Although the mysterious Arthur E Wheeler had a lengthy career in the music biz - over two deacdes and more - little seems to be known about him. If he is recognized at all it is as a West Coast artist but he made his first record for Yucca, a New Mexico label under the name the Rhythm Heirs. “Strange World” is a sort of mambo doo-wop number, with Art’s tuneful tenor well to the fore. His initial 45 under his own name was for the tiny Sabrina concern, and marked the beginning of his association with John Marascalo, with whom he worked on and off all his career. “We Got Something Going” is pure rock ‘n’ roll complete with some Little Richard whoops from Wheeler. Rather better was the ballad side "The Plea" which was a pleasant piece of Swamp Pop, always a favourite genre of mine.
Into the 60s Wheeler had one 45 for Hunter Hancock’s Swingin’ label, and it was good to see Bobby Sanders credited on it as the vocal arranger. Sadly neither the doo-wop flavoured “Jo Jo” nor the rocking “Too Late For Tears” was anything other than derivative.
Back with Marascalo, who had set up his own Cee-Jam label, Wheeler made a couple of fine tracks. “That’s How Much I Love You” and “Walk On” are fine R & B sides, with much harder edges than anything Art had cut previously. The dancers go for the former side, whereas I think the latter is a really splendid deep soul cut. Walk On features a classic southern soul styled arrangement over which Art sings his heart out. I love the piano/guitar interplay and the big fat horn section of course but best of all is Wheeler’s in your face performance. Listen to this blind and you would swear it was cut in Memphis – high praise for a great side.
Around this time Wheeler did a session for Downey Records from which nothing was issued at the time. But both “Baby We’re Through” and “Somewhere” have appeared on an Ace UK CD. The tracks have some superior vocals from Art, lovely high tenor register, but the songs themselves are nothing special sadly. The Million-Air release is extremely rare but sadly it’s musical quality doesn’t match the price it commands.
Much better is his lone Dot 45. The Northern crowd like “Coming Attractions” but – as so often – you have to flip it over to get the better side. Pawn Shop is a very fine piece of loping R & B. It has a lovely easy swaying pace with some great conga playing driving it along, and some fine horn and background vocal support over which Art delivers a half spoken vocal, complete with the sort of “knowing” intonation that Joe Tex perfected.
Towards the end of the 70s Wheeler and Marascalo tried again. “Let’s Make A Deal On Love” has far too many disco elements for me, but “That Number Got Paid” is quite tasty. It has a fine chord structure and the sort of beat that Malaco was using at the time, plus a strong Wheeler vocal. Art put these tracks out on his own Three Wheeler label a couple of years later, after another interesting coupling. Both the funky “We Can Work It Out” and the melodic ballad I Can’t Go On were co-written by Wheeler with Jerry Weaver, whose many contributions to the Birmingham, AL music scene in the 70s shouldn’t be overlooked. And that southern heritage is pretty clear on "I Can’t Go On", especially the tight horns and strong background vocals.
I’m quite aware that more info on Art Wheeler must be around somewhere but I can’t find it. Can anybody help with extra info on this fine musician?
Strange world / Cradle rock ~ YUCCA 105 (1959) (Note ~ flip by Evelyn and Virgie Galleges)
We got something going / The plea ~ SABRINA 333 (1959)
Jo Jo / Too late for tears ~ SWINGIN' 642 (1962)
That's how much I love you / Walk on ~ CEE-JAM 4 (1964)
Walk on / The flip ~ CEE-Jam 5 (1964/5)
Charlena / The rub ~ MILLION-AIR 7777 (1965)
Coming attractions / Pawn shop ~ DOT 17185 (1968)
Robot man / Pt 2 ~ CEE-JAM 27 (1970s?)
Let's make a deal on love / That number got paid ~ CEE-JAM 347 (1978) / THREE WHEELER 342 (1982)
We can work it out / I can't go on ~ THREE WHEELER 340/1 (1981)
Note ~ The unissued Downey tracks "Baby We're Through" and Somwhere" can be found on the Ace UK CD "R & B On Lakewood Drive".
UPDATE ~ Takeo Tamaki has kindly been in touch with details of another Art 45 on Cee-Jam called "Robot Man". Now included in the discography above. He also alerted me to the existence of a fine webpage on Cee-Jam which you can find here. I'm grateful to Takeo for his info.