Quote: “The Pain Gets a Little Deeper” was a rough song for a 14-year-old to get into, or so one would think, but Fletcher belted it out as if he had just gone through a knockdown, drag-out divorce.
Quote: Jimmy Holiday was a Southern soul singer with a big, pleading voice who cut some wonderful records on the Everest and Minit labels in the 60s, though he had more success writing songs for other people. He most notably co-wrote Jackie DeShannon's 1969 smash "Put A Little Love In Your Heart".
Quote: Strangely enough Mirwood is a household name. Admittedly only among a few select residences dotted around the north of the UK and the odd foreign outpost, but the cry "Go and put some Mirwood on Agnes" is as common up there as "Do you want a cuppa Arbuthnot?" That's because two generations of Northern Soul devotees have been brought up, while dandled on their mother's knee, to the sounds of Jackie Lee, Bobby Garrett and the Olympics playing on the phonogram.
Quote: In baseball terms you can say the Starlets batted .500. They had one hit under their own name and one hit under someone else's.
The Starlets were formed in Chicago, Illinois in early1961. The group consisted of Jane Hall, Maxine Edwards (both worked in a pecan processing plant, Mickey McKinney, and Jeanette Miles, all 18 and 19 years old. After rehearsing together, Hall took them to Bernice Williams, a local songwriter, who had been writing for Dukays. Williams feeling the group was missing something added Liz Walker (sometimes known as Dynetta Boone). Williams then wrote a song called "Better Tell Him No," and with Edwards on the lead recorded it for Pam Records (owned by Bill Shepard and Carl Davis) a local label located on Chicago's South Side.
On April 24, 1961 "Better Tell Him No' entered Billboard's Pop charts and began steadily rising, finally peaking at number 38. It lasted two weeks on the R&B chart, reaching number 24.
The Starlets then began touring with the likes of Jackie Wilson, The Spinners, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Mary Wells. In August Pam issued there second record "My Last Cry," but it went nowhere. The next April, the Starlets went to Philadelphia for an appearance. It was during this time that they met a fast talking salesman named Harold Robinson, who convinced them to come to his studio and record a couple sides. The studio was right on the car lot and Robinson used local producer Phil Terry to record the oldie "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman."in an exciting up-tempo version with Edwards on lead. Several weeks later "Junkman" was all over the radio, but the label read The Blue Belles. The record song reached number 15 in 1962 and to number 13 R&B. The Starlets and Phil Terry the sued Robinson who claimed that he used the Blue Belles in the background, erasing the Starlets vocals, though it did come out that Edwards was the lead voice. Terry disagreed, saying all the voices were the Starlets. Apparently the Starlets won as each girl received $5000.
Carl Davis moved to Okeh Records in the A&R department and did one single (You Belong to Me") with the girls that read Dynetta and the Starlets with Liz Walker on the lead. Released in 1962 it quickly disappeared. The group was soon dropped, but seemingly as a punishment for "Junkman" situation, they were told that they couldn't record anywhere else as a group. The bluff worked and the Starlets broke up.
In 1961, Alvin and three of his brothers moved to Chicago, IL, seeking a record deal, but had to dance for tips their first few years in the Windy City. Former Fortune and Motown artist/songwriter/producer Andre Williams, who worked for One-derful/Mar-V- Lus/M-Pac Records whenever he and Berry Gordy disagreed, caught the newly named Crawlers' act and invited them to the studio to chant over a dance track he'd written (with Verlie Rice) called "Twine Time." It was in the same format as Williams' 1957 hit "Bacon Fat," a funky instrumental augmented by chants and sayings, and was a take-off of the Five Du-Tones' "Woodbine Twine." "Twine Time" surprised everybody by zooming to number 14 on the pop chart in February 1965.
Quote: Almost immediately after signing with Atlantic, Charles scored his first hit singles. "It Should Have Been Me" and "Don't You Know" both made the charts in 1954, but it was "I Got a Woman" (composed with band mate Renald Richard) which brought him to national prominence.
