Monday, December 31, 2007

Barefootin'! Or, How Cinderella Got Her Shoes Back

UPDATE: All the songs should be up now, including the most excellent Miss Black America. Enjoy!

"Happy holidays and a Happy New Year! We hope you have enjoyed our program of westerns this afternoon. Now its time for our main feature of the evening.
With apologies to the original rapper and Apollo MC, King Coleman, the Apollo Theater presents Barefootin'! "

"KING COLEMAN": "Thank you! Thank you! It's a joy to be here! If you don't dig it, don't knock it! Somebody else might wanna rock it! ‘Tis the season to be jolly, when Poison Ivy meets Buddy Holly. So find a seat that suits you fine, and enjoy a strangely soulful pantomime. Our story tonight is a real bestseller, about Cinderella and her fella. Though if she leaves that ball without a soul, man, look no further than this ole’ King Coleman! Now if things get crazy, holler out and tell her, let’s hear the tale of Cinderella!...

We begin our story here, in a dark and tragic room. Who’s this, about to dust my broom? Now, keep it clean, fellas – this is our future princess, Cinderella! You mind your mouth, she has some moves in her! With that broom she's her own Executioner!

She is clothed in rags, smudged in dirt and grime, she cleans the stage floor in double time, with a tear in her eye, and a weary sigh."
CINDERS: "I've been working on this stage for an age, earning less than a maid. All my life I've been shucked and shirked. A Fair Day's Pay For A Fair Day's Work!"

KING COLEMAN: "Now, you know me, I'm a real gent - but that don' t go likewise for the management! This hard life for Cinders, it takes me back - to Tennessee, to a cropper’s shack. Nutbush is the name they give it, and with it Cinders had reached her limit!”

Ike & Tina Turner – Nutbush City Limits (1973)

“Yeah, that’s right people! There's songs about this, and songs about that -- There's songs about people, big and fat!

In Kansas they have rainbows to take you far away; in Tennessee you have to deal with it, and live from day to day. This ain’t no fairytale, with ruby slippers, dogs and twisters! Aw hell, here they are, those put-you-down sisters!"

SISTERS: “Where you be at, baby sister? Scrubbing at floors? You gonna get blisters! Prince Charming just gave us a call, he says tonight we’re gonna have a ball. So you gonna help us, make us nice and fair, first of all, straighten out our hair! We don’t want to give him a fright, so make us out to be just like Snow White!”

KING COLEMAN: "So off they go, full of jubilation, while Cinders attends to her station."
CINDERS: "You know, I could do without that strife. Tomorrow is a new dawn, a new day, and a new life."

Nina Simone - Feeling Good
KING COLEMAN: “You know, Cinders ain’t got nothing to fear, ‘cause this is the time when I appear! There’s plenty a trick, Cinders, that I know – you shall go to the Apollo!”

CINDERS: "But my sisters, they all straight and fair; and I haven’t got a stitch to wear!"

KING COLEMAN: "I know what you’re really after, and I’ll give it like I was a Fairy Godfather! Come here, momma, quick, and I’ll bring you my magic stick!"

CINDERS: "Ole King Coleman, now you behave! I don’t need your magic stave! My Prince awaits me at the ball – I just need a dress and shoes, is all!"

KING COLEMAN: "Like an alley cat chasing a rat across a railroad track ... stay tuned, I will be right back!... now, here I am back again, before you knew I was gone – wear these high heeled sneakers and put that red dress on!"

Ike & Tina Turner – Hotpants/High Heeled Sneakers

"So you gonna have a ball, but remember this one thing right – the magic will end at ‘round midnight!”

"Put your left foot on the floor -- get out the front door. Rush, rush, rush -- get on that bus! If you wasn't on your heels -- you could be driving a brand-new automobile!"

The Kings Of Rhythm – Rocket ‘88

"So here we are at the Apollo, ready to enjoy the show! I’ll MC this thing, of course, and rock this pantomime by force! Cinderella is dressed to look alarming – and catches the eye of her Prince Charming! But by others she is also spied, by fine Jim Dandini at the Prince’s side!"

JIM DANDINI: “Be wild and free, but save the last dance for me!”

The Drifters – Save The Last Dance For Me

KING COLEMAN: "There she stands, in fine shoes and dress, yeah, and everyone gives cries of ‘Bless her!’”

Curtis Mayfield – Miss Black America
KING COLEMAN: "She has eclipsed, I should mention, her snow-white sisters, by hair extension!

Now, Everybody get on your feet. You make me nervous when you're in your seat. Take off your shoes and stamp your feet, and do the dance that can’t be beat!"

Robert Parker – Barefootin’

"The Prince has crossed the stage, after checking she is of legal age! Jim Dandy, looking quite dismayed, decides to end his Prince's masquerade. As Cinders begins to look closely, he is not what he appeared to be!"

PRINCE APOLLO: "Why look at you, I must confess, you are the image of a fine princess! Fine and dainty from head to your toes, you remind me of a fragrant rose. You are surely Harlem’s finest flower - I shall pluck you in the midnight hour!"

Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour

CINDERS: "Can you keep up ‘till the midnight hour? I’ll take a rain check – you take a shower! Who’d have thought this Prince would be a creep – all your talk puts me to sleep! You got to be at least twice my age - I ought to sweep you right off 'a this stage!""

PRINCE APOLLO: "Come on, honey, don't be sore - what you think I pay you for?"

CINDERS: "Do you know why I really came here? To get what's owed to me fair and square. I came here tonight to sing and dance, but now that I have got the chance, although my clothes are rearranged, I see that nothing's really changed! You've got the money - we all doled it out - so treat me fair or I'll walk out!"

CINDERS: "All your patter makes my toes curl – the Prince Apollo is just the Duke of Earl. Amidst all this finery and bustle, all you got to show me is a Harlem shuffle! You really think that I would choose you? - I want to know is, who's behind you?"

KING COLEMAN: "Now while you all enjoy the pantomime, our Cinderella forgot about the time! Cinderella, you take flight! The clock strikes twelve, its ‘round midnight!"

