The liner notes to the excellent Kent CD of his KoKo recordings say that Tommy Tate is “cherished by fans of northern soul, southern soul, deep soul, modern-crossover soul and just about any other sub-category of the genre that you care to name” (Tony Rounce, 2007). Indeed, my favourite covers several bases being a rare, southern, xover ballad.
Tate was a native of Jackson, Ms where his 1960’s recordings were made. He met up with local writers Bob McRee, Cliff Thomas and Edward Thomas who ran their own studio called Grits & Gravy. Two decent uptown numbers “What’s the matter” and “Ordinarily”, backed by the Dolletts were issued as a single in 1965 on ABC-Paramount. One of his most popular numbers, “I’m taking on pain”, is a splendid mid-paced ballad, co-written by Cliff Thomas and issued in ’65 on OKeh. His next OKeh 45 is the mid-tempo “A lover’s reward”, which was produced by Billy Sherrill and issued also on UK Columbia. Another fine uptown number “If you’re looking for a fool” was issued in ’67 on Verve c/w a southern ballad “Darling, something’s gotta give”. Curiously, this 45 was billed as Tommy Yates, probably because Verve already had cuts on soul artist Howard Tate. Both sides were written by McRee, Thomas & Thomas and backed by Tim Whitsett’s Imperial Show Band.
Not done with aliases, another mid-tempo number “Happy is the man” was issued in ’68 as Andy Chapman on Atco, written by McRee, Thomas & Thomas. The flip was also billed as Andy Chapman and is believed to have been another artist called Ben Atkins. Another couple of good numbers written by McRee, Thomas & Thomas are “Why can’t you love me” and “Sure is worth it” by Barbara Lynn, recorded at Grits & Gravy and included in ’68 on her Atlantic LP. I’ll round off the 60’s tracks with “So hard to let a good thing go”, another deep soul number written by Tate with The Imperial Show Band’s Carson Whitsett. It was recorded at Malaco studio in Jackson but remained unissued until included on Soulscape CD “Hold On”.
In ’71 Tate was briefly a member of The Nightingales on Stax, where he met one Johnny Baylor who tied him to a deal for seven years with his label KoKo. Baylor’s name appears often in the credits, but his claim to such skills was along the lines of the infamous Don Robey at Duke-Peacock. As Tate has said that Baylor wrote none of his material, I’ve omitted him accordingly. “Help me love” is an Otis Redding style mid-paced ballad backed by Isaac Hayes’ band The Movement, written by Tate with Luther Ingram and the Movement’s Mickey Gregory. It was recorded in Memphis, produced by The Movement ‘s Willie Hall and issued in ’71. Ingram’s own version was included in ’72 on his KoKo LP “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right”.
The next two numbers were self-penned and recorded c. ‘76/77 at Muscle Shoals Sound. “(You brought me) From a mighty long way” is a delightful piece of mid-tempo xover which was kept under wraps until included on the CD “Soul Revelations: The Complete KoKo Recordings” issued by P-Vine in Japan. My top fav is the utterly sublime killer “If you got to love somebody”, which is arguably his most popular number – it’s certainly his most sought-after, with less than a handful of one-sided demos issued in ’77. At this point I must confess a little disingenuousness on my part. There were two versions, probably recorded around the same time, the one I’m familiar with was actually issued first on the “Soul Revelations” comp on P-Vine, and subsequently on Grapevine 2000 45, Kent CDs and Kent 45. I’m not sure whether I’ve heard the one issued on the KoKo 45. These tracks were earmarked for an LP which was never issued, but was assembled on the P-Vine comp in ’96, and 11 years later on Kent CD “I’m So Satisfied: The Complete KoKo Recordings and More”.
“Do you think there’s a chance” is a soulful shuffler, self-penned and a bit of a conundrum. It was scheduled to be issued on KoKo as the flip to “If you got to love somebody” but was unissued, and is not included on either of the ‘complete KoKo’ comps on P-Vine or Kent. A version was issued on the flip of the Grapevine 45, produced by Tate, licensed from Baylor’s publishing arm Klondike. A track with this title was included in ’79 on the LP “Hold On” which was recorded at Malaco in Jackson, produced by Wolf Stevenson, Tommy Couch & James Stroud, and issued on Malaco in Japan. It appeared also on the Soulscape CD “Hold On”. The Grapevine track time is 2:16, the Soulscape track time is 2:17. If they are one and the same recording then I remain confused.
Finally, another soulful xover number written by Tate – “I can’t do enough for you baby” was recorded c. ’79 at Malaco, included on the LP “Hold On” and is a fine track to conclude with.
Ty Karim is treasured by traditional northern and crossover/modern fans thanks to a string of recordings made in Los Angeles and produced by Kent Harris. Unless stated otherwise, all tracks referred to were issued on Harris’ local label Romark.
“All at once” is a pleasant mid-tempo number written by future husband Kent Harris with her sister’s boyfriend Larry Jackson, using the backing track to “Hi diddle de diddle” by Cathy & Cookie arranged by Jerry Long. It was her first single on Romark in 1965 and issued also with similar cat nọ on local label Senator.
I’m not really sure when “Wear your natural, baby” was recorded or first issued. A perusal of Romark’s numbering and release sequence leaves one quite confused (as included in the liner notes to Kent CD “Romark Records – Kent Harris’ Soul Sides”). It’s a brilliant slice of mellow groove/crossover written by Harris, arranged by Jerry Long and issued as Towana & the Total Destruction. The issue date is supposed to be ’67 but it clearly sounds later. The 45 version was speeded up, but it was included at the correct speed on Kent CD “Masterpieces of Modern Soul volume 2”. An alt. version, also at the correct speed, was issued as “Natural do” by Ty Karim on the Kent CD “The Complete Ty Karim”. The flip is the northern dancer “Help me get that feelin’ back again”, which does sound more 60’s.
“Lightin’ up” is a stunning xover number in a similar vein to ‘Wear your natural’, written/produced by Harris, issued in ’73 and became an 80’s spin in the UK. It’s an updated version of the northern dancer “Lighten up baby” issued in ’67 on another local label Car-A-Mel (which has the same backing track as “Somebody needs you” by Ike & Tina Turner and “Go for yourself” by Larry Laster). The flip to “Lightin’ up” is a sophisticated cover of James Taylor’s ballad “Don’t let me be lonely tonight”. Both sides were arranged by Cal Green whose “I’ll give you just a little more time” (as Cal Green & the Specials) is a sublime mid-pacer spun in the 80’s at Stafford.
My last choice is a groovy version of “If I can’t stop you (I can slow you down)” recorded in ’80, backed by the Jazz Crusaders, and included on the Ty Karim CD. The same backing track was used for “Keep on doin’ watcha’ doin’” by Ty Karim and George Griffin, issued on Sheridan House.
Rhonda Washington began her recording career as lead singer for The Mustangs on Houston label Sure-Shot. In 1965 they changed their name to the Mighty Mustangs whose beat ballad “Believe I do” was written by her mother Gladys Battles. She cut one solo single, recorded in ’66 at United Sound, Detroit and issued on Sure-Shot. These 45s are two of the rarest on the label, indeed the latter is so scarce I’ve yet to hear either side or see a scan.
In ’71 she became the lead singer in a trio called Hot Sauce. “I can’t win for losing” is a delightful piece of mid-tempo crossover recorded mostly, if not entirely, at Hi’s Royal studio in Memphis, and issued in ’71 on Volt. It was written by Ruth Burton, Lazoe Moy and Hazel Moy who wrote also for Betty LaVette and Al Perkins. Lazoe & Hazel are sisters of Motown’s Sylvia Moy. The trio split up and thereafter Hot Sauce featured Rhonda as a solo act.
“Bring it home (and give it to me)” is a sublime mid-paced ballad. It’s the same song as “Lay it on me right now” by Na Allen using the same backing track. It was written by Allen and issued on Volt. Most of the backing track was recorded at Royal, as was Rhonda’s tender vocals in December ’71, with strings added at Pac-Three studio in Detroit. The flip “Echoes from the past” is another mellow number, written by Detroit stalwart Rudy Robinson with Peggy Billups and Roscoe Dorsey. The tender ballad “What do you see in her?” was co-written by Rhonda, issued as a US single and included as “What did she say” on UK LP “The Stax Story Vol. 2”.
The production on all three sides is credited to Irene Productions (Al & Irene Perkins) but it was mostly Irene herself, who was married to Al. Their brother-in-law was Na Allen whose “Thanks for nothing” is in my Top 50.
Six Volt sides, plus three other tracks, were to be included in ’74 on a Volt LP titled “Good Woman Turning Bad” which was unissued, until compiled on Ace/Stax CD “Hot Sauce feat. Rhonda Washington”.
There was more than one recording act called Hot Sauce, all singles by this one were issued on Volt.
As far as I know Young Ladies made just one single, and it’s a classic. The group came from Orange near Newark.
“I’m tired of running around” is a subtle slice of mellow grove issued on Stang in 1970. The flip “He’s gone to another” is a cool ballad. Both sides were written by Kenneth Ruffin (who cut a 45 of his own on NJ label Carnival) and produced by Ruffin with label owner Sylvia Robinson at her Soul Sound studios in Englewood.
The backing to these sides was performed by Willie & the Mighty Magnificents led by Willie Feaster. Groovy numbers by this group include: “Take my love”, arranged by Bert Keyes and issued in ’68 on associated label All Platinum, and “Make me your slave” written by Val Burke, produced by Feaster and Burke and issued on both Stang and All Platinum in ’70 with the same cat nọ. The following year Feaster teamed up with songwriter John West and cut an LP “At Their Best” as Willie & West which includes the northern hit “Get away from me girl”.
Arthur Lee ‘Pep’ Brown hails from Macon, Ga and made several fine southern soul numbers cherished by crossover and deep soul fans.
His first two 45s were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound and seem to be the only ones issued on Macon label Lava. “Lovin’ you is such a sweet sweet thing” is a mid to up-tempo mover, written by Tee Fletcher and Alex Harvey (not the Scottish psych-freak) produced by MSS founders Jimmy Johnson & Roger Hawkins, with Shoals stalwart George Soule, and issued in 1972.
The follow-up is another of my top xover favourites. “Are you leaving me?” is an excellent mid-paced cover of Al Green’s “So you’re leaving”, with typically tight brass arrangement and a Hi like smooth production by Johnson. It was issued in ’72 c/w a southern ballad “Think about the children”, written by Harvey with Soule and produced by Johnson.
His next two singles were cut in Memphis and issued in ’73 on Polydor. “Is it too late” is another superb xover number in a similar vein to “Are you leaving me?”. It was written by Brown with Alan Waldon (whose brother managed Otis Redding) and produced by Waldon with Gene ‘Bowlegs’ Miller. This 45 was issued twice, both with “Is it too late” printed on one side, but the first cut had a version of Miller’s deep soul ballad “I gave her everything but what she needed” instead. Brown’s next single on Polydor is another xover number. “I am the one who needs you” is probably his most commercial sounding side, up to that point, complete with strings – produced, arranged and co-written by Miller.
On his brilliant site “Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven”, profiler John Ridley says Brown’s next sides in the 80’s “sadly have a large touch of the synths about them”, I’ll leave it at that.
Singer, pianist and drummer Melvin Davis has written over 600 songs, worked with Motown’s finest and is a northern soul legend. More recently he has toured both sides of the pond billed as the “Detroit Soul Ambassador”. All the sounds referred to here were recorded in the Motor City.
“Find a quiet place (and be lonely)” is a solid northern number with a pounding guitar and drum arrangement. It was written by Melvin with Cara Bell, recorded in 1964 at Mike Hanks’ house-studio (nicknamed the ‘Pig Pen’) produced by Melvin with Rudy Robinson, and issued on Hanks’ Wheel City label. It was a big sound in the mid to late 70’s.
His next single “I must love you”, is one of my all-time mid-tempo favourites, written and produced by Melvin with Detroit maestro Don Davis (no relation), recorded at Golden World and issued in ’66 on Groovesville. The flip is a splendid version of another mid-paced number “Still in my heart”, written by Steve Mancha and produced by Davis, Davis & Mancha. Mancha’s own version was the first 45 to be issued on Don Davis’ re-vamped Groovesville label in ’65. Other versions by J.J. Barnes and David Ruffin remained unissued until included on CDs.
“This love was meant to be” is a lovely mid-paced number with a similar feel to Don Davis’ Groovesville recordings. It was his most orchestrated side at that point, self-penned, produced by Detroit veterans Mike Theodore & Dennis Coffey and issued in ’68 on Mala. In the UK it got issued on Action. His next 45 on Mala “Faith” issued in ’68, bears the same credits but is a tad more Motownesque. The flip “Love bug got a bear hug” was included on UK LP “Bell’s Cellar of Soul Vol.2”.
In the early 70’s Melvin teamed up with Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus stable where he cut three sides, the best of which is mid-tempo crossover number “You made me over”, produced/co-written by Ron Dunbar (a.k.a. Ronnie Love) and issued in ’73. Melvin wrote and produced several fine xover numbers in the 80’s and 90’s issued as Mel Davis on his own label Rock Mill.
Melvin Davis wrote numerous northern/xover numbers by other artists including: “Call me” by Edward Hamilton; “I need my baby” by Jackey Beavers; “I don’t want to lose you “ by Steve Mancha; “Chains of love” and “Forgive me” by J.J. Barnes; “That’s the way he is” by Ann Perry and “I’m the one who loves you” by Darrell Banks. Melvin recorded his own versions of “I need my baby” (with Steve Mancha) “Chains of love” and “I’m the one who loves you” which remained in the can until included on CDs.
Melvin Davis should not be confused with Mel Davis on Fat City and Golden State, who’s a West Coast funk dude.
Chicago Pete was essentially a blues artist, singing and playing bass, who worked with the likes of Alberta Adams, Junior Parker and Junior Wells. In the 1970’s he moved to the Motor City where the three recordings referred to here were made.
