“Listen – Mohair Sam MP3″
I promised I’d get something else up in this space before New Years Eve, and so here I sit, typing away a sunny (if chilly) Saturday afternoon.
All the conniption that arose out of the untimely and tragic passing of the Godfather of Soul* derailed the scheduled list’o’tunes that I had previously digitized and uploaded for use in yon blogspot. Today’s return to form should get things back on track (at least momentarily) .
This has been a strange week. Losing James Brown was really something of a shock. Certainly not in that he was way too young to pass, nor did he lead a life of church and skim milk (the kind of lifestyle engineered to keep one out of the reach of several – if not all – of the famous deadly sins). It was just that he seemed to be immortal. There’s no question that his power had diminished somewhat over the years, and that time had not been especially kind, but every time JB popped up on TV there was no denying that he carried with him a bright aura** composed of every sweat-soaked split, shimmy, jump and shout that carried him like a rocket through the 60’s and 70’s.
I was also surprised that every single televised obit/retrospective that’s I’ve seen since Christmas seems to have been put together by people that were unaware that JB had a career in the 60’s and 70’s. Most of the performance footage I saw was culled from his later years. Is it that film of James and the Famous Flames (or JB’s) were too powerful for modern, non-tube, cool-running transistorized, micro-chip-a-fied equipment, blowing the engineers hair through his hat in much the same way as the all-powerful vibe put forth once upon a time by the International Silver String Submarine Band (emphasis, in the McFarland stylee placed firmly on the last syllable)? I can’t say for sure, but those of you that don’t know – and if you don’t, you should, really – you need only go as far as YouTube, where there are MANY clips available of the Godfather and his compadres laying it dead on the super heavy funk, and I just know, if you visit here with any regularity, you are certainly strong enough to take whatever heavy-osity that one might encounter in such a situation.
Anyway, in an effort to clear my head, and get back into the groove I took my almost-three-year-old son Miles down to the beach for a walk, which we both dug. I had my coffee, he had his apple juice and together we walked the boards checking out the surfers, fishermen (and women) and had some fun at the all but deserted playground. If you’re suitably bundled, the seashore in wintertime is one of the most beautiful places in the world and there’s no better place to screw your head back onto your shoulders.
That all said, while I was flipping through the list of tunes I had ready, I figured I’d throw you a little bit of a curve-ball and drop a cut by a dude that hardly anyone but the most open minded would expect to see on what is ostensibly a soul and funk blog. But that’s how we swing here at the Funky16Corners, and I expect so do some of you, from the listener-oonis to the collector-inis and all the MacVoutys inbetween (props to Slim Gaillard, natch).
For those of you in and around my age (that would be the early-to-mid 40’s) the name Charlie Rich conjures up images of the mid-70’s country-politan vibe at it’s apex, with the strains of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ wafting through the recesses of your memory. However, if you dig (in either the literal or figurative senses – hopefully both) you’d be hip to the fact that Mr. Rich was one of the OG Sun rockabilly cats, and spent much of the 60’s defying classification, a distinction that kept him away from the charts of much of the time.
Rich was a stone whitey – much like your Dan Penns, Spooner Oldhams and many of the other cats riding the circuit between Memphis and Muscle Shoals – that had his ear attuned to the sounds of rhythm and blues, and managed to record everything from rock’n’roll, to blues, to country to soul (often all mashed together in a unique admixture).
One of the finest examples of this blend, and one of the few times Rich grazed the Top 40, is 1965’s ‘Mohair Sam’ (the flipside of which, ‘I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water’ is also a killer).
‘Mohair Sam’ was written by Dallas Frazier, a Nashville cat who also wrote ‘Elvira’ (later a huge hit for the Oak Ridge Boys), and ‘There Goes My Everything’ which was recorded many times but hit the biggest for Englebert Humperdink.
Strangely enough, the first time I ever heard ‘Mohair Sam’ was via the rendition by the mighty Slim Harpo (for years I assumed that he had originated the tune). It was covered many times, by artists like the Coasters, Tom Jones, Peggy Lee, Mickey Gilley and even UK Freakbeaters the Episode Six.
Anyhoo, our pal Charlie, possessed of a buttery smooth voice and piano chops (I grew up listening to my Pops tickling the ivories and I love me some rocking piano, from Amos Milburn and Little Richard on up through Leon Russell) lays it down into a groove suitable for the dancers (and the hand clappers, head nodders et al) with style and grace and, get ready…soul. That’s right kids. He may have been working on a stylistic island hundreds (thousands?) of miles from Wilson Pickett-land, but the Silver Fox had him some soul and it’s on display in ‘Mohair Sam’.
If you agree, I’d suggest you start looking for some of Rich’s mid-60’s Smash material. It’s pretty cheap and groovy as well. If you don’t dig it, that’s cool too, and there’s always something new coming up on the juke here at Funky16Corners, and I suspect that some of the stuff you’ll be hearing in the coming weeks will satisfy you.
Either way, have a Happy New Year. Stay safe and soulful.
See you in ought-seven….
* Thanks to all who had kind words to say about my JB essay, and especially to those that linked us up, boosting the traffic hereabouts to new heights.
** When I use the term “aura”, rest assured that it is in the figurative sense only, free of any scented candle new age-ery.