News that Rhino finally committed hara-kiri has flickered on the internet since September. This revelation forced me to examine my music log to check just what I have under that logo and I discovered 26 items – the box sets including
One of the greatest and most enduring soul classics to come out of Chicago in the early sixties was Jan Bradley’s ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’, a song written for her by Curtis Mayfield. Many soul fans may see her as a one hit wonder but this was not quite true, she cut many great records, her soft relaxed vocal style was very appealing and had her partnership with Mayfield continued, her career as a Chicago songbird might have reached greater highs and had a lasting success.
Jan was born Addie Bradley 6 July 1943 in Byhalia, Mississippi but moved to Robbins, Illinois a suburb of Chicago when she was four years old and grew up there. As a child she sang in the church choir, loved to sing along with the songs that she heard on the radio and it soon became clear to her parents that she had a natural talent. They took her to a vocal coach for formal voice lessons and she became a soloist in church. When she was studying at Blue Island Eisenhower she met the Passions, an all male vocal group who invited her to join their line up. It was when they performed at a talent show in Robbins that Jan now aged 18, was discovered by musician Phil Upchurch. Upchurch introduced Jan to his manager Don Talty who supervised Anthony Garden’s Formal Records and wanted to sign her right away. However her parents would not agree and insisted on her graduating from high school first and Jan complied with their wishes. Two years later Phil, who had been working with Jerry Butler on his nationwide tour in 1960-61 and had been very impressed with the songwriting skills of Curtis, while Mayfield had been playing guitar alongside him in Jerrys’ band and had recently co-written three top 10 hits for Butler including his debut #1 ‘He Will Break Your Heart’. Upchurch introduced Talty to Mayfield and together they collaborated with arranger Riley Hampton on Bradley’s first recording session in March’62. Mayfield liked the innocence in Jan’s voice and wrote and produced ‘We Girls’ for her that got plenty of radio play and became a regional hit with crossover sales. But Talty could not get a major to take on distribution so it’s success remained citywide. Their second session produced ‘Behind The Curtains’ a less commercial song that was issued on the Night Owl label. Talty, an ex construction engineer who fancied himself as a producer, dispensed with Mayfield’s services for Jan’s third session where he cut ‘Whole Lotta Soul’ for Formal and ‘Christmas Time’ issued for yuletide on Hootenanny. Both of these singles bombed, so Mayfield and Riley Hampton were hurriedly reconvened to record ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’ in October 1962. This delightful single had a compelling mid-tempo backbeat and an easy arrangement that allowed Jan’s smooth vocal to shine. This slow burning hit on Formal was picked up and repressed on Chess within a couple of months for national distribution and then went to #8 on the US R&B chart and #14 on the Hot 100 in February 1963 (It did even better on the Cashbox listings).
At last Bradley had broken through nationally but her elation was short lived. Chess records had a reputation for cheating on artist and songwriting royalties and Mayfield was not about to let this happen to him, so a dispute ensued over the songs publishing rights. Curtis took himself out of the equation and declined any further involvement. Nevertheless the ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’ was good for him, he immediately recut a more forceful version with the Fascinations on ABC, an answer ‘Mama Didn’t Know’ with Major Lance and continued the theme with Walter Jackson and ‘That’s What Mama Say’ in 1964. Many other singers were soon knocking on his door for songs and his studio assistance. Jan however could not manage to get another hit for two more years. Her last Formal release ‘Dear Sears And Roebuck’ and the reactivated Formal issue released by Chess as a follow up ‘These Tears/ Baby What Can I Do’ created only local sales. Don Talty picked up the pen for ‘Please Mr DJ’ but had equally little success. Then Jan began to try her hand at songwriting and together they co-wrote her next and final hit ‘I’m Over You’ that went to #24 R&B and #93 Pop in January 1965. This record had a strong Billy Davis production and a fine Riley Hampton arrangement. Between them they craftily borrowed a little of the Mayfield sound and came up with a fine single.
Despite her return to the charts Chess dropped her and she cut her song the uptempo ‘Back In Circulation’ for Advanti that wasn’t a hit but was popular with Chicago DJs, so Chess who saw the renewed potential re-signed her in 1966 and issued four more singles. But over the following 2 years despite the added production skills of Leonard Canton & Billy Davis ‘Just A Summer Memory/ He'll Wait On Me’ a minor local hit and in 1967 ‘Trust In Me’ and ‘It’s Just Your Way’ both produced by Talty were good ballads but created little interest. ‘Nights In New York City/ You Gave Me What's Missing’, Bradley’s final single for Chess was not released until the end of 1968. A few months later her contract lapsed and Chess didn’t pick up the option. Chess didn’t really take care of business as far as Jan was concerned. If she had a strong Mayfield song to follow ‘Mama…’ she certainly would have been a much bigger star. Chess issued no album as they should have done in ’66 when they re-signed her and missed a great opportunity to establish her alongside label divas Etta James and Fontella Bass. Bradley certainly had the potential to become so much more but not the good fortune.
Though Jan continued touring and working in the Chicago area she had no recording contract. Sound Spectrum reissued ‘Back In Circulation’ in ’69 but this time the reaction was less positive than before. In late ’69 she cut her last single for the Memphis based Doyen label ‘Tricks Of The Trade/ I Kinda See The Light’. A disjointed production framed Bradley’s beautiful clear vocal but did little to sustain her diminishing opportunities and sank without trace. This was the only release on the Doylen label. Jan Bradley quit the music business in 1970, got married and raised a family. She went back to school and earned a MA degree before becoming a social worker in 1976. Today she is a grandmother and sings in her local church choir. Though her professional singing career ended 40 years ago the few records that she made remain among the firm favourites of Chicago Soul fans. ‘Mama Didn't Lie’ was included on the Uni/ Chess 1994 and ‘97 compilation CDs Chess Rhythm & Roll and Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest and was included on the soundtrack of John Waters movie ‘Hairspray’ (MCA) in 1988. Also Collectables re-issued a 7” vinyl single of ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’ coupled with ‘Rescue Me’ by Fontella Bass in May 2007. Several of her sides can be seen and heard on YouTube and a few are popular with the devotees of Northern Soul. It is therefore rather surprising that no CD has yet been compiled and issued from the 30 different sides that make up her complete discography. Judging by the number of hits on her YouTube tracks, this might prove a worthy project. (peter burns)
Credit: Robert Pruter ‘Chicago Soul’
In an email from Linda Johnson I was assured that Lou is recovering well from a recent stroke reported by David Cole of ‘In The Basement’ magazine. Lou wishes me to pass on that he is OK and sends his love to all his fans and appreciates their love and concern. I will update this info if and when I receive any further communication from the Johnsons. Fans might like to know of the comprehensive 8 page full colour feature on Lou that appeared in ‘There’s That Beat’ magazine issue #9 available through www.theresthatbeat.com
Unhappy to report no progress to report on the Ace ‘ Lou Johnson Big Top Sessions’ CD that has hit a couple of snags at the American end. Trevor Churchill tells me that they’ve got their troubleshooter on the case so hopefully there will be some good news soon. (peter burns)
Bertrand Russell Bernstein
A fairly obscure vocal group called the Jarmels had a hit with ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ in August 1961 on Laurie Records when it went into the top 10 on both US R&B and Pop charts. This catchy song was written and produced by Bert Russell, who had been writing songs (as Bert Russell and Bert Berns) but had also tried his hand at performing, first in a duet with Bill Giant (another budding writer/ producer) with ‘The Gettysburg Address’ on Signature in 1959 and then as Bert Berns (‘Legend Of The Alamo’ on Laurie in 1960). He tried again as Russell Byrd on Wand a year later with ‘You’d Better Come Home’/ ‘Let’s Tell Him All About It’ then with his second Wand single ‘Little Bug’/ ‘The Nights In Mexico’ but none of these records had any chart success, despite an appearance on American Bandstand, so he went back to what he did best – writing and producing songs, playing session piano and working as a copyist for several publishers. These endeavours gradually prepared him for a very successful career in the music business that began to emerge in the early sixties.