Miles Davis & John Coltrane – ‘Round Midnight

"Look at that! I ain't gotta say nothing! Cinders is off and rushing! Put your flappers on the floor -- head out that front door!

In all her rushing out the door, she forgot her shoe upon the floor. Sparkling, shimmering, shining bright, Jim Dandy picks up the slipper light. For while he watched the prince preen and pout, he realised Cinders is something to shout about!"

The Rivileers – Who Is The Girl? (1954)

"Now the Prince Apollo has awoken, and these are the words that he has spoken:"

PRINCE APOLLO: "I woke up this morning/I was all alone/Because I discovered my woman had packed up and gone."

KING COLEMAN: "Feeling no pain, he scratches his head - and pushes the two sisters out of bed! For a moment, he thinks to linger – then spies a ring upon each finger! He hollers out to hail a carriage, to make escape from a sudden marriage!

Jim Dandy know what he has to do, he really should report the shoe. But rather than play second mate, he hides the shoe and changes fate! Leaving the Prince in the lurch, Jim Dandy goes to start the search! Leaving the Prince in the arms of others, Jim Dandy searches for his new lover! True love ain’t just for the boss; he deserves the double-cross! The Prince realises he has been cussed – who will find Cinderella first?"

Sam & Dave – Hold On, I’m Comin’!

"The sisters have made their own way home, and find Cinderella all alone. They see Cinder's dress, now all in tatters, and decide to scorn instead of flatter:

SISTERS: "They said the ball is over
And love is here to stay
You kitchen-working women
Sure did have your way
But it’s all over baby
Now you girls have got to pay"

KING COLEMAN: "Nothing has changed, no dream came true?
Hey wait – here’s Jim Dandy to the rescue!

Getting them both out the way, Jim steps right in to save the day!"
JIM DANDY: "Sisters, listen - if you show off a rock, you have the Prince in a marriage lock! If he wants two for the price of one, make him pay for what he's done. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust -- Hit 'em in the head with a cornbread crust!"

KING COLEMAN: Go Jim Dandy! You know what to do!
Go Cinders! Try on that shoe!"

LaVern Baker – Jim Dandy

JIM DANDY: “Cinderella, I’ll be your fortune teller – forget the Prince, I’m your fella! Muscle ain’t your hustle, your mind is your thing. Get up off of that floor, you can do anything. From this life you're freed, and for me, you're all that I need!"

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You're All I Need To Get By

KING COLEMAN: "Everyone ends up together, Jim Dandy with his Cinderella. Everyone makes it, at a pinch – the sisters team up against the Prince. Now it isn't quite so funny, his money's spent on alimony. The moral of this story, as you already knew, to get what you want, to thine own self be true!"


Bad puns and rhymes my own fault, of course - don't blame the real King Coleman! With some better ideas and rhymes from interviews with King Coleman, Shipyard Woman by Jim Wynn, and Weeping And Crying by King Coleman & The Griffin Brothers Orchestra. Apologies also for some missing songs at present - i've gone on holiday without them! They'll be up on Jan 2nd when I get back home! Also, read this interesting feature about the upcoming Disney cartoon "The Princess And The Frog" by Alan Jenkins at, a film which will star their first black heroine. How will she be portrayed?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ike Turner RIP: Kings Of Rhythm

Ike Wister Turner, born Clarksdale, Mississippi, 5th November 1931, died December 12th 2007.

It is a wet Wednesday, March 3rd 1951, and Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm are travelling up from Clarksdale into Memphis in the back of a Chrysler. An acquaintance of theirs, Riley King, has just got signed to play blues at Modern Records, and they have been jamming with him at a club in Chambers, Mississippi. Riley, or B.B. as he is now calling himself, tells them to go visit Sun Studios, a record label run by Sam Phillips. They have a song that Ike has written the first verse for and the rest of the band are trying to come up with an ending before they get there, as they have nothing else to record. It is about Jackie Brenston's favourite car, the Oldsmobile Rocket '88. While they are throwing around ideas, there is a loud bang, and Johnny Dougan swerves the Chrysler to the side of the road. They hear a thud, and Willie Kizzert sees his amplifier lying in the road. The tire has burst and everything has come loose. After packing again, they continue, only to hear the siren of a patrol car a few miles further down Highway 61...

...The band begin to set up at 706 Union Avenue. Willie checks his amplifier and finds it damp and cracked, and rain has leaked into it! It starts to buzz and crackle as Willie plugs in his guitar, but there's nothing to be done, and when Willie plays a few licks, everyone kind of likes the 'fuzzy' sound. Ike sets himself up at the piano, while band saxophonist Jackie Brenston steps up to sing the vocal. Ray Hill, a young addition to the group, picks up the saxophone this time. Blow your horn, Raymond! They need some bass, but the double bass is too quiet, so Willie starts to pick out a bass line on his electric guitar strings, and the sound makes the room vibrate. Ike starts to play a stand-out piano intro, and the band kicks in...

Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats (Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm) - Rocket '88

They cut a couple of more tunes, and they flip for whose name will appear on which side. Jackie gets his on Rocket '88. No problem, says Ike, you have that one, mine will be bigger. Sam releases it with another track with Ike's name on, but he knows already which side is going to hit... It's an r&b smash - and that rankles Ike for years, as he gave Jackie all of the song-writing credits too!

Now, nobody picks it up on the white radio, but Sam has heard something - a mix of jump blues and boogie-woogie - that he likes, and others, like Bill Haley and his Tennessee Boys, are listening hard too, taking it for a new sound.

They call it rock and roll, but Ike says its just what we always played, r&b, they just call it something different because when we play we're black and when they play it they're white. The Kings Of Rhythm are the hottest thing in Clarksdale, then Memphis, Granite City, then St Louis. They play with Ike pushing them on, in places where you mostly play non-stop, just one set, no breaks. It's a tough life, and the Kings of Rhythm change personnel from gig to gig. When somebody has to leave, somebody else has to jump in, play that part. Raymond subs for Jackie on sax, Bonnie Turner covers Ike on the piano, and Ike tries his hand at the guitar when Willie leaves. Ike's never really played guitar before now. In less than a year, Ike can play just like B.B. King, like John Lee Hooker, like Elmore James, like everyone he has played piano behind, and he still sees it as just something he has to do because he can't find someone else. He and Bonnie, his girlfriend, record tracks with different Kings Of Rhythm in a studio in Clarksdale that the Bihari Brothers have set up for Ike...

Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm - All The Blues, All The Time (Modern Records) 1954 (released on Crown Records LP Ike Turner Rocks The Blues 1963)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ike Turner RIP: Growing Up In Clarksdale

Ike Wister Turner, born Clarksdale, Mississippi, 5th November 1931, died December 12th 2007.

Let us go back to Clarksdale, Mississippi, back to around the year 1935. Ike lives in a small house ... Ike looks up. Somewhere outside in the street there is a disturbance. People are yelling for his father, baptist minister Izear Luster Turner. His father goes to the door and out onto the porch. He tries to reason with the assembled mob of white men, but they don't want to listen. They drag Reverend Turner and pull him onto the front lawn, where they begin to beat him mercilessly. Young Ike can see everything from his vantage point at the window, until his mother, Beatrice, drags him away. Finally, the men leave, satisfied that the minister will never again 'mess around' with white women. The Turner family emerge to tend to his grievous injuries, while a neighbour runs to find a telephone to call for an ambulance. None is willing to take him to the hospital nearby, because he is black. The family are forced to tend to him themselves, in their back yard, erecting a small tent over him as some kind of protection because he is too weak to move. Reverend Turner lasts three years like this, before finally submitting to his wounds...

It is 1940. Ike is on his way home out of school with is friend Ernest Lane. They get to Ernest's house, and there is a heck of a noise! Young Ike and Ernest stare through the window and see Mr Lane laughing and cheering, for Pinetop Perkins is banging the heck out of a piano! Soon Lane and Ike are inside the house at the end of the piano looking at him... Ike runs home to tell his mama, 'Mama, I want a piano!' Beatrice tells him: "Pass the third grade and bring me a good report card - I'll get you one." Ike works hard and one day there is a piano. Pinetop himself teaches both Ike and Ernest to play. Ike never forgets his kindness, for the rest of his life...

Pinetop Perkins & Ruth Brown - Chains Of Love

It is 1940, and home is full of surprises, but they are not always the kind y
ou want. There is the woman who lives next door, the one who says she is his mother's friend. She says she will look after Ike when his stepfather comes home. Ike doesn't know which is worse anymore. Ike and his mother Beatrice live with one of a series of stepfathers. This one, like the rest, doesn't seem to want Ike around, and one night lashes out at him with a length of barbed wire for the yard fence. This time, Ike isn't going to take it. When the man drops his guard, Ike is ready with the nearest object to hand, and the nine-year old boy starts to pummel the grown man to the floor. If it is a father figure that Ike seeks from now on, it can be found in Pinetop, and the young blues players he starts to spend his time with around Clarksdale...

Young Ike has found a job manning the elevator at the Alcazar Hotel, working in the evenings after school. He thinks he was 8 years old, which makes it 1939, but others think he was at high school at Clarksdale High, which makes it at least around about 1947. It has to be because of what is about to happen. He takes a ride up to the second floor, where he sees a glass door leading into offices. The lettering on the glass door reads WROX Radio. There is a man, an African-American, behind the window.

His name is Early Wright. He is also known as 'The Soul Man' to his many night-time listeners, and is the first black radio announcer in Mississippi. "Hey, come in kid!", says Early to Ike, and the youth enters cautiously, yet fascinated by the surroundings. "Would you like to see how you 'hold a record'?", asked Early, and Ike just nods, staring at the turntables. "Sit there and hold this switch until the 45 that's playing stops, then turn the knob." Ike waits and turns, and the next record starts to broadcast across Clarksdale. "Good, kid, you got it." Early reaches over and presses the mike button to talk over. "That was a beautiful record I dropped on you for your listening pleasure." Ike is concerned. "Shouldn't you tell em the name of the record?", he queries nervously. "Nah," replies Early," They ought to know it already, and if they don't they'll phone in to find out, they'll beg us to tell them. You'll see. Try it again. I'm going over to get me some coffee..."

Friday, December 07, 2007

More Nugetre's Nuggets: Whatcha' Gonna Do?

The tribute concert to commemorate the life of Ahmet Ertegun has been postponed until December 10th. The announcement that Led Zeppelin would reform to headline the show sent rock fans into a frenzy for a furious ticket lottery earlier this year, perhaps to the detriment of the memory of Mr Ertegun himself, who sometimes was barely mentioned in the news reports.

So here for your enjoyment are some more nuggets of Nugetre ("Ertegun" backwards), r&b authored by Ahmet himself, continuing the series I ran last November. Well, this selection has a few twists and turns, which took it past Ahmet along the way...

Whatcha Gonna Do by The Drifters was recorded on 2nd April 1954 and was released in February 1955 and featured Clyde McPhatter on lead vocals, and was to become the last single featuring him, as several other recorded tracks were then canned and kept for rainy days and b-sides. It reached No.2 on the R&B chart. It marked the end of Clyde's tenure with the group, as it had been intended to promote it as a commencement of his solo career. Then in July 1955 he was drafted.

This was the third time that the Drifters had recorded the song, the first time having been with the short-lived Mount Lebanon Singers line-up, the next time when Bill Pinkney and the Jerusalem Stars had come in to replace the Mount Lebanon Singers on 9th August 1953. So in a way the song had a history that spanned the entire period of the classic Drifters line-up. It also had a gospel past.

Whatcha Gonna Do was originally recorded by The Radio Four, and written by their lead singer Reverend Dr Morgan Babb. Ahmet had heard the gospel tune perhaps on the legendary radio show Ernie's Record Parade, John Richbourg's show on WLAC on a 50,00 watt signal out of Nashville, as Dr Babb also acted as a gospel A&R man for Ernie Young, founder of Nashboro and Excello Records, who was the show's sponsor.

