A Soulful Stitch In Time
“Listen -Roosevelt Grier – Slow Drag- MP3″
I hope the dawning of a new week finds you well, and ready to groove to a selection by one of the stars of ‘The Thing With Two Heads’.
No, it’s not the great lost soul record by Ray Milland.
What it is, is one of the better recorded outings by the great Roosevelt Grier.
Back in the day, when I was but a tot, Rosie Grier was all over the place. Even then I think I knew he was once a football player (one of the NY Giants line known – for good reason – as ‘The Fearsome Foursome’). However, by the time he popped up on my radar he was first and foremost, “the big dude who did needlepoint”, and a cat who showed up with some regularity as a guest star on sitcoms, TV dramas and as a panelist on game shows. It wasn’t until many (MANY) years later, when my search for soul led me through the thorny expanse known as Northern Soul that I would discover that Mr. Grier, this renaissance man of sports and entertainment had also had a career as a vocalist.
Between the late 50s and the mid-70s Grier recorded fairly regularly for a number of labels including RIK, Liberty, MGM, and Amy. Amongst collectors of rare soul – especially the Northern types – his most requested biscuits are the 1966 raver ‘Pizza Pie Man’ on D-Town (trading in and around the 100 dollar mark) and his modern soul effort ‘Beautiful People’ (A&M 1973) which has sold for twice that much. Other than seeing his records turn up on want lists, I can’t say that I was too familiar with this end of his career.
That being said, that awareness lodged itself in the record collecting lobe of my brain, enough so that when I see a Rosie Grier 45 in the field, I pull it out and give it a spin. Such was the case a few months back when I came across this record while out digging with my man DJ Prestige.
I pulled this 45 out of a box and was instantly struck by the possibility that I would soon be causing some desperate English-person to part with his or her hard earned pounds sterling.
Needless to say, when I got home and hit the interwebs I immediately discovered that the Rosie Grier 45 that I found was not one of THE Rosie Grier 45s that people spend money for.
However this worked out in my favor, because any lack of rarity on the part of this particular 45 is more than compensated for in pure, soulful quality.
One of the first things I noticed when scanning the label, was that ‘Slow Drag’ b/w ‘Yesterday’ was clearly recorded in Memphis (always a good thing). I was expecting some kind of upbeat, danceable sound, but what I got was – as you’ll soon hear – something entirely different.
I won’t tell you that ‘Slow Drag’ isn’t danceable, on account of it is, but (big but here) the kind of dancing you’ll be doing while listening to it is not the kind of spinning on the talc, leaping in the air Wigan Casino stuff, but rather the sweaty, South of the Mason Dixon, roadhouse jukebox grind that may (on a good night) end up continuing to the squeaking rhythm of bedsprings.
That’s right friends…What Rosie went and did was hook himself up with the American Studios session crew in Memphis, got himself all sweaty and covered in Mississippi mud and laid it on down. The best thing about ‘Slow Drag’ (in addition to Rosie’s surprisingly good vocal) is that slow, sludgy organ riff running in the background that verily screams SOUL. What we have here is a very solid bit of mid-60’s Memphis soul that wouldn’t sound out of place in a collection of Goldwax sides. I suspect that it’s also not the only time he went to Memphis to record, since he has a side a few years later on the AGP label.
All that, and the fact that the flip side (featured in the pledge week mix) is a great deep soul cover of the Beatles ‘Yesterday’.
So dig it.
PS The next edition of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions are this coming Friday, July 18th at the World Famous Asbury Lanes. It would behoove those among you that profess a love for soul, funk, breaks and the like to fall by and make the scene.