While the ease of choice and availability on the internet are undeniably useful and convenient, there are some worrying signs in America and Europe that all is not well at the retail end of the music business. So many of the record stores that we used to see in the big and small cities have disappeared. The megastores like Tower and Virgin have all but vanished and many of the smaller independents and specialists have given up the struggle and gone under to the squeeze of downloads and higher rent increases. The ipod/ mp3s continue to decimate CD sales and the big record companies gobble up and deconstruct - all in the name of progress. There are even whispers that success stories like Rhino have fallen victim to internal machinations and that many of their reputation builders have been axed. Meanwhile in the UK there is no more Sanctuary to turn to - so wave goodbye to the stream of great reissues that came from that source and to the talent that created them. I was personally saddened by the demise of the Sequel label, who through Bob Fisher, Tony Rounce and Roger Semon provided me the great opportunity to create, design and write a super series of Drifters, Ben E King, Impressions, Curtis Mayfield and Curtom CD albums (amongst others) from the mid 90s onwards. Later I continued that collaboration with John Reed and Sam Szczepanski and of course last but definitely not least Norman Jopling and Terry Chappell of Ideal Music, who passed numerous freelance projects my way - many thanks to all those mentioned, you have all left a great big hole in my soul! I still harbour a fragile hope that the Sequel logo might re-emerge one day in the near future because especially early on, it was responsible for making such great music available at budget prices. Looking back through their catalogue it was very impressive and in my opinion Sequel was a major small label that achieved much in its 17-year history. (peter burns)
I knew Kurt Mohr briefly in the late ‘60s when we spoke on the phone and corresponded for a few months. We had collaborated on a couple of Discographies that I was interested in, those of Tony Middleton and the Willows. When I was on holiday in Switzerland the following year I was driving through Basel, where he had a house and I dropped in to see him. However, my timing was off as he had recently returned to Paris. We didn’t keep in touch but I have always remained interested in his Discographical work and have many in my SoulMusicHQ database. More recently, I was writing a piece on Middleton (for earshot 8) and I emailed Gilles Petard in an attempt to contact Mohr. Gilles told me that Kurt hadn’t embraced the technological revolution but I might be able to reach him by phone at his home in Paris. He also mentioned that Kurt hadn’t been in good health. So I decided not to bother him with my trivia. For most of us Kurt Mohr was ‘Mr Discography’ – he must have published 1000s down the years. His work was very influential and it was he that inspired me to start creating my own work in that direction. So I would like to add my condolences to those expressed below. Many thanks to Clive Richardson for sending me the Soul Bag obituary - on 15 November 2007
Death of pioneer African-American Music critic and Discographer Kurt Mohr
It is with deep emotion that we have to report that Kurt Mohr passed away on the 4th of November in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 12, 1921. During his teens he discovered jazz while listening to the radio and quickly developed a fondness for Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. He soon participated in jazz fan clubs and got involved in discography after having found Charles Delauney’s 1936 Hot Discography, the book which laid the foundation and template for all further discographical research in the field. Thus Kurt became an industrious interviewer of touring American musicians. Before long the combination of his sharp knowledge of music, awareness of social issues and genuine interest in people earned him a unique reputation among musicians. Reaching age 33, in 1954, Kurt made up is mind to give up his job as a chemist, doing research for the pharmaceutical industry in Basel, and settle in Paris to devote himself to his love for “jazz” full time. “Jazz” for him, by the way, meant the full spectrum of what was not yet called African-American Music, including Blues and Rhythm and Blues. In Paris, while writing for the Jazz Hot magazine, Kurt worked first for the Vogue record label, and then for Odéon, where he started releasing recordings from US labels such as Vee-Jay, Ace, Gone/End, King. He even released many masters which were unissued in the U.S. Incidentally, Kurt Mohr’s French releases in the early sixties of recordings by John Lee Hooker, Billy Boy Arnold, Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, Freddy King, James Brown or Johnny “Guitar” Watson got rave reviews in the U.K. and did not remain unnoticed by lots of aspiring or emerging local young musicians, among which the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Besides, Kurt did production work with the help of US expatriate ace studio guitarist Mickey Baker, who also had a string of records released on Odéon under his own name. In 1966, Kurt Mohr was part of the Jazz Hot team who left to launch Rock & Folk, where he had a column called “Soul Bag”. It is no coincidence that this very name would be used two years later by a fanzine that Kurt was instrumental in instigating and which would feature many of his discographies. Kurt then worked for the Best and Pop Music magazines. For