This 45 was recorded at 535 Fourth Avenue South in Nashville and released in April 1953 on Tennessee Records subsidiary label Republic. The new subsidiary had been set up in summer 1952 on the back of the success of Christine Kittrell's single Sitting And Drinking. The five brothers in the group, of whom Dr Babb was the youngest, had been performing in various line-ups since the late 1930s. The Radio Four had an enviable reputation in the gospel circuit, regularly sharing billing with R.H. Harris' Soul Stirrers, and by chance happened to be double-heading the bill for Sam Cooke's first outing with the Stirrers. They recorded a kind of country gospel style, which related very much to the older brothers' former days in a popular jug band before their conversion to religion (appparently due to a bolt of lightning that nearly killed their father.) When Dr Babb joined his older brothers in 1950, he brought a emotive, soulful style of singing, which set them apart from the emphasis on technical singing found in the jubilee singing groups of the era.

This particular track also bore the name of Madame Edna Gallmon, a bone of contention for The Radio Four. Morgan Babb had helped her to get a chance singing with them at Tennessee, and coached her in technique to develop an up close and personal style of performance. The first recordings were released released as just by The Radio Four, as Tennessee were unsure whether to even sign her to a contract. When she was finally signed, not for the first time Tennessee wanted to use them as a backing group for the new 'star', and so The Radio Four stated that they would not be backing her in the future. Despite this, tracks like this one were later released and promoted with both Gallmon and The Radio Four's names. To add further salt to the wound, Dr Babb was never paid any royalties for the songs , like this one, that he wrote for Republic.

Listen to a rollicking, boogie-woogie number:

Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters - Whatcha Gonna Do (Atlantic 1055) 1955

And here is the gospel original:

Mdm Edna Gallmon Cook & The Radio Four - Whatcha' Gonna Do? (Republic Records 7067) 1953

OK, I can understand Led Zeppelin being on the bill. But Paolo Nutini?

I really enjoyed researching this little post, as I discovered so many connections between this and other artists I had researched in the past year. Information and images about The Drifters from Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks, a site I cannot stop reading! Information about The Radio Four comes from
the liner notes of CD The Radio Four 1952-1954, written by Opal Louis Nations, which is also where I took the featured track from. The great gospel site Recordconnexion, written by Robert Termorshuisen, who got details from ''Gospel Music 1943-1969' by Cedric Hayes and Robert Laughton, is also a great resource. I also read about Dr Morgan Babb on the WLAC Fan Site. The Radio Four label scan and images come from Big Joe Louis and Robert Termorshuisen. The development of gospel in Tennessee is well documented by PBS in the article From Jug Band To Gospel by David Evans & Richard M Raichelson Also, visit this post at Red Kelly's gospel blog, Holy Ghost, to read a bit more about Nashboro Records.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Night Beat: I'm Lost And Lookin' For My Baby

Recorded for the Night Beat album in 1963, this song has an utterly compelling quality, as, just embellished by a bass and cymbal, the lilting voice of Sam Cooke perfectly putting across the sensation of a man haunted and put to distraction by love lost.

That is one of the remarkable qualities of Sam Cooke - his lyrics are always so direct. They simply tell you exactly what he wants to say, and his delivery is always meticulously pitched to convince you that he means it.

H W Saxton, writing at BC Music, suggests a similarity here between Sam's singing and that of Reverend Claude Jeter of the Swan Silvertones.

Written by Sam's faithful friend and partner J W Alexander, it was based upon a gospel song Alex had sung. You get the feeling that Sam is so much more comfortable with the material from these sessions. In some ways, Hugo and Luigi were perhaps hoping to package it as a kind of Frank Sinatra after-hours collection, but they too must have sensed that it was more than that. Here was Sam Cooke releasing an album even more firmly rooted in r&b and gospel, divested of the strings and things, and soaring at the top of the mainstream pop market. It was a testament to Sam's achievement and a stake to a claim to respect for black artists that went beyond the next 45. Some see a link between these February 63 sessions and the recording of A Change Is Gonna Come, possibly Sam's most transcendent song, a few months later.

Sam Cooke - Lost And Lookin' (from 'Night Beat' RCA LSP 2709) 1963

Information for this post garnered from Dream Boogie by Peter Guralnick, album liner notes and H W Saxton. Photo scanned from album back cover. Listen to the hiss from the vinyl!

Friday, November 23, 2007

It Was Just Past Closing Time: Laughin' And Clownin' With Sam Cooke

"It was just past closing time when we dropped into the club to talk with Sam Cooke that night. 'Mr Soul' was singing for himself and for the small group of musicians who accompanied him. Standing to the rear of the club, we watched the young singer - tie off, jacket slung on a cane-backed chair - settle into a mood. We heard him sing through a smoky after-hours haze. The night's work was done. This was for the pure pleasure of performing..."

This was the way that Hugo And Luigi, successful hit-making pop producers working for RCA, described their first encounter with the live sound of the artist they had been trying to generate a pop hit for in the classic mould. They had gone to the Town Hill Club in Brooklyn in April 1960 to listen to Mr Sam Cooke:

"One song, two songs, and then even the waiters, busy with get-home chores, stopped work to listen. One by one they paused for a cigarette, pulled up a chair. Conversations lowed and ceased."

Hugo and Luigi were more accustomed to making mainstream pop that was successful and catchy. While they had dabbled in the r&b field with Della Reese, scoring a spectacular success with a r&b No. 1 and Pop No. 2, they had been struggling to understand what it was exactly about Mr Cooke. What were they not bringing out in the studio? Now they were experiencing the side to Sam's music that was not captured on any number of their records together to date...

"It was an experience to live through, to see Sam singing to a black audience... it seemed like it was effortless, the audience just loved every nuance, they fed on every little thing, they were enwrapt", recalled Luigi in an interview with renowned author Peter Guralnick.

Hugo and Luigi had been chosen by Sam because they could provide production values to complement Sam's music, make it successful in a mainstream pop market, without drowning it in traditional pop production. They sometimes did not necessarily connect with the deeper messages in some of Sam's songs, but on this occasion, they could sense that this was more than pop music for the sake of it. Soon after seeing Sam perform, they returned to the studio with a small band, like the one Sam had played with, and rerecorded Chain Gang, a pop classic with a personal message about the pain of incarceration. The hits, and a connection with the concerns of Sam Cooke, had been established...

