Track 1 Underdog Track 2 Bad Risk
Sylvester Stewart was born in Dallas, Texas, in March of 1944 & began his recording career at the very early age of four as a vocalist on the gospel tune On the Battlefield for My Lord. In the 50’s, his family moved to the San Francisco area where he & his brother Freddie learned to play various instruments & made music under the name the Stewart Four. Stewart also played & sang with doo-wop groups & in high school sang with a group called the Viscanes, appearing on their record Yellow Moon, & at sixteen made a solo record called Long Time Away which gained him some modest fame.
Stone studied music composition, theory, & trumpet at Vallejo Junior College in the early 60’s & began playing in several groups on the Bay Area scene. Around ’64 he had become a disc jockey at the R&B station KSOL, & his radio appearances led to a job producing records for Autumn Records. There he worked with a number of San Franciscan garage & psychedelic bands & he himself recorded three 7’s titled Buttermilk PT1-2 & Temptation Walk PT1-2, both in 65, & also the unusual surf track I Just Learned To Swim in ’64 flipped with Scat Swim, which is a personal fav’ that I’ll have to share sometime in the future…it’s a little insane!
As a DJ he gained notoriety as one of the more eccentric voices on radio, blending sound effects with public service announcements & mixing soul singles with rock & roll records by Bob Dylan & the Beatles, & was generally considered the top R & B commentator in the area.
In ’66 Stewart’s current band The Stoners split, & it was saxophonist Jerry Martini who approached Stewart, who was content at the time with his DJ gig, into fronting a new band. Along with Martini, Stewart enlisted brother Freddie as guitarist & his sister Rosie to play piano, with the addition of bassist Larry Graham & drummer Greg Errico & ex-Stoners trumpet player Cynthia Robinson. Stewart changed his name to Sly Stone, & the Family Stone was born.
The band quickly attracted the attention of Columbia Records A&R executive David Kapralik & soon signed with Columbia, releasing its debut LP, A Whole New Thing, in 1967 on the Columbia subsidiary Epic Records. The album didn’t fare particularly well, but my only explanation for that could possibly be only because of the lack of radio hits, & definitely not the lack of fat funk! The opening track on that Lp, Underdog is a killer & the debut album’s only 7″ release which, I suspect, was a promo only (please correct me if I’m wrong!). I myself think this is the most desirable & important Sly 45 to have! It’s an epic tune, with big vocals, snappy rap versing & the sharpest percussion. I’m just not sure the world was ready for this!
But it didn’t take long for the Family to hit it big, which they certainly did with the almighty (& much more radio friendly) US. and UK. Top 10 smash Dance To The Music, from their follow up LP of the same name. Even Sly admits he wasn’t ready for what was about to hit them!
In ’69, Sly released the album ‘Stand’ which included the next big follow up hit Everyday People. A big album, with some big songs, also including I Want To Take You Higher & my personal fav’ from the album, the title track Stand!
This album went on to sell two million copies.
Underdog was also released on a french picture sleeve as a B side to Dance To The Music, but it’s this bad boy you want with the baddest Bad Risk on the flip!
It must be noted that Sly & the Family Stone did release a mysterious 7″ with the titles I Ain’t Got Nobody & Otis Redding’s I Can’t Turn You Loose on the flip, on a small San Francisco-based Loadstone label. This is said to be the first “Family” 7″, however the dates I’m getting on this release are all over the place ranging from 67 to 72. The track also appeared on their ’68 LP.
The Family Stone are credited as one of the first racially integrated bands in music history, belting their message of peace, love & social consciousness through a string of hit anthems. Their music fused R&B, soul, pop, jazz, & an emerging genre soon to be dubbed funk! Sly developed a formula for the band’s recordings, which would still promote his visions of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism while appealing to a wider audience. And his new fused sound not only worked in selling records, but influenced the entire music industry. When “Dance to the Music” became a Top 10 pop hit, soul producers and labels immediately began appropriating the new “Psychedelic soul” sound. By the end of 1968, The Temptations had gone psychedelic, and The Impressions and Four Tops would join them within the space of two years.
Sadly Sly eventually fell down the spiral with his constant drug addictions over some many years. While he still may have that spark in his eyes, & that beautiful energy in his aura, he clearly has paid a price for those early years of fame. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, & is the recipient of the 2002 R&B Foundation Pioneer Award.
