Archive for March, 2008

Wilson Pickett – Mojo Mamma aka ‘Where have I heard this before???’

March 30, 2008

Example

The Wicked Pickett pleads for musical redress…

Example

Listen – Mojo Mamma – MP3″

Greetings all.

Here I sit on a Sunday morning, with ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ on in the background – which I saw when it came out 37 years ago, but my four year old is watching for the first time – drinking a bottle of diet coke (too lazy to make a pot of coffee) and wondering where the weekend went.
I oughtn’t complain, as it’s been an extraordinarily busy one, with the Asbury Park 45 Sessions on Friday night, driving to East Jabib and back yesterday (where we ended up taking the wee one to the emergency room for what turned out to be yet another ear infection) and then the two boys waking me up at 6:30AM (are they INSANE??!?!?) today. I figured I’d better get the files uploaded and the posts written before I crawl onto the couch and take a nap.
A while back – I can’t remember where exactly – I grabbed the LP ‘The Sound of Wilson Pickett’ because:

a. The Wicked one is one of my musical heroes
b. As a result of ‘a’, I grab any and all OG Pickett vinyl whenever I come across it in the field

So, I get it home and place it on the ‘to be listened to/digi-ma-tized’ pile, where it sat gathering dust for a few months. When I finally set aside some time and dropped the needle on the record, I was stunned.
Now Pickett delivered some mighty powerful soul in his day, but that’s not why the record delivered a punch. The first cut I played brought on one of those Moe Howard slow-burn ‘WAIT A MINUTE YOU PORCUPINE!’ moments.
There, coming out of the grooves was a song (‘Mojo Mamma’) that bore a distinct resemblance to a much better known (and far more successful) tune, that being Edwin Starr’s ’25 Miles’.
So, once I finished recording all I wanted to record, I rushed to the computer, got onto the interwebs and started Google-ing to see if I could find what the story was.
You know what I found?
ZIPPITY DOO DAH…
I hit the reference books and discovered that Pickett’s recording of ‘Mojo Mamma’, which was credited to Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler pre-dated ’25 Miles’ by almost two years. The tune, which features the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and the Memphis Horns was recorded in 1967. Starr’s ’25 Miles’ didn’t break on the charts until early 1969.
The only real clue I could find, that suggested to me that those credited with writing ’25 Miles’ – Starr, Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua – may have been nailed for “borrowing” the tune, is that fact that though ’25 Miles’ is originally credited to those three, later attributions add the names of Wexler and Berns to the credits.
How Starr et al thought they could get away with it is beyond me. Though ‘Mojo Mamma’ wasn’t anything close to a hit, the album from which it came – ‘The Sound of Wilson Pickett’ – includes a number of big hits, including ‘Funky Broadway’, ‘I Found a Love’ and ‘Soul Dance Number Three’. To be sure, in 1967 the soul game was pretty much 45-based, but someone must have heard the similarities a few years later when the tune re-appeared as Starr’s ’25 Miles’ (and I’m guessing that group included legal counsel for Messrs Berns and Wexler).
I have no idea why this bit of musical appropriation isn’t more widely known. There’s no doubt in my mind that ’25 Miles’ is a far more powerful record, but if you like that song, one would be inclined to give credit where credit is due. If any of you have some more pertinent details I’d love to hear them.
I hope you dig the tune.
Peace
Larry

PS Check out Iron Leg for a brand new 60′s folk podcast.

3/28 – Asbury Park 45 Sessions Wrap Up

March 29, 2008

Example

Example

Listen -You Just Don’t Know – MP3″

Funky16Corners Set List

AB Skhy – Camel Back (MGM)
Richards People – Yo Yo (Tuba)
The Brothers & Sisters – Yeah You Right (UNI)
Paul ‘Sir Raggedy’ Flagg – Papa Momma Romper Stomper (Atlantic)
Eddie Bo & the Chain Gang – Disco Party Pt1 (Bo Sound)
James Brown – Superbad Pt1 (King)
Mickey Murray – Hit Records (SSS Intl)
Woody Guenther & Cheaters – Bang Dangin’ Time (Shout)
Unifics – It’s a Groovy World (Kapp)
Linda Lyndell – What a Man (Volt)
Raymond Winnfield – Things Could Be Better (Fordom)
Syl Johnson – Come On Sock It To Me (Twilight)
Maceo & All the Kings Men – Got To Getcha (House of the Fox)
Mickey & the Soul Generation – Iron Leg (Maxwell)
Brick – Dazz (Bang)
Broadways – You Just Don’t Know (MGM)

Greetings all.
Just a quick note to let you all know that the one year anniversary of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions was – as if you didn’t know – a stone gas. All the resident selectors were in fine form, and guest selector, the legendary Dave Withers laid down a very hot set that had me up on the riser several times, scoping out the records for future reference.
Unfortunately the JamNow feed was not working last night, which means that those of you that may have wanted to check out the show on the interwebs were unable to.

If you’ve been checking out my set lists over the last year, you’ll know that no matter how funky things get, I always like to close out my sets with a bit of pure soul. This time out, in honor of the first anniversary of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, I dropped a bit of genuine Asbury Park soul, ‘You Just Don’t Know’ by the Broadways. I originally posted the tune back on Valentines Day, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to remind you all what a great song this is.
That said, if you are within driving distance of Asbury Park you need to come down and check out the May edition of the Sessions (date TBD).
On a related note, next Sunday April 6th there’s going to be another record show at the World Famous Asbury Lanes, and if everyone in the Funky16Corners fam remains healthy, I will be there selling (and buying, of course).
That said, hang tight and I’ll be back on Monday with some soul.

Peace
Larry

DJ Prime Set List
mongo santamaria – sofrito (vaya)
bronx river pkwy. – deixa pra la (latin express)
mighty hannibal – fishin’ pole (josie)
claude “fats” greene orch. – “fats” shake ‘m up pt. 1 (camille)
etta james – tell mama (cadet)
jimmy mccracklin – dog (pt. 1) (minit)
nu-sound express, ltd. – ain’t it good enough for you (siver dollar)
johnny perry & his blues band – that ain’t right (primus)
voices of east harlem – right on be free (elektra)
jr. walker & the all stars – shake & finger pop (soul)
funkhouse express – music makes you move (pt. 1) (tapeca)
harvey averne – never learned to dance (jazzman)
mandrill – git it all (polydor)
brass rail – do the penguin pt. 1 (buddah)
paul simon – mother and child reunion (columbia)