Last summer, I did a post on poetry for a change. I chose Paul Lawrence Dunbar's classic, We Wear The Mask. I discussed briefly how Dunbar's work had impressed well-known black disc-jockey and black history collector Magnificent Montague, and set him upon his life-long and continuing journey to conserve the cultural heritage of African-Americans. What I did not know then was that it had also made an impact on his friend Sam Cooke, whose brother LC had sung in Montague's band The Magnificents.

In Peter Guralnick's frank and absorbing biography of Sam Cooke, Dream Boogie, he explains how Wear Wear The Mask inspired Sam to write Laughin' And Clownin', a track for Night Beat, the album he recorded in February 1963. It was his first LP with a small group backing, organised by close associate Rene Hall (as opposed to the strings arrangements Sam had gone for with most of his albums up to that point.) As an aside, Billy Preston, then just sixteen years old, is playing organ.

The song echoes the poem's themes of a hidden aspect of character for African-Americans, at a time when survival in white-dominated society required they conceal their true opinions. It was a way of coping with discrimination that everybody associated with Sam Cooke agree he simply would not accept. That was the truly inspiring thing about Sam Cooke, who had succeeded in becoming the most successful singer since Elvis on RCA, owner of his own record label, without ever compromising his beliefs or dignity.

Recalling that first time they went to meet Sam in a club, three years before, Hugo and Luigi wrote:

"What we witnessed that night was not a performance in the accepted sense. The effort had all of Sam's artistry and style, but there was something more intense and personal about it. Actually, we were eavesdropping on a top singer in those dark hours...
This, we know, is it. It's just past closing time, and Sam is singing for himself. There's an empty table over there. Welcome to Night Beat."

The mask is off, and it won't be worn.

Sam Cooke - Laughin' And Clownin' (Night Beat LP RCA LSP-2709) 1963

Liner notes written by Hugo and Luigi from the LP Nightbeat. Other information and quote from Luigi from Dream Boogie by Peter Guralnick, and Burn Baby Burn by Magnificent Montague and Bob Baker.
Dear Reader, An Apology: Thank you for your patience in awaiting this latest post! I see each week how many people return regularly hoping to read and listen to some more good music, and I appreciate it. It has been an exhausting month! Sudden changes at my place of work lead to a phenomenal rush of activity and a heavy workload. I thought to post a few things I had been working on, but to be frank they were half-done, and it wouldn't have been fair not to put my best effort into the writing - after all, I can't take credit for the music! The majority of work tasks have now been done, and this means that I shall be posting more regularly from today!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"Dusty" Liverpool Soul: Chanting A Lover's Story

This week, I'm featuring another single from Liverpool soulsters The Chants. I'm glad to be making a bit of a fuss about these guys, and I've noticed a little bit of interest in their music growing on both the Soul Source and Soulful Detroit forums. It seems that some of their RCA singles were a popular dancefloor hit on the Northern Soul scene back in the 70s. I'm brushing off a dusty, and slightly crackly 45 (yes, I believed an ebay vendor when they said VG++) But as it happens, dusty is exactly how it was supposed to sound...

The Springfields, with Ivor Raymonde giving directions 2nd from left...This time, it's a single from 1967. The Chants' relationship with Pye had broken down very quickly, and they had moved on to Fontana Records and then to Decca. The producer here is Ivor Raymonde, who was a well-known arranger and former BBC musical director who had devised the arrangement for Dusty Springfield's 1963 hit I Only Want To Be With You, with its Phil Spector-like overloud orchestration giving it the impetus it needed, and had been guiding Dusty's career since then.

All the auspices might appear good, with a proven, experienced hit-maker producing Eddie Amoo's composition A Lover's Story, and providing one of his own, Wearing A Smile, for the b-side. Eddie Amoo has written a wonderful love song, with what may well be the first soul reference to a 'science-fiction book', though no George Clinton funk workouts here! The resulting single does sound lush and polished, and Raymonde gave the Chants the space on A Lover's Story to develop some interesting backing vocal lines on A Lover's Story to show off their harmony skills. However, the guys have to sometimes fight with the violins and flutes of Raymonde's powerful orchestral arrangement. Wearing a Smile is a more conventional pop tune, clearly in a Dusty style, that they perform magnificently, bringing it roaring to life, adding power and versatility to the singing that allows Raymonde to do away with some of the brasher orchestral musak. Sadly, once again, none of this made a difference when it came to getting a hit. Perhaps the Chants should have taken a leaf out of Dusty's book and moved on from Raymonde to try their luck in Memphis...

Instead it was time to move on, to Page One Records, home of numerous British psyche bands such as The Paramounts (soon to become Procul Harem) and The Troggs. However, once again, this move turned sour when Page One's first album release failed to sell, and seriously dented their available cashflow to release other records. The Chants were again not a priority, and moved on to RCA...

The Chants - A Lover's Story (A-side Decca 40923) 1967
The Chants - Wearing A Smile (B-side Decca 40925) 1967

Moving back to the present, Eddie Amoo has been recording with various local 'grime' and hip-hop artists from Toxteth, Rawface from Souls Rest, Laura Leigh, Chan, and The Grime Family to produce a CD of his Liverpool musical named after his Real Thing smash hit "Children Of The Ghetto", which I notice was dramatically less downloaded in my last Chants post (always scroll to the end!!!) Go to this MySpace site "Liverpool's Own" to keep up to date with news about this and other current Liverpool r&b trends (warning for us old folks, these youngsters do seem to enjoy their 'booty') ... Photos courtesy of Bill Harry and Spectropop.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Keep Believing, Keep Pushing: The Story Of Lou Pride

FIrst Baptist ChurchNatalie & NatThe story of George Lou Pride begins in Chicago's North Side on 24th May 1950, when he was born. He performed a solo at grade school and became hooked on music! Along with his family, support came from local pastors Reverend Charles L Fairchild, and Reverend Edward J. Cole of the First Baptist Church. Father of singer Nat King Cole, Reverend Cole gave Lou advice about music as well as spiritual advice, and encouraged him to sing in the choir, directed by his wife Perlina. Lou recalls meeting Nat many times and greeting him in the street, and spent many days at the Cole house playing marbles with Natalie Cole, but it was BB King who was his biggest influence.