Chicago Pete formed the Detroiters, a largish backing band which included a four-piece horn section. “I’m begging you” is a mid-tempo number with laid back vocal, brass and keyboard arrangement. It was written/produced by Chicago Pete, arranged by him with Funk Brother Joe Hunter and issued in the mid 80’s as Chicago Pete & the Detroiters on Valerie, one of Dave Hamilton’s labels, named after Pete’s wife. An excellent alt. mix, with more emphatic brass and without the keyboard, was included more recently on Kent CD “Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul”. The notes to this CD suggest that ‘Begging you’ was probably recorded before his Landy Bug 45, and to my ear it definitely sounds more 70’s than 80’s. For now, let’s go with late 70’s.
“Look up and smile” is a superb piece of rare groove, written by Gene Cooper, produced by Earnest Cooper and issued in ’81 on Landy Bug, which was another one of several Detroit labels run by Hamilton. This version is a reworking of Gene Cooper’s deep soul ballad from the mid 60’s.
Another mid-paced xover dancer, “Do you remember”, was Witten by Chicago Pete, Joe Hunter & Sam Motley. It was arranged by Hunter, co-produced by Motley and issued in ’83 as Chicago Pete & the Detroiters on another Motor City label, Mojack, which was owned by Chicago Pete.
This is a brilliant double-sider from a group that made several records, but were unable to get a national hit. My recording chronology follows that given by group member Bobby Buchanan in a radio interview. Their tracks were recorded and issued in St. Louis.
Their first single “I love you too”, is an up-tempo group harmony number c/w doo-wopper “Tillie”. These sides were recorded in a church and issued as The Earles in ’65 on Tee Ti. Backing was provided by Willie Richardson & his Marados who backed also “A love like our’s” by The Ascots.
It was several years before they recorded again. “Just an illusion” is a mid-paced piece of group harmony recorded c. ’69, produced by Luther Ingram (uncredited) and issued as Earles, Inc. on Zudan. This was followed up with a sweet soul ballad “Does your mother know” recorded also c. ’69 and issued on Zudan, which became the group’s biggest seller.
After being released from Zudan the group took over the Tee-Ti label on which they cut their final three singles. “What would your Daddy say” is another sweet soul number, written by James Parks of Bull & the Matadors, as an answer to “Does your mother know”. The flip “Let’s try it again” is a sweet piece of mid-tempo crossover written by Jimmy Hinds. These sides were recorded c. ’70.
For my favourites the group reverted back to The Earle’s. “Everybody’s got somebody” is a xover gem with tight harmony and simple brass & drum arrangement provided by Oliver Sain’s band. It was written by group member Joe Williams. The flip “Someday baby” is in a similar vein, written by Richard Mansfield who produced the northern hit “Every time” by Anthony & the Delsonics. These sides were produced in ‘70 by Floyd Morris at Sain’s Archway studio. Morris arranged both sides of a single by The Voice Masters which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
For their last 45 the group changed their name again to avoid confusion with other groups called the Earls. “I got to make you believe in me” is a slice of Philly style modern soul, recorded at Gold Future studio in the mid to late 70’s, and issued as B.J.B. (being the initials of the members’ forenames).
The Earle’s should not to be confused with The Earls on ABC, Mr. G and Old Town (New York).
I must confess, not being a keen student of post 1980’s music (post 70’s would be more honest) I’m unfamiliar with the majority of Jeanie Tracy’s output. Nevertheless, she made one of my top crossover sounds, so here we go.
I’ve had difficulty finding a reliable discography of her records before the Sylvester influenced disco stuff. “Where did you come from?” is a lilting mid-paced number issued c. ’68 on Bay Area label Smogville. It was written by Jeanie and produced by J.E. Doyle, who produced also a deep soul ballad “Bright tomorrow” by “Big” J.B. Stewart issued on Smogville.
“Making new friends” is an up-tempo xover gem, in a similar vein to another Bay Area sound in my Top 50 “You’re gone” by Celest Hardie, both were Blackpool Mecca spins. The flip is a busy slice of tight funk. Both sides were written/arranged by Robert Stewart, produced by Stewart with Mike Davenport and issued in ’75 on Oakland label Brown Door, which was co-owned by Marvin Holmes. In order to learn more about “Making new friends” I invested in the CD “The Brown Door Story” which includes a booklet with 26 pages written by Holmes. The sum total of info about this single is that it was released. So, I’ve no idea where it was recorded, probably San Francisco but Bay Area will have to suffice. Stewart wrote also one of my top northern sounds “I can remember” by The Whispers.
Jeanie cut a smooth xover cover of “Your old standby”, written by Smokey Robinson & Janie Bradford, produced by Harvey Fuqua, issued in ’82 as a 45 and included on her LP “Me and You”, both on Fantasy. It was, of course, a hit for Mary Wells in ’63, but my favourite version is by Gladys Knight & the Pips, included on their ’68 LP “Feelin’ Bluesy”.
My favourite track by Marvin Holmes & Justice is the groovy “Keep on keepin’ on”, recorded at Wally Heider studio in San Francisco and included on Brown Door LP “Summer of ‘73”. The label, and group, are best known by UK fans for the modern scene hit “You better keep her”, recorded at Different Fur in SF and issued in ’74.
Darrow Fletcher is a virtual unknown to the great wide world, but a significant figure for soul fans, particularly in the UK. He had two distinct phases to his recording career, the first in Chicago and the second in Los Angeles, where my top sound was made. I’m indebted to an interview with Fletcher by Chicago soul specialist David Box.
Darrow’s first single “The pain gets a little deeper,” is probably his most popular, even Sir Elton John counts it as one of his favourites. He made this solid mover at the tender age of 14 with much encouragement from his step-father Johnny Haygood. It was written by Fletcher with producer Ted Daniel and issued on New York label Groovy in ’65. It was issued in the UK on London, being his only contemporaneous release this side of the pond, and a regular spin at some of the UK’s earliest soul clubs. The flip is a superb ballad “My judgement day”, written by Maurice Simpkins which is my favourite side on Groovy.
Haygood set up the Chicago label Jacklyn (named after one of his daughters). Fletcher’s first 45 on the label is a stunner. His rendition of the haunting ballad “Sitting there that night” belied his youth. The lyrics were written by Haygood, music by Fletcher who also plays the tender guitar break. It was arranged by Burgess Gardner who worked with other Chicago acts like The Vontastics, The Chymes and Syl Johnson. It was issued in ’66 and re-issued later on Revue and Congress. The Jacklyn flip “What have I got now” is a good mid-tempo number written by Simpkins and arranged by Phil Wright. Both sides were produced by Daniel. Wright produced “Consider the source” by Leon Haywood and arranged “I ain’t going no where” by Jimmie Reed, Jr, which are in my Top 50.
His next two singles on Jacklyn, issued in ’66 and ’67, contained another ballad “Little girl” in the same vein as ‘Sitting there’, written also by Haygood & Fletcher and produced by Daniel. The flip on the second of these is his best northern dancer “What good am I without you”, written by Detroit stalwart Don Mancha with Harry & Mary McNeir, produced by Mancha in the Motor City and arranged by the tireless Mike Terry.
The tender mid-pacer “Those hanging heartaches” was his most sophisticated number up to that point. It was written by Simpkins, produced by Simpkins with Fletcher, arranged by Terry and issued in ’69 on MCA subsidiary Revue, with ‘Sitting there’ on the flip. An excellent double-sider was made in ’70. “Changing by the minute” took us into funkier territory with lyrics written by Zane Gray (taught by Darrow) and music by Len Ron Hanks. The delightful mellow groover “When love calls” was written by Johnny Moore & Jack Daniels and issued on another MCA label Uni. Both sides were produced by Haygood, arranged by Tom Washington (as Tom Tom) and backed by the Chi-Lites. “Such a wonderful feeling” by Johnny Moore, written by Moore & Daniels, is in my Top 100.
Fletcher moved to L.A. in ’74, but before doing so he wrote and recorded a xover ballad “Hope for love” in the Windy City, which remained in the can until liberated by Kent on the CD “Masterpieces of Modern Soul volume 2”.
In the mid to late 70’s Darrow cut several fine tracks at RPM studios in L.A. for local label Crossover. My top choice “It’s no mistake”, is a superb piece of sophisticated xover. It was written by Joe Webster & Edward Langford and issued in ’75 as a 45. A slightly longer edit was one of the tracks scheduled for an LP which was unissued, as was the 45 flip “Try something new”, which was written by Gray & Hanks with Jerry Butler. Both sides were produced by Webster & Langford. Another track earmarked for the LP is the superb modern dancer “(Love is my) Secret weapon”, sung with some Stevie Wonder style phrasing. It was written by Gray, Hanks & Butler and recorded c. 75/76. The proposed LP is included on the Kent CD “Crossover Records 1975-79 Soul Sessions.”
Finally, another good modern number “Rising cost of love”, kicks in with a cool trumpet intro and glides easily along. It was written by Gray & Hanks with Philly maestro Bobby Martin, recorded at RPM and issued in ’79 on Atlantic, leased from Crossover. It was recorded first by ex-Supreme Jean Terrell, and several other versions followed, but none is as good as Fletcher.
The Crossover label is probably best known for the self-penned floater “I need your love” by Clydene Jackson, recorded at RPM and included in ’75 on her LP “Fresh”, produced by label owner Ray Charles.
This mid-tempo gem is distinguished in two ways; it’s the latest sound in my chart of 150, and the only one recorded outside the US. Sven Zetterberg had been a renowned blues and soul singer-songwriter in Sweden since the 1970’s. He played guitar and harmonica, and had worked with the likes of Jimmy McCracklin.
As well as their own work, Zetterberg and band made covers of soul tunes, including Johnny Moore’s “Turn back the hands of time” which was a hit for Tyrone Davis.
“Heartaches was all you got” is a superb mid-paced number in a style similar to Chicago uptown soul of the late 60’s. It was written by fellow guitarist Anders Léwen, recorded at Real Music studios, Bromma in 2003, issued as a single in ’04 and included on Zetterberg’s CD album “Moving in The Right Direction”, both on Gothenburg label Last Buzz. It wasn’t long before it got picked up on the northern scene, having been included in ’04 on UK Goldsoul 45 and CD.
Other good soul tracks on the album include the title track “Moving in the right direction”, and “I passed the limit” – both written by Zetterberg and Léwen. The most heavily produced track is “Song from a worried heart”, written by Léwen and issued as the flip to ’Heartaches’ on both Last Buzz and Goldsoul. Neither the 45s nor CD give production credits, so I presume the set was produced by Zetterberg.
Nowadays, we tend to think of Blackpool Mecca as the club that gave us ‘modern’ soul, sometimes bordering on disco. They also broke some solid northern sounds, and Ernest Mosley’s version of “Stubborn heart” is no exception.
As far as I can make out Mosley cut only two singles. The first was the excellent “Stubborn heart”, written by Eddie LaShea and issued on the Chicago label La-Cindy, which has an odd cat nọ sequence, but it was most probably released c. 1967. It has a steady up-tempo beat and was popular at the main all-niters. The flip is another traditional northern sound “Keep on loving me”. Both sides were produced by Chicago stalwarts Leo Austell and Hilary Johnson (as Snookum-Hill) and arranged by ‘Lil Doll’. Austell and Johnson owned La-Cindy and co-owned two other Windy City labels, Brainstorm and Twin Stacks.
A mid-paced version of “Stubborn heart” was made by The Sheppards, produced by LaShea in Chicago but released in ’67 on the L.A. label Mirwood.
The other release by Mosley was a slightly funkier number “Honey, you are my sunshine” issued in ’72 on Cream, which was probably recorded in the Windy City, but the label was an L.A. concern before being distributed through Hi.
Robert Parker is best known for his southern R&B movers “Barefoootin’” and “Let’s go baby (where the action is)”, which were recorded in 1966 at Cosimo studio in the Crescent City, released as a single and included on his LP “Barefootin’”. The 45 and LP were issued in the US on Nola and in the UK on Island. They were included on an earlier LP “The Sue Story Vol.3”, became mod scene hits and “Barefoootin’” was one of the northern scene’s formative sounds. Parker made numerous records in the same mode, working with prolific New Orleans producer/arranger Wardell Quezergue who owned Nola.
I only have one choice by him and it’s a subtle slow to mid-tempo number which, nowadays, is probably his most popular cut among rare soul fans. “I caught you in a lie” has a simple arrangement, by Quezergue, with sympathetic guitar and brass backing. It was written by Lee Diamond and issued in ’67 on Nola. A lover’s rock version was made in ‘75 by young British teenager Louisa Mark. The flip on Parker’s 45 “Holdin’ out”, is pure New Orleans bluesy soul, nout wrong with that.
Diamond co-wrote “Tell it like it is”, a hit for Crescent City legend Aaron Neville and covered by several artists including my personal favourites Bettye Swann and Nina Simone. Quezergue arranged also three superb numbers by Willie Tee “Walking up a one way street” “Thank you John” and “You gonna pay some dues”.
To the world at large Edwin Starr is the singer of the peace anthem “War”, but among soul fans in Europe he’s one of the giants of northern soul, and only the most obvious names (e.g. J.J. Barnes, Jackie Wilson, Chuck Jackson) rank alongside him. Starr sang lead on a 45 by The Holidays and later became a duettist with Blinky Williams, but my review focuses on my favourite solo numbers.
Edwin Starr began his solo career recording for Ed Wingate’s Ric-Tic label and the recordings were made mostly at Wingate’s Golden World studios in Detroit. The excellent northern hit “Agent OO-Soul” started out as a demo version, which Starr was planning to take to New York. Motor city veteran LeBaron Taylor persuaded him to try Golden World and the rest, as they say, is history. It was arranged by Sonny Sanders and issued in 1965. This trio wrote and arranged the follow-up “Back street”, another solid northern number, issued in ’65.
The next single provided Starr with his first big hit. “Stop her on sight (S.O.S.)” begins with that instantly recognisable piano intro, together with Mike Terry’s sax break behind Edwin’s urgent delivery, it’s an iconic northern anthem. It was written/produced by Al Kent & Richard Morris and issued in ’66. Using the same backing track, Edwin cut the full-take radio promo “Scott’s on swingers (S.O.S.)” for local DJ Scott Regan, which was pressed as a demo. During my early days on the scene a UK Polydor demo was considered a holy grail item. This was thanks to the mid-tempo flip “I have faith in you”, which is the more popular side among northern fans. Another version by Doni Burdick was also popular. ‘Stop her on sight’ was included on UK Polydor LP “Headline News!”.