Born on 8 November 1929 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Bert had grown up in the Bronx, New York, where his parents ran their own dress shop. Despite the relative comfort of his childhood years Bert suffered ill health and spent several periods bedridden and in hospital due to rheumatic fever. He studied classical piano and was enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music but soon got hooked on more exotic rhythms such as the mambo. In 1950 he formed his first label Magic Records and began writing songs. He moved down to Greenwich Village and for a few months he played piano as part of a comic duo with Howard Storm. Some of his songs were getting recorded but with little commercial success. After his first marriage failed he went to Cuba and tried to open a club and developed a taste for Latin American music but the money ran out and he returned to New York where he opened an office (with a couple of pals from the Bronx) at 1650 Broadway opposite side of the street from The Brill Building. In this creative atmosphere positive things began to happen. Perhaps as a good-natured dig at his parents, who were a couple of peaceniks and had named him after the British intellectual and reformer Bertrand Russell, Bert produced a record called ‘The Beat Generation’ with a group called the Beatniks (Berns and fellow songwriter Ethan Goldstein) that featured a humorous dead pan monologue “I belong to the Beat Generation, I don’t let anything trouble my mind…” Though it didn’t make the top 40 it sold pretty well in the New York and was issued in Europe. He produced ‘Troubles’ for girlfriend and nightclub singer Rita Constance on Signature but his first small taste of success came with ‘Push Push’ a song he co-wrote with Phil Medley for Austin Taylor (Laurie) that entered the lower end of the US R&B charts in late 1960. Bert began a long association with singer Hoagy Lands that same year with whom he cut some excellent sides for Judi (‘Lighted Windows), ABC (‘I’m Yours’) and MGM (‘My Tears Are Dry’). Hoagy, who looked a bit like Brook Benton and sang a bit like Sam Cooke never scored any chart hits but cut several fine sides. As the Jarmels ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ became Bern’s first hit (#7 US R&B and #12 on the Hot 100) he began to get a lot more work with Laurie Records writing songs for the likes of Jack Carroll, Tom Gullion and the Flamettes. He also began putting together the Jarmels first album The Complete Jarmels and they were beginning to sound so like the Drifters that they caught Jerry Wexler’s attention at Atlantic (‘One By One’ a song that they cut on their album was written by Lover Patterson & Ben E King). After struggling to make his mark in the music business for ten years, Berns was beginning to achieve some consistent success.
As the new decade gathered momentum so did the interest in Bert’s songs. Sammy Turner (‘Pour It On’, Big Top), Gene Pitney (‘If I Didn’t Have A Dime’, Musicor) Dottie Clark (‘That’s A Step In The Right Direction’ and ‘Candle In The Wind’, Big Top) were all committed to vinyl and the Four Pennies, King Curtis, the Rocky Fellas and Betty Harris all had medium hits with his songs while the Edsels, the Cadillacs, Don Covay, Lavern Baker and Jimmy Jones records did not chart.
Sometimes Bert worked alone but over the years he wrote in partnership with Bobby Mellin, Phil Medley, Wes Farrell, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Jerry Wexler Jeff Barry and Jerry Ragavoy among others. With Ragavoy he masterminded the launch of Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters on UA in 1963 – bringing their biggest success yet when ‘Cry Baby’ became a #1 R&B hit in September ’63. The Ragavoy/ Berns team had a string of hits with this group between 1963 and ’66. The reworking of the Impressions classic hit ‘For Your Precious Love’ coupled with ‘Baby Don’t You Weep’ also scored well on both the pop and R&B charts plus the remaining three UA singles with the exception of ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’. Then when Mimms left the Enchanters, Jerry and Bert continued to write for him creating hits on ‘It Was Easier To Hurt Her’ (also cut by Dusty Springfield in 1965) and ‘I’ll Take Good Care Of You’ as well as great non-hits like ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘It’s Been Such A Long Way Home’ (issued on Veep). Berns continued to write and produce one offs as well as his contracted work with Wand, United Artists and Atlantic. He produced a great single on singer/ songwriter Jimmy Radcliffe ‘Through A Long Sleepless Night/ Moment Of Weakness’ on Musicor, then cut 8 tracks with the superb Betty Harris on Jubilee including a reworked ‘Cry To Me’, her biggest hit in September ’63 and ‘His Kiss’. Other records of interest at that time are two sessions that he produced for the Knight Brothers (Jimmy Diggs and Richard Dunbar) that included ‘Love (Can’t You Hear Me)’, ‘Second Hand Lover’ and his song (with Elgin and Rogers) ‘Come On Girl’ on Checker - The Heartbreakers ‘The Willow Wept’ on Atco and the Wanderers ‘You Can’t Run Away From Me’ on UA (who had Ray Pollard in their ranks). Bert’s songs were also picked up by Don Covay (‘Do The Bug’ on Cameo), Gary US Bonds (‘Do The Limbo’ on Legrand) and both the Kingsmen and Brian Poole cut ‘Twist & Shout’ - then Poole also recorded ‘I Want Candy’ on UK Decca. As if he wasn’t busy enough Bert took another swipe at solo stardom as Russell Byrd on Symbol with ‘Hitch Hike’ but then as before he returned to the backroom.
After Leiber & Stoller left Atlantic in late 1963 Berns took over their role as resident songwriter/ producer for two of the labels biggest and most enduring stars the Drifters and Ben E King. He began producing the Drifters in December 1963, his first session was lead singer Rudy Lewis’s last, from which came 'Vaya Con Dios'. This was the track where Lewis really showed us where his heart was. Rudy used his freedom superbly to reinterpret the old Spanish flavoured song (previously a huge hit for Les & Mary Paul in August 1953 when it reached #1 on the US Pop charts). Of Lewis, onetime Drifters manager Faye Treadwell said: "Rudy was a little ahead of his time and he gave so much soul to a song. All the time Leiber and Stoller would say "Keep it down, man". 'Vaya Con Dios' is the only tune Rudy was able to sing the way he wanted and strangely it was the last tune I heard him sing before he died. It was at the Uptown Theatre, Philadelphia and the group did 'Vaya Con Dios' as their closing number. Philly is known as a church town and he walked the aisles that night - it was his obituary - he said goodbye to everybody right there - a week later he was dead." At this time the Drifters had become a quintet once again, Lewis had been talking about a solo career and Johnny Moore had been recruited. Of Bert, Johnny said in 1973 “Bert had a lot of new ideas, he gave the Drifters a bigger dimension. Back in the fifties we started out as an R&B concern - we went right through the soul era - and when he came along Bert’s influence put us across the line, and that's when the Drifters went pop. He made that transition possible”. Johnny’s first Drifters lead under Berns direction was the great ‘One Way Love’ written by Russell/ Ragavoy that scored mid table success and was covered in the UK by Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers giving them their first hit (#9 Pop in October ’64).
