Friday, December 30, 2005

Steppin' Into The New Year!

I will be traveling for New Years so, to cover for the short hiatus, here's some good music to step into 2006 with!

1. Monk Higgins - Who Dun It

Milton Bland (aka Monk Higgins) was a mainstay of Chicago soul throughout the '60s, playing, writing, arranging and producing for a wide array of labels including the One-Derful!/M-Pac!/Mar-V-Lus group, Chess and St. Lawrence. On the latter label Higgins scored two hits of his own, the first being today's selection. "Who Dun It" features a very nice bass line and a great smoky sax melody that references the famous "Peter Gunn" theme here and there. By the '70s Higgins had relocated to California, where he turned out more great music and scored some blaxploitation pictures, but his Chicago work is my favorite.

2. Clarence Carter - Put on Your Shoes and Walk

Clarence Carter has appeared twice on this page and on one episode of the podcast, and for good reason. His Atlantic and Fame recordings are very good and show the richness of his vocals and guitar, which is lost amid the popularity of his '80s risque party anthem "Strokin'". "Put on Your Shoes and Walk" came out on Fame in 1973 and was a minor hit for him. Carter's missive to men in broken relationships is framed well by the Fame Gang's insistent beat and horn charts and good male background singers.

3. Tyrone Davis - Homewreckers

2005 brought about bad news with the passing of Chicago soul legend Tyrone Davis, whose warm vocals and great songs scored him hit after hit on Dakar and then Columbia in the late '60s and into the '70s. Davis's Southern soul-tinged 1974 hit "Homewreckers" was a departure of sorts from the usual fare he recorded, but the churchy, toe-tapping groove works well with the cautionary lyrics.

I want to thank everyone who has stopped by to check out the blog and the "Get on Down ..." show over the last couple of months. This has been very rewarding to me and I look forward to bringing more good music your way in 2006. To that end, look out for the third episode of the podcast to be here either on New Year's Day or on January 2. This go-round features early '70s soul, blues and funk and will be a lot of fun!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Little Nashville Soul

Fred Waters - It's a Little Bit Late

Freddie Waters' bluesy tenor and good songs make him one of my favorite among the pitifully obscure figures of the Nashville soul scene. Most of his recordings were made in conjunction with writer/producer Ted Jarrett, and today's selection comes from the Kent CD "Music City Soul," which features material from some of Jarrett's late '60s and early '70s labels. "It's a Little Bit Late" (for which he was billed as "Fred Waters") features a very laid-back groove over which Waters visits the male-revenge territory covered in such songs as "Ain't Nobody Home." Don't be fooled by the easy-going rhythm, though, as Waters slow-burns his way through a very soulful vocal performance. On another day I'll have to post his Curtom recording of "I Love You, I Love You, I Love You," which shows his great vocals in a very bluesy setting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Funky Blues for Hump Day

Hayes Ware - You Got Me Mama

One of the fun things about doing this blog and having the podcast is that there's so much great material to choose from. One style of music that I particularly enjoy are the funky blues that came out of the late '60s, as blues artists started stretching their sound to incorporate soul and blues styles. Today's selection features a great rumbling groove courtesy the guitar line (played low during the vocals and taken up a few octaves - but otherwise unchanged - for solos). I first heard this one on "Downtown Soulville" (see link on the right) and then got it on Funkaphonix 6. It's a cooker!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Let's Play Coffee Pot

Tony Alvon & The Belairs - Sexy Coffee Pot

I hope all of you have been having a great holiday season. Today's selection is one of the many songs whose collector status (and, therefore, price) exploded after it was included in the turntablism masterpiece "Brainfreeze." "Sexy Coffee Pot" is the instrumental version of the flip side, "Boom-Boom-Boom." It's a great slice of late '60s funk with the tastiest breakdown I've ever heard. You'll surely be getting down with this one!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Christmas Cornucopia!

