Excello was formed by Ernie Young as a subsidiary of Nashboro Records in 1952. Jay Miller was the primary studio producer for Excello. Excello was the first blues label established in Nashville, Tennessee. The label made an important contribution to rock and roll in 1954 when it recorded an answer song to Eddy Arnold’s country and western record “I Wanna Play House With You” called “Baby, Let’s Play House,” by Arthur Gunter. The song was covered by Elvis Presley a year later in one of his finest performances on Sun. Presley’s cover version was closely based on the Gunter original.
In 1957, an Excello group (the Gladiolas), featuring a lead singer named Maurice Williams, recorded an original song, “Little Darlin’,” in a fairly uptempo r&b arrangement. The song sold well enough to make #11 on the R&B charts, but it was “covered” for the pop market by a Canadian quartet called the Diamonds on Mercury Records.
Jay Miller, the Excello producer, has been the subject of many articles and record reissues for the blues he produced for the label. The sound is sometimes referred to “swamp blues”.
The Excello material has been reissued several times within the past decade. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rhino Records put out several compilations from the Excello masters. In the early 1990s, the masters were sold to AVI entertainment. AVI’s Rob Santos retained Tom Moulton to remaster and upgrade virtually the entire Excello catalog, with the result being many CD reissues from 1993 to 1996 in quite excellent sound. By 1997, AVI itself was bought by Hip-O, a label associated with MCA, so the Excello masters are today just starting to be reissued on Hip-O.
Excello was not a big label for stereo recordings. Several of the late ’60s tunes by Slim Harpo (primarily on the album Tip On In) have shown up in true stereo, but not much else. Early LPs were reissued later in rechanneled stereo. For those albums where we have found an indication of a stereo issue, the prefix “LPS-” is used; for others, they may have been issued in mono only.