One of the most celebrated musicians who contributed to “The Norfolk Sound” was multi-talented singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, and label owner Lenis Guess. Born on February 27th, 1940, Lenis was entertaining his family at an early age. By the time he was seventeen he joined a vocal group called the Blue Beards and started entering talent shows. Inspired by his talent show success, he decided to pursue a recording career.
In 1966 he signed a contract to record his first release with Frank Guida. The single, “Working For My Baby” b/w “Just Ask Me” (SPQR 1002) would become the record that really launched the long career of Lenis. He would oversee Guida’s operation for the following three years and continued releasing 45s on Guida’s many labels. In 1969 he founded D.P.G. Records along with Kenneth Deal, a recording artist and George Perkins, a club owner. Tragically, Kenneth Deal was killed in a car accident shortly after releasing “What Have You Heard” b/w “Clown Suit” (D.P.G. 1006) under his stage name Terry Sinclair. Guess and Perkins continued releasing 45s of local talent though, most notably Sir Guy & his Rocking Cavaliers.
In 1970, after Perkins and Guess parted over artistic differences, Lenis and gifted engineer Dorsey “Brock” Brockington opened up their own recording studio, Brockington & Guess, in Norfolk, Virginia. They had an in-house band called Raw Soul which consisted of Barry Saunders (guitar), Maurice Glass (bass) and Grover “Groove” Everett (drums). All three were still teenagers at the time the group was assembled. The three matured into a tight unit and started backing some of Virginia’s finest vocalists including Barbara Stant, Lee Fields, Debbie Taylor, Shirley Johnson, and many more.
The partnership of Brock and Guess ended in 1978. Lenis ran the studio on his own through its final years and eventually signed for a few releases with two major record companies, Polydor Records and Brunswick Records. Feeling he had done about all he could do in Virginia, Lenis then moved to New York to continue his professional career there. Having learned from Frank Guida and Dorsey Brockington, Lenis was ready to start his own studio in New York City, which he still operates today.
This compilation will be available on double-gatefold vinyl (incl. full album download code), cd and digital through Tramp Records
Listen to snippets below.