RCA Italiana – PM 3581 1971
Track 1: Chissa’ Chi Sei
Here is a real fire cracker from Raffaella Carrà! After losing her just a short time ago (on 5 July 2021), I thought this would be a good time to post what I think is one of her best tracks! Shine on Raffaella!
Raffaella was definitely NOT obscure or unknown by any means, especially in Italy where she was adored for a lifetime. She oozed that Italian sassy-ness and bravado and was always a glamorous shining light whether singing on stage or on the screens as an actress or presenter. She was also appearing and performing up until a couple of years before her death, so there is plenty content on line about this wonderful woman, but here’s a brief run down I think you may find interesting.
Carrà was born on 18 June 1943 in Bologna to Raffaele Pelloni and Angela Iris Dell’Utri, her parents, however, separated shortly and Carrà spent most of her childhood between her mother’s bar and the ice cream shop in Bellaria – Igea Marina. She grew up watching the television programme Il Musichiere, a game show that required guests to sing, learning by heart the most popular songs. When she was only eight years old, she left the Romagna Riviera to continue her studies directly in Rome at the National Academy of Dance. At the age of 9, while walking with her mother in Rome and through a family friend, she met the director Mario Bonnard who cast her in his film Tormento del passato, in which she played the very young character of Graziella. At the age of 14 she dropped out of ballet classes.In 1952 she began her studies at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia to study the art and technique of cinematography and film, until she graduated in 1960. Carrà landed a few smaller roles in a couple of films in 1958 and 59, but she really made her debut as a recognized actress in 1960 in the film Long Night in 1943.
SWORDS AND SANDALS: Carra’s film roles would follow with a handful of “swords and sandals” films, an Italian film genre also know as peplum films, a sub-genre of largely Italian-made historical, mythological, or Biblical epics, that attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood historical epics of the time, such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus and The Ten Commandments.
She would appeared in films, including Fury of the Pagans (1960), Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops (1961), Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules (1961) as Princess Salirah, Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1962), Pontius Pilate (1962) (with the dashing Cocteau star Jean Marais as Ponzio Pilato) and Caesar the Conqueror (1962) with Dominique Wilms as Queen Astrid. There’s not a lot of public images around, with Carrà in these roles for some reason. Maybe she didn’t look at this early stage of her career as her best work? I did not know about this path of Raffaella! Most these films are available on line and look like so much fun! I’ve booked marked them all and so looking forward to watching them!
MUSICALS, COMEDIES AND ACTION THRILLER FILMS:
Carrà soon landed opportunities to play more popular roles, in a few comedies, musicals and action films, such as 5 Marines Per 100 Ragazze (1961), The Terrorist (1963), The Organizer (I Compagni) directed by Mario Monicelli and starring Marcello Mastroianni (1963) and La Celestina P… R… (1965).
In 1965, Carrà moved to Hollywood after signing a contract with 20th Century Fox, following in the footsteps of her fellow artists Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and Virna Lisi, Carrà. She appeared in the film Von Ryan’s Express alongside Frank Sinatra, Edward Mulhare and Trevor Howard. But feeling homesick and not liking life in Los Angeles, she decided to return to Italy that same year, and would star in more “local” productions such as the french film Le Saint prend l’affût (1966), Il Vostro Super Agente Flit, an Our Man Flint parody (1966), Why Did I Ever Say Yes Twice? (1969), and the french thriller Cran d’arrêt (1970).
1970’S AND THE MUSIC: In 1970 Carrà participated as a guest actress on Io, Agata e tu, a TV show hosted by the great Nino Ferrer. It was here where she could really show off her singing and dancing talents, which rocketed onwards!
She also presented the musical contest Canzonissima 71, which featured some pretty glamorous fashion, some back breaking dance moves on amazing sets, and a incredibly talented and dynamic house band that played some wild compositions just as “out there”! Here she would she release her hit single “Ma che musica Maestro“. She would also host the Canzonissima 74 edition.
After her success on the Italian market, in 1975 Carrà made her first appearance in Spain when she performed in the variety show Señoras y señores. During these years Carrà concentrated more on her singing career, achieving success in countries including Spain, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, England, Greece, and in particular Latin American countries.The world was becoming well aware of Carra! And there was no stopping her!
Carrà would release a good number of LP’s and singles in the seventies and did well out of them. Her first LP simply titled Raffaella, I’m just discovering is a rare beauty, and also includes this featured single, Chissa Chi Sei (Sookie Sookie). Many would recognise this immediately, as a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Sookie Sookie” from the first their self-titled studio album Steppenwolf, released in January 1968. And it likely is the most well know version. But in truth, the original version is from Don Covay & The Goodtimers, released in 1966 (later released in March 1967 just credited and released by Don Covay).
