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DEEP # 4/2016 (August)

  Certain recent releases have restored my faith in the survival of real soul music.  Below you’ll find reviews of at least four of them, excellent CDs by the Bo-Keys, William Bell, Eddie Levert and Will Downing.  The feature artist this time is none other than Percy Wiggins, the Bo-Keys’ vocalist these days.  In the latter part of the column, along with a couple of southern soul CDs, there are many retro compilations reviewed, and one book on Kenny Hamber, too.

Content and quick links:

An Interview with Percy Wiggins

New CD release reviews:
William Bell: This Is Where I Live
Eddie Levert: Did I Make You Go Ooh
Will Downing: Black Pearls
Adrena: Better Days
Ms. Jody: I Got the Feeling

Reissue/Compilation CD reviews:
Dan Penn: The Fame Recordings
Jerry Ross: Some Kinda Magic – The Songs of Jerry Ross /a>
Various: The Arock – Serock – Sylvia Story Continued
Hank Ballard: Unwind Yourself – The King Recordings 1964-1967
Various: One-derful! Records
Various: Mar-V-Lus Records
Various: M-Pac! Records

Book Review:
Kenny Hamber: Tears In My Eyes – the Kenny Hamber Story


  How about a mixture of good country music with soul flavour, actual soul sounds and various other styles with a leaning to pop music?  What if highly-professional Memphis musicians were in charge and the lead vocalist was one of the southern soul legends from the 1960s?  You’ve got it!  Heataches by the Number (OVCD-172; by the Bo-Keys was released this spring, and one Percy Wiggins is on lead vocals.  Produced by the leader of the six-strong Bo-Keys and their bass player, Scott Bomar, the set was recorded at in Memphis.

  Percy Wiggins: “Scott Bomar picked primarily the songs along with me.  We went through approximately 75 songs.  He also gave me some original songs and asked me to select some that I might like.  Our trumpet player, Marc Franklin, selected one song, Wasted Days and Wasted Nights, and I picked Heartaches by the Number, Set Me Free, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and I Threw It All Away.”  Almost all of Percy’s selections are rooted in country music.  “I like country music, and as a result of that Scott Bomar said ‘you know, I think it would be a good idea, if we would do a country album with a blues flavour’, so we went into the studio, and it all came together.”

  “All the horn arrangements were done by our trumpet player, Marc Franklin.  Scott and I would work the songs up in the studio, and I was just trying to put my own feel into them.”


  The title tune, Heartaches by the Number, is Harlan Howard’s song, which turned into a # 1 pop hit for Guy Mitchell in 1959.  On the Bo-Keys’ brassy and swinging version at a walking pace Don Bryant is the guest vocalist.  “We had already recorded the songs but we hadn’t mixed them down yet, when I had a heart attack.  I had to have a triple by-pass, because I had a lot of blockage.  I stayed in the hospital for fifteen days, and while I was there Scott Bomar said ‘how about me putting Don Bryant on there to do a duet’, so Don sang in spots with me.”

  Claude “Curly” Putman’s country song Set Me Free derives from 1967.  Percy remembers listening to Charlie Rich’s version, while many of us may remember also Esther Phillips’ small hit on the same song in 1970 with the Dixie Flyers on Atlantic. 

  I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and The Longer You Wait were written by Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, respectively, and especially on the former one Percy’s delivery grows quite emotional towards the end.  “I like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, both of them.  I didn’t know Merle Haggard was such a great guitarist as he was.  I like his style.  We did several other country songs that are not on the album.”

  Bob Dylan’s 1969 song I Threw It All Away comes out as a melancholic, big ballad, whereas one of the two new songs on the set, Learned My Lesson In Love – written by Scott, Percy, Marc Franklin and Howard Grimes – sounds like one of those mid-tempo hits from the golden Hi period that Syl Johnson could have recorded.  It’s a very catchy and soulful number, and they’ve also recently released a video on it.