DJ Jack the Ripper Playlist
Andre Williams – “The Stroke” (Checker)
Merced & The Blue Notes – “Do The Pig” (Manmoth)
Carrie Grant – “Mish-Mash” (Newtown)
Nicky & The Magnificants – “Pasame el Hacha” (Interdisc)
Nathaniel Mayer – “Leave Me Alone” (Fortune)
Orlons – “Don’t You Want My Lovin” (Cameo)
Nu-Trons – “Wild Side” (Federal)
Bobby Sims – “Big Mama” (WM&RC)
Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown -”Hold On I’m Comin” (Wand)
Marsha Gee – “Peanut Duck” (Joker)
Wailers – “Mashi” (Imperial)

DJ Prestige Playlist
Intro – Gizmo & the Gremlins
Dizzie Gillespie – The Windmills of Your Mind/ Solid State
The Electric Express – I Can’t Believe We Did (the Whole Thing)/ AVCO
We the People – Breakdown/ Davel (reissue)
Lavell Hardy – Don’t Lose Your Groove/ Rojac
Brass Monkey – Funky Monkey (White Label)
The Mystic Moods – Cosmic Sea/ WB
Paul Humphrey & His Kool Aid Chemists – Detroit/ Lizard
Sherlock Holmes Investigation/ The Pot’s Hot/ C.R.S.
News – Tend to Your Own Business/ Colossus
Johnny Otis – Country Girl/ Modern Oldies
Ralph MacDonald – Jam On the Groove/ Marlin
Rickey Calloway & His N.T. Express – Get It Right/ Kay-Dee
Lee Williams & the Cymbals – Shing-A-Ling U.S.A./ Carnival
Johnny Griffith, Inc. – Grand Central Shuttle/ RCA
Sammy Gordon & the Hip Huggers – Jungle Bump/ LuLu
Freddie McCoy – Summer In the City/ Prestige
Crosstown Express – Just Keep the Funk/ Pee Zee
S.O.U.L. – The Jonses (Part 1)/ Musicor
Okie Duke – Ain’t No Color To Soul/ Ovation
The Feathers – Tryin’ To Get To You/ Team
Colin Roach – Lately (Version)/ Techniques

Connie T Empress Playlist
(How Bout A Little Hand) For The Boys In The Band–The Boys In The Band (Spring)
Keep On Dancing–Alvin Cash (Toddlin’ Town)
How You Gonna Get Respect (If You Haven’t Cut Your Process Yet)–Hank Ballard w/ The Dapps (King)
Get Out Of My Life, Women–Wilmer & The Dukes (Aphrodisiac)
Girl, You’ve Got My Heart Singing–Ollie & The Nightingales (Stax, blue)
Brainwasher Pt. 2–Jr. Walker All Stars (that’s what the label says–Harvey)
You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure–Clarence Carter (Atlantic)
A Fool In Love–Ike & Tina Turner (Sue)
Tow-A-Way Zone–Diane Jenkins (Creative Funk)
The Camel–The Fabulous Taronados (Chart Sound)
Finger In It–Mighty Tom Cats (Paul Winley)
Sally Sayin’ Somethin’–Billy Harner (Kama Sutra)

Otis Redding – Monterey Pop 6/17/67

March 27, 2008

Example

Otis Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival

Listen – Otis Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival June 17th, 1967 – MP3″

Shake – Respect – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Try a Little Tenderness

Greetings all.

I hope the end of the week – as it nears – finds you well.
The “selection” I bring you today is something a little different than I ordinarily offer in this space, in that it is composed of an entire LP side, which is itself an entire live set* by one of the greatest soul artists of all time, the mighty Otis Redding.
I’ve mentioned several times in this space that my ‘Road to Damascus’ moment as a fan of soul music was the day I flipped over the Jimi Hendrix Experience ‘Live at Monterey’ LP and played the album side I have posted today.
That day – sometime around 1976 or ’77 – was a landmark in my musical growth because although I was aware of soul and funk music in as much as its existence was reflected in the playlists of Top 40 radio of the early 70s, I had never been an active consumer thereof, i.e. I let the soul come to me, but never went looking for it.
It’s likely that I wasn’t paying close attention to the album, at least not at first, as I didn’t have much of an idea who Otis Redding was, outside of ‘Dock of the Bay’. It was that day, as the sounds of one of the greatest live sets ever recorded by any artist poured from my Montgomery Ward console stereo (next to my bed, the biggest piece of furniture in my small room), that a fundamental part of how my mind processed music – in as much as it processed the effects of sound along with my heart and soul – was changed forever.
I can’t remember the first time I actually saw ‘Monterey Pop’ on TV, though it was probably either on the Late Show or on the local PBS station, but when I did it quickly became my favorite musical documentary, in large part because of the inclusion of an excerpt from this very set.
It wasn’t until last year, when my lovely wife bought me the Criterion Collection issue of ‘Monterey Pop’ – which included an entire disc of previously unissued performances, as well as the two mini-documentaries ‘Jimi Plays Monterey!’ and ‘Shake! Otis at Monterey’ that I finally saw the film of Redding’s entire set from June 17th, 1967.
It was the final set, of the second night of the Monterey Pop Festival, and as the story goes, the festival had gone past the agreed upon curfew by the time Otis reached the stage.
Backed by Booker T & the MGs (who had just played a short set of their own), as well as the Mar-Keys (actually the Memphis Horns with the addition of Floyd Newman), and following an introduction by Tommy Smothers, Otis stormed the stage and ripped into Sam Cooke’s ‘Shake’. Despite a solid, day-long line up of rock, pop and jazz acts, at that late hour the crowd could not have possibly been prepared for the power that Redding brought onto the stage.
By the time Otis finished the tune he was gasping for breath, as he introduced his own ‘Respect’ – with a bit of understatement – as ‘…a song that a girl took away from me.’ He takes the tune at a brisk pace with pounding support from the band.
As he finishes ‘Respect’ he takes a moment to rap to what he refers to as ‘The Love Crowd’, before he launches into one of the single greatest soul performances ever recorded.
Two years before Monterey, Redding and Jerry Butler sat down in a Buffalo, NY hotel room and composed what would become (later that year) one of Redding’s biggest hits, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’. Redding’s reading of the tune is an absolute masterpiece of dynamics, building and release of tension and pure soul. It’s not hard to deduce from his demeanor that by this point in the set that Otis knew that he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He delivers his greatest song as a high-wire act balancing tasteful restraint with roof-raising soul pleading.
Whenever I listen to this (a performance that never fails to bring a tear to my eye) I wonder if Otis and Butler knew when they were writing this song how perfect a showstopper it would become. The verses open with those classic, slow-dance, R&B guitar triplets, moving to an explosion each time the second part of the verse begins.
There’s a version of ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ on the ‘Otis Redding Live In Europe’ LP where, if you listen very closely, you can hear Redding – as an aside, almost completely off mike – say ‘Oh my God!’ just before he launches into the line ‘There were times… It’s almost as if he had to muster every bit of power in his voice to deliver the line, rocketing the level of emotion in the performance to a point that few performers could ever dream of approaching and the truly amazing thing is that he’s able to do it over, and over again until the final section of the song where he’s rolling out the
‘GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY’s
and the ‘I CAN’T STOP NOW’s
and ‘I’M DOWN ON MY KNEES’
and ‘I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART’
and the band is vamping under him with the horns growing in intensity, and before you know it – because you almost expect, or at least wish that he would go on all night – the song is over and the band tears into ‘Satisfaction’, and the audience, still dizzy from the previous number rides along with them until Otis takes the tempo down, and you can hear the audience clapping along, and then the band picks up speed again almost crashing at the end of the song.
It’s at this point that Otis Redding proves once and for all (as if there were any doubts left) how much of a master performer he was. Taking a song written and first performed in 1932, Redding builds ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ into a soulful tour de force. The tempo of the tune building almost imperceptibly at first, with the band laying down the sparest of backings, but before you know it the whole shebang is bearing down like a freight train and Otis is wailing about
‘GOTTA GOTTA GOTTA NOW NOW NOW TENDERNESS A LITTLE TENDERNESS YEAH YEAH TENDERNESS YOU GOTTA GOTTA TENDERNESS!!!’
and Steve Cropper is weaving in and out of the mix and you can sense Otis whipping the audience around like a sweaty handkerchief while he loses himself in the ecstasy of the performance.
This is true greatness, on a level that very, very few performers, in any kind of music were ever able to achieve, and as the few remaining documents will attest to, it was greatness that Otis Redding was able to deliver on a regular basis.
The Monterey Pop Festival was filled with monumental, career making performances, but no one, not Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, NO ONE, came within 100 miles of delivering the way Otis Redding delivered that night.
He wouldn’t have many opportunities to do it again, because a few days short of six months later, Otis Redding was dead.

