Track 1: I’m A Believer
Track 2: Rhythm
Leo Morris was born on November 13, 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father was a banjo player (his family originated from Nigeria), and his mother was French, and he had three brothers and a sister that played drums, so it was inevitable that he would follow the same path. Leo remembers his first day at school and the moment his teacher gave him a drum instantly when she had learnt this kid was another “Morris”. And he can also recall his mother’s reaction when he walked in with yet another drum for the house.
Leo knew at a young age that music was going to be his life. One Mardi Gras day, some Dixieland guys came by seeking a drummer, and asked his mother if he could play on the back of this truck with these old musicians. Some how they convinced her to let the 9 year old go with them. They had a big bass drum and one snare drum and a symbol, and they built up some beer cases for a seat for him. “This kid can play” acknowledged one of the musicians, and after about six hours of touring through the streets of New Orleans, they started passing out money and gave the surprised kid two $5 bills.
In his early teens Leo was snatched up by Arthur Neville who had band The Hawkettes, and believes he was only chosen because all his other brothers were already working at that time. That was the launching of his professional playing career…playing rhythm and blues. They would back up all of the important artists that would come to New Orleans, including Big Joe Turner and Muddy Waters, and would go on the road with people like Fats Domino, Eddie Bo, Earl King, and Lloyd Price. Thanks to Joe Jones recommendation (who had the hit You Talk Too Much) he scored his first trip to New York as Sam Cooke’s personal drummer, and that was certainly an eye opener!
For a time Leo became Jerry Butler’s musical director, along with Curtis Mayfield (who was the guitarist) and was recording a lot of music in Chicago. Curtis put The Impressions back together (between 1958 and 1960 they performed as Jerry Butler & The Impressions) and made Leo an offer he couldn’t refuse, so he joined up. After about three and a half years, deciding that the Chicago winters were too cold, and the fact that his wife, who was the lead singer with The Crystals, was living in New York, he moved back to the big city. Working the Apollo Theatre at nights, Leo would cross over afterwards to the jazz clubs like Birdland, “just to hear something else”. This music was jazz, and he was experiencing it by watching Miles Davis and Coltrane, Cannonball and the likes. In an interview with allaboutjazz.com, he says…”I’d just be hanging around, listenin’ at what they were sayin.’ I was too young to have a drink in Birdland. They had a space in the club they called the Peanut Gallery. That’s where all the young people used to go and have a Coca Cola and listen to the music”.
One night he wandered over to the Five Spot to hear a guy that all the members in the band were talking about, who played three horns at one time…a cat called Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Completely amazed, Leo asked the drummer if he could step in and play one tune with Kirk. After the song had finished, Kirk turned around and said, “Who’s that on them drums? Keep that beat! Keep that beat!” Leo ended up playing the whole set. Night after night, he kept on attracting he right attention. American jazz trumpeter, singer, and composer Kenny Dorham spotted him and asked if he could do concert with him. After a couple rehearsals, he played the concert at Town Hall with Dorham’s band. Also on he bill on the same night were Freddie Hubbard’s band and Lee Morgan’s band who also wanted to know who this new young New Orleans “jazz” drummer was and how do we get him? “I had this rhythm no one else could play”.
Never playing jazz before, he was now “the” drummer to have. After playing in Betty Carter’s band with (George Coleman, John Hicks and Paul Chambers) he joined up with Lou Donaldson in 1967, who started as a sideman in more or less straight ahead jazz settings, but now had begun experimenting with more bluesy beat-heavy styles, and recorded a string of influential albums on the Blue Note label. The first LP (recorded April 7, 1967 and released August 1967 ) was Alligator Boogaloo, a classic jazz masterpiece that also included Lonnie Smith on organ George Benson on guitar. Leo record a dozen or so LP’s with Donaldson and Blue note in the sixties, and would continue to work with a barrage of other Jazz “gods” at this time. His collaboration with jazz saxophonist Rusty Bryant is standout for me (by this time Leo Morris had changed his name to Idris Muhammad upon his conversion to Islam). In 1971 he recorded on the Fire Eater LP for the Prestige label, releasing that killer 7″ edited version of Fire Eater which includes that furious break, and is always sort by collectors. He also recorded on the Soul Liberation and Wild Fire LP’s.
In 1971 Prestige released Black Rhythm Revolution!, Muhammad’s debut album in the driver’s seat, and would be accompanied by a double funk 7″ which include two strong covers, Charles Wright’s Express Yourself and James Brown’s Super Bad! Although perhaps considered less intense than the title might lead one to believe, the LP is the opportunity for Muhammad to express and reveal just what this man is capable of, a taste test of what is to come. Peace and Rhythm was released later that same year, and this one comes with far more praise from the enthusiasts. A dynamic LP with more of everything and everyone, it includes his regular line up of greats (Melvin Sparks, Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Jimmy Lewis and others) but also in came with the new addition of his wife Sakinah Muhammad.
Sakinah Muhammad was a former member of The Crystals and back then was known as Dolores “LaLa” Brooks (she also converted to Islam with Idris). Brooks was the second youngest of 11 children, and first displayed her talent by singing gospel music in church. At age seven, she took part in her siblings’ gospel group called the Little Gospel Tears, where they sang in Brooklyn. She was discovered in an after-school program by Crystals member Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew and her mother, who invited her to join the girl group as a replacement for a departing member. The youngest member of the group, she joined when she was just 13 years old and only after 2 years she became the lead singer. Coupling La La’s strong voice with Phil Spector’s (pictured) Wall of Sound, the Crystals would become one of the defining girl groups of the 1960s. Her first hit as lead singer was Da Doo Ron Ron, a top 5 hit in both the United States and United Kingdom, and then was soon followed by Then He Kissed Me. The 7″ to track down in my opinion is the post Spector uptempo R&B killer I Got A Man, released in 1966 on United (flipped to Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby). There are a handful of versions of this song and all great, and I’m guessing the Sugar N Spice version as it has a 1964 release, is the original (although song credits differ on each release). There is a rare issue by Barbara Harris of The Toys released in 1965, which I’m almost certain is the same version officially released by The Toys the next year. Again, all nifty versions worth tracking down.
So back to the featured track I’m A Believer, in which I question, is even possible to find a more spiritually uplifting song ever? You have to realise when listening to this, the strength and bond Idris and Sakinah must have shared together. The chemistry between every band member is exhilarating. Idris’ complex rhythms somehow come across with such nimbleness and feels so unconfined. Melvin Sparks on guitar and Jimmy Lewis on bass, together collaborate as the backbone that allows Sakinah to express her beautiful vocal lines and melodies. As in many cases, the 7″ has a cut down version and only runs at just over 2.30 mins, where as the longer LP version is where the horn sections of Virgil Jones and Clarence Thomas have the opportunity to fly gracefully between the song’s blissful arrangements. It’s a song about belief in the Lord, but I also think it’s a song about having faith and hope when your life is falling into pieces, and maybe that strength will come through friends or family or perhaps something else. The very contrasting flip side to this moving soulful masterpiece, is Rhythm, a fiery Latin dance floor jumper, and a rowdy neighbour to I’m A Believer, but a welcomed partner that you like to visit on many occasions.
Sakinah would also contribute as lead on Brother You Know You’re Doing Wrong, a more uptempo song, again about standing up and dusting yourself off, when you’ve fallen down that wrong path. I’m almost certain this would be the last time she would appear on any Idris Muhammad solo recording, and I believe this is because of her decision to devote more time to their family around that time (she was also touring and recording for various artists such as the Neville Brothers, Bobby Womack and Isaac Hayes, and guest starred on movies and soundtracks including the 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem).
In 1974 Idris released the respected Power of Soul LP. In a Modern Drummer 1996 issue, he himself called it his greatest record. “It’s only four tracks,” he said, “but the intensity of the rhythms I’m playing and how settled, and how swinging, and how hard it grooves is what makes it.” The Beastie Boys album “Paul’s Boutique” opens with a lengthy sample of Loran’s Dance, from that LP. Asked in an interview how he felt about other people using his music, he told Wax Poetics magazine, “It don’t really belong to me, man,” adding: “The gift the Creator has given me, I can’t be selfish with. If I keep it in my pocket, it’s not going to go anyplace.”
Idris Muhammad would ease nicely and successfully into the disco and boogie genres with following LP releases. As far a 7″s go, Turn This Mutha Out, taken from the 1977 LP of the same title, is a nice disco 45 to have, and can be found either as a flip to the great Could Heaven Ever Be Like This, or as a two sided Part A and B solo track. Beyond that, a few more releases into the early 80’s, but personally, not the era I really move in to.
I’m A Believer is a very treasured single, and I’m incredibly thankful that Sakinah and Idris joined together in a studio, to produce this jewel. When Sakinah sings a song about faith, love and worship, it is a true genuine piece of artistry that only this true believer could deliver. And regardless of your beliefs, you have to agree that with this kind of strong faith in music history, we have been gifted with some of the most beautiful and purest songs that soul music has to offer. I for one am very grateful for that, and I feel very honoured to have this much revered record in my collection.
Idris and Sakinah Muhammad had had two sons and two daughters together, and lived in London and Vienna before their marriage ended in 1999. Idris Muhammad died on July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2014, at the age of 74. His cause of death was not immediately known, but Muhammad had been receiving dialysis since retiring to his native New Orleans in 2011. La La Brooks (as she now goes by publicly) also moved back to the United States and resides in the East Village and is a grandmother of seven. She released an album containing 14 new original songs in 2013, titled All Or Nothing and continues to perform across the world.
