Otis Redding & Carl Thomas – Tramp




& Queen


Listen – Tramp MP3″

Greetings all.

Here’s hoping that everyone had an outstanding weekend (the kind where you manage to stay out of jail, etc…) and that the idea of returning to work for another week of indentured servitude – or the 21st Century equivalent – hasn’t got you biting your nails to the quick, pulling your hair out in chunks or some such other self damaging nervous response (no matter how appropriate) to having to work for a living.
For those of us in the Funky16Corners household, the weekend was long (not in a good way), tiring, cold etc, much like I imagine it was for just about everyone else. The short list of things that deserve celebration include the fact that my family has arrived back home from a visit with the in-laws (wonderful people who just happen to live many hours away), I finished an excellent book (starting yet another almost immediately), and I finally gave in and joined the world of the laptopped.
You can expect to see me glomming up the local wi-fi hotspots (though it seems that you can now stride onto the interwebs wirelessly not only at the $5.00 a cup coffee spots but also at the local, low budget artery clogging superstore (that being McDonalds) as well. Not being a big fan of greasy, non-nourishing crap, I’ll probably opt for the rich mans java and scones (though it’s a lot more likely I’ll be doing most of my cyberspacing from the dining room table, with a cup of delicious, cheap, homebrew).
If you find any weird typing mistakes – aside from my normal “stylistic” syntax abuse – you can attribute it to the fact that I still haven’t gotten used to the laptop keypad, which bedevils me and my oversize mitts. Every time I reach for the space bar, I send the cursor veering wildly around the screen as I am also brushing against the touchpad, the directional keys and the various wires sprouting from every side of the laptop.
Vive le technologie!!
Anyhoo, I don’t supposed you clicked by to hear me rhapsodize about the new acquisition, so I guess I better get down to brass tacks – or some such – and start rapping about something musical.
This time out, I had to decide between a couple of longtime faves – as I usually do – so I basically flipped a figurative coin and decided on ‘Tramp’ by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas.
Now yesterday, while I was waiting for the wife and kids to arrive home I decided to pop in one of my favorite concert films of all time, that being ‘Monterey Pop’, and listen to the commentary track which featured D.A. Pennebaker (the filmmaker) and Lou Adler (one of the co-producers of the original event). There were only a couple of minor insider revelations, but it was worth it to hear the reminiscences of those two, especially since they approached the festival from two completely different perspectives.
The highlight of the film was of course the performance of Otis Redding, backed by Booker T & the MGs and the Barkays. Some time ago – in the early stages of the Funky16Corners Blog (probably back in the Blogger days) I related the story of the record that turned me into a certifiable soul fan, that being the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey Pop. The b-side of that LP was the entire Otis Redding set, and I don’t think I’d be breaking any new ground by telling you that it is one of the truly great live soul recordings of all time. Absolute dynamite from beginning to end, putting Redding’s tragic death but a few months later into stark perspective for the earth-shaking tragedy it was. The day I finally flipped that disc over and gave the Redding set a listen was one of those “Road to Damascus” moments for me, in which my musical life – which was already fairly rich and somewhat advanced even at 16 (thanks entirely to my father) – was forever changed. It was a mind-blower and a record that I would re-listen to countless times over the next few years (playing it for many a friend).
In many ways, I feel about Otis Redding the way I feel about James Brown, Miles Davis or John Coltrane. He was a giant, possessed of a rare talent. Unlike most of those other artists, Redding had only about six years of recording to get his message across, passing into the void just as he was about to cross over to a much larger audience (of which he was certainly deserving). I’m not ashamed to say that every time I watch Otis lay into ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ in ‘Monterey Pop’ I am quite literally moved to tears. This has little to do with the idea of his early death, and everything to do with the tangible feeling of pure soul (in all of its permutations – big and little ‘S’) and the tidal wave of emotion that he was able to express. Redding’s dynamic range as a vocalist, abetted by the musicians behind him at Monterey delivers – in ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ – an example of absolute soul perfection (one of many that he left behind).
If Otis was the king of Stax, Carla Thomas – daughter of the mighty Rufus, he of the dog walking, funky chickens etc) was, if not the queen (the title she was given on her duets LP with Redding – certainly the princess. I have no idea how they came to lay down a cover of Lowell Fulsom’s ‘Tramp’ (though God knows that it was covered, legitimately and otherwise countless times, more on that in a minute).
The record – which is a killer, among the finest to come out on the Stax imprint – opens up with some of that good, whomping Al Jackson drum action (heavy on the bass garcon, don’t skimp on the boomp-a-chock-chock-boomp…) with Carla dropping by to lay into the sartorial elegance (or lack thereof) of Mr. Redding, including the fact that he’s “country” i.e. “straight from the Georgia woods”, to which Otis replies, firmly, ‘That’s good!” (and it was….).
This goes on for several verses, with Otis holding his own, clearly having convinced himself (and trying to convince Carla) that although he hasn’t got Continental clothes, or a fat bank roll, he is a lover (as was his mama, papa and on up the family tree) and that’s all that really matters.
It’s a funny record, with solid helping of that mid-60’s Stax proto funk, that being the vibe in which the song may not be identifiable by the basement dwelling crate diggers of the world as “funk” (“Worst breakbeat EVER!!!), but it is most certainly funky, and that’s good enough for me brother.
I made reference a few lines back about the outbreak or ‘Tramp’ covers (outright and surreptitious), and the Otis and Carla version was clearly the blueprint (template) from which perhaps the greatest ‘Tramp’ rip-off of all time was created. I speak of ‘Champ’ by the Mohawks, which lifts the Stax horn riffs lock stock and barrel, creating a version of the song (a cover in everything but name) that replaces Otis and Carla with Alan Hawkshaw’s Hammond. In most cases this would be a very poor substitute indeed, but strangely enough it works on the Mohawks 45, a disc released in several countries and forever since a favorite of Hammond hounds, beat lovers and makers (and lovemakers), and the record collectorati. If you are not in possession of a copy (and you should), start digging, or pick up one of the comps in which it is featured.
As for the Otis and Carla (my apologies for the crackles), all of that stuff has been reissued and is completely essential. Get a little Memphis in your life buddy.