  In 1971 on Mankind Freddie North had a hit with the Jerry Williams, Jr./Gary Bonds tune titled She’s All I Got, and here the Masqueraders are backing Percy up.  “Freddie North was out of Nashville, Tennessee.  Freddie and I go way back.  We used to sing at the same nightclub in Nashville, New Era Club.  I remember when Freddie recorded that song.  He’s in the ministry now.  The Masqueraders had been doing some background vocals for some of the artists that Scott had been recording in the studio.  As a matter of fact, they did some background vocals behind my brother Spencer.  Scott got them to do the background behind that particular song, along with two ladies”, Susan Marshall and Reba Russell (

  Scott wrote a very melodic and poppy, Mexican type of a ditty called I Hope You Find What You’re Looking For – “I like the feel on that” – while Wasted Days and Wasted Nights sounds like a New Orleans, Fats Domino kind of a laid-back song, but it was a top-ten hit for the Texas-born Freddie Fender in 1975, which is quite amazing considering that it was originally released in 1959.  “The trumpet player liked that ‘hey, why don’t we try doing that’.”  The closing song is a slow instrumental, a version of Floyd Cramer’s 1960 hit, Last Dance.  “Our guitar player, Joe Restivo, suggested the instrumental Last Date on our CD.”

  “We did a new video about a month ago.  We were down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and we did a program for ‘Muscle Shoals to Music Row Live!’ that was also videotaped.  We did in total 18 songs.”  In that 1h 35 min concert Percy was backed by Scott Thompson on trumpet, Kirk Smothers on tenor sax, Joe Restivo on lead guitar, Archie Turner on keyboard, Howard Grimes on drums and Scott Bomar on bass.  All these Bo-Keys members play also on this new CD.


  Percy R. Wiggins was born in Memphis on September the 20th in 1943.  “We had happy days.  We weren’t rich, but we never did lack anything.  We maintained a healthy life.  I had a happy time growing up.”  Already at six years old Percy started singing in a church choir practically with his whole family – parents, four brothers and two sisters.  “We sang at the New Friendship Baptist Church.  We were the Southern Wonder Juniors.”

  From the mid-50s till the early 60s Percy was engaged in his second gospel outfit.  “With my brother Spencer and sister Maxine we formulated a gospel group along with two other ladies.  We were the New Rival Gospel Singers, and we had a 15-minute spot on WDIA radio station.  My baby sister Mary sings also, and my daughter and my granddaughter.”

  “I was thirteen years old, when Charles Parker formulated a group called the Parkeraires.  It consisted of Charles, Spencer, myself, a guy named J.L. Summers and Napoleon Brown was the pianist.  Charles was one of the three lead singers, and my brother Spencer and I also led songs.”

  Percy went first to Porter Junior High, and after that to Booker T. Washington High.  “All the original Bar-Kays went to Porter Junior High.  They were all behind me, however, but I knew all of them.  Spencer and I graduated at the same time.  David Porter was in our class also.  He graduated with me.  Maurice White and Homer Banks graduated with me as well.  Booker T. Jones was a year behind me.  Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns graduated two years ahead of me.  In high school I used to hang out a lot with David Porter and a guy named Tyrone Smith.  He’s in Nashville now.  We had a group in high school called the Four Stars.  It consisted of David Porter, Tyrone Smith, Spencer and myself.  We took part in a bunch of talent shows.”

  At the end of the 1950s there was also another secular group called the Five T’s.  “That group came out of a group called WDIA Teentown Singers.  It consisted of students in all high schools throughout the city of Memphis.  In the Five T’s there were Marvell Thomas, Tyrone Smith, Spencer and myself, and a guy named John Ray Bonson.”

  Percy and Spencer graduated in 1961.  Spencer stayed in Memphis, and Percy went to Tennessee State University in Nashville, where again he surrounded himself with music.  “I was in the university choir, I was in the Concert Singers, and I was also in TSU men’s glee club.  We travelled quite a bit.”  Alongside his studies, Percy gigged a lot locally those days.


  “A guitarist by the name of Larry Lee is from Memphis, but I met him in Nashville.  He introduced me to the guy that became our manager, Jerry Crutchfield.”  Born in 1934, Jerry Crutchfield became one of the biggest producers and songwriters in country music, but he has won awards also in pop and gospel genres.  Some of the artists he has worked with include Dave Loggins, the Hemphills, Tanya Tucker, Glen Campbell and Brenda Lee.  “I’ve been trying to locate Jerry every time I go to Nashville, but I haven’t had any luck.”