Sad.
I hope you dig the sounds.
Have a great weekend.

Peace
Larry

*Believe it or not, this entire – legendary – set lasts less that 20 minutes!

PS Check out Iron Leg for some garage pop. PSS Stop by Friday night at the World Famous Asbury Lanes for the latest installment of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, with special guest selector Dave Withers!

Example

The Sons of Champlin – Fat City

March 25, 2008

Example

The Sons of Champlin

Example

Listen – Fat City – MP3″

Greetings all.

I’m back from vacation (though fortunately I have a day left before I have to back to work) and it was a gas. The Funky16Corners family loaded up the microbus and motored on down to Washington for a few days of museums, pho* and movies on the laptop.
We love DC – it was the first trip my wife and ever took together when we were dating – because there’s tons of stuff to do, even when the kids are small. The weather was good, so we got in a trip to the National Zoo, which despite it’s punishing layout (like an ellipse tilted on a drastic slant), is one of the best zoos in the country. I also managed – no surprise here – to make a couple of productive vinyl stops. Not much in the way of 45s, but I scored some very cool LPs (pertinent to both Funky16Corners and Iron Leg) the contents of which will arrive here (and there) in short order.
If you get a chance to make it down that way, make sure you stop by Som Records (on 14th St between S and T) and say hi to Neal. He’s got a great shop going and deserves your patronage. Tell him Funky16Corners sent you.
Today’s selection is a tune I scored on 45 a while back, quickly digimatized and then put on hold while I decided whether or not it was more a Funky16Corners or an Iron Leg kind of tune.
The first time I heard ‘Fat City’ by the Sons of Champlin, it was on the recent Rhino box set ‘Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970’. I’d been lusting after the set for a while, and one day happened upon it for a very steep discount at a local Borders. When I got it home and opened it up I couldn’t believe how cool it was, filled not only with great music – much of which was already familiar, but a lot of it new to me as well – but great info and some stunning pictures. If you get a chance to check it out do so, because it’s almost as much a book as it is a boxed set.
Anyway…among the tracks that were new to my ears, one in particular stood out, that being ‘Fat City’.
I’ve been a San Fran rock fan for most of my record buying years, and I knew the name of the Sons of Champlin, but never knew much about their music. The conventional wisdom, via what I’d read over the years is that they were an early version of the Chicago-style horn band, but I never actually came across any of their albums in the field, nor heard any of their music anywhere else.
So, I pick up the aforementioned box set and ‘Fat City’ starts exploding from my headphones and into my brain and let me tell you brothers and sisters I was all like ‘What the hell?’ and ‘Where has this song been all my life?’ and then (who didn’t see this coming?) ‘How can I get me a copy on vinyl?’’
The last – and most important question – turned out to be a pretty easy one to answer, and I had a minty little 45 in my hands in just about a week, for just about ten bucks, and I’m here to tell you that it would have been a steal at five times that price because this is an amazing record.
When I was a kid, my touchstone for sonic power in a 45 was always ‘All Day and All of the Night’ by the Kinks, wherein the band managed to crowbar at least five records worth of volume and emotion into a single seven-inch single. Some years down the road, I moved on (or up) to ‘I Gotta Go Now (Up On the Floor)’ by Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers, which verily sets the turntable on fire, naturally extinguished forthwith by the flood of perspiration emitting from the forehead of anyone within earshot.
So, the very first time I heard ‘Fat City’ my ears started vibrating and my brain started smoking and my eyes started rolling and it was all I could do not to continue raising the volume beyond the pain threshold. Here, in just over three minutes and ten seconds is a compact atomic burst of blue-eyed (and non blue-eyed) soul, R&B, garage with a penumbra of 1967 San Fran sunshine – don’t forget to wear flowers in the lapel of your continental suit, brother – that must have scared the beejeebus out of any hippie that strayed within a hundred feet of the band, while lo these forty years on down the road puts the lie to the idea that all that was happening by the Golden Gate was flower power.
I mean, you don’t have to scratch the Love-In veneer too deeply before you realize that alongside the Dead and the Airplane towered the mighty Sly and his Family Stone, as well as many, many other soul, funk and R&B bands, and ‘Fat City’ by the Sons of Champlin is evidence thereof.
Just listen to Bill Champlin wail –

There’s a place in Soulville
That beats the nitty gritty
There you’re looking good
And you call the place Fat City
It’s got soul!
Yeah!