For the first time since I started this blog in earnest in November I'm going to take a short hiatus for Christmas (I'm travelling and won't have internet access). So here's a nice range of material to listen to, Christmas-related and otherwise! Happy Holidays! See you next week!

1. John Lee Hooker - This Is Hip

Kicking things off is an early '60s Vee Jay (I think) recording by the blues legend. This thing rocks!

2. Bunker Hill - Hide and Go Seek (Pt. 1)

Several years ago I saw the movie "Hairspray" and was enchanted by this raw piece of early '60s R&B when it was played in a scene set in the record store run by Ruth Brown. The song did not appear on the "Hairspray" soundtrack CD and I'd spent a long time trying to find out the name of the song, finally breaking through last year. Bunker Hill was the nom de disc of David Walker, whose usual gig was singing with the gospel group the Mighty Clouds of Joy, to which he rejoined after a relatively short secular career. "Hide and Go Seek" is a stomping vamp over which Hill gives nursery rhymes the hard-gospel treatment.

3. Alvin Cash - Keep on Dancin'

4. Branding Iron - Right, Tight and Out of Sight

Next are two pieces of funky Chicago soul. Alvin Cash continued his string of funky 45s in 1968 with the hit "Keep on Dancin'." Robert Pruter wrote in Chicago Soul that the popularity of this tune in part lay in the fact that the Funky Broadway could be danced to it. I don't know what that dance looked like, but I can imagine some fast and furious moves for this! The Branding Iron track was produced by Chicago blues legend Willie Dixon and it's very clear to me that the Chess house band is playing. What's confusing is why this tune came out on Volt. Whatever the label, though, it's great.

5. Lenox Avenue - Little Drummer Boy

6. Bethlehem Gospel Singers - Joy to the World

Finally, here are some Christmas songs. I haven't been able to find anything out about Lenox Avenue, but their Chess 45 of "Little Drummer Boy" has a slow, Fugi/Black Merda/Funkadelic type groove and some great horn charts. The Bethlehem Gospel Singers were one of the first gospel groups I ever heard, as my parents owned one of their LPs. This take on "Joy to the World" came from their HSE LP "It's In Your Bible" and it's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jeez, I'm Late!

The Sheppards - Island of Love

I got busy this morning and just realized that I hadn't put anything up here yet. Today's selection is older than most of the stuff I put on here, but this doo-wop-turning-the-corner-into-soul classic is one of my favorite doo-wop songs. The Sheppards were a Chicago group featuring Millard Edwards (who would later make some tasty Northern Soul records as "Mill Evans"), who gently guides this song along.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lee Austin Rules His House

Lee Austin - I'm a Man

"The Mighty Burner," Leon (Lee) Austin, was one of the lesser-known members of the James Brown family. I read somewhere that Austin was an ex-con who Brown hired as a bodyguard. Having seen Austin on a videotape of "James Brown's Future Shock," I can believe it, as Austin had that "big brute" look about him. Austin had a high, countryfied tenor that graced a smattering of James Brown productions on King, Polydor, People and I-Dentify.

"I'm a Man" came from 1974, and features a very catchy horn chart over a fairly hard-hitting background. The James Brown-penned tune features Brown's usual macho lyrics, although some of them are a little out there ("you can be Donald Duck / But I ain't no Mickey Mouse"?) The tune also features a nice breakdown in the middle and, in what must've been a fetish for JB at the time, liberal use of the "Sproing!" sound effect. As tasty as the track is, it was commercially unsuccessful (as were all of Austin's 45s), but it is a great addition to the James Brown discography. (According to the "Future Shock" videos I've seen, Brown also released the instrumental track of the song as a J.B.'s tune under the name "Man Power".)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Funky Dillard

Dillard Crume & The Soul Rockers - Mini Dress

Dillard Crume was the long-time guitarist and songwriter for the legendary gospel group the Soul Stirrers, particularly in their post-Sam Cooke period where, on Specialty, SAR and Checker, they continued to produce great material. In the late '60s Crume left the group to try his hand at secular music, which he did for about a decade before returning to gospel music and the Soul Stirrers. During his secular period he and his band, The Soul Rockers, cut some great stuff, including today's selection, a nice piece of funky soul. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Get on Down With The Gospel!