Lou at SuemiIn the late 60s, Lou was drafted into the US Army, and spent two years on bases in Germany, where he joined a group called The Karls. After leaving the army, he returned to Chicago, and formed a Sam & Dave style duet with a friend called LC, called LC & Lou (some sources claim that Lou was singing with and married to a woman known as 'JLC', but in Drew Vergis's interview Lou clearly states otherwise). After LC left the group to get married, Lou's manager Jim Dorman persuaded Lou to start a solo career. He decided to move to a new life in El Paso, Texas, where they thought they could get a deal with some friends.

Bill & Kenny in 1964Lou met a friend of Jim's, Kenny Smith, in an El Paso restuarant. Kenny was sure from the start that Lou was going to make fantastic music: "Lou Pride is one of the best people I have ever dealt with over the many years I have been involved in the music business." He decided to sign Lou to Suemi Records (their publicity tag-line read: "If you don't like it, sue me!"), which he co-owned with Bill 'Sparks' Taylor, and which had recorded a variety of country and rockabilly artists, and had some success with Bobby Fuller. When Lou arrived at their Tasmit Studio, Kenny was impressed and excited:

"He showed up to our studios wanting to put out a record of his band "The Funky Bunch" and I was glad to have a different type band play in the studio. They had horns and I had never dealt with horns before."

Fort Bliss 1960sThe Funky Bunch were a group of Lou's aquaintances from the nearby Fort Bliss army base. While he was astounded by their musicianship, Kenny wasn't so impressed with their name, and began searching for a better one. He thought wrongly that Lou billed himself as 'The Groove Merchant', so when it came to naming the band for the 45, The Groove Merchants was printed on the label.

Just 500 copies were pressed, and most were sold just in the local area. While the single never broke nationally, it was played frequently by Johnny "T" Thompson, a DJ at the time (who himself recorded songs such as So Much Going For You on Chess Records, the Top 20 hit Main Squeeze and Given Up On Love on New Miss Records, and more recently performed with the late Bill Pinkney in the Original Drifters). It provided Lou with regular bookings on the chittin' circuit across Texas. Lou explained to Drew Vergis how "the old hard-time crusty promoters" in Texas helped him hone his stage performance: "Percy told me one day, 'Boy, you're pretty good son, but you stay on stage too long! Get off the stage , son!'" That of course, led him to spend more and more nights away from his family home on the road. Despite this, Kenny describes Lou thus: "Lou was and still is one of those people that never complains and is always in a positive mood."

Lou at boards at Royal StudioFor the next Lou Pride session, Bill Taylor used his contacts through his uncle, who owned the distributor Hot Line Music Journal in Memphis and owned some stock in Hi Records, to arrange studio time at Willie Mitchell's Royal Studio. It is here that Lou recorded his funky, uptempo version of It's A Man's Mans World, backed by the Hodges Brothers and Howard Grimes. Sadly, it would be a short interlude, as Lou's family commitments life made extended trips away increasingly difficult.

Lou Pride in 1970sLou would continue to record for Suemi for another year, back in El Paso. I told some of the story of Lou's classic Northern Soul hit I'm Com'un Home In The Morn'un last year in another post. It highlighted the difficulties Lou was facing in trying to recording in El Paso, for Suemi, tour and gig to make money, and still make visits to his new girlfriend and to his family and children living up in Chicago. According to Kenny Smith, just 500 copies again were pressed. Ironically, had half of the thousands of UK bootlegs been genuine, Lou Pride would have been able to put his financial worries behind him, but Suemi Records had no idea that anyone in England had even heard of it. Instead, Lou, now a single father raising his young children, devoted himself to supporting them by keeping up his touring and live performances at jazz and blues festivals. As Lou describes it in an interview with Drew Vergis; "I was doing good on the road, then my mother got sick, and then things just fell apart!" In the late 70s, he returned to Chicago to visit his sick mother. She told him to go visit the Reverend Fairchild, in the church not 25 yards from his front door:

My pastor Reverend Fairchild, Curtis [Mayfield], Marvin [Yancy], Kevin Yancy, Natalie [Cole], my mom, all of them grew up together, and I said to my parents “Man I need a record deal!” He [Reverend Fairchild] said , “Well come on, come on, go to Atlanta with me." He said, "You'll need some hotel money", so I went down there, and he fed me and took good care of me , and he said, "Go to your room , I'll call you when I need you." I didn’t know what was goin' on, and he called the room the next day and said, "Come downstairs, someone wanna meet you", and Curtis Mayfield’s sitting in the room! You know how your mouth just drops? There's nothing to say but "How you doin', Curtis, I love you and admire you." By them being friends the Rev erend just says, "Curtis - the man needs a record deal", so Curtis says,"Can you sing?" "Yeah, sure, he sang in my choir!" So Curtis says I’ll give him a record deal!"

Curtis was impressed with Lou, and they were working on an album for Curtom Records , writing half of the songs each, up until Curtis Mayfield's accident in 1985. Several of those songs appeared later on CDs, as Lou continued to work with colleagues of Curtis with his support.
"I never ever saw him with sadness on his face" recalls Lou. It seems to be a temperament they have had in common.

And Lou is still recording, now with Severn Records with labelmates such as Johnny Jones, formerly of the King Kasuals, and still touring. Speaking of his first tour in England in 2003: "
When I got there it was an amazing sight for me, people just wanted to touch me and take pictures of me,and oh god, it was just beautiful man!"