- pushing the Hammond to it’s limits, and then that burning guitar comes in riding a tidal wave of horns and there’s no question any longer (at least in my mind) whether or not this record is soulful enough to appear in this space.
The Sons of Champlin formed in 1966 out of the ashes of their leader Bill Champlin’s (singer, organ, guitar) previous band the Opposite Six. During 1966 and 1967 they recorded material for the Trident label which resulted in their first album. Their first single ‘Sing Me a Rainbow’ b/w ‘Fat City’ had enough local success to see a national release on the Verve label. A year later they signed a contract with Capitol and recorded three albums between 1968 and 1970. This material saw the Sons – like just about every other band in the world – get a little bit freakier (and perhaps pretentious) and they never really laid down anything as hot as ‘Fat City’ again. They broke up, and then reformed recording several more LPs during the 70’s for a few different labels.
Champlin went on to join Chicago (yes, that Chicago) in 1981 and has played with them ever since, as well as with a new version of the Sons of Champlin.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll see you later in the week.

Peace
Larry

*If you’ve never experienced the Vietnamese delicacy known as pho, do so post haste. It’s basically little more than a large bowl of beef noodle soup, but the broth therein is beyond sublime, emitting a flavorful wonderfullness that is positively life giving. Fortunately Washington, DC and the surrounding area is positively filthy with pho joints. I may have to move…

PS Check out Iron Leg for a very early cover of a 13th Floor Elevators tune.

PSS This Friday it’s the return of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions. This time out the resident selectors will be joined by Dan of the Budos Band. It’s gonna be hot!!

Example

Bobo Mr Soul – Answer To the Want Ads

March 19, 2008

Example

Beau Williams aka ‘Bobo Mr. Soul’

Example

Listen – Answer To the Want Ads – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the middle of the week finds you well, and fully satisfied by this Monday’s edition of Funky16Corners Radio.
This will very likely be the last post this week (maybe until next Tuesday), as the fam and I are heading out on the road for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. It’s been a little while since our last getaway so we’re good and ready to do a little touring. Of course I expect that I may – intentionally or not – find my way into a record shop of some kind (and I always do, don’t I??), so hopefully in addition to letting off some steam I’ll also be harvesting some new sounds for inclusion in this space.
Today’s selection is another in a long tradition of what we in the record collecting world (and elsewhere I’m sure) know as an “answer record”.
In the case of Bobo Mr. Soul’s ‘Answer to the Want Ads’, it earns that designation both literally and figuratively.
Bobo Mr. Soul – whose real name is Beau Williams – was a Houston, TX based singer who recorded two 45s for the storied Ovide label (also home to the TSU Tornadoes) in the early 70s. ‘Answer to the Want Ads’ was his first, released in 1971 as an answer to – wait for it, here it comes – ‘Want Ads’ by the Honey Cone, which was a Top 10 hit in the spring of that year.
The Bobo Mr. Soul 45 – The flipside of which, ‘H.L.I.C.’ was featured a while back in a mix over at Fleamarket Funk – unlike some “answer” records, uses almost the exact same melody as the original, setting it up almost as a second chapter of the Honey Cone’s saga.
Williams second 45 for Ovide, ‘Hitchhike To Heartbreak Road’ was issued a second time, on the Hi label in 1972. That tune, written by Phillip Mitchell and originally recorded by Curtis Wiggins was redone (with the same backing track) by Williams. Though it didn’t have any success on the charts, that record has gone on to be a fave with soul fans in the know.
Williams soon dropped the ‘Bobo Mr. Soul’ pseudonym and became a star in the world of gospel under his own name.
I hope you dig it, and that you all have a great weekend.
I’ll see you next week.

Peace
Larry

PS Check out Iron Leg for some Garage Punk by the Gentrys

PSS It’s just a little over a week until the return of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions. This time out the resident selectors will be joined by Dan of the Budos Band. It’s gonna be hot!!

Example

Funky16Corners Radio v.45 – Soul Girls!!!

March 16, 2008

Example

The Ikettes!

Funky16Corners Radio v.45 – Soul Girls!!

Playlist

Dinah Washington – Soulville (Roulette)
Timi Yuro – What’s a Matter Baby (Liberty)
Helena Ferguson – My Terms (Compass)
Barbara Mason – Come To Me (Arctic)
Martha & the Vandellas – Wild One (Gordy)
Shirley Ellis – Sugar Let’s Shing-a-ling (Columbia)
Ikettes – Don’t Feel Sorry For Me (Modern)
Sweet Inspirations – I’m Blue (Atco)
Tina Turner/Venetta Fields – I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More) (Harmony)
Clydie King – ‘Bout Love (Lizard)
Barbara Acklin – Raggedy Ride (Brunswick)
Mirettes – Take Me For a Little While (Revue)
Aretha Franklin – See Saw (Atlantic)
Nancy Wilson – The Power of Love (Capitol)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

 