Referencing, researching and recommendations…
Track 1 – My Babe Written By – Willie Dixon Track 2 – I Got To Go written by Marion Walter Jacobs Track 3 – Roller Coaster Written By – E. McDaniels
Marion Walter Jacobs was born in Marksville, Louisiana, on May 1, 1930 and picked up the Harmonica at a very early age.
By the age of 12, the “unruly” but vastly talented youth decided to quit school and head for the Chicago, to become an itinerant street musician. On his travels, he would stop for the bright lights of New Orleans where he would pick up on odd jobs and busking. He would proceed to Memphis Tennessee, and then over to Helena Alabama, and also Arkansas and St. Louis Missouri, and then finally grounding down into the Windy City in around 1946. The thriving Maxwell Street strip clubs offered a spot for the still-teenaged phenom to hawk his wares, where he played with Tampa Red, Bill Broonzy, and Memphis Slim.
During this time, he also honed his musical skills on guitar performing with much older bluesmen such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, and Honeyboy Edwards, but garnered more attention for his already highly developed harmonica work.
Ora-Nelle. Little Walter would have been around 17 when made his first debut recording for Bernard Abrams’ tiny Ora-Nelle label in 1947. The label was set up out of the back room of Abrams’ Maxwell Radio and Records store and only operated for a year or two. In that time the label only managed two releases, although 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material have since been discovered. Ora Nelle was named after a female relative, and the release series began at 711, not for numerological reasons, but on account of the winning combinations when shooting dice.
Ora Nelle was the first label to record Little Walter, although according to fellow Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones, who suggests Walter’s first recording was an unreleased demo recorded soon after he arrived in Chicago on which Walter played guitar backing Jones. Ora Nelle was the only label to record guitarist Othum Brown, and the second to record guitarist Jimmy Rogers. On the debut 771A side we have the hard and heavy Ora-Nelle Blues, with Othum Brown accompanying Walter’s harp skills. Lovely stuff! And on the 711b flip, there’s the much faster foot stomping tune called I Just Keep Loving Her. Incredible! Still trying to confirm whether Othum or Walter sang on these tracks.
Note that the label never had distribution; Ora Nelles were sold out of the store, where copies were still in stock 20 years later, or resold by people who had bought them there. Good luck finding this original 78!
Little Walter joined Muddy Waters’ band in 1948, and by 1950, he was playing acoustic (unamplified) harmonica on Muddy’s recordings for Chess Records. In October of that year, they recorded the Waters classic Louisiana Blues. Nearly a year after Little Walter used an amplified harmonica for the first time on a groundbreaking July 1951 session that yielded She Moves Me.
Little Walter reportedly grew frustrated with having his harmonica drowned out by the electric guitars, but would soon find a way to attack that problem. He adopted a simple yet effective method…he cupped a small microphone in his hands along with his harmonica, and plugged the microphone into a public address system or guitar amplifier. And now he could compete with any guitarist’s volume. There were other contemporary blues harp players such as Sonny Boy Williamson I and Snooky Pryor, who had also begun using the newly available amplifier technology for added volume, however Walter purposely pushed his amplifiers beyond their intended technical limitations, using the amplification to explore and develop radical new timbres and sonic effects previously unheard from a harmonica, or any other instrument. Madison Deniro wrote a small biographical piece on Little Walter stating that “He was the first musician of any kind to purposely use electronic distortion.”
Waters was among the earliest to recognize that blues possessed a formidable power when electrified, and along with Jimmy Rogers on electric guitar, Muddy had himself the hottest blues band in Chicago.
Little Walter And His Jukes – Walter had put his career as a bandleader on hold when he joined Muddy’s band, but stepped back out front once and for all when he recorded as a bandleader for Chess’s subsidiary label Checker Records on 12 May 1952. The first completed take of the first song attempted at his debut session became his first release. The cracking instrumental was called Juke (the retitled Your Cat Will Play), and it was the first real success for him. Deservedly, it topped the R&B charts for eight weeks, and is still the only harmonica instrumental ever to be a number-one hit on the charts, securing Walter’s position on the Chess artist roster for the next decade.
Walter’s now had a pretty impressive band to himself, recruiting a young backing band that was already working steadily in Chicago backing Junior Wells, The Aces. They consisted of brothers David Myers and Louis Myers on guitars, and drummer Fred Below, and were re-christened “The Jukes” on most of the Little Walter records on which they appeared. Their first recordings were for the Checker subsidiary of Chess in 1952.
Some great stomping 45’s were to follow in the next couple of years including Crazy Legs which was released in ’53, Rocker from ’54, and Hate To See You Go, released in ’55. But for this post I’ve decided to showcase this fab Little Walter And His Jukes EP for a couple reasons! Firstly, that packaging! The art is eye popping and graphic, and the label itself with the gold text on the deep red, is just class in it’s purist form. Secondly, here’s a few of what I think are Little Walters’ best tracks, all one the one 7″!
My Babe, which was written by Willie Dixon, who also wrote (Little Red Rooster and I Just Want to Make Love to You), was originally released in 1955 on Checker Records. This composition was based on the traditional gospel song This Train (Is Bound For Glory), a hit when recorded by recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1939. Dixon reworked the arrangement and lyrics from the sacred (the procession of saints into Heaven) into the secular (a story about a woman that won’t stand for her cheating man). The song was the only Dixon composition ever to become a #1 R&B single. (Note that Ray Charles had famously, and controversially, pioneered the gospel-song-to-secular-song approach also, and just prior to Walter’s release, with his reworking of the gospel hymn It Must Be Jesus into I Got A Woman,which hit #1 on the Billboard R&B).
Backing Little Walter’s vocals and harmonica were Robert Lockwood and Leon Caston on guitars, Willie Dixon on double bass and Fred Below on drums. Guitarist Luther Tucker, then a member of Walter’s band, was absent from the recording session that day. My Babe was re-issued in 1961 with an overdubbed female vocal backing chorus and briefly crossed over to the pop charts. Ricky Nelson would release a far more pop version in 1958, while Dale Hawkins released a pretty fiery rockabilly version that same year.
I Got To Go is an up-tempo rocker reminiscent of his earlier 1953 Tell Me Mama…and this really is a rocker in it’s full glory. His playing of minor key scales over the major chord guitar backing adds, to a tension and energy to the piece as does his slightly fuzzed out vocal! Wild blues!
Roller Coaster, I have to say, is one of my favourite Walter tracks, and it’s the tasty icing on this sort after EP! His take on Diddley’s groover is quite sneaky, before it takes off with electrifying force. One glorious minor chord arpeggio throughout, nice and low and slithering, and it’s not long before Walter’s expressive tones really start to howl up a nice, maybe even gentle storm. With Diddley himself providing some rattling fretwork alongside the snappy kick and snare, it is just nothing but a blues dance floor masterpiece!
Thunderbird, the fourth track on this Ep, shouldn’t be ignored either, with it’s strong hustling locomotive rhythm. A more mild tempo possibly, but that does not deter Little Walter for a moment, as he burns up his harmonica skills quite feverishly and cleverly. Originally flipped to the 10″ My Babe, I’m almost certain this is the only 45 it was released on. Even another reason why you must seek this 7″ down!
Between 1952 and 1958, Little Walter on his own, charted 14 Top Ten R&B hits for the Chess label’s Checker subsidiary, including two number one hits, a level of commercial success never achieved by his former boss Waters, nor by his fellow Chess blues artists Howlin’ Wolf & Sonny Boy Williamson II. In the first part of the sixties he traveled to England winning over a new audience of white blues fans, and in 1964 he toured with the Rolling Stones (although this seems to have recently been refuted by Keith Richards). But Walter’s once phenomenal instrumental skills also diminished during the 1960s, plagued by alcohol abuse, a quick temper, and the bluesman’s penchant for barroom brawls. He did have a mean streak, and would never back down from a fight…and it was this belligerent attitude which lead to his death, after suffering head injuries from a street brawl. On Feb 1968, in Chicago, he sadly passed away at only 38 years old, a victim of his own indulgence.
Of all the great bluesmans who were part of Chicago blues school, he is the only one that has never been imitated. He’s solos were carefully constructed masterpieces of energy that were never self indulgent. With his precision and control he was able to regulate the length power and sharpness of every note he played with furious yet calculated speed. His influence remains inescapable to this day, and it’s unlikely that a blues harpist exists on the face of this earth who doesn’t worship Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs. He was a skilled guitarist, and hell of a singer and songwriter, and is widely considered the greatest blues harmonica player ever. From the outset, he was a true original, a visionary musician and his influence goes beyond harmonica players.
Little Walter was inducted to the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 in the “sideman” category, making him the first and only artist ever inducted specifically as a harmonica player. His grave remained unmarked until 1991, when fans Scott Dirks and Eomot Rasun respectfully had a marker designed and installed.
photo credits: Don Bronstein, Jim O’Neal
Ora Nelle reord is from the collection of George Paulus
Essential reading by George Paulus & Robert L. Campbell
Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century By David Dicaire
Footage of Little Walter backing the great Hound Dog Taylor and Koko Taylor on a television program in Copenhagen, Denmark on 11 October 1967 was released on DVD in 2004 (performing Wang Dang Doodle). Further video of another recently discovered TV appearance in Germany during this same tour, showing Little Walter performing his songs My Babe, Mean Old World, and others were released on DVD in Europe in January 2009, and is the only known footage of Little Walter singing. Try and find it…sometimes some clips appear on you tube for brief moments. Amazing!