Rance Allen Group - Hot Line to Jesus

Rance Allen and his brothers Steve and Thomas hold a revered place in the history of gospel music, as they were one of the first groups to introduce soul and funk grooves into their music. Their great music caught the attention of Al Bell, who signed them to Stax's Gospel Truth (later shortened to Truth) label in the early '70s. The Rance Allen Group hit the R&B charts a few times, with 1975's "Ain't No Need of Crying" becoming the anthem of Stax in its final days. "Hot Line to Jesus" is a hard-hitting funk groove that carries the gospel motif of the "royal telephone" to a new level. Try and sit still when you listen to this!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bumping Along With Ike & Tina

Ike & Tina Turner - You Can't Miss Nothing

I'm running late today so I'll be brief - I first heard this Ike & Tina number from a Sonja 45 I picked up at a book fair. (I found some other cool 45s that day but I'll discuss some of them later.) As per usual for Ike & Tina's mid-to-late '60s recordings, it's got a bumping rock 'n' roll-tinged groove, but this tune features an attractive "Spanish" sound that goes well with the spoken intro. Ike's guitar is nice and reverb-laden also. It's one of my favorite songs by the group.

Friday, December 16, 2005

This is Real Soul!

Jerry Washington - Right Here Is Where You Belong

Today's selection comes from the second volume of the Ace/AVI series "The Heart of Southern Soul" and is one of the best '70s deep soul singles I've ever heard. Jerry Washington starts with a somewhat-hokey staged dialogue but then launches into a pleading monologue that almost takes on the tones of a sermon before moving into the gospel-tinged ballad.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Can Finally Get With It!

Jimmy McCracklin - I Had to Get With It

Jimmy McCracklin, along with Jimmy Holiday and Jimmy Lewis, is better known as a songwriter, having penned the blues and soul hits "Tramp," "Think" and many others. As a solo artist, however, he has put forth nearly 60 years of blues, rock 'n' roll, soul and funk for a wide range of labels including Peacock, Modern, Chess, Imperial, Minit and Stax. McCracklin's soul sides of the '60s for Imperial and Minit are very good and showcase McCracklin's bluesy vocals and wordy lyrics to great effect. Today's selection is one of his late '60s Minit recordings and cleverly incorporates the name of every state in the country (and Washington, D.C.) in his explanation of why he's in a funky soul bag as opposed to his original blues thing.

I encourage you to check out the EMI/Stateside CD, "I Had to Get With It" to hear the wide range of his work from the Imperial/Minit years. It's one of my favorite CDs!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Mavis Staples - What Happened to the Real Me

Mavis Staples' sexy, emotive contralto on the Staple Singers' hits are an ingrained part of R&B and pop history (just think of the intro to "I'll Take You There" with her "uh huh" and her phrasing of the first line in the song proper); however, an under-represented portion of Mavis' career is her solo work. She released two albums on Volt, "Mavis Staples" (1969) and "Only for the Lonely" (1970), hitting the R&B charts with "I Have Learned to Do Without You" and "Endlessly." Although both albums were plagued with marginal material, Mavis' performances were fantastic and the albums are a great contrast to the Staple Singers' "message music." Despite her talents, the success of the Staple Singers (and, accordingly, Stax's promotional attention being focused on the group) and some conflicts with Stax over her desire to sing her own compositions and own the publishing rights thereto scuttled Mavis' solo career with the label.

Today's selection comes from "Only for the Lonely" and features a great Don Davis production. Davis's work with Mavis pushed her toward a Detroit soul sound as opposed to the usual Muscle Shoals groove of the Staple Singers' hits. The powerful orchestra backing (I don't recall offhand if Detroit arranging genious Dale Warren had a hand in that) fit well with Mavis' strong vocal.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Late Again!

