The Supreme Jubilees got thrown out of the studio the first time they tried to record “It’ll All Be Over.”
This was Fresno in 1979 and the engineer was a country and western guy. He didn’t get the heavy bass vibe the band was going for.
“He told us to take our masters and get out,” says Leonard Sanders, who still lives in Fresno and still plays music every week at Witness of Jesus Christ Church, where he first formed the band with his brothers Phillip, Tim and Melvin and fellow church members Joe and Dave Kingsby and Dave’s son, David Kingsby Jr.
I’m talking to Sanders because the band eventually finished that album and pressed it to vinyl. Nearly four decades later, “It’ll All Be Over” has found a following.
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James looped part of the album’s title track for his song “World’s Smiling Now” and Fresno rapper Fashawn sampled it on “Just Remember Now.” Folk singer Bon Iver sampled the band’s version of “Standing in the Need of Prayer” on his latest album.
More recently, the title track was featured in the Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight.” The song plays during a restaurant scene early in the film, which Sanders saw with his wife. He stayed until the very end, he says, just to see if his name was in the credits.
“In my mind, it’s a masterpiece,” Matt Sullivan, founder of Light in the Attic Records, says of “It’ll All Be Over.” The Seattle company re-released the album in 2015. “It’s criminally overlooked.”
That’s partly because only about 200 copies were made – 500 at the most, depending on whom you ask. The album was released on the band’s own S&K Records and had zero distribution. Most, if not all, of the records sold at the band’s concerts.
One of the copies, probably sold while the band was on tour in Texas in the 1980s, ended up in the hands of Austin collector and record store owner Dave Haffner. That’s Sanders’ working theory, anyway. Haffner loved the record so much, he traveled to Fresno several times trying to track down the band. Haffner turned Sullivan on to the Supreme Jubilees.
“He played it for me and I was like, ‘How is this music not widely available?’ ” Sullivan says.
Light in the Attic deals almost exclusively in these kind of archival releases and has put out more than 200 re-issues since 2002. Few have had the kind of impact “It’ll All Be Over” had on Sullivan.
“The performances, the voices … it’s a work of art,” he says.
Sullivan plays the album for people all the time and uses it as a sonic litmus test.
“If you don’t like this record, something’s wrong with you,” he says.
The Supreme Jubilees stopped playing after that tour in Texas, though Sanders continued to play and record both with his brothers – in a band called Sanders and Company – and on his own. He released a solo album, “Feel the Holy Spirit,” in 2006.
He remembers being nervous the night before the Supreme Jubilees went into the studio to record the song “It’ll All Be Over.” It was one of four songs the band put to tape before they got thrown out and were forced to finish at a studio in Visalia.
The next morning, the nerves were gone.
“A calmness came over me,” he says. “I did it in one take.”