the latter, unfortunately short lived, he had started an alphabetical encyclopaedia of Rhythm and Blues / Soul Music. Kurt also spread his knowledge, love and enthusiasm for music through numerous radio programs aired from his native Switzerland. Always willing to cooperate with other discographers, he especially had a long fruitful collaboration with Michel Ruppli on the latter’s massive label discographies (Kurt had notably spent much studious time in the Atlantic vaults, courtesy of Ahmet Ertegun). While Kurt Mohr often did not receive the credit he deserved, his considerable contribution was duly recognized by Neil Slaven in the second edition of the Leadbitter / Slaven famous book Blues Records 1943-1970: “The first person who deserves acknowledgement from us all is Kurt Mohr. His ongoing discographical research is the inspiration of everyone engaged in similar enquiries, not just in the field of Blues but in Black music generally. Too little credit (and sometimes none at all) has been given to his unceasing efforts, and I am glad to express my gratitude and appreciation”. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know him will never forget that distinctive character: a warm, articulate, curious, science inclined, uncompromising man, who once decided to go by his feelings and never looked back. (the soul bag staff)
cruisin’ the carolinas
It was carefree driving as we cruised the beautiful south taking in the magic of Charleston with its sumptuous gardens, spooky Spanish moss, amazing architecture and quaint cobbled streets. It’s a history lesson to wander way down yonder and embrace the unique culture in that part of the world. If you can get off of the interstate it’s beautiful country down there, breathtaking and pretty quiet on the road. As the speedo slows to a moderate pace, the big city clamour slowly falls away. Evening sounds of live music meander to you on a balmy breeze as you stroll past the local haunts that spill out onto the sidewalk. I was half hoping to stumble across an Original Drifters concert, so I could update my interests in that direction but was out of luck, as our trails didn’t cross and now I’ve missed my last chance to see the great man perform. Bill Pinkney died on 4 July, shortly after my return home. Their future will be less authentic without him. But there was plenty of excellent live music on offer in South Carolina. We didn’t stop anywhere for long, just taking our time when we came across somewhere that caught our interest. One memorable visit was to Chai’s where we sat outside in their garden sipping cold drinks and relaxed to the easy beats of a reggae kissed jazz quartet. Next day we took US 17 North. Random tuning on the car radio found a few of the oldies stations and a selection of Doo Wop and vocal group goodies from the 50s and 60s like ‘Tears On My Pillow’ the Imperials, ‘Sorry – I Ran All The Way Home’ the Impalas. ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye’ the Flamingos, ‘There’s A Moon Out Tonight’ the Capris, ‘Oh What A Nite’ the Dells and ‘Daddy’s Home’ Shep & the Limelites became the soundtrack to our journey to Brookgreen Gardens. Today this huge landscape stretches for miles and is the habitat for bountiful exotic fauna, many varieties of birds and other wildlife amongst 500+ sculptures, a garden museum built on the site of an old rice and indigo plantation. After lunch we drove to Myrtle Beach, the epicentre of Beach Music but found that it was pretty well off limits, choked with 1000s of Harley Davidson bikes - due to an annual convention. It was a little daunting, weaving our way through mile after mile of the big Harley’s as they packed every Avenue for as far as the eye could see – ‘The Wild One’ wasn’t on our itinerary, so we just kept on going North until they gradually thinned out and had all but disappeared by the time we reached Shallotte. The next morning after breakfast we took the East coast road up to Holden Beach and spent a couple of sunny hours on the clapperboard mansion lined beach. Above our heads five or six Pelicans flew a patrol along the white sands that stretched for miles in either direction. Over lunch at the Paradise Café we decided to go for the last ferry from Southport, so we put the hammer down and arrived in good time to join the other passengers and their cars on the crossing to Fort Fisher. This is Cape Fear country, honeycombed with inland waterways and small islands but not as remote as it used to be, even early in the season. Wilmington, where we stayed that night was brimming with tourists and students with quite a few good restaurants and music bars at its centre, so being a Saturday Night that great little town was jumping. After we had returned to Raleigh, the base for our Carolina tour, I got a call from Ben E King and we finalized arrangements to begin work on his semi-autobiography, a joint project that we have been discussing (on and off) for the past couple of years. So some champagne celebrations were in order. (peter burns)
impressions of chattanooga
