Bob & Earl
“Listen – Bob & Earl – Harlem Shuffle – MP3″
UPDATE: Gabe from Second Line Social passed along a link to the obit of the versatile Earl Nelson, who passed away last week.
Last week was long and stressful (for me anyway), so I figured I owed it to myself and anyone that reads the blog to start the new week with a cathartic bang.
Said bang is one of the greatest of all soul 45s, a disc that carries in its grooves the power of a hundred average records, releasing a massive wave of soul when the needle makes contact with the wax.
The record I speak of, is ‘Harlem Shuffle’ by Bob and Earl.
I’ll assume that most of you – if unfamiliar with the OG – certainly know the song, either by use of the opening fanfare by House of Pain on ‘Jump Around’, or by the cover by the wizened, leathery band of hacks who go by the name Rolling Stones. Either way, no version of the song since Bob and Earl laid it down in 1963 has come within a mile of the original for pure sonic impact.
Bob & Earl, aka messrs Relf and Nelson are the axis on which turns a series of interesting stories. The original ‘Bob & Earl’ contained a different Bob, i.e. Bobby Byrd (not THAT Bobby Byrd) who also recorded ‘Rockin’ Robin’ as Bobby Day. Both Byrd and Earl Nelson had been members of the storied R&B group the Hollywood Flames, who hit with ‘Buzz Buzz Buzz’ in 1958. The first Bob and Earl 45s were recorded for the Class label that same year.
Byrd and Nelson recorded with the Hollywood Flames and as Bob and Earl until 1962, when Byrd was replaced by Bob Relf. Relf and Nelson recorded their first Bob and Earl 45s that same year.
Relf and Nelson, along with arranger Barry White (yes THAT Barry White, though Gene Page is credited on the label) and producer Fred Smith (who worked with the Soul Runners and the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band) recorded ‘Harlem Shuffle’ for the Marc label in 1963, and the rest as they say is history.
The record itself – as I said before – is an atomic ass-kicker of the first order, dance floor gold and pure soulful amazement. It verily booms with the bass drum and the piano, the handclaps and the insistent chank of the guitar woven together masterfully. ‘Harlem Shuffle’ is truly one of those one-in-a-hundred records that ought to be placed on a musical Olympus, or distributed on a mass scale so that all might know its greatness.
Bob and Earl went on to record a number of excellent 45s for Chene, Tip, Loma, White Whale, Crestview, Uni and Mirwood. Earl donned a number of pseudonyms – the best known being Jackie Lee – to record several great records including ‘The Duck’, ‘The Shotgun and the Duck’.
I know you’ll dig this one.
I’ll be back later in the week with a hot, late summer mix for the Labor Day Weekend.