Janis Darlene Martin was born in Southerland, Virginia, just east of Danville, on March 27, 1940. With a stage mum on one side and a father and uncle who were musicians on the other, surely it was inevitable that her destiny was laid out as a musical performer.
By the age of six, the little lady had mastered basic chords on the guitar and began singing, and although the young Janis may have been small, she packed a voice that was loud and strong. At eight, she entered her first talent contest and scored a proud second place. For the next two years, she entered eleven contests over a three-state area, winning first place in each one…and one those talent shows had over 200 contestants that took four days of elimination.
By 11, Martin was playing and singing as a member of the WDVA Barndance in Danville, Virginia. From the barndance, she traveled with Glen Thompson’s band for two years and then went on the road with Jim Eanes, a former Starday recording artist.
In 1953, the teenager appeared at a Tobacco Festival with Ernest Tubb and Sunshine Sue. As a result of this appearance, Martin was invited to become a regular member of the Old Dominion Barndance in Richmond, Virginia.
At that time, that stage show was the third largest in the nation, and included such stars as Jean Shepherd, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Sonny James, Martha Carson, and the renowned Carter Sisters who encouraged Martin to try for the “big time”. With two years of travels with the show, Martin would not only gain valuable show business experience, but also the realization that she now only lived for one thing – entertaining people.
Two staff announcers at WRVA (the station that carried the barndance over the CBS network) were successful songwriters and wrote a song called Will You, Willyum (this was just at the birth of the fifties rockabilly music explosion). They asked Janis to sing it on the barndance for audience reaction, and also cut a demo tape of it which they passed on to their publisher in New York. When the demo tape arrived at Tannen Music in New York, the publisher not only accepted the song but rushed over to Steve Sholes of RCA Victor, so he could hear it. Sholes wanted to know who the vocalist was on the tape and called Richmond to find out. Janis was contacted and invited to Nashville to record the song on Victor Records.
So, at the age of fifteen, she became a recording artist, and that release would end up being her biggest career hit, selling a massive 750.000 copies! To add to that, on the flip Drugstore Rock And Roll, a song that Janis wrote herself, which you could easily say is her most well known song and is probably the most played in the current scene.
Now this was must have been all very exciting for Martin, who although was still relatively very young, had already felt really bored with the slow mainstream country songs she had be singing in the past. She’d already had the spell of R&B over whelm her even as a younger girl, but at that time in the fifties, she would found it difficult to follow that path, being a white girl.
In a interview with Bobby Tremble, Martin would remember…”I would go up the road…there was a black church right up above my house…my little cousins wanted to play on Sundays and I would want to go up and lay in the weeds and listen to them sing”. She goes on to say…”It was that soul, it was that rhythm….and when I heard it…I said that is my music”. Martin and accompaniment were determined to find a new sound however, so they combined what you would then call hillbilly music with rhythm and blues…and this was all part of the birth of rockabilly music…which would grow like a beast and change many lives.
But Martin recalls just how tough it was for those first ladies, who were breaking out into this new crossover wave, which would include Wanda, Brenda Lee and of course Charline Arthur (who was the first female singer in country music to perform in pants, and she supposedly used the extra freedom to prowl the stage). There was some nasty slander coming from some of the men at the time, accusing Martin of being spawned from the devil, but the barefooted ponytail teen would not let that get in the way!
This was all happening at the time when Elvis Presley was the biggest rock singer in the country, who also happened to record for RCA Victor. Presley and RCA were so impressed with Janis’ delivery of a song, that Janis was given permission to use the title of “the Female Elvis Presley.”
But some of the publicity rebounded for Janis as fans felt she was hooking her style as a means of exploitation. And although they both used the same session musicians and shared the same country-R&B interests, Martin never saw the Memphis Flash perform until he made it to national television. By that time she had independently developed her own amazingly similar performing style which was well established and locked down. Additionally, she only met Elvis twice, both times very briefly, with hardly a word exchanged. The two found themselves converging on a similar point.
There was a 10″ Ep release titled Janis And Elvis (RCA-T31,077) which included 4 tracks from Martin as well as 4 tracks from the King himself, however it seems it was was pulled only 2 days on the market! And all because Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker didn’t want Janis’ name printed in front of Elvis’ name! Of course this record is worth a heap!
Eventually Martin was not only accepted, but would be in constant demand for TV, radio and stage appearances all over the US, and would appear on the Tonight Show, American Bandstand and Ozark Jubilee. She did her first road tour with Hank Snow and went on other tours with many greats including Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
Martin was voted the Most Promising Female Artist of 1956 at the annual disc jockey convention and received the Billboard Magazine award on plaque. With much success behind her, she formed her own band called Janis Martin and the Marteens and began her travels in the U.S. and Canada, playing clubs and fairs. Apparently she also did a screen test for MGM, but not sure that pretty face made it on film…which would be a damn pity!
In 1957, she was chosen by RCA to become a regular member of the Jim Reeves show and traveled with him exclusively. The show went overseas to entertain the armed forces in Europe. On returning to the States, Janis appeared on the Today Show with Dave Garroway to tell of their experiences and to sing her latest record, My Boy Elvis. After this show, she was invited to appear at the Grand Old Opry.
The next year Janis and Her Boyfriends released this little beauty, Bang Bang. It’s credited to Clavelle Isnard, someone I can’t seem to find out too much about, other than he co wrote some tracks with Jimmy Holland…but never the less…this has to be my Janis Martin pick! Martin also loved this tune, as noted by Stephanie P. Lewin-Lane on her 2012 Sweet Nothings thesis…”I loved it because it moved. Bang Bang Bangitty Bang Bang…(laughing)…kinda vulgar for the ’50’s, ya know? Hidden messages and all of that, but I mean I liked the song, I didn’t think about the words then, I just liked the tempo, the tune of it, how it moved…” It certainly does move Miss Martin!
Everything seemed to be going well for Martin, well until 1958, when it was discovered that the teen had been secretly married to Tommy Cundiff, since 1956. Martin met the singer who was about six years older, when she was only 11 (they both played on the same show on WBTM), and the two started dating when she was 13. He would soon join the paratroopers but before being shipped out to Germany, he wanted to marry Martin and showed her a diamond ring. The two eloped when Martin was only 15…they married on January the 2nd of 1956. Martin actually didn’t record for RCA until March the 8th of 1956, so she didn’t tell the record company, nor did she mention it to her parents until about 3 months later. Tommy was off overseas only 8 days after their marriage and Martin wouldn’t get to see him for another fourteen months or so.
Martin was on the USO tour in March/ April of 1957 and meet up with her husband in Frankfurt, who was able to get a 30 day leave so they could spend some time together. As a consequence from their a romantic interlude, Martin fell pregnant. The record executives were furious with Martin when they had finally found out about this, saying she had destroyed the innocent teenage image they worked so hard to sell her on…and was dropped by the label in short order. A pregnant teen they believed, would not be to good for marketing, especially upon learning that this innocent cute girl got hitched at 15.
For all of her early success, Martin was never able to sustain a rock & roll career, mostly because of her gender and the changing times. Her stage moves and lusty delivery appeared unseemly (or so people said, especially on the country circuit) in a girl, once the initial furor and enthusiasm for rock & roll quieted down. Her record company and management wanted her to keep pushing rockabilly in her stage act, while promoters doing the bookings preferred that she do straight country, and Martin found herself caught between conflicting currents.
Martin tried to keep a music career going and was courted by both King Records and Decca Records before signing with a Belgian-owned label called Palette, for which she cut four sides in 1960. She was on her second marriage by then, and husband number two (whom she later divorced) didn’t take well to her popular stage career, and persuaded her to leave show businesses.
But by the seventies, Janis had had enough of being the “ordinary” little housewife and cook, and really missed the adoration that she once got from her fans. So she formed a new band…Janis and the Variations, which included her husband on drums. The band did become fairly successful in that they had constant work playing 3 state areas every weekend. However hubby wasn’t liking the journey as much as Martin, claiming it was interfering with their marriage. In 1973, he mistakenly gave her the ultimatum again, their marriage or the band! But this time…about 13 years after that first time he made such a statement, Janis gladly chose her music. Her son, who had been playing drums since the age of 7, gladly took the vacant spot and they would go on to tour Europe, where she encountered strikingly enthusiastic audiences, ready to embrace her as though it were still 1958. The band continued ’til 1982.
Martin passed away on September 3, 2007, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer which had spread all over her body. She had been suffering from severe headaches over the past several months so she found it necessary to cancel her recent booking at the Americana Festival in England. The headaches turned out to be stress related from all the grief she had to endure from losing her son Kevin who passed away in January that year.
She may have had a short career in recording music, but it was so fantastic, and so very important, as without a doubt she paved the way for future women rock singers!
1956 – Drugstore Rock And Roll / Will You, Willyum RCA VICTOR 47-6491 35
Ooby-Dooby / One More Year To Go RCA VICTOR 47-6560
My Boy Elvis / Little Bit RCA VICTOR 47-6652
Barefoot Baby / Let’s Elope Baby RCA VICTOR 47-6744
1957 – Two Long Years / Love Me To Pieces RCA VICTOR 47-6832
Love And Kisses / I’ll Never Be Free RCA VICTOR 47-6983
All Right Baby / Billy Boy, Billy Boy RCA VICTOR 47-7104
1958 – Cracker Jack / Good Love RCA VICTOR 47-7184
Bang Bang / Please Be My Love RCA VICTOR 47-7318
1960 – Hard Times Ahead / Here Today And Gone Tomorrow PALETTE PZ 5058
1961 – Teen Street / Cry Guitar PALETTE PZ 5071
1977 – I’m Movin’ On / Beggin’ To You BIG DUTCH 2085
Rockin’ All Over The World / Live And Let Live BIG DUTCH 2086
1956 – Let’s Elope Baby/ Barefoot Baby
All I Can Do Is Cry/ St. James Infirmary RCA Victor (N.J.) DJ-38
1957 – Love Me To Pieces/ Two Long Years
Calypso Sweetheart/ Marriage And Divorce RCA Victor (N.J.) DJ-76
Just Squeeze Me (But Don’t Squeeze Me)/ My Confession
I Don’t Hurt Anymore/ Half Loved RCA Victor (N.J.) EPA-4093 [mono]
1978 – THE FEMALE ELVIS WITH THE JORDANAIRES : THE UNISSUED
William / Love Me Cha Cha / Love Me Love / Blues Keep Calling DOG GONE EP 81677
1959 – Janis And Elvis RCA T 31.077 (South African only)
Referencing and recommendations!
