Sundi Records was owned by Gil Cabot (Gilbert A. Cabot), and was based in Tampa, Florida, until
about 1971, when Cabot moved the company to Hollywood, California. The stories of both Sundi and
Cabot are complicated. What we will present here is a summary of what we think are some facts about
the label's releases and their one hit, "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy.
The first Sundi record we can find referenced is Sundi 103/104, "Wild Rebels"/"Come See About Me" by the Other Side, released in 1967. Starting in 1968, Cabot put out a couple of albums, Lookin' for a Free Way by Pat Henry [Sundi SRLP 6801] and The Man from Spain by Clemente Ochoa [Sundi SRLP 6802]. Cabot continued the 6800 series with the new singles released that year. SR 6803, which was a single issued on the Fuljac label (a sister label also owned by Cabot), "There's a Flower Shop"/"With Someone You Love" by Paradox, and more singles (including 45s by Agency, the Impacs, and Jim Downing & the Renegade Brass) followed. By the time Cabot reached SR 6811 in late 1968, "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy, he knew he had a hit.
Mercy was a group started by Jack Sigler, Jr., with former members of his high school, Brandon High in Brandon, near Tampa, Florida. They spent about a year after graduating performing from Tampa to Miami. After several personnel changes, Mercy settled in as an eight-person congregation consisting of Jack Sigler, Brenda McNish, Debbie Lewis, Ronnie Caudill, Ann Sigler, John Hudson, Roy Schultz, and Lou Vasenda.
Jack's father knew a Hollywood movie producer who in 1968 had come to Tampa to shoot a movie called Fireball Jungle. The producer, George Roberts, heard Mercy through the senior Sigler and asked them to perform a song in his movie. Jack had written "Love (Can Make You Happy)" in high school and the group performed it for the movie. Lead guitarist Ronnie Caudill also wrote "Fire Ball," an instrumental for the film. The movie was finished in 1969, but apparently not widely released to theaters. It was a car crash and violence extravaganza, and several clips and trailers are available on the internet.
Jack's father put up some cash for the group to record their songs as a single (it may be this recording that was used for the group to lip-synch to in the film). Gil Cabot agreed to release the single on his Sundi label, and did some "sweetening" of the tracks at CFP Studios. About this time, Jack Sigler, the group's leader and manager, reportedly joined the Navy, leaving the group without a leader.
Cabot released the record in November, 1968, and promoted it locally in Florida, where it received airplay and good reviews in Miami and Sarasota. He knew he had a hit, but knew he couldn't do national distribution by himself, so he went to Philadelphia and signed a deal in late February with Jamie/Guyden owner Harold Lipsius, whereby Jamie/Guyden would distribute the Mercy single nationally. With that agreement in place, Lipsius got to work and the record entered the national charts on April 12, 1969, eventually making #2 on both the Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts (it was certified a million-selling gold record by the RIAA on July 15, 1969). So far, so good. Then the fun began.
Without Jack Sigler, Cabot had no group to promote at live appearances, and no group to record an album to go with their hit. Cabot had reportedly met with Sigler earlier and discussed having a "tour group" to make appearances, explaining to him that not having a group could be a deal-breaker if they wanted to get national distribution. Sigler didn't have much choice, since he was not going to be available, so Cabot found a trio of background vocalists to stand in as "Mercy". Who these singers were is not exactly clear, since they weren't identified on the Sundi album issued in early June, 1969. The three women pictured on the album cover have all the look of professional models, and are unlikely to be the actual singers. Elsewhere, it was reported (unconfirmed) that the trio who recorded the rest of the Sundi album were Gil Cabot's wife, his secretary, and his secretary's sister (the latter two may be apocryphal, but Cabot's wife is commonly noted as one of the singers). Backing instruments were widely acknowledged to be by Mighty Manfred and the Wonder Dogs, a local band who had recently recorded a single for Sundi.
Problems ensued. Jack Sigler returned on leave from his military stint in April, only to find another group touring in his group's place. This was hard for him to miss, since the trio was booked in the greater Tampa area (and widely publicized) for April 18. By early May, when the record had reached #15, Sigler filed suit against Gil Cabot to prevent the use of the name "Mercy" by anyone other than members of the original group. Cabot countered by renaming the group "The Mercy" instead of "Mercy" on tour and on the Sundi album. The female trio not only toured the US and Canada, but also recorded all the tracks on the eventual Sundi album other than "Love (Can Make You Happy)." The album, The Mercy And Love (Can Make You Happy), was numbered Sundi SRLP 803 - Cabot dropped the initial "6" from what would have been SRLP 6803, possibly due to the conflict with the single released earlier (a coherent numbering system did not seem to be one of the label's strengths). "Fire Ball," the fuzz-rock instrumental flip side of the hit, was not included on the album for obvious reasons.
