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DEEP # 1/2010 (April)

  In CD reviews compilations can lead the way, because there are some quite exciting retrospect items this time.  One of them is by George Jackson, and he was kind enough to give his comments on those 70s Memphis tracks.  Also C.P. Love from New Orleans tells shortly about his recent activities.  In the current Southern soul section I’ll introduce Will Easley out of Montgomery, Alabama, and after that I praise two excellent new books about Detroit and Memphis music scenes, with archive comments from Don Davis.  At the end there’s some good news from our Philly friend, Bobby Eli.  But I’ll start from Detroit, where both Frances Nero and Spyder Turner have come up with new releases and they were glad to share their thoughts about not only them, but some other interesting points of their career, too.

Content and quick links:

Frances Nero
Spyder Turner
George Jackson
C.P. Love
Will Easley

CD reviews:
Frances Nero: Sexy Saxophone
Spyder Turner: I’m Gonna Miss You
Lee Shot Williams: I’m the Man for the Job
Stan Mosley: I Like It!
Will Easley: Smokin’
Floyd Taylor: All of you, All of me
Ms Jody: Ms Jody’s in the Streets Again
Jesse James: Get in Touch with Me
Jerry L: Let It Ride
Jae B: Shake It Up
Sir Lattimore Brown

CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
Jimmy Briscoe/Beavers: The Flame Still Burns
Jewel Bass & Dorothy Moore: Malaco Soul Sisters
The Controllers: If Tomorrow Never Comes
C.P. Love & Jimmy Dobbins: Malaco Soul Brothers, vol. 2
Soul Children: There Always: Finders Keepers / Where Is Your Woman Tonight?
Various Artists: The Gospel Sound
The Ebonys: Forever/Philly Soul Gems
George Jackson: In Memphis 1972-77
Various Artists: Southern Soul & Party Blues, vol. 3

DVD Review:
The Making of an Anthem: I Am an American

A Book Review:
Keith Rylatt: Groovesville USA: The Detroit Soul & R&B Index
Roben Jones: Memphis Boys/the Story of American Studios


  Hardships and obstacles make you grow not only as a human being, but for artists they can increase creativity that grows into full bloom only at a later stage.  Frances Nero is a fighter and survivor, whose music talent has really burst out during the last few years and now seems to flow freely and in abundance.

  Willie Frances Peak was born in Asheville, North Carolina, on March 13 in 1943.  “I never use Willie, because to me it’s a male name and a country name.”  In 2006 she released a DVD titled Mountains, Motown & Motion Pictures (A FRAN Production & Ocean Mirror Film Productions; 120 min.), and it’s a very enlightening documentary about her life and career, which is filled with many tragic but also funny episodes.  You can purchase it on her website at

Although it mostly shows talking heads and photos and could have been edited a bit especially at the end, it also has some TV show clips and features not only her three children, but also Ivy Hunter, Pat Lewis, Diane Davis and Pree and Clay McMurray, among others.

  Frances’ step-father molested her sexually, which was one of the reasons she escaped into her fantasy world and became emotionally unstable and angry.  Another rescue was music and during her high school years she sang with two local groups, the Tams and the Untils.  “I was about fifteen-sixteen.  That’s not the other Tams.  That is a local group out of North Carolina, and some classmates of mine played with those guys.  I was travelling more with the Untils than the Tams, and a famous jazz artist now, Stanley Baird, was also a member.”

  “I never recorded jazz, but I always sing with a live band, and that’s basically what I did with the Untils... Dinah Washington and things like that.  Then I came to Detroit and started getting gigs of my own, and that’s what everybody was playing then – jazz; all the clubs.  Then I entered the contest for Motown, and I sang Everybody Loves a Lover by the Shirelles (on Scepter in ’62), and of course I did my own jazzy version, which helped me to win the contest.  There were 5000 contestants.”


  Frances moved to Detroit in 1960.  “When I married my first husband, Johnny Nero, I used to live in a rooming house.  It was only one room.  One day I heard these girls singing, I came out, sat on the stairs and heard them saying that they needed somebody to sing part of the harmony.  One girl was missing.  I just said ‘I can sing’, and one of the girls said ‘we don’t need you, we already got somebody’.  Then Katherine Anderson of the Marvelettes said ‘let her come down and sing the part.  We got to get it together, and we can’t find the girl’.  I went down and started singing, and we were harmonizing really good.  They were scheduled to sing at a talent contest at Inkster High School, but at the same time I got homesick, so I went back home to North Carolina and stayed there for a few months, and while I was there I saw this magazine cover ‘Marvelettes discovered by Motown’” (laughing).