Stephanie P. Lewin-Lane Sweet Nothings
Cat Tales #20
Janis Martin Kickstarter
History of rock
Interview with Bobby Tremble
Track 1 – Harley Davidson Track 2 – Contact
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born in Paris on 28 September 1934. Daughter to a very strict homemaker mother, Anne-Marie “Toty” Bardot and a wealthy industrialist Louis Bardot, she grew up in a middle-class Roman Catholic observant home, with her younger sister, Marie-Jeanne.
It was particularly tough for the young girls growing up with incredibly harsh, stringent parents. At one point in her young life, after an innocent playful incident, which lead to an accidental breakage of an expensive Chinese lamp, Brigitte was told by her parents, they would from that day on, disown her as a daughter, as she was to address them only in a formal way, as a stranger would. This alienated her for the rest of her life. Inwardly, Brigitte dreamed of escaping her rigid monitored world….and she would hunger for that missing love.
Her socially ambitious mother pushed her daughters to do well not only at school, but also at ballet. Brigitte had an adoration towards for dance, and progressed particularly well, however her younger sister, Marie-Jeanne didn’t share that passion, and eventually gave up the lessons and did not tell her mother. Brigitte worked hard with determined concentration, and in 1947, was accepted to the Conservatoire de Paris.
Gifted with ridiculous amounts of beauty, the young starlet was noticed during her ballet studies at 14, and was approached with offers of modelling, a direction her mother encouraged her daughter to follow. Soon she would have her first modelling experience in a fashion show in 1949. In the same year, she modeled for a fashion magazine Jardin des Modes and soon the stunning 15 year old appeared on the cover of the french edition of Elle magazine in March 1950.
Director and screenwriter Marc Allégret was captivated by this image of beauty, and ordered his assistant, who was a young upcoming rebel film director named Roger Vadim, to go out and find her. He tracked her down and Allégret quickly offered Bardot the opportunity to audition for Les lauriers sont coupés. There’s conflicting stories whether Bardot landed the role or not, but the film was cancelled, and it is certain that this opportunity made her consider becoming an actress. Vadim became immediately smitten by her pouty sensuality…Brigitte fell madly in love with this bad boy…she had never meet anyone like him before, and in 1952 the 22 year old became her husband. Her parents were infuriated, but funnily enough, the two newly weds had to spend their honeymoon night at her parents home, as they had no where else to stay. They were forced to sleep in separate rooms, and Bardot was not even permitted to kiss her new husband goodnight. But Bardot wasn’t too bothered…”we had our wedding night a long time ago”.
A new path had been laid out for Bardot, leading away from her early ballet desires…now it was a different stage and spotlight calling her name. 1952 saw the start of her acting career, and she would appear in obscure films, generally lightweight romantic dramas, some historical, in which she was cast typically as “Ingenue” or “Siren”, often appearing nude. But in ’57 she really became world-famous with the release of the Vadim’s controversial film Et Dieu créa la femme (And God Created Woman).
Vadim’s now infamous film was certainly the vehicle that launched Bardot into the public spotlight, immediately creating her “sex kitten” persona, making her an overnight sensation. When the film was released in the US, it pushed the boundaries of the representation of sexuality in American cinema, and most available prints of the film were heavily edited to conform with the prevailing censorial standards of 1957. The film was also condemned by the Catholic League of Decency. Bosley Crowther, the film critic for The New York Times, wrote, “Bardot moves herself in a fashion that fully accentuates her charms. She is undeniably a creation of superlative craftsmanship”.
A proper English TV journalist asked the vivacious but innocent Bardot about these sexy roles she was becoming famous for, “Do you really like doing these kind of films, or would you want to be a serious actor?”. B.B. replies “On no, I prefer this kind of films…I will be a serious actor when I get older”.
Vadim and Bardot separated in ’56 amidst rumors that Bardot was having an affair with her And God Created Woman co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant, but remained friends for the rest of Vadim’s life. He would later direct her in The Night Heaven Fell, and Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman.
Bardot would continue to follow her acting demands playing some very famous roles in new wave cinema. She later starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 masterpiece Le Mépris (Contempt) and Masculin Féminin in 66. Bardot was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her part in Louis Malle’s 1965 film Viva Maria! Although she was in high demand in Hollywood, she continued to declined offers of filming in the US…she detested the way Marilyn Monroe was treated, a woman who she so much adored, and she didn’t have an enjoyable experience previously there. Eventually, Hollywood would accept her terms and they would have to come to France to film her, where she had a cameo in Hello Brigitte (which also starred Billy Mumy from Lost In Space fame, who apparently scored the first American on-screen kiss from the french beauty).
Bardot was appearing on record covers long before she first sang a note, and it’s pretty obvious the marketing strategy was aimed to appeal to the male audiences. She was plastered on covers for soundtracks to films she’s appeared in, unofficial tributes and promo records and of course, to her own musical efforts. Virtually everything Bardot-related is sort after, with collectors rarely distinguishing between albums merely depicting her likeness and ones on which she sings. But while there’s definitely a desirable kitsch and kookie wonderment about her recordings, I find that there’s a further unique beauty there, behind her stunning looks, that drew me in a long time ago, and which I have always obsessed over, for some time.
Bardot’s first 7″ vocal release was on the lullaby Sidonie, (delicate guitar work by Bardot) which was the first track on the Vie privée (A very private affair) EP in ’62, a film directed by Louis Malle which she herself starred in, alongside Marcello Mastroianni. This track was included alongside three instrumentals on a French EP issued by Barclay as well as a US single on MGM. An early version of “Sidonie” also appeared in the autumn of 1961 as part of issue 23 of ‘Sonorama’, the innovtive 7″-sized playable magazine which incorporated several flexidiscs to accompany the features. It’s such an adorable track…innocent, so gentle and so sweet!I love this side of Bardot!
Bardot had now signed to Philips, and the next year she would have two more Ep releases, Invitango and the great L’Appareil À Sous. The title track, penned by Gainsbourg (who was still concentrating on writing for other artists at this stage of his career), is a favourite upbeat dance floor spinner for me…1.24 mins. of french hip twisting mayhem! Her self titled debut album followed which was made available in two versions – a superb deluxe edition with a gatefold sleeve and a poster, and a standard single-sleeve album. The album contained a mix of styles and tempos, and included the beautifully strummed El Cuchipe sung in Spanish, and Everybody Loves My Baby sung in English.
The following couple of years she would continue to release fun pop french hits including Moi Je Joue (taken form her 64′ lp B.B) Bubble Gum in ’65, and the ever so dreamy Le Soleil in ’66, which had the fab off beat Gang Gang on the EP flip (these tracks were arranged by the British musical director Charles Blackwell, perhaps best-known for his work with Joe Meek in the early 60s).
In 1967, Gainsbourg was having some kind of an affair with Bardot, who was going through a difficult time with current husband, German businessman Gunter Sachs. One night in particular, Gainsbourg, who often was nervous around Bardot, drunk with his infatuation…and probably something more, made an ass of himself. And he was sure that this time, there was no hope in hell that Bardot would ever fall back into his arms. But Bardot’s request, as an apology, was that Gainsbourg write her the most beautiful love song he could imagine. That night he wrote two songs, Bonnie and Clyde, and also Je t’aime…moi non plus. They soon recorded an arrangement at a Paris studio in a two-hour session in a small glass booth, however, news of the recording reached the press and an angry Mr. Sachs! Bardot pleaded with Gainsbourg not to release it. He protested that “The music is very pure. For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it’s taken badly”.
But in 1969, Gainsbourg recorded a version with his new lover, Jane Birkin. The single had a plain cover, with the words “Interdit aux moins de 21 ans” (forbidden to those under 21), and would end up being banned in several countries owing to its sexual content. In the UK, it was released on Fontana Records, but, after reaching number 2, it was withdrawn for sale. Gainsbourg arranged a deal with Major Minor Records and on re-release it reached number one, the first banned number one single in the UK and the first single in a foreign language to top the charts. It stayed on the UK chart for 31 weeks. Bardot may have regretted not releasing her version, but she did give permission for a release of her Gainsbourg recording in 1986. With a slight re-edit, it was virtually ignored by the public, who were perfectly happy with the existing Jane Birkin version.
On New Year’s Eve 1967, French TV broadcast a special colour programme devoted to B.B. called Le Bardot Show. Filmed over several months between November and December, the 60 minute show was years before its time, and it effectively consisted of a collection of video-clips, which made an incredible impression on the French public. And this when audiences would first hear…and SEE, Bardot’s Harley Davidson. Phew! I can only imagine the thoughts that were going through both male and females minds when they first shared this moment. Yeah, she had the look, the big wild blonde waves, the tiny leather shorts and high boots, and her signature dark eyeliner, but the way she sang this, is just so defiant and…well…so Bardot (can’t think of any other way to describe it). I don’t need anyone…on a Harley Davidson…I no longer recognize anyone….on a Harley Davidson…I press the starter…and here is where I leave the earth…maybe I’ll go to heaven…but at top speed on a train from hell!