Clarence Carter - Getting the Bills (But No Merchandise)

Sorry for posting so late for two days in a row now, but it's been a mess around here. Here's the non-LP B-side to Carter's 1971 hit "The Court Room." A nice guitar riff and Carter's hearty chuckle ("heh heh heh heh") have made this one a favorite of mine ever since I heard it on 45 as a kid.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Late Sunday Post

The CBS Trumpeteers - Right John

I'm running behind today and am too busy to write much. Today's selection was the B-side to the Trumpeteers' Nashboro remake of their 1948 hit "Milky White Way."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Slow One For Saturday

Doris Duke - To the Other Woman (I'm the Other Woman)

Doris Duke's early '70s work with Jerry Williams, Jr. (Swamp Dogg) for Canyon and Mankind is phenomenal, and I encourage you to check out the "I'm a Loser" CD from Kent Records to get the full story. Today I'm in a rush, so I'll post Duke's biggest hit, "To the Other Woman," a great ballad with phenomenal lyrics and a great melody (which Bobby Byrd lifted, incidentally, for "It's I Who Loves You (Not Him Anymore)," the flip to "I Know You Got Soul").

Friday, December 09, 2005

What It Is, Potato Salad!

Friday, Saturday & Sunday - Potato Salad

Today's selection is a little piece of Miami funk from a group I know nothing about. "Potato Salad" is a pretty strange tune, but the Miami groove is there and on a wintry day that is enough in itself! The single was released on Dig, a Henry Stone label. I don't know how many Dig 45s were released, but this particular one was distributed by Stax, whose "snapping fingers" logo is in the background of the label. (Was such "watermarking" common? One of Kim Weston's Mikim 45s has the Volt logo similarly positioned.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Sweethearts of Nashville Soul

The Avons - Tell Me Baby (Who Would I Be)

In the mid-'60s WLAC-TV (now WTVF) in Nashville aired a locally-produced program called "Night Train," which was hosted by black music impresario Noble Blackwell. A couple of episodes still exist and I have both in my video collection. The show is very interesting to watch, as many artists from the greatly unheralded Nashville soul music scene are featured: the show's band is Jimmy Jones & The King Casuals and featured artists include Joe Perkins, the Spidels, Hal Hardy, Jimmy Church and today's featured artists, the Avons. I don't recall the names of the three women in the group off-hand, but they are featured on both episodes and were both beautiful and talented.

The Avons recorded a few 45s for RCA, Excello and Ref-O-Ree. I've heard some of the Excello tracks as well as today's selection, which came out on Ref-O-Ree. "Tell Me Baby (Who Would I Be)" features a nice swinging groove and great vocal work from the group. It's a shame that the Avons, like many other Nashville acts, didn't break into the big time and that their work was underappreciated. Fortunately, the Nashville scene is starting to get some publicity, as the excellent "Night Train to Nashville" boxed sets have been successful and the Country Music Hall of Fame has now dedicated an exhibit to Nashville's soul scene.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Tribute to a King

Joseph Henry - Who's The King (You Know It's Me)

I have just learned from scouting the Freyer-Mantis funk 45 board that the retro-funk artist Joseph Henry has passed away. Henry's "Who's the King (You Know It's Me)" was a major hit for the now-defunct Desco label, and Henry's vocals graced other Desco and Daptone recordings. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Henry, Desco or Daptone Records, I point you first to Daptone Records' Joseph Henry tribute and encourage you to look at the rest of the site. The folks at Daptone and similar labels have done a great job at recording new material in the vintage '60s and early '70s funk style. Their most well-known act to date is Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (whose live shows are PHENOMENAL; I'll have to post some of their stuff another time).

"Who's the King" finds Henry conjuring up James Brown and Bobby Byrd over a hurtling groove and an enthusiastic band. I know this post doesn't follow the "vintage soul/funk/etc." mantra of this blog but I cannot pass up a chance to honor such a great performer.