By late April, Jack Sigler and the members of Mercy, which now had several new members since the recording of the hit, signed with Marlin Productions, whose head, Henry Stone, arranged for the group to sign with Warner Bros-7 Arts Records. The Warner Bros lineup included Jack Sigler (guitar, vocals, not in photo above as he was still in the Navy), Brenda McNish (piano, vocals, center left in photo), Debbie Lewis (organ, vocals, center right in photo), James "Jamie" Marvell (12-string guitar, vocals, at top in photo), Buddy Good (bass/vocals, second from top in photo), Rodger Fuentes (drums, far right in photo), and lead guitarist Ronnie Caudill (far left in photo).
In a move that is all too typical in the cutthroat record business, Warners had the group quickly record an album — produced by Miami producer Steve Alaimo — including re-recording their hit, and put out a competing album called Love Can Make You Happy [Warner Bros WS 1799], released the first week in June, about the same time the Sundi album came out. This ploy siphoned considerable sales from the Sundi album. The Sundi album was the first to make the charts, checking in at #154 on the week ending June 21. The next week, the album had jumped to #45, but Billboard listed only the Warner Bros album. It edged to #41, #40, #39, #38, then dropped to #42, #46, #57, #80, #116, #118, #132, #147, #191, then off the charts, listed as the Warner Brothers album all but the first week. Judging from the relative abundance of the Warners album and the scarcity of the Sundi album today, the Warners album — bogus version of the hit and all — handily outsold the original. Warners also released the re-recording of the hit overseas as a single in June, backed with a non-LP track, "Happy as Can Be, La La La La". Ironically, the Japanese picture sleeve featured a drawing of three women vaguely resembling Sundi's tour group!
Warner Bros was also in the driver's seat when it came to releasing a followup single, because Sundi didn't have one. That is, unless they wanted to release a single by the tour group (and they chose not to, given the legal entanglements). Warner Bros released a track off their album, "Forever" [WB 7297, a remake of the Little Dippers hit] as a followup single in June and it made #79 (#24 on the Easy Listening charts), but the next single ("Hello Baby"/"Heard You Went Away") [WB 7331] didn't chart, and the group was done.
In August, 1969, Cabot hired Mike Apsey (who had co-producer's credit on the Mercy hit) as a full-time producer and A&R man. The only significant songs licensed to Jamie/Guyden by Gil Cabot were apparently the two sides of the Mercy single. Jamie also distributed a few others which charted nowhere, but Cabot broke ties with Jamie/Guyden by May, 1970.
Years later, the distribution deal with Jamie/Guyden was still causing heartburn. In a 1996 lawsuit finally settled in 1999, Cabot sued Lipsius seeking to have the distribution agreement rescinded, but Cabot lost. Interestingly, the judgment give a lot of details about the financial dealings. According to the legal filings, "Generally, Cabot was to receive a seventeen percent (17%) royalty, payable upon the wholesale price, exclusive of taxes, on ninety percent (90%) of all records sold. For sales outside of the United States, Cabot was to receive one-half of the seventeen percent (17%) otherwise payable." For a million-selling record, that would come out to be 17% of 900,000 times the wholesale price. Cabot received about $52,000 from Jamie/Guyden between 1969 and 1986. This would be the correct amount if exactly 1 million records were sold, and the wholesale price per unit was 33 cents. (For publishing, Cabot got about $10,200 from Jamie's Dandelion publishing, plus another $10,500 from BMI. The court found that about 70% of those amounts were due Jack Sigler, the songwriter and band leader.) Cabot stated that Jamie/Guyden had not kept accurate records of sales, had not sent him regular statements, and had stopped payments altogether as of 1986. In addition, Cabot claimed that Lipsius had made no efforts to get the song into movie soundtracks. Cabot wanted his masters back due to non-payment, like the famous case with the Kingsmen.
In his defense, Lipsius stated that the reason Jamie/Guyden had suspended further payments as of 1986 was that in October, 1986, Lipsius found out that Cabot had received $3,000 from Collectables Records to license the master recording of "Love (Can Make You Happy)," something Lipsius claimed was not allowed by the original agreement. He also noted that nothing in the original agreement required him to shop the song to movie producers, just to distribute the record.
The court ruled that by 1996, the statute of limitations had run out on some of Cabot's complaints, and indeed nothing in the original contract mentioned movie promotion. In addition, the court ruled that unlike the Kingsmen, who had never received any royalties, Cabot had received upwards of $70,000 for the record, so the case was dismissed.