  For Percy’s first single release in 1966 Jerry negotiated a deal with the RCA Records.  Written and produced by Jerry and recorded at Owen Bradley’s studio named Bradley’s Barn, The Work of a Woman (RCA 8915) is a beautiful southern soul ballad.  Backed with Sam Huff’s melodic light dancer entitled It Didn’t Take Much (for me to fall in Love) – a later northern soul favourite – the single, however, flopped.  “They really didn’t promote it as well as it should have been.  On It Didn’t Take Much I had a group backing me called the Spidells.  Jerry would manage that group, too.”  Formed in 1962, the line-up of the Spidells was James Earl Smith, Nathaniel Shelton, Lee Roy Cunningham, William Lockridge and Michael Young

  They also cut some other songs on Percy those days, which unfortunately stayed in the can.  “I think there were four.  One of the songs was called Find out What’s Happening, which Lou Rawls also cut.”  Lou’s version came out in 1966, but already two years earlier the Spidells had released it as their first single on Monza 1122.  Among others, Elvis cut the song in 1973.

  Next Jerry took Percy to Atlantic’s subsidiary, Atco Records.  In 1967 they released a beautiful, country-tinged ballad called Book of Memories (Atco 6479), which was written by Randie Evretts and covered by Clyde McPhatter three years later.  “I got an opportunity to do several gigs with that.  I got a chance to do shows with a lot of artists at that time.  I worked with Percy Sledge, Gene Chandler, the Five Stairsteps, a group called the Intruders out of Philadelphia, Jr. Walker & the All Stars, the Flamingos, Oscar Toney Jr...”  Produced by Jerry and backed with a scorcher titled Can’t Find Nobody (to Take Your Place) – co-written by Larry Lee – unfortunately also this single failed to crack the charts.


  Still the same year a plaintive, deep southern downtempo song named They Don’t Know (Atco 6520) was put out as a follow-up.  As well as its predecessor, it was produced by Jerry and arranged by Harrison Calloway.  “Harrison Calloway was a student at Tennessee State University and he was in a marching band, when I was a student there.  We did some gigs in Nashville together.  He did the arrangements on my early recordings at Bradley’s Barn.  He passed away not long ago.”

  On the flip they placed Percy’s interpretation of the familiar (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.  “That was my idea.  Sam Cooke was really one of my idols, and he had recorded that.  As a matter of fact, several people have recorded it.  I did a monologue on the front end of it.”  Percy still names Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions as his other big favourites.  According to Percy, unlike with RCA, there aren’t any vaulted Atco tracks on him.

  Percy graduated from the university in 1968 and became a teacher at Booker T. in Memphis.  “I taught English and I also taught night school, Speech 1 and 2.”  His next single was released in April 1969 on A-Bet Records.  “A-Bet was the subsidiary of Nashboro out of Nashville.”  Recorded already earlier at Bradley’s Barn, Look What I’ve done (to My Baby) (A-Bet 9434) is again a simple southern soul ballad, written and produced by Jerry.  That’s loving You on the flip is a dancer.  “We were trying to develop a Motown sound.”

  Percy’s fifth single appeared again on the RCA records.  (You Make Me Feel Like) Singing a Song and Love Is a Wonderful Thing (RCA 9838) are two uptempo songs that were put out in April 1970.  “I cut those songs in 1969.”  Written and co-produced by Jerry with Danny Davis, they were recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville.  Again, the single can be classified as “a no show” on the charts.

  In 1971 Percy switched over to insurance business.  “First the name of the company was National Life and Accident, but we were bought out by American General.  In later years we eventually were bought out by AIG (American International Group).  I worked with them for about 36 years, and all the while I was doing the music thing on the side.  I was doing it on weekends primarily.  I was freelancing with different bands at that time.  My job transferred me to Chicago, so I was there for eight years and worked with local artists there.”


  Ben Cauley (1947-2015) is one of the originators of the Bar-Kays and the only surviving member in the plane accident in 1967 that took also Otis Redding down.  As Percy’s next record, they cut a duet, The Lord Delivered Me / That’s Heaven to Me on Cauley Records (3890).  The uptempo plug side was written by Ben and David M. Doyle already in 1985.  “Ben and I did that back in 1989.  He had a studio in his home, and we cut that in his studio. That’s Heaven to Me had been done by Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack.

  As Percy noted above, he was freelancing with different bands, but mostly he worked with the Hi Rhythm.  “I believe it was 1973, when I started working with them.”  In 1992 under the name of the Hodges Brothers/Hi Rhythm they released a CD entitled Perfect Gentlemen on Velvet Records (VR-CD.001).  “That was Teenie Hodges’ label.  I sang the title cut on that album, and the other songs I sang on there were Say Something, Best in Town, Now You See Me, Now You Don’t and If That’s What You Want.  Those were the five songs that I did the lead singing on.”

