Sunday, March 31, 2013

Soul on the Air #18: Pervis Spann, 1965

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Tomorrow, April 1, is the 50th anniversary of WVON, the former Chicago R&B powerhouse from which several airchecks have appeared in the "Soul on the Air" series. To celebrate, the station is eschewing its urban talk format for "Retro Day," in which some of the stations "Good Guys" will appear and classic airchecks and commercials will be broadcast. I don't know if any items featured here will be played, but it will certainly be worth checking out. (Please see this news release for further information, including a broadcast schedule.)

In honor of this occasion, this "Soul on the Air" post features Pervis Spann, "The Blues Man," whose career at the station covers its past, present and future. Spann was one of the first DJs hired by Leonard Chess when he turned the brokered-time WHFC into "The Voice of the Negro"; when WVON's frequency was moved to 1390 AM by latter owners Globetrotter Communications and the "Good Guys" format was unceremoniously dumped, Spann set up blues station WXOL at the old 1450 frequency; when WVON's calls were changed to WGCI, he snapped them up; and he continues to own the station to the present day, with his daughter, Melody Spann-Cooper, at the helm.

I won't try to tell his multifaceted story here: it will be much better to refer you to this Chicago Reader profile of the legendary DJ/club owner/promoter/TV host/(alleged) huckster, and, if you can find a copy, Spann's book, The 40-Year Spann of WVON, of which I have an autographed copy (I met Spann at a book signing and had a short, but pleasant conversation with him - when he learned I was going to law school part time while working full time, he said "I like you a lot" and proceeded to tell me about one of his hard-working daughters, who was an attorney). Further, if you would like to see the tomfoolery that Spann presided over with comedian/actor Carl Wright for many years on Chicago cable access TV, "Blues and More," look it up on YouTube. It's something else!

On to the aircheck. I have begun acquiring what may be the largest treasure trove of WVON material (and, by extension, R&B airchecks) out there, namely, over 24 hours of WVON broadcasts from Friday, January 29, 1965 through to the following Monday, February 1. This material includes more great stuff by Herb Kent, Ed Cook, Lucky Cordell and E. Rodney Jones, but also material from Spann and other "Good Guys" for whom airchecks were previously not available, such as gospel jock Bill "Doc" Lee, early WVON personality Franklin McCarthy, and talk show host Wesley South.

This aircheck, presented in four parts, finds Spann laying down soul, blues (of course) and countrified patter for nearly four hours. There are lots of highlights here: "Killing Floor," the then-new Howlin' Wolf single, gets played (it must've been atop the station's hit list at the time, as every other aircheck I've heard so far from this time period includes it), as does "My Girl," then the new Temptations hit; Spann plays the original "Don't Answer the Door" by Jimmy Johnson (later covered by B.B. King; this Jimmy Johnson is not to be confused with Syl's brother, also a fine blues artist), asserting that it's a warning to his fellow "Good Guys";Spann does a sing-along to the Artistics' "Got to Get My Hands on Some Loving"; and he mangles - I mean, reports - the news (interestingly, during his shift, news reports of the funeral of Winston Churchill are not included; those come later in the day). And, of course, there's lots of other good music and commercials to enjoy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Make Way for the Ninth Wonder of the World!

Ironing Board Sam - Cherry Pie

Have you ever been so busy, etc., that you stop at some point and say "I meant to do [blank] AGES ago!?!" This post is an example, unfortunately, as I intended to post it back in July!

Ironing Board Sam was first mentioned here way back in 2006, and I am glad to say that Sam is still with us. I am even more glad to say that Sam is now involved with efforts by the Music Maker Relief Foundation, an organization dedicated to getting great but terminally obscure artists' names and performances in front of the public.

Under the Foundation's auspices, a fantastic artifact from Sam's career has received its first formal release. In the '70s, as Sam's career began to hit the brick wall of disco and the accompanying death of the nightclub scene for many live performers, he recorded an album and sent 100 copies to booking agencies. The album failed to keep Sam afloat as a gigging performer, however, and it vanished for over thirty years.

The album, now entitled The Ninth Wonder of the World of Music, was released recently by the Foundation, and it joins my list of "It's Not Eccentric ... It's Awesome" recordings. Sam sings and plays every instrument except for drums, played by "George" (whose last name Sam has long forgotten). The tunes run the gamut from a jaunty, Caribbean-flavored version of Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on Reggae Woman" to another island-flavored tune, "Do the Ironing Board," to awesome soul balladry ("Purple Raindrops"), to today's selection, a great version of the doo-wop classic "Cherry Pie."