Greetings all.
It’s been a little while since the last installment of the Funky16Corners Radio podcast, and I figured that when I brought it back, it ought to be hot.
In my office/record room the desk where my vinyl recording set up is is pretty much surrounded (and covered) at all times by stacks of LPs and 45s. Following a recent dig I was trying stuff out on the turntable and flipped on the 45 that opens this mix. It was then that I knew the time was right for a (another) mix of female soul sides.
That 45 was a bit of a pleasant surprise. I’ve been a big fan of the song ‘Soulville’ since I first heard it over 20 years ago being blasted out by NY mod/R&B killers the Secret Service. Not long after that I got hold of their source, that being the 1964 version by Aretha Franklin (though they may have picked it up via the Zombies). A few weeks back, I’m out digging through a couple of relatively uninspiring looking boxes of 45s, when what should appear by another version of the tune by the OG “queen” (and a huge influence on Aretha), Miss Dinah Washington. Washington was a huge star of R&B and Jazz in the 40s, 50s and early 60’s, a run that was ended by her untimely death at the age of 39 in December of 1963. It was earlier that year that Washington recorded the original version* of ‘Soulville’ for the Roulette label. Her version of the song is a fantastic example of a record that crosses the bridge from R&B into soul with a dynamite performance by Washington. The year after her version was released, Aretha would record it during her own transition into the sounds of soul. It’s a killer.
The next track is another classic of early soul, and one of the first, real ‘blue eyed soul’ records. Oddly enough, this is another song I first discovered via a mod band, though in this case it was via version by OG mods the Small Faces. The first time I found a copy of the original version of ‘What’s a Matter Baby’ by Timi Yuro (from 1962) I was blown away. Faced with the incongruity of a singer that looked like Connie Francis, belting out hardcore R&B, the 45 soon became a big fave.
The next cut, ‘My Terms’ by Helena Ferguson opens with a very groovy fuzz guitar riff. It’s rumored that the band backing her on this excellent 1967 dancer is none other than her Compass Records labelmates the Ohio Players.
Barbara Mason is best remembered for her 1965 hit ‘Yes I’m Ready’ for Philadelphia’s storied Arctic label (also home to the Volcanos). ‘Come To Me’ is a cut from her first LP (also called ‘Yes I’m Ready’). Mason (who also wrote a lot of her material) went on to record for Arctic until 1968, recording for Buddah in the 70’s and moving on to several small labels through the 80’s.
‘Wild One’ by Martha and the Vandellas is one of my all time favorite Motown 45s. It’s a stormer with wonderful production and a sound that (for 1964) was extremely forward-looking. If you can’t get’em dancing with this one, pack up your wax and walk.
No matter how great a singer Shirley Ellis was (and she was) she will always be known as the person that brought you the ‘Name Game’ (you know, “Shirley, Shirley Bo Birley, Banana Fana Mo Mirley”). Not one to mess with a good thing, she spent her prime recording years in the mid-60’s moving back and forth between serious soul and novelty sides. 1967’s ‘Sugar Let’s Shing-a-ling’, with its “Shing, hyphen A hyphen Ling” refrain manages to keep a foot in both camps. Ellis delivers a solid vocal, and the drum sound on this record is dynamite.
Someday some brave soul is going to sit down and figure out who all the different members of the Ikettes were  , and which ones sing on which records (counting sides under their own name, with Tina and of course with Ike & Tina). ‘Don’t Feel Sorry For Me’ is one of their own burners, released in 1965 on the Modern label.
Going with the flow we hit the Sweet Inspirations with their 1968 take on the Ikettes 1962 hit ‘I’m Blue’. Though this version may not pack the punch of the original, it has a very nice Southern edge to it that I like very much.
The Turner-related meme takes one more iteration with a stomping version of Barbara George’s ‘I Know’ laid down by Tina Turner and Vanetta Fields (yet another Ikette). I got this off of a late 60’s budget repackaging on the Harmony label (which I believe was Columbia’s record club imprint), but I’m guessing it was recorded closer to 1965. Anyone know the source of the recording?
Not and Ikette, but a former Raelette, Clydie King started recording as a child in the mid-50’s and kept right on recording, hitting her stride with several sides for Imperial and Minit in the mid-60’s. ‘Bout Love’ is from her 1971 LP for the Lizard label (NF Porter, Paul Humphrey). A storming dancer with a great chorus, the record (not surprisingly) has it’s devotees in the world of Northern Soul.
Barbara Acklin was one of the great Chicago soul singers of the 60s. She recorded a number of her own hits (‘Love Makes a Woman’, ‘Am I the Same Girl’) on her own, as well as in duets with Gene Chandler. 1969s ‘Raggedy Ride’ is one of her funkier outings. Acklin would record for Brunswick until 1973, then moving to Capitol for a few more years before pretty much dropping out of sight in the mid-70’s.
Speaking of the Ikettes (they’re all over this mix, aren’t they??) the Mirettes feature three former Ikettes, including the aforementioned Vanetta Fields. They recorded a number of 45s and an LP (1968’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’) for the Revue label. Their version of Evie Sands’ ‘Take Me For a Little While’ drops some of the epic emotion and kicks up the tempo considerably.
Another big player from my mod/garage days was Aretha Franklin’s hot take on Don Covay’s ‘See Saw’, which I first heard offered up by none other than Georgie Fame. Aretha’s version is still my fave.
Things come to a conclusion with a very interesting 1966 side by Nancy Wilson. I first came upon this 45 in a huge haul (several thousand) of 45s, and it sat in a smaller ‘put-aside’ pile for a long time before I finally gave it a listen. Imagine my surprise when it turned out not to be loungey standard stuff but rather a hot little piece of proto-funky soul. Even more interesting is the fact that this tune was originally written for, and performed (the year before) by the Everly Brothers. I’d love to hear their take on the tune.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix (I’ve been listening to it steadily for the last few days). I’ll be back later in the week with some more heat.

Peace
Larry

*I always assumed that Titus Turner was the writer of ‘Soulville’ and had recorded the OG. It turns out that the tune is credited in most places to Turner, Dinah Washington, (Roulette records owner) Morris Levy, and Henry Glover. I can’t say with certainty that Washington and Levy were fastened to the song so that they might share in the publishing, but my Spidey sense is pointing me in that direction. Either way, Washington made the first significant recording of the song.

PS Head over to Iron Leg for French seexteez ponk from Jacques Dutronc!!…

Friday Recycling: Frank Frost – My Back Scratcher

March 14, 2008

Example

Greetings all.

I was hoping to get something new up this Friday, but work is – to turn a phrase – kicking the crap out of me this week, so in the interest of maintaining my sanity, and finishing a hot new edition of Funky16Corners Radio for Monday, I’m keeping the interwebs green with a little bit of recycling.

Today’s tune was first posted almost a year ago, and it’s a smoker, so pull down the ones and zeros, gas up the jalopy and get your weekend on. There’s enough grease in these grooves to keep you sliding clear on until Monday.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you then.

Peace

Larry

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Mr. Frank Frost

Example

Listen – My Back Scratcher MP3″

Originally posted 4/07

Good evening.