Berns was considered by many as something of an eccentric, but by the time he began working with Ben E King in January 1964 he was an established hitmaker at the top of his game. 'That's When It Hurts' came from their first Atco session and it was a deliberate steer away from the MOR tendencies shown on King’s previous three singles. This grittier approach took Ben back into lower chart success. But just in case this change of direction didn’t work ‘Around The Corner’ a blatantly commercial song with a contemporary urban theme was put on the ‘B’ side. ‘What Can A Man Do’ persisted with the harder edge and is a song (by Rudy Clark) that sounds as if it could have been written with Solomon Burke in mind, as does ‘The Way You Shake It’. The dramatic ‘It’s All Over’ also scored mid chart success and surprisingly the washroom epic ‘Let The Water Run Down’ was tossed away on the flipside by Atco and might well have made another good A side. But during their first year together Bert and Ben’s records only achieved medium success on the charts. Much of King’s established fanbase did not seem to appreciate the change in direction. After a three year gap Berns bought Hoagy Lands to Atlantic for a session that he wrote and produced. One single ‘Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand/ Baby Come Home’ was issued and once again fell by the wayside. Lavern Baker had recorded ‘A Little Bird Told Me So’ for her See See Rider album and Wexler passed her over to Berns to enhance her chances of a follow up on her ‘See See Rider’ hit single. His big ballad ‘Go Away’ might have suited Esther Phillips better so the single with zippy R&B flavoured B side ’You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool’ missed out and the bluesy ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’ was used on the B side of her last Atlantic hit ‘Fly Me To The Moon’. Though Atlantic were anxious to sign Esther Phillips to the label in 1964 they initially seemed uncertain in which direction to go with her. Esther’s ‘Release Me’ and her subsequent Lenox recordings had set the Country/ Soul ball rolling but Atlantic decided to re-record her debut hit from 1950 (a duet with Bobby Nunn of the Coasters) ‘Double Crossing Blues’. This time they teamed Esther with
Bert travelled to London where he worker with Mike Leander in late 1964 to work with Van Morrison and Them at Decca where he produced ‘Gloria’, their first hit single ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ (UK Pop #10 in January ’65) and his own song ‘Here Comes The Night’ that almost hit the top at #2 in March ‘65. Them recorded three more of Bert’s songs ‘(It Won't Hurt) Half as Much’, ‘I Gave My Love A Diamond’ and ‘Go On Home Baby’ all cut in ’64 but issued in ’65. Other Brits to benefit from Berns’ flying UK visit were Eric Burdon & the Animals (‘Baby Let Me Take You Home’ – based closely on the original by the Mustangs) and Lulu (‘I’ll Come Running’). Once again Bert’s extraordinary talent allowed him write in a way that appealed to and suited both Pop and Soul artists and to employ his unusual ability to recognise and capture the essence of a variety artists style and presentation.
Despite a heavy Atlantic workload, Berns registered his own Web IV Music publishing company in 1965 with his partners Gerald (W) Wexler, Ahmet (E) Ertegun, (B) Berns and Neshui (IV) Ertegun, this company superseded Russber Music. Bert also founded Keetch Records that issued 4 singles by the Pussycats, Linda Laurie and the Mustangs before making way for his Bang label later in the year. Web IV published many songs from Berns' repertoire that including ‘It Was Easier To Hurt Her’ (Garnet Mimms), ‘Cry No More’ and ‘That’s When It Hurts’ (Ben E King), ‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’ (Drifters), ‘I’m Gonna Run Away From You’ (Tami Lynn) plus ‘Are You Lonely For Me Baby’ and ‘Who Could Ever Love You’ (Freddie Scott). The Atlantic big three had backed Bert in his publishing company and had no hesitation in setting him up in his next label venture Bang Records. This time the partners were Bert (B), Ahmet (A), Neshui (N) and Gerald (G). This new label was partly owned and also distributed by Atlantic. Bang’s eclectic roster included the Strangeloves, the McCoys, the Exciters, Neil Diamond and Van Morrison. The labels first issue was ‘I’m Gonna Change’ by Rick Sheppard, who would join the Drifters the following year. Berns wrote ‘I Want Candy’ for the Strangeloves which became Bang's first big hit and the McCoys soon followed on with his ‘Hang On Sloopy’ hitting #1 on the Hot 100 in September ’65 and ‘Fever’ went to #7 in late November. Artists like Diamond, Morrison and Jeff Barry supplied hot songs like ‘Cherry Cherry’, ‘Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon’, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, ‘Solitary Man’ and ‘Kentucky Woman’ that all became big hits and soon established Berns’ new venture that issued sixteen singles in its debut year.
Atlantic handed the marvelous Barbara Lewis to Berns to revitalise, since her sales had taken a dip after ‘Hello Stranger’ and her next two singles with BB ‘Baby I’m Yours/ I Say Love’ and ‘Make Me Your Baby/ Love To Be Loved’ both went into the top 10. The great ‘Don’t Forget About Me’ missed out but ‘Make Me Belong To You’ bounced back at #36 the following year and she also cut ‘He’s So Bad’ and ‘Sorrow’ that were used as album tracks. Bert also produced a couple of tracks for Wilson Pickett’s debut Atlantic album The Midnight Hour including ‘Come Home Baby’. Ben E King wrote ‘Seven Letters’ in late ’64 which Bert co-produced creating their biggest chart success at #11 R&B/ 45 Pop in January ’65. Follow up ‘The Record’ also sold well but surprisingly ‘She’s Gone Again’ and ‘Cry No More/ There’s No Place To Hide’ the next two singles failed to chart and their association was over. However Bert persevered with Drifters a little longer producing a series of great sides that fell fallow on the charts ‘Far From The Maddening Crowd’, ‘Come On Over To My Place’, ‘I'll Take You Where The Music's Playing’, the underrated ‘Nylon Stockings’, ‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’ (his composition) and ‘Memories Are Made of This’. Otis Redding cut ‘Down In The Valley’ that was not issued as a single in the USA but hit the British charts as the flipside to ‘My Girl’ Otis’ first UK hit in November ’65. Another song to hit the UK top 40 was the underrated ‘Long After Tonight Is All Over’ written and sung by Jimmy Radcliffe and superbly produced by Bert but not a hit in America. Bert and Jimmy also co-wrote ‘My Block’ that Clyde McPhatter cut for his excellent Songs Of The Big City album. Other freelance production activities were two singles with Lulu (both his songs) - ‘Here Comes The Night’ on Parrot (allegedly the original version) and ‘You’ll Never Leave Her’ on Decca and Berns also produced cult movie actor Sal Mineo on his ‘Take Me Back’ (Fontana). The Rolling Stones cut their version of ‘Cry To Me’ (London) and Red Bird released the Shangri-Las ‘Twist & Shout’. Sloopy turned up in Chicago when Ramsay Lewis cut his instrumental version of ‘Hang On Sloopy’ (Cadet) and the Debs answer ‘Sloopy’s Gonna Hang On’ was issued by Mercury. Towards the end of 1965 Bert curtailed most of his freelance activities to concentrate on the development of his two labels and music publishing through Web IV. But not before he cut 3 singles with Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles at Atlantic ‘All Or Nothing/ You Forgot How To Love’, ‘Over The Rainbow/ Groovy Kind Of Love’ and ‘Patti’s Prayer’ that didn’t chart plus their version of ‘I Don’t Want To Go On Without You’ used on their Atlantic album. However before he left Atlantic, his superb production of Solomon Burke’s ‘Got To Get You Off My Mind’ took him to the top of the R&B charts once more and hit #22 on the hot 100 in March ’65 and ‘Tonight’s The Night’ reached #2 / #28 two months later. ‘Baby Come On Home’ was also a medium hit in ’66 and together they cut ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’, ‘Party People’ and ‘I Don’t Want You No More’ that found later release.
