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.)


FUNKMODE said...

What about the UK's 'Krissy K' - 'Who do you think you are'? A stunning version of the tune which stays quite loyal to the originals backing track with wondeful 'lovers rock' style vocals over the top. Definatley should be included! I can forward over a soundclip?? Nice blog bytheway, thanks, craig funkmode

The Stepfather of Soul said...

I've never heard the Krissy K record. I'd love to hear it. jasonstone60643@yahoo.com

iration said...

Two more excellent reggae versions on the Mr Big Stuff rhythm you ought to check out are:

Over U Body - Top Cat
Bump & Grind - Tenor Fly

Both these dancehall tunes surfaced in 1994 on 9 Lives Records in the UK, and both artists have been crucial movers in the UK reggae MC since the late 1980s. In fact "Bump & Grind" has recently featured on the recent compilation from UK label Soul Jazz Records called "An England Story".