Quote: Willis "Gator" Jackson (25 April 1932 - 25 October 1987) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. Born in Miami, Florida, Jackson joined Duke Ellington alumnus Cootie Williams's band in 1949 as a teenager, after being discovered by Eddie Vinson. During the fifties he participated in R&B and jazz recordings, primarily as a session musician, and also toured as leader of the backing band of singer Ruth Brown, with whom he had a romantic relationship for a while. Jackson joined Prestige Records in 1959 making a string of jazz albums which proved to an influence on the burgeoning soul jazz movement.
Quote: In 1960, Dave Bartholomew invited King to record for the Imperial Records. At the label, he was backed by host of musicians including Bob and George French, James Booker, and Wardell Quezergue. It was at this label he recorded his signature songs "Come On" and "Trick Bag". The former of which remained a much covered standard for decades especially for Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Anson Funderburgh. The latter has also been widely covered including a version by Robert Palmer.
Quote: Gene Chandler (born Eugene Dixon, July 6, 1937, Chicago, Illinois) is an American singer. He is one of the leading exponents of the 1960s Chicago soul scene. He is best known for his million-selling hits, "Duke Of Earl," and "Groovy Situation," and his associations with The Dukays, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. A Grammy Hall Of Fame inductee, Chandler has had more than thirty chart hits.
Quote: Syl Johnson (born July 1, 1936) is an American blues and soul singer and music producer. Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Johnson sang and played with blues artists Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf in the 1950s, before recording with Jimmy Reed for Vee-Jay in 1959. He made his solo debut that same year with Federal, a subsidiary of King Records of Cincinnati, backed by Freddie King on guitar.
Quote: There was a time when no one in their right mind messed with Charles Spurling. James Brown tried it once, and ended up picking himself off the floor. “I dusted his butt,” laughs 72-year-old, Cincinnati-born Spurling, whose main claim to fame rests on co-writing, with Hank Ballard, Marva Whitney’s much-sampled funk classic, “Unwind Yourself,” in 1967.
Spurling says that he was involved in an altercation with the Godfather of Soul because he’d had a bloody fistfight with Brown’s group, the Famous Flames. “We was at a motel, Hank Ballard and I,” explains Spurling, a personable, straight-talking character. “I was down there for four days writing these songs for Hank. The Flames came in with James’s right-hand man, who arrived with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist carrying about $156,000. James Brown had told him to pay me for songs I’d written for Hank. I played the songs and then the Flames started arguing with each other. They wanted the songs for themselves and were saying, ‘No, I want this song, man!’ When it was time for me to go, and them to give me my money, they didn’t want to pay me. They wanted to keep the money for themselves. At first I thought they were bullshitting, but I knew they were serious when they tried to throw me out of the sixth floor window of the hotel.”
Looking back, Spurling can laugh at the situation, but in 1968, when it happened, he thought he was going to lose his life. Fortunately, his trusty guitar—the one he’d been playing and writing songs on since the age of nine—came to his rescue. “That guitar saved my life ‘cos I had stretched it over the window and it stopped me falling out. Then I swung it around and I popped this guy on the head. Blood went everywhere. Then I just started on all of them. Eventually the police came, but the Flames paid them off to keep quiet. They had hickeys on their head, blood and everything, but they wasn’t worried about me beating them up. You know what they was worried about? Mr. Brown. They said, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to perform tonight.’”
Evidently, the Famous Flames tried to conceal what happened from James Brown, but a couple of weeks later, Spurling was summoned to Mr. Dynamite’s office for a showdown. The Godfather had found out and wasn’t pleased. “When I met him, he said, ‘Who in the hell do you think you are, beating on the Flames like that?’” But Spurling, who was raised in a tough neighborhood and was a keen amateur boxer—he’d even sparred with Muhammad Ali when he was known as Cassius Clay—wasn’t in the least intimidated by Brown’s fearsome reputation as a hard man. He had witnessed Brown resort to violence before.”I had seen James whup people on his staff: one was a program director and another one was a DJ”—but he wasn’t fazed. He said to Brown: “Wait a minute. Let me tell you something right now. I ain’t no goddamn Flame. Okay? I’m a man who’s been screwed over and messed over and I don’t take no shit from you. I need my damned money!” Incensed, the Godfather of Soul got out from behind his desk with the intention of flooring Spurling, but the songwriter stopped Brown in his tracks with a few choice punches. “James was a boxer, but didn’t know I was a boxer too,” laughs Spurling.