The Impressions appeared in an all-star line up on Long Island, New York, in 2006 as opening act for Little Anthony & the Imperials. This was one of their earliest gigs with Reggie Torian back as lead singer. Reggie had not long rejoined the group after a 25-year absence. He initially joined them in ’72, during the recording of their ‘Preacher Man’ album and stayed for 10 years, recording on Curtom, Cotillion and Chi Sound eventually giving way to Vandy Hampton in the early ‘80s. Due to Sam Gooden’s recent triple by pass surgery, the Impressions had to appear without him in the line-up in February 2007. It was the only time that Sam had not appeared with the Impressions in their 50-year history and his place was temporarily taken by Impressions’ band member Flynn Pickens. “I was concerned about having such a big operation…” Sam told me “…but it all went so well – When Fred came in to see me the next day, I was sittin’ up eating eggs and bacon!” After that, Sam made a miraculous recovery and was back in the line up a month later when the group made several appearances in California and Las Vegas. He was also present for their 50th Anniversary concert in Tivoli Theatre, Chattanooga on the 5 May along with Jerry Butler and Leroy Hutson (both famous ex- leads with the group). I was in Chattanooga recently (June) to catch up with Sam and Fred who were delighted with the way their anniversary concert went. It had been a full house with hundreds of guests standing at the back and in the aisles (the Tivoli is a grand old (1921) theatre situated on Broad and Seventh, that seats 1700). “It went so well that none of us wanted to leave.” Fred explained “The audience knew all the songs and sang along with us. So many people came back to congratulate us after the show – we couldn’t move in that dressing room - they all loved it that Jerry and Leroy sang with the group on their songs and Reggie got so many compliments – it was a shame that Curtis was not there too.” “Perhaps he was watching from the upper circle.” I suggested, which made them smile. We didn’t meet Mrs Cash this time out, who was away teaching at University but Sam and Gloria showed us around Chattanooga, as we’d not been there before. They took us downtown to the Big River restaurant area that was busy with tourists and locals eating and meeting on the street. “The city was pretty run down by the late‘90s” Sam said “But now there’s a lot of redevelopment and big improvements in progress.” Along the riverbank they were constructing a huge stage in readiness for a big music festival due to start the following week. The recently constructed Tennessee Aquarium, situated on the river, is spectacular and is a major tourist magnet, with the sea and river attractions in separate buildings. Though the train station made famous by the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ song no longer operates – it’s now a museum and a Holiday Inn hotel. A free trolly service (they call the shuttle) runs down to the river - that you can get on and off as you like. The station has been beautifully preserved and one of the carriages is a restaurant, it’s well worth seeing. The night before we left town, Fred drove us up to Lookout Mountain which has an amazing vernacular railway that crawls up the steepest track you can imagine to the Incline Railway station at the top, where on a clear day you can see five states. “This is where all the people who run Chattanooga live.” Fred pointed out as we drove down the mountain road, huge mansions towering above us on either side. He drove down past Ruby Falls into the city insisting that we must try the best barbecue ribs for our dinner. We were not going very far after that. During our visit Sam and Fred told me that they have a UK tour booked for May 2008 that they are pretty excited about. “It’s really the first chance we’ve had to perform for our UK fans. On our past five visits, except for Albert Hall with Eric, we only played at US bases. By the way how is Eric? What’s he been doing lately? He’s such a gentleman and was great to work with when we toured with him back in 2001.” I explained that I didn’t really follow Eric Clapton but I was sure he was doing pretty well. All too soon our few days in Chattanooga were over and we were on the road driving up on I-24 towards Memphis. Sam & Fred too were on the move, they were just about to fly down to Augusta, Georgia with their 7 piece band and then west to New Mexico to play a couple of dates. (peter burns) Acknowledgements Larry Cotton, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash
On the road into music city we stopped to break the lengthy drive a few miles before the outskirts of Memphis. In the rest room lobby the walls were covered with framed photos of Stax recordings artists and outside were place signs dedicated to Rufus Thomas – Walking The Dog Trail and Isaac Hayes, Tina Turner, Booker T & the MGs – Rest Area, an intriguing invitation to the Music Highway. It was late in the afternoon by the time we finally rolled into the city and checked into our hotel. Memphis was hot in early June - the atmosphere was like soup, so thick you could cut it with a switchblade spoon. The brightly coloured trams constantly trundled up and down Main Street where a lot of the old shops and businesses are in one or another stage of redevelopment. Up closer to Beale is where the action is, there are lots of great restaurants, hotels and shops within a couple of blocks - besides the famous landmarks like BB Kings, Peabody Plaza etc. The sidewalks were busy on both sides of Beale and R&B, Soul and the Blues blared out of every venue. A free live performance was creating some attention in WC Handy Park and a cluster of curious listeners stood and sat, sipping cold drinks, watching the performance. One thing I found surprising about Memphis is that there is not a greater abundance of record shops there, considering it’s adopted title you’d expect one on every block. Another cluster of tourists was gathered around the larger than life size bronze statue of the King that straddles the concrete plinth on which it stands in the small park at the end of Beale.