The song was co-written by Covay alongside Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, who was a big co writer for Stax and Atlantic, co-writing classic songs such as Knock On Wood, The Dock Of The Bay and In the Midnight Hour. This early version is gritty soul and tight, and a real dance floor number, and apparently Cropper plays guitar on the track. The Goodtimers had an incredible line up including Bernard Purdie on drums and Buddy Lucas on tenor saxophone!
Carra’s version is an absolute banger! Why? Well for starters it has Carrà singing it in Italian with her undeniable Carrà determination! Her energy along with the fiery production takes this song onto a far bigger dance floor! Great percussion throughout, with big horns and Hammond organs (sounding very Brian Auger-ish), this is the best version in my book! The great Paolo Ormi E La Sua Orchestra takes the credit for the arrangement, and if you’re into Italian big beat-psycho beat records of the seventies, you will recognize Paolo Ormi’s name associated with tracks like Spiaggia Libera, Cocco Secco and No No No, and also the rare LP releases of P.O.X. Sound 2 and Tastiere.
The LP also includes and amazing version of Foot Prints In The Moon by Johnny Harris Orchestra, titled Conta Su Di Me. This blew my mind! I have never heard a vocal version of this and I’m assuming Carrà wrote the lyrics. Although after a quick Google translate, I was a little disappointed the lyrics weren’t about anything to do with the moon, nor any space travel concepts. Composers Francis Lai and Liberace (I’m not kidding) would both release beautiful versions of the track also in the early seventies.
While many albums followed, and were very successful for Carrà….not a lot of tracks are to my taste to be honest. But she is fun to dig on line for, as there’s some pretty great performances, especially the live clips. She’s a joy to watch and had some great outfits! One absolute amazing performance is her pairing up with Adriano Celentano, singing the great Prisencolinensinainciuso, likely in 1972 or 73! There’s also a great clip of her singing Superman from her 1974 album Felicità Tà Tà, and I also suggest the great Italo disco track Dreamin’ Of You.
Carrà would continue to work in TV for many years, as an actress and presenter, well into the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s. She’d continue with her music path as well, and would appear again on euro vision, would do support benefit gigs and kept releasing records up until 2021. In October 2020, the musical film Explota Explota, based on Carrà’s songs and directed by Uruguayan Nacho Álvarez, was released in Spanish cinemas, a country where she was very much love by for a big part of her life. Carrà died in Rome on 5 July 2021, at the age of 78
Other notable Sooki Sooki covers (all pretty great)…
Roy Thompson 1966
The Primitives 1967
Ricardo Ray Orchestra 1968
Davy Jones and the Voodoo Funk Machine 1968
Tina Britt 1969
Etta James- from her Come A Little Closer 1974
Here’s some great clips from Canzonissima 1971
And here she is doing Chissà chi sei…
Columbia 3-41929 US 33RPM Released 1961
Track 1: Strange Man
I picked up this haunting love song a few years ago, but since, I haven’t really been able to find a lot about the singer or the release. Well, regardless of my inability, here’s a brief post hoping someone out there can shed some light on this relatively unknown singer.
So what 45Cat and Discogs are telling me, is that she did have 4 single releases from 1960 to 1963, all on Columbia. Her first single was an upbeat blues rocker called, Itty Bitty Love, flipped with the lovely slow and swaying So Little Time. Predominantly released in the US early in 1960, however 45Cat shows an odd distribution here in Australia later that same year, on the CBS Coronet label. It also actually looks like a panel sheet-sleeve came with a promotional record for this release, with a picture of the beautiful Hannah!
A 45Cat member who is fortunate enough to have a copy, also gratefully shares the back cover, and reads this about Dean…“Hannah Dean’s style is a mixture of rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer”. Irving Townsend, Executive Producer for Columbia Records in Hollywood, sent this personal evaluation of Hannah Dean’s talent to Columbia’s producers in New York along with Hannah’s first record – “So Little Time” backed with “Itty Bitty Love.”
The response was rapid. They agreed down to the last man. Hannah’s unique vocal quality is understandable because she has been a gospel singer since she was two and still sings regularly in a Los Angeles Baptist Church where her mother serves as minister. Until two years ago she was a Los Angeles house wife, completely unaware that she could be an extraordinary popular singer.
She was heard at a church by a Los Angeles talent scout who suggested immediately that Hannah should consider a popular career. Hannah told him frankly that she had no formal training and only sang popular music to herself and a few friends. Nevertheless, she was bolstered by his confidence and agreed to make the demonstration record which soon after brought her a Columbia recording contract. Hannah’s Dean’s first record launches for her a career as promising as it was unanticipated.