These songs were released on the soundtrack LP, Brigitte Bardot Show in ’68. Adding to the sexual appeal, Bardot was pictured on the sleeve of the LP (and the spin-off EP) virtually naked, but carefully masked by a layer of wrapping-paper. Fans declared the design a masterpiece. The flip to this iconic track is Contact, and I have to say that this track I find even more desirable, but I’m a sucker for 60’s psychedelic spaced out minimalist sitar flavored dance floor grooves! And I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the film clip of Contact, with Bardot draped in Paco Rabanne!
Bardot retired in 1973, aged just 39, withdrew to her beloved Madrague, her retreat in St Tropez where she could dedicate herself to animals and a barefoot Mediterranean life. She would only leave her home to protest about animal rights (and make some ill-advised comments about immigration). Bardot’s passion for animals could be traced back to her childhood, a time when she transferred affection she missed from home, to whatever 4 legged creatures she could find. In 1986, she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals, and would constantly meet with the French President and other world leaders to protest any case of cruelty towards animals. Bardot has never resorted to any cosmetic surgery, (as so many of her contemporaries have) and has retained her authenticity.
I know many of us were bitten by the BB phenomenon many years ago, but it’s always great to get these records out again and play them out, especially to the “hip kids”, that for some reason are new to her. Her songs always bring back fond memories of great times, and they can still get the punters dancing…and smiling! I think she was an amazing woman with a whole lot more going on than meets the eye! And still is quite beautiful.
Recommended reading and references…
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 – Pretty Little Girl Next DoorTrack 2 – Buzz Buzz Buzz
Okay, first thing’s first…Robert Byrd, alias Bobby Day, of the Hollywood Flames, who were formerly The Flames, is not to be confused with Bobby Byrd of the Famous Flames, who were formerly…The Flames…got that? Good!
Robert James Byrd was born July 1, 1928, in Fort Worth Texas, and moved to Los Angeles in 1947. His first vocal group, The Flames, originated in 1949, when all members were in there teens. They all met at the Largo Theater in Watts at a talent show given by the theater’s owner, which brought together many singers from various high schools in Los Angeles.
Bobby strung together tenor David Ford, second tenor Willie Ray Rockwell and eventually Curlee Dinkins, who sang baritone and bass (Byrd would sing bass, baritone, tenor). They quickly learned how to sound pretty darn good together, and as they all needed to earn some dosh, they decided to brave up to an audition they had heard about at the Johnny Otis owned Barrelhouse. They started winning a few prizes here and there and were offered a few little jobs, sometimes making five dollars each.
The Flames existed from 1949 to 1966. In that time, they recorded under a bewildering variety of names (Four Flames, Hollywood Four Flames, the Jets, the Ebbtides and the Satellites), for a bewildering number of labels, with a bewildering cast of personnel.
In ’57, Byrd penned and recorded the great, Buzz Buzz Buzz, (Earl Nelson on lead) as The Hollywood Flames on Ebb. When the song became a hit, Bobby found out that he didn’t have any publishing rights and only half the writer credit…and never received any money owed to him. That same year with his back up group the Satellites, he also wrote and recorded (as Bobby Day) the fab foot tapping hand clapping Little Bitty Pretty One, released by Class in August. Popularized with success for Thurston Harris, whose release beat Bobby’s out the gate, it reached No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B chart…but I much prefer Bobby’s!
But the next year Day was the first to record Leon Rene’s (under the pseudonym of Jimmie Thomas) Rock-in’ Robin…the perfect counter attack, and Day’s most recognize and successful recording, which became Number 2 hit on the Billboard charts! Its flip, “Over and Over,” was a hit in its own right, and a cover by Dave Clark Five in ’65, brought a much more hip, modern youthful version back to the dance floors!
Bobby Day went on to partner with Earl Nelson and recorded as Bob & Earl from 1957 to 1959 on Class.
Moving on to 1963, and Bobby releases the incredibly uplifting Pretty Little Girl Next Door on RCA. I’m sure everyone reading this, has one song that they can rely on, that will always bring themselves a big damn smile, no matter what life is throwing at you! This is mine! From beginning to end, it’s a quite the pleasant build up. With it’s sweet caterpillar like beginnings, it quickly sprouts it’s wings and soars! The slinky groove grows, and it soon smothers you. And I’ve proved that this song can and will draw everyone within a kilometer radius of your turntable, onto your dance floor. Day gives it his all…he really shines in this one, and of course those gorgeous female backing vocals brings it all into perfect harmony! Imagine seeing this performed live by Mr.Day in ’63!
And on the flip, what a delight to have a revisit of his early Buzz Buzz Buzz! Just as great as the original, however this version may have a slower tempo, but certainly holds a stronger groove…and much more developed for the early sixties hipster dancers. Both tracks produced by genius Jack Nitzsche!
Bobby Day died from cancer on July 27, 1990, in Los Angeles and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. He was survived by his wife, Jackie, and four children. He may not have had the successive chart success he very well deserved (he never achieved another Top 40 Hit apart from Rock-in’ Robin), but in my book, he was just as important as the best of them, especially with his major part in the early days of doo wop! He always lifts me, and Pretty Little Girl just makes me drunk with happiness!
Essential reading for a very in-depth and thorough journey with Bobby Day and his Hollywood Flames, by Marv Goldberg…The Hollywood Flames.
Caprice 120 US Year 1963
Born Alonzo W. Lucas, 16 August 1914, Pritchard, Alabama, Buddy moved to Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of three. In years to come, a good neighbour noticed the young 11 year old’s interest in music and gave him a clarinet. This kind act must have been the true begins of where it all really started for Buddy! In the late 1940s he went to New York City, where he met drummer Herman Bradley, who helped him get his gigs and record dates.
But it wasn’t until ’51, when Lucas would make his first vocal recording on Soppin’ Molasses, for Jerry Blaine’s Jubilee label. Jubilee specialized in rhythm and blues and was the first independent record label to reach the white market with a black vocal group, when The Orioles recording of Crying in the Chapel reached the Top Twenty on the Pop charts in 1953. Lucas became leader of the house band and renamed his combo “The Band Of Tomorrow”. Scoring a #2 hit on the R&B charts in 1952 with the slow revived Diane, may have given the saxophonist some attention, but the flip Undecided is far more foot tapping and exciting! This set the pattern for most of his following Jubilee singles : a lush ballad on the A-side and an R&B sax led instrumental on the flip.
Lucas had one other hit on Jubilee, Heavenly Father (I Love You is the much preferred flip), sung by Edna McGriff (# 4 R&B in 1952), before moving on to RCA and its subsidiary Groove. Releasing a handful of 45’s, including the raw Greedy Pig, my pick of this bunch would have to be the Groove two sider My Pinch Hitter (along side Almeta Stewart, who I honestly have to say, I do not know enough about) and of course the great flip I Got Drunk! The title alone tells you that this here track was always going to be good! Also No Dice (flip to High Low Jack), should NOT be ignored, as Buddy really gets the opportunity to have some sexy fun with his sax and harmonica skills here!
From ’56 to ’57, Buddy had seven 45’s released on Bell Records, a budget label specializing in covers of the big hits of the day, including Hound Dog….okay stuff. BUT also in ’57, he comes out with the hammering Bo-Lee, on the Luniverse Records label. Established in 1956 by struggling songwriters Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodma, but ceasing production in 1959, this label, with a few exceptions, were nearly all Buchanan-Goodman titles. As much as I admire Budy’s instrumentals, I think his vocal releases are just the bomb, as is the case with Bo-Lee!
in 1958, he became the nucleus of the Gone All Stars, George Goldner’s session band for his Gone Label. Fun stuff, but no real earth shaking releases, well especially compared to the previous Luniverse monster.
Carlton released Beulah in ’59…fantastic stuff, but incredibly similar, if slightly more bizarre, to Bo-lee!
Many more releases were to come in the next few years from Lucas on various labels including Vim, Tru-Sound and Pioneer (I recommend Get Away Fly on the latter label), but let’s move to 1963 and this mind blowing Caprice release!
At just age 28, Gerry Granahan became the youngest record executive in the music biz to that time, when he formed his own company, Caprice Records. He was a former disc jockey at WPTS in Pittston and in 1957, he was the first white artist on the Atlantic’s subsidiary label, Atco. He had a lot of success with numerous solo and group projects (including as pseudonym Dicky Doo and the Don’ts and group The Fireflies), but in 1960, he found being a performer, composer and producer for all his different acts, was too much to handle and realized his future success would come from sitting on the other side of the desk. Granahan had used Buddy’s talents on some of his own previous recordings, so it’s no surprise he brought him over to his new label. I can’t really find out much about the Gerry Granahan Orchestra that accompanies Buddy’s composition. While the label did have some major successes (and why this track wasn’t one of those I’ll never understand…although I have to suspect poor marketing perhaps?), the label folded in ’63 due to some dodgy “off the books sales” from a business partner.
I Can’t Go is an absolute Big Buddy gem! He writes about finding love and fame, and not holding onto to either tight enough. It’s blues…I guess…but so contradictorily upbeat! The cheeky keyboards, the wriggling bass and the outstanding dry production are all perfectly synced. Sometimes I really struggle to understand how music can be this great! And I’d love to find out who is responsible for the fabulous backing vocals…perhaps again former Granahan collaborators?