  The Bo-Keys were formed in 1998.  Scott Bomar writes on their website at that “one of the main reasons I started the band is that there were a lot of great musicians from the golden era of Memphis soul who weren’t really getting the work or attention they deserve.  Stax, Hi Records and American Studios all shut down, and the amazing musicians who were part of those studio bands either moved or stayed in Memphis, languishing in obscurity for the most part.  I wanted people to know that those players and that sound were still alive and well.”  The first album, The Royal Sessions, was released in 2004.

  Percy: “I’ve been with the Bo-Keys for about five years.  Howard Grimes was the drummer with the Hi Rhythm group and he was also a studio musician with Hi Records.  He played on all of them – Al Green, Syl Johnson, Otis Clay, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright... Howard was with the Bo-Keys, and they needed a vocalist.  Periodically Ben Cauley and sometimes Charles “Skip” Pitts would sing with them.  Howard Grimes was telling Scott Bomar about me, and he knew me, because I had sung at Scott’s wedding with the Hi Rhythm group.  I sang on one of their gigs, and the rest of it is history.”


  Percy leads on one energetic dancer on the Bo-Keys’ second album, Got to Get Back, in 2011.  “That song, Catch this Teardrop, was recorded years ago by the 5 Royales” (in 1962 on ABC).  Other guests on the set include Otis Clay and William Bell and Charlie Musselwhite.

  Prior to Heartaches by the Number, the third album by the Bo-Keys, the group and Percy had released six single and EP sides.  Writing on the Wall is an Al Green type of a mid-tempo number.  “That song was selected for the TV movie series called Scandal.”  I’m Still in Need is an emotive southern soul ballad.  “I’m Still in Need was in a movie called Grudge Match, which features Kevin Hart, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone.”

  “Dark End of the Street – Spencer and I did that as a duet.  That’s an old James Carr song.  With James we grew up in the same neighbourhood.  He was a nice guy and a good basketball player, too.”

  Deep River is another slow and deep ballad.  “It was cut in a building in Memphis called Molly Fontaine.  It was done on a vintage tape recorder that records and plays track 45 rpm, 33 1/3 and 78 speeds.”  The fifth song, I Need You More than One Lifetime, is a funky number.  “Scott and I wrote that song along with Marc Franklin and Howard Grimes.  Then we did a song Stuck in the Middle with you for a disc jockey at the WFMU radio station in New York.  We did that in 2012 for fund-raising.  The DJ chose that song for us to do.  That song was a 2-million seller by Stealers Wheel” (in 1972).

  “Next I’m anticipating on going back into the studio putting some other songs down with the Bo-Keys.  We anticipate on going abroad again.”  Percy came to Europe for the first time in mid-1960s, and more recently he and Spencer performed at the Cleethorpes Weekender in the U.K. in 2010 and together with the Bo-Keys at the Porretta Soul Music Festival in Italy in 2012.

  “With the rhythm & blues music of today I think a lot of it is not right.  We had true authentic horns.  A lot of the horn lines and stuff that are played today are coming through synthesizers.  They play horn lines on keyboards rather than actual horns, actual strings.  But the music is fine, I guess.  It has to change a little bit with the time.  I like all genres of music, including country.  I’m glad we decided to do some of that on our CD.  I hope Heartaches by the Number is a successful project.”

(Interviews conducted on August 4 and 5 in 2016; acknowledgements to Percy Wiggins, Scott Bomar, Tim Bernett; Colin Dilnot and David Cole).


  You really don’t need me to tell you what a great record this is, do you?  This Is Where I Live (Stax, STX-38939-02;; notes by Peter Guralnick) has been praised in all the reviews I’ve seen so far and there have been many interviews with Mr. Bell on many forums.  What causes this excitement?  My theory is that people just long to hear basic and honest music with good melodies, soulful singing and real live musicians creating the sound – all in a warm and peaceful atmosphere.  There’s also the nostalgic detail that the CD was released on the relaunched Stax label.

  John Leventhal produced and arranged the set.  He also plays many instruments on it and he co-wrote with William nine new songs for the CD, with a little help from Marc Cohn mostly.  The tenth new song, an intimate and melodic ballad called Walking on a Tightrope, John co-wrote with his wife, Rosanne Cash. 

  There are also two songs that we know from the past.  William gets close to country-rock on his version of Born under a Bad Sign, which he co-wrote with Booker T. Jones for Albert King in 1967.  Jesse Winchester’s All Your Stories derives from 1972 and here we can enjoy a simple and acoustic interpretation of this pretty ballad.