My top sound is “Headline news”, and for me it has all the ingredients of a northern anthem – great hook-line, earnest top vocal with female and male responses, solid beat and brass arrangement by Mike Terry (and Sonny Sanders, uncredited) with no strings attached – perfection! With the same creative team as ‘S.O.S.’ it was issued in ’66 on Ric-Tic/Polydor and remains one of his most popular sides. It was included on two Polydor LPs “Headline News!” and “Soul Party”. In the UK it was covered by The Alan Bown Set. From here his releases were recorded at Hitsville/Golden World and issued on Gordy in the US, Tamla-Motown in the UK.
In ’67 Berry Gordy bought some Ric-Tic output, and with it the contracts of several acts including those of J.J. Barnes, The Fantastic Four and Edwin Starr. “Agent OO-Soul” “Stop her on sight (S.O.S.)” and “Headline news” were included in ’68 on the LP “Soul Master”. “Back street” was included later on the UK only LP “Ric-Tic Relics”. Barnes suffered for sounding too close to Marvin Gaye whilst, conversely, The Fantastic Four were too indistinctive to worry the top Motown groups. Starr faired a lot better, his solid vocals were matched by few other than Dennis Edwards who, at that time, was not being promoted as a solo artist.
Starr recorded some excellent sides at Motown. “I am the man for you baby” (recorded January ’68) is funkier than his Ric-Tic numbers, written/produced by James Dean & Bill Weatherspoon, issued on singles and included on “Soul Master”. Two other great tracks on the LP are: “Love is my destination” (recorded May ’67) a mid-tempo number written by Starr with Henry Cosby, produced by Cosby and issued later as a US 45; and Edwin’s version of Ashford & Simpson’s ballad “I am your man” (recorded May ’68) which was interpreted sublimely by Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers.
The mid-tempo “If my heart could tell the story” (recorded April ’67) was written/produced by Weatherspoon, issued on singles and included on the LP “25 Miles”. Another track from the LP is “You beat me to the punch” (recorded July ’67) a brilliant up-tempo version of the Mary Wells hit written by Smokey Robinson & Ronnie White of the Miracles. My final choice is the up-tempo crossover number “Running back and forth” (recorded November ’69) written by Starr with Detroit stalwart Popcorn Wylie, produced by Starr, issued as the flip to the northern monster “Time” and included on the LP “War & Peace”.
Two of my favourite numbers co-written by Starr are: “I’ll never let you go” by The O’Jays and “Riding high on love” by Jr. Walker & the All Stars.
We stay in the motor city for my next favourite which was issued in different versions by an artist who seems to have made just these two 45s.
Willie Pickett cut two versions of the crossover monster “On the stage of life”. They were written, produced & arranged by Pickett, possibly recorded in 1972, mixed at Sound Patterns in Detroit and issued in ‘73 on different labels with the same cat nọ. c/w instrumentals. The slightly slower mix by Dave Harris, with spoken section in the middle, was issued on Eastern which is my preferred choice.
The faster mix by Danny Dallas is on Soul Pot. This label is often listed, incorrectly, as Soul Spot – this is because its name has a joint SP symbol between ‘Soul’ and ‘Pot’ making it appear like ‘Soul Spot’- another clue is that “Soul pot records” is printed at the foot of the Eastern issue.
Other than that, I know little about this mid to up-tempo gem. I doubt if there were any other issues on either label (another Eastern label, with one release by Different Shades, may be from Detroit but I can’t see any other connection).
Needless to say, Willie Pickett should not be confused with the ‘Wicked’ Pickett on Atlantic etc.
The Miami team which included the Wright siblings, together with Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke, were involved in a string of great soul sides from the Magic City, and this mid-tempo gem is no exception.
I’m at a complete loss as to how the group name Purple Mundi came about, but according to a contributor on Soul Source Reid and Clarke provide the vocals on “Stop hurting me baby”. It was co-written by Clarke, produced by Clarke with Betty Wright and issued at least twice on Miami label Cat with different flips. This sublime mid-tempo number, a hit on the northern and crossover scene, may have been issued first in 1971 c/w “I believe” (I’ve yet to hear the flip or see a scan of this single). The flip on the first 45 shown here, issued c. ’71/72, is “I can’t understand”, a beautiful mid-paced number, again co-written by Clarke and produced by him with Betty Wright.
The flip on the second single shown here, issued in ’72, is “Man from the sky“ by Carlos Wright w. Purple Mundi, which is another subtle xover side and a tad more modern sounding (from a 70’s perspective). The credits on the label may not be quite accurate. Writing credit is given as Clarke with Betty Wright & Milton Wright. Jeanette Wright has said that it was written by Milton and performed by Carlos with backing by Phillip, Jeanette, Betty and Milton rather than Purple Mundi (unless the Wright siblings used that group name for convenience). It was produced by Clarke and arranged by Milton with Philip. All these sides were produced at T.K.
Reid & Clarke were also the key personnel in The Perfections who made one single issued in ’73 on local label Drive. “Leaning post” and “Love storm” are two mid-paced xover tunes written/produced by the duo and arranged by the prolific Mike Lewis, who arranged also many of Betty Wright’s recordings. Lewis arranged the strings on “How will I ever know” by Wilson Pickett which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
Reid & Clarke were prolific writers for Reid himself, Betty Wright, J.P. Robinson, George McRae, Paul Kelly and a host of others. With Betty Wright they wrote the excellent “There must be something” by Friday, Saturday & Sunday which is in my Top 20. Together with Milton Wright they wrote a nice piece of rare groove “Baby please pretty please” by James Knight & the Butlers, which was produced by Reid & Clarke, arranged by Reid and issued in ’71 on Cat.
Clarence Reid is best known for his mid-tempo northern hit “I refuse to give up”, written by Reid & Clarke, issued in ’64 on Reid and re-issued on Wand and Dial. “Part time lover” is a self-penned dancer, produced/arranged by Brad Shapiro & Steve Alaimo and issued in ’68 on Alston. Reid & Shapiro wrote the highly popular “I can’t speak” by Jimmie “Bo” Horn, produced by Shapiro & Alaimo and issued in ’69 on Dade. Alaimo co-produced “Tears of the world” by Robert Moore which is in my Top 100.
Big Frank Murphy’s deep voice lent itself to beat ballads, but my favourite is a steady northern number made popular c. 1976/7 at all-niters like Wigan and Cleethorpes.
His biggest beat ballad became a top sound in the 80’s. “I won’t let her see me cry” was written by ‘Prince’ Harold Thomas, produced by Bobby Scott and issued in ’65 as Big Frank & the Essences on Philips and Blue Rock. The following year he made another big city sounding number “It’s all over but the pain” written by Jerry Marcellino & Jerry Greenbach, produced by Wes Farrell, arranged by New York stalwart Artie Butler and issued as Big Frank Murphy on Philips. After this he recorded under the name of Frank Dell.
“He broke your game wide open” is a superb mid-tempo dancer with instantly recognisable guitar intro, deep vocal, and tight brass break. It was written by Dell with David Blake, produced by Blake with Bruce Gist, arranged by another East Coast veteran Phil Medley and issued in ’67 on Blake & Medley’s label Valise. It was included in ‘77 on Dell’s LP “Yesterday’s People” on NYC label Guinness, together with other mid 60’s tracks. The 45 flip is a crooner written by Blake. Another good northern track on the LP is “Nobody loves like you baby”, written by Medley and produced by Medley with Blake. Medley arranged the second version of “Where is that rainbow” by Dee Dee Warwick which is in my Top 50.
Dell made a groovy version of the modern hit “Too late to turn back now” which, I believe, remains unissued (original version is by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose). Blake produced one of my xover favs – Johnny Watson’s version of “It’s better to cry”, recorded in the 70’s and issued later on a Valise pressing. It was co-written by Blake and the original version is a popular Detroit sound by The Appreciations, issued on Sport.
Aretha, just her forename is needed to identify one of the most celebrated singers of all-time. Her international success was built on a solid foundation of ‘real soul’ covers such as “Respect” “A natural woman” and “I say a little prayer”. In this profile I’ll take a slightly alternative look at some of her recordings from the mid 1960’s to early 70’s.
Her New York output on Columbia, in the first half of the 60’s, is a fairly bland collection of ballads and MOR when compared to the solid Atlantic material that followed. Nevertheless, one of her most popular beat ballads is her version of “I can’t wait until I see my baby’s face” written by Jerry Ragavoy & Chip Taylor, produced by Clyde Otis, included in ’64 on her LP “Runnin’ Out of Fools” and issued in ‘65 as a single. It was included on UK CBS LP “Take a Look at Aretha Franklin”. I prefer other versions including the original by Justine Washington (NYC) and covers by The Monticellos and Spyder Turner (both Detroit) – but my favourite is the subtle sweet soul version by The Dontells (Chicago). There is also an underground crossover version by Sonji Clay (Chicago) but I prefer “It’s all over” by Pearl Dowdell (Miami) which borrows heavily from the tune.
Her best Columbia side “Cry like a baby” is a mid-paced ballad written by Ashford & Simpson with Jo Armstead, produced by Otis, issued in ‘66 on the LP “Soul Sister” and a subsequent 45 (LP & single were issued in the UK on CBS). My favourite version is by Chuck Jackson, included on his Motown LP ‘Goin’ Back‘. Clyde Otis co-produced “What have I got to lose” by Jean Wells which is in my 50 Bubbling Under. Unless specified otherwise, the following singles and LPs were issued in the US and UK on Atlantic.
Executive producer Jerry Wexler brought Aretha to Atlantic in ’67, where her extraordinarily powerful voice and musical intellect were better appreciated. For her first set she was teamed up with arranger Tom Dowd and Fame producer Rick Hall – the result is the astonishing LP “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” recorded and issued in ’67. “Don’t let me lose this dream” is slightly atypical of the southern soul feel of her early Atlantic tracks. Recorded at Atlantic in New York, it starts with a cool bossa nova intro and leads into a steady mid-tempo number. Ironically, there have been numerous covers of this song, written by Aretha whose global reputation was built on her interpretation of other writers’ work.
My top choice is the sublime mid-paced ballad “I can’t see myself leaving you”, written by Ronnie Shannon, arranged by Dowd with Arif Mardin and included on her ’68 LP “Aretha Now”, recorded at Atlantic, NYC. It was issued in ’69 as a 45 in the US and several other countries, but not the UK. Production is credited to Wexler. A more up-tempo version by The Whispers was issued in ’68 on Soul Clock, and it was one of the songs referenced in “Aretha, sing one for me” by George Jackson, issued in ’72 on Hi. The flip is a gospel influenced cover of the Glen Campbell hit “Gentle on my mind”. My personal choice from her well known covers is the best version of Bacharach & David’s “I say a little prayer”, included on “Aretha Now” and subsequent single.
Next up is Aretha’s subtle and beautiful interpretation of David Gates’ “Make it with you”. This xover secret was recorded in San Francisco in March ’71, backed by King Curtis with the Memphis Horns & the Sweethearts of Soul, and included on her LP “Live at Fillmore West” issued in May.
I’ll round off with another brilliant xover number. “I’m in love” was written by Bobby Womack, recorded in ’73 at Whitney studios near Los Angeles, produced by Aretha with Mardin, arranged by William Eaton and issued in ’74 on her LP “Let Me in Your Life”, and subsequent 45. Other versions include those by; Wilson Pickett issued on Atlantic single and LP, Maxine Brown included on her Epic LP “Out of Sight”, and Bobby Womack included on his Minit LP “Fly Me to the Moon”.
This superb double-sider came from the City of Brotherly Love and the tiny, but much sought-after, UpLook label.
Delegates of Soul had just one release, both sides being among my crossover favourites. “What a lucky guy I am” is a sublime piece of sweet soul written/arranged by saxophonist Lou Lupo. The flip “I’ll come running back”, is a solid funky northern dancer written by Calvin Guildford and label owner Gene Lawson. This single was issued in 1970, and I believe these sides were recorded at Virtue in Philadelphia. The same songs were recorded also by Charles Mintz and issued on UpLook in ’71.
The group recorded another good sweet soul number “Heartbreak of love”, which was unissued until included on Grapevine CD “The UpLook Records Story” with two other unreleased tracks.
The backing musicians at UpLook included Philly stalwarts Ron Baker, Norman Harris, Earl Young & Bobby Eli. The first three recorded instrumentals as Ronnie, Norman & Earl, and together with Eli, were the members of funk bands The Interpretations and The Landslides. Baker, Young & Harris have been credited recently as co-producing “What have I got to lose” by Jean Wells which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
This is another superb double-sider from the City of Brotherly Love. John Bowie made a handful of records as lead singer of The Delphians and solo artist, his deep vocal lending itself to ballads. He also composed several songs recorded by other acts.
“You’re gonna miss a good thing” is a steady mid to up-tempo dancer with infectious beat and brass arrangement, which was played at Blackpool Mecca and took off at Wigan in the late 70’s. A ‘demo’ version was included on Japanese CD “Best of Kayden & Merben Records”. The flip “At the end of the day” is a little slower and is typical of records which were once referred to as ‘enders’ being the cool-down number played at the end of a niter, now they’re called beat ballads. Both sides were self-penned, arranged by Robert Lowden, recorded at Virtue and issued in 1966 on New Jersey label Merben.
Another couple of beat ballads by Bowie include; “I never felt so lonely” written by Santo Minghenelli, co-produced by Louis Alfieri and issued in the mid 60’s on Chanté, and “My love, my love” written by Jamie/Guyden producer Bob Finiz, and issued as Little John Bowie in ’67 on Phil–L.A. of Soul.
It’s a pity that, too often, the most popular track on this side of the pond is a poor sample of a soul artist’s work. Such is the case for Los Angeles veteran Al Wilson, whose “The Snake” has been a long-time northern monster.
