have tenor sax…
King Curtis was born Curtis Ousley in Fort Worth, Texas, on 7th February 1934. This area of central Texas to which King Curtis is native is steeped in rich musical traditions – the strongly flavoured country blues, with the veneer of sophistication of T-Bone Walker; the soul stirring sounds of gospel music; and the jazzy big city r&b of the orchestras such as Jay McShann. King Curtis’ father, a guitarist who worked with the church gospel groups was the first influence, musically; but from the time he heard a saxophone, Curtis was sold on it. When he got to be twelve he got an alto sax, and by the time reached Junior High School, he had gone on to the tenor and later still on to baritone. Today he stands at the helm of a vast musical empire as a composer, recording artist, singer, music publisher and accomplished guitarist.
He formed, at fifteen, his first band in high school in Fort Worth. In his 18th year, the Lionel Hampton band passed through, and he left home to join them on tour. He wound up in New York and began to establish himself. His first records were made in 1953 for labels such as Gem, Monarch, RPM with Melvin Daniels doing vocals. By 1955 he had cut about thirty sides, and went on from there with other material for Apollo, Groove, DeLuxe and RCA. From around 1957 onwards he became THE session sax-layer to have on records. He appeared on most of the Atlantic sessions, such as those by the Coasters, Chuck Willis, the Drifters, Bobby Darin, and many other big names who recorded in New York. At the same time he was recording under his own name for Atco, until that contract expired in 1959 or early 1960.
Though he continued to do literally hundreds of sessions, he began to strike out in his career after leaving Atco. In later 1960 he recorded with jazzmen Nat Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Sam Jones, Belton Evans and Oliver Jackson for New Jazz and Prestige records; with Sammy Lowe’s strings for Everest and his first recorded vocal for Sue ‘St. Louis Blues’, (under the name of Sonny Jackson), and his first recorded guitar playing for Seg-Way on ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’.
This vocal outing just mentioned led to his making an album for the Prestige subsidiary, Tru-Sound in 1961 of his guitar and vocal work. In 1962 on Bobby Robinson’s Enjoy label (which had risen from the ashes (!) of Fire Records) he had his first national hit – ‘Soul Twist’. Following the demise of this label he signed for Capitol, and recorded man sides, including the much recorded ‘Soul Serenade’, until that contract expired in 1965.
October 1965 saw the King re-signing with Atco, and incidentally returning to play on Atlantic sessions, such as Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’: and Wilson Pickett’s ‘I’ve Come A Long Way’ amongst many others. Possibly his most successful waxing of late in terms of English audiences has been ‘Memphis Soul Stew’, which due to its originality, got plenty of plugs radio-wise. But he has yet to really break through and score direct hits on the charts in England. In the ‘Blues and Soul’ Poll ’68 he was voted number four in the favourite r&b instrumentalists section; and in some ways this seems a bit unfair, since Booker T and the MGs, Junior Walker, and Willie Mitchell (who finished above him) have all been recording about ten years less than the King – but that’s showbiz I guess!
Credits: Acknowledgements to Dick Alen, Tom Wilson, Kurt Mohr.
Roy Hamilton died on 20 July 1969 after he suffered a stroke at his home in New Rochelle, New York, aged 40.
Roy had a string of US R&B hits in the 50s beginning with his first recording ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which went to #1 in February ’54. This single crossed over to the Hot 100 at #21 and generally his later Epic singles sold well on the pop charts. ‘If I Loved You’, ‘Ebb Tide’ and ‘Hurt’ followed and ‘Unchained Melody’ provided his second #1 in December ’54. ‘Forgive This Fool’ and ‘Don’t Let Go’ sold well on both charts then Hamilton’s singles took a dip in sales. His speciality was high-powered vocals giving new treatments to established standards. This approach led him to good sales on the album charts. He came bouncing back in 1961 with probably his best known hit ‘You Can Have Her’ (#6 R&B/12 Pop) that was revived three years later by Dionne Warwick, Timi Yuro and others, the song providing more hits.
Roy was born 16 April 1929 in Leesburg, Georgia and moved to Jersey City
aged 14 with his parents. He joined the local church choir and was later
featured in their vocal quartet. He studied commercial art at Lincoln
High School and took operatic and classical voice training. In addition
Roy also boxed in the Golden Gloves heavyweight division. While touring
the gospel circuit with the Searchlight Singers, Hamilton was spotted
by local radio announcer Bill Cook, who became his manager for the next
15 years. Like many other New York based singers Roy entered the Harlem
Apollo’s amateur contest and won first prize in 1947.
