Suemi label and cut a few records.
What makes “Im Com’un Home in the Morn’un” is all its individual elements—the bass and drums are charging along like crazy train in the middle of the night backed with that northern soul beat, then the horns come in blaring full of energy. Its undeniable charge is enough to get your feet tapping or like the northern soul kids, go crazy on the dance floor. On top of the up-charged track is a smooth layer of Pride’s vocal. The b-side “I’m Not Thru Lov’un You” is a great bluesy/soul song, smooth and complementary of the flipside, but the a-side far overshadows in popularity. What makes this record so rare is that it was pressed by a small label, and only so little were made. This little record out of El Paso was a huge hit in the UK’s northern soul scene.
How did this record make it across the Atlantic and into the sweaty northern soul scene in the 70s? If you didn’t know, in the UK in the late 60s and into the 70s there was the northern soul craze; all night dance parties that went on into the morning. It was the predecessor to raves and modern dance culture. The music was soul, but they called it “northern” soul because it’s what was happening in the north of England. The djs were vinyl obsessives that were always out looking for the best and rarest soul records. The BBC documentary Northern Soul: Living For the Weekend talks about the competitiveness of the djs always digging looking for the next stomper, at times traveling to the United States to stock up.
“Im Com’un Home in the Morn’un” is at the top of the most sought after records out of El Paso because it’s a crazy good song, and also thanks to the northern soul scene recognizing it as that, digging it out of the piles of obscurity and giving it the shine it deserves. It comes in at #77 on the top 100 northern soul songs of all time, and if your’e lucky enough to find one here locally, it is a great listening experience.
Text: Daniel Salas