Friday, February 22, 2008
Hitch It To The Hoss!
Tiny Watkins - Words of a Dying Man
As readers of this blog are aware, I constantly champion the sounds of Nashville soul, and love to feature tunes from that little-heralded scene. It's not surprising, then, that I was thrilled to learn that the German SPV concern's Blue Label was working with Bluesland Productions to do comps featuring Bluesland's Nashville soul and R&B holdings, which include the Ted Jarrett labels of the '50s and '60s, John R's Rich Records label, the Bullet/Sur-Speed concern and, as featured today, Bill "Hoss" Allen's Rogana production concern (see SPV's Blue Label page and the Bluesland Productions website, which also refers to a couple of comps they did in association with R.O.A.D. Records).
The Rogana Story: Hossman's Blues features the WLAC DJ / The Beat!!!! emcee's productions under the Rogana imprimatur, which he started when he found it easier to lease his productions to other labels than to try to keep his Hermitage label afloat. Although the only Rogana act to obtain any significant level of success was Earl Gaines, whose "Best of Luck to You" hit on HBR in 1966, the records Hoss leased to Excello, Bragg, Jewel and other labels on Gaines and other Nashville soul luminaries like Jimmy Church, Rodge Martin, Lucille Mathis and Frank Howard were outstanding and many of them are well-known in the rare soul scene.
One of my favorite Rogana artists is the late Tiny Watkins, whose deep voice added tremendous gravitas to ballads like "A Soldier's Sad Story" and "Forbidden Fruit" and resonated warmly on dancers like "Way Across Town" (one of the best weapons in my DJ arsenal) and today's selection. According to the Rogana Story liner notes, Watkins only had four 45s released before his untimely death, which is a shame because the tunes I've heard are all of very high quality and maybe he could've caught a break had he lived. The perhaps-prophetic "Words of a Dying Man" finds Watkins contemplating imminent mortality and seeking forgiveness from his true love over a strutting groove.