On September 25, 1969, The Seattle Times reports that a new R&B single, "I Let a Good Man Go," by the Seattle group Patrinell and the Casanovas is climbing the popularity charts at local soul music radio station KYAC. Lead singer Patrinell "Pat" Staten Wright (b. 1944) will perform with the group for the next three years before returning to her roots in church music to found and lead Seattle's Total Experience Gospel Choir, among many other accomplishments.
In the Beginning
The daughter of a Baptist preacher, Patrinell Staten had music deep in her soul. She relocated to Seattle from Texas in 1964, worked as a bank teller, and married Benny Wright (b. 1943) in 1965. After she was "discovered" by a music-loving Louisiana transplant named LaVera Clark while singing in church one day, the two began composing songs together and making test recordings in Clark's home studio (2407 E Boston Avenue). Then Clark paired her with a Central Area-based African American group called the Blenders, composed of Charles Gaither, James Beaver, James Hardin, and Tommy Dew. Wright recorded and performed under her birth name, Patrinell Staten.
Rehearsals were held on Monday nights at a nearby Jewish school, and before long the group reemerged as Patrinell and the Casanovas, a moniker derived from a Yesler Way building, the Casanova Apartments. Clark encouraged them to write some original songs and even handed over a lyric-sheet to something called "I Let a Good Man Go," for which Wright composed music. The two women co-wrote another tune called "Little Love Affair."
Before long, Clark set up a new organization -- the Sepia Foundation -- with a goal, The Seattle Daily Times reported, to seek "out talent in the Puget Sound area and help these fledgling entertainers on their road to success" (Gressel, "New Local ... "). That road began with a drive up to Vancouver, B.C., where the group entered a small studio and cut two songs for a single release by Clark's new Sepia Records company.
The record -- "I Let a Good Man Go"/"Little Love Affair" (Sepia Records No. 8201) -- was pressed, but only in a quantity of 250 copies. The band began a two-week gig at Seattle's The Club Elegant (12th Avenue and Pine Street) and played other gigs into 1973, including a brief tour to Portland, Oregon. While most copies were sold out of a car trunk at gigs, one of the discs was rushed over to Seattle's black-oriented radio station, KYAC, which actively aired R&B, jazz, and gospel music from 1964 to 1981. In September 1969 KYAC picked up on the Casanovas "I Let a Good Man Go," and it began climbing the station's "Live 55" airplay charts -- edging past other gems, including hot new singles by Motown Records' the Supremes and the Temptations, and Stax Records' Booker T and the MGs. Clark was a true believer who told the band -- and The Seattle Daily Times -- that she had personal connections with Motown and would be sending them the record with high hopes. "Oh yes," the singer recently exclaimed: "She had us all hyped up [laughter]! Of course, she meant every word of it -- LaVera, I can't say anything bad about her at all" (Blecha interview).
The Seattle Daily Times praised the record: "'I Let a Good Man Go' is a good, uptempo rhythm-and-blues number which shows off Miss Staten's velvet-smooth, flexible voice. It is a driving, rhythmic song and she makes the most of its exciting beat" (Gressel, "New Local ... "). The record's flipside was worthy of note as well: "'Little Love Affair' is not to be dismissed as only a filler. It is softer in rhythm and in melody, a bluesy ballad. Miss Staten proves that she is a versatile performer, at home equally in the blatant power of heavy beat and the more subtle, and demanding power of the ballad. Her voice is pure and colorful; she handles both with competence. ... Miss Staten and the Casanovas ... have a deliciously rich vocal blend and an unfailing sense of musical style. For those who enjoy rhythm-and-blues and pop-standards, this new and rising act is definitely one to see" (Gressel, "Patrinell ... ").
From Soul to Saving Souls
Wright performed with the R&B group for only three years before returning to her roots in church music. As Pat Wright, she became a prominent and beloved member of the community, well-known for hosting KYAC's gospel music program; founding and pastoring a storefront nondenominational Baptist ministry, the Oneness Christian Center (2022 E Union Street); and founding and directing the popular Total Experience Gospel Choir. And yet, the saga of that old Sepia 45 was not quite finished.
Around 2000, some nightclub deejays in London discovered the otherwise mostly-forgotten recording and fell in love with the groove on "Little Love Affair." They began slipping it into their dance sets, their audiences also fell under its magic spell, and soon the rare vinyl disc's value had skyrocketed to the level that British collectors traveled to Seattle just to scour used-record shops for the prized piece. With too few found to meet demand, "Little Love Affair" was then, without proper authorization from Sepia, included on a commercially marketed compilation disc containing 24 rare sixties soul songs. When Wright caught wind of that fact, she wasted little time in reacting -- or, as she informed The Seattle Times, "No grass grows under these feet!" (Marlowe)-- and her lawyer promptly halted the piracy, taking steps to ensure that royalties would flow to the rightful owners.
The Holy Grail
Meanwhile, as the occasional copy of the original 45 popped up on the international online auction website eBay (and other collectors' markets), its value among collectors was increasing dramatically, often selling for $1,500 or so, and even realizing as much as $3,500. In essence, it has become, among hard-core fanatical collectors, one of the elite "holy grail" discs within the realm of R&B, or as the Brits deem it, "Northern Soul."
Still, like the vast majority of locals who had never heard the Sepia record, in 2002 Seattle Times reporter Kimberly B. Marlowe seemed rather surprised by the news that Seattle's highest-profile gospel singer had enjoyed an earlier, if obscure, musical life. She noted that Pastor Pat Wright's "familiar voice, usually heard praising the Lord, laments a more earthly love" in "Little Love Affair." Meanwhile, interest in the Sepia recordings -- and Pacific Northwest rhythm and blues music in general -- expanded to the level that in 2004 a locally based oldies-oriented label, Light in the Attic Records, licensed and reissued the Sepia 45 on its own and then once again in 2011 as part of the Wheedle's Groove box-set of reissued local R&B singles.