I also came across a fellow blogger with similar record collecting habits, and found a link on their The Listening Post blog, that pointed me to this short review from The Billboard dated September 5, 1960. It reads… HANNAH DEAN is a new name on the scene via the release of her first Columbia Record, ‘So Little Time/Itty Bitty Love’. Until two months ago she was a Los Angeles housewife whose only singing outlet was the L.A Baptist church. She was heard at the church by a talent scout who encouraged her to make a demonstration record that found its way to Columbia Records and resulted in a contract. Irving Townsend, Executive producer for Columbia in Hollywood, describes Miss Dean’s style as a “mixture of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer.”
In 1962, Dean released Open Sesame / Without your Love. At this very time, I cannot find even a sound bite of this release. There are a couple of copies on ebay (not big money) but unfortunately not one seller supplies an audio sample. So I’m at a loss to tell you anything about this one.
Dean’s Gospel righteousness roots and vocal capabilities come out for her 1963 release You, You, You. The B side High Noon has everything I love about the beautiful popcorn genre, and now makes me want to get my hands on a copy.
So back to Strange Man. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this release is quite unknown, especially as it sits on one of the bigger labels. The production is absolute killer. It has all the ingredients, the devilish blues guitar work from intro to end, the flute, Dean’s deep soul lines as well as the backing vocals, all sitting in the exact right place. When I hear tracks like this, I am aware this is no lost recording accident. Everyone in that recording studio at that time knew what exactly was being produced. Imagine as a musician, coming home from the studio late at night and realising what you were just a part of. And being in the midst of this truly holy and graceful Hannah Dean! January 16, 1961 Billboard Music Weekly states “Strange Man – On this side the thrush turns in another attractive performance on an unusual piece of bluesy material. Two sides show off her strong pipes”.
On the flip is one of many many covers of (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over, originally released in January 20, 1939, by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra, with Vocal Refrain by Bea Wain. I might go to hell for saying this, but Dean’s version is smoking hot. There’s something about her commitment that maybe can only come from that very deep part of the soul of a gospel singer. There are some beautiful versions of this song out there, from artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nancy Wilson and my personal favourite from Aretha Franklin, and this Dean version sits up high along side these.
So where does this odd 33rpm 7″ release fit in? To be honest, I’m not sure as there’s no catalogue I could find online of this particular release. There is one small hint which is Columbia Marcas Reg. appears on the label, so possibly this is a Spanish release. But Marcas is also Portuguese, and as many Brazilian 7’s come with the 33rpm format, maybe this is it’s origin?
Should we be sad that so many of these unknown songs that surface today, are hidden in the past with no real leads to the artist and their faces? Or should we respect their gospel roots and maybe it was their decision that stardom and popularity wasn’t something as important to them. Tonight, with the lights dimmed down low, I can place the needle down gently, and be grateful that singers like Hannah Dean did gift us with at least a few beautiful songs we can hear and appreciate today. And be thankful, many years ago, these great ladies did have that fleeting time behind that microphone, that is here to stay, and forever.
I hope you can also hear the honest beauty of this track and Hannah Dean. She passed away on May 6, 2004 at the age of 71.
UPDATE! So thanks to my good friend Kristy, who knows how to really dig deep into the hidden corners of the internet, some light has been shed onto Hannah and her career path. It looks like Hannah pursued an acting career in theater and also had a good run in film and TV. Although looks like many TV roles were the type cast “maid” characters and similar. Thanks to DJ Soup for also recognising her as an actress.
Here’s some, but not all of her screen appearances and plots…
The Black Six Hannah Dean as Mrs. Daniels – 1973 “Six times tougher than Shaft! Six times rougher than Superfly! See the 6 biggest, baddest and best waste 150 motorcycle dudes!” A black high school student is caught dating a white girl by the girl’s brother. He and his white supremacist motorcycle gang beat the boy to death. The boy’s brother an African American veteran of the Vietnam War hears about it and his motorcycle gang, known as the Black Six, vow to avenge his brother’s death.
The World’s Greatest Lover 1977 Hannah Dean as The Maid Directed and written by Gene Wilder Starring Dom DeLuise as Adolph Zitz and Carol Kane as Annie Hickman. A neurotic baker travels to Hollywood to attend a talent search for an actor to rival the great Valentino. Although not an actor, through blind luck he succeeds, to a certain degree.
Every Girl Should Have One 1978 Hannah Dean as Ernestine. Also starring Zsa Zsa as Olivia Wayne, and Z-man himself, John Lazar as Chris. A million dollar diamond theft involving unlikely thieves, zany lovers and a fast talking maid sets this comedy caper zooming from sophisticated discos to exciting chase scenes all in a spirit of good, innocent fun.Mother, Jugs & Speed 1976 Looks like Hannah may be unaccredited in this American black comedy film? It stars Bill Cosby as Mother, Raquel Welch as Jugs, Harvey Keitel s Tony “Speed” Malatesta, and Larry Hagman as employees of an independent ambulance service trying to survive in Los Angeles. Also stars Toni Basil as the junkie.