Let's Fix Something ...

June Conquest - What's This I See

I have realized in reviewing my archived posts that on this blog that female artists are woefully underrepresented. Hopefully this and the next few posts can fix that!

Today's post is from June Conquest, a great Chicago soul singer who unfortunately never reaped the full rewards her talent deserved. Conquest's three best-known singles came from her involvement with Curtis Mayfield in the mid-to-late '60s: "Take Care" was released on Mayfield's Windy C label, "What's This I See" was the first release for the Curtom label and her duet with Donny Hathaway, "I Thank You," was a minor hit in 1971 (the song had been released earlier with no success but was re-released to cash in on the success of Hathaway and Roberta Flack's duets on Atlantic).

"What's This I See" has an attractive rhythm and solid singing by Conquest and by The Impressions (singing backup). The song was a big local hit in Chicago (but didn't fare well elsewhere. It's a shame because it's such a great tune.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Rainy Night in Memphis

Brook Benton - I Keep Thinking to Myself

Brook Benton's legendary career requires no write-up by me, so I'll just focus on today's selection. "I Keep Thinking to Myself" was a one-off single for Stax in 1974 after Benton ended his stay with Cotillion (where he had struck paydirt with "Rainy Night in Georgia"). This tune didn't make the Billboard R&B chart: it was probably too relaxed and conversational for 1974, and it probably didn't matters that Stax was faltering as a label (Shirley Brown's "Woman to Woman" (on Truth) would end up being the final #1 R&B hit for the company, which went bankrupt in the end of 1975). The conversational tone of the song, though, is what makes it a favorite of mine. Benton's wistful lyric is tenderly handled by the master singer - check out his line "I built me up and let you fall" in the last verse and the range tricks he does a la "Rainy Night in Georgia" in the fade. Simply beautiful.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Last #1 R&B Hit Blues Record

Slim Harpo:
Baby Scratch My Back b/w
I'm Gonna Miss You (Like the Devil)

Today's A-side selection has the honor of being the last blues recording to hit #1 on Billboard's R&B charts. Harpo himself referred to the 1966 recording as an "attempt to do rock 'n' roll" but what the song really did was lay down a nice swampy boogaloo beat on which Slim drawled his suggestive monologue and showed off some good harmonica work. Harpo would successfully revisit this approach on the great two-part "Tip on In" and the oh-so-funky "Te Ni Nee Ni Nu," both of which I will post in the future.

In addition to this song being the last #1 R&B blues hit, "Scratch My Back" was the first blues record I ever heard. I was equally enamored of the flip, the slower, reverb-laden "I'm Gonna Miss You (Like the Devil)." Peter Guralnick once wrote that Harpo's singing was similar to that of a black country singer or a white R&B singer trying to impersonate a member of the other genre, a very accurate assessment. "Miss You" is an out-and-out blues, with Harpo doing his thing vocally and on the harmonica and the heavy reverb making for some great turnarounds in the choruses.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

We Need More Love (That's the Truth, Ruth!)

Rev. "Singing" Sammy Lewis - We Need More Love

For today's selection I go back to the Sunday Gospel Open House album. I don't know much about Rev. Lewis other than that he cut a couple of albums for Checker, one of which I own. "We Need More Love" is dark and atmospheric, and Lewis' intensity really hammers home his message.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Here It Is! Episode #2!

Better late than never!