Out in the burbs at 706 Union Avenue stands Sun Studios, famous not only for Elvis and the million-dollar quartet but responsible for many other important vinyl milestones including ‘Rocket 88’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Mystery Train’. Here Sam Phillips found the previously undiscovered key that merged R&B with Rock ‘n’ Roll, laying solid foundations with artists like Ike Turner, Little Walter, Rufus Thomas, the Prisonaires, Roscoe Gordon and many more. 50 years are up on the clock and if you go to Memphis, don’t miss this vital artery at the creation of American music. Incidentally they do have their own record store. You can catch the free shuttle that runs between Heartbreak Hotel, Graceland, Sun Studios and the Rock & Soul Museum. It operates every day and the first run starts at 9.55am. Throughout the day there are 9 runs finishing at 6.30pm. It’s a very useful way to get around and see the various locations if you don’t have your own transport. New in town since I was there last is the Rock & Soul Museum that’s on 3rd, which crosses Beale. This is an important site if your quest is to trace and understand the roots of Memphis music. The museum covers the development of Soul & R&R via Country & Gospel. I suggest you use an audio set, as it really does enhance the journey. The museum format borrows from Stax, starting with a short movie and though it zeros on Memphis, the spectrum is broad – check it out on www.memphisrocknsoul.org it’s a fascinating and informative visit.
national civil rights museum
Due to the suppression of black history many Americans, black and white knew very little about the true story of slavery until the success of the TV mini series ‘Roots’. The transmission of this vital series in the mid 70s was shown on six consecutive nights because the network was uncertain about public reaction to this graphically emotive saga. They need not have been concerned because millions of Americans were glued to their TVs every night for almost a week and Arthur Haley’s drama sparked a nationwide civil rights discussion that changed and informed the attitudes of many. So if you are serious about civil rights and the history of black America then the National Civil Rights Museum is somewhere you will want to visit. The Museum is located on 450 Mulberry Street on the site of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated on 4 April 1968. The motel has been preserved and remains as a shrine to Dr King. Open since September 1991, the museum historically traces the birth and development of the civil rights movement through photographs information panels and 3D exhibits. It highlights the men and women who struggled from the mid 1700s for freedom from slavery and oppression and historic events that have occurred up to the present day. They have a very good website at www.civilrightsmuseum.org
Another great American label that is celebrating its 50th anniversary is Stax Records, who in addition to their wonderful museum, located on the labels original site at E. McLemore Avenue had a special exhibit entitled ‘The Art of Stax’. It featured legendary images by noted music photographer Joel Brodsky of Stax icons Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Mavis Staples, Rufus Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs and many others including great shots of Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin on display as well as out-takes and never-before-seen portraits. Sadly this unique exhibition was only on view for a couple of weeks but the label is staging many events throughout the year - so check their website (www.staxmuseum.com) if you are thinking of making a visit. The museum itself has grown since my last visit. You could easily spend best part of a day in there wandering between the clusters of exhibition cases that contain memorabilia, costumes and all kinds of interesting stuff flanked by photos, info panels and plasma screens showing continuous documentaries and interviews. Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton, Steve Cropper, Al Bell and many other notables talk about the labels influential history and as you proceed the story gradually unfolds.