Out Of The Blue 1979 12 Episodes Hannah Dean as Gladys (The house keeper) This one was a popular but brief TV show about Random, an angel-in-training who is assigned to live with a suburban Chicago family, while trying to earn his wings by doing good deeds. Hannah had a big part in this series.
This article was found on the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) Sun, Sep 30, 1979.
Hannah Dean was born into music in her Native New Orleans. She was giving concerts in church at the age of 3 and literally sung her way through life. She completed a 6 month run of “The Evolution of the Blues” on stage just before the production start of “Out Of The Blue”.
After her sixth child and the Watts Riot inadvertently started her on her acting career. She had decided to cancel all singing dates until after h the birth but worked with young people in Watts teaching choral work. In 1965, following the riot, her Watts Community Youth Choir became affiliated with the Mafundi Institute…a culture center created in the devastated area. There she won a role in the stage production “Don’t Bother Me, I Can Cope”. This led to other theatrical productions that included Porgy and Bess with Mickey Rooney.
She began recording in the early 50’s with a gospel song “Every Day and Every Hour” with The Branch Gospel Singers. This was followed by “Baby My Love” on an obscure label and then she was signed by Columbia Records where she recorded “So Little Time” Without Your Love” and Itty Bitty Love (backed by The Blossoms). At this time, she meet songwriter Jon Hendrick, who had just written “The Evolution Of The Blues” Some of the numbers were sung by Mahalia Jackson at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Jackson cancelled her tour and Columbia’s Erwin Townsend Suggested Dean. She received a standing ovation which prompted Columbia to record “Evolution” with Dean singing the gospel songs. Dean went on to sing “Evolution” at the Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall and on a Canadian tour.
The Jon Hendricks LP release of Evolution Of The Blues Song from 1960 was released on Columbia and credited with The Hannah Dean & Chorus. Hendricks is one of the originators of vocalese, which adds lyrics to existing instrumental songs and replaces many instruments with vocalists, and is considered one of the best practitioners of scat singing. A very interesting article discovered here, on the live performance of Evolution Of The Blues, with a brief interview from Hendricks and Dean.
Also found this but not too sure what release it is attached too? “Hannah Dean Explains it All”
Link to Getty image of Hannah Dean publicity portrait for Columbia Records in 1963.
Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien was born on 16 April 1939, in West Hampstead, London, and grew up in a very influential music loving family. She learnt how to sing at home, and it was her childhood friends that first gave the young rough ‘n’ tumble tomboy her more suited name, Dusty.
By the late 50’s, Dusty had obviously been influenced with the music scene that was getting around town, and had grown into quite a fashionable and stylish young lady, ditching her glasses and finding her own look. She also was very keen to get out there and sing, and by 17 she had made her professional debut as a singer at a small club near Sloane Square. While she would continue to perform folk music as a solo artist, at small London clubs (apparently she was paid less than £10 a night), in ’58 she spotted an advert in The Stage from an established sister singing act, who were looking for a third member.
They were called the Lana Sisters, and was formed by Riss Chantelle along with Lynne Abrams. Under the management of the Joe Collins agency, the trio secured bookings on television’s Six-Five Special and Drumbeat, and scored big with tours alongside Cliff Richard and Adam Faith. They also signed a contract with the U.K.’s Fontana Records, and between 1958 and 1960, they released seven singles…but it was all short lived for Dusty. In 1960 she left the group to join her brother Dion O’Brien and his friend Tim Feild, who had been working as a duo, The Kensington Squares. Dion became Tom Springfield, and Mary became Dusty Springfield, and the folk-pop trio The Springfields, was born. The Lana Sisters’ Riss Long, who had been calling herself Riss Lana, became Riss Chantelle and formed The Chantelles, and had some moderately successful records in the mid-60s.
Tom Springfield was a very knowledgeable folk singer, songwriter and arranger, and with the groups strong vocal harmonies as well as Dusty’s powerful lead, the mix was to prove perfect for success. They were signed to Philips Records in London and released their first single, Dear John, in 1961, followed by two UK chart hits with Breakaway and Bambino. They scored numerous television appearances and quickly the trio soon became very popular in the UK. Feild would be soon replaced by Mike Hurst, but the Springfields became even more successful. In 1962, their version of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” reached the US Top 20 (Billboard), the first single by a British group ever to do so. The record also reached #1 in Australia!