  Poison in the Well is a rolling mover and This Is Where I Live is an autobiographical uptempo number.  The mid-tempo Mississippi Arkansas Bridge could come out of Joe South’s swamp songbook, whereas another mid-tempo number, More Rooms, carries a more plaintive story.

  With melodic, laid-back, “vintage” ballads we trespass on William Bell’s private territory.  Such beautiful and smooth songs as The Three of Me, The House Always Wins, I Will Take Care of You and All the Things You Can’t Remember bear a remote resemblance to gems like I Forgot to Be Your Lover and You Never Miss Your Water.  The music on This Is Where I Live is unashamedly a throwback to the classic soul music period (  I’m really happy for this resurgent interest in William’s career.  If you wish, you can read the complete William Bell story at


  Eddie is one of the most powerful vocalists in soul music and his recording history goes back the amazing fifty-five years.  Did I Make You Go Ooh (Nayr Entertainment; is his second solo set after I Still Have It four years ago, and there’s also a new O’Jays CD in the pipeline.

  Rich and full orchestration is created by authentic rhythm section together with horns and strings, and on some of the six uptempo tracks the drive gets almost too wild for me like on the rocky and “banging” Bang the Walls. Say It Ain’t so is a lighter toe-tapper, while The Big Groove is a beater about stupid people and similarly Shit Starter can be considered as some sort of social commentary.  The mid-tempo My Heart Don’t Lie introduces lighter Caribbean elements.

  However, those pleading big ballads stand out for me.  The title song is a sensual love call and That’s the Way Love Is is a very melodic, slowly swaying number.  Two most emotive and impressive tracks are the sorrowful I Let Go and the cream cut, the beautiful and touching How Much More Love.  It took me three or four spins before the CD really sank in, but now it firmly sits up there among the top records of the year.


  Equally fascinating although musically almost at the other end of our genre, Will Downing alias “The Prince of Sophisticated Soul” has released Black Pearls (, 5832), a collection of ten songs made famous by soulful ladies.  Initially Will thought of covering his favourite Phyllis Hyman song, Meet Me on the Moon, but soon the idea grew from one song into a whole album, or – as Will writes in the notes – “thanks to my musical inspirations: Jean Carn, Randy Crawford, Phyllis Hyman, Chaka Khan, the Emotions, Deniece Williams, Angela Winbush, Brenda Russell, Oleta Adams, Cherelle & the Jones Girls.

  Basic tracks by a live rhythm section are sweetened by authentic horns and either New York or Chicago Strings, and all these familiar songs are cleverly arranged to suit Will’s style.  There are two mid-tempo (Nights over Egypt and Don’t Let It Go to Your Head) and one uptempo number (Street Life), and the rest seven are atmospheric slow songs.  Personal favourites include Get Here and Black ButterflyBlack Pearls is another high-class CD from Will, and in describing his music again I have to use such adjectives as elegant, smooth and intimate (  



  Adrienne Ervin is a 36-year-old native of Jackson, Mississippi, who possesses a high and clear voice with a slightly smoky vibrato, which gives her instrument an exciting tone.  She uses the show-name Adrena, and a couple of months ago she released her second CD, Better Days (Bone40records/Productions), which was cut at Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.  Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell co-produced, engineered and mixed the set, Larry Nix mastered it and among the musicians you can spot such familiar names as Lester Snell on piano, Michael Toles on guitar, Ray Griffin on bass and Steve Potts on drums.  The 4-piece Royal Horns consists of Lannie MCMillian, Marc Franklin, Jim Spake and Kirk Smothers – in other words, as organic as it can get!

  We have a tie, 5-5, between dancers & party songs and slower material.  Luther Lackey co-wrote two of the uptempo tracks, including an easy roller called Broke Man.  On the downtempo front the ones that stood out for me were the soft and pretty Ready to Love, the “jazz-loungy” JoAnn and the melancholic He Won’t Leave.  I sincerely wish Adrena still “better days” ahead!


  The prolific Ms. Jody’s 11th CD with new material is titled I Got the Feeling (ECD 1167;, and - besides producing - John Ward also co-wrote all twelve songs on it.  Ms. Jody herself co-wrote three, Henderson Thigpen as many as five and John Cummings with Leo Johnson two.  In fact, in her notes Ms. Jody thanks her “long time Manager and bass player Leo Johnson for his guidance and help throughout the years.”