"Cherry Pie" perfectly captures the "after hours" vibe of the whole set as well as the album's DIY nature, but Sam's warm vocals (double-tracked on the choruses) are by no means rudimentary. There are videos of Sam doing the song live on YouTube, which suggests that it has been a favorite of his for no short time.

The album is available for purchase at the Foundation's website, and I think after hearing it (and reviewing the materials and videos on the MMRF website) you will understand why Sam is indeed worthy of Living Blues's honor as "Comeback Artist of the Year."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Real Love for Ryan Shaw

Ryan Shaw - You Don't Know Nothing About Love

It's amazing to think it's been five years since I did two pieces on soul singer Ryan Shaw. Well, the kind folks at Dynotone Records were kind enough to share Shaw's new album, Real Love, with me, and it reminds me right away of what I like about Shaw. He's got the passion and chops to do good soul music in the midst of what's unfortunately turning into a world of pop-slanted, cloying R&B.

As I mentioned in my pieces from 2007, Shaw's got an interesting mix of covers and new stuff here. I liked the decision to go with more obscure covers on This Is Ryan Shaw, and I'm glad to say that once again there are some neat covers here, especially today's featured track.

Jerry Ragovoy's "You Don't Know Nothing About Love" was given an amazing treatment by former gospel singer Carl Hall back in the '60s on Loma, and Howard Tate did a version in 1972 for his eponymous Atlantic LP. Ryan Shaw's version hews closer to Tate's than to Hall's, which is wise considering Shaw's vocal style (Hall's throat-shredding shrieking makes his version stand out on its own). But the power is there, especially in the impassioned coda.

Real Love is another great showcase for the talented Mr. Shaw, and I hope it makes a lot of noise upon its release tomorrow. From the mixed influences of the title track through "You Don't Know Nothing" and a great version of Bobby Taylor's "Blackmail," it's another fine CD that shows that some of the young 'uns know a thing or two about soul.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everybody's Gettin' Down ... EVERYBODY.



Usually I come up with the "cover art" of a podcast once it's finished, but when I saw this picture of legendary authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry dancing at what appears to be a house party, it inspired the "Everybody's Gettin' Down" title and theme of this show. The "get down" vibe is here, even on more mellow numbers!

I dedicate this show to the late Andrew Love of the Mar-Keys and Memphis Horns, who passed away last week in Memphis.



1. Barbara & Gwen - Right On
2. Ruby Andrews - Help Yourself (Lover)
3. The Cruisers - Mink and Sable Mable
4. Syl Johnson - Don't Give It Away
5. Benny Gordon - Give a Damn (About Your Fellow Man) (Pts. 1 & 2)
6. TCB Recording Studio Radio Ad
7. Barbara Lewis - Baby That's a No No
8. The Fidels - Boys Will Be Boys (Girls Will Be Girls)
9. Chuck Jackson - Two Feet from Happiness
10. Walter Bee - Glad I Came to Your Rescue
11. Albertina Walker & The Caravans - Mama Said Thank You
12. Bobby Byrd "Fight Against Drug Abuse" PSA
13. Mark Seven Unltd. - I'm in Love with My Neighbor's Wife
14. James Shaw - Guilty of Adultry (Now What We Gonna Do)
15. Robbie Mitchell & Darryl Patterson - It Hurts to Say Goodbye
16. The Implements - Look Over Your Shoulder
17. The Village Soul Choir - What Happened to the Vows We Made
18. Inell Young - What Do You See in Her
19. "Save the Children" Radio Ad
20. Jodi Gales - Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (Pt. 1)
21. Frankie Newsome - Don't Mess with My Lovemaker (Pts. 1 & 2)
22. The Mar-Keys - Black

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Soul on the Air #17 - Herb Kent, 1971



It occurred to me that it's been over a year since I presented a new "Soul on the Air" feature on the blog. I decided that I'd put a shorter aircheck up here as an appetizer for what I hope will be a series of posts putting more of these great R&B airchecks out there.

I kicked off the "Soul on the Air" series a WVON aircheck featuring Radio Hall of Famer Herb Kent, and I return to the "Kool Gent" and 'VON today. Here's sixteen minutes of Kent from 1971, spinning mostly Chicago-related soul records, namely "If You Find a Fool Bump His Head" by Bill Coday (which, though recorded in Memphis and given national release on Galaxy, was a product of Denise LaSalle's Crajon Productions, which was based in Chicago), "A Bumpy Road Ahead" by The Lovelites, and "Shadows," a Penny 45 produced by fellow 'VON "Good Guy" Richard Pegue on the South Shore Commission, a group that hit nationally in 1975 with the disco classic "Free Man."