Even the experts among you will find the experience fascinating. There is so much to see, hear and absorb and all the major artists (and many more besides) are featured. With all this great music, you can even strut yo’ stuff - on a mini dancefloor with a12 foot high screen and disco lights, midway into the museum. Lots of rare footage including James Brown, Curtis, the Isleys, Ike & Tina etc are also on continuous loop. It is all superbly laid out and in the studio there’s Steve’s Fender, Duck’s bass, AJ’s drums and Bookers organ - as if they’ve just gone for a coffee break. The large screens on the walls show black & white stills, shot while those great tracks were being laid down with sfx studio crosstalk providing further atmosphere. This leads on to 100s of album sleeves and singles that cover the walls of a long corridor. A jukebox with headsets has been installed so that you can choose to listen to practically any Stax-Volt cut you want to hear. Near the end of the exhibit there’s Ike’s Blue Caddy Eldorado with 24carat gold plated fixtures, a bar in the back, TV and white mink longhair carpets (like a mini version of his original office at the old Stax building). Across the street from the entrance to the Stax car park I noticed an old weatherboard house had been purchased for renovation – it used to be the home of Memphis Slim.
We dropped the car off at Memphis airport and caught a domestic flight to O’Hare where
We returned to catch ‘The Soul Queen of New Orleans’ Irma Thomas in performance later that evening but couldn’t get near the stage for the scores of families enjoying the show, eating & drinking around their personal coolers, standing, sitting, laid out on blankets and loungers – these folks come prepared for the long haul. But the sound system was great and big colour screens gave us all a better view than we could have hoped for, given the size of the audience. Irma played for about an hour performing a wide selection from her distinguished recording career to an appreciative crowd. She still looks and sounds amazing and her set was everything that I’d hoped it would be. Most of the crowd stayed on for local man Magic Slim and the Teardrops, who whipped up wave of enthusiasm and had the people dancin’ and strutting their stuff from the moment they hit the stage.
When I last visited the city in 1972 many of the great Chicago labels like Curtom, Constellation, Mercury, Twinight etc were still hanging on and creative centres like the Butler Workshop were in residence, many of them housed on and around Record Row but the area was already running down and all have been swept away in the intervening years. One shrine that has survived however is the original Chess building on 2120 South Michigan that has now been rechristened ‘Blues Heaven’ and was rescued from oblivion by bluesman Willie Dixon’s wife Marie in 1993, since when it has undergone a slow internal reconstruction and is now back to it’s former state.
These days it is a museum run by Willie’s daughter Jacky and Kevin Mabry. Downstairs is a shop and the offices of Chess founders Phil and Leonard plus a display room full of instruments and artefacts including a rather macabre exhibition wall of facial moulds, taken from many of their past recording artists - It sent a shiver down my spine. Upstairs in the old studio is a viewing area where you can watch a video of the Chess Story and see more exhibits in the adjoining rooms behind. Kevin, who manages the office, told me that 90% of their visitors come from the UK and had it not been for the ‘Brits’, they may not have survived the mid 90s. “So be sure to tell them of our gratitude and that they will always be welcome here at Blues Heaven”. Though the museum is quite small, they have also acquired the lot next door that was cleared and landscaped as ‘Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden’. Kevin also explained that the ‘Blues Heaven Foundation’ is committed to Dixon’s mission to keep the Blues alive through a number of programs that include ‘The Muddy Waters Scholarship’, ‘Royalty Recovery & Legal Assistance’, ‘Blues In Schools’ and the ‘Record Row Festival’ to name a few. For more info about the foundation’s calendar of events and other good works go to www.bluesheaven.com it won’t cost you a dime unless you feel inclined to make a donation. (peter burns)
#6 a change is gonna come
Ask the classic soul singers of the past which artist they admired most and the name Sam Cooke will crop up with unerring regularity. Sam of course learnt his trade in the top gospel quartet of the day – the Soul Stirrers, and it was with them that he developed and perfected his unique vocal style.
