J.C. Heard – J.C.’s Grit Gitter

Example

J.C. Heard (left) with his trio

Example

Listen – J.C. Heard – J.C.’s Grit Gitter – MP3″

Greetings all.

Happy Wednesday.
The tune I bring you today is a great example of a puzzle piece that once fitted into the larger picture, instead of bringing things into focus, serves only to make things more complicated.
The story begins a number of years ago when I picked up a 45 on the storied Harrisburg, PA soul label Soulville. The record in question, ‘Grit Gitter’ by a cat named Cha Cha Hogan was a very cool bit of piano funk (which can be heard in Funky16Corners Radio v.2 – Sookie). If memory serves I found my way to ‘Grit Gitter’ via the expert counsel of my good friend Haim, a man whose sage counsel has led to to many a great record.
I really dug the side but for a while was unable to discover anything about Hogan. Shortly after scoring the 45 I found out that ‘Grit Gitter’, while released on Soulville was not in fact a Harrisburg-based side, having originated elsewhere (though I did not know where).
I posted the 45 on what was then the Funky16Corners web zine, and after a few months I got an e-mail from one of Cha Cha Hogan’s children indicating that he had been based in Detroit when ‘Grit Gitter’ was recorded and later went on to play in Las Vegas. This was an intriguing development, but since I was unable to locate any other info, I was at yet another dead end.
Then, proving once again that this is a truly weird world we live in, I’m lounging around one night, channel surfing and I catch the end of an episode of ‘Sanford and Son’ and who’s name should appear in the credits as a guest star?
Cha Cha Hogan.
Huh?
Off I go to IMDB and discover that Mr. Hogan’s acting resume had exactly two entries, both being episodes of ‘Sanford and Son’, once as ‘old man’ and another time as ‘heckler’*. Intriguing to be sure, but this discovery did nothing to flesh out the story.
Since that day the only other clue I’ve discovered to the Cha Cha Hogan puzzle is that he once recorded a comedy album for the Laff label, home to a wide variety of ‘adult’ comedy albums, many featuring ‘Chittlin Circuit’ talents like Jimmy Lynch, Mantan Moreland and – bringing the ‘Sanford and Son’ connection full circle, Redd Foxx and LaWanda Page.
So, while my fevered brain is littered with Cha Cha Hogan trivia, I can’t tell you a whole lot about him.
Flash forward to earlier this year, and I’m patrolling the interwebs in my pith helmet and jodhpurs (look it up) in search of big game, and I happen upon a record with the very interesting title of ‘J.C.’s Grit Gitter’ on the Detroit label Sir-Rah. As luck would have it, there was a sound file on the auction which revealed that ‘J.C.’s Grit Gitter’ by J.C. Heard was – if not the same recording – the same song as the record by Cha Cha Hogan. A la Captain Spaulding I immediately loaded my elephant gun and whipped some lucre in the direction of the 45 and eventually (without too much of a struggle) bagged the beast and brought it home to stuff and hang in my trophy room.
A few weeks pass and eventually my friendly mail carrier drops the record through yon mail slot, after which I promptly drop it on the turntable to discover that ‘J.C.’s Grit Gitter’ did in fact employ the same backing track as the Hogan 45, adding a vocal to the mix.
As I said before, the addition of the J.C. Heard record didn’t do anything to solve this particular puzzle. All the info on the label did was confirm what I already knew, that being that ‘Grit Gitter’ was most definitely a Detroit record, bearing the name of Funk Brother Jack Ashford in the writing credits (with a few other names included on the two 45s, with Ashford’s being the only common link).
Things got even more interesting when I started looking for information on J.C. Heard.
When I got the record I thought that the name rang a bell, but I couldn’t remember why. Then I started to tip-toe through Google and discovered why.
J.C. (James Charles) Heard was one of the great journeyman jazz drummers of the 40’s and 50’s having played and recorded with Teddy Wilson, Coleman Hawkins, Cab Calloway and many, many others during his long career. He moved to Japan in the mid-50’s where he spent some time working as a singer and drummer, eventually moving back to the US by the end of the decade.
By the mid 60’s J.C. Heard relocated to Detroit where he spent the rest of his life.
How J.C. Heard ended up doing the vocals (and maybe the drums) on ‘J.C.’s Grit Gitter’ is a complete mystery. I also have no idea which record – Heard’s or Hogan’s came first – and if Hogan was indeed the pianist on the Heard date (though since the backing tracks are the same I’ll go ahead and make the assumption that he was).
J.C. Heard – who had to be close to 50 when the record was made – was by no means the first musician of his generation to work the soulful side of the street, with contemporaries like Lionel Hampton, Bill Doggett and Louis Jordan all recording around the same time.
As far as I can tell he didn’t do anything else along the lines of ‘J.C.’s Grit Gitter’ and if anyone knows different (or has anything else to add) I’d love to hear from you. J.C. Heard passed away in 1988.
I hope you dig the tune.
Peace
Larry

*Interestingly enough one of the episodes with Hogan also features a cameo by Timmie Rogers, aka Clark Dark, aka Super Soul Brother

PSS Head over to Iron Leg for a new edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast.