Bert was plenty busy writing and producing a lot of new talent at Bang. His latest logo released 24 singles in 1966 including four by the McCoys, who’s only other significant hit ‘Come On Let’s Go’ went to #22 on the Hot 100 in May. The Strangeloves also faded quickly, ‘Cara-Lin’ had hit #39 last October and ‘Night Time’ went nine places higher in February but they didn’t appear on the charts again and soon left the label. The Exciters ‘You Better Come Home’ deserved a better reception and Bert moved them over to Shout later that year. Other successes came from Neil Diamond with ‘Solitary Man’, ‘Cherry, Cherry’, and ‘I Got The Feelin’’ but little else had any commercial success. Finishing up at Atlantic, Bert wrote and produced ‘Baby Come On Home’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You Now’ for Solomon Burke and Tami Lynn’s ‘I’m Gonna Run Away From You’ (Atco) that later made some noise in the UK. His final three sessions with the Drifters produced the hit worthy ‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’, ‘Memories Are Made Of This’, ‘My Islands In The Sun’ and ‘Aretha’. After Bert’s departure this great group would endure a series of one shot deals with a number of different producers before they left Atlantic and America for Bell Records in the UK. Berns set up his second label; the R&B/ Soul affiliate to Bang called Shout Records in 1966. Shout had a superb roster that included Freddie Scott, Erma Franklin the Exciters, Jimmy Radcliffe and Donald Height. They issued over 250 singles between 1966 and 1974 but in their first year of operation there were just seven releases beginning with Donald Height’s ‘Talk Of The Grapevine’. The first four issues saw no chart action despite the benefit of Bert’s songwriting and production - George Freeman ‘I’m Like A Fish’, the great Jimmy Radcliffe’s ‘So Deep/ Lucky Old Sun’ and Bobby Harris’ ‘Mr. Success’ all fell short and Donald Height’s second release ‘My Baby’s Gone’ was the labels first hit when it went to #20 on the R&B chart in November ’66. The Exciters superb ‘You Got Love’ missed out and Roy C, hot from his ‘Shotgun Wedding’ hit in late ’65 could not repeat that success with ‘Gone, Gone/ Stop What You’re Doin’’. However it was singer/ songwriter Freddie Scott who supplied Shout’s first big hit and his career recording with Bert’s ‘Are You Lonely For Me’. It was this big hit that really established Shout with their first #1 R&B single in December 1966. Among the other artists that recorded Bert’s songs this year were Lou Christie (‘Outside The Gates Of Heaven’ - Co & Co), the Supremes (‘Hang On Sloopy’ - Motown), the Kingsmen cut ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Hang On Sloopy’ (Wand) and Bert produced a version of the old Tokens hit ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ for the 5 Sharks on Amber.
When Van Morrison left Them he was initially unsure in which direction to go. Berns brought him to New York and produced his first solo side ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and his first album Blowin’ Your Mind on Bang. In the studio ego’s clashed in an uneasy alliance but the initial end product was worth the agro. Though these records got his solo career rolling, the truculent Morrison was unhappy with the commercial sound Berns produced on his early records. In a singles orientated market Morrison was better suited to the album format. Other Bang albums issued before Morrison’s debut were the Strangeloves - I Want Candy (1965), Hang on Sloopy – the McCoys (1965), Featuring You Make Me Feel So Good – the McCoys (1966), The Feel of Neil Diamond - Neil Diamond (1966), Golden Hits From The Gang at Bang - Various Artists (1967), Viva Arsenio! - Arsenio Rodriquez (1967) and Just For You - Neil Diamond (1967). Though several more Bang albums were issued, only one was completed for Shout - Freddie Scott’s Are You Lonely for Me? which entered the top 20 R&B albums in March 1967. This classic album was Bert Berns final masterwork. It contained 12 of the hottest songs that Freddie would ever cut, but featured only three of Bert’s original songs, in addition to the title track – ‘Who Could Ever Love You’ and ‘Cry To Me’. The remaining nine tracks were four R&B/ Soul standards ‘Shake a Hand’, ‘Let It Be Me’, two Ed Townsend ballads ‘The Love Of My Woman’ and ‘For Your Love’.
Though exclusively committed to his Bang and Shout labels Bert’s songs were still being recorded by the likes of the Supremes (‘Hang On Sloopy’ Motown), Lorraine Ellison (‘Heart Be Still’ Loma), Garnet Mimms (‘I'll Take Good Care Of You’ UA –which was used for the title of his last UA album) and Wilson Pickett (‘Mojo Mama’ Atlantic - made with Don Varner in ’67 as well) - Hoagy Lands also cut a version of this song entitled ’32 Miles Out Of Waycross’ with Berns at Bang that still remains unissued. Berns believed in Van Morrison before anybody else did and despite their uneasy working relationship and although Van had only one hit single with ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ for Bang, together they cut enough songs for two albums and issued three Blowin’ Your Mind, Greatest Hits and TB Sheets (recorded in ’67 but not issued until 1973). These tracks included a reworking of Solomon Burke’s ‘Goodbye Baby’ (Baby Goodbye) plus ‘Chick-A-Boom’, ‘Ro Ro Rosey’, ‘Spanish Rose’, ‘He Ain’t Give You None’, ‘TB Sheets’, ‘Beside You’, ‘It’s All Right’, ‘Madame George’, ‘The Smile You Smile’, ‘Send Your Mind’ and ‘The Back Room’.
Tragically Bertrand Russell Bernstein aged just 38 died in December ‘67 from a heart attack. He was found dead in his hotel room.
After Berns early death his widow Ilene took over control of the labels. She believed that Morrison’s argumentative attitude had partially caused her husband’s death. Legal wrangles began over Vans contract with Bang and he was forced to cut another album to effect his contract release. The album he recorded satirised Berns production style and remained unissued until the mid ‘90s when it found release on Euro CDs. Freddie Scott, already a proven songwriter, had to turn his hand to production with very good results including ‘Never You Mind’, ‘Just Like A Flower’, ‘(You) Got What I Need’ his last single to chart for Shout at #27 R&B in August ’68 (written by Gamble/ Huff), ‘Powerful Love’, and ‘Loving You Is Killing Me’. Scott left Shout in late ’68 and later signed for Probe. Of those cuts left in the Shout vaults ‘I’ll Be Gone’, ‘Our Love Grows’, ‘Forever My Darling’ (a version of Johnny Ace’s classic ‘Pledging My Love’) and ‘You’ll Never Leave Him’ written by Berns and Mort Shuman plus the singles were issued as Cry To Me – The Best Of Freddie Scott by Columbia/ Legacy in 1998. The remaining four tracks from the original vinyl album not reissued by Legacy were released on CD as bonus tracks on the excellent Ace compilation Mr. Heartache in 2009. Other Berns songs issued in 1968 were Hoagy Lands ‘White Gardenia’ (previously unreleased by Laurie – written and produced by Bert), Edwin Starr’s ‘25 Miles’ (Gordy) and Dusty Springfield’s version of the Drifters flipside ‘I Don’t Want To Go On Without You’ (Universal) that was also done by Nazareth in 1991.