The Springfields would go on to sell millions of records and score big on the charts, however Dusty felt limited by the group’s folksy act and Tom’s lead role within the trio, and also a shared frustration towards their growing American audience that mistook them for a country western group. At the end of 1963, Dusty decided to leave for a solo career, at which point the group disbanded.
In November 1963 Springfield released her first solo single, I Only Want to Be with You, which was was produced by Johnny Franz in a manner similar to Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”. Co-written and arranged by Ivor Raymonde, the instant smash hit rose to No. 4 on the UK charts, remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, and it sold over one million copies! And on 1 January 1964, it was one of the first songs played on Top of the Pops, BBC-TV’s new music programme.
On 17 April 1964 Dusty issued her debut album A Girl Called Dusty which included mostly cover versions of her favourite songs including Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me, The Shirelles’ Mama Said, and the Burt Bacharach song Wishin’ and Hopin‘, which became a US Top 10 hit. She also released an incredible Italian version entitled Stupido Stupido on a 7 picture sleeve was is just ridiculously awesome!
In December 1964 Dusty’s tour of South Africa was controversially terminated, and she was deported, after she performed for an integrated audience at a theatre near Cape Town, which was against the then government’s segregation policy. That same year, she was voted the Top Female British Artist of the year in the New Musical Express poll, topping Lulu, Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black. Springfield received the award again for the next three years.
Dusty would go on to release a string of successful 45’s and lp’s in the next few years, but lets touch on some of the really great stuff…well at least my 45 picks. Firstly in ’67, there’s the Philips release, What’s It Gonna Be…killer dusty stuff! Then there’s the spine tingling Am I the same Girl from ’69…um…wow! And then of course, from 1970, there is Spooky! As if saxophonist Mike Sharpe’s original version wasn’t fantastic enough, Dusty sprinkles her soul over it like haunting seductive icing…her voice dripping like warm honey all over the lyrics taken thank-you very much from the Classic IV’s ’67 release.
The Memphis Sessions: In ’69, Dusty who was now signed to Atlantic, was hoping to reinvigorate her career and boost her credibility as a soul artist, and turned to the roots of soul music. Although she had sung R&B songs before, she had never released an entire album solely of R&B songs, but was about to release in my opinion, her strongest and most important album, entitled Dusty in Memphis. She began recording the Memphis sessions at the infamous American Sound Studios which were recorded by the A team of Atlantic Records. It included producers Jerry Wexler (who coined the term “Rhythm and Blues”), Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, the back-up singers Sweet Inspirations and the instrumental band Memphis Cats, (who had in the past backed Wilson Pickett, King Curtis and Elvis Presley), led by guitarist Reggie Young and bassist Tommy Cogbill. It sounds like these recordings were a challenge for Wexler, who was not used to working with an artist who was in such habitual pursuit of perfection.
To say yes to one song was seen as a lifetime commitment for Dusty, who claims that she actually did approve of Son of a Preacher Man and Just a Little Lovin. Wexler was surprised, given Dusty’s talent, by her apparent insecurity, but she herself later attributed her initial unease to a very real anxiety about being compared with the soul greats who had recorded in the very same studios. Eventually Dusty’s final vocals were recorded in New York.
While Memphis did include the now absolute Dusty classic Top 10 UK hit, Son of a Preacher Man, this powerful and incredible album did not garner significant commercial success upon its original release, and remained out of print for many years!
Faithful would have been the title of Dusty’s third album for Atlantic Records, which was entirely recorded in the first half of 1971. Two singles from the planned album, I Believe In You (flipped with Someone Who Cares), and Haunted (flipped with Nothing Is Forever, a track that supposedly was never intended for the album) were released in the U.S. in the fall of ’71, but both releases failed to chart nationally. Due to poor response (although how hard they were promoted I don’t know), and a rumoured falling out with Atlantic executives, Springfield’s contract with the company was not renewed, and the planned album was never given an official release, catalogue number, or title. Apparently a third single was planned I’ll Be Faithful, where the title Faithful was taken…but that never surfaced either.
For years it was believed that a fire in the mid-seventies at one of Atlantic’s storage sites was thought to have destroyed the Faithful session tapes, leaving only the two singles (and the possible third single) from the sessions intact. However, in the nineties the album’s producer, Jeff Barry, was asked about the sessions and revealed he had kept completed stereo mixes of all the tracks. Most were released as bonus tracks on the Rhino Records/Atlantic deluxe remastered edition of Dusty in Memphis in 1999.