After researching this great musician, it seems evident that Buddy is much more known and credited for his prolific tenor sax and harmonica contributions, than as the cool cat vocalist that he certainly was. And he did put down some mean grooves with plenty of talent. In the 50’s he worked with Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers on Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and also with Little Willie John on his remarkable Fever take! He would work with blues and soul queens Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and Nina Simone! He would also get wild with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Smith and Count Basie. It’s obvious that here was a man with incredible talent to share, and I’m sure many friendships were made in his lifetime. And while his recording credits can be all laid out to a point without too much unraveling, it kinda saddens me that I can’t seem to find out much more about the man himself, behind those great notes, with such an important historic relevance to soul and blues. There must be interviews out there somewhere with either himself or collaborators. Even some photos?!
Buddy would continue to work with countless more musicians including Hendricks and George Benson, offering his harp and sax skills. In 1980, Buddy had his right lung removed after cancer was discovered, but continued to play alongside his old friend Herman Bradley, that he meet back in the ’40’s. In December 1982, due to ill-health, he finally had to give up doing what he loved most. He passed away on March 18th, 1983.
Referencing Dik from Black Cat Rockabilly
Also great Buddy discography here at Hallelujah Rock ‘n’ Roll
…and here at WangDangDula
And some definitive reading on Caprice Executive Gerry Granahan
Track 1 – 7 heures du matin Track 2 – Ce Soir Je M’en VaisBorn 1948 in Carthage, Tunisia, the young Taïeb arrived in France with her parents at age eight. Her father gifted her with a guitar at 12 (like every good dad should do) which she must have really connected with, because soon she would be composing her own songs. It wasn’t long before a talent scout would discover her while singing with friends. It was ’66, and what an exciting time it must have been for the perky 18 year old singer-songwriter, scoring a contract with the record label Impact, and then being quickly whisked away off to London for her first recording sessions.
1967 saw a string of 7″ releases for the now 19 year old Jacqueline, but it’s this debut EP release (in January) that she is most well worshiped for. All four songs on the EP were composed by the young singer herself, which you have to remember for that time, was quite rare, as most female singers were expected to perform songs that had been written for them, or perhaps covers of other popular high selling hits.
Though the lead track, the almighty ye ye classic 7 heures du matin, was only a small hit at the time, it has gone on to become considered a classic of the French girl pop genre. It is the story of a young student waking up too early, at 7am, on a Monday morning, struggling with the thoughts of what the day will throw at her. She fantasizes about her boy crush Paul McCartney, helping her complete her homework, while tormenting on which sweater to wear for the day. Obviously a girl who is after trouble, the rebellious girl even considers playing her Elvis record loudly just to upset the neighbors. I mean really…how cute is that!?
It’s a simple song, but a huge dance floor monster! With it’s Steppin’ Stone garage power chords and it’s rebellious Elvis meets The Who attitude, it’s freakin’ impossible no to adore this one! And obviously very high in demand in the collectors circle. This track really brings back some great memories of the Sounds Of Seduction nights we once were fortunate to encounter here in Sydney in the 90’s, hosted by the great Jay Katz, (a friend who is responsible for introducing me to so much great lost European dance and film music of the sixties). And this song was also the trigger to the beginnings of my Yeye obsession!
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.
As I’m researching this fabulous piece of R&B dance floor femme gem, I quickly discover that there is actually a lot of conflicting and confusing information (again!) out there, regarding this 5 pc. Miller Sisters vocal group and Sun’s Rockabilly sibling partnership that were around at a similar time, with the same name. Two completely different groups yet both so brilliant. I will be posting on the Elsie Jo and Mildred Miller sisters soon I promise!
The Miller Sisters (from Long Island, NY) are Jeanette, Maxine, Nina, Sandy and Vernel, and were the talented daughters of music entrepreneur William Miller, A&R director for Hull Records.
They first recorded Hippity Ha with the adorable flip Until You’re Mine for Herald back in 1955, the same year they also scored a starring role in Fritz Pollar’s R&B picture Rockin’ the Blues, which also included the Harptones, Hurricanes, Wanderers and the great Lula Reed.
In ’56, after releasing Guess Who / How Am I To Know on Ember, they moved to Hull Records, which was the label former Herald Records executive Blanche (Bea) Kaslin’s established along with Billy Dawn and Mr. Miller (apparently Kaslin had just had enough of seeing artists being mistreated, not paid appropriately, and being taken advantage of with contracts). The label had some great R&B success with their very first release from The Heartbeats Crazy For You / Rockin-‘n-Rollin-‘n-Rhythm-‘n-Blues-‘n in ’55. While the sisters were at Herald records, their father obtained their release from an exclusive contract that they held with the label and would thereafter freelance for Hull, ACME, Onyx, Riverside, Roulette, Capri and others.
Moving forward to ’61, and it was hully gully fever that was scuffing the dance floors, and the Glodis release Pop Your Finger (flip to You Got To Reap What You Sow) certainly would have been getting some heavy rotations around the dance halls.
1962 brought some crackers for the girls, firstly Rayna’s superb release Dance Little Sister (flipped with I Miss You So), and this is the stuff that just thrills me. Slow and swinging, but heavy on the rhythm, and brutally charming vocals with more sass than one can handle. Then on Riverside, the dizzyingly beautiful ballad Tell Him (flipped with Dance Close).
But the year also brought out this beast…The Hully Gully Reel! It’s a mass of rhythm delivered by a thundering steam train. A good one to drop when the dance floor is all warmed up and salivating. Feels very Eddie Bo…it’s got that empowering rhythm, but it’s the legendary Big Joe Burrell with his big Sax driving the orchestration with full pelt. Burrell would work with the Sisters on tour and other recordings for a big part of their career, and it’s obvious a match made in heaven. If 2.15 minutes of non stop frantic hully gullying rocks your boat, then you’re getting you money’s worth here on this 45! Not for the faint hearted! And by the way, how good is that electric organ?! It’s on fire!
In ’64, Big Joe and the ladies struck again with Cooncha – Hey You which they recorded in Quebec for Capri in ’64, supposedly while on tour together…driving stuff! (Their father was credited as “Pop Miller” on the label). The Sisters weren’t done though as far as killer 45’s go. A much more soulful I’m Telling It Like It Is on GMC from ’65 is also very desirable!
The Miller Sisters recorded around 22 singles for various labels, and as is the case with this one, some are not easy to find. I feel very fortunate to have my hands on this one, and have made an oath to share it on as many dance floors as I can!
Discography : (as far as I can make out from Goldmine and other sources)
1955 – Hipetty Ha / Until you’r mine (Herald 455)
1956 – Guess Who / How am i to know (Ember 1004)
1956 – Please Don’t Leave / Do You Wanna Go (Hull 718)
1957 – Sugar Candy / My Own (Onyx 507)
1957 – Let’s Start Anew / The Flip Skip (Acme 111)
1957 – You Made Me A Promise / Crazy Billboard Song (Acme 717)
1958 – Let’s Start Anew / The Flip Skip (Acme 721)
1960 – Oh Lover / Remember that (Miller 1140)
1960 – Pony Dance / Give me some old-Fashioned love (Miller 1141)
1960 – Just Wait And See / Black Pepper (Instrumental) (Hull 736)
1961 – You got to reap what you sow / Pop your finger (Glodis 1003)
1962 – I miss you so / Dance little sister (Rayna 5001)
1962 – Walk on / Oh Why (Rayna 5004)
1962 – Roll Back The Rug (And Twist) / Don’t You Forget (Hull 750)
1962 – Cried All Night / Hully Gully Reel (Hull 752)
1962 – Dance Close / Tell him (Riverside 4535)
1963 – Baby your Baby / Silly girl (Rolette 4491)
1964 – Cooncha / Feel good (Stardust 3001)
1964 – Cooncha / Hey You (Capri 950) Quebec
1965 – Looking over my life / Si Senor (Yorktown 75)
1965 – Your Love / Please Don’t Say Goodbye Dear (GMC 10003)
1965 – I’m telling it like it is / Until you comme home, I’ll walk alone (GMC 10006)
Music City USA Cat#45-894 Year 1972 Upon learning of the recent loss of the great and mighty Darondo, I thought it an appropriate time to praise what I think, is one of the most beautiful and soulful songs you will ever hear in your lifetime, by this unknown master.
Born October 5, 1946, William Daron Pulliam was raised in Berkeley, California, where his mother bought him his first guitar when he was around eight. When Darondo hit his later teens, he and a bunch of high-school friends formed The Witnesses, who became the house band for a strict early night “teenage nightclub” in Albany called the Lucky 13 Club. He fell in love with the R&B and rock that was popular at the time, but it wasn’t until he picked up Kenny Burrell’s 1963 album Midnight Blue that he found his niche. “I learned guitar from listening to Kenny Burrell,” Darondo says. “Him and Wes Montgomery. I got my chords from them. Kenny Burrell was cold“.
Darondo may have trained to be an electrician in his twenties, perhaps doubting his abilities to reach a professional music career, but obviously there was a light within him that needed to rise up and out into the world…and indeed, there certainly was an incredible and important voice that needed to be heard.
His friends may have treated his determination for releasing his own record with skepticism, however he insisted “I’m going to show you suckers something. I don’t care if I have to do it myself; I’m going to put this thing out.”