Since Bert Berns death, his songs have been recorded hundreds of times in a wide variety of styles, far too many to list here but among them were Otis Redding ‘Look At The Girl’ (aka ‘I Got To Go Back (And Watch That Little Girl Dance’)) (Atco’69), Janis Joplin ‘Cry Baby’ (CBS ’71), Al Green ‘Are You Lonely For Me’ (Hi ‘04) also cut by the Grateful Dead in ’72, David Bowie ‘Here Comes The Night’ (RCA ’73), Ron Wood ‘Am I Grooving You’ (WB ’74), Professor Longhair ‘Cry To Me’ (Alligator ’80), Bow Wow Wow ‘I Want Candy’ (RCA ’82). Berns was responsible for writing and producing some of the most enduring soul classics but was not limited to a single musical genre. His most famous songs were recorded by many and a great variety of artists ‘Twist & Shout’ originally (and disastrously) by the Top Notes, best by the Isley Brothers, most famously by the Beatles and hits for Brian Poole & the Tremeloes and the Shangri-Las. Similarly ‘Hang On Sloopy’ was cut by a whole slew of singers and the Sloopy character took on a life of her own appearing in many other songs. ‘I Want Candy’ was also recorded a number of times. Solomon Burke co-wrote ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ with Berns and Wexler. The Rolling Stones cut it and long after Solly’s original was a huge hit the ‘Blues Brothers movie of 1980 gave it a new lease of life. ‘Here Comes The Night’ was also really successful and popular with many singers from Lulu to Them and Bowie plus a few more and of course the song that perhaps started it all ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ has been recorded by so many singers and never seems to lose its timeless appeal. His Pop and Folk/ Rock hits cut by the McCoys, Strangeloves, Neil Diamond and Van Morrison showed another side of his talents but for me the really significant body of work came from his years at Atlantic with the Drifters, Ben E King, Solomon Burke and Barbara Lewis. Had fate been a little kinder, in all probability he would have matched these milestones at Bang and Shout but his time ran out much too soon. Though Bang continued to release singles until 1982, most of his artists were gone within a year of his death. Brick had 2 hit singles ‘Dazz’ which went to #3 Pop in late 1976 and ‘Dusic’ also went top 20 the following year. Paul Davis had 5 top 40 singles between 1974-80 the biggest ‘I Go Crazy’ hitting #7 in late ’77 before signing to Arista in 1981. Soul man Peabo Bryson had a his debut hit single on Bang in January ’76 with ‘Do It With Feeling’ then switched to short-lived Bullet subsidiary having three more top 30 R&B singles with ‘Underground Music’, ‘Just Another Day’ and ‘I Can Make It Better’. Bullet issued just one album Peabo in 1976 before folding. Bryson moved over to Capitol and then Elektra having 30 chart hits with them between 1978–83. Bang was distributed by CBS in the late ‘70s but by the early ‘80s the label had been sold outright to Columbia (including the Shout masters). Shout ceased activity in late 1970 but was reactivated with a new logo based in Atlanta and ran a further six years from 1973-79. A second Shout album In the Beginning – a compilation of early Jimi Hendrix recordings was issued in 1972. Peabo Bryson had one single ‘Disco Queen’ on Shout before transferring to Bang. Now Sony BMG owns the Bang/ Shout Records catalogue but the Berns family still controls the music publishing operation originally called WEB IV Music. All the original partners in WEB IV are now deceased.
Bert Berns was one of the elite ‘60s record writer/ producers on a par with Leiber & Stoller, Sam Cooke, Carl Davis, Mayfield & Pate, Phil Spector, Ertegun & Wexler and Burt Bacharach - a precious few who greatly enriched the music of the mid and late 20th Century. He was highly regarded by contemporaries Jerry Ragavoy, all the Atlantic icons and the various New York labels, large and small plus no doubt all the artists mentioned above who were fortunate enough to work with him or sing his songs. Little recognition or few music business awards have come his way but last year as part of Ace Records excellent Producer/ Songwriters series they released ‘The Bert Berns Story Volume 1’ a superb album put together by Rob Hughes, Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce. We eagerly anticipate volume 2 scheduled for release in January 2010. (peter burns)
Credits: Rob Hughes, Peter Gibbon
For those of you who want to know more Bert Berns info you can visit www.bertberns.com Below are listed CDs that contain many of the great records that go to make up Bert Berns great musical legacy.
The Heart & Soul Of Bert Berns – Universal CD
The Bert Berns Story – Volume 1 Ace CD
The Bert Berns Story – Volume 2 Ace CD
CDs featuring Bert Berns records include
linda jones - for your precious love
Back in Earshot #7 I paid tribute to the original version of that groundbreaking early soul classic “For Your Precious Love” by Jerry Butler & the Impressions. Since its appearance in 1958 the song has attracted a seemingly endless stream of cover versions, none of which in my view have quite captured the subtle devotional quality of the original. However, one version that does stand out from the rest, and puts a different spin on the song is that recorded by Oscar Toney Jr. in 1967 for Bell Records. It appears by all accounts to have been one of those spur of the moment things, cut in just one take at the tail end of a session at the American Studios in Memphis under the guidance of Papa Don Schroeder. Oscar had written a 90 second recitation which he used to introduce the song, and along with his soaring, sanctified vocals gave a new lease of life to the Butler classic. The record buying public approved too, sending it to No. 4 R&B and No. 23 Pop.
Five years later, in 1972 another version appeared which closely followed the Oscar Toney model, complete with spoken introduction. It was recorded by Linda Jones, an extraordinary 27 year old singer from Newark New Jersey. Linda had already tasted chart success with the uptown soul ballad “Hypnotised” cut for the Warner Bros. subsidiary Loma, which by coincidence had also peaked at No.4 R & B in 1967, and had also remarkably been cut in one take. Linda, unlike most female singers based her gospel drenched style on two male vocalists – Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. In fact her very first recording cut in 1963 for the Cub label under the name Linda Lane was a version of Jackie’s “Lonely Teardrops”.
Following Linda’s successful spell with Loma she cut a couple of fine 45s for Gamble & Huff’s Neptune label before joining Joe & Sylvia Robinson’s All Platinum subsidiary Turbo in 1971. Her first single for that label “Stay With Me Forever” made the No.47 spot on the R&B charts in June of that year, but this was eclipsed by her remarkable version of “For Your Precious Love” released in February 1972 which climbed to No.15.
Turning to the record itself, it begins with Linda’s totally convincing take on the rap Oscar Toney Jr. had written 5 years before, over a straightforward backing track of piano arpeggios and strummed guitar chords. With the unobtrusive addition of organ, rambling guitar and back up harmonies, a simple but strangely compelling backdrop is created. Linda finally launches into the song as if her very life depends on it, and as one commentator wryly remarked “it starts with a climax and builds from there”. In the first verse alone we are treated to a mind boggling display of vocal pyrotechnics, ranging from extravagant melismatic flights to falsetto wails, ad-libs and Sam Cooke styled yodels. After such an amazing opening salvo it is hard to imagine where else Linda can take the song, but the lady is clearly up for the challenge. Indeed there then follows one of the most extraordinary rapped sections ever committed to vinyl, delivered almost as if it were adlibbed and at a seemingly impossible speed, but with an unerring sense of timing that would be hard to replicate. In fact so extraordinary is it that it is worth quoting in full -
“You know something ladies, and especially you ladies I'd like to speak to you.
And at this point Linda lets fly with one of her high, piercing falsetto shrieks, and I can imagine that had she been performing this in church with the secular references removed half the congregation would have “fallen out” at this point.
Given the “no holding back” nature of Linda’s vocal delivery she does have her detractors, even amongst committed soul fans. To some extent I can understand their misgivings particularly when listening to some of the rather undistinguished and rambling ballad material on her Turbo albums, where her uninhibited vocals can sometimes appear overwrought and mannered. But those who were close to her and had worked with her understood what a special talent she was. When asked in a Rolling Stone interview to name her favourite singers Gladys Knight’s response was - “Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin and Linda Jones”, and apparently Aretha herself has also voiced her approval. Need I say more?
“For Your Precious Love” has appeared on a number of Linda Jones compilations over the years including –
keep on driftin’
Radio producer Bob McClure’s fascinating portrait tells the Drifters Story ‘Keep On Driftin’’ in a clear and concise way - through their music in a 2 hour Radio special based on my unpublished book of the same name. The unique narration by Ray Teret also adds a further dimension to this superb production. This medium is the way that the Drifters marvellous back catalogue influenced and changed popular music over the last half of the 20th century and remains forever in the minds and hearts of all who hear it.