This was going to be one of those nights, i.e. the kind where I’ve been thinking about getting a post up in this space all day long, and then the night happened.
Y’know? It turned into one of those clean out and move the old car, go out to dinner, put the toddler to bed things, where by the time I’m done it’s like 10:45 and I just as soon crash.
Then I took a look at my ‘to-be-blogged’ folder, and realized that I had some of that good, greasy stuff in the on-deck circle, and I perked right up.
The tune in question, is a sweet little burner by an old-school, hardcore Arkansas blueswailer, gee-tar slapper and all around righteous cat by the name of Frank Frost.
Frost dropped into the world in 1936, and by the time he was 20 he was working alongside the mighty Sonny Boy Williamson II aka Rice Miller , with whom he gigged off and on until he passed on (Sonny Boy that is) in 1965.
In the early 60’s Frost, along with his band the Night Hawks recorded a number of sides for Sam Phillips’ Phillips International Records. They gigged heavily through the decade, before landing at Jewel Records in 1966, where, with Scotty Moore running the board (yes, the same Scotty Moore that played guitar for Elvis) he recorded a single that was simultaneously one of the all time great answer/rip-off records, but an absolute juke joint burner as well entitled ‘My Back Scratcher’.
I first encountered this tune some years back when it appeared on one of the UK ‘Mod Jazz’ comps. Despite the fact that much of the music on those CDs wasn’t really jazz in any meaningful way, it was a great window into the deep and varied tastes of the OG UK Mods. Back in the early to mid 60’s, the Mods were digging a wild mix of records that were connected only by the fact that they were generally American, also generally – though not exclusively – by black artists, and were to the last perfect for the dance floor. These sounds ran the gamut from pure Chicago blues, driving R&B, soul, soul jazz, to Latin and Jamaican, and while they may have been gathered from a wide variety of sources, they all fed into the same basic vibe.
Now while you’re busy trying to wrap your brain around a dance floor culture that lauded Mark Murphy, Prince Buster and Frank Frost all equally (it’s really not that hard once you get the hang of it), download today’s selection, and as the hip cats say, dig it.
Close your eyes and hop into the Waybac Machine (sic)* Mr. Peabody, where you will soon find yourself in the back seat of one of those old school Lincolns with the suicide doors, speeding down some long forgotten slice of two-lane blacktop in the deep south of 1966.
Out of the darkness you spot a sliver of light, which grows brighter – and oddly enough louder – as you approach, until the car rolls up on a roadhouse with a tin roof and a big old Rockola juke, out of which is winding the strains of Mr. James Moore – known to his friends as the mighty Slim Harpo – whipping a little thing called ‘Baby Scratch My Back’ on the room. As several sweaty bottles of beer, and the warring vibratos of the swampy guitar and harp lay down a foundation for Slim’s bluesy drawl, the song winds to a close. Just then, some wiseacre sidles on up to the box, pops a nickel into the slot and hits the right combination of buttons, and all of a sudden your ears are gobbling up something new, yet strangely – and I do mean strangely – familiar.
The vibe in the room picks up just a little bit, and the folks who were just sweating away their Saturday night on a barstool are now moving onto the floor and working up an even bigger head of steam, day(night)dreaming of getting a little something just after last call, while you, still wondering how you got where you are, are digging a song that your brain keeps telling you might be called ‘Baby Scratch My Watermelon Man’, until you press your nose up against the glass and discover that the man responsible for turning up the heat is a certain Frank Frost, and the tune is ‘My Back Scratcher’. The groove is tightened up, and the harp burns a little hotter, and while you still dig Slim Harpo **–nothing will ever replace ’Raining In My Heart’ as your ‘I’ve had ten beers too many and I’m pining for my old girlfriend’ song – you need to get a copy of this one to keep things warm at home.
Then – of course – you wake up and remember that you couldn’t be further from the rural south, and you’ve got a nice, cold cubicle waiting for you. The cool thing is, that while you sit at your desk, surrounded by your fellow corporate veal, you get to have this song running through your head all day long.
Not bad, eh?
Peace
Larry

*Come on. I can’t be the only guy watching “Bullwinkle and Rocky” with his three-year-old, can I???

** Keep in mind that although there’s a Shreveport, LA address on that 45, Frost was not a Looziana homeboy of Slims, but was actually doing his recording in Tennessee (Memphis and Nashville)

Buy – Frank Frost – Harpin’ On It: The Complete Jewel Recordings – at Amazon.com

F16C Meets IL #3 – Every Little Bit Hurts

March 12, 2008

Example

Miss Brenda Holloway

Example

Example

Listen – Brenda Holloway – Every Little Bit Hurts “

Greetings all.

I hope the middle of the week finds you well, and well on your way to the weekend.
Today’s post is another chapter in self-collaboration (sounds vaguely immoral) between my two blogs, Funky16Corners and Iron Leg.
This time out, the “intersection” is rooted in a recent dig, wherein I swooped down on an unsuspecting antique store – where I was surprised to find a large quantity of vinyl (much of it Liberace and related) – and pretty much cleaned it out over the course of two days.
This is not to suggest that I hit the motherlode – there was a lot (a LOT) of garbage as well as some really poorly treated records there – but that I did get to do some serious digging, and in said dig managed to unearth a bunch of common stuff that I didn’t already have, as well as a couple of nicer things.
After I got my records home and started to explore via the turntable, I discovered two versions of an excellent song (by Brenda Holloway and the Spencer Davis Group), one of which I’m featuring here, and the other which has been simultaneously posted over at Iron Leg.
Brenda Holloway has been featured at Funky16Corners before, and in all likelihood will appear here again, as she was the possessor of a truly wonderful voice.
As an example of Motown performers of the 60s, Holloway is kind of an anomaly. Unlike the vast majority of the label’s acts, she hailed not from Detroit, but from California. She was discovered by Berry Gordy while performing at a radio industry convention in Los Angeles.
She had been recording, in groups, duos and as a backing vocalist for a number of local labels before signing with Motown in 1964. During her few years with the Motown organization she recorded two albums and several singles (all for the Tamla subsidiary) before leaving the recording industry at the end of the decade, due in large part to a feeling that she hadn’t been given the attention she deserved as an artist*.
The song we feature today, ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ takes Holloway another step further from the Motown machine as it was written by Ed Cobb, who is best known for writing and producing ‘Tainted Love’ for Gloria Jones, as well as numerous sides for the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband.
Holloway originally recorded ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ for the Del-Fi label in 1963. When she rerecorded it for Tamla in 1964 backing vocals were provided by her sister Patrice and the aforementioned Gloria Jones.
Holloway’s version of the tune opens with someone sawing at a string bass (listen closely as it’s kind of an incongruous sound) before settling into the flow of the tune. Holloway’s vocal is (as usual) outstanding, and the song, which would be covered numerous times, is one of my favorite soul ballads of the 60’s.
‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ went on to be a Top 20 hit in 1964, and Holloway went on to be the co-write and record ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ (later a huge hit for Blood Sweat & Tears) as well as opening for the Beatles on their 1965 US tour.
After parting ways with Motown, Holloway didn’t record as a solo artist until returning as a gospel singer in the 80’s.
That all said, I hope you dig the tune, and make sure to fall by Iron Leg for a taste of the Spencer Davis Group working the same song.
Peace
Larry

Remember to head over to Iron Leg for a cover of ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ by the Spencer Davis Group!

