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.
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.
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
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
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!
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.