You and Me and Ryan Gosling
26 May 2022-
This is the story of a lost group whose song became a hit — with the group remaining a mystery. With Ryan Gosling thrown into the mix.
We recently talked about the unlikely — and late — rate to fame of Rodriguez, this story is perhaps even more incredible, as it relates to a group that is both a hit and still unknown. But let’s rewind: in the 1970’s, a soul group aiming to make it big in Columbus, Ohio, audition for Harmonic Sounds Studio. The band, called Penny & The Quarters, is led by singer and songwriter Jay Robinson, featuring female vocalist Nannie “Penny” Coulter. Together, they record 3 demos, including the infectious gem of a song that is “You and Me“.
The songs never got released, though. Through reasons that remain largely unknown to this day, neither the recording studio nor a label that was attached to the project, Prix, ever got around to setting up a release — let alone a proper recording session for the band. While very little is known about Penny, it so happens that Robinson remained in the music business, setting up other bands in the Columbus region, still trying to record a hit. He passed away without having done so — or so he thought.
In the 2000’s, a remarkable chain of events led to the (re)discovery of that fabulous work:
- An estate sale of Harmonic Sounds co-owner Clem Price led to the tapes being released from storage;
- The 3 demos found their way to local soul expert Dante Carfagna;
- Carfagna linked the work to the equally elusive Prix label;
- Prix’s co-owner, George Beter, was able to identify the original group on the demos;
- The tracks were given to archival label Numero Group, which finally released them as part of a 19-track compilation.
The story could have stopped there, and it very nearly did. But that’s when Ryan Gosling comes in: the actor and musician stumbled upon that Numero compilation and became a fan of the song. At the time of production on the beautiful Blue Valentine, in which the actor starred alongside fellow great Michelle Williams, Gosling suggested to director Derek Cianfrance that he use the song on the soundtrack. The director smartly relented.
Following the release of the film — which came with critical acclaim across the board, Robinson’s widow actually contacted Numero, thus creating a first direct link with the source material. And ensuring that Robinson’s estate was indeed aware that the man had succeeded in his lifelong goal, albeit posthumously. Meanwhile, the world is still looking for Penny…