SEÑOR SOUL – Don’t Lay Your Funky Trip On Me

March 10, 2008

Example

Senor Soul

Example

Listen – Don’t Lay Your Funky Trip On Me – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope everyone had an excellent weekend, and that you’re all ready to slip into the groove, because the tune I have lined up for you today is guaranteed to move you in that direction, and if you’re already there (some of us like to hit the ground running) push you in even deeper.
Despite what some folks will tell you, it’s just impossible (without unlimited time and funds) to hit every corner of the soul/funk world. There are tons of records I’ve heard of – yet never actually heard – because they (the records) and I have never crossed paths while out digging (real world or “e”). Sometimes you kind of just have to choose your battles and actively chase some records, and hope that you’ll hit the rest of them eventually, the law of digging averages being what it is (something I referenced in the Richard’s People post last week).
One of those bands that sort of floated around in the ether, well inside my field of vision yet just outside my grasp, is SEÑOR SOUL. I saw their 45s and LP pop up on other folks wants/finds lists, and heard them via the blog-o-sphere, but it was only in the last six months that I finally bought one of their 45s, and as you’ll hear today, it’s a hot one.
The history of SEÑOR SOUL is a little sketchy. I’ve heard (though I have yet to see the link demonstrated convincingly) that there’s some connection to the Afro Blues Quintet. However, by the time they recorded ‘Don’t Lay Your Funky Trip On Me’ in 1969, they were pretty much War in every aspect but the name. A look at the writing credits on the 45 reveals Harold Brown, Howard Scott, B.B. Dickerson, Lonnie Jordan, Lee Oskar, and Chuck Miller, all of whom had been working as the backing band for football star Deacon Jones (as Nightshift) , and were about to rocket to fame providing the same service for Eric Burdon*.
As SEÑOR SOUL they recorded several 45s and an LP for the Double Shot label (Brenton Wood, Count Five, Kent & the Candidates) and that label’s Whiz subsidiary during 1968 and 1969 (just breaking into the R&B Top 40 in 1969 with a cover of ‘It’s Your Thing’).
The tune – ‘Don’t Lay Your Funky Trip On Me’ is a great amalgam of the sounds they had been working all through the 60’s, with equal parts soul, latin and the growing sound of funk coming together to great effect. The sound of SEÑOR SOUL is a little heavier on the Latin vibe than they would play as War, especially in the prominence of the piano, but once Lee Oskar drops in with that wailing harmonica solo, there’s no mistaking where they were headed.
It’s a killer record, especially when they get to the ‘Brother PLEASE!’ at the end of each chorus.
I hope you dig it.
See you on Wednesday.

Peace
Larry

PS Check out some prime, 1968 garage pop at Iron Leg

Friday Recycling: Little Richard – Nuki Suki

March 7, 2008

Example

Greetings all.

I hope everyone’s had a great week (so far anyway).

I’ve been watching the unfortunately shelved documentary ‘MC5: A True Testimonial’, which reminded me of this post from February of last year (in which I reference Messrs, Tyner, Smith, Kramer, Davis, and Thompson), which is one of my personal fave pieces that I’ve written for Funky16Corners. The fact that it deals with the mighty Little Richard is also cool (understatement…).

I hope you dig it, and that you all have a most excellent weekend.

Peace

Larry

Example

A WOMP BOMP A LU BOP A LOP BAM BOOM…

Example

Listen – Nuki Suki MP3″

Originally posted 2/4/07

Howdy

I hope everyone has had a nice relaxing weekend, filled with west and wewaxation.

Whether you spent a day in your smoking jacket, reclined on the settee with a good book and a snifter of brandy, or the night out, sweating up your best tee-shirt with an icy bottle of beer in your claws, I’m guessing you certainly deserved it – as do we all. This, opposed to the lot of the neckties of the world, who spent their weekend poring over spreadsheets and such, concocting new ways to endear themselves to the uber-bosses by thinking of methods to keep the rest of us down. This I suspect – whether they know it or not – will provide them with a lifetime of regrets, which they will savor in some cold, substandard “care facility” long after their children have forgotten them.
That’s what the weekend is all about. Avoiding that kind of future. The kind where all you have is regrets. I mean, when I’m 65 (or 70, or 90 if I’m really lucky) I’ll have lots of wonderful, non-spreadsheet related memories to keep me warm, as well as my wife, kids and (one hopes someday) grandkids, to whom I will bequeath the contents of my bookshelves and crates, which by that time will be seen by most as little more than arcana and the ephemera of a bygone age.
However, when the vast majority of the teenagers of the future (which by the way would make a wonderful band name and/or title for a 1950’s drive in flick) are doing the NuRobot to the strains of Zontar 2100 (or whatever they’re showing on Venusian MTV), my progeny will be the keepers of a wellspring of valuable cultural knowledge. Whether they use this knowledge for good or evil (I suspect that somewhere in the roots of my family tree yet to be there lurks the leader of some kind of soul 45-based mystery cult) is yet to be revealed. I am however sure of one thing…though they may walk the earth clad in tinfoil suits and six-foot platform boots, they will know who Little Richard was. I’ll make sure of that my friends.

Oh yes, I will.
Why?
Well I’d hope that if you were a regular visitor to the Funky16Corners blog you’d already know the answer to that particular question, but then again, maybe not.
Maybe you’re one of those people that can’t abide by the sounds of anything before a certain cut-off date and you see Little Richard as little more than a relic of bygone age, or even worse as that comical old queen in the bad wig yelling at Alf on the Hollywood Squares.
If that’s what you’re thinking my friend, well…you have another think coming.
Because…well…pay attention on account of I’m about to start testifying.
The 1950’s were the very heart of the atom age and while that usually brings to mind images of mushroom clouds aglow over the Nevada desert, it reminds me of another explosion entirely, that being the equally jarring arrival of a young Georgia dishwasher named Richard Penniman on the American scene.
I have often (usually every time I see a film clip of Little Richard) given much thought to what it must have been like to see him for the first time. How must it have felt to be a 13-year-old kid in ultra-white bread Republican middle America, the very heart of staid I-Like-Ike-ism, turning on the radio and hearing a record like ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’. A 45 that carried with it (aside from all manner of earth shattering cultural implications) a 50-megaton payload of ear bending, bone rattling, dare I say it LIFE CHANGING music, the likes of which – if not entirely unprecedented – had probably never been heard by most of the growing suburban world.
Imagine the kind of psychological/aesthetic tattoo hammered into countless listeners via the piano keys exploding under the flying fingers of Little Richard.
And then there’s that voice.
The history of rock’n’roll is littered with screamers of all types, but rarely (and I do mean rarely) has anyone taken the power of an honest to god scream, and endowed it with a controlled musicality the way Little Richard did, though I’m certain that the Moms and Dads of America didn’t see it that way. What they saw (when he finally flew into view on some TV variety show or other) was a creature so alien, so seemingly built from a grab bag of offensive elements (running the gamut from his blackness, aggression, sexual thrust and/or orientation, though more likely a combination of all of the above) that he quite literally blew their minds. It was as if some mad scientist had created in his mountaintop lair, with the assistance of lightning and a rogue atom or two – this was after all the 50’s – a monster engineered to cut a wide swath of offense through the white middle class status quo, creating in the process an army of zombie teens, each and every one overflowing with a newly fired libido, a bottle of fortified wine in one hand and a love letter to Chairman Mao in the other.
Popular culture of the 50’s and 60’s is rife with images of adult authority figures, eyes rolling back in their heads as they drop to the floor in a faint at the mere sight, sound or suggestion of rock’n’roll, but the only artist capable of causing those kinds of reactions (until his onetime employee and disciple Jimi Hendrix more than a decade later) was Little Richard.
That these people missed the irony of the situation shouldn’t be surprising. Mid-50’s America was like the idea of the boom-town played out on an unimaginably huge scale. This was a country bursting at the seams with both a surplus of ready cash, and an equally huge stockpile of repressed sexuality (buried under a foul smelling cloak of puritanical hypocrisy and denial that seems to have made an unwelcome return in our own lives and times) both of which they wasted no time in using. This was the age of gigantic, almost-priapic automobiles, and the explosion of Madison Avenue controlled electronic media. Everything in the culture, from the new consumerism right on through to nuclear paranoia was outsized and out of control. How anyone could have been surprised that an age with this much electric current running through it could spawn a being as awe inspiring as Little Richard is a testament to the equally strong current of denial and racial ugliness that existed in the background.
While the American cultural underground was filled to the brim with the products of cutting edge creativity and innovation, the Kerouacs, Coltranes, Monks, Warhols et al, that are often cited as the undercurrent that gave birth to the changes of the 1960’s, the art created by these people, in its time existed largely in the margins, as did those that were aware of these words and sounds.
Little Richard on the other hand was on the radio, TV, and in the movies and he wasn’t pulling any punches. He wasn’t “foreshadowing” anything. He WAS the 1960s ten years ahead of time. He was explosive and flamboyant (in all senses of the word) in a way that was still cutting edge when the 60’s became, in one of the great nostalgic clichés of our age – “a turbulent time”.
The world was filled with Pat Boone-y types, and here came Little Richard, with his conk piled high, his eyes blazing, teeth flashing, pencil thin moustache in stark contrast to a thick layer of pancake makeup, hammering away at his piano, screeching/preaching about a girl who “sure liked to ball” (how did they miss that???) and slamming up against the inside of Americas TV sets. His image grabbed the parents of the world by the collar and shook them violently, all the while screaming