Ironically, after Brown found out the truth of what happened in the motel, he decided to give Spurling a job on his staff: “He came and got me to be his head A&R man for his James Brown Productions, because when he checked out everything, he found that I was honest, and that’s why he gave me the job—’cos he couldn’t trust nobody to work for him.”
At that point, Spurling put his own recording career—which had begun at King Records in 1967—on the back burner and channelled all his energies into working for James Brown. “I worked for him for about four or five years,” recalls Spurling. Ultimately, though, some of the unsavoury methods employed by Brown to stay top dog and keep his minions in line took its toll on Spurling and he quit: “I was tired of people just backstabbing and doing all these things just to stop somebody else. To me, that was just like Hitler. That’s the way I looked at anybody who was wrong.”
Charles Spurling’s clear notions of right and wrong came from the moral values instilled in him by religious parents when he was growing up in an impoverished area of Cincinnati in the ’30s and ’40s. He was the only boy of seven children. His father played guitar and sang with a local gospel group called the Bethel Spirituals. Life got tougher when his father left and his mother got ill: “My daddy left me and my mom when I was nine. She was blind from sugar [diabetes] and they amputated her legs. Everybody else had moved out and my brother-in-law bought me a guitar. That’s where I started. I had plenty of time with my mom. I had to stay and take care of her. My mom couldn’t read and I didn’t get a chance to go to school because I had to get three jobs after my daddy left to keep us from losing the home.”
Spurling lived in a neighborhood called Lower Sub, which was part of Lincoln Heights, and when he was a teenager, joined a gang whose rivals included the Isley Brothers. “The Isley Brothers lived in the Upper Sub,” recalls Spurling. “Upper Sub had new projects, running water, and they had electric. We had an outside toilet and lanterns. And no sidewalks—just dirt streets. So it used to be the Lower Sub that I lived in and they lived in the Upper Sub, with all the luxuries. And that’s why we always used to fight each other, for those simple reasons. All of us had gangs back then. But it was good gangs—it wasn’t like drive-by shootings and things like that.”
Local rivalry extended to musical duels: “I had a doo-wop group called the Swans at that time, when I was thirteen years old. The Isley Brothers would be under the streetlights and we’d be on the street across from them. They’d sing a song and we’d sing a song. Those were good days.”
Several years later, in the early 1960s, Spurling played guitar with an R&B group called the Holidays. He then tried his luck by moving to Detroit, where he knocked on the doors of Motown and Golden World to no avail—though he did meet Smokey Robinson.
Posted April 7th, 2010 09:33 AM IPFucking hell, man - glad i took the afternoon off work now!"The other thing is that the quality of the mp3's I listen to varies especially as some of the music from the likes of Led Zeppelin is old, even with re-mastering still isnt up to the quality of the likes of Def Leppard."
Quote: When it comes to feisty femme funk or sassy sock-it-to-‘em soul, mighty Marva Whitney has no equal.
Blessed with a lithe yet powerful church-raised voice, she first made her mark with the James Brown Revue in the late-1960s. Such was her impact during that time that she earned the titles “Marvellous Marva” and “Miss Excitement” for her dynamic stage performances. James Brown even went so far as to proclaim her “Soul Sister #1.” Many of the records she cut while she was the Godfather Of Soul’s protégé are now extremely rare and eagerly sought after by Rare Groove disciples, who regard Marva as the funkiest of all James Brown’s female singers.
Quote: Baby Huey (born James Ramey, January 1, 1944 - October 28, 1970) was an American rock and soul singer, born in Richmond, Indiana. He was the frontman for the band Baby Huey & The Babysitters, whose single LP for Curtom Records in 1971 was influential in the development of hip hop music.