Referencing and recommendations…
Documentary – Sly & the Family Stone “Coming back for more” (I would love to see this!)
Documentary -Sly Stone: Portrait of a Legend
Jubilee 45-5459 US Year 1963
Track 1 – You’re No Good Track 2 – Don’t Call Me Anymore
If there’s ever a 7″ that deserves an A for “attitude”, then this is it!
Jersey gal Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warwick (sister of Dionne Warwick, niece of Cissy Houston and cousin of Whitney Houston) brings us this dizzying monster two-sider from way back in the early 60’s on Jubilee.
A young Dee Dee sang with her sister and their aunt in the New Hope Baptist Church Choir in Newark, New Jersey. Eventually the three women formed the gospel trio the Gospelaires, and at a performance with the Drinkard Singers at the Apollo Theater in 1959, the Warwick sisters were recruited by a record producer for session work and, along with Doris Troy, subsequently became a prolific New York City area session singing team.
Dee Dee began her solo career in 1963 cutting You’re No Good, produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, then in ’64 on the Tiger Label, releasing the lovely ballad Don’t Think My Baby’s Coming Back, before signing with Mercury in 65.
Vee-Jay’s head a&r man Calvin Carter found You’re No Good while visiting New York City in search of material for his label’s roster and he originally intended to cut it with Dee Dee, but as he recalls, “when I went to rehearsal with the tune, it was so negative, I said, ‘Hey, guys don’t talk negative about girls, because girls are the record buyers. No, I better pass on that.’ So I gave the song to Betty Everett”. Still uncertain as to why there’s an exception when Betty sings it however, maybe it was her more “acceptable” feminine approach she gave it?
Dee Dee’s delivery and conviction is nasty on this little gem. The tempo is scathing, the backing vocals are damn sassy! The song hits you in the head like on old piece of hard timber….she’s letting you know! And just as you think you can’t take anymore, you soon discover the rusty nail in the form of some serious fuzz tone delivered by a short but intimidating guitar rant.
While this tune proved to be much more successful for Everett, which she released only 2 months later in November, (the single peaked at number fifty-one on the Hot 100, and at number five on “Cashbox’s R&B Locations” chart), I’m definitely a lot more infatuated with this dirty raw punchier version of Dee Dee’s from what I like to call her “early punk” R&B days. I don’t wish to ever take anything away from Betty’s take, which really is something special (it may start off quite sweet and slick, but it builds up and gets swinging, and she does finally get a bit worked up towards the end).
There’s only one thing better than a two-sider, and as in this case, two tracks that you could say relate to each other in subject (another great example is Ann Sexton’s You’re Losing Me flipped with You’re Gonna Miss Me). The flip Don’t Call Me Any More is simply great and again, hard hitting, and makes this 7″ release quite an interesting one, when in a time most soul songs were about love and sorrow in relationships, and not so much about attitude and angst.
On a sad note…
The more I research about these wonderful artist’s that gave us these incredible songs, too often I find that there’s another darker side to their story. Dee Dee Warwick struggled with narcotics addiction for many years and was in failing health for some time. Her sister was with her when she died on October 18, 2008 in a nursing home in Essex County, New Jersey, aged 66.
Other Dee Dee recommendations!
Dee Dee Warwick – Foolish Fool – Mercury 72880 Year 1969
Dee Dee Warwick – Cold Night In Georgia – Atlantic 2091-057 Year 1971
The Gayletts formed in 1967 in Jamaica consisting of Merle Clemonson, Beryl Lawson and the legendary Judy Mowatt, but sadly broke up in 1970 when Lawson and Clemonson left for America. While it’s difficult to tell you much more about this lovely short lived reggae soul formation, they did leave us a handful of 7″s including this smashing Dusty tune, Son of a Preacher Man, the adorable Silent River Runs Deep, and another great cover, Brenda Lee’s Here Comes That Feeling.
Judy Mowatt of course did go on to become quite the prominent reggae queen there after. In the earlier 70’s she wrote tracks for Wailers’ front man Bunny Livingston, but got her big break in ’74 when she joined up with Bob Marley & The Wailers’ backing vocal trio the I Threes, along with Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths. Mowatt continued to record for decades after, including a spree of gospel albums between 1998-02.
Preacher was arranged by Ken Lazurus, who once sang for Byron Lee And The Dragonaires, and was released on Steady Records and also on Hourglass the same year . The flip That’s How Strong My Love Is, is a very loving slow ballad with 2.37 mins. of the sweetest harmonies.
