A while back, I got back in touch with Dave, an old high school friend. Over time, via Facebook, Dave divined that I was into old vinyl records.
One day, Dave asked whether I wanted to take a bunch of records off his hands. Usually, I say no. I don’t want to tell friends their records suck. But Dave was, and is, a pretty cool guy, so I figured he’d have some good records.
This was one.
It caught my eye only because it was on the Wand label, an offshoot of Scepter Records, the home of some sweet ’60s pop-soul. The name Joe Jeffrey didn’t ring a bell. I dropped it on the turntable and found some of that sweet pop-soul. There, at the end of Side 1, was the title track.
It’s one of those songs you recognize, then realize you never knew who did it. “My Pledge Of Love” reached No. 14 on the pop charts in the summer of 1969. It was written and performed by Joe Stafford Jr., a Cleveland native who became Joe Jeffrey. More on that later.
According to Diana Reid Haig, a researcher and producer who wrote the liner notes for “The Scepter Records Story” box set, the four-man Joe Jeffrey Group was discovered in Cleveland in early 1969 by Alan Klein, a former Liberty Records salesman. He recorded and produced “My Pledge Of Love” at Audio Recording, a four-track studio in Cleveland. A Buffalo record jobber named Jerry Meyers brought the song to Scepter, for whom he indirectly worked, and was given co-producer credit.
It’s possible that “My Pledge Of Love” broke first in Buffalo, where it climbed to No. 7 on WKBW’s Top 40 chart by the second week of May, then reached No. 1. It was mid-June before it entered the Top 40 chart on Chicago’s WLS (and then only at No. 40) and then late July before it peaked at No. 11 on WLS.
That Buffalo connection might explain the cheerleading in the liner notes on Jeffrey’s only LP, the one found in Dave’s stash. WKBW’s Sandy Beach — now there is a classic DJ name! — raves:
“I think it is the best all-around pop album since ‘Sgt. Pepper.'”
Truth be told, it’s a nice record by a regional artist who had enough talent to score a national hit but not enough material to keep the momentum going. Among the other tunes recorded in that small Cleveland studio are covers of songs by the Buckinghams, Bobby Hebb, the 5th Dimension, Cole Porter, Curtis Mayfield and O.C. Smith and even one — “Margie” — that dates to 1920.
“My Pledge Of Love” was the high point for Jeffrey. He got to record with producer Chips Moman at American Sound Studios in Memphis. It didn’t get much better than that in 1969. Moman was much in demand and American Sound was cranking out dozens of pop, soul and R&B hits. Their two songs, though, were only the B sides on the Wand singles that followed “My Pledge Of Love” in 1969. Here they are.
“Dreamin’ Till Then” and “Hey Hey Woman,” Joe Jeffrey, from “My Pledge Of Love,” 1969. It’s out of print.
The former, written by one M. James, has some sweet horns and Hammond organ.
The latter chugs along and was co-written by Johnny Christopher, who co-wrote “Always On My Mind,” a hit for Elvis in 1972 and an even bigger hit for Willie Nelson in 1982.
Jeffrey’s last two Wand releases, in 1970, were covers of “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” a hit for White Plains at the same time, and Gene McDaniels’ “A Hundred Pounds of Clay.” Since then? He’s gone missing.
So how did Joe Stafford Jr. become Joe Jeffrey? Well, there already was a pop and jazz singer named Jo Stafford, whose name and body of work suggested quite a different vibe. Thus the name change.