Tuesday, March 31, 2009
What was going to be simply a show dedicated to the Adair County High School Academic Team, of which your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is an alumnus, and its coach, "Get on Down ..." listener Brett Reliford, ended up being a memorial to Eddie Bo, Ted Jarrett and Mel Brown as well. There's plenty of "get down" in here, though, and some Wylie Dixon for Mr. Reliford! Here's the playlist:
1. Eddie Bo - Hook & Sling (Pts. 1 & 2)
2. Betty Wright - I'm Gonna Hate Myself in the Morning
3. Larry Birdsong - Digging Your Potatoes
4. Buddy Ace - Jump Up and Shout
5. The Explosions - Garden of Four Trees
6. James Brown "Take Him to the Man" PSA
7. "Save the Children" Radio Ad
8. Danny Hernandez & The Ones - One Little Teardrop
9. Eddie Bo - That Certain Someone
10. Freddie & The Kinfolk - Last Take
11. Wylie Dixon - When Will It End
12. Pauline & Bobby - No Messin' Around
13. Mel Brown - W-2 Withholding
14. Etta James - Miss Pitiful
15. Aretha Franklin Coca-Cola Radio Ad
16. The Avons - Tell Me Baby (Who Would I Be)
17. Shirley Walton - The One You Can't Have (All By Yourself)
18. Tennison Stephens - Where Would You Be
19. Koko Taylor - Separate or Integrate
20. Clea Bradford - My Love's a Monster
21. Gordon Staples & The String Thing - Get Down
22. Freddie Waters - It's a Little Bit Late
23. Skip Easterling - The Grass Looks Greener
24. The Tempo Rhythms - Oriental Soul
Monday, March 23, 2009
Gene Allison - I Understand (alternate take)
The parade to "soul heaven" continues, unfortunately, with the passing of Nashville R&B impresario Ted Jarrett. As a longtime champion of Nashville soul on this blog, I've featured Jarrett compositions, productions and releases on some of his labels. I suppose in my next podcast, which I intend to put together at some point this week, I'll have to get some Nashville in there to go with the New Orleans.
One of Jarrett's biggest successes was with Gene Allison, who hit big with "You Can Make It If You Try." Like Allison's contemporaries Earl Gaines and Larry Birdsong, Gene stuck around with Jarrett for quite some time. The fine Southern soul ballad "I Understand" was released as a Ref-O-Ree single in 1969. Today's selection is an alternate take of the tune, which was included on the The Ref-O-Ree Records Story.
Hopefully this will be the last RIP post, at least for awhile!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The Explosions - Hip Drop (Pts. 1 & 2)
The bad part about having a vintage soul blog is that multiple times throughout the year I have to report the passing of yet another fine artist. New Orleans singer/pianist/songwriter/producer/label owner Eddie Bo has passed away at age 79. Bo's long career cut across R&B, soul and funk, and it's the latter category for which he's probably best known, thanks to his 1969 hit "Hook and Sling" and scads of other gems that are highly-favored by funk fans. A quick survey of my links section will give you a taste of "Hook and Sling," "Check the Bucket" and others, but I'll feature the femme funk classic "Hip Drop," which he wrote and produced for the Explosions for the tiny Gold Cup label. Everything about this record is right: the singalong line "Hip Drop, come on and Hip Drop," to Juanita Brooks' strong lead vocal, to some nice drum breaks, to the goofy interjections (by Eddie maybe?) of "I tried the Hip Drop and I liked it!" and "Mr. Whipple - he can do the Hip Drop, too!" It's just a funky good time that is one of my favorite Bo productions.
RIP Eddie Bo. Your contributions to New Orleans music and to funk were immense and are apprciated among the rare soul community.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
It Ain't No Use
Ha Ha (Laughing Song)
Today's selections make up one of the 45s that I heard growing up that helped shape my appreciation for vintage soul music. My mother would play both sides of Z.Z. Hill's Mankind single "It Ain't No Use" b/w "Ha Ha (Laughing Song)" and I loved it, even though I didn't quite understand the seriousness of the lyrics. I don't know why I failed to mention the 45 in my 2007 Vinyl Record Day post, but I suppose it's better late than never to feature it, right?
