Brian Witkin, 21, started his Pacific Records label in 2003. He now has a roster of three local bands (Long Live Logos, Get Back Loretta, a Dead Giveaway) and Life's Only Lesson, from Virginia.
Last year, Witkin and local producer Otis "Juice" Howard, 26, founded Southwest Records. The label's roster includes local hip-hop artists John Roberts, Preezy, and Dem Southern Boyz.
Last week, Witkin announced Southwest had signed the Fonics, somewhat of a spin-off of the Delfonics, a Philadelphia vocal group known for their falsetto-driven hits "La-La Means I Love You" ('68) and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" ('70).
"We want to hook them up with prominent young artists in the studio to bring them back into the industry," says Witkin, who plans to record the Fonics at his studio in Chula Vista.
William and Wilbert Hart formed the Delfonics in 1965. When the brothers parted ways, William owned the rights to the Delfonics name. Wilbert now performs as "Wil Hart of the Delfonics." William "now has health and voice problems," according to Wil.
John Johnson says he joined the Delfonics in 1979. He, along with two others who never performed as Delfonics, formed the Fonics two years ago and were signed by the local label. Wil Hart is not pleased.
"John used to carry around our clothes, like a roadie," says Wil. "I brought John in the band in 1983 when one of my members went to jail. He was in the band for two years. When William and I broke off our situation, John went with William."
Wil says Johnson is attempting to capitalize on the Delfonics legacy.
"We go by the Fonics," says Johnson. "Much as Dennis Edwards from the Temptations stepped out to do his own thing, I left William Hart and have branched out on my own."
Wil says, "When he told me he got a trademark on the [Fonics] name I said, 'John, you're crazy. Now you're stepping on my toes.... John has never recorded anything with the Delfonics that had any success.... Tell the guy from the record company to give me a call if he's interested in the real thing."
The Southwest Records album will be the first recording for the Fonics.