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Song Credits on Mr. Dynamo

by Peter Viney

Levon "wrote" three tracks on Mr Dynamo, his credits including "You Cheated (You Lied)", which had been a US # 12 hit for The Shields in the Fall of 1958 (initially Tender, then Dot 15805.) Jesse Belvin put together this group, including Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Mel Williams and Charlie Wright, and sang falsetto. Frank Ervin sang lead. The Shields were covering an earlier release by a Texas group, The Slades, on Domino which got to #42 (CD is now on Dee Jay Jamboree, CD55002).

It was also covered by The Del-Vikings on Mercury. The Shields version is on Forever Doo Wop! Volume 2 (Kenwest KNEWCD 739), credited as The Sheilds (sic). However, composer credits are to Burch on this release. It is also on The Doo Wop Box and The Golden Age of American Rock'n Roll Volume 5 (Ace CDCHD 600). Golden Age of American Rock'n Roll Volume 5 say it was put together in 1955 (which must be wrong) by George Motola who decided to cover the hit by The Slades. He was so anxious to cover this Texan hit that he guaranteed sales of 2000 copies. There was also an answer disc, I Cheated, credited to Burch, and sung by Joyce Harris.

The Rolling Stone review of the 1969 re-issue of the Hawkins Mr Dynamo album says that it was "later (sic) a number 1 hit for The Shields". The reviewer was Greil Marcus, who should know, but he was pretty far off the mark with his comment: "Think about this. Levon Helm reached more people with more impact with 'You Cheated' than the Band has with Music From Big Pink." Ho Hmm.

The Shangri-Las later recorded "You Cheated (You Lied"), and credited it to Helm. It can be found on several compilations e.g. the definitive remastered collection Myrmidons of Melodrama (RPM 136) (1995) and The Shangri-Las 16 Greatest Hits (Sweet 16. CD12008, 1990). The original recording was on Red Bird in 1965, and there are references to The Hawks doing recordings with Red Bird in 1965 with John Hammond Jnr.

The story behind the credits took some research. I'm indebted to Bill Millar for clearing it all up. It seems that the song was indeed written by Don Burch, the lead singer of The Slades, and published by Balconer Music, as was The Shields version. The Roulette versions, credited to Helm, are published by Patricia Music, a company named after Roulette boss Maurice Levy's wife. Roulette was a mob company and they put names, real or non-existent, on composer credits in case there was any money in it. Bill Millar points out that songs by Larry Williams, Billy Emerson and Young Jesse may have been credited to Hawkins-Magill, let alone "40 Days"; and that "You Cheated" was credited to Helm. Incidentally, Ronnie Hawkins has said he doesn't know who Magill was *! Whatever the money would have gone to Roulette and Levy rather than Levon. In another example outright gangster Gaetano Vartela received song credits. "You Cheated" never sounded like a Helm song, and I'd wondered for years why he'd never followed this Ruben and The Jets-like alley.
-- Peter Viney

* According to Bill Munson, "Magill" is probably Jacqueline Magill, Morris Levy's girlfriend. She is given credit on 13 songs on the first two Ronnie Hawkins LPs on Roulette. Among them are the two songs on Mr.Dynamo co-credited to Robbie Robertson. Former Hawks-member Scott Cushnie, who played with Robbie in the early group The Suedes, claims that Robertson didn't write them either:

"Just about everybody knows that Ronnie Hawkins soon hired Robbie Robertson into his Hawks, but few know that he hired (and fired) Scott Cushnie first. Fewer still are aware that the two Robertson 'originals' recorded by Hawkins on his early Mr Dynamo album were really songs from the Suedes repertoire, both at least partly written by Scott! Perhaps surprisingly, Scott remains understanding: 'I wasn't around to sign the songs over to the record company, but Robbie was. It's not as if he got any money for them.'"
-- from Scott Cushnie - A Modern Primitive?

Jimmy Merrill and the ???? (yes, the ????) recorded "(I Need) Someone Like You" from Mr.Dynamo for Quality Records in 1960. They were a rockabilly band from Brantford, Ontario. Their record gives writer's credit to just R. Hawkins (and not Hawkins / Magill / Robertson).

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