At long last we are able to enjoy in a CD format some of the finest moments in the history of soul music, when Freddie Scott's glorious Shout sides were released on Columbia this year. To me his Are You Lonely For Me Baby is the second best album ever, and now this new twenty-tracker re-introduces us to those sounds (with the omission of four tracks from the original album), and, of course, to Freddie's distinctive, powerful and extremely soulful tenor.
Freddie was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on 24.4.1933. I had three sisters, one twin-sister and two other sisters. My mother played a little piano. We used to sing and write songs. My mother had a great voice. It was, however, through his grandmother, Sally Jones, that Freddie got more seriously involved in music. She was a gospel singer. I sang with her (Sally Jones and the Gospel Keyes), when I was eleven-twelve. At twelve years old I went with her to Europe, to England.
When fifteen-seventeen Freddie attended Cooper High School in New York City, had a medical course at the University of Rhode Island and then went down to Augusta, Georgia, to Paine College to have premed. While in Georgia, Freddie became a member of the Swanee Quintet Juniors, a juvenile version of the Swanee Quintet. We had a record that really didn't do anything down there in Georgia. I was singing lead.
TURN THE LAMPS DOWN LOW
Back in New York in late '56 Freddie had his first solo single released. I met Zell Sanders, who was someone that I liked very much. She had Baby Washington and Johnnie & Joe. I started out with them as a writer. I wrote a song for Johnnie & Joe, `Turn The Lamps Down Low', and it just didn't happen. Zell said `why don't you do it', and I did it. We sold over hundred thousand. We worked the Apollo Theater, went all over the places with that one.
Mrs. Zelma Sanders owned the J & S label, where she first released two poppy, uptempo ditties by Freddie Turn The Lamps Down Low and Running Home but hit it big with the next release, I'll Be Spinning by Johnnie & Joe. On J&S Records Zell also had releases by Baby Washington, Clarence Ashe, the Belltones, the Jaynettes, the Hearts along with some gospel groups.
Freddie's recording career with Zell was cut short because of a call from Uncle Sam resulting in a short period in Korea, but mainly working in Special Services up to '59 which, however, didn't prevent Freddie from recording to small Bow and Arrow labels in '57 and '58. Arrow and Bow Records was just a guy, who was a musician, who decided that he was gonna start his own label.
On Bow they released a catchy little pop thing called Tell Them For Me (b/w Hold My Hand) and on Arrow together with the Chimes (just a group of guys that we put together) a typical beat ballad those days, Please Call, backed with a rock 'n' roller, The Letter Came This Morning, both written by Freddie. The final Arrow release was A Faded Memory (b/w Loving Baby). During their three-year existence, besides Freddie, Arrow and Bow labels also housed such names as the Ascots, Jimmy Jones (with the Jones Boys), James Lewis, Johnny Smith, the Ravons, Buzz Clifford, the Encores and Otis Banks.
Freddie's final 50s release was for another small New York label, Enrica. Backed by the Symphonics and Teddy McRae Orchestra Freddie delivered a pleading ballad called A Blessing To You together with a saxophone-led jump, Come On Honey, written by Freddie. Enrica was a record label that lasted one minute. The Symphonics were a group of guys that were friends of mine, like Preston Yankwitt (the writer of A Blessing To You). He left the music business and went on to become a successful man in other fields. Although short-lived, Enrica can boast about having also Benny Gordon, the Primettes (not the pre-Supremes group) and Screamin' Jay Hawkins in their roster.
Those days Freddie was more into songwriting than singing, and together with Helen Miller they wrote for Al Nevins' and Don Kirshner's Aldon Music (in the company of Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Neil Sedaka and others) providing material for Paul Anka, Ann-Margret, Gene Chandler, Bobby Darin, Tommy Hunt and Jackie Wilson. Freddie also used to sing on many demos, and tried his hand at producing.
I produced Aretha Franklin's sister, Erma, for Columbia. Actually one of the guys that I signed this agreement with died right away, so that ended that, but Helen Miller and I continued to write for Donny Kirshner.
His first 60s recordings appeared on another smallish New York label, Joy, where in '61 they first released a catchy, rocking pop ditty called Baby You're A Long Time Dead coupled with a big-voiced pop ballad, Lost The Right. The producer was D. Davis, but not Don. Danny Davis, who is now in Tennessee and produces a lot of country & western artists. The second Joy single was a bit Drifters-like, `wind' ballad, When The Wind Changes (featuring the voice of Mary Mayo), backed with a melodic pop ditty, I Gotta Stand Tall.
In '62 Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote a tune called Hey Girl. They brought the song to me sounded like a country & western song so I sort of changed it around. I went and did a demo on it, because they were originally gonna give it to Chuck Jackson. Something happened with Chuck I had no idea what it was so we came back to the studio and started working on it again. It laid on a shelf for awhile. I was more interested at that time being a writer and a producer. But I went back in and finished the record. Finally they put it out, and the rest is history.