The Gayletts is that perfect explosion you get when you mix up a nice dash of doo wop, a big clump of rock steady and a generous sprinkle of heart and soul, and then stirred with the most beautiful rhythm. I find this track so uplifting and a hard one to beat when it comes to female soul groups!
Just criminal that this here dance floor monster was not the hit it deserved to be back in ’73 for K-Doe!!
Born in New Orleans on February 22, 1936, Ernest Kador Jr.’s first public singing was in church choirs at the age of nine, and went on to sing with such spiritual groups as the Golden Choir Jubilees and the Divine Traveler. Not able to resist the pull of doo wop and R&B, he advanced his career by briefly singing with The Flamingos and the Moonglows in Chicago in the early fifties.
K-Doe began hanging out at the famed Dew Drop Inn and other New Orleans clubs like the Sho-Bar, and also sang briefly with a local group, The Blue Diamonds, with whom he recorded on the Savoy label. As a solo artist he signed with Herald and Specialty and released a few hits, but it was the release of Mother-In-Law in ’61 on Minit that gave him his first real taste of sucess! It reached number one on Billboard‘s R&B chart during May of 1961, and it was the young 23 year old songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint who arranged the song, with backing vocals by the great Benny Spellma. Ironically, K-Doe abandoned Mother-in-Law during rehearsal because it had not gone well. However, as Toussaint recollected in K-Doe’s obituary in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “It found its way back out of the trash can and into my hands, so we could try again. I’m so glad we did.” Mother-In-Law was one of the biggest records to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s, selling in the millions!
The now successful and flamboyant K-Doe went on to release a string of great tracks there after, include Dancing Man, Popeye Joe, the self penned Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta, and one I highly recommend A Certain Girl, which was very nicely covered by The Yardbirds in ’64 with a truly big sound.
It’s 1973…K-Doe is on a new label Janus, and teams up once again with Toussaint, but this time releasing something a lot more funkier than ever before (well it was the 70’s!). Releasing a brilliant self titled LP, with Toussaint’s session hipsters, The Meters as his recording band, and it’s the dynamite Here Come The Girls that gets the single release (the flip being A Long Way Back From Home). The moment the distinctive military intro kicks in, you are forced to attention, and quickly that melodic verse sweeps you in. Driven with that tight rhythmic Meters strumming, along with that catchy bridge and chorus, you soon realise that this is more the funk that’s definitely derived from good R&B and soul roots! It’s snappy, tight and the pace is perfect!
Although this mighty tune may not have reached the success or attention of his hey day 61′ classic, or whether it even made the charts at all at the time, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t the soundtrack to plenty of dance floor lovers of the time. It just must have been! While the great man is no longer with us, the good news is today, it’s a tune certainly on many dj’s set lists (or wish lists), and still gets a whole lot of people jivin’ 40 years later!
Lots of info online on this great artist and here’s some I referenced and recommend!
Track 1 – I Know How It Feels Track 2 – Wondering If You Miss Me
This heart wrenching soul ballad is an absolute pearl and one I keep very close to my heart. A song to play late at night, with a stiff hard drink, on your own (well maybe with a pet friend), and not one that I play in public too often. A mysterious recording, certainly not an easy one to find particular specs on, so I had to visit my fav’ research web site Soulful Detroit once again for most of the info here.
Laura Johnson, an amateur singer from Detroit, who happened to work in the Correc-tone’s offices, paid for her own studio time and recorded these two stirring tracks at Wilbert Golden’s legendary Correc-tone studios. The self-penned “Wondering If You Miss Me”, and “I Know How It Feels”, which was written by infamous Popcorn Wylie and Motown’s Janie Bradford, and produced by Robert Bateman, were released in ’62 on Bob Shad’s New York Brent label. It’s likely that Correc-tone’s session musicians of that time, bassist James Jamerson, drummer Benny Benjamin and guitarist Robert White recorded on these tracks, but I can’t confirm that. I’m pretty sure that’s the incredibly beautiful “Andantes” backing her up here.
Laura also had a hand in writing a couple of gems cut by Marva Josie, including the excellent “Later For You Baby” which was released on Brent’s sister label,Time, also released in ’62.
“I Know How It Feels” was earlier released by The Satintones on Motown (the first band to ever record for that label) in ’61, then also with The Marvelettes on their Please Mr.Postman LP debut, that same year in November. Both versions are a delight in their own ways, but Johnson gets the badge of honor for me.