I say that the playlist is "mostly" Chicago-bent because, after the newscast at the top fo the aircheck, Herb plays "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones, punctuated by interjections about a "5,000-foot chicken." As you may recall, the 1970 aircheck previously posted included a rock item, so it's clear that Kent was not antipathetic to the genre. (On that point, it's interesting to note that at one point after Kent had departed from 'VON, he actually played punk rock on another station!)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

RIP Don Cornelius




Reports are in that "Soul Train" creator and longtime emcee Don Cornelius has died, apparently of suicide, at age 75. DC was an inspiration to me and his influence on black music, culture and television will never be forgotten. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Soul Heaven Is Getting Mighty Crowded! (Episode #43)





Unfortunately, many artists have passed away since the last show was recorded, most notably Etta James, Johnny Otis, Jimmy Castor, Howard Tate, J. Blackfoot, Lee "Shot" Williams, Dobie Gray and Hubert Sumlin. All of these artists and more are featured in this show.

1. Etta James - You Got It
2. Howard Tate - I'm Your Servant
3. The Johnny Otis Show - Keep the Faith (Pt. 2)
4. Jimmy Castor - Ham Hocks Espanol
5. Johnny Otis - Sulfur 8 Radio Ad
6. Howlin' Wolf - Moving
7. James Ellis - Ain't Gonna Cry No More
8. Hal Hardy - Tears of Joy
9. Larry & The Accommodations - Love Is the Answer
10. Floyd Morris & Company - Bouncing Around
11. Bettye Swann - I Think I'm Falling in Love
12. The Soul Children - Move Over
13. "The New Johnny Otis Show" Radio Ad
14. Johnny Otis - She's All Right
15. Etta James - Seven Day Fool
16. Dobie Gray - River Deep, Mountain High
17. Lee "Shot" Williams - I Hurt Myself
18. Howard Tate - That's What Happens
19. Little Royal - Talking About Trouble
20. The Soul Children - Hearsay
21. Maury Wills - "Vote for Johnny Otis" Radio Ad
22. Bettye LaVette - Hey Love
23. Etta James - My Man Is Together
24. Howard Tate - Pride
25. E. Rodney Jones & Friends - Soul Heaven (instrumental)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Episode #42 Is Now Online!

Episode #42 of the "Get on Down " podcast features an assortment of soul sounds guaranteed to make you wanna move and groove! Enjoy!

1. Loleatta Holloway - Bring It On Up
2. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - I Want You Back
3. Calvin Arnold - Scoobie Do
4. Tommy Youngblood - Back in the Saddle
5. Ella Washington - You're Gonna Cry, Cry, Cry
6. The Drifters - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
7. The Magnetics - Wasting Time
8. Jackie Ross - Walk on My Side
9. The Bar-Kays - Sock Soul
10. Clarence Carter - Getting the Bills (But No Merchandise)
11. Mighty Joe Young - Henpecked
12. Oscar Wright - Leave Me Alone
13. Otis Redding - "Stay in School" PSA
14. Bobby Newsome - Jody, Come Back and Get Your Shoes
15. Rufus Thomas - So Hard to Get Along With
16. Bishop Manning & The Manning Family - This Is Everybody's Song
17. Pigmeat Markham - Pig's Popcorn
18. The Impressions - Do You Wanna Win
19. Dave Hamilton - The Deacons
20. Eula Cooper - Shake Daddy Shake
21. Syl Johnson - Age Ain't Nothing But a Number
22. Jimmy Richards - My New Found Joy
23. Johnny Copeland - Slow Walk You Down
24. The M.G.'s - Neck Bone

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Let's Have Some Fun with Episode #41!





From the jaunty title track through to its instrumental reprise at the end, "Let's Have Some Fun!" is a fitting name for Episode #41 of the "Get on Down ..." podcast! This show, recorded while your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is recuperating from (relatively) minor surgery, includes a few tunes in honor of Nick Ashford and Wardell Quezergue, both of whom found fame in the writing/producing credits of songs, though Ashford also had success in front of mic as well. Get on down! Let's have some fun!

1. The Mod Singers & The Mod Lads - Let's Have Some Fun (Pt. 1)
2. Jerry Butler - How Did We Lose It Baby
3. Lonette - Stop (Don't Worry About It)
4. James Fountain - Malnutrition
5. Otis Redding - "Stay in School" PSA
6. Freda Allyne - Money, and All Your Love
7. Rev. Claude Jeter - You Can Whisper a Little Prayer
8. Charles Wright - Gimme That Sammich
9. Nick Ashford - I Don't Need No Doctor
10. Bo Dud & Jonny Twist - The Get It
11. Richard Brown - Sweet and Kind
12. Aretha Franklin - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
13. Aretha Franklin - Cry Like a Baby
14. Robert Parker - I Caught You in a Lie
15. Senator Jones - What You Gonna Do
16. James Moore - Feet
17. Ann Mason - You Can't Love Me (In the Midnight Hour)
18. Ruby Johnson - I'd Rather Fight Than Switch
19. Ernie Lucas - What We Pay for Love
20. Jimmy Ruffin - Our Favorite Melody
21. "Dusk 'Til Dawn Drive-In Movie Marathon" Radio Ad
22. Warren Lee - Underdog Backstreet
23. Sisters and Brothers - The Jed Clampett (Pt. 1)
24. The Mod Lads - Fun Time (Pt. 2)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Got to Get Back with The Bo-Keys!

