Remembering Bill Moss and Capsoul Records

Bill Moss, the founder of Capsoul Records died last week. Capsoul was a small R&B and soul music label that was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1970. During its four years, Capsoul produced a dozen singles and one album that is now considered a collector's item. Last year, the Numero Group released a compilation called Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Years.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Columbus, Ohio, school board member Bill Moss died last Tuesday. Moss served on the board for five years. He also had unsuccessful runs for mayor and for seats in the US as well as the Ohio House of Representatives. Bill Moss also made music. In 1970, he was working as a deejay at a Columbus radio station when he decided to start his own record label. Capsoul Records only produced a dozen singles and one album, but they made a mark on the R&B and soul charts. Last year, when the Numero Group released a compilation recording called "Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Years," we spoke with Bill Moss. He recalled how he wrangled a $150,000 committment from a local bank and began to produce records, including one called "Row My Boat" by the Four Mints.

(Soundbite of "Row My Boat")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) I'm gotta row, row, row my boat gently down your stream. I'm gotta row...

Mr. BILL MOSS (Capsoul Records): So we were off and running and we started making the progress. We hit the national charts a couple of times within a six-week period with the Four Mints. And just when we hit the national charts and had completed the Four Mints album, they had doled out, over a two-year period, $30,000 of the $150,000 commitment that they had made. But when I came back with the Billboard magazine charts and with the new album and approached the bank and said, `OK. Now we're ready to go. We need about $25,000 because I had a hit in there.' The guy said, `No. No. You're becoming too emotionally involved in this record company. It's time to put it on the back burner and pay us our money back.'

HANSEN: Oh.

Mr. MOSS: And so they padlocked my studio and the rest is history.

HANSEN: Wait. They padlocked the studio? What happened to all the music that you'd recorded?

Mr. MOSS: Well, they--you know what? We had to get access, to put it nicely, to our music. And so we got the music and we spirited it off to my garage, but I thought I needed to put it in a safer place so I put it in the next county at a friend of mine's home. He and his wife got a divorce, and so he moved my material to an elderly lady friend of his whose basement was flooded, and all of my tapes and everything were destroyed.

HANSEN: During the four years of Capsoul's existence, Bill Moss also wrote and performed some songs. One that epitomizes the era is called "Sock It To 'Em Soul Brother."

(Soundbite from "Sock It To 'Em Soul Brother")

Mr. MOSS: (Singing) Yeah, now once I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. King. What'd I say?

Backup Group: Sock it to 'em, soul brother.

Mr. MOSS: (Singing) He was down in Alabama doing his thing. Do it again.

Backup Group: Sock it to 'em, soul brother.

Mr. MOSS: (Singing) Now it could be Dr. Ralph Bunche or Robert Hayes, O.J. Simpson or Willie Mays; they can do their fame thing. And they can do it for days. So let me hear it.

Backup Group: Sock it to 'em, soul brother.

Mr. MOSS: (Singing) Do it again. Come on, baby.

Backup Group: Sock it to 'em, soul brother.

Mr. MOSS: (Singing) Oh...

It was quite an exciting time. As a matter of fact, that period of time, those four years that I operated that record company, I was more alive in those four years than I have ever been in my life, and I'm a pretty lively person. So...

HANSEN: Wow. You haven't been living in obscurity, though, since the label's demise. I mean, you've been very active in your community, served on the board of education. You wrote a book about school desegregation. You do the radio programs. You even ran for mayor. You ran for Congress, but I gotta ask you, do you miss the business? Do you miss the music business?

Mr. MOSS: Oh, yes. First of all, the kids who had put so much faith in me, and I kept them pumped up and I kept their faith strong that we would actually be able to bring it off. And when we didn't, I think I hurt more for them than I did myself. But that was a big letdown. And so, yes, do I think about it? There has not been a day since all of that took place that I have not thought about it and kind of looked back over my shoulders, you know, and think what if.

HANSEN: Mmm.

Mr. MOSS: But, you know, my sister said to me something. She said, `Well, you know Mr. Billy, not making it in the record business may have saved your soul.' And (laughs) when I think about it, she may have been right.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Who knows what tomorrow will bring, maybe sunshine and maybe rain. But as for me, I'll wait and see; and maybe it'll bring my love to me. Who knows? Who knows?

HANSEN: Bill Moss the founder of Capsoul Records. He died Tuesday from complications due to a stroke. He was 69 years old.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Keeping the little girl as my goal makes my life worth living...

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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