Haunted is a profoundly beautiful soulful composition, and probably way to mature for commercial pop success. Dusty wasn’t the kind of gal to write for the only purpose of seeking sales and chart success, although she probably would have been grateful for the recognition. She was an incredible musician only interested in moving forward into new challenging territories…with no interest at all in recording the same song over and over, regardless of the success she may have received from past hits. Here she’s giving us that warm pure tone (that’s unmatched by any), as we would expect from her, but there’s also a new sound here…and that, she must have found exciting. I love this song. Loved it the first time I heard it…and I love it even more, every time I’ve heard it since…and believe you me…that’s a lot of times! Dusty would admit to be very demanding and standing her ground when it came to her art. But how could anyone question her talent and vision, or stand in her path of exploration…it’s just mind blowing.
After the release of Dusty in Memphis, Springfield struggled to find musical compatibility with record labels, producers and musicians who all either misunderstood her vision or wanted her to be something other than herself. This resulted in a string of standard albums that achieved nominal success, but I can’t help but think that this path Dusty was on, was a path that she was given and not one that she chose, or was searching for.
She had some tough times…her alcoholism and drug dependency affected her musical career.She was hospitalised several times for self-harm, by cutting herself, and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. She was constantly be “accused” about her sexual preferences and couldn’t understand the prying interest into her personal life. “Many people say I’m bent, and I’ve heard it so many times… I know I’m perfectly as capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. More and more people feel that way and I don’t see why I shouldn’t”.
In January 1994 while recording her final album, A Very Fine Love, in Nashville, Dusty Springfield felt ill. When she returned to England a few months later, her physicians diagnosed breast cancer. She received months of radiation treatment and the cancer was in temporary remission. The next year, in apparent good health, Springfield set about promoting the album. In mid-1996 the cancer had returned, and in spite of vigorous treatments, she died on 2 March 1999. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, had been scheduled two weeks after her death.
Note…During the Memphis sessions in November 1968, Dusty suggested to the heads of Atlantic Records to sign the newly formed Led Zeppelin. She knew the band’s bass player John Paul Jones, who had backed her in concerts before. Without having ever seen them and largely on Dusty’s advice, the record company signed a deal of $200,000 with them. For the time being, that was the biggest deal of its kind for a new band.
Track 1 – You’ve Been Gone Too Long Track 2 – You’re Letting Me Down Mary Ann Sexton was born In Greenville, South Carolina and was yet another child raised by a family heavily influenced by gospel music (a time it seems when heavenly angels were certainly handing out some great voices to their young followers). Her path was always going to be singing amongst her church choir, but she was also open to talents shows on the side, which by no surprise ,she won more than a few times.
In 1967, Ann had her first recording experience as a featured singer on Elijah and the Ebonies’ I Confess on Gitana (credited as Mary Sexton). A beautiful soul ballad that’s hard to come by, and a track that really demonstrates the beginnings of her talent…a teasing taste of things to come from Sexton. The Ebonies’ Tenor and Alto sax player, Melvin Burton (who gained notoriety as a youth playing for Mosses Dillard), must have shared a certain spark with Ann, falling in love, they married soon after and started their own group, Ann Sexton and the Masters of Soul.
Soon song writer David Lee would discover the dynamic soul group while performing at a club in North Carolina in 1970. He had the small label Impel at the time and had to have them on board, so he penned the ballad You’re Letting Me Down, and also with the coloration of Ann and Melvin, what must be the most incredible soul B side ever…You’ve Been Gone Too Long. I’m not evening going to try and explain the purity and greatness of this track. If you don’t feel it, then there’s nothing I can do to help you…although I’ve never know anyone not to love this track. And the A side is a little monster ballad too.
Now I usually strive with all my might, to sort first pressings whenever I can, but this red Impel 1971 pressing has eluded me for some time. It rarely surfaces around the collectors market although a little while back, a handful did show up briefly. And it is rumored that this was due to a freak find someone was fortunate to discover…a box of mint jukebox 45’s, including a nice handful of these pressings. While they did prove to be way over my budget, maybe it’s a regret I may now have to live with.
The Impel release gave Ann the recognition she needed and soon after, was signed to Nashville’s soul DJ and label owner John Richbourg’s Seventy Seven Records. In 72, this killer double sider was thankfully re-released, (Richbourg must have realised how deserving and worthy these two great compositions would be for his label) but even this first Seventy Seven pressing for Sexton isn’t an easy one to find. There is an alternate label press also, with a later more graphic, brighter label, and while I do believe it is a slightly later press, I’m not sure what the time frame between each pressing is (anyone out there know?)
1972-74 were busy years for Sexton, releasing five 7’s, including the must have You’re Losing Me (penned by Ann and Melvin) flipped with the great You’re Gonna Miss Me. Recording in Nashville and Memphis, she also released her first album Loving You, Loving Me produced by Lee and Richbourg (Ann and Melvin penned six of the songs)….to this day, a much sorted LP.