The Drifters celebrated their 50th year in the music business in 2003. During the latter half of the 20th century they had scored 70 single and album chart hits, sold more than 200 million records all over the world and had become indelibly influential in the evolution of soul and pop music. ‘Money Honey’ became their first hit in October 1953 shortly after Clyde McPhatter had formed the group (Drifters1). This song hit again on later recordings by Elvis Presley and Ry Cooder. Their second hit ‘Such A Night’ was covered by Johnnie Ray who had a #1 Pop hit in the UK with it in April ’54. Their version of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ proved almost as popular as Bing Crosby’s original over time and had repeat US chart success in the mid ‘50s, featuring in several movies, most famously ‘Home Alone’ (’90). ‘What’Cha Gonna Do’ their last big hit before McPhatter was drafted into US Army, was a blueprint for Hank Ballard’s ‘The Twist’ a worldwide hit for Chubby Checker August 1960. Though none of the Drifters 15 US hit records meant much outside America, they were very important in the development of popular music and influential through the versions by big popular stars like Elvis Presley, Johnnie Ray and others on the hit parades around the world. McPhatter’s replacement Johnny Moore sang lead on half a dozen more US R&B hit singles including ‘Adorable’, ‘Ruby Baby’ and ‘Fools Fall In Love’ and then Bobby Hendricks led on ‘Drip Drop’ which supplied the last hit of the Drifters ‘50s era.
It fell to a completely new group line up (Drifters 2) featuring Ben E King to break the Drifters internationally with a series of stunning hits that would change direction and sound of soul music with ‘There Goes My Baby’, ‘Dance With Me’, ‘This Magic Moment’ and ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ and bridge the black/ white pop divide when they all became top 5 hits. The Drifters continued to have more than 20 more worldwide hit singles over the following 15 years with the Atlantic label. King went solo and Rudy Lewis sang more hits including ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’, ‘Up On The Roof’ and ‘On Broadway’ before giving way to a returning Johnny Moore. Johnny was featured on ‘I’ll Take You Home’, ‘One Way Love’, ‘Under The Boardwalk’, ‘At The Club’ and so many more.
By the late 60s the Drifters American record sales had fallen away, Atlantic left them to their own devices. Like other artists on the label’s roster they were no longer regarded as the highly valued property that they once were. Atlantic had become a progressive company, always seeking to evolve and grow and its soul music focus began to move south, incorporating the sounds of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Also economic considerations came into play, New York studio costs were escalating and it was much better business to cut sessions down south. Another creative thrust was their growing interest in heavy white rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly, Cream and the Rolling Stones. The Drifters were neglected and ignored. It seemed the legendary label formed by the Ertegun Brothers had finally lost interest in their first hit group. In fact, they had lost interest in a whole range of their catalogue, the part that was considered no longer commercially viable. There began a period of experimentation. The Drifters were placed in the hands of a succession of production teams who struggled to update their sound, trying to bend and shape them into something acceptable and commercial. They got their first good break in a long time in early '67 when the charismatic Bill Fredericks joined their ranks. He had long followed their career closely, studied their records, and was a highly knowledgeable student of their history. Though the interest in their records was diminishing the Drifters gigs were still booked solid and onstage the group were, paradoxically, as good as ever. But without the finest writers and producers to cater for them, their singles became less and less commercially successful. Gone were Leiber & Stoller, Bert Berns, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Phil Spector, Pomus & Shuman and all those other mighty talents. It was Ronnie Savoy who wrote and produced 'Ain't That The Truth' using Fredericks in duet with Moore on the topside and Bill leading on the flipside 'Up Jumped The Devil'. It climbed to #36 US R&B one spot higher than their previous single but did no pop business at all. This was to be their last Atlantic appearance on the US charts. After 4 years without a hit their final Atlantic single was cut and produced by the talented Syl Johnson in Chicago but ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ could not turn things around despite considerable commercial appeal.
The Drifters were in London in September ’71 making a TV special for the BBC called ‘Sounding Out - The Drifters’, a Tony Cash production directed by Charlie Gillett. They were shooting at the Alexander National Hotel in North London, where the group was staying. After the technicians had packed up and gone the Drifters sat in the lounge talking about how they felt like forgotten men in the States and how their UK reception seemed to be growing each time they returned. They wondered if they could recreate their previous huge success in the UK. Their reissues were doing great business on the charts but many American singers had tried before them unsuccessfully – it was a big gamble. A year later the deal was done, the Drifters had signed to Bell Records and Cookaway Productions and were making plans to move their base to London. Producer Roger Greenaway was as surprised as anyone at the turn of events. “The first thing that happened was a guy called Henry Sellers, the promoter, rang me and said, "Look, I brought the Drifters in recently and they're coming back for another tour, I'd like to get something set up, recording-wise for them." He told me Atlantic hadn’t shown any interest in resigning them - which I couldn't believe, Frankly, when someone comes to you and says "The Drifters are free - do you want to record them?" particularly when you've been a fan of theirs for years as I have, it's like a dream come true”. ‘Every Night’ was recorded in New York in September ’72 at the Drifters first Bell session. Johnny Moore featured on an initially tentative lead vocal that was sensitively cradled by a superb Riley Hampton arrangement. Everyone was happy with the results but the single was not a hit. Cookaway were quick to learn from their mistakes and for the Drifters next New York session they wrote ‘Like Sister And Brother’ a strong original song tailored for the Drifters, fronted this time by Bill Fredericks, who took his long awaited opportunity with both hands and gave them their first big hit on Bell in August ’73 when it peaked in the UK at #7 pop (#2 soul) in September. Since the very beginning the Drifters sound had constantly evolved to keep them commercially viable in the music marketplace. ‘Like Sister And Brother’ was the next step forward in the Drifters evolution that the group had all long been waiting for.
The follow up ‘I’m Free’, led again by Bill was a surprising flop however and Fredericks left the group under a cloud but Johnny came bouncing back with ‘Kissin’ In The Back Row Of The Movies’ that went on a nine week chart run reaching #2 pop June ’74. This time they kept the momentum going with 'Down On The Beach Tonight' (#7 pop October ’74) and this was followed by the less successful hit but more original song 'Love Games' (#33 pop February ’75). Two more British smashes followed 'There Goes My First Love' (#3 pop September/ #3 soul in October ‘75) and 'Can I Take You Home Little Girl' two months later. The Drifters were so successful at this time that the Atlantic and Bell labels combined in a hitherto unprecedented deal to issue the double LP 24 Original Hits containing twelve of their Atlantic and five Bell hits, plus some other assorted Bell tracks. The album was advertised on British TV using clever animated sequences and sold very well going to #2 on the UK pop album charts in November '75 where it remained for 34 weeks. Soul fans also bought this album in large numbers pushing it to #1 on the chart in January ’76, where it stayed for a couple of months. The Drifters also released their second Bell album Love Games in December '75 when ‘Can I Take You Home Little Girl’ was riding high on the UK pop single charts. Shortly after their best year since their move to the UK, Bell issued their third album There Goes My First Love in February ’76. There had been some personnel changes, but it was business as usual. Clyde Brown was now second lead and Joe Blunt was their newest member. ‘Hello Happiness’ was released as their next single in March and quickly climbed to #12 pop. The Drifters goodtime hits with Cookaway took them to single charts in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and all over Europe. Ironically the Cookaway singles failed only in the USA. Their only Bell single to make any headway at all on the US R&B chart was 'Kissin' In The Back Row Of The Movies' and that went to a lowly #83 in September ’74.
