Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers
“Listen – Rex Garvin – Sugar Baby – MP3″
I figured that I’d close out the week with a track that I’ve been holding in storage for some time.
One of the great repeating motifs of 60s soul and funk is the journeyman artist. I’ve discussed this time and time again in this space, mainly because the journeyman artist – which I define as a performer/performers who recorded fairly consistently over an extended period of time, often for a series of labels, never really breaking through to a greater level of fame – is really the meat and potatoes staple here at Funky16Corners, not to mention the record collecting world in general.
One such artist, who also has the honor of having recorded one of my all-time favorite 45s is Rex Garvin. That record, ‘I Gotta Go Now (Up On the Floor)’ is one of the single most powerful soul 45s ever created. It is largely on the power of that record that through the years, while digging through many a crate, I have always stopped and grabbed every Rex Garvin record I’ve come across.
What Garvin also has in common with many of these artists, is that the trail he left behind over the years is largely confined to the music on his records. I have searched far and wide for information on Garvin (not to mention a picture of him, which a fellow collector passed on to me only last year), and have come up with almost nothing.
Between 1957 and 1969 Garvin, as a solo, as leader of the Mighty Cravers and as a part of various groups recorded a number of 45s (and at least one album) for no less than fourteen different labels, only hitting the charts once in 1966 with ‘Sock It To Em J.B.’ . Yet for all that work, and at least a few sides of soulful dynamite, the Rex Garvin story is limited to the print of the labels of those records.
Garvin was a powerful vocalist with a style that bridged took the mainstream 60s soul of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett and added a healthy dose of raucous 1950s R&B.
The track I bring you today is the A-side of one of Garvin’s last 45s, 1968s ‘Sugar Baby’. Interestingly enough, the other side of this 45, a cover of ‘By the Time I Get To Phoenix’ appeared on two different 45s in 1968, once on Uptown (with ‘Raw Funky’) , and then again, with ‘Sugar Baby’ on Tower (both subsidiaries of Capitol Records).
The tune is a great slice of funky soul, that if I have any criticism at all, sounds a little too much like Wilson Pickett. That similarity was of course never a bad thing, but may go some distance in explaining why Garvin never broke through in a bigger way. While Garvin made some amazing records during his career, there was perhaps not enough stylistic breadth in his catalog to appeal to a larger base of fans. The period he was working in, from the birth of soul right on up into the funk era, was top heavy with artists that were capable of turning out amazing singles, but – whether it was because they were denied the opportunity to do more, or simply weren’t capable – never made the leap to a larger kind of artistic statement that would have left a more significant legacy, or at the very least a bigger mark on the public consciousness via the charts. Such was the lot of Rex Garvin.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll see you all on Monday.
PS Remember, the Asbury Park 45 Sessions returns this Friday October 3rd with the AP45 Crew and guest selectors TBA. Come on down to the World Famous Asbury Lanes.