Darondo’s big break came when he met experienced jazz pianist Al Tanner, who was impressed with Darondo’s style and suggested that he should go into the studio. That session produced the great “Darondo Pulliam” two-sider, I Want Your Love So Bad, flipped with the mover How I Got Over, on Leroy Smith’s Ocampo label. Although the song didn’t exactly light up the charts, it caught the attention of Ray Dobard, who owned the record label Music City.
Darondo and Tanner recorded nearly an entire LP in one session at Dobard’s studio. The session produced the fat funk Black Power anthem Let My People Go and the killer jam Legs, but it was the soul pouring “Didn’t I” that became Darondo’s 7″ release in ’72. Local radio put the song into heavy rotation, and the single went on to sell 35,000 copies. Unfortunately, no LP ever came out of that session. “We did about ten tracks,” says Darondo. “I think [Dobard] stole the records. I don’t know what happened to those songs, I don’t know what he did with it.”
But in ’74, there was a third and final single to come out from those sessions, his rarest 7″, recorded for the uber-obscure Af-Fa World imprint (Let My People Go/Legs). By this time, Darondo’s voice had matured, settling in with a refined falsetto that harkened to his years listening to and singing gospel, or what he calls, “spiritual things.” “Spiritual and rhythm and blues—it’s two different things,” he explains. “If you can sing a spiritual thing, you can mostly sing anything, because you are hitting so many more…high pretty notes.”
During his early-’70s run, Darondo opened up for James Brown, became a close acquaintance with Sly, and by all accounts, lived the high life. He’d purchased his signature Rolls Royce from a “cold” car dealer. “This Rolls had racing lights,” he recalls. “It had a bar in the back …I put all the scanners and other mess up in it, so that if the police pulled up behind you, you could hear everything they say. It was too cold. At that time, I had mink coats, diamond rings. I stayed sharp.”
While it may have seemed Darondo was living a little too well for a fledgling regional star, it is rumoured he had other sources of income, as a successful pimp, though it’s a topic he himself refused to speak about, neither confirming nor denying, though he did elliptically refer to it as his “fast life” days. “When people see something, they’re going to think one way or they’re going to think another way,” he muses. “When they saw a chauffeur driving me around in a Rolls, they said, ‘That boy is a pimp.’ I made money, but I was working. I had a job … I was a janitor. I drove up [to the hospital] in the back of my Rolls with my mink coat on … and I’d take the elevator down and change in [the janitor’s locker].”
But back to Didn’t I. It only takes one listen to this haunting, down-tempo breakup ballad to realise that there is something pretty special happening here. And to tell you the truth, I actually don’t play this very often, even in the company of no one else but me and my dog…and it’s a 45 that’s never left the house. Darondo’s wiry falsetto, his lonely guitar chords and understated, melancholic orchestration makes it all just too personal and devastatingly beautiful. I don’t know really what else to say, only that this composition deserves respect. This means if I’m going to play this record, I’m doing nothing else but sitting back with your eyes closed and my soul wide open.
Ubiquity Records put together 2006’s Let My People Go, a collection of reissued classics and unearthed demos. The album won praise in the national press, and Darondo after so many years away in another life, was once again performing live shows. “I never imagined this,” he told SF Weekly in 2007 about his return to the stage.
Darondo died of heart failure on Sunday June 9, 2013.
Be sure to read the following references from Sam Chennault and Oliver Wang.
DUKE USA cat# 433 (promo) Year 1964 Robert Calvin “Bobby” Bland was born January 27, 1930, in the small town of Rosemark, Tennessee, later moving to Memphis with his mother in 1947. He worked at a garage during the week and sang spirituals on weekends, singing with local gospel groups including, amongst others The Miniatures. He began frequenting the city’s famous Beale Street where he became associated with a like minded bunch of aspiring musicians, who were referred to as the Beale Streeters (although they never used that name themselves), which included such future blues stars as Johnny Ace, B.B. King, Junior Parker, and Rosco Gordon .
Between 1951-52 he recorded four 7″s for Chess, produced by Sam Phillips, alongside Rosco Gordon and as The Bobby Blues Band. While the results of those recordings were not a huge success to say the least, that didn’t stop local DJ David Mattis from cutting Bland on a couple of 1952 singles for his fledgling Duke logo. That same year Bobby was drafted to serve his country, he went off to war, and had to put his career on hold.
When the singer returned in 1954, he found that the Memphis he once knew was no more. Sun Records had found its fair haired boy, Rock and Roll was breaking down the old barriers between “race” and “pop,” and Duke Records had been sold to entrepreneur Don Robey, owner of Peacock Records in Houston, while several of his former associates, including Johnny Ace, were enjoying considerable success. But Bobby’s talent and maturity as a vocalist had exceeded even more in just those last years, and now Duke was ready to push Bland full steam ahead, with It’s My Life, Baby, Woke Up Screaming and Time Out all released in ’55. Bobby’s first national hit, which went to number 1 on the R&B charts, is the driving Farther Up the Road, which was released in 57′, and burns almighty with the insistent guitar riffing contributed by Pat Hare, another vicious picker who would eventually die in prison after murdering his girlfriend and a cop. In ’61 the beautiful I Pity The Fool and the great soul number Turn On Your Love Light also did well for Bobby and deservedly so.
Bland spent the latter half of the Fifties maturing into a masterful singer and assured entertainer. From 1957 to 1961 he played the chitlin’ circuit with Junior Parker and his band, the Blue Flames. But in 1961 Bland broke with Parker, went out on his own, and rose to his greatest popularity.
And now we jump to 1964, Honey Child, easily my pick of the crop from such a expansive field of BB soul jewels. And why this flip to Ain´t Nothing You Can Do is so over looked, I will never know! His distinctive silky smooth vocal style slides perfectly into the slinky, swinging rhythms, and it really pulls you in. And in a sudden, the sheer beauty of it all gets pretty overwhelming and inescapable. Adorable and modest guitar phrasing from Wayne Bennett complements the sometimes rampant yet soulful horns which I’m assuming only the great Joe Scott (trumpeter, band leader and Don Robey’s chief talent scout) could be responsible for holding this dance floor gem all together!
Bobby was sometimes referred to as the “Lion of the Blues”, and without a guitar, harmonica, or any other instrument to fall back upon, all he had to offer was his magnificent, charismatic voice. A voice unmatched in my opinion. With his captivating live performances (and a legion of female fans who deemed him a sex symbol even late into his career) he helped bring the blues out of Delta juke joints and into urban clubs and theaters. Bland’s records mostly sold on the R&B market and he had 23 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts and in the 1996 Top R&B book by Joel Whitburn, Bland was rated the #13 all-time best selling artist. I believe he is still performing to this day!
Note: I originally posted this entry back in early June 2013. He died on June 23, just 2 weeks later, at his home in Germantown, Tennessee, after what family members described as “an ongoing illness”. He was 83. After his death, his son told news media that Bland had recently discovered that musician James Cotton was his half-brother.
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
Hip cat Bobby Scott (born Robert William Scott, in 1937, Mt. Pleasant, New York) is one of those mysterious lost and shadowed artists that really deserves to be pushed into the brightest spotlight, and for those of you out there that love your RnB snappy and snazzy and don’t know this one…well, you should!
Scott was a gifted music prodigy, one who could play piano, double bass, cello, vibraphone, accordion, clarinet, and of course knew how to use his voice box just fine! He studied under Edvard Moritz at the La Follette School of Music at the age of eight, and then in 1949 studied composition with Edvard Moritz, a former pupil of Claude Debussyand, and was working professionally at 11.
It was the early 50’s and despite his early classical training, Scott followed his teen callings towards jazz and played with small bands led by the great Louis Prima and Gene Krupa and cut some tracks for Verve Records with a few of these great small groups.
At 16, he started recording for several other record labels including Bethlehem, Savoy, and ABC, who in 1956, released the hit “Chain Gang” written by Sol Quasha and Hank Yakus, which peaked at #13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100!
In 1960, Scott began teaching music theory and harmony and returned to his studies under Moritz. He also signed with Atlantic, releasing a trio of albums under his own name, and started working with other artists, notably Bobby Darin, who he would become a very dear friend to.
That same year, Bobby Scott wrote the title theme for the Broadway version of Shelagh Delaney’s 1958 British play “A Taste Of Honey”, which was exotically made famous by pianist Martin Denny. The instrumental tune was soon given lyrics and was stylishly recorded by the beautiful Julie London, and also Sarah Vaughan, Bobby Darin and by some band called The Beatles. All these versions are quite unique to each other, and I’m sure Mr.Scott must have been pretty chuffed with every interpretation.
Bobby’s big hit won him a Grammy in 1962, but thanks to Herb Alpert’s US Top 10 take, 3 more were added to the list 3 years later. It has been covered so many times by so many great artists but it’s Martin Denny’s 69′ Exotic Moog version I find the most intriguing.
Around 1962, Scott entered one of the few stable periods of his career, taking on as staff producer at Mercury records and working extensively with Quincy Jones. There he would output four albums including the vocal release When the Feeling Hits You, which also happens to be the flip of this killer 45!
Moanin’ first appeared on the self titled Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers album, recorded in 1958, and was written by pianist Bobby Timmons. Soon after, the composition was given lyrics by Jon Hendricks, who is considered one of the originators of “Vocalese”, and was taken up by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross who released a really super smooth vocal version on Columbia, which even sounds better with a Martini or two!
