The Flying Heart Records label is a regional indie based in Portland, Oregon in the northwestern United States. The artist roster is heavily focused on Northwest artists, and features rock luminaries Napalm Beach right alongside the late bluesman Tom McFarland and the psychedelic sounds of Snow Bud and the Flower People. There's the late jazz master Eddie Harris, backed up by the cream of Northwest jazz players, as well as an album by jazz trumpeter Thara Memory; Janice Scroggins playing Scott Joplin's rags in a way you won't have heard before; The Gays have a very original CD on Flying Heart; and the rhythm and blues of The Esquires, which was how the whole thing got started.
The label was founded in 1982 by a guy called Jan Chciuk-Celt, as a "vanity" release for his seven-piece rhythm and blues band, The Esquires. That is to say, the record was produced and manufactured by the same guy who wrote the songs and played them on the record -- that's called a "vanity" release. This doesn't necessarily mean Jan spends hours in front of the mirror checking himself out ... but of course, with Jan, you never know...
The band was playing every Sunday at Sack's Front Avenue, and featured some fine talent. Jan did a three-month tour of the Orient as a guitar player in a fifties rock band called Sh-boom, and saved his pay from this tour to pay for the project, which was a six-song EP in the twelve-inch 45 RPM format, recorded in one night at Rex Recording with Cal Scott engineering. It was also mixed in one night, a little later.
With no budget except the very barest-bones minimum, friends donating their time, etc., the project was turned into a finished product, Flying Heart Records FH-451. It is a true fact that the C.O.D. on the shipment was paid for out of an unemployment cheque on the day it arrived. What a blessing that cheque was! The EP was then taken to local stores in the Portland area. It went into two pressings, which are distinguishable by the fact that the first pressing had beige labels, whereas the second pressing had silver labels on the record. It can still be ordered as something of a curiosity. It was to be the first of many projects produced by Jan Celt, "The Chuxter Himself," which could be called a nom de plume. It traces back to one Michael Alberto, who called Jan "Chucky Celty," i.e., The Chuxter, later just "Charles."
Two years later, Jan took the band into a studio called Desitrek, which was run by two guys, Doug Durbrow and Mike Demmers. By this time, the band had added the stunning vocalist Jennifer Eland to the lineup, and the album called Whatcha Got? was a real nice piece of work, released on vinyl LP and cassette. In 1985 Jan decided that it was time to produce other artists on the Flying Heart label, getting away from being just a vehicle for his own band. So he approached bluesman Tom McFarland after a gig (the original Portland Underground Blues Festival, which was held in those days in an underground tavern called The Last Hurrah, before being taken over by corporate interests and morphing into the gigantic Portland Blues Festival of today) and offered him a deal, which led to the recording of a fine album called Just Got in From Portland. This was also recorded in one day at Desitrek, and was mixed in two days. This album really captures a point in Tom's life when he was "wailing." It was subsequently released on CD due to persistent popular demand, and was followed by another strongly original release three years later, called Voodoo Garden. Tom McFarland was an established blues artist for all to hear, and his songs get covered by other artists, which is always a good sign. Tom died in September, 2004 -- a personal loss for Jan and all of Tom's fans.
Shortly after finishing the Tom McFarland album, Jan made a deal with Ghanaian master drummer Obo Addy, who lives in Portland. There had been two beautiful Portland-made Obo Addy albums (vinyl LPs) which Hal Lee had engineered and released on his Avocet label. Jan wanted to follow these fine albums up with a new recording, and had heard that Obo had recorded four songs at Falcon Studios in Portland, back when they were still in Dennis Carter's basement, so he mixed down these tracks for release as another 12" 45 RPM vinyl EP, with Dave Lohr engineering. "I have never been satisfied in this way," Obo said when Jan Celt got through mixing Obo's dono solo in one song. This project is unfortunately no longer offered for sale through our distributors.
There followed a third Esquires album, entitled Play. This was recorded over a period of time at Desitrek and featured several different line-ups. Mary Reynolds did the singing on four songs, writing two of them. Sue Owens came in and nailed several key parts. Calvin Walker gave us one note, which we sampled. Two instrumentals by David Mills were featured. Jan sang "Better Get it Together." Janice Scroggins did an ad lib piano introduction based loosely on Chopin's "Revolutionary" Etude. This all came out as a vinyl LP and cassette in 1988.