One of the group’s last recordings with Sam on lead was “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” / “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” cut on the West Coast in 1956 and released on the Specialty label. Putting aside any religious prejudices, anyone with an interest in the history and development of soul should hear both sides of this 45, which was one of the group’s biggest sellers. On both titles Sam’s voice is sweet and soulful, but with a rough edge that is often absent on his more pop slanted offerings. Whilst it is the memorably melodic “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” with it’s clever biblical storyline that is the better known of the two sides, it is the exquisite “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” that wins out vocally. It begins with Sam floating his voice into falsetto range on the word “Jesus”, then breaking up the two syllables into several different notes – a technique known as “melisma”, and much used by his predecessor, R. H. Harris. Unlike Harris, Cooke rarely used falsetto, and when he did it always sounded like a natural extension of his normal range rather than the usual “false voice” we associate with artists such as Jackie Wilson, or indeed Harris himself. Sam employs the same devise twice more on the record, varying the pitch and timing on each occasion, so that each one is a unique moment of vocal creativity. In fact Sam manages to cram more vocal twists and turns into just two minutes than some lesser vocalists manage in an album’s worth of material. The lyric is of interest too with lines such as “I’ve Got Enemies, Don’t You Know”, hinting at darker things from which only death will bring true release and freedom. It was a theme Sam was to revisit again in one very special song cut and released just before his death in 1964 in which he brought it all together in one momentous recording – “A Change is Gonna Come”.
Sam was prompted to write the song after hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In the Wind”, the lyrics of which struck a chord with many African Americans at the time. Determined to put his own slant on Dylan’s astute slice of social commentary he came up with “A Change Is Gonna Come”. It could be argued that the massed strings at the start, with their echoes of Gershwin, threaten to dilute the message, however, any such fears are dispelled by Sam’s delivery. From the opening line “I was born by the river…..” where his voice soars magnificently we know we are in the presence of a true masterpiece. If the melody and chord structure owe much to the gospel music Sam loved then the lyric takes it into altogether more profound territory. Whereas “Blowing In The Wind” can be summed up as a poetic slice of Guthrie inspired social observation, “Change” is written from the viewpoint of the insider who has experienced the very injustices that Dylan is commenting on. Not that Cooke’s approach lacks subtlety. In the same way that some gospel lyrics, including “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” had a political undercurrent, so “Change” works on two levels. To the casual listener Sam is acting out the part of a solitary man who has not had an easy life but is hoping for a better tomorrow. For others Sam is speaking for all African-Americans who had experienced prejudice, alienation and hopelessness during their lifetime. And yet Sam’s overall message is one of optimism. Eight years earlier with the Soul Stirrers he had seen freedom only in death, but now, with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King ringing in his ears he sees real hope for the future. A change IS gonna come.
The song has inspired many cover versions, and hardly surprisingly gospel groups such as the Meditation Singers have covered it or freely borrowed from it. However, of all the versions I have heard, from Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin to the Hesitations, none can equal the sheer beauty of Sam’s original. Given that the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and the development of soul went hand in hand, “Change” comes over as a worthy anthem. It was indeed a fitting farewell from one of the most influential artists in soul’s history.
Sam Cooke’s work with the Soul Stirrers has been well covered by ACE, with “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” appearing on two very accessible compilations, “In The Beginning”, and “Sam Cooke With The Soul Stirrers”. Both CDs also include Sam’s early secular sides.
“A Change Is Gonna Come” has recently appeared on a competitively priced release titled “Sam Cooke – Portrait Of A Legend 1951 – 1964” which also includes the indispensable “Touch The Hem Of His Garment”.(mike finbow)
the last goodbye
freddie scott – born on 24 April 1933 in Providence Rhode Island but grew up in New York. Recorded first hit ‘Hey Girl’ in 1963 while working for Columbia as a songwriter alongside Goffin & King. Had several singles on Colpix then in ’66 joined Bert Berns Shout label and scored his career hit ‘Are You Lonely For Me?’ which went to #1 on the R&B chart. Followed on with 4 more Shout hits. Scott had one more chart success on Probe in 1970 with Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’. He cut half a dozen good albums but though Freddie, a big voice balladeer, always gave good voice, his material choice was patchy. His only chart album ‘Are You Lonely For Me?’ was not reissued on CD but some of the tracks appeared on ‘Cry To Me – the best of…’ a Columbia Legacy CD in 1998. He tried an uneven redux in 2001 with ‘Brand New Man’ that got middling reviews and poor sales - died on 4 June 2007 aged 74.
james ‘pookie’ hudson – born 11 June 1934 in Des Moines, Iowa, Hudson was featured lead voice with the Spaniels, one of the earliest Chicago groups signed to VeeJay. Their hits built the famous pre Motown label – ‘Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight’ written by Hudson became their most famous recording and was featured in the movie ‘American Graffiti’ (‘73) The pop hit however went to the McGuire Sisters with their cover version. The Spaniels other hits included ‘Baby It’s You’, ‘I Know’ and ‘You Painted Pictures’. James left briefly but returned in 1956 to cut another hit ‘Everyone’s Laughing’ and the classic ‘Peace Of Mind’. He went solo in ’61, created his own label North American and formed a new Spaniels group in 1975. The Spaniels issued a 40th Anniversary album in 1993 - died on 16 January 2007 from cancer, aged 72.
