In 1961, Herschel E. Dwellingham started his career as a drummer in the city of Bogalusa, Louisiana, playing with the Rhythm Aces, led by Henry Sims, and a group of older musicians which included Robert Hodge, his high school band leader, who taught him how to write and arrange music.
That was the beginning of his musical life.
In 1962, Herschel went to Ron & Ric Records in New Orleans with some songs he had written with lyricist Charles Lucas. Joe Ruffino liked what he heard and asked Herschel to come to the famous Cosmo Recording Studio, where all the New Orleans hits of the ‘50s and ‘60s were recorded. Herschel was fortunate in getting some arrangement-writing tips from Dr. John, who was working at the time for Ron & Ric Records. One month later, Herschel was listening to WBOK Radio and heard his first song released on Ron Records, "Come On And Tell Her", with Benny Freeman. Of the 30 songs Ruffino signed, 10 singles were eventually released by various artists.
After he graduated from high school in 1963, Herschel went to Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, after Quincy Jones inspired him to attend. In 1964, He sent for Alva Jackson, and they were married in Boston. They had 3 children, twins Herschel and Erschel, and Christopher, born 5 years after the twins. While in Boston, Herschel and Alva started a record label called My Records; Herschel produced and Alva managed their artists. Their first release, "Young Girl", sung by Frank Lynch, became a nationwide hit.
My Records was distributed by radio personality and store owner, Skippy White, who also owned Mass Record Distributors. Other artists on My Records include the Valiants, and Maurice Rice.
Before he moved his family from Boston for New York in 1973, Herschel played drums on the hit jazz album "Sweetnighters" with Weather Report. He has been credited with creating the first hip-hop beats on that album, which has been sampled countless times. In New York, Herschel soon became first-call drummer for many session contractors, chief among them Phil Medley, famous for writing "Twist & Shout" and "One In A Million". The experience was like music school all over again, working with great arrangers and producers like Bert Keys (Stephanie Mills),George Kerr (The Escorts), Paul Leka (Harry Chapin), Bert De Coteaux (Sister Sledge and the Manhattans) and others for 25 years of constant studio work.
Herschel and Alva Dwellingham started Helva Records in 1979 as a family label with their children and August Sims, whom Herschel had met in Boston while working at the Sugar Shack with his band, playing behind many famous artists including Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Supremes and other Motown acts and Jackie Wilson, for whom Sims was the manager. The first record on Helva was for Sugar ‘n Spice, distributed by West End Records. Barbara Jean English was distributed by Zakia Records. In 1980, the Escorts were distributed by Audio Fidelity. In 1982, Helva took over their own distribution and produced M.J. Wade. In 1983, Helva produced an album for Sandy Mercer. Other artists include LaShanda Dupree and Timothy Wilson for H & L.