The first two numbers referred to here were issued on Soul City in the US, Liberty in the UK and probably recorded at Sound Recorders studio in L.A. My favourite side “Now I know what love is”, is a solid piece of uptown northern spun in the latter days of the Twisted Wheel. It was written by L.A. legend Willie Hutch, produced by Fifth Dimension manager/producer Marc Gordon and issued at the tail end of 1967. The flip is a typical country treatment of Jim Webb’s “Do what you got to do”. Hutch wrote, produced & arranged “Boys will be boys (girls will be girls)” by The Fidels which props up my Top 100. Wilson’s cool version of “Shake me, wake me (when it’s over)”, written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, was arranged by Gene Page, produced by Johnny Rivers, issued in ’69 as a single, and included on his first LP “Searching for the Dolphins”, which was issued on Soul City/Liberty. It was, of course, a hit for Four Tops.
“Bachelor man” is a slightly country influenced crossover side written by Gene’s brother Billy Page, produced by Gordon, issued in ’70 on Bell and re-issued on Carousel. Billy Page wrote “The “In” Crowd” by Dobie Gray which was one of the northern scene’s foundation numbers.
Wilson’s biggest hit is the sophisticated and smooth “Show and tell”, written/produced and arranged by the prolific pair Jerry Fuller and H.B. Barnum respectively. It was issued in ’73 as a 45 on Gordon’s label Rocky Road (Bell in the UK), and included on the accompanying LP. It was one of a number of soul tracks that formed the soundtrack to the 2012 thriller “Paperboy”. Another great xover number is the mid-paced “Keep on loving you” produced by Ugene Dozier, written by Dozier with Gene Brooks & Ted Wilson, included in ’73 on the LP “Weighing In” and issued in ’74 as a single on Rocky Road/UK Bell.
Finally, a couple of smooth sexy soul numbers on another L.A. label Playboy. “I’ve got a feeling (we’ll be seeing each other again)” is a lovely slice of mid-paced xover, written by Carl Hampton & Homer Banks, produced by Gordon, arranged by Barnum and issued as a single in ’76 c/w the similar “Be concerned” produced and co-written by Dozier. The former was included on Wilson’s LP “I’ve Got a Feeling” and on Belgian Polydor LP “Discothèque Special”.
This Al Wilson should not be confused with the one on Wand (rumoured to be J.R. Bailey who co-wrote the solid dancer “Help me”).
Sidney Barnes is a significant figure on the northern/rare soul scene having made a couple of highly popular sounds and written many for other artists.
One of his most popular sides is the pounding “You’ll always be in style”, issued in 1965 on Leiber & Stoller’s label Red Bird, which isn’t my cup of tea. His next single, however, is one of my all-time northern favourites.
“I hurt on the other side” is a steady up-tempo mover with infectious piano and brass backing spun at Blackpool Mecca. It was written by Barnes with J.J. Jackson, produced by New York legends Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, arranged by Stoller (or possibly Jackson uncredited) and issued in 1966 on a Blue Cat demo. All sources list this as having a release on parent label Red Bird but, despite years of searching, I’ve never seen a scan of this issue. It was covered in ’67 by West Coast artist Jerry Cook on Capitol, which was the bigger sound on the northern scene when I first encountered it, but the original is more soulful and one for the connoisseurs.
“The Ember Song” is a sweet crossover number produced by Richard Pegue and issued as a one-off 45 on the Ember Furniture label (from Chicago where Pegue produced most of his records). It was issued more recently by Numero Group who say it’s the same Sidney Barnes. In the late 60’s he helped form the psych-soul group Rotary Connection featuring Minnie Riperton.
Songs he wrote/co-wrote for other artists include: “Lovingly yours“ by both Dean & Jean and Timothy Wilson; “You succeeded” by Sandra Phillips; “What can I do?” by Billy Prophet; “Me without you” by Mary Wells; “Change my darkness into light” and “Stronger than her love” by The Flirtations; “Our love (is in the pocket) by Darrell Banks; “Heart trouble” by The Parliaments and “If you haven’t got love” by both The Dramatics and The Masterkeys.
Cynthia Sheeler made several deep soul records in New Orleans during the 1970’s working with the likes of Crescent City stalwarts Wardell Quezergue and Senator Jones (see portrait and discography on Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven).
Of the fine ballads she recorded, my favourite is “One minute of your time”, written by Albert Savoy, Dianne Kimble & Mike Adams, produced by Senator Jones, arranged by keyboardist Raymond Jones and issued in ’73 (as Cynthia Sheller) on the Senator’s label Super Dome. It was issued later with wider distribution on Phil–L.A. of Soul.
“I’ll cry over you (Pt. I)” is a sophisticated piece of mellow groove/crossover with laid back keyboard and sax accompaniment. It was written by Cynthia with Jimmie Moliere*, recorded at Deep South studio in Baton Rouge, arranged by Moliere, produced by the Senator and issued in ’75 on another of his labels JB’s (Pt. II being the instrumental). *The writing credit is given to Senator Jones on the Grapevine 2000 release.
Among the numerous records produced by Senator Jones are a few more xover numbers: “I found what I wanted” & “Too hurt to cry” by Bobby Lacour on Hep’ Me; “Love is what I see” & “This is our song of love” by Norma Jean & Ray J. (Norma Jean McDermott and Raymond Jones) on their Hep’ Me LP “Raising Hell” and “You’re gonna wreck my life” by Guitar Ray on Shagg. Needless to say, Hep’ Me and Shagg were owned by the Senator. Candi Staton’s version of “Too hurt to cry” is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
One name that is very familiar to rare soul fans is singer, songwriter and label owner Jackey Beavers. I’ll focus on the main part of his career between the late 1960’s to early 70’s. All tracks were written and produced by Beavers unless specified otherwise.
Actually, I’m going to start with his soulful ballad “I want somebody”, co-produced by Chicago veteran Billy Stewart and issued in ’65, as Jackie Beavers, on Checker. From here, all solo sides are issued as Jackey Beavers.
The superb mid-tempo number “I need my baby” was written by Melvin Davis, produced by Don Davis in Detroit and issued in ’67 on Revilot. Despite getting a luke warm response initially, it has become his most popular side in the UK. Another fine version by Melvin Davis & Steve Mancha was kept in the Groovesville vaults until included on Goldmine CDs “Groovesville Review” (volumes 1&2). The intro and arrangement are evident on versions of “I play for keeps” by Carla Thomas included on Stax LP “Memphis Queen”, and Diane Lewis included on Goldmine CD “Allniter 3”.
Next up is the irresistible mid-paced ballad “Bring me all of your heartaches”, issued in ’68 on Grand Rapids label Grand Land. Around this time, Beavers set up his own label Jaber in Grand Rapids where most of its output was recorded. “Ooh I love you” is another ballad issued in ’68 as Soul Continentals which was basically JB backed by local musicians. This was followed by his first version of the floater “Lover come back”, with a slightly funky arrangement by Jack Hill, backed throughout with a flute, and issued as Jackey Beaver. Next is a sophisticated crossover number “Why is love (such a mighty hard thing)”, under another group name Flame & the Lovelights, arranged/co-written by Hill and issued in ’68. Not finished with name changes, his last Rapids 45 is a deep soul ballad “Hey girl (I can’t stand to see you go)”, issued in ’69 as Jackey Beavers Show, arranged/co-written by Hill, issued in ’69 on Jaber and issued later on Sound Stage 7.
Beavers’ next move was to team up with producer John Richbourg and his SS7 stable in Nashville. Richbourg used various studios including Music City, Sam Phillips, RCA and Sound Stage. My top choice is Beaver’s second version of “Lover come back”, issued in ’71 on Sound Stage 7. For me this is the better produced version, a simpler arrangement by Bergen White, with cool brass instead of woodwind. This was followed by three more of my favourites on associated label Seventy-Seven. “Where did I go wrong “ is another sophisticated piece of xover issued in ’72. Beavers cut a 45 with two covers; Eddie Floyd’s “I never found a girl (to love me like you do)” c/w Stevie Wonder’s “Place in the sun”, produced by JB with Richbourg and issued in ’73 (the latter was issued twice with the same cat nọ but different flips). Bergen White arranged Tony Joe White’s version of “What does it take (to win your love)” which is in my Top 50.
As a composer Beavers’ biggest success came with “Someday we’ll be together”, which was a major hit for Diana Ross & the Supremes. It was co-written by him and Johnny Bristol, who cut the original version in ’61 as Johnny & Jackey. An updated version was on the flip to “Lover come back” on Sound Stage 7. Beavers produced many numbers by other artists. “We’re not too young (to fall in love)” by The Camaro’s is in my Top 100. It was co-written by Beavers c/w another delightful version of “Lover come back” and issued in ’68 on Dar Cha. A funkier version of “We’re not too young (to fall in love)” by Karen Striblin was issued in ’70 on Jaber c/w “Just a little girl in love”, written by Beavers with Jack Hill. “Never set me free” by Continental Showstoppers is a sweet soul number issued in ’71 on Seventy 7. Last, but definitely not least, is the sublime xover ballad “If time could stand still” by Ella Washington, produced with Richbourg at Fame in Muscle Shoals, and issued in ’72 on Sound Stage 7.
Jackey Beavers should not be confused with the female Jackie Beavers on Nation (Chicago), who recorded also under the name of Tammy Levon.
Lorraine Chandler was a key figure in the Detroit soul scene as singer, composer, label owner and member of the legendary Pied-Piper production team, mainly with professional partner Jack Ashford. All songs featured here were co-written by Ashford, and Lorraine’s tracks were Pied-Piper productions.
Lorraine recorded several tracks in 1966 at United Sound in Detroit. Her first single “What can I do”, is one of her popular northern numbers with a happy-go-lucky beat and great sax break. The flip ,“Tell me you’re mine”, is a mid-tempo gem which has the same tune as “She won’t come back” by The Hesitations. Both sides were written with Pied-Piper partner Mike Terry, arranged by Terry, issued locally in ’66 on the Detroit arm of the Giant label and re-issued on RCA Victor. The Four Sonics-Plus One did a version of “Tell me you’re mine”, issued in ’68 on Ashford’s label Sepia, using the same backing track as “She won’t come back”.
In June ’66 Lorraine recorded two numbers, at the same session, which were kept in the RCA vaults until issued in the UK by Kent in ’97. “Mend the torn pieces of my heart” is a mid-paced number, arranged by Pied-Piper partner Herbie Williams, and included on Kent CD “Rare Collectable and Soulful“ (the original by Yvonne Baker & the Sensations was issued as “Mend the broken pieces” in ’65 on Philadelphia label Junior). “You only live twice” is an up-tempo number written with Mike Terry & Jimmy Scott. The intro includes a James Bond style guitar riff, and it would have been a groovy theme to the film. It was issued on a 100 Club Anniversary 45, and included on Kent CD “Rare Collectable and Soulful Volume 2”. Lorraine’s first single on RCA Victor “I can’t hold on” is a relentless dancer from the Pied-Piper production line, issued in ’66.
My favourite is, arguably, her most popular side. Lorraine’s version of “I can’t change” is a superb northern number with undulating rhythm and uplifting sax break. It’s been one of my favs from my first days on the scene. It was written by Ashford with Mike Terry, recorded near the end of ’66 at RCA studio in Chicago, arranged by Ashford with Pied-Piper partner Joe Hunter, and issued in ’67 on RCA Victor. It became a big sound in the early 70’s thanks to spins at the Catacombs and Blackpool Mecca. The original by Yvonne Baker & the Sensations was the flip to “Mend the broken pieces”.
I almost missed another excellent track, the original version of “Don’t leave me baby”, recorded in ’68 but unissued until included on Kent CD “Just Productions 2”. This md-tempo nugget was written by Lorraine with Jack Ashford, and has the same tune as “What’s that on your finger” by Willie Kendrick. Other versions include those by; Maxine Brown, included in ’68 on her Epic LP “Out of Sight”, and Ray Gant & Arabian Knights, issued in ’71 on Jay-Walking 45.
Among the numbers written by Lorraine and Jack, recorded by other artists, are: “I’ll never forget you” by The O’Jays; “Crying clown” by both Eddie Parker and Billy Sha-Rae; “Wait a minute” by The Hesitations (which is in my 50 Bubbling Under); “Where are you” by The Four Sonics; “I need a true love” by Ray Gant & Arabian Knights; and “There can be a better way” by both The Smith Brothers and The Magnificents.
Herb Ward recorded several 1960’s beat ballads and northern sounds, in the City of Brotherly Love, making him a legend among rare soul fans, especially in the UK.
The instantly recognisable piano intro of “Strange change” anticipates a beat ballad, before launching into a steady dancer. It was written by Philadelphia ‘s Harthon team Jimmy Bishop, Luther Randolph & Johnny Stiles, produced by them with Jimmy Bishop (uncredited) and issued in ‘65 on Chess subsidiary Argo. It gradually found favour on the northern scene in the 70’s. Randolph and Styles produced “I can’t break the habit” by Lee Garrett which is in my 50 Bubbling Under. Bishop produced “You better stop it” by Barbara Mason which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
My favourite ballad sung by Ward is his version of “There’s no love left”, written by Leon Huff. It was recorded in ’67 for Phil–L.A. of Soul, but remained in the can until liberated by Goldmine on the CD “The Northern Soul of Philadelphia Vol. 2”. It was recorded also by Bunny Sigler, issued in ’67 on Philly label Parkway.
“Honest to goodness” is another of my top northern sounds as far back as the mid 70’s. It was written by Jerry Atkins, recorded at Sigma Sound, supervised by Ward’s manager Sonny Hopson, with a solid brass and piano arrangement by Thom Bell and issued in ’68 on RCA Victor. In the UK it was included in ’70 on the RCA International LP titled “Funky Bottom Congregation” (a copy of which was owned by one of my elder siblings before I commandeered it) and it was another of the solid 60’s sounds broken in at Blackpool Mecca. A slightly extended take was included on Goldmine CD “The Northern Soul of Philadelphia Vol.2”. The 45 flip is the rousing “If you got to leave me”.
