Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"Get on Down With Mr. Big Stuff," Revisited
John Holt - Sister Big Stuff
Dennis Alcapone - Teach the Children (aka Teacher Teacher)
Back in the spring of 2006 I did a "Mr. Big Stuff" set featuring the 1971 Jean Knight hit and an array of covers, answer records and derivatives related to it. I have revived (and slightly edited) that post, and will put a link to it over in the "Get on Down Podcasts" section as an "Episode 22.5." Thanks to reader Slim Jay, I can add two more versions of the classic song to the list.
As I mentioned back in '06, it's only natural that some reggae artists tried their hand at "Mr. Big Stuff" and "Groove Me," because both tunes had a touch of reggae in their jaunty grooves. The recording of "Sister Big Stuff" by Tomorrow's Children was presented as an example, but it appears that John Holt's "Sister Big Stuff" was actually the first Jamaican version of the song to be released. Holt is a giant in the history of reggae vocalists, having provided vocal and songwriting excellence as a member of the Paragons and then as a solo artist. Holt's rocksteady-oriented, gender-switched version of the song uses the horn vamp that appears in the mid-section of most versions of "Mr. Big Stuff" as the intro, throwing in some scatting background singers to boot. It's a great version of the tune.
The prolific dub DJ Dennis Alcapone got a hold of Holt's recording (not too hard, considering that both men were working with producer Bunny Lee at the time; both men had worked with Coxsonne Dodd previously as well), and used the groove to create the most un-"Mr. Big Stuff" song out of the other versions that came about at the time. "Teach the Children" (also known as "Teacher Teacher") finds Alcapone doing a sing-a-long spelling song. The tune was very successful and it ended up being used by a Jamaican literacy campaign to help teach reading! It's quite an interesting addition to the "Mr. Big Stuff" canon.
(Special thanks to Slim Jay for these two tunes.)