Seems not too many people out there really knew much more about this elusive artist and these remarkable isolated recordings. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Johnson was to ever record again, and with that remarkable tone, it’s the greatest shame!
Detroit based sibling funksters, The Jackson Sisters, bring you this absolute killer version of Mark Capanni’s I Believe In Miracles, circa 1973.
The Jackson Sisters were a soul family group from Compton, California, comprising of Jacqueline Jackson-Rencher (the eldest), Lyn Jackson, Pat Jackson, Rae Jackson and Gennie Jackson (the youngest). The girls would practice on an old beaten up piano in their dad’s garage, composing songs after school, and would draw all the neighboring kids to watch. After a handful of talent show wins, the young siblings soon found themselves opening for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, then known as The Mark Taper Form. It was Smokey’s farewell concert (entitled The Last Miracle) and include other feature acts including Al Green, Edwin Starr, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers and The Three Degrees.
It was 1973, and within that same year, they signed a contract with a small recording company, Prophesy Records in Beverly Hills, California. That is when they recorded I Believe in Miracles, co-written by Mark Capanni & produced by Bobby Taylor. This track is truly a rich and rare funk, soul classic, with amazing harmony vocals, and a tempo that really would light any dance floor on fire! I believe it is the youngest of the sisters, Gennie, that takes most of the lead vocals on the song (I’m guessing she’s running that bridge that leads to the monster chorus), and her vocal power is pure brilliance. And no surprise that they were nominated for best new vocal group for the Black Image Awards and best new female artist by Record World Magazine in 1974-1975 which was announced on Soul Train an aired Feb. 22, 1975.
Sadly the parent album, scheduled to be released on Tiger Lily Records in 1976, was withdrawn, although a few promo copies went into circulation and they now retail for big bucks as one would expect. The musical tracks were the works of the late great Gene Page. The vocals were produced by Pete Moore of the famous Smokey Robinson & The Miracles along with Bobby Taylor.
While they did get to release a few 45’s, Miracles is the most sought after and not too easy to find. Originally on a red Prophesy label with the flip (Why Can’t We Be) More Than Just Friends, and also as a white label promo with 2 heavy cuts of track A, one in big fat mono! There was also a release on UK label Mums Records, and a re-release on Polydor in 1976.
The original version of I Believe In Miracles, which was first recorded in 1973 and performed by Mark Capanni, is an absolute beautiful soul masterpiece, well deserved of the highest praise and well worth tracking down. Despite the Capanni version having been pressed, it failed to make an impact and the record was pulled, making it very sought after. But it was the Jackson Sisters that did the dance floor business, with their feverish thumpin’ funk monster, which was unleashed in 1974.
Well I’m going to start off by saying that this here, has to be one of my favourite examples of crossover R&B and Ska! It moves, and it shuffles, and oh just so nicely!
Tenor Sax extraordinaire Earl Swanson and his Trini-dads are killing it here on this one off 1964 recording, but actually this band of merry men is one of many incarnations of producer Frank Guida and his Legrand Records house band, The Church Street Five.
Guida owned a number of record labels, including Le Monde (distributed by Atlantic), then Legrand (home to many early sixties hits by Gary U.S.Bonds) and finally sister label S.P.Q.R. (distributed by London). Guida was of Italian extraction and while stationed in Trinidad during the Second World War, he fell under the influence of calypso, an obvious influence passed on in many of his productions. Much of the Gary U.S. Bonds sound was created by the Church Street Five (based in Virginia), featuring Gene “Daddy G” Barge and Earl Swanson on the earlier cuts. The Church Street Five also featured Ron “Junior” Fairley on bass, Willie Burnell on piano, Leonard Barks on trombone, Eric Sauls and Wayne Beckner on guitar, and Melvin Glover and Nabs Shields on drums.
Everybody Do The Ska is the flip, and it’s a much more traditional ska-reggae composition that really is out shined by Back Slop!
While Jamaican ska was originally influenced by the sound of American R&B and jazz picked up in Kingston from radio broadcasts in New Orleans and Miami, the sound of early 60’s ska also had an impact on American pop music of the same era. And here is the what can happen when both these beautiful styles marry. This uptempo instrumental is really hot stuff. The ripping guitar blues solo, the Baby Earl grooves, the constant but addictive rhythms, mixing boogaloo with soulful ska, it’s made strictly for the dance floor!