Roy’s later recordings were made for Bell subsidiary AGP, in the esteemed company of Spooner Oldham and the gang. Three fine singles emerged the first being a superb reworking of the James Carr classic ‘Dark End Of The Street’. The particularly fine ‘Hang Ups’, was the US TV song made famous by Lou Rawls. Roy’s superb vocals were positively enhanced by great accompaniment and creative arrangements recorded in Memphis. The last AGP issue was a good reworking of the often hit ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ and that’s all he left us. Several compilation albums
soul lives on
Revised since original publication
an uphill climb
If in this magazine we were to revive Norman Jopling’s ‘Great
Walter was born in Pensacola, Florida but lived most of his early life
in Detroit. Tragically at the age of seventeen he contracted polio and
would need crutches to walk thereafter. Music was always his main interest
and at an early age he began singing with local church and school groups.
His earliest recording was in 1959 as lead with the Velvetones who had
one single on the Deb label ‘Stars Of Wonder’/ ‘Who
Took My Girl?’ which sold little inside and outside Detroit.
Columbia issued three pretty good singles in 1962-63 but it wasn’t until he moved over to OKeh and recorded Curtis Mayfield’s ‘That’s What Mama Say’ (co-produced by Mayfield/Davis) that Walter really began to make an impact. This song was an answer to ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’, recently a big US hit for Jan Bradley (also cut by the Fasinations on ABC) issued first on Formal then on Chess. ‘It’s All Over’, the follow up gave Walter his first hit in November ’64 as Mayfield quit OKeh to chase his own hit ‘It’s Alright’ with the Impressions. After he had broken through Jackson recorded a run of soul classics ‘Suddenly I’m All Alone’, ‘Welcome Home’, ‘Uphill Climb To The Bottom’, ‘After You There Can Be Nothing’, ‘Corner In The Sun’, ‘Speak Her Name’ etc. Walter hit a purple patch when each track that he cut was sheer perfection. As an album artist Jackson did better than many of his contemporaries. OKeh issued four - It’s All Over, Welcome Home (aka The Many Moods Of…), Speak Her Name and a Greatest Hits collection. All sold well on US R&B albums charts and registered some pop success.
After Davis’ departure from OKeh in late ’65 many of his protégés also left the label but Jackson stayed with new producer Ted Cooper. In 1968 he moved to Epic, the third Columbia owned label where he cut just two fine singles. First came Bacharach’s much-recorded ‘The Look Of Love’ and Walter (plus a wild Riley Hampton arrangement) still managed to bring something unique to the song. The only other Epic single was the breathtakingly original ‘No Butterflies’ – an exquisite record in every way. Walter sang of tenements so ugly that butterflies are never seen – only furry little rodents playing with the children! This superb song, an experiment with soulful sociology was an early indication of what could be achieved by Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and many others in the not too distant future.
When Jackson went to Cotillion in 1969 the hits initially continued with ‘Anyway You Want Me’ but despite cutting many excellent sides in New York and Alabama (some with Carl Davis) only ‘Bless You’/ ‘The Coldest Days Of My Life’ was issued and it missed it’s mark. His fortunes took a disastrous dip and over the next couple of years he only had two one shot deals with USA (‘The Walls That Separate Us’/ ‘A Fool For You’) and Wand (‘No Easy Way Down’/ ‘No Way Out’) neither of which connected with his audience.
The following year however Walter returned to Chicago and reunited with Carl Davis and together they created the second half of his career with Brunswick, ChiSound, 20th Century and Columbia between November ’73 and January ’83.
Walter Jackson Discography compiled by peter burns
1966 began shortly after the total demise of the British Liverpool – based group craze, and by the end of the year soul music had virtually wiped the floor with it’s competitors. Black Music came up with some beautiful hits – ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’, ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’, ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’, ‘Tell It Like It Is’, ‘Knock On Wood’ and literally dozens of other knock out soul sounds.
They were produced at a time when the musical balance of R&B was at a finely tuned level. Everything fitted in: technical proficiency, artistic integrity, commercial interests and creative ability. Also the less commercial and often more satisfying side of soul was developing and progressing well.
However, like most things, music moves in waves. It rises and falls. This vibration of quality soul began to run down at the beginning of 1967, and was quickly usurped by an upsurge of white musical power – psychedelia.
The reasons were many and varied, including too much reliance on the same writers and producers, the beginning of the label cults of Tamla, Stax or Atlantic, too many slight variations on former successful sounds. At some time, white music had finally found a style which was not primarily borrowed or stolen from R&B and which was commercial, intelligent and attractive enough to lure away soul devotees and new pop listeners.
The white power movement in pop had started with Dylan some years before, became folk-rock, branched off to the short-lived protest movement, and then became heavily influenced by drugs. The combination of soft drugs and folk-rock gave white music its biggest boost since the Beatles.
Two of the first psychedelically-oriented groups, the Byrds and the Lovin’ Spoonful were diametrically opposed musically. The Byrds, with their slurring vocals and don’t-give-a-shit attitudes contrasted nicely with the Spoonful’s brand of good time music, but when John Sebastian sang about magic, he wasn’t just thinking of rock ‘n’ roll.