1977 saw the release of Ann’s 2nd studio album The Beginnings (Sound Stage 7)… now a classic album with some beautiful ballads like Be Serious and I Want To Be Loved, but it also included the very danceable You Can’t Lose With The Stuff I Use and the soulie I Had A Fight With Love. Unfortunately there was only one single release from the album, I’m His Wife.
After her second album, Ann decided to leave the music industry and relocate to New York. Looking to escape the stressful politics of the music industry, she embraced a career change. Her desire to help the community inspired her to become a school teacher.
I am pleased to report that today, Sexton has been rediscovered, and due to popular demand, she is now on the occasion performing back on the stage, where she can once again share that incredibly beautiful voice. But I believe Ann has never needed a stage to shine, she has warmed many turntables and dance floors around the world for many years, whether she has been aware of it or not.
The Stovall Sisters may have come from a strong gospel upbringing, but this thumpin’ delivery is a hymn praising winged angels with halos of fiery funk!
Born in Kentucky and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, sisters Nettie, Lillian, and Rejoyce, were three of ten children of James and Della Stovall. Their mother was keen to lay down a musical path for her children, by kick-starting their singing voices from around the age of two, and as they grew up, they would tour the roads of the Midwest and South with the family gospel groups.
The first family group was known as the Four Loving Sisters (the name was later changed to the Valley Wonders) and consisted of the four eldest sisters, Billie, Dorothy, Frances, and Georgia. Prior to joining the Valley Wonders, Wayne, Nettie, Lillian, and Joyce performed in a separate family act known as God’s Little Wonders for as long as their childhood held out. When they grew too big to persist as ‘Little Wonders they inherited the mantle of the Valley Wonders from the four older sisters whose careers had succumbed to marriages. Della managed and negotiated recording contracts for them, who also recorded as The Stovall Family (accompanied by two brothers).
In 1964 the family moved to Oakland where the already seasoned performers finished high school and began worrying about economic survival. They continued to sing in church but the Stovall sisters had to support themselves with weekday jobs. During this period they broadened their repertoire to include rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues which gained them entrance to Oakland area night clubs, sometimes under the name of Sister Three.
In 1968 the three girls decided to go for it, a full time professional rock n’ roll career. Their initial step in this direction was naive but direct. According to Lillian “We put an ad in the Oakland Tribune – Three black girls looking for a Caucasian band to sing with”. The only serious response was from a man named William Tuckway. “He came right in and sat on the floor like we’d be knowing him for years”. Tuckway would soon co-produced their debut album on Reprise along with Erik Jacobsen.
Hang On In There is the funk standout on their sole Warner/Reprise gospel/R&B crossover album and I’m so damn thankful that it was issued on a beautiful and loud 45. It looks like it was only released as a promo two same-sided track, in mono and stereo. It’s a big groove song…and a wildly uptempo-ed journey! The band is hot, tight and super sharp…going from album credits-Bass: Doug Killmer, Drums: Bill Meeker, Guitar: Dennis Geyer and on Horns: Ron Stallings, John Wilmeth, Hart McNee, David Ginsburg and Neil Kantor. Too good not to share and deserves far more attention than it gets!
The three sisters maintained a successful career as studio professionals and touring backup singers for an impressive list of well-known artists that include The Staple Singers, Bobby Womack, Ray Charles & The Blind Boys, BB King, Big Mama Thornton, Etta James, Jackie Wilson, Joe Tex, Parliament-Funkadelic and briefly performed as the Ikettes with Ike & Tina Turner, 1967.
The Stovall Sisters would go on to record unreleased tracks for an album with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey and Maurice White but would disband before its release. The Stovall Sisters currently reside in Oakland, Calif.
Recommended reading Opal Louis Nations
Jubilee 45-5459 US Year 1963
Track 1 – You’re No Good Track 2 – Don’t Call Me Anymore
If there’s ever a 7″ that deserves an A for “attitude”, then this is it!
Jersey gal Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warwick (sister of Dionne Warwick, niece of Cissy Houston and cousin of Whitney Houston) brings us this dizzying monster two-sider from way back in the early 60’s on Jubilee.
A young Dee Dee sang with her sister and their aunt in the New Hope Baptist Church Choir in Newark, New Jersey. Eventually the three women formed the gospel trio the Gospelaires, and at a performance with the Drinkard Singers at the Apollo Theater in 1959, the Warwick sisters were recruited by a record producer for session work and, along with Doris Troy, subsequently became a prolific New York City area session singing team.
Dee Dee began her solo career in 1963 cutting You’re No Good, produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, then in ’64 on the Tiger Label, releasing the lovely ballad Don’t Think My Baby’s Coming Back, before signing with Mercury in 65.