In 1963, Ramey, organist/trumpeter Melvin "Deacon" Jones, and guitarist Johnny Ross founded a band called Baby Huey & the Babysitters, which became a popular local act and released several 45 RPM singles, including "Beg Me", "Monkey Man", "Messin' with the Kid" and "Just Being Careful". During the late-1960s, the band followed the lead of Sly & the Family Stone and became a psychedelic soul act. Huey began wearing an Afro and donned psychedelic African-inspired robes, and adding sing-song, self-referential rhymes to his live performances. According to his bandmates, Ramey's rhymes were very similar in style to those later popularized by rappers in hip-hop music. The Babysitters were a popular live act, but never took the time out to record an album.
By 1970, Ramey had developed an addiction to heroin, and his weight had increased to over 400 pounds. He began regularly missing gigs or turning up late, and, at the insistence of his bandmates, briefly entered rehabilitation in the spring of 1970. James Ramey died of a heart attack on October 28, 1970, at the age of 26.
Baby Huey & the Babysitters' album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, was released after the death of their lead singer. Produced by Curtis Mayfield, the album featured several Mayfield compositions, as well as a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and two original compositions by Ramey. The album did not sell well upon its original release, and was largely forgotten by the mainstream. Today, the album is considered a classic of its period. Several songs from The Baby Huey Story, including "Hard Times", "Listen to Me", and "Mighty Mighty Children", have been frequently sampled by hip hop producers since the 1980s.
Very cool posts, Jerry. I'm really pissed off that I have no internet at home until this weekend (and I can't listen in the office here); I would be all over these. The Gene Chandler Situation is one of the albums I bought in Memphis, mainly on the strength of hearing the last time you posted this record.
The second record store we went to had an original Federal copy of Please, Please, Please hanging on the wall, by the way, but it unfortunately had about a quarter of it broken off. Never seen one of those with my own eyes; pity it was so mangled. It was still a pretty badass wall decoration, and it gave me a conversation starter with the owner of the store, who turned out to be a pretty amazing guy.I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING
Quote: halleluwah wrote:The Gene Chandler Situation is one of the albums I bought in Memphis, mainly on the strength of hearing the last time you posted this record.
Ha, yeah, I guess I have posted it before, I should really needledrop some more Gene Chandler - what a career! I think I remember you remarking on it last time out, too, Jason. Cool LP score.
Quote: halleluwah wrote:
The second record store we went to had an original Federal copy of Please, Please, Please hanging on the wall, by the way, but it unfortunately had about a quarter of it broken off. Never seen one of those with my own eyes; pity it was so mangled. It was still a pretty badass wall decoration, and it gave me a conversation starter with the owner of the store, who turned out to be a pretty amazing guy.
I didn't think it was on 78 (as per the piece broken off reference)? The "Please Please Please" LP is worth big bucks, but I don't know much about LPs. I have the Federal 45, but it's too hammered to up (sounds good after enough beers, though); the gold label must be kind of unusual, haven't been able to get info on it:
I didn't think it was on 78 (as per the piece broken off reference)? The "Please Please Please" LP is worth big bucks, but I don't know much about LPs. I have the Federal 45, but it's too hammered to up (sounds good after enough beers, though); the gold label must be kind of unusual, haven't been able to get info on it:
I've never seen a gold-label Federal either; that's pretty cool. Yeah, the one that was hanging on the wall at the guy's store in Memphis was a 78 with the regular green label. I don't know all that much about what was released on 45s and 78s during that transitional period in the 50s, so I really have no idea of the ratios they were pressed in. Damn shame it was broken, but it was a very cool wall decoration.
The original pressing of the Please, Please, Please album is indeed really rare and valuable, partly because it was initially issued in this wholly inappropriate cover, which I'm sure JB disliked for obvious reasons:
Like most R&B albums released in the late 50s, it didn't sell too many copies anyway, and it was soon re-released with a more JB-centric cover:
That original cover is really rare; I once saw a copy of the jacket alone that didn't even contain a record inside it go for like 70 bucks on Ebay.I'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMINGI'MCOMING
Yeah, the one that was hanging on the wall at the guy's store in Memphis was a 78 with the regular green label. I don't know all that much about what was released on 45s and 78s during that transitional period in the 50s, so I really have no idea of the ratios they were pressed in.