Ward recorded two tracks with Thom Bell in ’68 which, unbeknown to him, were issued in ’72 under the name of Sunshine on Phil–L.A. of Soul; the Chess styled mid-pacer “Leave me (and see what happens)” c/w the haunting ballad “Goin’ home to an empty house”. A different mix of ‘Leave me’ was included on the Jamie/Guyden CD “The Northern Side of Philly Soul”.
This is a superb crossover double-sider from Atlanta, but it’s not sung by Freddie Terrell.
Terrell has a varied discography as composer, arranger and guitarist, working mostly with Lee Moses and Herman Hitson.
“You had it made” is a slightly funky nugget of mid-paced mellow groove, with fetching guitar & brass arrangements by Terrell, issued in 1970 as Freddie Terrell & the Blue Rhythm Band (feat. Eddie Maxey) on Capitol. The Willie Tee styled flip “Why not me?”, is in a similar vein. Both sides were written by Terrell & Hitson, sung by Maxey, recorded at Mastersound in Atlanta and produced by Jeff Lee & Brian Ross, in what seems to be a rare foray by them into soul music. Herman Hitson recorded his own version of “Why not me?” captured on a Bell Sound acetate but as yet unissued, which is a pity because he gives a deeper, more pleading rendition.
Another favourite of mine is “You can’t keep a good man down” by Herman Hitson, a quality piece of mid-paced deep soul, written by Terrell & Hitson (with the Mighty Hannibal, uncredited), recorded at Cheshire Sound in Atlanta and issued in ’72 on Hitson’s label Sweet Rose.
Louis Curry was a member of Detroit group The Combinations and made four solo singles in the Motor City, all highly respected by Detroit collectors.
My favourite is “You’re just plain nice”, a mid-tempo gem with catchy hook line and backed by labelmates the Mello Decisions. The flip “Don’t be more woman than I’m a man,” is another slice of mid-paced northern. They were written by Fred Brown & Harry Gates, arranged by Augustus Walker, produced by Brown with Detroit stalwart Joe Hunter and issued c. 1965/6 on Brown’s Detroit label Reel (not to be confused with Johnnie Mae Matthews’ label of the same name).
His other three 45s were issued in ’68 on another local label M-S, all of which were produced/co-written by Brown and arranged by Chicagoan McKinley Jackson. The first “A toast to you”, is a sublime floater, written with Gates, recorded at United Sound, using the same backing track as “The Wind” by Simon Barbee. The next single “Captivated”, picks up the pace with a funkier groove, written with Bobbie Croft, Joe Hunter and Matthew Barnett. His last 45 “God’s creation (loves me)”, brings the pace down albeit with a more complex rhythm, written with Gates and produced with Jackson.
Other good soul sides on the label include “I can get along without your love” and “I’m so glad we’re together” by The Strides “(They call me) A wrong man” by Tony Clarke (with a tune not too dissimilar to “Wade in the water” (trad.) and “Nothing sweeter (than you girl)” by Eddie Hill.
Harry Gates made, what I believe to be, his only single as a solo artist. The cool ballad “Don’t make it a habit” c/w mid-tempo mover “Nothin but wonderful”, were self-penned and issued in the mid 60’s, as Lee Gates, on Detroit label Enterprise (not to be confused with the Stax subsidiary).
McKinley Jackson arranged numerous good soul sides. “(Please) Take a chance on me” by The Arabians is in my Top 100, and “When you lose the one you love” by Buddy Smith is in my 50 Bubbling Under. Others include: “Today I kissed my new love” “Let me try” and “You upset me baby” by The Arabians; “Baby, baby, baby (you’re my heart’s desire)” by Tokays; “I’ve never loved nobody (like I love you)” by Ortheia Barnes and “You got to pay the price” by Gloria Taylor.
How does one describe the jazzman, folk singer and soul artist Terry Callier? Perhaps a little bit each of Richie Havens, Dobie Gray and David Clayton-Thomas. For northern, modern and rare soul fans, he cut several cherished numbers in the Windy City. The following were self-penned and issued on Cadet (unless specified otherwise).
His most popular track “Look at me now”, is a steady piece of uptown northern just under up-tempo making it perfect for dance floors, especially since the 1980’s when it took off in the UK (although it was played initially in the 70’s at Blackpool Mecca). It was written with Carolann Johnson, produced by Esmond Edward with brass laden arrangement by Charles Stepney, recorded and issued in 1968. An alt. take is supposed to be included on the MCA comp “Essential, the Very Best of Terry Callier”, but I can’t distinguish it from the 45. Edward worked with many Chess artists including Ramsey Lewis.
Among other tracks recorded in ’68 were two, written with Tommy Johnson & Phyllis Knox, which were unissued until included on the MCA comp; a beat ballad “Baby take your time”, and another northern dancer “You were just foolin’ me”.
It seems that there was a period of three to four years before Callier was back in the studio. His next single is a massive hit on the modern scene. “Ordinary Joe” is a cool jazzy mid-paced number, recorded at Ter Mar studio, produced by Stepney, included in ’72 on the LP “Occasional Rain” and issued later as a 45. Jerry Butler recorded a version which was included in ’70 on his LP “You and Me”. Stepney produced “Such a wonderful feeling“ by Johnny Moore which is in my Top 100.
A couple more modern tunes made up his next single. “I just can’t help myself (I don’t want nobody else)” is a tad more pacy than mid-tempo, written with Chicago soul veteran Larry Wade. It was issued in ’73 c/w the busy “Gotta get closer to you”, written with Wade & Knox. Both sides were produced by Callier with Wade, arranged by Bob Schiff and included on the LP “I Just Can’t Help Myself,” which was recorded between RCA and Chess studios. Larry Wade & Phyllis Knox were members of Billy Butler’s Infinity.
As well as Jerry Butler, other artists who recorded songs written by Callier include The Dells, Infinity, and Garland Green. With Tommy Johnson he is credited as the writer of “I ain’t going no where” by Jimmie Reed, Jr. which is in my Top 50, but the writing credits are different for a later version by Leroy Barbour.
The Volumes made several popular northern sides, including one highly sought-after rarity under a different name, working with some of the Motor City’s legendry producers such as Duke Browner and Ollie McLaughlin.
One of their most respected 45s is the mid to up-tempo number “Gotta give her love”, written and produced by Duke Browner, backed by the Royaltones, issued in 1964 on American Arts, and issued later on Astra – both labels were based in Pittsburgh. In the UK it was included in ’66 on the Sue LP “Doctor Soul”. The first record I ever heard by them was the storming “I just can’t help myself”, which blew me away back in the 70’s, but nowadays I prefer the flip. “One way lover” is a mid-tempo piece of group harmony written & produced by Browner and issued in ’65 on American Arts. It was scheduled for release in the UK on Pama but probably not issued. I believe the American Arts sides were recorded at Speciality Sound in Detroit. As well as The Volumes, the label is well known to Detroit, beat ballad and northern fans for “Walk on into my heart” by Bobbie Smith, written & produced by Browner. All the following labels were from the Motor City.
The next single is a little more influenced by The Impressions – another piece of mid-paced harmony, “Maintain your cool”, was written by Browner with Harry Balk, produced by Balk and issued in ’65 on Balk’s label Twirl.
Frustrated with a lack of commercial success, group member Bobby Peterson persuaded the others to try out a name change, so they adopted the name of his previous defunct group. Their rarest 45 “Lady in green”, has an instant piano and percussion rhythm behind close harmonies and catchy hook line. It was written by Browner and issued as Magnetics in ’65 on Bonnie. In the UK it took off in the late 70’s/early 80’s and, despite going in and out of fashion, has never dropped below the radar. After this they reverted to The Volumes.
“That same old feeling” is a delightful mid-tempo number co-written by John Rhys, produced by Browner and issued in ’66 on Balk’s label Impact. “A way to love you” is similarly paced, written/produced by Browner and issued in ’67 on Inferno, which was run by Balk, Browner and Rhys. A little more sophisticated is “Ain’t that lovin’ you”, written/produced by Browner and issued in ’68 on Inferno which was now being handled through Motown. The biggest sound on the label is the mid-tempo gem “If you ever walk out of my life“ by Dena Barnes.
For their final record the group joined up with Ollie McLaughlin. My favourite by them is the mid-paced floater “Ain’t gonna give you up”,written by Billy Kennedy & Gus McKinney and issued in ’70 on Karen (one of McLaughlin’s labels named after his daughters). I first picked up on this in the late 80’s, when I got a copy of the LP “Detroit Gold Vol. 2” on Solid Smoke (see also the entry for Jimmy Delphs) and I’m delighted that, with tastes maturing on the northern scene, it’s gained appreciation in more recent years. The flip “Am I losing you”, is a bit funkier, co-written by Kennedy. Both sides were produced by McLaughlin and arranged by the ubiquitous Mike Terry. “Am I losing you” was recorded also by Jimmy Delphs, whose “Almost” is in my 50 Bubbling Under. Kennedy & McKinney wrote “If I was a kid” by both Billy Kennedy and Betty Wright.
These Volumes should not be confused with The Volumes on Garu (San Antonio). These Magnetics should not be confused with others on: J-V, Product of Webb & Sable (Chicago); Ra-Sel (Philadelphia); Sound Trip (Richmond, Va).
After a few early 1960’s r&b numbers and ballads, Billy Hambric made one of the most popular double-siders on the northern scene – see portrait and discography on John Ridley’s site “Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven” The three labels featured here were based in the Big Apple.
“She said goodbye” is a solid piece of uptown northern with a pounding but soulful beat. It was a massive spin for Wigan DJ Richard Searling in the late 70’s, and has remained popular ever since. The flip “I found true love”, is a steady mid to up-tempo foot-tapper and officially the A side. Both sides were written by Detroit veteran Don Mancha (who may have been living in New York at the time), produced/arranged by NYC stalwarts Luther Dixon and Bert Keyes respectively, and issued in ’65 on Drum. There is some doubt about where these sides were recorded. Mancha may have been working in the Big Apple when they were cut, whereas Dixon is known to have produced later numbers by The Platters in the Motor City, including the hit “With this ring”. For now, my instincts say New York, but some Detroit fans are eager to claim this double-sider. Another Drum side produced by Dixon is the mid-paced beat ballad “Hello heartbreaker”, by Little Charles & the Sidewinders which is almost certainly from NYC. “I’m a peace loving man” by Emanuel Laskey, written by Mancha c/w “Sweet lies”, co- written by Mancha, is in my Top 10.
My favourite ballad by Hambric is the pleading “You’re a sweetheart”, written by prolific composers Harold Adamson & Jimmy McHugh, probably produced by Bobby Robinson, and issued c. ’66 on Robinson’s label Fury.
Finally, the self-penned jazzy mid-tempo number “I gotta find that girl” was backed by Curly Hammer’s Band and issued in ’67 on Pyramid.
Nathan Williams cut just one single and it’s a highly respected double-sider for northern and crossover fans.
James Hall was a care worker who took two songs to the enigmatic Los Angeles label owner/producer Lee Silver. “What price” is a sublime piece of mid-paced xover with cool brass arrangement and backing vocals. It became popular in the UK in the early 1990’s. The flip “Reaching higher” is a steady dancer. Both sides were self-penned, produced by Silver (uncredited), issued locally in ’71 on Silver’s label Lime, as Nathan Williams, and re-issued on United Artists.
The backing track to “What price” was used on “Good old days” by The Jones Brothers. It was written by Carl Fisher & Ken Goodloe, produced by Silver, issued in ’75 on Pye International in the UK and c. ’76 on AVI in the US. Fisher was a member of The Vibrations and wrote popular northern numbers – see the entry for The Vibrations. Goodloe was a member of The Themes whose double-sider on Minit was co-written by him and produced by Silver. One of these sides, “No explanation needed”, was included on UK Minit LP “The Big One”. The Themes evolved into 21st Century and Soul Patrol.
Personal choices of mine issued on Silver’s labels are: “That walk” by Ike & the Vines on Sutter; “Shadow of a memory” by 21st Century on Noel; “You get to me” by Minnie Jones & the Minuettes on Sugar; “That’s all over baby“ & “Without your love” by The Jones Brothers on Seel and “So much love” by The Jones Brothers on Silver.
Nathan Williams (real name James Hall) should not be confused with either: Nate Williams on Back Beat (Texas); or Nate Williams on Honey B, Interstate 95, Rapda and NJ International (New Jersey/New York).
Staying on the West Coast, and one of my favourites from the early days of northern soul clubbing. The Natural Four cut several fine tracks in the Bay Area before moving to Chicago.
The group had a hit with the ballad “Why should we stop now”, produced/arranged by Willie Hoskins, issued in 1969 on Hoskin’s Oakland label Boola Boola, and re-issued on ABC. Next up was their first version of “I thought you were mine”, a mid-paced crossover ballad, written by Lonnie Cook, produced by manager Fred Ivey and issued in ’69 on Boola Boola. Cook also arranged this version (uncredited).
The second version of “I thought you were mine” takes the pace up and has a fuller sound with a fetching brass arrangement. This Blackpool Mecca spin was issued in ’70 as a single on ABC c/w a tender ballad “Hurt”, written by Oakland artist Marvin Holmes. These sides were included on their LP “Good Vibes!”, which was recorded at Sierra Sound in Berkeley and produced/arranged by Hoskins. Another fine track on the LP is a cover of the Friends of Distinction’s “Going in circles”, written by Black Magic’s Jerry Peters with Anita Poree. Peters co-wrote popular northern hits for The Younghearts/Tempos.
Their most up-tempo number “Hanging on to a lie” was produced/arranged by Hoskins and issued in ’71 on Boola Boola. The group made one more 45 on the West Coast, a sweet ballad “Give a little love”, produced by Ron Carson, arranged by Art Freeman and issued in ’71 on Chess. Carson produced also “Needle in a haystack” by The Whispers which is in my Top 10.