Right about this same time, Jan tracked down a musician he'd known earlier, who'd had a really promising rock band called Napalm Beach. The artist's name was Chris Newman, and he signed a deal with Jan. The result was the album Liquid Love, which was released on CD, LP and cassette: the full spectrum in those days. This project really got the ball rolling for Napalm Beach, and led to a European licensing deal and tour; thereupon they recorded another whole album called Fire Air and Water in a top-class German studio while in the middle of a lengthy European tour. Ably backed by the legendary drummer Sam Henry as well as "Bass Player #13" Dave Dillinger, Chris was establishing himself with these recordings as a prolific writer and an accomplished studio musician.
As a spinoff group, Chris Newman also had a band called Snow Bud and the Flower People, in which essentially all the songs were about smoking weed and related topics. There were two original cassettes that had already been issued by Chris independently years before; Jan bought the rights to these, painstakingly re-mixed them all in the studio from scratch, and released them as a dual-length cassette entitled Complete Works, because they represent the entire early works of Snow Bud.
It was followed up by a whole new album called Green Thing, which was released on CD and cassette. There are even times when it seems that Snow Bud and the Flower People are more popular in some way than Chris's longtime band Napalm Beach, but really it's the same artist. To underscore this point, we released a CD called Volunteer by Chris Newman. It really rocks, being made up of remakes of older Napalm Beach songs.
There is also an adults-only comic book called Snow Bud Comics #1, followed by the release of Snow Bud Comics #2 ; furthermore, Chris drew (and Flying Heart published) a children's colouring book entitled Phillip's Dream World. Chris Newman certainly is a many-faceted talent, and his output is well represented in the Flying Heart catalogue. Twenty of the twenty-four songs were released in 2000 on CD as "Snow Bud's Biggest Hits -- Authentic Masters."
Let's not forget Janice Scroggins. She's the keyboard player on all three Esquires albums, a tremendous jazz and blues player in heavy demand in the Pacific Northwest, and a totally original performer of Scott Joplin's ragtime classics. Her album, Janice Scroggins Plays Scott Joplin, garnered a slew of rave reviews and was eventually reissued on CD due to persistent popular demand. She also plays on Tom McFarland's first Flying Heart album, and really delivers the goods on Eddie Harris's Vexatious Progressions. This puts her on a total of six different albums on Flying Heart.
Jazz players from the Pacific Northwest are also featured on trumpet virtuoso Thara Memory's outstanding CD, Juke Music, and on the late Eddie Harris's CD, Vexatious Progressions. Eddie was a world-renowned jazz artist with a discography a mile long, it was great of him to come in and do an all-original album with nothing but the best of Northwest sidemen.
A note on the Flying Heart name: it was devised as a personal symbol of love and happiness by Jan Chciuk-Celt in 1982, and was a representation of a whole bunch of little hearts flying around the room. The boy was in love! The Chuxter drew the logo on the first couple of albums himself, but later we got a more "pro" looking one made by Fellene Gaylord. The beautiful collage on the front page of the Flying Heart web site was done by Beth Keegan.
We have been given to understand that the flying heart is the central symbol of Sufi mysticism. Although we have no quarrel over any item of Sufi philosophy, we are not associated with the mystical sect of Sufism in any way other than that we both use the symbol of the winged heart. Furthermore, we hear from Liz Carmichael of Oxford that the flying heart appears in fairly recent (19th century, possibly earlier) Christian symbolism as a visual representation of the exhortation, "Lift up your hearts!" (in Latin, "Sursum corda!"). See the coat of arms of Haileybury School, Herts., UK, on their web site.
At present, Flying Heart is an independent label which seeks to survive in the vicious world of the music business by representing Northwest artists on its roster. It's a labour of love -- for all practical intents and purposes, the profit motive has long since been abandoned. The year 2004 was a big year, with the release of two new CDs by Chris Newman and the Gays. The label is certainly still alive and always looking for talent.
last updated August 24th, 2013 by Jan Chciuk-Celt