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10 Responses to “J.C. Heard – J.C.’s Grit Gitter”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Great story, man! Thanks as always.

  2. William S Johnson Says:

    Thanks for the JC Heard Grit Gitter, I had never heard that before, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing JC here in D-Town, He and my uncle Charlie (Charlie Gabriel) recorded an album together, seems i had one of UNK”S master tapes around here and he told me JC was singing and playing drums on it, So i gave it to him and they had a Cd made of it, Give Me your address and unk said i can send you a copy.

  3. D.J.P. Says:

    FYI –

    ‘Show and Tell’ singer Al Wilson dies at 68
    The Monterey County Herald
    Article Last Updated: 04/25/2008 01:39:12 AM PDT

    FONTANA (AP) — Al Wilson, a soul singer and songwriter who had a number of 1970s hits, including “Show and Tell,” died Monday. He was 68.
    Wilson died of kidney failure at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana, said his son, Tony Wilson.

    The elder Wilson was born June 19, 1939, in Meridian, Miss. He sang in the church choir as a boy and had his own spiritual singing quartet. His family moved to San Bernardino in 1958 and he found work as a mail carrier, office clerk and janitor.

    In 1966, he was spotted by manager Marc Gordon, who introduced him to singer Johnny Rivers, who signed him to his Soul City label. Wilson’s first single, “The Snake” in 1968, was a hit and was followed by “Do What You Gotta Do.”

    “Show and Tell” was released in 1973 and the next year was No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.

    Wilson reached the charts with several other 1970s singles, including “La La Peace Song,” “I’ve Got a Feeling (We’ll Be Seeing Each Other Again)” and “Count the Days.”

    In later years, he continued to tour clubs in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

  4. The Pyrex Scholar Says:

    nice!

    http://apyrexscholar.blogspot.com/

  5. Davie Gordon Says:

    Hi Larry,

    The Sir-Rah single came first – issued around February ’68 going by the
    matrix number. The Soulville single’s from around 1970.

    I can’t quite make out the full writer credits – is that “E. Lemon” ?

    Anyway, Just Productions (Jack Ashford and Lorraine Chandler)
    had dealings with another Harrisburg label, Jay Walking ( home of
    The Continental Four), – they leased or sold them two singles by Ray
    Gant and The Arabian Knights and another single by Eddie Parker.
    Soulville ws somehow connected to Jay Walking – how exactly I’m not sure – I suspect what happened was that Soulville went through
    Jack and Lorraine’s tapes heard the backing track for “Grit Gitter”
    and decided to issue the backing track.

    If that is “E. Lemon” in the Sir-Rah writing credits it may well be that
    he’s the guy who got all the parties together as there’s a Eugene
    Lemon who gets a co-writer credit on “Day By day” by the
    Continental Four.

    I wouldn’t take any of this as gospel – it’s just theorising from the
    info. I do have.

    There’s one other J.C. Heard record I know of but haven’t heard
    – a single on Chess subsidiary Argo “Blues For Sale” / “For You My Love”
    (Argo 5308) issued in 1958.

    Thanks for the info. on Cha Cha Hogan – it’s a helluva lot more than I knew about him fifteen minutes ago.

  6. funky16corners Says:

    Davie
    Wow! Thanks for the info. Something you said – about Soulville picking up the backing track – adds yet another wrinkle to the story. The flip of the Cha Cha Hogan 45 is a bluesy vocal, which makes me wonder if that was his only contribution to the record, with the piano being someone like Earl Van Dyke (since I’ve never seen any indication that Hogan was a piano player.??
    Larry

  7. Davie Gordon Says:

    The other side of the Cha Cha Hogan disc is in fact the A-side.

    Maybe Soulville just had the one vocal by him and stuck on the backing track of “Grit Gitter” as a throway b-side little suspecting that
    this would eventually come under the beady eyes of vinyl nuts.

    I’ve no idea if Cha Cha Hogan played piano but Earl Van Dyke
    seems a more likely suspect.

    That Argo no. for J.C.Heard’s earlier record should be 5308
    – I’m not sure whre the smiley came from :)

    Davie

  8. funky16corners Says:

    Davie
    The whole thing’s coming into focus now. If Hogan had nothing to do with the instro my assumption would be that the band is probably one of the many conglomerations of various and sundry Detroit session heads. It never occurred to me that ‘Grit Gitter’ was in fact the b-side.
    Thanks again for your contribution.
    L

    PS WordPress automatically turns the combo of the numeral 8 and the close-parentheses into a smiley. It’s happened to me a couple of times.

  9. Todd Lucas Says:

    Very interesting stuff. I have the Cha Cha Hogan single but had never seen the J.C. Heard. I’m pretty sure that Soulville and Jay-Walking were sister labels. There was a CD compilation of stuff from the two labels issued a few years back by (I think) Get Hip.

  10. Tisha Says:

    Cha-Cha Hogan is my grandfather on my mother’s side…. if you’d like more information on him you’re welcomed to email me and I can ask my mother who is his daughter. He died in 1986 in Las Vegas, but I remember him vividly. He’s a great guy, and yes Redd Foxx was a good friend of his who we got to know very well before his death. Thanks for mentioning Cha-Cha, my granddaddy. He was great.

    Tisha

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