From Ebay, looks like the 78 goes for just about what the 45 goes for, i.e. 10 or 15 dollars for a nice one.
Posted April 9th, 2010 05:25 PM IPDecided I need a new stylus, so I'm waiting for that package from Needle Doctor before I record new clips, or even listen to anything on that turntable; got this in the mail yesterday and it's minty as hell but I've got to wait to hear it:
Not a promo, btw, that was the Verve/MGM label used from '72 through '75...so, not a first press, but I got a ridiculously good deal on it so I'm not complaining.
Maybe I'll dig around for some old clips/pix in the interim. Just looked at the last couple of pages here; for me the stand-outs are:
- Edward Hamilton & The Arabians - just an f'in outrageous upbeat Northern Soul'er, on that list of 500 too, normally about a 500 dollar record except here the writing on the label takes it down 100 bucks or so.
- Darrow Fletcher. Gads, what a voice that kid had (not possible that Janis Joplin had missed this one). He never scored another hit this big, but he kept truckin', and still does, he played about a month ago in NYC and a couple of pals of mine went.
- People's Choice - another great Northern Soul number, this one goes for about 800 bucks. Subtle but deadly, this song has one of those Sublime Soul Moments in it that send me over the edge, comes in at :37 and lasts a couple seconds, where he sings "I'm gonna save my love" - that's the magic, somehow, the vocal working slightly against the grain of the beat. You can hear a thousand soul songs that are all great but don't happen to have that kind of moment in them. Check it out, maybe I'm crazy:
There's a passage that makes that SSM grade in Junior McCants' "She Wrote It and I Read It", starts at :52 and goes to :58. There's no youtube of the song (!!), but if you want to hear what I mean it's here (user name hrtshpdbox, password survivor): http://www.soul-source.co.uk/refoso...-i-read-it-king
There's other such moments that hit me that way too, of course; in fact, there's a few of 'em on Dylan's Planet Waves - not soul, but soulful, the Band going in one direction while Dylan rises through it against the tempo.
Posted April 9th, 2010 06:10 PM IPShan-Dells, I'd put this around '68, from across the river from me in Harrisburg. They could be white, can't tell (and no one knows anything about them, of course), one helluva single if you're only going to have one and it's going nowhere anyway. A dancer, nice horns and "oooohs".
I don't think there's a bad 5 Royales song, at least nothing they did on King. The influence of songwriter/guitarist Lowman "Pete" Pauling is enormous; this is where doo wop, gospel and boogie woogie meet up with R&B to form the earliest strains of soul. James Brown covered The 5 Royales "Think", Ray Charles covered "Tell The Truth" (below), and of course The Shirelles and The Mamas and Papas did "Dedicated To The One I Love" (also below). The group was also a major influence on The Tempations. Johnny and Eugene Tanner were amazing lead singers, and Pauling's guitar licks are always tasty (and ahead of their time). One Mistake/School Girl is their third single on King (they recorded briefly for Apollo previously), 1955; Dedicated To The One I Love/Don't Be Ashamed if from 1958, as is Double Or Nothing/Tell The Truth. The 5 Royales continued recording into the mid-60s. Pete Pauling was the man, and The 5 Royales were one of the best acts King ever had.
Posted April 9th, 2010 08:07 PM IP
Jimmy Sweeney & The Varieteers
The biggest country music town was also a hotbed of R&B, and occasionally the twain did meet. Fans of jump blues, jazz and gospel from anywhere in Tennessee could tune into Nashville's WLAC for a fix. The station eventually changing format to talk radio was almost as much as an upheaval for black music fans (and blacks themselves) as the thoughtful decision to run the interstate highway right through the ghetto section of Nashville. The liner notes to a CD comp titled “Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970” make for an interesting read:
While many Americans will always regard Nashville first and foremost
as a country citadel, to young blacks growing up two hundred miles
away in East Tennessee, the city was our version of Harlem, Chicago,
Fifty-second Street, Central Avenue, and Beale Street combined.
