Earl Nelson aka Jackie Lee
“Listen – Jackie Lee – The Shotgun and the Duck – MP3″
The Labor Day weekend has been a slow and relaxing one. The youngest Corner had a virus, so we weren’t doing much traveling, so we just kind of took it easy, reading, writing, digimatizing and watching a couple of movies.
I’m just happy that by the middle of the week most of the tourists that make our summers a traffic hell will be long gone and we’ll still have a month of summer weather, and above all, peace and quiet.
Last week, after I already had the new edition of Funky16Corners Radio on the schedule, Gabe over at Second Line Social sent along the news that the great Earl Nelson (aka Jackie Lee) had passed away at the end of July. This was ironic since earlier in the week I’d featured one of my faves – and one of the all time great soul 45s – ‘Harlem Shuffle’ by Bob & Earl (Earl being Earl Nelson).
As has been covered here several times before, Earl Nelson had a long and varied career with the Hollywood Flames, Bob & Earl, solo as Jackie Lee and even more pseudonymously as Earl Cosby and Chip Nelson (?!?!?).
As Jackie Lee, he laid down some very solid soul and funk sides, among those ‘African Boogaloo’, ‘The Chicken’, ‘The Duck’ and today’s selection ‘The Shotgun & the Duck’.
Not only is ‘The Shotgun & the Duck’ a stellar example of one of my favorite soulful micro-genres. The “double dance craze record” (see ‘Shout and Do the Duck’ by Larry Hale, and the Fantastic Johnny C’s two-sider ‘Let’s Do It Together’ – biting Eddie Bo’s ‘Hook & Sling’ – b/w ‘Peace Treaty’ working the Electric Indian’s ‘Kee-Mo-Sabe’), but it’s also an absolute dance floor stormer.
I remember some years ago, when I was first aware – as it is – of the Northern Soul phenomenon, which much like the thousand petals of the lotus is ever unfolding, revealing its never ending complexity gradually, I picked up what I thought was a reissue of one of the seemingly thousands of obscure (and amazing) Northern faves. When this disc finally made its way through the mail slot and onto the turntable, it was revealed not to be what I thought I was, but rather a modern “recreation” of the sound, slapped together by someone that should have known better.
It was terrible.
But…it served as a great lesson in the difference between the real thing and a pale, miserable imitation. This record took many of the conventions of Northern Soul, pounding four on the floor beat, bright pop hooks, vibes and baritone sax accents, and most importantly, repeated use of those tight snare rolls that opened countless Detroit records in the 60’s. What it didn’t have, was soul.
It was as if someone disassembled Northern Soul and handed the pieces to someone who had never heard the music and had that person put them back together again.
I only mention this because ‘Shotgun & the Duck’ is the real thing, i.e. a powerful soul record with a relentless beat, bright vibe/xylophone accents and a solid vocal by Jackie Lee. It’s the kind of record, that were you given the unenviable task of spinning for a roomful of dullards, you could slap it on and even the most reluctant soulie would be up out of his/her seat, jumping and spinning in the talc.
That Earl Nelson (under his own name or as Jackie Lee) was able to capture that energy on seven inches of vinyl – not once but several times – is a mighty legacy and a fitting epitaph for a man who contributed so much to the music we love.
I hope you dig it.