Because of their current success everywhere else, other Drifters singles were reissued at this time. Atlantic put out yet another ‘Under The Boardwalk’ single and EMI reissued the great ‘Midsummer Night In Harlem’ by Charlie Thomas & the Drifters that had sold quite well two years earlier, but hadn’t hit the charts. The Drifters marked their departure from Bell with another significant hit single, the reggae flavoured ‘Every Nite's A Saturday Night With You’ that skipped into the charts in September ’76 (#29 pop/#39 soul). Bell Records were sold to Columbia Pictures and then on to BMG sometime in mid ’76. Label boss Clive Davis inherited selected Bell masters and issued some on Arista. After switching from Bell to Arista, without a blip the Drifters alighted on the UK top twenty single charts with ‘You're More Than A Number In My Little Red Book’ (#15 in February ’77). This contagious hit single became their ninth (and last) big hit since their UK move and introduced their new album EveryNite’sASaturdayNightissued in December ’76. The title track had kept them on both charts at the tail end of ’76 and featured the effervescent Moore, who narrates the lightweight story line in his easy but effective way. But after ‘…Little Red Book’ and perhaps due in some way the label change, their producers seemed to lose the plot when it came to their next single. Issued on the insistence of their management ‘I'll Know When True Love Really Passes By’ featured Joe Blunt on a slow and rather dreary ballad that disappeared without trace. It burst their bubble and despite recording very good singles ‘Honey You’re Heaven To Me’ and Johnny’s last Drifters side, the excellent ‘Closely Guarded Secret’ they did not enter the UK singles chart again. A disappointed Moore left the Drifters and returned to New York and they regrouped and signed to Epic. The highly successful Indian producer Biddu previously responsible for Carl Douglas’ 10 million selling ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, came up with ‘Pour Your Little Heart Out’ that was featured on the Joan Collins movie soundtrack to ‘The Bitch’ (’79). It bubbled under the UK chart but didn’t break through and the sequel ‘I’m Not That Kind Of Guy’ went missing also. At this point the Drifters disintegrated and Ben E King reformed them in 1982 to cut a great version of ‘You Better Move On’ on Atlantic that was on the point of hitting the charts when legal action forced the record’s withdrawal. Johnny Moore returned to lead the Drifters once again in 1983 and shared the lead with Ben E King for a couple of years but they did not cut any more records. After a further 15 years of touring Johnny Moore died in
Now ten years later after more legal battles, a completely new Drifters generation tour the UK and Europe (Drifters III) and have recently worked alongside ‘The Drifters Legends’ who feature Bobby Hendricks, Butch Leake, Wolf Johnson and Joe Blunt. Splinter groups (and totally unconnected groups) work in the USA and Europe trading on the musical legacy built by one of the greatest and most influential vocal group of all time – the Drifters. As far as I am aware there has been no date announced for transmission of Bob McClure’s 2- hour Drifters special. As soon as one is confirmed I will post it on this website. (peter burns)
the last goodbye
michael jackson – born 29 August 1958 in Gary, Indiana was hailed by many as the greatest entertainer of all time. He was labeled the King Of Pop and was a multitalented singer, dancer, songwriter, arranger/ producer. His parents manipulated their sons vocal group the Jackson 5 in the early years – formed in 1964. Though they made records for Steeltown in ’68 it was Gladys Knight who discovered them and took them to Berry Gordy’s Motown in ’69 where they scored seven #1 hit singles in a row on both R&B and Pop charts including ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’ and ‘I’ll Be There’ all featuring 11 year old Michael on lead vocals. He went solo in 1971 but overlapped with his brothers until ’76 when they became the Jacksons. Lacklustre big solo Motown hits included ‘Got To Be There’, ‘Ben’ and a cover of ‘Rockin’ Robin’. His talents took on a new dimension when he moved to Epic and linked up with producer Quincy Jones. He pioneered the modern music video with ‘Billy Jean’, ‘Don’t Stop (‘Til You Get Enough)’ and his most famous the exceptional 'Thriller' that at 46M sales still remains the best selling album of all time. His future success could never match this level though his total sales are an estimated 800 million worldwide. A childhood in the spotlight damaged Michael’s grip on reality and blinded him to the greed and envy that surrounded him. Allegedly his brothers had taunted him as “big nose” and his father often called him “ugly”. So it was not surprising that when he was rich enough he made unwise changes to the way he looked. Shameful and malicious media reporting made Michael as famous for his changing face as for any of his huge musical achievements - they dubbed him Wacko Jacko. In his short marriage to Elvis daughter Lisa-Marie in 1994, though we all new it was unlikely to last, they missed an historic opportunity to create a black Elvis. His naivety with children cost him dear when parents filed bogus sexual assault court cases to get their hands on his millions. Twice inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame he was awarded numerous honours. He disappeared from public view after a damaging high profile court case and was just re-emerging to prepare for a world tour starting in the UK. His funeral was a TV spectacular before it happened. Excuse me if I look away as the carrion fight for control of his children and estate. Michael Jackson died 25 June 2009 from a heart attack (in suspicious circumstances).
johnny carter – born 2 June 1933 in Chicago. When Johnny was discharged from the US Army in 1958, little did he dream that the Flamingos, for whom he had sung since their formation in 1952 prior to his call up, would not want him back. He was working as a plasterer and on his lunch break when four members of the Dells tracked him down in 1960 and invited him to join them. Johnny Funches, their original tenor since 1952 had left just as they had secured gigs supporting Dinah Washington. Carter joined and stayed for 49 years. This was the only personnel change for the Dells in their 57 year career. They had started out on Chess as the El-Rays but had no hits until late ’56 when they topped the R&B charts as the Dells with their first recording of ‘Oh What A Nite’ for VeeJay. But they were often in the studio to back up other artists hits. It wasn’t until ’65 and ‘Stay In My Corner’ that they began their long hit run lasting until 1984. Among their greatest were ‘There Is’ (Cadet), ‘Wear It On Your Face’, a recut of ‘Stay In My Corner’(#1), ‘Always Together’, ‘I Can Sing A Rainbow/ Love Is Blue’, a recut of ‘Oh What A Night’ (#1), ‘The Love We Had’, ‘Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation’, ‘Just As Long As We’re In Love’ and many more with famed Chess producer Charles Stepney. After moving to Mercury in ’75 the hits kept coming with ‘We Got To Get Our Thing Together’, ‘Our Love’ and more with ABC, 20th Century - with producer Carl Davis ‘Passionate Breezes’ and ‘I Touched A Dream’ and Private I. They scored 42 hit singles all featuring the wonderful tenor of Johnny Carter. Their albums also sold well on the R&B album charts notching up 22 entries, the last in ’89. They were and still are among Chicago’s absolute finest. Carter’s favourite tracks included ‘God Bless The Child’ and ‘Alfie’ (from The Dells Sing Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Hits). Johnny Carter died 21 August 2009 from lung cancer aged 76.
les paul – born 9 June 1915 Waukesha, Wisconsin Paul was an inventor from an early age. As a teenage guitar hero he was known as Red Hot Red – The Wizard of Waukesha. By the mid 30’s he was a much sought after studio musician. His first solo recordings were made under the name Rhubarb Red in 1936. Inspired by Django Reinhardt Les formed his own jazz trio in the late 30’s and found national fame on bandleader Fred Waring’s radio show. During the next decade he supported Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters in the studio and on radio from his West Coast base. It was during this decade that he invented ‘the log’ (the very first solid body electric guitar) and developed over dubbing and other tape effects to use in his recordings with Mary Ford. Together they had a string of huge hits and married in 1949. They moved to New York and began their own TV series. Allegedly Paul played the first Rock ‘n’ Roll guitar solo on his and Mary’s version of ‘How High The Moon’. The Les Paul sound became a phenomenon in the music business and just how he achieved it was a well kept secret. Paul invented the 8 track tape recorder and Gibson developed the Les Paul guitar. He re-emerged as a performer in the mid 70s. Won a Grammy in 1977 for Chester & Lester (with Chet Atkins) and received a second in 2006 for Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played. He admired many Rock guitarists including Hendrix, Eddy, Clapton, Slash and Beck who regarded him as a deity. Les died 13 August 2009 aged 94.