When the record was eventually released after being in the can for almost a year
it went all the way to top-ten, both r&b and pop. Hey Girl is a big-voiced,
`shouter' ballad, soulfully and powerfully delivered by Freddie. The single was
produced by Gerry Goffin arguably Phil Spector participated in the final mix and
the background vocals were delivered by the Cookies, who were to provide their services also on Freddie's future releases. Arrangement credits go to Gary Sherman, who was another one to work with Freddie through the 60s. Gary Sherman was working at that time for Al Nevins. We met, I started going to his house and we just started working on things. I just liked him, and we became buddies.
The success of Hey Girl sent Freddie from behind the writing desk onto the road, but the success also called for an album. Freddie Scott Sings was released on a Columbia subsidiary, Colpix, in '63, and saw a CD re-release on Rhino Collectables in '91. The album offered a mix of MORish musical standards (In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, Days Of Wine And Roses, My Romance), covers of current hits (If I Had A Hammer, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, A Hundred Pounds Of Clay, On Broadway) and some new tunes. What Do I See In The Girl is a nice, Goffin-Keller ballad, whereas Where Is The Girl (Leiber-Stoller) is a `Drifters' type of mid-pacer.
The album also contained next two singles, an original arrangement of Ray Charles' hit almost ten years back, I Got A Woman, but this time the r&b scorcher was transformed into a bombastic soul ballad. That was my idea. I started doing it on the road, when we were out there with `Hey Girl', before the album. It was one of the songs that I added to my repertoire. The b-side (not on the album), Brand New World by Goffin & King, again leans heavily to the Drifters territory, and the third single, Where Does Love Go again by Goffin & King is a slightly sugary MOR ballad.
After one more desperate single release (If I Had A Hammer/On Broadway) Freddie switched to the mother label, Columbia, in '64. At that time Colpix was sort of starting to fall apart, and we went directly to Columbia Records.
On Columbia they decided to concentrate on the crooner side of Freddie, by even calling him `The Million Dollar Baby'. That was an idea from Clyde Otis. It was a completely, totally different concept. I actually wanted to be that kind of a pop singer. That was my idea.
After one decent single (One Heartache Too Many / Mr. Heartache) they released an album called Everything I Have Is Yours in '65, which was stuffed with movie melodies such as Secret Love, That Old Black Magic and Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing. This set of 'cabaret meets lush night club sounds' was produced by Clyde Otis and arranged by Gary Sherman. Incidentally, not a single track from this album found its way to a forty-five.
As the crooner image obviously didn't suit Freddie musically, at least they rushed back to more soulful sounds and released a far better and a much more satisfactory album, Lonely Man ('65). The album definitely was a step into the right direction and also a taster of what was to come.
The title track is an enjoyable `Drifters' floater with a Latin touch and with Freddie sounding at times not unlike Ben E. King. The song was also released as a single with a Van McCoy written beat ballad, I'll Try Again, on the flip. Mostly the songs are big-voiced, romantic and dramatically arranged beat ballads (Giving You My Heart, Blow Wind, My Arms Aren't Strong Enough, Just One Look, It's Been Like This and Sing Girl), but there's also one bluesy slowie, I'm Too Far Gone To Turn Around by Belford C. Hendricks, and one pop & hill-billy cutie written by Freddie himself, One More Time Before I Go.
The album was followed by two final Columbia singles. Don't Let It End This Way is a marvellous, powerful beat ballad with an extremely soulful delivery from Freddie really on a par with his future Shout sides whereas the flip side, Come Up Singing, invites us to a quick-tempoed `soul-jive'. Forget Me If You Can (b/w Little Iddy Biddy Needle) veers more into poppish direction.
ARE YOU LONELY FOR ME
First they change the production people at the record companies, then the promo people and, before you know it, the whole thing is falling apart. After a musically (at times) rewarding but commercially not so lucrative period at Columbia, Freddie moved on. Bert Berns and I had known each other for a long, long time. I knew him as a guitarist and a writer for the Atlantic Records. After I left the Columbia situation, he said 'why don't you come over here' and I did. Bert was a very nice, quiet, easy-going guy.
Bert Berns, who had become a notable writer and producer (the Drifters, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Garnet Mimms and others) mainly for Atlantic in the 60s, set up his Bang label in '65 and tasted pop success with the Strangeloves, the McCoys, Neil Diamond and Van Morrison. A year later he founded a subsidiary to Bang and an outlet for soul music, Shout Records, onto where he was to gather an impressive roster artists like Donald Height (he and Freddie were good friends, but then Donald moved away to North Carolina), George Freeman, Jimmy Radcliffe (a very nice guy), Bobby Harris, the Exciters, Roy C, Jerry O, Erma Franklin, Charles Lattimore, Jackie Moore, Billy Young, Randolph Walker, Virgil Griffin, Phillip Mitchell, Deon Jackson, George Kerr, Louise Freeman, Peabo Bryson, but first and foremost Freddie Scott.