  Similarly to her preceding CD, Ms. Jody aka Vertie Joanne Delapaz concentrates on party music with such easy and delightfully effortless tracks as There’s a Party Goin’ on, Come on and It’s Too Late to Do Right Now.  She even goes Cajun on the quick-tempo Zydeco Rodeo and borrows Caribbean beat for Don’t Back up off It.

  There are three slow songs on display, but as a new and alarming element they have introduced voice-distorting filters for background vocals, which I simply hate and which become even more loud and clear on ballads.  That’s why the only downtempo song I’ll be listening to in the future on this CD is I’m Tired of Being a Secret, because there are no background vocals on it. 

  You can purchase these and other southern soul CDs at



  Four years after The Fame Recordings, we are now presented with Dan Penn: Close to Me – More Fame Recordings (CDCHD 1477;; 24 tracks, 60 min.), which features songs that Dan wrote and demoed at Fame in 1963-66.  Those days he mostly co-wrote with Spooner Oldham, but also with David Briggs, Marlin Greene and a couple of others.  Alec Palao tells about these songs in his notes, which include quotes from Dan himself.

  Dan was also the singing artist on two of these songs, when Rick Hall put them out on his Fame label.  Close to Me is an uptown, almost Drifters type of a song and Diamonds is another melodic and poppy ditty.  Four more songs were similarly, “uptownishly” constructed: Trash Man (eventually recorded by Barbara Lynn), I’ll Take Care of You (Bobby McDowell), I Need You and I Dig a Big Town

  Besides uptown songs, Dan’s writing covered the whole gamut from deep southern ballads (Do You Need It) all the way up to funky numbers: Miss Personality (by Norman West), Standing in the Way of a Good Thing and I Can’t Stop (the Feeling Won’t Let Me), which actually is an unreleased duet with Don Covay.  In-between, Live and Let Live and Destroyed – released by the Yo-Yos – are easy dancers.

  Seven of the songs on the set were not picked up by anybody and the rest fifteen were cut by such regular visitors at Fame like Jimmy Hughes (Lovely Ladies, You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy), Bobby Moore (Reaching out for someone), Wilson Pickett (She Ain’t Gonna Do Right), Kip Anderson (Without a Woman), Prince Phillip (Love Is a Wonderful Thing) and a few others that are mentioned in this review.

  At that point Dan was in his early twenties and in some of the songs you can recognize his influences.  It Hurts has many of the same elements as Garnet MimmsCry Baby, James and Bobby Purify cut So Many Reasons, which could come from Sam Cooke’s songbook, and Otis Redding’s phrasing comes through on Little Girl, recorded finally by Percy Sledge.  Dan demoed his most memorable songs in the first CD of this series, but many good ones were saved for this set too (


  All the tracks on Some Kinda Magic – The Songs of Jerry Ross (Ace, CDTOP 1475; 24 tracks, 64 min.; notes by Tony Rounce) were recorded in the 1960s, except a southern ballad called You Don’t Know What You Got (Until You Lose It) by Willie Hobbs in 1971 and a driving scorcher named Help Yourself by the U.K. Jimmy James & the Vagabonds a year earlier.

  Jerry co-wrote many of these songs together with Kenny Gamble and in some cases Leon Huff, too, and probably the best-known result of this collaboration is I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.  Here we are treated to the original version by Dee Dee Warwick.  Other notable recordings of Jerry’s songs include the quick-tempo Love Love Love by Bobby Hebb, a richly orchestrated dancer titled Some Kinda Magic by Jerry Butler – what a fine record! - and a jazzy instrumental called Bucket O’ Grease by Les McCann.

  The rest of the material consists mainly of good-time movers and such northern favourites as The 81 by Candy & the Kisses, I’ve Got Mine, You Better Get Yours by the Sapphires and Eeny Meeny by the Showstoppers.  There are also six tracks that could be filed under “pop” by Reparata & the Delrons, April Young and Sandy Edmonds from New Zealand, to name three.

  Still three numbers of interest are a mid-tempo toe-tapper called You Better Believe it Baby by Chubby Checker, a Philly dancer named He’s No Ordinary Guy by Dee Dee Sharp and a neo-doowop ballad titled Together (in Your Arms) by the Modern Ink Spots.  Jerry Ross not only co-wrote but also produced most of the tracks on this set.