But it’s Scott’s version that blows the stripey socks off! His mod take is tempting from the first few seconds the open piano chords call. It’s jazz, but it cops a big whack with a broken bottle of rock ‘n’roll, and that mix is deliriously delightful! And again, here we get some extra topping, quite a lot actually, with some killing twang! One of my favourite guitar jigs to dance to, it’s relentless, stabbing and stabbing, but the blade is blunt and dirty. You step to the left, then side step to the right, but it just keeps on gettin’! On his return, Bobby is a slight crazed, and disheveled, then we see him fade into a dark lane far too quickly…and we’re left wondering if that all really just happened?!
Bobby Scott continued to compose up until the mid to late 70’s, but recorded a final farewell album For Sentimental Reasons in 89′. He died only 18 months after, succumbing to lung cancer on November 5, 1990 at the age of 53 in New York City. He was as a top-flight pianist, composer and arranger who was so important to the jazz world, but with a release like this one, for a brief moment, he was the king of snap jazz n’ pop!
Referencing and recommended reading…..
“She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment.” Official ninasimone.com.
As we all know, she was arguably one of the most important and influential women of the soul, blues and jazz genre, and I think the only real place to start a 45 collective journey is at the beginning. And it was in the early 60’s, a time when Nina was singing some of her most intimate and bluesy compositions of her career, when this little fiery monster surfaced amongst it all!
But first a little bit about Eunice Kathleen Waymon. She was born in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933, the sixth child to a Methodist minister mother and a handyman and preacher father, and started playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her parents taught her right from wrong, to carry herself with dignity, and to work hard, which would in time mold her into the incredibly strong woman she grew up to be. She played piano in her mother’s church, displaying remarkable talent early in her life, but didn’t sing at that time.
Able to play virtually anything by ear, she was soon studying classical music with an Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich, and quickly developed a lifelong love of Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven. After graduating from her high school, her local community raised money for a scholarship to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Eunice’s hopes for a career as a pioneering African American classical pianist were dashed when the school denied her admission. To the end, she herself would claim that racism was the reason she did not attend.
To survive, she began teaching music to local students, and also began singing in bars, which Eunice’s mother would refer that practice as “working in the fires of hell”. But quickly she attracted club goers up and down the East Coast with her unique jazz-blues renditions of Gershwin, Porter and Rodgers standards. And then Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone, taking the nickname “Nina” meaning “little one” in Spanish and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret.
At the age of 24, Nina came to the attention of Syd Nathan, owner of the Ohio-based King Records, and was signed to his Jazz imprint, Bethlehem Records. While at first Nathan had insisted on choosing songs for her debut set, he eventually relented and allowed Nina to delve in the repertoire she had been performing at clubs and was well known for. What I think is one of her most outstanding jazz compositions on Bethlehem is the B sided African Mailman released in 1960, and one you really need to check out!
Nina’s stay with Bethlehem Records was short lived and in 1959, after moving to New York City, she was signed by Joyce Selznik, the eastern talent scout for Colpix Records, a division of Columbia Pictures, founded in 1958. Her stay with Colpix resulted in some incredible recordings, including 9 albums, and some mighty fine 45’s including Forbidden Fruit and her beautiful version of I Got It Bad.
Produced by big band legend Stu Phillips, Come On Back, Jack is Nina’s response to Ray Charles dance floor bomb Hit The Road Jack, (written by rhythm and bluesman Percy Mayfield) which was released that same year! But while it does share a similar riff and beat, I have to say it’s Nina’s jam that has got Jack running the fastest and packs as much, if not more, dance floor impact. Unavailable on LP, this is a prized diamond hidden amongst so many jewels in Nina’s treasure trove that’s worth hunting for!
Finally, this post is only a very small chapter of this remarkable woman’s life and her recording career, but please stay tuned for future Simone posts here, as there’s certainly a few more 45’s that deserve to be spotlighted!
To find out so much more on this incredible woman’s highly influential life and music visit ninasimone.com.
And also….I Put A Spell On You: The Autobiography Of Nina Simone
United Artists 50328 US Year 1968 The Kane Triplets were a three piece vocal sensation made up of the sweet identical triplets Lucille, Jeanne and Maureen Kane, and started their professional show business career very early in life. As children, they were discovered by the McGuire Sisters after performing on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show, and were asked to join with them in their act on the road and on several television shows. As you can imagine, these little ladies must have been so overly cute and wholesome, but from the footage that you can track down on the net, you cannot deny them of their harmony abilities!Reaction to the girls was amazing! The triplets established their own act and with their growing success, worked in very renowned venues throughout the country, and making Vegas their second home. They even got to work with huge celebrities like Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Sergio Mendes, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations
The ladies released a few 45’s but it was in 1968 when this little monster was unleashed to the world! Easily their most stinging and thrilling recording, which really does give justice to Lalo Schifrin’s original 66′ master piece. While writing credits go to Fred Milano and Angelo D’Aleo of The Belmonts, I can’t tell you if this was in fact the first vocal release, but it’s by far the best I’ve heard. The fact that these now adorably blossomed but still innocent looking ladies are behind this big composition and production makes it even more tastier!
The Kane Triplets were in show business for more than 20 years and made dozens of television appearances, but sadly another sad ending to this story learning that Jeanne Kane was found murdered at a Staten Island (New York City) commuter rail station parking lot, murdered by her ex-husband and retired sergeant John Galtieri in 2007. But on a nicer note, this song always get a great reaction on the dance floor when played and will keep these three little sisters shining on together for many more years.
Track 1 – I Want Your Love Track 2 – The Rider One of my top tens here and it just kills me that I cannot find out any real information on these gals and this killer garage recording! It’s looking like this mighty 4 piece girl group may have only ever laid down 4 studio tracks in their career, including this release with The Rider on the flip, and also You Can’t Stop Loving Me (Columbia 4-43587), which I’m guessing was released that same year. Strange that you also get a very delightful Dressed In Black on that flip, made popular by The Shangrilas in ’66 on Red Bird.
I Want Your Love, written by Tony Michaels, has all you could possibly want in my opinion. Opening with a dangerous blues riffing companionship with overdrive guitar and bar piano, insert seductive vocal “Hey you…. come here” and before you know it, you’re in the widow’s web. The first verse is playful and desperate, and the backing doo-wops and harmonies are starting to spin you in a spiral. We are now only 30 seconds in and the guitar gets dirtier and the build up, like a steep roller coaster climb, is making you nervous. You’re pretty much trapped by now, and can’t help feeling like that little mouse that kitty just won’t let die…all in the name of selfish pleasure perhaps. This track ticks all the boxes for me! It’s raw and driving, like good garage should be. It’s got great horns and pace, stomping percussion and stinging guitar, and of course those femme fatale vocals….innocent yet sultry, and even soulful! Great production from Michaels and killer arrangement by Artie Butler!
The Rider is more down tempo but still just as charming and has more of that Spector sound that I can’t get enough of! All 4 Pussycats recordings also came out as an EP (Portugal) through CBS in ’66 with a killer pic sleeve (above) of all 4 band members. As always, I would love to know more about these elusive ladies and their recordings.
Jacklyn Records 1006 US Year 1967The first time I heard Darrow Fletcher, which was a few years ago now, was one of those life changing experiences. An instant connection and a desire for his records and his sound. A man with an active 7″ soul catalogue, however somehow still quite unknown and mysterious as far as main stream popularity goes. Wasn’t really too sure what to present for my first DF post, but why not go with one of his very best on Jackyln. But first a little history on this great man, and the best place for that lesson is to dig over at Soul Source.
Darrow, born 23 January 1951, moved with his family to Chicago when he was 3, from the Detroit suburb of Inkster. It seems even as a young 6 year old, he was never uncertain about his stage and singing destiny. His love and enthusiasm for song and performance was a gift he must have truly accepted without any hesitance. Whilst he was a freshman in high school in December, 1965, he recorded “The Pain Gets A Little Deeper”, written by himself and producer Ted Daniels, and cut with the help of his stepfather-motivated business man, Johnny Haygood. Is this really the voice and heart of a young 14 year old school kid !? An impressive debut to say the very least! The record was leased to Groovy, a small New York label owned by Sam and George Goldner and Kal Rudman. They got the record on the national R&B charts for seven weeks in early 1966, and was also released on London in the UK.
Soon Darrow was touring the “chitlin” circuit, playing venues like The Apollo, The Uptown and the Regal, where, in July ’66 he shared the bill with B B King, Lee Dorsey and Stevie Wonder. Following three not so successful follow-ups on Groovy, Darrow’s stepfather formed Jacklyn Records in 1966, named after one of his daughters. Darrow cut three singles on Jacklyn, “Sitting There That Night” scored immediately, 2,500 sales for the record in Chicago alone. Darrow co wrote it with his stepfather, and is also providing one of the sweetest guitar solos here, still at the age of 14! The flip “What Have I Got Now” is an insanely beautifully tempo-ed soul track and makes that a 7″ monster must have!
What Good Am I Without You was penned by Don Mancha and produced and arranged by horn player Mike Terry a year later. Again, this is a very big song and arrangement. The pace is high, just as the heart is beating. The strings and backing vocals are stuffed with passion and the chorus is an out pour! To tell you the truth, I’m really not sure if it can ever get better than this! The flip’s Little Girl is a sweet ballad Darrow co-wrote again with his stepfather.
I think it’s fair to say that Darrow had two very distinctive periods to his career. The first part were the records he made in Chicago between 1965 and 1970, and then the handful of singles cut in Los Angeles in the 70s, which had quite a different more modern soul feel, which I’ll dig deeper into in related future posts. But I love them all. There’s an honesty in his voice that I find so compelling and desirable and I hold him up high in praise as one of my all time favourite artists.
A must read is this recent enlightening interview by Boxy from Soul Source…Darrow Fletcher – The Interview – The Full Story