  In 1965 Frances won the WCHB Talent Show and as one of the rewards she became the first female solo artist on the Soul label, a subsidiary of Motown.  Her debut single was a driving and infectious dance number called Keep on Lovin’ Me (Soul 35020), which was released in early 1966.  The flip-side was a toe-tapper titled Fight Fire with Fire.  “The Originals and the Andantes are on the background.  If you listen to very closely, you can hear male and female voices.  When I got there, William Weatherspoon and James Dean said ‘okay, come on, we’re going to record’.  I said ‘record?  I don’t even know the song’.  They said ‘either you sing the song, or we get somebody else to sing it’.  My back was against the wall.  We went over to the studio, and just like Gladys Knight I did that song in one take.  I was singing to a tape of music that was already recorded.  Ironically that song was originally written for the Marvelettes, but they refused the song or something, so they gave it to me, because I had won the contest.”  On Zebra Hill Records there’s a Frances Nero single, Keep on Lovin’ Me/Purple Raindrops, but Frances knows absolutely nothing about this record.

  After three years with Soul and only one single under her belt, Frances asked for a release, because she wasn’t allowed to sing in local lounges and record-wise nothing was happening, anyway.  She recorded with Raymona Gordy and Gino Parks Lady in Waiting and three other songs, but they remained in the can.  In the 70s and 80s Frances became engaged in cosmetology, fashion shows, script writing and other businesses, and she also took care of her sick mother and her son, who was involved in a car accident.


  Ian Levine contacted Frances and in 1991 released on Motorcity a catchy dancer called Footsteps Following Me, which peaked at # 17 in April.  As a result, Frances became a household name for awhile in the U.K. and performed in many TV shows.  You can see clips in her DVD and also watch Footsteps on YouTube.  “I think Ian tried to do too much at one time.  He alienated a lot of the artists.  I wouldn’t have a problem with it provided he had paid me my money upfront, because I was his hit artist.”

  Frances formed her own record label, AJA Records, and released a single in 1996, Love Ride/It Ain’t the Same without you.  In 2000s she also wrote the script and the soundtrack to a movie titled Reject Island.  “It’s not really doing anything, because Jeremiah Yisrael didn't convey the concept I wanted to about the movie. I’m not pleased with the way it came out, so I’m in the process now of redoing it.  I’m going to do it as a cartoon movie.”


  “My other movie, The Passing of Ezra Hazlette, is the movie, where Spyder’s song, I’m Gonna Miss You, came out of (see later).  I wrote that song for my late mother long before I started the movie.  When I was doing the movie, she came to me in a dream and said ‘change the words so it would be a song from a man to another man – like buddies’.  I did that and it fit right into the Passing of Ezra Hazlette.  I had got another guy to sing the song and he said ‘no, I can’t sing that.  Guys don’t talk that way to each other’.  I said to him ‘it’s not a gay song.  It has nothing to do with sexuality.  It’s just the feeling’.  I wanted it to be a male anthem, like a song about a fallen soldier.”

  “Then I had this dream about Spyder Turner.  I was climbing up the hill and I can hear my song.  Eventually I got up there, and on top of the hill there’s Spyder Turner standing over a grave, like a headstone, and he’s got his arms stretched out and he’s singing ‘I’m gonna miss you my brother’ – and he had on a blue suit.  I woke up and I called him.  We talked about it.  I sent the material to him and after a couple of days he called me back and said ‘let’s do this’.  When he came to shoot his scene, he had on a blue suit.  That was really weird.”


  In 2007 Frances released on her AJA Records a CD named Frances Nero Salutes Dinah Washington, which you can also purchase on her website.  It has a classic big band orchestra background.  “It’s like karaoke.  I just started doing the vocal arrangements to have a music played if I were a singer standing in front of this band.”

  Frances’ ripe and “smoky” voice bends easily to jazzy interpretations of the ten standards on display, including What a Difference a Day Makes, God Bless the Child, Cry Me a River, Misty, Stormy Weather and I Apologize.  The music has a lounge atmosphere, it’s laid-back and soothing and as a piquant detail you can notice that Frances often finishes a line with a high note, like “a squeal”, in the manner some 50s r&b artists used to do.  “My all-time favourite is Dinah Washington, but my most modern favourite is Gladys Knight.”