Vee-Jay’s head a&r man Calvin Carter found You’re No Good while visiting New York City in search of material for his label’s roster and he originally intended to cut it with Dee Dee, but as he recalls, “when I went to rehearsal with the tune, it was so negative, I said, ‘Hey, guys don’t talk negative about girls, because girls are the record buyers. No, I better pass on that.’ So I gave the song to Betty Everett”. Still uncertain as to why there’s an exception when Betty sings it however, maybe it was her more “acceptable” feminine approach she gave it?
Dee Dee’s delivery and conviction is nasty on this little gem. The tempo is scathing, the backing vocals are damn sassy! The song hits you in the head like on old piece of hard timber….she’s letting you know! And just as you think you can’t take anymore, you soon discover the rusty nail in the form of some serious fuzz tone delivered by a short but intimidating guitar rant.
While this tune proved to be much more successful for Everett, which she released only 2 months later in November, (the single peaked at number fifty-one on the Hot 100, and at number five on “Cashbox’s R&B Locations” chart), I’m definitely a lot more infatuated with this dirty raw punchier version of Dee Dee’s from what I like to call her “early punk” R&B days. I don’t wish to ever take anything away from Betty’s take, which really is something special (it may start off quite sweet and slick, but it builds up and gets swinging, and she does finally get a bit worked up towards the end).
There’s only one thing better than a two-sider, and as in this case, two tracks that you could say relate to each other in subject (another great example is Ann Sexton’s You’re Losing Me flipped with You’re Gonna Miss Me). The flip Don’t Call Me Any More is simply great and again, hard hitting, and makes this 7″ release quite an interesting one, when in a time most soul songs were about love and sorrow in relationships, and not so much about attitude and angst.
On a sad note…
The more I research about these wonderful artist’s that gave us these incredible songs, too often I find that there’s another darker side to their story. Dee Dee Warwick struggled with narcotics addiction for many years and was in failing health for some time. Her sister was with her when she died on October 18, 2008 in a nursing home in Essex County, New Jersey, aged 66.
Other Dee Dee recommendations!
Dee Dee Warwick – Foolish Fool – Mercury 72880 Year 1969
Dee Dee Warwick – Cold Night In Georgia – Atlantic 2091-057 Year 1971
Detroit based sibling funksters, The Jackson Sisters, bring you this absolute killer version of Mark Capanni’s I Believe In Miracles, circa 1973.
The Jackson Sisters were a soul family group from Compton, California, comprising of Jacqueline Jackson-Rencher (the eldest), Lyn Jackson, Pat Jackson, Rae Jackson and Gennie Jackson (the youngest). The girls would practice on an old beaten up piano in their dad’s garage, composing songs after school, and would draw all the neighboring kids to watch. After a handful of talent show wins, the young siblings soon found themselves opening for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, then known as The Mark Taper Form. It was Smokey’s farewell concert (entitled The Last Miracle) and include other feature acts including Al Green, Edwin Starr, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers and The Three Degrees.
It was 1973, and within that same year, they signed a contract with a small recording company, Prophesy Records in Beverly Hills, California. That is when they recorded I Believe in Miracles, co-written by Mark Capanni & produced by Bobby Taylor. This track is truly a rich and rare funk, soul classic, with amazing harmony vocals, and a tempo that really would light any dance floor on fire! I believe it is the youngest of the sisters, Gennie, that takes most of the lead vocals on the song (I’m guessing she’s running that bridge that leads to the monster chorus), and her vocal power is pure brilliance. And no surprise that they were nominated for best new vocal group for the Black Image Awards and best new female artist by Record World Magazine in 1974-1975 which was announced on Soul Train an aired Feb. 22, 1975.
Sadly the parent album, scheduled to be released on Tiger Lily Records in 1976, was withdrawn, although a few promo copies went into circulation and they now retail for big bucks as one would expect. The musical tracks were the works of the late great Gene Page. The vocals were produced by Pete Moore of the famous Smokey Robinson & The Miracles along with Bobby Taylor.
While they did get to release a few 45’s, Miracles is the most sought after and not too easy to find. Originally on a red Prophesy label with the flip (Why Can’t We Be) More Than Just Friends, and also as a white label promo with 2 heavy cuts of track A, one in big fat mono! There was also a release on UK label Mums Records, and a re-release on Polydor in 1976.
The original version of I Believe In Miracles, which was first recorded in 1973 and performed by Mark Capanni, is an absolute beautiful soul masterpiece, well deserved of the highest praise and well worth tracking down. Despite the Capanni version having been pressed, it failed to make an impact and the record was pulled, making it very sought after. But it was the Jackson Sisters that did the dance floor business, with their feverish thumpin’ funk monster, which was unleashed in 1974.