The sounds of bluegrass and country dominated the Knoxville airwaves;
there were many years when there was absolutely no local source for
soul, blues, or black gospel except community churches, honky-tonks,
and dirt-floor clubs. Indeed, today, Knoxville country stalwart WIVK-FM
reigns as the top radio dog throughout the region. When as teens we
wanted to hear some down-home soul, earthy blues, or cheatin’-in-thenext-
room sagas, our source other than house parties was the transistor
radio and late night follies on WLAC out of Nashville.
Many nights I’d have my radio underneath a pillow, flimsy earphone
hooked into its socket with spare nine-volt battery ready, listening
for the mail order specials advertised by WLAC sponsors Randy’s
Record Shop and Ernie’s Record Mart. It didn’t matter that 6 a.m.
was the wakeup call for school most mornings, and that when my
mother would inevitably discover the radio under the pillow, she’d
always respond with the admonition, "You’ve been listening to that
damn radio again, that’s why you can’t wake up on time."
It was a most profound culture shock for me many years later to
discover that jocks such as Bill "Hoss" Allen and "John R" weren’t
gray-haired, big-bellied, African-American jocks, but merely good ol’
southern white boys. Back in the late fifties and early sixties, it
didn’t seem logical or possible – or, for that matter, conceivable –
that white guys could have all that soul.
Nashville at that time was our shrine for black music and culture.
We regularly heard stories about Jefferson Street and how Aretha
Franklin and B.B. King were appearing in Nashville and turning out
such clubs as the Del Morocco and New Era. When Chess Records
recorded Etta James Rocks the House at the New Era in 1963, it
may have stunned those in other parts of the nation, but in
Knoxville there were plenty of people walking around who swore
Chess actually taped the wrong night, and that Etta had sung
much better on other occasions.
If you were lucky enough to know any real old-timers, they’d also
mention that many great jazz and blues players were regulars in
the Jefferson Street area. They might even tell you, if they thought
you were paying close attention, how they’d heard Phineas Newborn
dazzling audiences on beat-up, out-of-tune keyboards in Nashville
clubs when he was attending Tennessee State University, or how
they saw Hank Crawford blowing all comers off bandstands. A number
of now-deceased people frequently told me Crawford was the
baddest horn guy they’d ever seen, even before he left TSU to
become Ray Charles’s band director.
Clifford Curry, Joe Simon, Ike & Tina Turner, Little Milton, indeed
everyone who played anywhere in Knoxville would let audiences
know that the night before, they’d really been cooking in Nashville,
and they wanted to know if people in East Tennessee could get
down the same way. These rare shows helped us get through,
because otherwise there weren’t many options for live entertainment,
especially in the segregation era. Memphis was too far away
for most of us to visit, and Atlanta wasn’t yet the black Promised
Nashville was the place until WLAC suddenly abandoned its latenight
music format, and urban renewal plowed right through the
heart of the black community, razing all those beloved spots in the
process of "renewing." It’s impossible today to convey accurately
that sense of excitement, joy, and passion that we heard nightly on
WLAC. Those shows and personalities were so dominant that even
after James Brown bought WJBE, a daytime-only station in
Knoxville, and established a regular soul format, almost all of us
continued staying up at night and tuning in WLAC. One of my first
real music fights came as a pre-teen, with a visitor from Memphis
who swore that the real black music station was WDIA, and that
all those people in Nashville were just "jive imitators," or some
variant in what passed as hip lingo in1962. That was a declaration
of war to a die-hard WLAC fan. "I don’t know who these [expletive]
people are you’re talking about," was my grammatically challenged
rejoinder, "but they ain’t [expletive] next to them WLAC
Of course, once the Stax label in Memphis exploded nationally,
plenty of those artists also came to Knoxville, and eventually they
would get around to talking about the way it used to be in
Nashville. Things started changing by the mid-sixties, ironically,
shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.
Although those of us in Knoxville didn’t really know what was happening,
even before government agencies started bulldozing through
black neighborhoods, other factors such as changing audience
tastes, music business politics, and artist relocation played a role in
eroding Nashville’s dominance as a black music center. By the time
of my departure for college in 1970, Nashville’s historic importance
to African-American music was only being discussed in terms of the
Fisk Jubilee Singers, DeFord Bailey, and Charley Pride.
