Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Here We Go Now ... FREEZE!

Alvin Cash & The Registers - The Philly Freeze

Chicago soul legend Alvin Cash was one of the luckiest R&B hitmakers there was. Cash (born Alvin Welch) and his sibling dance group, The Crawlers, were known for their awesome dance moves, but somehow Cash ended up with a string of hits for Mar-V-Lus and Toddlin' Town, as well as recordings for Sound Stage 7, Brunswick and others that would stretch into the late '70s. Cash was not really a singer; instead, he would do dance calls and chant little lines over funky instrumental tracks (not unlike the funky 45s made by R&B disc jockeys like E. Rodney Jones and Bernie Hayes). Fortunately for Cash those instrumental tracks were very good, so Cash would hit big with "Twine Time" and then appear throughout the '60s on the R&B charts with funky 45s like today's selection and "Keep on Dancin'." (Although the Crawlers were given billing on "Twine Time" and several early Cash 45s, they actually did not perform on any records; they would continue dancing under the name "Little Step Brothers." Cash's band, The Nightliters, would assume the "Crawlers" and "Registers" names.)

Robert Pruter correctly states in the book Chicago Soul that although Cash was not a singer, he was an important figure in the realm of R&B dance music. "The Philly Freeze" was the most popular of records popularizing the Freeze, a fad dance where dancers would dance in any manner until told to "freeze," at which point they would stop in whatever position they were in until the tune resumed. Neither the dance nor the song's concept was new, as the seminal "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" from 1929 found Clarence "Pinetop" Smith telling listeners "don't you move a peg" when he said "stop," and artists like Dr. Isaiah Ross and Ray Charles would do songs incorporating that concept in the 1950s. Whether the dance/song was new, however, does not take away from this fun piece of soul, with Cash and a chick chorus working it out over a driving groove.

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