Are You Lonely For Me, Freddie's first Shout outing, was written by Bert and produced jointly by Bert and Freddie (although Freddie goes uncredited). It took over
one hundred takes, apart from Freddie's vocals, to make Bert satisfied enough in late '66 to put this energetic and driving roller out, but then he was rewarded with a # 1 r&b hit, which stayed at the top for four weeks. It was the first and the most successful of Freddie's nine Shout singles. The Sweet Inspirations provide background vocals, and of the musicians we know that Gary Chester was on drums, Paul Griffin played piano and Eric Gale picked the guitar. There are many covers of this masterpiece (Chuck Jackson, Hank Ballard, Soul Duo etc.), but none reaches the heights of Freddie's furious delivery. On the flip Freddie sings his own fine, melancholy ballad, Where Were You.
Although Freddie's next single, Cry To Me, commercially more or less failed (r&b-40, pop-70) considering it came right after a no. 1 hit for me at least it represents the peak of his career. Bert recorded this song already on Solomon Burke in '62, but Freddie's approach is closer to Betty Harris' '63 slow version. The song starts quietly, almost in a whisper, but then grows and grows and keeps on growing to an unsurpassable deep soul climax and to such an intense that in my books this record is my all-time number three. The b-side, No One Could Ever Love You (also known as Who Could Ever Love You) by Bert and Jerry Ragavoy is also a thrilling soul ballad.
These four tracks are to be found on Freddie's '67 Are You Lonely For Me? album, which was produced by Bert Berns although Freddie laid many of the rhythm tracks and arranged by Gary Sherman, and as I stated in the beginning this record is one of the milestones in the history of real soul music. It's also the only `fresh' album in the Shout discography, as the only other album release, In The Beginning ('72), offered some early Jimi Hendrix' mid-60s recordings.
The album is like being in a deep soul heaven. The most magnificent versions are desperately slow and `oozing with soul' deepies, gospelly Shake A Hand (Faye Adams), For Your Love (Ed Townsend), The Love Of My Woman (Theola Kilgore) and Bring It On Home To Me (Sam Cooke), but Let It Be Me, Spanish Harlem and Darrell Banks' Open The Door To Your Heart are also treated thrillingly. The only track I really don't care about that much is a bouncy version of Jerry Butler's He Will Break Your Heart also as a single it flopped. The tracks that didn't make it to the recent Columbia compilation include Let It Be Me, Spanish Harlem, For Your Love (pity) and Bring It On Home To Me.
YOU GOT WHAT I NEED
Among Freddie's Shout singles (released in '66 '68 and one belatedly in '71) there were ten non-album sides. Funky Am I Grooving You (r&b-25/pop-71) could possibly have been a wiser choice for a follow-up to Are You Lonely For Me, as they are in a similar mould. Flip it and you'll get to hear a swinging toe-tapper, Never You Mind, which melodically resembles Something You Got.
I'll Be Gone is as close to a stomper as Freddie can get, and Louis Jordan's '48 hit, Run Joe, is turned into an unrecognizable funky dancer. Those days Freddie and Bert Berns used to work with Them, which gave birth to a fine version of Van Morrison's big-voiced beat ballad, He Ain't Give You None (r&b-24/pop-100).
Just Like A Flower is a melancholy but dramatic mid-pacer, which had no chart action, whereas the next single, (You) Got What I Need, went as high as r&b-27. This rather light and melodic ditty was written and produced by Gamble & Huff, so it very much resembles the material they put out those days on their Neptune label (the
O'Jays, for instance). That came about with Bert Berns also. Bert and I were working together, and he said that we should try these guys, do some production work with them. They produced one side, and I produced the other side. They were very interesting, hard-working people. I enjoyed working with them. I worked with them once-twice in Philadelphia, and mostly we worked in New York. The other side in question is a snappy, joyous dancer called Powerful Love.
Loving You Is Killing Me is a pleading, beaty mid-pacer, whereas the last Shout single, released from the vaults in '71, once again represents Freddie at his `shouting' best, as Forever My Darling in fact, Pledging My Love gets a very deep, almost over-energetic reading.
The two previously unreleased tracks that were unearthed for the new compilation are a rolling version of the Isley Brothers' You'll Never Leave Him and a silky, slightly poppy but entertaining swayer called When Love Grows, which Freddie names his all-time favourite of his own recordings. The song is credited to Mr. Unknown as is also Just Like A Flower but Freddie puts it straight. I wrote them. I've been speaking to these guys (at the record company), and they wanna rectify the situation. As a whole, of his twenty-four Shout sides Freddie wrote or co-wrote six.