Episode #2 of "Get On Down With The Stepfather of Soul" is now online! The playlist appears below:

1. Otis Redding, "Loving By The Pound"
2. Clarence Carter, "Thread the Needle"
3. Tammi Terrell, "Come On And See Me"
4. Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin, "Anywhere But Nowhere"
5. Fontella Bass Coca-Cola Ad
6. Gloria Walker, "Talking About My Baby"
7. Jean Wells, "Have a Little Mercy"
8. Roy Hytower, "The Undertaker"
9. Hank Ballard, "Woman Is Man's Best Friend"
10. Howard Tate, "I'm Your Servant"
11. Francine King, "Two Fools"
12. Gladys Knight & The Pips Coca-Cola Ad
13. Harmonica George, "Get In The Kitchen And Burn"
14. The Stingers, "I Refuse To Be Lonely"
15. Cody Black, "I'm Slowly Molding"
16. James Brown, "Shhhhh! (For a Little While)" (background)
17. The Soul Brothers Six, "I Can't Live Without You"
18. Buddy Lamp, "You Got The Loving Touch"
19. Little Richard, "Poor Dog (Can't Wag His Own Tail)"
20. Reuben Bell & The Beltones, "Another Day Lost"
21. The Gospel Classics, "More Love, That's What We Need"
22. The Soul Twins, "Mr. Independent"
23. The Lafayette Leake Trio, "After Hours" (closing theme)

The show can be downloaded HERE; it's a big file (77.4 MB), but hopefully I can get an RSS feed going for it! If anyone knows anything about RSS/XML/Podcasting who would like to help me with this, your help would be welcomed!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Crown Prince of Dance!

Rufus Thomas - Funky Robot

I will refer you to Patrick Montier's excellent Stax Records site (see link on right) for information about the late Rufus Thomas, whose fantastic soul and funk recordings demonstrate that "The World's Oldest Teenager" was an appropriate moniker. His other moniker, "The Crown Prince of Dance" is equally appropriate, as he put out records for the Dog, the Cissy, the Funky Chicken, the Breakdown, the Push and Pull, the Funky Penguin, the Itch and Scratch, the Robot, the Funky Bird and the Double Bump. Al Bell once said that if there was any new dance coming out he could show it to Rufus Thomas and he would get a hit out of it!

"Funky Robot" came from Rufus' 1973 album "The Crown Prince of Dance." Although neither the album nor singles pulled from it (including "Funky Robot") were as commercially successful as his prior album, "Did You Heard Me?" (which gave the world "(Do The) Push and Pull," "The Breakdown" and "Do the Funky Penguin"), I think it's one of his best albums. Rufus and the band appear to be relaxed and having fun on the funk tracks, and most of the songs, like "Funky Robot," have a "part 1" and "part 2" feel to them, with Rufus and the band ad-libbing all over the place. In "Funky Robot" Rufus tosses off little chants throughout the second half and, to my delight, the bass player starts playing a different rhythm for each chorus, with the final chorus seeming to riff off of "Shortnin' Bread"! This is the real funk; did you heard me?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Look At Them Having Fun!

Charles Spurling - Popcorn Charlie

Charles Spurling was a writer/performer/producer for King Records in the mid-to-late '60s. Spurling had five single releases as an artist, the last of which being today's selection. "Popcorn Charlie" has an interesting slow funk groove that slips and slides along while Spurling and an uncredited female discuss the Popcorn and other dances that "Charlie" should be doing.

"Popcorn Charlie" was one of many "popcorn" records that flooded the R&B market in the late '60s. James Brown was responsible for quite a few of them. In his own name he had the instrumentals "The Popcorn" and "Lowdown Popcorn," had a #1 R&B hit with "Mother Popcorn" and recorded the two-parter "Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn," each part of which was released as its own single (and both of them charted)! (A further record, "Popcorn With a Feeling," was released under the pseudonym "Steve Soul".) He also produced Hank Ballard's "Butter Your Popcorn."

Although "Popcorn Charlie" is touted as a "James Brown Production", I read somewhere that Spurling actually produced the single but had it billed as a Brown production in order to boost sales and airplay. JB, annoyed at such a ploy, called disc jockeys and made them withdraw support of the single. I don't know if this story is true, but I think it's pretty conceivable. Any info on this would be welcomed. (I also seem to recall that Hank Ballard's LP "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down" from that same era was credited to Brown as a producer although he didn't produce a fair number of the tracks - come to think of it, Spurling produced many of them!)