Other facts: Guida opened a record store in Norfolk, Virginia, named Frankie’s Got It in 1953 (it’s motto was Shakespeare’s “If music be the food of love, play on!”, which later became a song on a Bonds B-side).
SPQR is the abbreviation for the Latin, Senate and Citizens of Rome, emblem of the Roman Empire (Senatus Populesque Romanus) and may have been a nod to Guida’s family’s original home, but it may have also stood for Sound Proof Quality Records.
In 1955, Ruth Brown met Swanson on the Griffin Brothers Orchestra tour and soon married, but sadly Swanson was not a nice husband at all! He was a womanizer, drug user and a wife beater, and made Brown’s life hell (you can read in more detail of the relationship here Icons of R&B).
Not a lot of information can be found on this massive Daniels recording, but I have to say it’s up there in my top favs to spin and not an easy one to find.
Daniels’ (born in Jacksonville, Florida, 1915) most recognised and popular recording That Old Black Magic is what you’ll find on the A side here. First recorded back in around 1948 for Apollo records (1101), it had quite a few successful releases on Mercury (5721 10″ Shellac where it was released as That Ol’ Black Magic, Mercury 5721×45 7″ 1950, a UK picture sleeve EP and also on Oriele) so it’s is obviously a re-release. On this Liberty release, over a decade later however, we have the almighty Jack Nitzsche reworking the Mercer-Arlen composition, and the production is what you’d expect from this great “Nitzsche era” of recordings. It’s smooth and it’s cool, and the overall sound is far more “hip” than the earlier recordings, but it’s on the flip where the real black magic happens!
Woe Woe Woe is the one you want to drop on this 45, and I’m not sure what really happens here to Daniels, but I can only assume that he was somehow possessed by the devil in that studio session! Maybe it was all the fame and those late nights in Vegas, after all it was 1964, what a place to be! Maybe after all his success with ballads and standards, he wanted to finally just give it all…and he certainly does here, come that short monstrous chorus line. The sax solo here is so, so very slinky and sexy, and I really want to know who is responsible! The percussion is slick, the tempo is dangerous, and the sound is big and nasty! Then adding those sultry, foxy backing vocals…well, it just makes this the most thrilling 2 minutes of soulful rocking R&B you’re likely to ever experience!
As always, I’m keen to find out more about this recording, especially the recording artists! The promo – audition cream copies seems to appear more often than the regular liberty copies, but still not an easy one to get your hands on, and well worth the hunt!
Track 1: Let Me Be Your Boy Track 2: My Heart Belongs To You
This has to be my favourite track from Alabama soul whiz, Wilson Pickett. Released in March 1962, after departing from his former vocal group The Falcons (fellow band members included Bonnie Mack Rice, Eddie Floyd and Joe Stubbs) to pursue a solo career, it seems that this song didn’t reach the success it well and truly deserved!
Research is telling me that this was the one and only recording he did with CORREC-TONE, but the track was also picked up that same year by (independent) CUB Records of New York. Pickett wrote the sweet flip “My Heart Belongs To You”, however the studio’s keyboardist Wilbert Harbert penned the electrifying A-side, “Let Me Be Your Boy”, while Sonny Sanders and Robert Bateman oversaw the sessions.
Pickett’s CORREC-TONE and CUB experience was short lived, moving on a few years later to Atlantic Records, where history was made with huge successful hits such as Mustang Sally, Land of 1000 Dances and so many more. There were two re-releases of this recording a few years later on M.G.M (UK-1965) and also on Verve, (www.45cat.com) and I’m guessing sparked on as a “cash in”, due to his success with the hit “In The Midnight Hour” that same year. There also seems to be a Spanish EMI-Verve picture sleeve out there.
Pickett must have been around 21 at this time, and the maturity in his technique and the overall song composition is truly astounding and obviously ahead of it’s time. The blue beat-ska rhythm and dynamics here, is what really made me fall so in love with this track. That, along with the upbeat tempo, and of course those familiar and incredible backing vocals by none other than The Supremes (aka The Primettes) makes it a dance floor filler!
I have the beautiful deep red Cub issue, which doesn’t seem to surface very often, and would love to know any other artist’s involvement with this recording!
Highly recommended reading about the Correc-tone Wilson experience can be found here…
Also check out Pickett’s very smooth Hey Joe 1969 Atlantic