The Memphis soul group The Bo-Keys have been going great guns since bassist Scott Bomar formed the group over ten years ago. Bomar's appreciation of the Stax/Volt and Hi sounds gave way to what must be a dream opportunity: to work regularly with some of the cream of the classic Memphis soul crop such as Hi Rhythm Section members Howard Grimes and Archie Turner, long-time Isaac Hayes guitarist and Stax sideman Charles "Skip" Pitts, and Ben Cauley, trumpeter for the legendary Bar-Kays. The Bo-Keys have a new album coming out on the Electraphonic label entitled "Got to Get Back," which drops on June 21. The group's first album achieved instant critical acclaim, and there's no reason why this one won't, either, especially since William Bell and Otis Clay grace some of the cuts!

If my remarks here aren't enough of an endorsement, here's a video covering the making of the album, which features interviews with Bomar, Grimes, Turner, Pitts and Clay. I gotta get "Got to Get Back!"

The Bo-Keys "Got to Get Back !" Mini Doc from Electraphonic Recording on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Episode 40 - Music!





This episode is entitled "Music" and there's plenty of it here!

1. Jr. Walker & The All-Stars - Clinging to the Thought That She's Coming Back
2. Buster Benton - Catch Up with the World
3. Padded Cell - Nothing to Look Forward To
4. The Spinners - My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)
5. Percy Sledge - The Teem Theme Song
6. Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces - The Hamburger Song
7. Jackie Hairston - Monkey on My Back
8. Shorty Billups - Black Cats
9. Little Richie - Just Another Heartache
10. Billy McGregor - Fall Down on My Knees
11. The Brothers & Sisters - Make Me Sad
12. Linda Jones - My Heart Needs a Break
13. Liz McCall - Double Determination
14. Rudy Ray Moore - "The Human Tornado" Radio Ad
15. Candace Love - Uh! Uh! Boy, That's a No No
16. The Soul Partners - Walk On Judge
17. Jackie Wilson - Didn't I
18. The Brothers of Love - Yes I Am
19. The Violinaires - Practice What You Preach
20. Carl Carlton - Don't Walk Away
21. Mavis Staples - You're Driving Me (To the Arms of a Stranger)
22. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band "Express Yourself" Radio Ad
23. Little Mack Simmons - A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Stop Looting and Rioting)
24. Eddy Giles - Music
25. Kay Robinson - We Can't Rest
26. Young-Holt Unlimited - Young and Holtful

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Episode #39B Is Now Online!





Episode #39B of the Get on Down podcast stuffs a lot of soul power into 59:57, with a funkier touch than usual but still presenting a diverse sampling of sounds!

1. Little Denise - Check Me Out
2. The People's Choice - Destruction
3. Bobby Rush - Wake Up
4. Fred Hughes - Don't Let This Happen to Us
5. The Forevers - What Goes Around (Comes Around)
6. Lorraine Rudolph - Keep Coming Back for More
7. Bobby Byrd - "Fight Against Drug Abuse" PSA
8. Jackey Beavers - There's a Heartbreak Somewhere
9. Bobby Patterson - The Good Ol Days
10. Edith Brown - You Think Love Is Something to Play With
11. Ike Turner - Love Is a Game
12. Mask Man & The Cap-Tans - It's the Thing
13. Roy Ward - Horse with a Freeze (Pt. 1)
14. Big Bill Collins - City BBQ Radio Ad
15. Little Ben & The Cheers - Beggar of Love
16. The Valentinos - You've Got the Kind of Love That's for Real
17. Johnnie Mae Matthews - You Make Me Feel Good
18. Charlie & Inez Foxx & Their Mockin' Band - Speed Ticket
19. The Debonaires - Eenie Meenie Gypsaleenie
20. Ray Bryant - Up Above the Rock
21. Gimbles Department Store Radio Ad
22. The Li'l Soul Brothers - I've Got Heartaches
23. Tom & Jerrio - Great Googa Mooga
24. Freedom Now Brothers - It's Our Thing
25. Belva & The Randolph Brothers - Happy Fool
26. The Toddlin' Town Sounds - The Dud