zola taylor – born 1934. Nicknamed ‘the Dish’, Zola became famous as the first female member of the Platters. Taylor had previously recorded a couple of solo tracks for RPM and sang with the Shirley Gunther & the Queens. She appeared in bedrock movies ‘Rock Around The Clock’ (‘56) and ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ (‘56) – married troubled Do Wop star Frankie Lymon and was played convincingly in the movie ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’ (’98) by Halle Berry. She left the Platters but Zola’s solo career didn’t take and she ran her own version of the Platters in later years. died on 30 April 2007 from a stroke, aged 73.
hyman weiss – born on 12 February 1923 the legendary founder of Old Town records was famous as a tough negotiator and well respected by his peers. His labels were famous for their Doo Wop and R&B recordings, many reissued in the UK on Ace/Kent over the past 15 years. Four great volumes of ‘Old Town Doo Wop’ featured tracks by the Five Crowns, Capris, Chimes, Fiestas, Harptones and many more. Other artists he recorded were Billy Bland, Thelma Jones, Donald Height, Peggy Scott, Robert & Johnny etc. He was a larger than life character on the New York record scene of the 50s & 60s who’s passing will be mourned by many – died in Englewood NJ on 20 March 2007, aged 84.
bill pinkney – born on 15 August 1925 in Dalzell, Sumter County, South Carolina. Decorated for action in France during WW2. Bill formed a group with four GI pals called the US Friendly Five. He sang with a number of Gospel groups including the Singing Cousins, the Wandering Four and after he’d moved to New York the Jerusalem Stars, who featured his lifetime friend Brook Benton. Shortly after joining the Southern Knights, Clyde McPhatter, who was reorganizing a second line up of his Drifters invited Bill to join. After the famous ‘Money Honey’ session Bill moved to bass when the group became a quartet. He was featured in a duet with Clyde when the Drifters cut their hit version of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’. After Clyde was drafted in mid ’54, Bill who also acted as their road manager, led the group and hired new members including Johnny Moore. Bill recorded lead on a few other Drifters records but was sacked by the groups management when he tried to negotiate higher wages for the other members. He formed the Original Drifters in 1958 that over the years featured many x Drifters in their line-ups. BP’s Originals recorded on several small labels and toured the world though in later years were more prominent in the southern states where Pinkney rotated a couple of line-ups. He was honoured many times by the music industry during the 90s. After 54 years driftin’ Bill died on 4 July 2007 at Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, aged 81.
reviews - cd
Billy Butler – The Right Tracks – Kent CD
Various - Tears Full Of Soul – Sanctuary 2CD
Irma Thomas – My Heart’s In Memphis – Rounder CD
Various – The Pomus & Shuman Story – Ace CD
James Carr – My Soul Is Satisfied – Kent CD
Frankie Crocker – Do It Frankie, Do It To It - Sanctuary CD
Various - Hands Off – Ace CD
Tams – Comin’ At Cha! – Mossland CD (USA)
Various – Soul In The Midnight Hour – Kent CD
Various - The In Crowd (The Story Of Northern Soul) – Sanctuary 2CD
‘Shagging in the Carolinas’ – ‘Fessa John Hook
Other than the introduction, the reading of this book is mainly in the lengthy photo captions, press cuttings, posters, magazine covers and handbills etc of which there are many. Nevertheless it’s a fascinating journey through the Beach music phenomenon, its roots, influences and history. From what I can gather, Shagging has been going on in the Carolinas since the late ‘20s, when one Lewis Phillip Hall first invented the dance. Since then it has evolved through a number of musical genres like jazz, R&B, rockabilly and soul music as the Southern white middle class embraced it’s multicultural roots.
Judging from the posters magazines, and photos published in this book pretty well every soul star still working was drawn to perform in the South at these Shagoramas. These events have provided plenty of work for the 60s soul stars right through to the present day.
Black Snake Moan (2007) Director: Craig Brewer 117 minutes
© earshot (peter burns) december 2007