The last day of the year 1967 Bert Berns died of a heart attack. After Bert died, there was very little to talk about Shout Records. It was like a dying issue. Bert's widow, Eileen, took over, but really wasn't able to keep it together. In addition to that, Effie Smith, the promotion ace at the label (and a recording artist), had passed away in March '67. People were dying like flies those days. All of the people in the record industry started to go out. The label struggled through '75 with George Kerr being in charge for the last five years.
At this point, to avoid confusion, we should mention that there exists a drummer called Freddy Scott, who recorded for a couple of years from the mid-60s at least for Marlin and Dade and who used to work with an organ player named Benny Latimore.
I SHALL BE RELEASED
After a short non-recording period, Freddie in '70 appeared on a tiny Elephant V label, which existed approximately two years and had records out also on the Exciters and the Midnight Movers. The label's first single was Johnny's Hill, a powerful ballad written by Freddie and Tommy Kaye and telling about a deceased soldier returned from Vietnam to be buried in his homeland. One of my cousins died in the army, and that's what sort of brought that about. The flip side, Sugar On Sunday, could best be described as a gospel stomper. The song was co-written by Tommy James of the Shondells fame (Hanky Panky, Mony Mony, Grimson And Clover etc.) and produced by Mickey Stevenson.
After Berns, I went to Elephant V. I joined this label, because I had a productions situation. I had produced an album. I recorded it independently, and we leased it to Elephant V. Elephant was a bunch of guys. Tommy Kaye was a part of it. They had a couple of rock things over there, but it didn't really work out. For me it turned out to be a farce.
The album Freddie was referring to is called I Shall Be Released, and in '70 it finally came out on Probe, a subsidiary to ABC. In Freddie's own words as told for the sleeve-notes of the album this record is the kind of music I'd like to do, the kind of artist I'd like to be. I think it's important today to have something to say... I've been writing message songs long before this whole movement started... The message on this album is about love strictly about love. It's not a planned album it just fell into place.
The album was produced by Freddie and Tommy Kaye. The best track, a beautiful ballad called I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow written by Freddie and Jerry Ginsburg had been out already before the album as an Elephant V single. The title track, Bob Dylan's familiar anthem, was released on Probe (to my knowledge, it was the last single on the label), and it became so far the last charted record (soul-40, in '70) for Freddie.
Other impressive tracks on the album include Jerry Ginsburg's slow and somewhat folky ballad, If Tomorrow Never Comes, and Don't Let Me Fall, sort of a old-fashioned ballad, not unlike what Billy Stewart used to do. On the other hand, I wasn't too crazy about the 7-minute extension of With A Little Help From My Friends, along with three other mediocre tunes.
THE GREAT IF
After the `Elephant farce' and here, I guess, Freddie is referring to incompetence and financial rip-off Mr. Scott appeared next on a Vanguard label (in '71), which used to specialize in folk and pop with some blues and gospel occasionally thrown in. I Guess God Wants It That Way is a big-voiced, saddish, slightly MOR ballad, produced and co-written by Michael Gentile, but it's the other side that deserves our attention. Please Listen is a steadily building, magnificent deepie, in the best Freddie Scott tradition really a hidden gem.
A year later Freddie appears on the P.I.P. label (Pickwick International Productions) with two tunes from the musical production Inner City, co-written by Freddie's former writing partner ever since from the late 50s through early 60s, Helen Miller. The Great If is a melodic dancer with a very careful touch of funk in it, and Deep In The Night is a typical musical tune with a polymorphous arrangement and changes in tempo. P.I.P., by the way, in the 70s had releases also by Gary Toms Empire, Bobby Rydell, Cap Calloway, Bing Crosby and one of the best knock-out voices ever, Joe Frazier.
Freddie's last release before this year was a ballad on Mainstream in '74, You Are So Hard To Forget. It happened through Helen Miller. I didn't have anything to do with that. After that for many years Freddie's main income was through jingles, but he also utilized the acting lessons he took in New York already in the 50s by appearing in two 70s films, Stiletto and No Way Out.
In '75 I went on like a national tour, through the 80s. I just kept busy, worked all over the States. There were many re-releases in the States that really helped me a lot and covers, like Billy Joel covered `Hey Girl', and Michael McDonald, Isaac Hayes, George Benson were covering. So it kept me busy.
In the 90s really nothing to talk about. I sort of took off for awhile. I was just travelling around till I just got tired of that. Now I have a new album that I've worked on for a couple of last years that I produced. Everything's going fine with that right now, but you'll have more of that a little later. It's going to be something to be proud of. I shall have it ready this summer. It'll come out on my label, FSC Records. This company's gonna spread out real big, so you'll be hearing a lot from us.