Back to the beginning of the story, in El Paso with those 'Groove Merchants', and then the b-side to Lou's funky It's A Man's Man's World:

The Groove Merchants (Lou Pride & The Funky Bunch) - There's Got To Be Someone For Me (Suemi 4557)

Lou Pride - Your Love Is Fading (Suemi 4571 B)

Buy CDs of Lou Pride's recordings from Severn Records. Jazzman Records also sell a vinyl special edition containing three reissue singles. A recorded interview with Lou Pride from 2004, by Drew Vergis, can be heard at Quotes by Kenny Smith come from the Suemi Records website. Further information about Lou Pride comes from liner notes to Lou Pride: The Suemi Sessions, written by Kym Fuller and 'Jazzman' Gerald Short. Check out Vincent's FuFu Stew at the moment for a fabulous link to Natalie Cole Live. Unverified 'JLC' story credited to Andrew Hamilton of the All Music Guide...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Return Of The Groove Merchant: Lou Pride Is Back!

I am in a groove this week, and the posts keep coming...

Great news for soul fans! The Groove Merchant, Lou Pride, is back in concert in the
UK this month. Sadly he isn't coming my way again to Brighton, but he will be at the following venues:

Oct 24 Canterbury Festival Club (St Alphege's Church) 01227 378188
Oct 25 London 100 Club 0208 460 6941
Oct 26 Stamford Arts Centre 01780 763203
Oct 27 Penrith Playhouse 01228 409795
Oct 28 Newcastle, The Cluny 0191 230 4474

Thanks to Harry Lang on the Yahoo Southern Soul Forum for tipping us all off to this!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

99 1/2 Just Won't Do: Brown Eyed Has Got To 100!

I have let another milestone pass me by... my post about The Chants was in fact my 100th published post.! With all of the half-started posts strewn in my blogger dashboard, I never realised...

To help me celebrate it, here is the late, the great, the wicked Wilson Pickett, to sing that ode to perfection, 99 1/2 Won't Do. I just hope 102 is enough! Accompanying him, The Alabama Christian Movement For Human Rights Choir sing the hymn and freedom song from which Pickett, Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper took their inspiration.

Carlton ReeseIn the summer of 1963, in the midst of the gruelling Birmingham, Alabama protests co-ordinated by Rev Fred Shuttlesworth of the ACMHR and Rev Martin Luther King of the SCLC, the Alabama Christian Movement Choir perfomed nightly at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in support of the protests. According to historian Wilson Fallin Jr: "In two organizations within the ACMHR, women made up the majority of the members. The ACMHR choir, formed in 1960, was intended to enhance the spirituality of the Monday night meetings. Twenty-three members formed the group. Most were Baptist women who sang in their church choirs and were accustomed to singing songs similar to those sung by the movement choir, including spirituals and gospel hymns. They sang "God Will Make a Way Some How," Walk with me Lord," and "Ninety-Nine and a Half Won't Do." One member of the choir remarked that "the choir sang with faith in God knowing that his power worked through their songs to give courage." In the mass meetings, female singers allowed their emotions to take over, and on many occasions, they had to be restrained by the ushers."

Choir conductor Carlton Reese adapted the lyrics to add new civil-rights phrases to a popular gospel song sung by Mother Katie Bell Nubin (mother of even more famous Sister Rosetta Tharpe). Reese is leading the singing, backed by a powerful thumping Hammond organ. This version was recorded by folk singer Guy Carawan. The recording served a dual purpose, giving nightly hope and strength to those taking part in the protest, but also as a conscious element of Project C, a strategy to confront the racialist system of segregation in the city head-on in a high-visibility strategy that would engage the entire nation. The singers themselves faced intimidation and arrest. Cleopatra Kennedy was 20 years old in 1963 when she sang solos for the choir. She recalls what it was like the first time she was sent to jail: "That first time, she was in jail for 14 days, but the group sang songs and stomped their feet on the iron beds to make their music. "Singing songs was our way of keeping our self-esteem up, of washing away fear," she says. The day after she was released, she went back on the picket line." When Martin Luther King was arrested and jailed in April of that year, local liberal white church leaders wrote to him urging him to tone down the movement's activities, calling them "unwise and untimely". His response was the famous Letter From A Birmingham Jail, with his powerful riposte: "For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." The situation would become even more ense later in that year, with the use of dogs and fire hoses against student and youth protestors, and the bombing of the 16th Street Church during a Sunday school session, with the tragic death of four children. It was in trying times like these that freedom songs could give hope and inspiration.

Jerry Wexler & Wilson PickettJump forward in time two years, to May 1965. Wilson Pickett arrived in Memphis courtesy of Jerry Wexler, who was sure that The Little Label That Could had the spark he needed to secure Pickett, former member of The Falcons, an elusive r&b hit. Pickett sat down with Steve Cropper, and within a matter of half-an-hour, they had come up with In The Midnight Hour and Don't Fight It, both taking the behind-the-beat Stax sound in a new direction by incorporating a behind-the-beat 'Jerk' rhythm. Not a bad night's work! So pleased was he with the sessions, that he sent each of the MGs a $100 thank-you gift.

Eddie Floyd publicity photoWexler and Pickett were eager to return in October and again in December 1965. Eddie Floyd, Wilson's old partner from The Falcons, Steve Cropper, keen to earn some more songwriting money, and Donald Dunn, impressed with Pickett's vocal ability, were all pleased to see him again. Jim Stewart was less keen, perhaps fearful that Atlantic Records were borrowing too much of the Stax sound. The MGs were joined this time by Isaac Hayes, brought in to play piano while Booker T Jones was at college. The new sessions were more difficult, as the group felt the pressure to reproduce what they had achieved in May. Nervous about the prospect, Steve Cropper turned to the experienced Eddie Floyd for advice about songwriting. Cropper said in an interview with Gerry Hershey: "He had been on the stage, and he knew what was going on... He was real helpful to me. Eddie knew the pulse on the street, he knew the pulse of the ghettos of Chicago and Detroit, and I didn't know jack shit about that..."

Eddie Floyd and Cropper had been working on a new song for a whole week, 634-5789, before Wilson arrived back in Memphis on 19th December. After hearing a tape, a clearly tense and nervous Pickett let fly: "This is it? This is my hit tune? It's a piece of shit!" Eddie Floyd had to be prised off his old buddy! But apparently, it had been no different in the old days with The Falcons...