  We’re getting more tracks from Al Sears’ N.Y. group of labels on The Arock – Serock – Sylvia Story Continued (CDKEND 453; 25 tracks – 12 unissued at the time – 59 min.), and they all derive from the early and mid-60s.  Ady Croasdell wrote the informative notes.

  The music varies from teeny pop and belated rock ‘n’ roll to fledgling soul and many of the tracks sound like babies of that era with little any other lasting value but nostalgia.  You could call them sweet and innocent... or simply corny.  Among the tracks that stand out there are the fast and energetic I’m Leavin’ (For Parts Unknown) by Gary & Gary and the Van McCoy written I Really Love You by the Diplomats.  Van himself sings on the playful It Ain’t No Big ThingThis Is My Prayer, Theola Kilgore’s follow-up to The Love of My Man, is a lush and big-voiced ballad, and Garrett SaundersEasier Said than Done is another big production number.

  Compilers have included many demo tracks by Marie Knight, Junior Lewis aka C.L. Blast and even Don Covay on a ballad called Did You Hear.  Summarized - nothing spectacular, but mostly harmless, feel-good music without any significant musical hoorays. 


  Unwind Yourself – The King Recordings 1964-1967 (CDKEND 451; 26 tracks, 70 min.; notes by Tony Rounce) is a compilation of sides from eleven Hank Ballard & the Midnighters singles from the mid-60s, four non-single tracks from a 1966 album (Those Lazy, Lazy Days) and one messy unissued song (Get That Hump In Your Back).  Hank wrote 16 of these songs and on many of them he’s trying to revert to that magic sound of Work With Me Annie and The Twist from the 50s.  Some of that same rolling party sound and r&b drive is captured on such tracks as Poppin’ the Whip, Everybody Do Wrong, Knock on Wood I Feel So Good, My Sun Is Dying Down, Do It Zulu Style, That’s Your Mistake – originally by Otis Williams & the Charms – and, of course, (Dance with Me) Annie.

  Since Hank had close ties with James Brown, it’s only natural that some of Godfather’s funk can be traced down to tracks like You’re in Real Good Hands, Unwind Yourself and Funky Soul Train.  Nevertheless, along with a few of those catchy dance grooves above I really like the eight slow songs on this set.  Hank excels on such deep, southern-style soul ballads as He came Along, Here Comes the Hurt, You Just You and Which Way Should I TurnWatch What I Tell You is a big ballad.

  Since I only had three singles from this Hank’s hitless period in my collection, this nice CD comes very handy.  John Henry Kendricks kept on performing with his newly-formed Midnighters until throat cancer took him in 2003 at the age of 75.


  These first three compilations of the six volumes of the One-derful! Collection were released in the U.S. on already at the end of 2014, but I was told that the Minneapolis company was somewhat at a loss with the promotion and “only since the UK end of the operation started, they have been selling.”  That is as good an excuse as any for my belated reviews.

  Similarly to all the CDs in this series, One-derful! Records (SSR-CD-35.1; 25 tracks, 66 min., 12 prev. unreleased) is accompanied with a 36-page booklet, in which Jake Austin tells the story of the founders of the company, George and Ernie Leaner, and Bill Dahl  - besides the One-derful! Records overview - gives an artist-by-artist presentation, based largely on interviews with as many as over twenty acts or persons involved with the company and its music.

  During a six-year period since 1962 about fifty singles were released on this Chicago label.  The most powerful singers were the late Otis Clay and McKinley Mitchell.  Besides the stomping Got to Find a Way, Otis excels on a rollicking mid-pacer called Thank You Love and a swaying soul ballad named A Lasting Love.  Of the three McKinley numbers on this set I rate highly The Town I Live In, the very first One-derful! single.  Other big names include Betty Everett (Please Love Me and Your Love Is Important to Me) and Liz Lands (Seventh Hour and I’m Guilty).

  Two groups specialized in rousing dancers: The Five Du-Tones cut the original Shake a Tail Feather along with other rockers, and the Sharpees came close to Sam & Dave on The Sock.  While at it, Joe & Mack proved to be another powerful male duo on the gospel-infused The Prettiest Girl

  Although the music on One-derful! tended to be gritty, rough and raw, Beverly Shaffer and the Admirations brought out a more sweet and sophisticated side of the sound on the label.  Lucky Laws, Mary Silvers and Jay Jordan were the poppy ones.