A re-formed Natural Four, including founder member Chris James, headed out east and signed up with Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label in Chicago, working mainly with Leroy Hutson, with whom they had their most commercial success. One of their most respected sides on Curtom is “Love’s so wonderful”, written/produced/arranged by Hutson, recorded at Curtom studio in Chicago, included in ’75 on the LP “Heaven Right Here on Earth” and issued later as single. Both LP & 45 were issued on UK Curtom.
The T.S.U. Toronadoes made several funky crossover numbers in their own name, and backed other artists including Archie Bell, as the eight-piece house band at Ovide. Their name derives from the Texas Southern University, which most of its members attended, and the fashion of adopting car names (the Toronado). They used mainly Jones Sound studio in Houston with group members swapping lead vocals. All recordings featured were produced by label owner Skipper Lee Frazier with Bill McKay (except “Please heart don’t break” and the Gene Washington 45).
Their first single “A thousand wonders” has that familiar up-tempo xover arrangement associated with Ovide, and other Texas soul of the time. It was written by group member Cal Thomas, featured one-time member Ed Taylor on lead vocal and issued in 1967. Another version, using the same backing track, had Cal on lead vocal supported by the Drells, included in ’68 on the Archie Bell & the Drells LP “Tighten UP” issued on Atlantic. The group didn’t always get credited on the label of the numerous records they backed, one exception is another up-tempo number “You’re such a beautiful child”, by Archie Bell & the Drells issued in ’68 on Atlantic.
The rhythm arrangement for Bell’s first hit “Tighten up” was developed by the Toronadoes – this led to Frazier getting a deal with Jerry Wexler to lease Ovide material to Atlantic, but retaining production credits. The mid-tempo number “What good am I?” was written by Cal Thomas with Leroy Lewis on lead, issued in ’68 on Ovide and re-issued on Atlantic.
My favourite is another funky mid-tempo gem “Got to get through to you”, written by Cal Thomas (uncredited) & Lewis, with Cal on lead and, in ’69, became their only 45 to be issued only on Atlantic. Another superb version was made by Gene Washington & the Ironsides, a retro group from the SF Bay Area, issued in 2014 on Ohio based label Colemine. “I still love you” has a less funky mid-pace arrangement, written by Lewis and issued in ’69 on Ovide, with a slightly different mix issued later on Volt.
Another delightful piece of xover backed by the T.S.U. Toronadoes is “I’ve got what you’ve been looking for” by Sugar Bear, issued c. ’69 on Drells which, presumably, is another of Frazier’s labels. The only other release on the label I’m aware of is the smooth “Love and care” by The Cold Four.
“Only inside” leads in, for nearly 20 seconds, with an intriguing keyboard and brass intro, and continues into a steady mid-paced psych-soul number. It was written by Lewis and issued in ’70 on Ovide c/w a cover of Gene Chandler’s “Nothing can stop me”, written by Curtis Mayfield, which ends with a harmonic reference to Sly Stone’s “Hot fun in the summertime”. This was the last single that the group made before splitting up. The final 45 “Please heart don’t break”, is a sweet funk number written by Will Thomas, recorded at Rampart Street studio, and issued in ’71 on Rampart Street label. The only members featured were Cal & Will on vocals, with founder member Jerry Jenkins on bass.
“Todays man” by Mark Putney, written by Will Thomas and issued on Ovide, is in my Top 50.
This is a bit of Motor City magic and one of my favourite 1960’s sounds played at Blackpool Mecca, it took off also at the Stafford all-niters in the 80’s.
“I’m catching on” by Betty Lloyd is a solid piece of up-tempo northern, issued c. ’65 on the tiny Detroit label BSC c/w an unmistakable Detroit mid-tempo sound “You say things you don’t mean”. Both sides were written by Betty, produced by Tony Steele with someone called Boozer, and co-arranged by Steele. A slightly different mix of ‘catching on’ has turned up on test pressings.
Her next single appears to be a tender piece of crossover “Six days til Christmas”, issued c. ’69 on BSC, a different mix was issued as “Snowflakes Pt 1” on Chicago label Thomas. The BSC version was written by Betty with Steele, produced by Steele & Boozer and arranged by Betty with Travis Biggs. The Thomas mix is shown as written by Betty with Boozer and produced by Boozer.
There was more than one label called BSC, but I wonder if this one is named after Boozer & Steele, or Biggs & Steele (Travis Biggs arranged a 45 by Beverly Wheeler with the Cameros on BSC). I wonder also whether Biggs and Boozer are one and the same. There was another BSC label, from Chicago, which stood for its sole act Brothers Scott & Comp.
This is a biggie both as a dancefloor hit and rarity. Don Gardner had most success as a duettist with Dee Dee Ford and Baby Washington, but I’m focussing on his solo efforts between the late 1960’s and early 70’s.
Don Gardner’s big city voice was put to great use on the solid northern number “Cheatin’ kind”. It was written & produced by Jimmy Vanleer, recorded in Chicago in ‘67 and issued on Vanleer’s label Sedgrick. This started out in the UK as a Blackpool Mecca spin, and is one of the biggest ticket items – selling close to 5 figures. The flip is a cover of the Bécaud & Delanoë standard “What now my love”.
Gardner recorded the mid-paced ballad “Is this really love” around the same time in Chicago. It was written/produced by Vanleer and issued twice on associated label Cedric.
The mellow crossover ballad “Your love is driving me crazy” was written by J.R. Bailey, produced by Rose McCoy & Clarence Lawton, arranged by Bobby Martin and issued in ’69 on New York label Mr. G.
Finally “We’re gonna make it big” is a modern soul number, written by Leroy Fann & Dorothy Mitchell and produced by Lawton with Philly maestro Bobby Martin. The rhythm section was arranged by Martin, with strings arranged by Motown’s Paul Riser. It was included in ’73 on the LP “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” and subsequent single, both on NYC label Master Five. The LP was recorded in New York, Philadelphia & Detroit and issued in the UK on People.
Phillip Mitchell made several fine soul sides in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. Although a significant figure to soul fans, I took longer than I should have to recognise his talent as a composer – it’s time to put that right. See his interviews on Soul Cellar and Soul Express websites.
On the flip to one of his popular northern dancers “Keep on talking”, is my first choice. “Love is a wonderful thing” is a mid to up-tempo number, written by Shoals veterans Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham, produced by the legendary Rick Hall at his Fame studio in 1966, and issued as Prince Phillip in ‘68 on Smash. From here all titles were self-penned and issued as Phillip Mitchell.
The next four were produced by Barry Beckett & Terry Woodford, recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound, issued on Smash in the US, and Jay-Boy in the UK. “Free for all (winner takes all)” is one of his biggest northern sounds, taking off in the early 70’s. I prefer the flip “Flower child”, which has a happy-go-lucky uptown beat, issued in ’70 in the US and ’72 in the UK. The mid-paced crossover number “I’m gonna build California from all over the world”, was issued in ’71 c/w “The world needs more people like you”, which starts with a mellow intro and builds into a solid mid to up-tempo shuffle.
Probably around the same time, he cut his own version of “It hurts so good” at MSS, which was unissued until included on Grapevine CD “Pick Hit of the Week”. It was recorded by Katie Love & the Four Shades of Black in ’70, issued initially on the Muscle Shoals Sound label, and later on Scepter. It provided a hit for Millie Jackson (which was included in the soundtrack for “Cleopatra Jones”) and another for reggae artist Susan Cadogan (produced by the tireless Lee Perry).
Mitchell’s next port of call was Memphis and the following four titles were issued on Hi. My top sound is easily the best version of “Little things”. This subtle xover shuffler was issued in ’72. Other good versions were made by Mel & Tim and John Edwards (the Artistics also covered it). On the flip is the utterly sublime ballad “That’s what a man is for”, written by Nashville/Memphis stalwart Bettye Berger (with Phillip Mitchell, uncredited). Although the publishing credit for “Little things” is MSSs, both sides were produced by Willie Mitchell at his Royal Studio in Memphis. Willie Mitchell (no relation) is an absolute legend whose magnificent work with Hi artists, like Al Green and Ann Peebles, was hugely successful and influential. Another couple of xover numbers produced by Phillip Mitchell, and issued in ’73, are the sweet ballad “Oh how I love you” and the earthier “Turning over the ground”, the latter was issued also on UK London. Willie Mitchell produced “Thanks for nothing” by Na Allen which is in my Top 50, and “You did something to me” by Otis Clay which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
Finally, two tracks which were recorded at MSS, and remained in the can until included on Grapevine CD “Just the Beginning”. In my Top 50 is “Come through me” by Garland Green, written by Mitchell with Billy Clements and recorded in Miami. Mitchell’s own version titled “You gotta come through me” has the same keyboard intro but a lower key arrangement. It was recorded c. ’75, as was my second favourite track by him, the mid-tempo xover number “Just the beginning”.
After this he made some popular modern sides as Prince Phillip Mitchell issued on Atlantic including “One on one” and, his biggest spin “I’m so happy”.
Mitchell wrote scores of songs covered by other artists. As well as Katie Love, Mel & Tim, John Edwards and Garland Green they include: “Something new to do” by Bobby Sheen; “It must be love” by The Sequins; “Love don’t come easy” by Na Allen; “If you can’t give her love, give her up” by Bobby Womack (also by Mary Wells) and “How can I go on without you” by Corey Blake (a.k.a. Cicero Blake). Although he is linked often as co-writer of “Tryin’ to love two” by William Bell, that P. Mitchell is Paul Mitchell who had his own Jazz trio.
Usually, when a soul record got issued on both sides of the pond, we’re talking about either a well-known artist or major label. Neither is the case here, but it’s one of my crossover favourites from the Crescent City.
“Tell her that I love you” by Jimmy Hicks is a mid-paced number with a simple arrangement and cool harmonica accompaniment, giving it a feel similar to “Maggie” by Johnny Williams. It was written by Messrs. E. Lewis, A. Andrews & G. LeBuff of whom I know nothing, produced by Marty Lewis, arranged by Marty Lewis with a C. Mitchell, issued in ’72 in the US on Lewis’ New Orleans label Big Deal, and in the UK mistitled “Tell her that I love her” on London. The flip “I’m Mr. Big Stuff”, as the title suggests, is a reply to Jean Knight’s major hit with a carbon copy arrangement, and the same writing credits (Joe Broussard, Ralph Williams & Carrol Washington). It’s actually a decent piece of cool funk, and the title may have prompted the UK release on an obscure artist.
As well as his own northern stormer “I can’t do without you”, Lewis wrote & produced the cool ballad “You don’t know that I love you” by Oliver Joy issued on Big Deal.
I doubt if this artist is the same Jimmy Hicks as the country & western drummer on Gulf Crest.
Robert Moore cut a few numbers in the Magic City, much admired by crossover fans.
After some solo efforts on L.A. label Hollywood, and Miami label Saadia, Moore teamed up with the T.K. stable in Miami and their label Blue Candle. His first single on the label was with Florida combo All the People. “A fool in love” is a laid back xover ballad, co-produced by Miami stalwart Steve Alaimo, and issued in ’72 as All the People feat. Snoopy Dean-Robert Moore. The flip “Wish I had a girl like you”, is a funkier affair, written by Willie Hale (a.k.a. Little Beaver), produced by Alaimo and billed as All the People feat. Robert Moore.
My favourite is a solo number and another of my top xover sounds. “Tears of the world” is a delightful piece of mellow funk with cool keyboard and brass arrangement, written by Hale, produced by Hale & Alaimo and issued in ’73. The flip “Jimmie Bo Charlie”, is a slice of straight sax infused southern funk.
Other groovy sounds on the Blue Candle include: “Take it all off” by George McCrae, written by Clarence Reid & Willie Clarke and produced by Reid, Clarke & Alaimo (which may have been issued originally on United Artists); “Our day is here” by J.P. Robinson, written by Reid, produced by Reid & Clarke and issued in ’74 (covered later by Jimmy Beaumont & the Skyliners on another T.K. label Drive) and “Give me your love” by Joey Gilmore, co-written/co-produced by Snoopy Dean, and issued in the late 70’s.
Reid & Clarke produced & co-wrote “There must be something” by Friday, Saturday & Sunday which is in my Top 20. They provided the vocals on “Stop hurting me baby” by Purple Mundi, which is in my Top 100, both of which were made at T.K.
Edward Hamilton & the Arabians made numerous sides in the Motor City, all treasured highly by Detroit collectors. The sequence of re-issues and re-recordings, together with conflicting dates and incomplete bios, makes it difficult to construct a definitive chronology, so I’ll do the best I can. All the labels, except Le-Mans and Jameco, were based in Detroit and, as far as I’m aware, all tracks featured were recorded there.
Why not start with my favourite, and a bit of mid-tempo magic. “(Please) Take a chance on me” is classic group harmony with simple brass arrangement behind Hamilton’s tenor lead, and is one of their most respected numbers. The flip “You upset me baby”, is pacier with tight harmonies. Both sides were written by Motown’s Cornelius Grant, produced by James Hendrix (no, not that one) arranged by McKinley Jackson, and issued c. 1964/5 by The Arabians (presented by Jim Kemper) on New York label Le-Mans.
Most confusing, as regards dates, are the next two, so I’m going by a combination of conflicting sources. “Let me try” is another mid-pacer co-written by Jackson, produced by Idessa Malone and issued by The Arabians in the mid-60’s on Malone’s label Staff. The flip “Today I kissed my new love“, is a cool piece of doo-wop produced by Malone and arranged by Jackson. McKinley Jackson arranged numerous good soul sides. “When you lose the one you love” by Buddy Smith is included in my 50 Bubbling Under. For others see the entry in my chart for Louis Curry.
Hamilton spent a brief period without the Arabians and teamed up with the prolific Melvin Davis, working for Lou Beatty. My top up-tempo side by him is “Call me”, written/produced by Davis, recorded at United Sound, backed by the Fifes and issued c. ‘65 as Edward Hamilton on Hendrix’s label Carrie (orange/Detroit). It was re-issued as Edward Hamilton & the Fifes on another NY label Jameco, and again as Edward Hamilton on Carrie (green/Nashville). “I must love you” by Melvin Davis is in my Top 100.