Buy – Otis & Carla – King & Queen – at Amazon.com


13 Responses to “Otis Redding & Carl Thomas – Tramp”

  1. goodheads Says:

    Pure 100% classic. Champ by the Mohawks is well worth a listen too. Quality post.

  2. Koolstup Says:

    That Al Jackson Jr. beat. The rest is just a bonus. As far as the Mohawks version – take a listen to the intro of “True True True” by U-Roy for a facsimilie of the organ riff – but which came first???

  3. Jeff Says:

    Apologies for the crackles? Not necessary, ever. That’s what lends authenticity. Thank you as always for a super job, Larry.

  4. thisistomorrow Says:

    great post as always with lots of info…
    ace records released an instrumental version of the song on a compilation called stax breaks in 2003…
    the compilation features lots of other breaks, samples used by wu tang clan, chemical brothers, de la soul…

  5. ek Says:

    Minor quibble: The horns with Otis at Monterrey Pop were the Mar-Keys, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, later known as the Memphis Horns. The Bar-Kays, as you know, were an entirely separate, full band — all but one of whom perished with Otis in the crash.

    Also, check out the “Tramp” backing track, without the vocals, available on the “StaxBreaks” CD from Ace (CDSXD 137).

    Always enjoy the Funky16Corners.

  6. Art(uro) Says:

    This track is always on my playlist and Calra’s sharp tounge usually moves me into playing an hour long ‘queens of soul’ set. I always felt that the Turtles had paid ‘tribute’ to this song on their (sarcastic) ’68 organ grinder, “Buzz Saw.”

  7. sly Says:

    This is an excellent track, and one of the funkier Otis Redding tracks that I’ve heard… too bad I thought that the rest of the “king and queen” album was some of his worst work, based one the 7 or so albums of his that I own. Of course, it’s all a matter of opinion.

  8. Dave J. Says:

    Redding’s fellow namesake, Johnny Otis, also pulls a serious soul spin on this on his “Country Girl” track from the Cool Shot! LP and carries a similar back and forth lyrical jive but with a more predominantly testosterone-fuelled twist. Real fun tune & comes highly recommended for everyone who digs this one so generously hosted– absolutely drools sleazy funk and carries some seriously snakey licks, topped off with some hilariously lusty lyrics.

  9. strbt Says:

    iv heard 1. Lowell Fulson – [Super Breaks #09] Tramp but it wasnt as good as the one posted. : D thank you so much

  10. dollar_bin Says:

    One of my top 10 45s of all time.

  11. dollar_bin Says:

    shoot, they won’t let me post html, I made an Otis and Carla graemlin some time ago:

  12. James Kilpatrick Says:

    Had this record when I was younger – bought second-hand at a flea market. Good stuff!

  13. Mingma Says:

    Have been trying to trace the Mohawks version of Tramp for ages not knowing what it was called or who had recorded it. So thanks to you I now know – its an awesome track – it reminds me of Friday nights at ‘Locomotion’ at the Town and Country club in North London…
    Thanks so much!

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