Fortunately, that oversight is in the process of being corrected. It is
probably too late for marvelous but criminally under-recorded types
such as Christine Kittrell, the Marigolds, Gene Allison, or Rudy Green
-- to say nothing of Frank Howard or Larry Birdsong -- to be
widely acknowledged for their role in the history of soul and R&B.
But maybe awareness can be raised on some other things, like the
fact B.B. King made his earliest records for Nashville’s Bullet label,
that Sun Ra (as Sonny Blount) and Wynonie Harris also did early
recording here, and that people such as Olu Dara and Leon
Thomas attended TSU.
It’s also noteworthy that Jefferson Street was once every bit as
swinging and busy as Beale, and that along with the incredible
importance of Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, and TSU,
there was great, innovative rhythm & blues being played in
Nashville by the likes of Johnny Jones, Roscoe Shelton, and Earl
Gaines. No, Satellite/Stax, Hi, and Goldwax weren’t the first or only
record labels after Sun to make black-oriented sessions in
Tennessee. A lot of tongues wagged and eyes rolled when Jimi
Hendrix recruited bassist Billy Cox for his latter-day bands, but
Nashville and Knoxville cognoscenti knew that Cox and Hendrix had
played together when Hendrix had been stationed at Ft. Campbell,
located near Nashville by the Tennessee-Kentucky border. It also
didn’t hurt matters that Cox was a damn nasty bassist, with a
deeper sound and funkier sensibility than Noel Redding of the Jimi
It takes absolutely nothing away from Nashville’s justifiable reputation
as country’s mecca to also recognize its equally impressive
black music heritage. Just as artists from Bobby "Blue" Bland to
Bo Diddley and Lazy Lester pay homage to country music, and
singers such as Porter Wagoner and Merle Haggard cite soul and
the blues as influences, Nashville’s prominence as a center for
music magic is based on both honky-tonk brilliance and R&B furor.
Nashville native Jimmy Sweeney was on the payroll of the Acuff/Rose country house in the 40s, and wrote songs for Marty Robbins and others. Before forming the all-black Varieteers, Sweeney sang lead for in 1947 for The Five Bars on the Bullet label, in 1949 for The Four Jacks on the Allen label, and in 1952 with The Dinning Brothers on the Tennessee label. The 1954 Hickory 45 below was the tenth record on the label; Hickory continued in operation until 1970, primarily as a country label, although many are also familiar with the tracks Donovan released on the label. The b-side of this 45 was included on the CD comp I quoted from above; other than that I don't see any other Varieteer inclusions on any comp. There were no Varieteers albums, just this and one other single; that other one , which is supposedly the more “common” 45, sold a few years ago for a little over 200 dollars and represents the only Varieteers vinyl sale I can find. I'm pretty confident that very few people have heard this a-side, which is categorized as “doo wop” but bears scant resemblance to what was coming out of Philly, New York and Baltimore at the time. Two really, really well-sung and well-played tracks, enjoyable slices of musical history. The pre-Varieteers photo below of Jimmy singing (with Floyd Cramer on the piano at the right) is all I could come up with; no Jimmy Sweeney & The Varieteers photos are available.
Posted April 9th, 2010 08:13 PM IP
The late great Johnny Ace. Served in the Korean War, then had a very short career where he topped the R&B charts with one hit after another, toured with Big Mama Thornton, and died playing Russian roulette (under very murky circumstances), at age 25.
Big Joe Williams was a Delta bluesman who played guitars he'd modified to use up to nine strings, claiming that he was trying to confuse other musicians who tried to pick up his style. A blues historian who attended one of his shows said:
Quote: When I saw him playing at Mike Bloomfield's "blues night" at the Fickle Pickle, Williams was playing an electric nine-string guitar through a small ramshackle amp with a pie plate nailed to it and a beer can dangling against that. When he played, everything rattled but Big Joe himself. The total effect of this incredible apparatus produced the most buzzing, sizzling, African-sounding music I have ever heard.