ellie greenwich – born 23 October 1940 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. Moved to Levington, Long Island aged 11. Learned the balalaika from her father and began writing songs. Auditioned for Cadence Records aged 14 but had to finish her education first. Formed a high school group the Jivettes, went to College to earn an English degree at Hofsra University. She could only manage a month’s teaching before she returned to New York and the Brill Building where she was introduced to the illustrious Leiber & Stoller by Doc Pomus. Through L&S publishing she tried out a number of writing partners and clicked with Jeff Barry who she married in 1962. They became one of the most famous young New York songwriting partnerships of the 60s alongside Goffin & King, Weil & Mann, Pomus & Shuman etc. But it was Greenwich who discovered the most direct conduit into the teenage mind. Working for Bert Berns they wrote ‘I’ll Take You Where The Music’s Playing’ for the Drifters, working with Phil Spector they wrote ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and ‘Then He Kissed Me’ for the Crystals, ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby I Love You’ for the Ronettes, ‘Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts’ and ‘Not Too Young To Get Married’ for Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans, ‘Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home’, ‘(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry’ for Darlene Love and ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ for Ike & Tina Turner. When Leiber & Stoller set up Red Bird Records in 1964 Greenwich/ Barry became a central writing/ production team for the label. They brought in budding writer/ producer George ‘Shadow’ Morton the mastermind behind the Shangri-Las and together they created a string of hits with this group and the Dixie Cups (‘Chapel Of Love’ being Red Birds debut #1) the Jelly Beans, Butterflys and both Jeff and Ellie also issued solo records on Red Bird. Ellie had cut a number of records previously as lead singer with the Raindrops (‘What A Guy’, ‘The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget’, ‘That Boy John’ etc on Jubilee 1963/64) also as Ellie Gaye (RCA 1958), Ellie Gee (Madison 1961) and Kellie Douglas (RCA 1962). After the disastrous decline of Red Bird due to excesses of partner George Goldner, Jeff and Ellie switched to Bert Berns’ Bang label taking singer/ songwriter Neil Diamond with them. When her marriage broke up in 1965 Ellie suffered a nervous breakdown. Other writing partners did not work out and she cut a solo album Let It Be Written – Let It Be Sung in 1973 that fell on deaf ears. For some years she had success writing advertising jingles then in 1984 she created and starred in ‘Leader Of The Pack’, a musical based on her life that transferred to Broadway and won a Tony before going on a world tour. Ellie Greenwich died 25 August 2009 aged 68.
allen klein – born 18 December 1931 in Newark, New Jersey, the youngest child of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. His mother died when he was two years old and he and his sisters were placed in a Hebrew orphanage until his father remarried when Klein was 10 but he subsequently grew up in the care of his grandparents. He had a troubled childhood and was expelled from several schools. After serving in the US army he studied accountancy at night school and passed his exams in 1956. He was asked to audit the accounts of several small New York record labels that included Roulette Records ran by the notorious Morris Levy. He found large amounts owing to two of their artists. After Levy refused to pay up, Klein forced a settlement on the royalties owed and earned himself 25% of the final sum. He then earned his reputation as a tough negotiator on behalf of Bobby Darin and Lloyd Price and began a move into management. His next big case was with Sam Cooke against RCA, recovering considerable back royalties on his behalf. Klein set up ABKCO, a corporation to manage the songs and recordings that he controlled and soon obtained the rights to Cooke’s catalogue. In 1968 he merged with Cameo Parkway Records. ABKCO issued the box set Phil Spector Back To Mono (reissued on CD in 1991) and it was through his friendship with Klein that Spector came to produce the Beatles Let It Be album. By the time he had taken over the management of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Klein’s reputation had changed to that of hatchet man. John Lennon had persuaded fellow Beatles to employ Klein to sort out their troubled finances in 1969 even though they had already hired Lee Eastman as their counsel. A power struggle ensued that shattered the group and after a high court battle put Apple into administration. Later in 1978, Klein was hilariously depicted as Ron Decline by John Belushi in Eric Idle’s Beatles spoof ‘The Rutles’. He was dismissed as the Stones manager in 1970, the same year the Beatles broke up – though disputes over ownership of some Stones songs continued until the mid 80s. By the mid 70s his empire was crumbling and he was defending more than 40 lawsuits. Klein was convicted of tax evasion in 1979 and served two months in prison. ABKCO now run by two of his children, owns the rights to many 60s recordings and over 2000 songs including those by Sam Cooke, Mick Jagger and Ray Davies. In his later years Klein suffered from Alzheimer’s and died 4 July 2009 aged 77.
barry beckett – born 4 February 1943 and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. First made his reputation as keyboards musician in the famous rhythm section at Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. These original Muscle Shoals studios were where some of the best records from the 60s from Arthur Alexander and Jimmy Hughes onwards were recorded. After initially playing piano at a dancing academy in Pensacola, Florida, Beckett got his first gig on a James & Bobby Purify session, replacing Spooner Oldham at Fame and never looked back. He played on some of the most soulful sessions of all time including those by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge. Bankrolled by producer Jerry Wexler, Beckett broke away from Fame talking David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Jimmy Johnson with him and set up Muscle Shoals Studios (3614 Jackson Highway) Sheffield, Alabama, in 1969. Barry began to build a reputation as a producer firstly with Hawkins cutting records with Mel & Tim and later the Staples Singers, Bob Seeger, Linda Ronstadt, Leon Russell, JJ Cale and Boz Scaggs. Nicknamed the Swampers this studio band cut the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd hit ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and also joined the line up for Traffic’s 1973 ‘live’ album On The Road. That same year Beckett and chums played on Paul Simon’s ‘Kodachrome’ and ‘Loves Me Like A Rock’ hits and in 1975 backed him up on the Still Crazy After All These Years sessions. Barry collaborated several times with veteran producer Jerry Wexler at 3614 to produce Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming and Saved albums, and in Nassau for Dire Straits Communique. They also combined to cut Mavis Staples Unlock Your Mind, Lou Ann Barton’s Old Enough, Carlos Santana’s Havana Moon and Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman’s McGuinn/ Hillman. In 1976 Beckett created Mary MacGregors #1 hit ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’. He quit Muscle Shoals in 1985 to A&R for Warners in Nashville producing Hank Williams Jr, and won a Country Music Association Award for his ‘There’s A Tear In My Beer’ hit. Barry had continued success with Alabama, Phish, and Tammy Wynette’s Without Walls duets album that included tracks with Smokey Robinson, Sting and Elton John. During the 90s Beckett stuck to Country and helped newcomer Kenny Chesney launch his career with two albums and in 2008 was inducted into the Musicians Hall Of Fame. Beckett suffered a number of strokes as his health began to fade and died from cancer on 10 June 2009 aged 66.
chris savory – born 1947 Isle of Sheppy, Kent. Moved to Newcastle - Under-Lyme to take up the post of Deputy Head teacher at St Margaret’s Junior School in Wolstanton and later moved to Ravensmead School. Began organizing Record Fairs and became a leading light on the local music scene. A big Soul music fan, he wrote for a number of music magazines including Record Collector and he edited his fanzine Hot Buttered Soul between 1971–77 (Chris published a couple of my articles on Curtom Records in 1973). During the 1980s he worked as a DJ on Soul nights at The Bear Hotel, Newcastle. He presented a popular radio show The Record Collectors on BBC Shropshire for 21 years and was more recently featured as a record valuation expert on BBC Radio Stoke. Chris interviewed me on his show in May ’03 when Curtis Mayfield ‘People Never Give Up’ was first published and he will be fondly remembered by many as a collector, dealer, teacher, record fair organiser, broadcaster, writer, magazine publisher, DJ and all round good guy. died - 1 September 2009 at home in Clayton, Staffordshire a victim to cancer aged just 62.