Hamilton re-joined the Arabians and they cut several numbers with Lou Beatty who ran his own La Beat studio, often employing house band the LPT’s (La Beat Production Team). The following sides were written/produced by Beatty (except one) and issued on Beatty’s label Mary Jane.
“My darlin baby” is a mid-tempo toe-tapper issued in ’66 as Edward Hamilton & the Arabians c/w another mid-pacer “Tell me” which was issued four times, including one misspelt as the Arabains. Their most popular side is the up-tempo “Baby don’t you weep”, written/produced by Brothers of Soul members Fred Bridges & Richard Knight, arranged by the ubiquitous Mike Terry and issued in ’67. A slightly more modern sounding “Thank your mother” was issued in ’67 c/w the instrumental by The LPT’s (uncredited).
A second version of “My darling baby”, with additional strings and horns, was issued twice c. ’68. The flip to the second release is a ballad “Willing mind”. These sides were arranged by Daniel Moore and issued as Edward Hamilton & the Natural Looks (same group as Edward Hamilton & the Arabians).
Other personal choices on labels run by Beatty include: “I am nothing” by Al Williams, “Modern day woman“ by James Shorter, “How” & “One more chance” by The Masqueraders (on La Beat); “Soldier comin home“ by Don Hart & the Fyve and “It’s in my mind“ by Don Hart-James Shorter (on Cool School).
Staying in the Motor City, another group with a car name and a double slice of mid-tempo magic.
There appears to be only one single issued on the Detroit label Dar Cha, which may have been run by Jackey Beavers or Jack Hill. “We’re not too young (to fall in love)” by The Camaro’s is one of my favourite girl group numbers, with a slightly funky arrangement and killer harmonies. It was written by Beavers with Jerome Teasley (occasional drummer with Jr. Walker), and issued in 1968. The flip “Lover come back”, is another mid-paced floater, with simple Detroit style arrangement, written by Beavers. Both sides were produced by Beavers and arranged by Hill.
I know of three other versions of ‘We’re not too young’: A frantic one by The Jackey Beavers Show, produced by Beavers, arranged by Hill, issued in ’68 on Beavers’ label Jaber (and re-issued on New York label Mainstream); A nice crossover version by Karen Striblin, issued in ’70 on Jaber c/w the groovy “Just a little girl in love”, written by Beavers & Hill, both sides were produced/arranged by Beavers/Hill; Another up-tempo funk one as “Not too young” by Continental Showstoppers, issued in ’71 on Nashville label Seventy 7 c/w a sophisticate piece of xover “Never set me free”, written by Joseph Scott, both sides were produced by Beavers. Scott wrote a couple of mid-tempo numbers, “I ain’t myself anymore” and “Let’s get together” by Bobby Bland.
There are two versions of “Lover come back” by Beavers. The first has a slightly funky arrangement, produced by Beavers and issued in ’68 on Jaber. The second is in my Top 100 – for me this is the best version, recorded in Nashville with a simpler arrangement, produced by John Richbourg and issued in ’71 on Sound Stage 7.
It’s possible that the Camaro’s may be connected to Beverly Wheeler w. the Cameros on Detroit label BSC, but the lead vocals on Dar Cha and BSC sound quite different. These Camaro’s should not be confused with the psych-pop group The Camaros on Custom.
When reviewing the work of a northern soul artist, words like ‘underrated’ can become clichés. Syl Johnson has worked with composers like Jo Armstead, Willie Mitchell and Earl Randle, so if he describes Chicago soul maestro Johnny Moore as underrated then he is. Indeed, he is by far more successful as a writer than performer. That said, some of his own recordings are worthy of merit. All the tracks referred to here were written by him and/or his writing partner Jack Daniels. Unless stated otherwise, his recordings were produced by Daniels in Chicago.
The first three sides were issued in 1966 on Windy City label Bright Star, a subsidiary of Four Brothers co-owned and managed by Daniels. “Sold on you” is a cool uptown foot-tapper, backed by the Lorenzo Smith Band and written with Smith. “It may be tears of joy” is in the same vein, written with Smith c/w a more mellow number “Your love’s got power”. The next 45 “You’re the girl for me”, is another mellow mid-pacer, issued in ’66 on Chi-City.
My second favourite track by him is his original version of the soulful ballad “It’s just my way of loving you”, which was issued in ’67 on Date. Although it was a local hit, the low-key production is in stark contrast to the one by Garland Green, which is much bigger on the crossover/modern scene. The flip “Walk like a man”, is his most popular number on the northern scene. The next single has the same combination of northern dancer c/w subtle ballad. “What more can I do” is an up-tempo number which has the same backing track as “Please consider me” by Tyrone (the Wonder Boy) a.k.a. Tyrone Davis. Moore’s version was issued in ’68 on another local label, Larry-O, c/w the mid-tempo ballad “Let’s get it together”.
My top sound is a Jackie Wilson styled mid-tempo number. “Such a wonderful feeling” is another of those sides that bridge mid 60’s northern with late 60’s xover. It was written by Moore & Daniels, arranged by multi-talented Chess musician Charles Stepney and issued in ’68 on Blue Rock, a subsidiary of Mercury where Daniels was installed briefly as A&R for the soul roster. Stepney arranged “Look at me now “ by Terry Callier which is in my Top 100. The flip “Without your love”, is a steady northern foot-tapper (a different song from “I can’t live without your love” issued later on Jadan).
Moore had recording sessions with Thom Bell and Bobby Martin at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia. The resultant sides were issued piecemeal on different labels. “Thank you baby” has a similar feel to ‘wonderful feeling’, it was arranged by Bell & Martin, and issued in ’69 on Mercury. Syl Johnson cut a funkier version, issued on Chi label Twinight. Back in Chicago “Your love is fadin’” is arguably Moore’s most popular xover side, it was arranged by pianist Floyd Morris and issued in ’69 on Mercury. Morris produced both sides of a single by The Earle’s which is in my Top 100.
In the early 70’s two more xover Philly cuts were issued: “Just be for real” was issued in ’71 on a Brunswick demo and re-issued on Daniels’ own label Jadan – the latter c/w Chicago recorded sweet soul number “It’s all over (our love is a faded dream)”. The last Philly cut to be released was the cool shuffler “I’m only half a man without your love” issued in ’72 on Jadan. Finally, another cool groover “Yesterday, today and tomorrow” was recorded in the early 70’s, but remained unissued until released in the UK by Grapevine 2000.
Other personal choices written/co-written by Moore include: “You can do me some good” by The Coronados/Class Mates; “I’ll get over you” by Homer Strickland; “Give me another chance” by The New Concepts; “It’s gotta be love” by Pam Colquitt; his biggest hit “Turn back the hands of time” by Tyrone Davis; “I’ll be right here” by Tyrone Davis; “One way ticket to nowhere” by Syl Johnson; “When love calls” by Darrow Fletcher; “Forever and a day” by Wales Wallace; “I found myself” by Mill Edwards (a.k.a. Mill Evans) and “If it’s not love don’t waste my time” by Dorothy Johnson.
Major Harris is best known for his international chart successes on Atlantic in the 1970’s. Prior to that he was in several groups, and cut a couple of solo 45s. Although regarded as a Philly artist, my top choice comes from the West Coast.
One of the groups Harris joined was Johnny & the Charmers who backed one of my favourite beat ballads “Just a bad thing” by Janice Christian, written/produced by bandleader Walter Gates with Debbie Foster, and issued in ’64 on Philly label Swan.
In ’68 Harris cut some sides with L.A. stalwart James Carmichael and Jackie Mills of Hollywood production company Wednesday’s Child, known to have used Columbia studios in L.A. “Just love me” is an undulating ballad, written by We Three Trio (Danny Janssen, Myrna Janssen & Wally Keske), produced by Mills and issued in ’68 on Chicago based label OKeh.
The next single was recorded at the same session, and has been one of my top northern sounds for decades. “Call me tomorrow” starts with a familiar cool guitar riff and leads into a steady mid to up-tempo number. A well-received Blackpool Mecca sound but considered, initially, too slow for nocturnal dancers at Wigan. It was written by Isaiah Jones & Gentle White, produced by Mills, arranged by Carmichael and issued in ’69 on OKeh. The flip is a groovy cover of Dylan’s “Like a rolling stone”. Carmichael arranged the Capitol version of “Consider the source” by Leon Haywood which is in my Top 20.
Back in the City of Brotherly Love, Harris joined up with Nat Turner Rebellion. “Can’t go on livin” is a cool piece of crossover, co-written by Major’s cousin Norman Harris, recorded at Sigma Sound, produced by Norman Harris with Stan Watson, arranged by Norman Harris, and issued in ’71 on Watson’s label Philly Soulville.
After this Harris enjoyed major chart success, as member of sweet soul masters The Delfonics, and solo artist. I’ll round off with a couple of modern numbers produced by Philly veteran Bobby Eli. “Loving you is mellow” was recorded at Sigma Sound, included in ’74 on Atlantic LP “My Way” and issued later as a single. “Laid back love” was issued in ’76 as a 45 on WMOT.
Dennis Edwards hit the big time as a member of The Temptations, but my favourite was issued on a one-off label before he joined Motown.
“Johnnie on the spot” was produced/co-written by GW/Ric-Tic’s Ronnie Savoy, and a massive spin for legendary DJ Soul Sam c. 1989-90. I think it’s quite weak compared to the superior flip. “I didn’t have to (but I did)” is a solid northern dancer, with Edwards’ strident delivery over a soulful on the four beat. It was Edwards’ first recording, written/produced by Savoy’s brother Bob Hamilton, recorded c. 1965 in the basement of “a guy named Willie Brown”* and arranged by the prolific Joe Hunter. It seems that it was the only release on Detroit label International Soulsville. The scan above is the demo, I’m still looking for a workable image of the rare light tan stock copy. *Taken from interview notes on Soul Cellar site.
In ’66 Edwards joined The Contours replacing Joe Stubbs. A number of unissued recordings in the Motown vaults were discovered and included on Kent CD “Just a Little Misunderstanding”. Several from ’67 were marked Dennis Edwards as artist, rather than The Contours, including; the smooth mid-pacer “Girl come on in”, written/produced by Robert Gordy (Berry’s brother), and the slightly pacier “I’m here now that you need me”, written/produced by James Dean & Bill Weatherspoon.
Two Four Tops sounding numbers by The Contours, with Edwards on lead, were issued as a single. “It’s so hard being a loser” was recorded in December ’66, produced/co-written by Dean & Weatherspoon and issued in ’67 on Gordy. The flip “Your love grows precious every day”, was recorded in January ’67, co-written by Contour Sylvester Potts, and produced by Harvey Fuqua & Johnny Bristol.
In ’68 Edwards joined The Temptations, this time replacing David Ruffin. My favourite track with Edwards on lead is another mid-tempo number “Why did she have to leave me (why did she have to go)”, written by Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong, recorded in October ’68, produced by Whitfield, and issued on Gordy.
The Gordy singles referred to here were issued in the UK on Tamla-Motown.
Ace-Kent have a demarcation of sorts when it comes to comps. Basically, if it’s of interest to the northern/rare soul scene, including its sub-genres (e.g. crossover) then it comes out on Kent, otherwise it tends to get issued on Ace. This xover gem was smuggled through the latter, but it wasn’t long before Kent got on the case.
As far as I can make out Art Gentry made only two contemporaneous singles. On the flip to the northern side “Merry-go-round” is a xover ballad “I can’t make it (with out you)”, co-written by Gentry, and issued in 1968 on Onyx, which had its own studio in Memphis (a.k.a. American Sound).
“Breakthrough” is another xover sound, written by Memphis stalwart George Jackson and issued in ’72 on Nashville label Abet. The flip is another ballad “Wonderful dream”, produced and co-written by Jackson. These sides were recorded at Sounds of Memphis studio and issued also in the UK on Mojo. Jackson recorded a better version of “Wonderful dream”, which was issued c.’68 as Bart Jackson on North Carolina label Sound Facts, and nationally on Decca.
My favourite is “This is my chance” which has a highly sophisticated arrangement with undulating pace. Its popularity underlines the shift in taste and inclusiveness of the rare soul scene in recent decades. It was written by Jackson with Raymond Moore, recorded in October ’72 at Fame in Muscle Shoals, but remained hidden in the Abet/Excello vaults until included in ’97 on Ace CD “The Heart of Southern Soul Vol. 3: The Flame Burns On”. It was included also in the late 90’s on a plain jacket Kent sampler LP for DJs – as I understand it only 90 copies were pressed making it a much sought-after rarity. It was issued later as a Kent Select single.
Jackson & Moore have written scores of soul numbers. These include the following by George Jackson as artist: “My desires are getting the best of me” issued in ’69 on Fame; “I found what I wanted” issued in ’71 on Verve; the superb “All in my mind”, unissued Sounds of Memphis recording c. ’75 included on Kent CD “Play the Game: XL & Sounds of Memphis Story Vol. 2” and “A woman wants to be loved” from the same sessions, included on Kent CD “George Jackson in Memphis”. They wrote also “Too hurt to cry” by Candi Staton which is in my 50 Bubbling under. “I found what I wanted” & “Too hurt to cry” were recorded also by Bobby Lacour.
I’m unaware of any connection between this Art Gentry and the 1940’s/50’s artist of the same name on Caravan & Hi-Tone.
Billy Keene, based in the City of Angels, made several early 60’s R&B sides, followed by a sporadic period covering the rest of the decade. Fortunately, it includes this popular crossover number.
“I finally got wise” is a Sam Cooke inspired up-tempo side, written by Roosevelt Caldwell and a J. Wilkerson (Johnnie Wilkerson?), produced by Cliff Goldsmith, arranged by Ray Shanklin and issued in 1964, as Billy Keen, on L.A. label Galaxy. Goldsmith and Shanklin worked with many West Coast soul acts including Leon Haywood, The Olympics and Claude Huey, whose “Feel good all over”, arranged by Shanklin, is in my Top 50.