Later on that day, Wilson had calmed down, and so had Eddie, so they went over to Pickett's hotel to write something else. Eddie and Steve noticed a Coca-Cola billboard, with the slogan 'Ninety-Nine And A Half Won't Do.' Recalling the gospel tune and the freedom song, and with Eddie suggesting they add that stop-start behind-the-beat jerk feel, soon Pickett had another classic in the can, so to speak!

Wilson Pickett at FAME with Jimmy Johnson and Clarence CarterThe songwriting and recording relationship was sometimes explosive but always professional, and could have produced even more hits, had not Jim Stewart become uncomfortable with the amount of studio time devoted to an Atlantic artist. Citing Pickett's 'drunkenness' (an assertion that Cropper and others hotly dispute, citing Pickett's sober dedication to every session), Stewart packed Pickett and Jerry Wexler back to New York. It was time for them to try to find similar magic at FAME Studios...

The Alabama Christian Movement Choir - 99 1/2 Won't Do

Wilson Pickett - Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do)

Read A Letter From A Birmingham Jail here...

Information from Soulsville: USA by Rob Bowman, Nowhere To Run by Gerry Hershey, and liner notes of Voices Of The Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966 by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Phyllis May. Wilson Fallin's article about the ACMHR and the role of women in the organisation can be found here. Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to read more and to study eye-witness accounts of events from 1956-1963. Quote from Cleopatra Kennedy from an interview for Baylor University magazine.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Isaac On His First Go Round: Sir Isaac & The Doo-Dads

In 1962, Isaac Hayes was graduating Manassas High School in Memphis, and contemplating whether to find a way to study for his early ambition of becoming a doctor, find a steady job at a local meat-packing company to support his young family, or to pursue a career in music...

After a guidance counsellor at school had persuaded him to enter a talent concert, which he won by singing Nat King Cole's "Looking Back", Isaac had begun to learn the baritone and alto sax with Lucian Coleman, and had begun to make contacts with some of Memphis' premier musicians, whom he would watch as they turned up to play at the clubs on Thomas Street in the 'North Chicago' district of Memphis.

In 1961, in one version of the story, he impressed respected band leader Ben Branch while singing "The Very Thought Of You" by Arthur Prysock, after being snuck into Currie's Club Tropicana, and sang three nights a week with the band for the next two years - backed by Branch, Floyd Newman on alto sax, Emerson Able on tenor sax, Larry Brown on bass guitar, Eddie Jones on piano, Herbert Thomas and Herman Green on trumpets, Big Bell James on drums, and Clarence Nelson on guitar. However, in another version of the story, told by band-member and eye-witness Howard 'Bulldog' Grimes over here at the amazing blog Lost And Found: The Memphis Sound, it was thanks to the rest of the band and Mr Johnnie Currie, the club owner, and a lot of shouting in the kitchen, that Ben Branch even allowed Isaac up on stage! As it turned out, Ben had been wrong, and Isaac was a great hit, singing Brook Benton's "Just A Matter Of Time"!

Isaac also sang gospel with The Morning Stars, and doo-wop with The Ambassadors, The Teen Tones and The Missiles, played r&b with Calvin & the Swing Cats, before graduating, and his singing was so good that he had been offered many college scholarships to study vocal music. Amongst those who had encouraged Isaac at the school was Emerson Able, school band teacher and tenor sax player with Ben Branch, who is featured here at Lost And Found: The Memphis Sound, and is recovering from a recent heart attack. At one point, the story goes, Emerson actually kicked Isaac out of the school band to get him to focus more, perhaps to remind him that playing nights wit Ben Branch and himself wasn't going to be enough without an education! Manassas High School is where Isaac Hayes chose to place his historical marker, in thanks for the encouragement they gave him. He continues to support the school in many ways, including attending events during Black History Month (in the photo below Isaac is standing with Dr Linkwood Williams, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American pilots and officers of WWII)Isaac Hayes with Dr Linkwood Williams, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, at Manassas High School, Black History Month 2005

However, in need of money, he had to turn them all down and started work full-time at the processing plant. It was only by chance that Isaac heard of an opportunity to perhaps continue in music. Sidney Kirk persuaded him to go down to Chips Moman's American Sound Studios for an audition for Chip's new Youngstown Records label.

Sir Isaac & The Doodads - Laura, We're On Our Last Go-Round (A-side) Youngstown 1962
Sir Isaac & The Doodads - Sweet Temptation (B-side)
Youngstown 1962

Moman decided to record them performing Laura, We're On Our Last Go-Round by Patti Ferguson, and Sweet Temptations by Merle Travis. The band was Isaac on vocals, Sidney on piano, Ronnie Capone on drums, and Tommy Cogbill on bass, while apparently, those sweet, tempting backing singers are in fact Isaac himself on an overdub. Isaac's singing on Laura demonstrates a purity and honesty in his tenor range, while Sweet Tmeptation begins to reveal the earthiness and allure possed by his baritone voice, which would later become his trademark. Sadly, the record went nowhere at the time, but Isaac Hayes turned up nearly every evening after work to learn more about recording from Chip, and hoping to get more work, perhaps as a backing singer or saxophonist. Just before Christmas, Sidney Kirk decided to quit music and go into the Air Force. And it was ironically the loss of his partner that set Isaac Hayes on the route to success. Fanny Kirk phoned him just before New Year to see if he knew a piano player for the New Year's Eve party at The Southern Club. Getting desperate for money, Isaac found himself saying that he would play the gig:

"After I accepted it, I broke into a cold sweat ... I was scared to death. I said "What am I doing? I don't know how to play piano. They gonna kill me!"

Read what happen
ed next here from an excerpt of Rob Bowman's Soulville USA: The Story of Stax Records...

Buy Soulsville USA. Now!

Information and photos for this post come courtesy of Rob Bowman's research, and the dedication of Scott and Preston Lauterbach at Lost And Found: The Memphis Sound. The recordings here are from a reissue by San American records (#950), of Little Rock Arkansas, where Joe Lee was sound engineer and did some work with Allen Orange in the 70s. Go over to the Soul Detective to read more about this...