Back to 1970. Only a few singles were released in the time between the Mercy hit and May, 1970, some of which were distributed by Jamie/Guyden and some others distributed locally by Cabot. These included singles by Panacea, Joey Ray & the Shays, Deen Aubrey, and the Third Condition. Cabot also issued an EP on Fuljac Records 6901 by the group the Class. After the agreement with Jamie/Guyden expired, further Sundi singles reverted back to Cabot to distribute. He soon signed a deal with Transglobal to distribute future releases nationally.
On Monday, May 4, 1970, four students were killed in an altercation with National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. The next Sundi single [SR 6815] was "A Monday in May (A May Day of Hell)" by the Third Condition, released in early June. The first deejay pressings did not note that the Transglobal deal had been finalized, but shortly after, Cabot signed with Transglobal and several things happened. First, the single's title was revised to "Monday in May (The Kent State Tragedy)", with the Transglobal distribution noted on the bottom of the new label. About the same time, Cabot announced he had established the "M.I.M." (Monday in May) scholarship fund in Tampa. To get it started, Sundi would donate ten percent of the sales of the single. This ploy failed miserably in getting the record played or sold. How much money "10% of sales" might have ultimately resulted in for a donation is unclear, since the single seemed to drop off the face of the earth, but people were also encouraged to make donations directly to the fund.
In 1971, Cabot moved the record label to Hollywood, California. Once there, he teamed up with singer/producer Jimmy Velvet, owner of VTR Records, and started a new single series, the Sundi/VTR V/SR 7100 series. The first single, Sundi/VTR V/SR 7101, was "(Things That Make A Woman) A Woman"/"Wasted Years" by Jimmy Velvet. Velvet had registered a few minor hits in the early 1960s, starting with a remake of the Robert & Johnny song "We Belong Together" [Originally Velvet 102, later ABC-Paramount 10488]. Velvet went through a series of self-owned labels (Velvet, Velvet Tone, VTR) before getting on Sundi. Velvet had run the VTR label out of his home town Memphis. All of Velvet's labels were red with black print with a silver logo, and VTR seemed a transparent rebirth of "Velvet Tone Records" using the initials, but surprisingly the address on the bottom was "Video Tape Recorders" with a Memphis PO Box.
Velvet had issued several singles on VTR, including one of his own and a debut single for Alabama Governor George Wallace's son, George C. Wallace III, who went by "George C. Wallace, Jr." on the records. It was "Missing You"/"Able-Bodied Man" [VTR 1502, reissued as Sundi/VTR V/SR 7102]. After the Jimmy Velvet single (7101) and the George Wallace, Jr. single (7102), the Sundi/VTR V/SR 7100 series stopped, and changed to a new series, starting with Sundi 311 (which also had a VTR logo), which was a reissue of Sundi/VTR V/SR 7102 ("Missing You"/"Able-Bodied Man"). The 311 series continued to Sundi 323, "King of Kings" by Buddy Landon, which probably was released in 1972. George Wallace, Jr. also released a single with the "lucky" number Sundi 711.
Also in 1971, Sundi started a special series called the "Gold-MOR" Series (as in "gold middle-of-the- road" or "easy listening gold"). There were two singles in this series (GM-101, GM-102), both by 1940s/early 1950s singer/bandleader Benny Strong. Sundi also issued an album by Benny Strong called A Moment in Time [Sundi SD-5002]. The other 1971 album on Sundi was by former Raelet (Ray Charles' backing singers) Alex Brown, called In Search of Love [Sundi SD-5001].
By 1972, Sundi was running out of things to issue. The George Wallace, Jr. connection got Cabot the contract for pressing up The Wallace Stand: The Official Wallace Campaign Album for their country singer's father's 1972 run for the Democratic Party nomination for President. The album was given the special number Sundi WS-1972.
There do not seem to be any more issues on Sundi after 1972, but according to the court papers noted above, Sundi remained a business entity until 1986. James Marvell and Buddy Good, members of the Warner Bros version of Mercy, formed a country duo in the early 1970s called the Country Cavaleers, and had two minor country charters: "Humming Bird" [MGM 14606, 10/73, #99] and "Te Quiero (I Love You in Many Ways) [Country Showcase 171]. Marvell later cut "Love (Can Make You Happy)" as a solo country act. It hit the country charts in May, 1981, reaching #90 [Cavaleer 117, backed by "Urban Cowboys, Outlaws, Cavaleers", which made #94].) Jack Sigler recorded the 1993 album Influences and put together a new four-member group called "Jack Sigler & Mercy" to tour in 2005.
