HISTORY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 


A minor Detroit independent label started in August 1947 by Bernie Besman and John Kaplan, named after Lee’s Sensation Lounge where they saw pianist Todd Rhodes performing, who became their initial signing and biggest artist in their short lifespan.

After a distribution deal with Vitacoustic, which had enabled them to get their records heard outside their small two state area, fell apart when Vitacoustic went into debt. By June 1948 the struggling label entered into another distribution deal with King Records which would also re-issue Rhodes Sensation releases on their own label, propelling them to larger sales while taking away some of the prestige from Sensation for having those hits.

The label’s other big discovery was blues legend John Lee Hooker, but they leased his initial sides including the immortal “Boogie Chillun” to Modern Records thereby costing themselves a #1 hit and more of a national reputation. The majority of Hooker’s ensuing output also appeared on Modern, with only the minor hit “Huckle Up Baby” bearing the Sensation imprint in 1950.

A year later the label, which had very few artists to begin with (jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, along with sometime Rhodes vocalist Kitty Stevenson, and fellow pianist T.J. Fowler were the others of note) ceased to exist, with Rhodes joining the King Records label where he continued his career unabated.

In the end Sensation was notable for opening the door of opportunity for Detroit artists but couldn’t stick around long enough to capitalize on the fertile musical grounds that would reap huge rewards in the 1950’s (seeing most of the best talents head to King Records) and especially the 1960’s when Berry Gordy’s Motown empire was born and put Detroit rock ‘n’ roll on the map forever.
 
 
SENSATION RECORDS REVIEWED TO DATE ON SPONTANEOUS LUNACY:
 
 
TODD RHODES: Blues For The Red Boy (8) (Sensation 6; November, 1947)
TODD RHODES: Sportree’s Jump (6) (Sensation 6; November, 1947)
TODD RHODES: Toddlin’ Boogie (6) (Sensation 4; January, 1948)
TODD RHODES: Walkie Talkie (3) (Sensation 9; November, 1948)
TODD RHODES: Pot Likker (7) (Sensation 15; March, 1949)
TODD RHODES: Red Boy At The Mardi Gras (4) (Sensation 15; March, 1949)
TODD RHODES: Page Boy Shuffle (7) (Sensation 16; June 1949)