It was in 1966 that the drug influence first hit the US charts consistently.
‘Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 13’, ‘Along Comes Mary’,
‘Daydream’, ‘Eight Miles High’, ‘Shapes
Of Things’, ‘Sunshine Superman’, all told it like it
Acid is something else, and did make a permanent difference to pop. It prized open the minds of those that took it and if they bothered to listen to records it gave them for a short time, a private recording studio inside their head to de-track, slow down, and generally play about with everything that came in, even if it was being played to them on a Dansette.
It showed what COULD be done, and many groups went out and did it.
The obvious results linger on, even though the psychedelic white wave has died away to be replaced by white imitation blues. They made records that you could climb inside and join in. You could be there, along with your friends the stars having a jolly good time. The culminating record – ‘Sgt. Pepper’ – was the kiss of death, because the best white group had made the best psychedelic record, and there wasn’t much more that could be said.
Everything was nice and pretty, a few of the millions of heads blew their minds permanently, and the rest knew that pop would never be the same.
Commercially, R&B had lost out to the freaks, but was still coming up with some good things, in much the same way as the early psychedelic white music had in 1966 when soul was the big thing.
Now the waves have changed again. The white groups are either doing good or bad pseudo blues and calling it underground, or else reverting to folk. And R&B isn’t even providing the excitement it did three years back.
Next issue we’ll look at how black music has been influenced by
psychedelia, and if this will make such a permanent difference to it as
it has to white music, and where, generally, commercial black music can
alvin ‘red’ tyler
The Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler band may not be one of the most important bands in R&B history, but its music was highly personal and steeped in the New Orleans traditions. Its most noteworthy period lasted only a couple of years but during that time the band, known as the Gyros, recorded a number of sides that today reveal considerable stature. These sides were all made around 1960.
New Orleans was the headquarters of the Red Tyler outfit and its audience were the negro population in the small clubs. Its music was hard-hitting and direct, and what it lacked in refinement it made up in spirit.
The exact line-up of the band is unknown, but one could guess that the personnel was drawn from people such as Allen Toussaint, pianist, Herb Hardesty, sax, Clarence Hall, sax, Ernest McLean, guitar, Frank Fields, bass, Walter Nelson, guitar, Cornelius Coleman, drums, Clarence Ford, sax, Buddy Hagans, sax, Justin Adams, guitar, Charles Williams. drums, and Lee Allen, sax.
During the time they were together as a unit the band recorded only about a dozen sides under its own name at Cosimo Matassas’ studios in New Orleans, for the Jackson, Mississippi record label, Ace, owned by Johnny Vincent. But Tyler himself appears on numerous New Orleans recordings, including those by Fats Domino, almost all of Larry Williams’ and Little Richard’s Specialty sides and right through to Allen Toussaint’s productions for various small labels in the sixties. With regard to the Little Richard affiliation, Tyler was in Richard’s band according to Specialty files, and this leads to speculation as to whether Tyler is the baritone player in the photograph on the back of the ‘Little Richard Vol.2’ album (Specialty LP 2103), which is a clip from the film ‘The Girl Can’t Help It.’
It is possible that the sound of the band seems primitive to some but it cannot be written off simply as that. The idea of a band from anywhere else in the USA except New Orleans playing Tyler’s brand of music is unthinkable.
The recordings of the band as preserved on record consisted almost entirely of tunes written by Tyler or musicians in the band, or collaborations between the leader and sidemen; music written for, or by, the musicians who were to play it. Such music existed just because of those musicians in the combination.
The band was not like some, playing arrangements full of light and shade, and subtleties. In fact they were simplicity itself. When the sax was playing the guitar and piano played a simple background, and when the guitar took over they played exactly the same figures which the sax had introduced, while the sax was playing in the background figures previously exposed by the guitar. But when both sections played together it was with all stops pulled right out. The brass had apparently never heard of mutes, and ensemble precision did not count for much, but as a framework for the soloists the simple Tyler arrangements were just right.
The Tyler band can be heard at its most energetic on such titles as ‘Tonking’, ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Peanut Vendor’ – plus the only single to appear in Britain ‘Happy Sax’. Later bands brought virile music like Tyler’s to even finer developments, but this group was a sign of the time – hard swinging and rocking.
By 1958 the rock craze was over, and tight little bands like this faded into working as house bands for the clubs or split up to go separately into session work – and although it can’t be stated definitely, the latter course appears to have been the one taken.
Tyler turned up though in 1966 with a recording under his name with one George Davis, a guitarist, sharing the credit – ‘Hold On Help Is On The Way’ – a track on Aaron Neville’s Parlo LP, ‘Tell It Like It Is’. Tyler in all probability is on the whole of this album in the backing group.
But apart from this oddity Alvin is back in the session studios, cloaked once more in anonymity – from whence he came.
soul albums reviewed