Wake the fuck up Momma and Daddy ‘cuz I’m coming for your kids! WAAA-OOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! (Shut up!)”

It pays to stop for a second and take into consideration the jet propulsion that was present on so many of his best records. If you listen to a track like ‘Long Tall Sally’ or ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ it is immediately obvious that these slabs of wax acted as transmitters, taking the energy that Little Richard expended recording them and entering the listeners (not unlike the holy spirit of legend) causing all manner of ecstatic convulsions. They are still capable of doing the same thing 50 years hence.
How many poor kids got grounded and were forbidden to listen to (nay, think about listening to) Little Richard after their unsuspecting parents encountered him on TV? Probably the exact same number who were driven to defy such edicts, raid the liquor cabinet and slip their hands under their best girls sweater (or allow the boundaries of their sweaters to be breached). These were the kids that left home to go to college years later and ended up throwing bricks (real and symbolic) through the windows of the establishment.
Look at a band like the MC5 and it’s not hard to see that there is a direct line running from their sounds back to those of Little Richard despite the differences – real and imagined – between the two, I’m here to tell you that they were most certainly working the same side of the street, selling the same kind of salvation. As many times as I’ve listened to ‘Kick Out the Jams’, I’ve always wanted to believe that Rob Tyner, Brother Wayne Kramer and the rest of the Five were working their Mailer-esque “white negro” schtick (which would not have existed for them without John Sinclair and his White Panther-isms) with wholehearted sincerity, because they transmit an energy on that album that is redolent of a love of real rock’n’roll (especially Little Richard) that is 100% pure. The boys from Michigan may have been serving up their Tutti Frutti with a side of hand grenades and trans-love energy, but maybe that’s what was needed in 1968. I can’t really fault them for taking the implicit politics of the Little Richard sound and translating them into explicit connections to the un-realpolitik of the moment because the end result was so exciting. I’m not sure if Little Richard approved (or even knew who the MC5 were) but I’ve seen film of them on stage and they certainly seemed like his kind of people.
As it is, the spirit of Little Richard, a fiery cornerstone of rock’n’roll, didn’t get a whole lot of play in the days of the MC5, or in any time since.
The tragedy is that Little Richard (the man and the legend) fell victim less to the vagaries of the marketplace than to a veritable tidal wave of religious guilt that alternately fueled and doused his fire through the years. The devil on his left shoulder kept pushing him to break new ground (of all kinds, read his biography) while the tight-assed angel on the right repeatedly dragged him back, forcing him to throw his jewels overboard and thump a bible instead of a piano.
He spent much of the 60’s running back and forth from the sacred to the profane, stopping along the way to create some above average soul 45s (for Okeh, Brunswick and Reprise*) and watching his musical descendants become an unstoppable juggernaut. When you see the man on TV raving about how he “invented the Beatles” it pays to remember that he’s not too far off the mark.
By the early 70’s, the godfathers of rock’n’roll were prowling the stages of the world once again at the behest of their followers. I can hardly think of one of the greats, the Chuck Berrys, Bo Diddleys, Fats Dominos or Little Richards (even cats like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker) , that didn’t make an effort – to wildly varying levels of artistic success – to remain relevant.
Little Richard re-entered the studio in 1972 with a hand-picked crew of his old NOLA compadres (Earl Palmer, Bumps Blackwell, Lee Allen, George Davis) and some newer cats (Bill Hemmons – who wrote ‘Nuki Suki’ - and believe it or not the recently departed Sneaky Pete Kleinow) to make some music. The album that he made, ‘The Second Coming’ may not have been perfect, but it is evidence that Little Richard knew which side his bread was buttered on, and while clearly eager for 1972 style success, he didn’t screw with the basic elements of his sound too much.
That is with the marked exception of the lascivious – and funky – ‘Nuki Suki’. That’s Richard on the clavinet – and the shrieking, moaning and yelping (of course), on a record that in his 1950’s heyday would probably have changed hands only under the counter in a plain brown wrapper. By current standards it couldn’t be more harmless, and even in 1972, as America, in a haze, staggered along in their fringe vests, unaware of how bad a hangover was ahead, it wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow. And you can be sure, that he meant every word – all five or six of them – with a deep conviction that can only come in the mid-life of the man that Leon Russell once celebrated as the “Undiluted Queen of Rock’n’roll”.
As it is, it’s probably just a footnote in the history of Little Richard, but a funky footnote nonetheless (the kind of footnote we specialize in around here), with no discernable impact in comparison to a monster like ‘Long Tall Sally’, yet strangely reassuring when you see the man, in a star-spangled pant suit yukking it up on a game show panel. Dig it.

Peace
Larry

* ‘Nuki Suki’ was released as the b-side of a Reprise 45, but I don’t imagine all 5+ minutes made it onto the disc.

PS Another piece of evidence that I’m slowly losing my mind, as I rapped to you at the end of my last post about the Asbury 45 Sessions, I neglected to mention where this event would be held, which is the Asbury Lanes, in Asbury Park NJ, but a stones throw from the boards where Bruce Springsteen once donned the cap and bells (or leather jacket and sneakers) and walked beneath the Proscenium Arch (aka the boardwalk).


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