Friday, August 17, 2007

Unfulfilled Potential

Ollie & The Nightingales - Don't Do What I Did

I've wanted to do some posts about the Stax group Ollie & The Nightingales for quite some time, but unfortunately I let their stuff slip onto the back burner, then out of the back door of the kitchen, and out of the back yard! Although I included "You're Leaving Me" in a recent podcast, I haven't featured them on the blog since a feature of their gospel single "The Assassination" (recorded for Chalice under their prior name, the Dixie Nightingales). Let me start to rectify that situation with today's post!

I honestly believe that somewhere down the line Stax just didn't champion these guys as strongly as they should have after "I Got a Sure Thing" made some noise in 1968. All the pieces of mega-success were in place: Ollie Haskins's wailing tenor had soul fire and an appealing sound, the group had outstanding harmony that retained some of the gospel flavor from the Dixie Nightingales days, and, as demonstrated by the range of songs that graced their eponymous LP, they were working with great material. Ollie grew impatient with how things were going at Stax and left the group in 1970 to begin a solo career that peaked during the soul-blues era. Tommy Tate was brought in to lead the group, at least on vinyl (it appears in personal appearances other singers fronted the group), but the group's fortunes continued to wane and the last single by the erstwhile-billed "The Nightingales" was released in 1972. Some of the group's members hooked up with Louis Williams's '70s incarnation of The Ovations and scored a minor hit with "Having a Party" on MGM's Sounds of Memphis label, but after awhile all of them but Ollie were out of secular music.

Fortunately, the Ollie & The Nightingales LP along with the post-Ollie Stax material has been comped on CD so soul fans can at least see the potential the group showed. "Don't Do What I Did" was the B-side of the swinging "Mellow Way You Treat Your Man," and it's a nice groover. The tune starts off with a fanfare that has a Detroit kind of feel to it before the guitar line kicks in and takes things back to Memphis. As the groove muscles along, Ollie tells his cautionary tale with gusto and the group provides solid support.

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