  Alvin Cash & the Crawlers were the financiers for this label.  Their dance hits like Twine Time and The Philly Freeze, which are included on this set, gave the Leaner Brothers an opportunity to cut and release also better music.  Sweatin’ is the third track from Alvin on Mar-V-Lus Records (SSR-CD-35.2; 25 tracks, 65 min., 10 prev. unreleased), and it’s another mostly instrumental track with Alvin talking and chanting through the song.  Allegedly a flashy showman, but I really wouldn’t call him a singer.

  In the booklet Jake Austin this time sheds some light on a renowned background wizard named Andre Williams, and Robert Pruter tells in detail about the twelve artists and their music on this CD.  Since powerful singing and overall strong energy seem to be the key qualities on this label, we actually have to be grateful to Alvin Cash for his smashes.

  Johnny Sayles and Cicero Blake are the most familiar names to soul fans on this label.  One scorcher aside, Johnny concentrates here on blues (Whole Lot of Lovin’, You Told a Lie), whereas Cicero’s You’re Gonna Be Sorry is a pulsating and melodic mid-tempo number, rich in orchestration and sweetened with strings.  Josephine Taylor is a big-voiced lady, who stomps and funks through four tracks here.

  Personal favourites are the Du-Ettes, who represent punchy and powerful girl group sound, witness the perky and mid-tempo I’m Gonna Love You.  Other noteworthy and high-powered singing groups are the Blenders and the Ulti-mations (Would I Do it Over).  I also liked Joseph Moore’s uptown sound on the storming I Still Can’t Get You.


  There are as many as four liner notes writers on M-Pac! Records (SSR-CD-35.3; 24 tracks, 66 min.; 10 prev. unreleased).  Robert Pruter goes convincingly through the careers of all eleven artists and acts on display, Will Gilbert writes about the Leaner brothers’ uncle, Al Benson,  Jake Austin interviews a session musician by the name of Larry Blasingaine and finally Keith Rylatt tells about the impact of the One-derful! group of labels on northern soul.

  This time the headliner as well as an important behind-the-scenes man is Harold Burrage, who is featured on four tracks on this set – all rough and uptempo: Bad Situation, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be, Mountain of Soul and Got to Find a Way.  Other artists that are honoured with four samples are Willie Parker and the Ringleaders.  I especially like Willie’s richly orchestrated scorcher called I Live the Life I Love, but his Motown-influenced Let Me Make it up to You and the dynamic So Glad are almost as spirited.  The Ringleaders’ sound was slightly lighter both on their sweet harmony ballads (Let’s Start Over and All of My Life) and dancers (I’d like to Win Over and Baby, What Has Happened to Our Love).

  M-Pac!’s shoutress, Dorothy Prince, belts out bluesy slowies like Hey Mister and Every Night, and Andrew Tibbs as well as the down-to-earth Stacy Johnson follow suit.  Among the rest of the dance tracks, Benny Turner comes closest to teeny pop.  For initiated, recently Secret Stash has released a lot of those 60s sides on vinyl 45s as well.



Tears In My Eyes – the Kenny Hamber Story (194 pages, 8 with photos) is a story of one critically acclaimed singer, who never quite made it.  John Smith wrote the book in collaboration with Kenny himself, and it concentrates as much (if not even more) on the musical environment where Kenny grew up and worked, as on the artist himself and the music he created.

  Kenny was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1943 and his foray into music was inspired by the wealth of doowop groups in the area.  He cut his first records at the turn of the 60s, and his first solo single also gave name to this book.  One of his 45s was overseen by the great Bert Berns.  His restless early adult years took him to New York, back to Baltimore and off again.  He scored some regional hits but never became a household name. 

  When reading the book, at times you feel like you’re going through a statistical publication, as John lists in detail performers and shows in Baltimore during different periods as well as venues, TV shows, local entertainers, visitors etc.  One interesting detail that John points out is how black radio stations used the Baltimore area as a test market for new records.

   Blessed with a rich baritone voice, Kenny fronted many groups in different decades.  He had singles released on numerous labels including Arctic in the 60s and even an album on ABC in the 70s (under the name of the Hitchhikers), and a lot of CDs since.  This multi-talented man has performed at many US Forces bases abroad, toured in many countries, worked as a music programme director and recorded also gospel music more recently.  Now after close to sixty years in the business, Kenny keeps on going strong and is working on a new album.  This interesting story of a chequered career is accurately chronicled in the book... only one minor murmur: a discography would have helped in following all the turns in Kenny’s career (

© Heikki Suosalo

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