Happy New Year b/w Charlie Rich – Mohair Sam


Charlie Rich


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.

BUY – Feel Like Going Home – the Essential Charlie Rich at Amazon.com

11 Responses to “Happy New Year b/w Charlie Rich – Mohair Sam”

  1. Daz Says:

    Absolutely right, nothing wrong with Behind Closed Doors, but I was astonished to discover a blue-eyed soul man in an earlier guise. Feel Like Going Home is enough to move me to tears. There`s a rich (if you`ll excuse the pun) back -catalogue to listen to and enjoy.

  2. gerald Says:

    Charlie Rich was posted on the Reverend Tom Frosts ‘Spread The Good Word’ blog a few weeks (months) back with the tune ‘Midnight Blues’. A great song covered quite well by the Detroit Cobras recently.

    Thats what i love about you music specialists, linkin the music proper.
    Will take your advice, go search for some 1960’s recordings of Mr.Rich.

  3. Jim C. Says:

    Mohair Sam was the song Elvis had on his jukebox playing when he met the Beatles in 1965.

  4. roy simonds Says:

    Nuthin wrong with Charlie. Fact is, he was always a closet jazz player from a piano and songwriting viewpoint. So he has never been really pigeonholed till the Epic/Columbia years put him in a country framework to sell records. Going back further (then Im more than 15 years older than Larry!) his “Lonely Weekends” album on Phillips Intl – which has been reissued in various guises on the Sun reissue circuit – is full of surprises, with merely a nod in the direction of Sun rockabilly.

  5. James Graham Says:

    I have had Mohair Sam for several years and always enjoy listening and playing at dances. Thanks for the update.


  6. Jimmy M Says:

    I had never heard about that guy, Charlie Rich, as i’m clearly not into country music and i’m from france… but “mohair sam” is a great track and sounds like classic soul from the early sixties. Thanks a lot for the post. love your work

  7. Chris Knott Says:

    Great choice as usual, Larry! There are few artists who have captivated me as thoroughly as the great Charlie Rich. I remember he died on my birthday in ’95 I believe, and it truly saddened me at the time because unlike the Godfather of Soul, Rich died with only a fraction of the noteriety that he deseved, and he had recently delivered one of the great comback records in ‘Pictures and Paintings’. Anyway, thanks for giving the Silver Fox some exposure….for those uninitiated in the pleasures of Charlie Rich, dig deep and often, even his most polished commercial efforts yield some delicious fruit!


  8. Art(uro) Says:

    Great track–on par with Slim Harpo. I was first exposed to the Fox’s early years via a 1978 Sun LP called “Trio + W/Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins + Friends” (SUN-1018) that featured some early cuts from each, albiet with stereo overdubs. I always pick up Smash 45s even if I don’t know the artist or song. You never know what might pop up.

  9. chris Says:

    this has always been one of my favourite tracks to play at parties and dances along with stuff like “Pass the Hatchet” by your fave and mine Eddie Bo. By the way my other fave blue eyed soul tune by an old rocker form the Sun label is – Jerry Lee Lewis “Rambling Rose ” (better known as covered by the MC5) – but Jerry is just as funky as Rich here if a bit more laid back in tempo and sleazy! after years of keeping an eye out I scored a twofer from Charlies Smash period on a vinyl reissue a while back – got some great kind of moody Northern soul stuff on there – lovely!

  10. Ron Brackney Says:

    Charlie Rich is my favorite singer (I have posted reviews of a number of his
    albums on Amazon). “The Complete Smash Sessions” CD is a must – in the liner notes critic Dave Marsh says “I slipped needle into groove and entered a new world.” Don’t overlook “I Can’t Go On” of which critic Peter Guralnick said “sets the album apart from anything he has done previously, as all the elements coalesce – distinctive composition, sophisticated musicianship, a tight constricted vocal, that deep emotional committment – to generate a sense of despair which is disturbingly at odds with the prosaic quality of the words.” This song was the follow-up to “Mohair Sam” and it stiffed. Guralnick continues – “It is a mistake that still haunts him today… “It was a complete change of pace…I don’t know. They just weren’t ready for it, I guess,” Rich says. This from the liner notes of “Fully Realized” LP, Mercury/Phonogram, 1974 (contains the two Smash albums) and also published in “Rolling Stone” Magazine. Another song is “Down and Out” – a great rocker, also “The Best Years” a bitter lament and “You Can Have Her” (Guralnick says Charlie’s version of this country/soul standard “cuts any version I’ve heard).” Charlie Rich was a jazz pianist blessed with a great voice and a loner personality which enabled him to convey great emotion in his music. Delve into his whole catalog and you will be continually rewarded. The song that I first heard and hooked me was “You Never Really Wanted Me” from the “Behind Closed Doors” album. Check it out and also “The Complete on Hi Records” CD for some great soul such as “I’ll Shed No Tears” and compelling versions of some Hank Williams tunes.

  11. Ron Brackney Says:

    Just as an informational point, for those seeking Sun Records tracks,
    Bear Family Records issued a box set of 3 CDs (95 tracks) in 1998 and
    was on Amazon last time I looked. Includes originals, previously unreleased originals (though there are still some not issued here), alternate takes and demos. Also included is an excellent 12″x12″ 44 page book by Hank Davis on Charlie’s entire career with commentary by his Sun contemporaries which is very frank and interesting. Also includes his Sun discography with dates and studios plus commentary on many of the tracks.
    Title: “Charlie Rich: Lonely Weekends: The Sun Years 1958-1962”

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