|The pre-Jamie/Guyden issue labels (far left), issued in Florida in late 1968, were white with red print, and did not have the J/G logo. The Jamie/Guyden Sundi album label (near left) was light blue with black print, with the Sundi Records logo at the top and a J/G logo to the left of the center hole.|
|The SD 5000 series of albums had a pink and yellow label (far left), while the special George Wallace issue (near left) had a white label with black print and the blue Wallace campaign logo at the top. Beneath the Wallace campaign logo was a small Sundi Industries logo.|
|The Mercy hit singles "Love (Can Make You Happy)" were pressed in a number of different labels, including the white with light blue logo shown at far left, and a similar version with a dark blue logo (not shown). The hit 45 was also issued on a light blue label with black print (far left), and years later on a red label Jamie oldies single (with a Pentagons song on the flip).|
|While promoting the record, Jamie pressed up a number of flexi-discs with the song to give to radio stations (far left). These were flimsy plastic sheets with the record grooves pressed into them. The second pressing of the single "Monday in May" (near left), which by that time was distributed by Cabot through Transglobal after the Jamie/Guyden deal was over, had the flowers on the label that everyone was pasting on their cars at the time. Nothing on the label hinted at any kind of scholarship fund, and the deejay copies distributed didn't result in any airplay to speak of.|
|Sundi 311, a reissue of Sundi 7102, went to a large VTR logo at the left of the label (far left). The shape of the state of Alabama around the VTR logo is only there for George Wallace, Jr. singles, since the record label was never located in Alabama. Other discs in the 300 series had a yellow label with a red logo.|
Number - Title - Artist - [Release Date] (Chart) Contents
Sundi SRLP 6800 Series:
SRLP 6801 - Lookin' for a Free-Way, Volume 3 - Pat Henry  Birth name Patrick
Henry Scarnato, he was a Brooklyn-born comedian. He liked to label his albums "Volume 3" even if
Volumes 1 & 2 didn't exist.
SRLP 6802 - The Man from Spain - Clemente Ochoa  Cariño Trianero
(Love Triana Style)/Extraños En La Noche (Strangers In The Night)/Cante Español
(Spanish Song)/La Paloma (The Dove)/Higares/Et Maintenant (What Now My Love)//Toros Y Toreros
(Bulls And Bullfighters)/Tus Trenzas (Your Braids)/La Hora (The Hour)/Alma Llanera (Peasant's Soul)/La
Musa Chispera/Polomo Linares
Sundi SRLP 800 Series (Distributed by Jamie/Guyden):
SRLP 803 - The Mercy & Love (Can Make You Happy) - The Mercy  (6-69, #38)
Love (Can Make You Happy)/Hooked On A Feeling/I've Been Lonely Too Long/The Tracks Of My
Tears/Hey Jude//Back In My Arms Again/Daydream/My Girl/Worst That Could Happen/Our Winter Love
Sundi SD 5000 Series (Distributed by Transglobal):
SD 5001 - In Search of Love - Alex Brown  Brown was a member of the Raelets
and also recorded for Tangerine. I'm Not Responsible/Something/You Move Me/Please Don't Leave
Me/I'll Still Be There//Baby You're Right/Turn Around Look At Me/Have I/I'm In Love/The China Doll
SD 5002 - A Moment in Time - Benny Strong & His Orchestra [12/71] That Certain Party/
The Shiek Of Araby/(4 other songs on side 1)//Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue/About That Girl/Sweet
Georgia Brown/It's The Girl/When My Sugar Walks Down The Street/Dream Baby
Sundi Special Issue:
WS 1972 - The Wallace Stand: The Official Wallace Campaign Album - Gov. George C.
Wallace  Governor George C. Wallace Speaks About: National Defense-VietNam-Subversion
In Education-Missions-Law And Order-Inflation, Taxes, Price Controls And Foreign Aid//Governor
George C. Wallace Speaks About Taxes/Governor Wallace Enters The Florida Democratic
Primary/Governor Wallace Answers Questions On: Foundations And Taxes-President Nixon's China
Trip-Other Presidential Hopefuls-Presidential Plans-Political Spoiler-Capital Investments Overseas/(Win,
Win) Win With Wallace
Warner Bros WS 1799 - Love Can Make You Happy - Mercy  Love (Can Make
You Happy) (re-recording)/Hear You Went Away/Never My Love/Forever/Sounds Of Silence/The
Mornings Come//Aquarius/Walking By/Come Softly To Me/Love Is Blue/Do I Wanna Live My Life With