A popular northern dancer is the catchy “Wishing and hoping”, written by Kenny Seymour, produced by Lee Young, arranged by L.A. veteran Arthur Wright, issued in ’68 on another L.A. label Vault, and re-issued on Shreveport based label Paula. Wright produced/co-wrote “You gave me love” by Bettye Swann, which is in my Top 50. For his work on other selected soul sides see the entry for Bettye Swann.
My favourite is a subtle mid-paced ballad which is highly popular with xover fans. “Somebody please” was written by James Earl Davis & Paul Irvin, produced by Jewel Akens, arranged by another West Coast stalwart Miles Grayson, issued in ’69 on Dottie and another Shreveport label Ronn. The flip on both labels is a southern flavoured ballad “Losers win sometimes”, written by brothers Jewel & Joseph Akens, produced by Jewel and arranged by Grayson.
I believe the original version of “Somebody please” may have been the slow-paced one by The Vanguards, arranged by Irvin and issued in ’69 on Indianapolis label L&M. A shorter edit was issued on L.A. based Whiz. The Vanguards cut a few more good sides on Lamp which emanated from L&M. Another version is a cool one by Sly, Slick & Wicked from L.A. (not to be confused with the Cleveland group who had hits on People). It was included in ’96 on their I.T.P. CD “Confessin a Feelin Live!”
Grayson arranged “I can’t let go” by Johnny Summers which is in my Top 20. For other good soul numbers he produced or arranged, see the entry for Summers.
There are no bigger names on the northern/rare soul scene than Chuck Jackson, thanks to numerous dancefloor biggies. He acknowledged this by saying he’s always had a bigger following on this side of the pond than in the States. He is cousin to beat balladeer Walter, Senator Jesse and Ann Sexton. After a brief spell with The Del-Vikings, Jackson’s rich baritone voice hit the national charts in 1962 with “Any day now”. My favourites are solo efforts from the period between ’64 and ’73.
There are several candidates, but I believe his most popular northern number is “Hand it over” which was a biggie during the scene’s formative days, and saw a revival in the 80’s. It was recorded at Bell Sound in New York, produced by NYC stalwart Luther Dixon, issued twice in ’64 on Wand and once in ’65 on Pye International in the UK. Dixon produced also both sides of Billy Hambric’s Drum 45 which is in my Top 100.
When I first went to soul clubs in the 70’s “These chains of love (are breaking me down)” was a big oldie. It was recorded at Scepter studio, co-produced by Jackson and issued in ’66 on Wand/Pye International. For a brief spell Jackson was produced by Herman Griffin. Consequently, he cut his version of another big sound “Good things come to those who wait”, co-written by Griffin and issued in ’66 in the US. Another popular version by Edwin Starr’s cousin Willie Hatcher was issued in ’67 on Columbia using the same backing track which, doubtless, was laid down in Detroit. A sublime mid-paced ballad “What’s with this loneliness” was self-penned, recorded c. ’66 at Scepter but unissued until included on the Kent CD “Good Things”. It was issued also as a 100 Club Anniversary 45 whose price steadily goes up.
Jackson moved to Motown and recorded more catchy tunes at Hitsville with possible input from Golden World. The first two LPs, and accompanying singles, were issued on Motown. “Girls, girls, girls” was written/produced by Smokey Robinson & Al Cleveland, recorded in October ’67, issued as a single in ’68 and included on the LP “Chuck Jackson Arrives!”. Another northern number “What am I gonna do without you”, was written by Ivy Joe Hunter & Stevie Wonder, recorded in October ’67, produced by Hunter, issued as a 45 in ’68 and included on the LP. Both these sides were issued in the UK on Tamla-Motown. Two other versions of “What am I gonna do without you”, by The Temptations and The Spinners, remained in the can until included on CDs. My top choice is the mid to up-tempo crossover track “Where you gonna run to now”, which should be better acquainted with shuffling feet. It was written by James Dean, Bill Weatherspoon & Marilyn McLeod, recorded in November ’67, produced by Dean & Weatherspoon and included on the ‘Arrives’ LP.
“Rosalind” is in a similar vein – it was another number produced/co-written by Dean & Weatherspoon, and recorded in November ’67, but was held back for the next LP “Goin’ Back to Chuck Jackson”, issued in ’69. The best track on this LP is the cool mid-paced “Can you feel it babe”, which was written by West Coasters Deke Richards & Sherlie Matthews, recorded in March ’69 and produced by Richards. Both Motown LPs were issued in the UK on Tamla-Motown. A track which has gained admiration in recent years is the mid-tempo “I’ll fight (’til I win your love)”, written/produced by Detroiter Duke Browner, recorded in October ’69 and included on the LP “Teardrops Keep Fallin’ on My Heart”, issued in ’70 on V.I.P.
Finally, three groovy sides recorded at ABC in Los Angeles, produced by Steve Barri, arranged by Michael Omartian and issued on ABC. The up-tempo “I only get this feeling” was a hit on the modern scene – it was written by Dee Irwin and issued in ’73 as a single. Irwin recorded his own version, issued in ’68 on Redd Coach and Imperial. Bunny Sigler’s funkier version was issued in ’70 as “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing” on Neptune. The flip to Chuck’s version is a mid-tempo xover number “Slowly but surely”. Both sides were included in ’74 on the LP “Through All Times” and issued as a 45 in the UK on Probe. Another track on this LP “Talk a little less”, is a little more Philly influenced and was issued later as a 45 in the US. The LP was issued also in the UK on Probe.
In picking one number by Chuck Jackson, followed by another by Major Lance, I’ve surely had my work cut out. Lance made countless numbers played on the northern scene, many written by Curtis Mayfield, arranged by Mr. Uptown Johnny Pate, produced by Carl Davis in the Windy City and issued on OKeh. Davis often used Columbia studio for his OKeh productions.
Where else to start than with the massive dancefloor hit “The Monkey Time”, recorded in May 1963 with that familiar ‘Chicago sound’ backed by the Artistics – it was issued as a single and became the title track on the accompanying LP. A similar arrangement was used in ’65 on “Emperor Jones” by Eldridge Holmes. “Hey little girl” is in similar vein, recorded in August, issued as a 45 and included in ’64 on the LP “The Rhythm of Major Lance”, issued on UK Columbia. This time the arrangement was borrowed for “Happy go lucky” by Herbert Hunter. One of his most well-known numbers is the catchy “Um, um, um, um, um, um”, recorded in August, issued in ’64 as a single and included on the ‘Rhythm’ LP. It was, of course, a hit in the UK for Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders. His first version of “Little young lover” was recorded in October, included in ’64 on a mini-LP and issued in ’66 as the flip to the northern hit “Investigate”. The more popular later version was issued in ’70 on Mayfield’s label Curtom. The original version was The Impressions. Two other snappy tracks on the mini-LP, recorded in October, are “Think nothing about it” (covered by Gene Chandler) and “Gotta right to cry” (recorded also by Otis Leavill). The similar “Gonna get married” was recorded in October and issued in ’64 as a 45. All the singles recorded in ’63 were issued in the UK on Columbia.
Three cool uptown numbers were recorded in January ’64 and issued as 45s in the US “It ain’t no use “ “Ain’t it a shame” and “Gotta get away”. The latter two were included in ’65 on UK Columbia LP “Chart-Busters U.S.A.”. “Gotta get away” was recorded also by both Billy Butler & the Enchanters and The Impressions. Another highly popular side is “Girls”, recorded in February and issued as a single in the US. The original version was issued as “Girl don’t you know me” by The Impressions and a variation was issued later as “The Jerk” by The Larks. The conveyor belt of catchy mid-tempo numbers continued with “Rhythm” recorded in June, Mayfield getting a production credit with Davis, and issued on OKeh/Columbia. An almost carbon-copy “I just can’t help it”, was recorded in June and issued in ’65 in the US. In October, Lance cut a version of “Nothing can stop me” which remained in the can until included as “Get my hat (nothing can stop me)” on Epic CD “Everybody Loves a Good Time!”. It was, of course, a major hit for Gene Chandler. “Too hot to hold” is my top Major track from ’65. It was written by Gerald Sims, recorded in June, produced by Sims with Davis, arranged by Riley Hampton, issued on OKeh/Columbia 45s, and included on the UK “Chart-Busters” LP.
None of his four most popular northern sides was written/arranged by Mayfield/Pate, nor recorded in Chicago. In April ’66 Lance recorded two of these in Nashville supervised by Billy Sherrill “Investigate” and the best of the four “It’s the beat”, which was issued in the UK on Soul City and, consequently, was a regular spin during the scene’s formative years. The other two were produced by Ted Cooper in New York. “Ain’t no soul (in these old shoes)” was recorded in November ‘66. His biggest northern sound “You don’t want me no more”, was recorded in February ’67. “It’s the beat” was co-written by members of labelmates The Vibrations, whose “End up crying” is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
My top sound is a superb piece of mid-tempo crossover which brings us back to Chicago, but was a further departure from the Mayfield/Pate template. “Without a doubt” was co-written by Brunswick team Bernard Reed, Daniel Reed & Othie Wright, recorded in August ’67, produced by Sims and became Lance’s last single on OKeh. A later version was recorded in London and issued in ’74 on UK Warner Bros. The OKeh flip “Forever,” is more of a northern dancer.
In ‘69 Lance made another couple of good xover sides, produced by Chicago veteran Willie Henderson and issued on Dakar. “Since you’ve been gone” was arranged by Sonny Sanders, and my second favourite number by him “Sweeter as the days go by”, was co-written by Davis & Henderson and arranged by Henderson. These were issued in the UK on Atlantic. Once again, Lance cut a second version of “Sweeter” in England which was issued in ’73 on UK Warner Bros.
I’ll finish with three xover sides in the early 70’s. Lance teamed up again with Mayfield who wrote/produced “Must be love coming down”, issued in ’70 on Curtom c/w the updated “Little young lover”. Finally, a trip down to Muscle Shoals produced two numbers co-written by Lance and produced by Don Davis. “Since I lost my baby’s love” c/w “Girl, come on home” issued in ’71 on Volt.
Lance co-produced “You brought it on yourself” by Barbara Hall which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
My fourth visit to Motown sees a big modern scene number from Muscle Shoals, popular at weekenders. It comes from a brief period when blue-eyed Reuben Howell cut two LPs with a mix of styles.
His first 45 on Motown was a decent modern dancer “I’ll see you through”, written by southern soul veteran Ernie Shelby, produced by Shoals pairing Clayton Ivey & Terry Woodford, arranged by Mike Lewis & Charles Chalmers, issued in 1973 as a single and included on his first, eponymous, LP. It’s his next 45 which has generated most interest in the UK.
“You can’t stop a man in love” is much better although, admittedly, it’s possibly one of the most commercial sounding entries in my chart. It was included on the first LP and issued later as a demo single (c/w the even more commercial A side “When you take another chance on love”). Both sides were written by Woodford with another Shoals stalwart George Soule, produced by Ivey & Woodford and arranged by Lewis & Chalmers.
I’ve known Howell’s version of ‘can’t stop a man’ since the 90’s, but I’m sure it was spun first in the 70’s. The earliest version I’ve come across was by Wilson Pickett, recorded in ’72 at Muscle Shoals Sound, which remained in the can until included on Rhino CD “Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers”. The first version I heard was another popular one by Carl Carlton, issued in ’73 on ABC 45 and Back Beat LP. Other versions include: Bobby Womack, recorded at MSS and included in ’73 on his UA LP “Facts of Life”, with Lewis on the keyboard; The Supremes, as “You can’t stop a girl in love”, with Scherrie Payne on lead and included in ’75 on their eponymous Motown LP; The Temptations, produced by Ivey & Woodford at Wishbone studio in Shoals, arranged by Ivey and included in ’75 on Gordy LP “House Party” and Jimmy Elledge issued in ’79 on SongBird. Ivey & Woodford cut their own version, which they produced & arranged, which was issued in ’76 under the name of Mirage on Warner Bros.
Howell’s next two 45s “Rings” and “Constant disappointment”, are Nilsson type ballads and, it’s fair to say, that his second Motown LP leans more towards that ilk than soul.
Woodford & Soule wrote a couple of northern/modern hits: “Special kind of woman” by Paul Thompson, recorded at MSS and issued in ’70 on Volt and “Catch me I’m falling” by Esther Phillips w. the Dixie Flyers, which was cut in Miami and issued in ’71 on Atlantic. Ivey & Woodford wrote “You’re messing up a good thing”, Bobby Womack’s version recorded at MSS is in my Top 20. Woodford co-wrote: “Gonna find a true love” by Bottom & Company, produced by Ivey & Woodford with strings arranged by Lewis and issued in ’74 on Motown; “I’m in love” by The Ovations feat. Louis Williams, produced by Ivey & Woodford and issued in ’74 on M-G-M and “Wounded woman” by Sandra Wright, issued in ’74 on Truth. Lewis arranged the strings on “How will I ever know” by Wilson Pickett which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
This is a fine crossover nugget from the City of Angels that gets overshadowed by more popular sides from The Fidels, whose line-up had several changes during their brief recording existence. The three labels were all based in Los Angeles.
The group took its name from the Marine Corps motto where they formed (semper fidelis). Their first single was on Doré. On the flip to the standard northern number “I’m givin’ you notice baby”, is a doo-wop style “Take away this loneliness”, written by group member Jimmy Locke and issued in 1966.
Their most popular side by far is the better than average northern dancer “Try a little harder“, written by Bob Relf & Jackie Lee (Bob & Earl), issued in ’67 as The Fi-Dels on Keymen c/w the more sedate “You never do right (my baby)” written by Relf. Both sides were produced by Relf and issued several years later in the UK on Jay-Boy, due to the emergence of “Try a little harder“ on the UK scene.
My favourite is a piece of group harmony, which has gained some admiration among northern and xover fans. “Boys will be boys (girls will be girls)” was issued in ’69 on Maverick c/w the more up-tempo “I want to thank you”. Both sides were written, produced & arranged by L.A. legend Willie Hutch who wrote also “Now I know what love is” by Al Wilson, which is in my Top 100.
This group should not be confused with either the Fi-Dells on Imperial or The Fabulous FiDels on Jaa Dee.