Red Kelly has an excellent biography of the late soul blues superstar on The B-Side, so I'll just get to the music. The 45 was one of several successful singles pulled from The Brand New Z.Z. Hill, a Swamp Dogg-produced (he wrote or co-wrote many of the songs - including today's selections - as well) soul "opera" of sorts. Today's selections constituted the first two "scenes" of "Act I." On "It Ain't No Use," we meet Z.Z. and his new woman as they return to his pad for some drinks and romance. As the bluesy groove shuffles along, Hill is working on his mack, offering to make a drink ("put a little ice in it ... make some Kool Aid") and anticiping a good time ("heeeeeeeey, mama, girl that's out of sight!" he hollers as she makes her move). But before any "getting on" starts, the proceedings are interrupted by a knock on the door by his ex-flame, Ethel, whose initial tough posturing ("open this damn door, I wanna talk to you") quickly fades into a tearful plea for forgiveness. Hill's not hearing it, though, so he launches into the song, whose blunt lyrics were lost on me as a child (I was still hung up on the "Kool Aid" part). "Ha Ha" continues the withering dismissal, albeit with a funky groove this time. In the dramatic portion, Hill sends his unfortunate guest home and further expands on how Ethel mistreated him to the point that folks were laughing at him ("it's got so good now, they just kind of walk up and giggle in my face," he asserts). The lyrics to "Ha Ha" aren't as sharp as those in "It Ain't No Use," but the groove romps along and there's a great horn vamp before the final verse.
Oh, in case you want to know what happens in the rest of the album - Ethel eventually is forgiven and they get married at the end! How about that?
Friday, March 13, 2009
Bohannon - Stop and Go
Back in the fall I featured '70s groovemaster Hamilton Bohannon on the blog, and another one of his groove-heavy tunes will grace the blog today. "Stop and Go" was the title track of his 1973 Dakar debut and, as I noted in the prior post, it's easy to get caught up in the hypnotic groove Bohannon gets going. Although it's not as catchy as "South African Man," listening to it is a great way to move into a weekend. Get on down, y'all! TGIF!
Thursday, March 05, 2009
I hadn't planned to do a "Soul on the Air" feature so close to the installment featuring KCOH's Gladys "Gee Gee" Hill from a couple of weeks back, but I have just learned from Mary Mitchell's column in The Chicago Sun-Times that Richard Pegue (rhymes with "McGee"), one of the latter-day WVON "Good Guys" and Chicago soul musician, arranger and record label owner, has passed away at the age of 65. Pegue joined the WVON line-up at the end of the '60s, and with his cool style and sharp wit, the "Dubber Ruckie" fit right in with the station's style. I'll defer to Pegue's Best Music of Your Life website bio page for a chronology of his radio career. I remember that when I moved to Chicago in 1997 he was doing his thing on WGCI-AM (the former WVON, at 1390 on the dial), which would eventually turn into a full-time gospel station (although during the early gospel days, Pegue got to keep a late-night soul show). Afterwards he could be heard both on the revived WVON (when 'VON moved to 1390 in the mid-'70s, Pervis Spann acquired rights to the 1450 frequency, where he ran WXOL until 'VON changed its calls to WGCI and Spann snapped up the legendary calls), holding down Spann's all-night slot a few nights a month, and on Kennedy-King College's WKKC-FM, all programs of which I always enjoyed.
I'll stop writing a biography of Pegue here and refer you to this excellent 2004 episode of WHPK's Sitting in the Park in which host Bob Abrahamian interviews Pegue and features lots of his productions. (If you haven't been to the show's website, do go and enjoy interviews with many of the greats of Chicago soul!) I certainly enjoyed listening to Pegue when I lived in Chicago and enjoy records he had a hand in. May he rest in peace.
Today's selection is from June 9, 1975. Pegue plays a nice mixture of hits of the day and some soul from a few years earlier while laying down some nice cool patter and singing along with songs as they fade out. As Herb Kent mentioned in his excellent new autobiography, The Cool Gent: The Nine Lives of Radio Legend Herb Kent, which I heartily recommend to any R&B fan, radio fan or Herb Kent fan, by this time WVON had lost its ratings dominance due to the rise of FM radio and the "less talk, more music" trend in broadcasting (a trend that some of the "Good Guys" weren't able or willing to adapt to), but several, including Kent, Pegue and Cecil Hale (many thanks to the good Dr. Hale for recently commenting on an earlier "Soul on the Air" feature to answer a commenter's question) went along with the flow and kept the soul going for a few more years, as demonstrated here.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Vi Campbell - Seven Doors
I think I've stated on this blog before, and I know lots of soul fans agree with me on this, but I really hope that somehow there can be a definitive Duke/Peacock/Back Beat/Sure Shot soul comp released at some point. I am continually pleased to hear more and more fine soul and funk sides from those labels, but to know there's more out there keeps me longing for more than the ABCs of Soul CDs of the '90s which covered only the biggest hits. (There is a CD called The Northern Soul of Texas which covers quite a bit of material, but I'm not sure as to its legitimacy.) When there are records out there like today's selection, why must we fans suffer?
The 1966 Peacock single "Seven Doors" is a swinging shuffler with a Bobby Bland-styled groove over which Vi Campbell, about whom I know absolutely nothing, strongly delivers her accusations and predicts her revenge. (The Bobby Bland flavor is no accident, as Bland's bandleader and arranger Joe Scott had a hand in the record.) As far as I can tell, this was her only 45, but what a recording!