  Frances’ most recent CD single is a melodic and atmospheric floater titled Sexy Saxophone on her AJA label again.  This elegant, 5-minute song has a jazzy feeling to it, too.  “I had a dream (laughing).  This is a nice dream.  I dream in colours.  I can hear this saxophone playing, and a golden saxophone appears.  The music out of that saxophone starts wrapping around me.  Then I heard the sound of water and I looked over, and there was a giant water fall, and there were birds and butterflies, and I just kept dreaming this for awhile.  I guess God has just created me with a lot of imagination, so I put that dream into words.” 

  The song was cut at Chuck Davis’ (the Contours) studio and Mark Kiem is the saxophonist.  “This recording was arranged by me playing the electronic keyboards, one instrument at a time.”  Again, for the CD please visit Frances’ website.

  “I would still like to put together a one-woman tribute show to Dinah Washington.  I would also like to do her life story in a film.  She was a very colourful woman.” (Interview conducted on March 31, 2010).


  Also in Spyder’s case there won’t be an in-depth story this time, but instead he looks back on some points of his career and talks about the new CD.  You can read his whole bio on his website at www.spyderturner.comDwight David Turner was born in West Virginia on February 4 in 1947, but he moved to Detroit already at six.  “My early idols were Jackie Wilson and Elvis Presley.  I saw him on tv and that blew my mind... and Sam Cooke.”

  “I started in music, when I was twelve.  I had a couple of singing groups, but they didn’t work out.  Then I had a group called the Taragons.  We sang together for about a year, and then we changed our name to the Nonchalants, when we got a couple of new members.  I sang with them for about three years.  A couple of members of the Nonchalants had big brothers that sang with this group called the El Domingoes, so I was singing with both groups.  We were doing shows all over Detroit, and we had a big show coming up – and nobody wanted to rehearse.  They figured the band knew our stuff.  I decided ‘well, we need new material’.  They didn’t want to rehearse, so I rehearsed by myself and that’s when I became a single artist.”

  Spyder’s voice was first recorded as early as in 1963.  “I was on the background on Gonna Send You Back to Georgia by Timmy Shaw, and then I did You’re Alone and Happy Story on Cha-Tok (in ’64).  After that I did Ride in My 225 on Fortune Records (in ’64).”  In 1965 Spyder had two single releases, Calling Girls on Master and I’ve got to get Myself Together on Good Time.


  Spyder’s fifth solo single became his biggest and only smash so far.  Stand by me entered the Billboard charts in late ’66 and hit # 3-r&b and # 12-pop on MGM.  “I think the key was the vocal impersonations.  I had been singing Stand by me for about a year every time I got a chance to get on stage, because every band knew that song.  One day I bought an album by Chuck Jackson, Chuck Jackson on Tour (Wand 658 in ’64), and on that album he did Please Please Please by James Brown.  In that song he impersonated Jackie Wilson and James Brown, so that’s where I got the idea to put it in Stand by me.  The first night I did it at the Twenty Grand with the impersonations in it, and the crowd went wild.  I kept it like that and started adding more.” 

  “I haven’t talked to Ben E. King about it, but I think he probably loves it, because I made him a lot of money (laughing).  Back in the sixties we played a club together, so we had to figure it out.  We’re doing two shows.  You do it on the first show and I’ll do it on the second show.  That’s how we worked it out.”

  Clay McMurray was the force behind the hit single and the succeeding album by the same name (# 14-r&b, # 158-pop).  “Clay is a beautiful cat.  As a matter of fact, he was the one, who started the whole thing.  He heard me doing Stand by me at the 20 Grand and decided to record it.  When we recorded it, I thought it was going to be a demo, but it turned out to be a record.  I still speak to Clay every now and then.  As a matter of fact, his wife Pree sings in my band.”

  After such a big single hit it was surprising that all three follow-ups on MGM failed to make the charts.  “In the States my manager then, Arnie Geller, I think picked the wrong record.  He picked I Can’t Make It Anymore for the second release, and it should have been Don’t Hold Back.  It flopped over here, but I hear it’s big over in England.”


  After stints in such bands as Freedom Revival and Piranha and one single on Kwanza in ’73, Spyder headed for California, where he hooked up with Norman Whitfield.  “That was a gas.  That was quite an experience.  I learned a lot working with Norman.  As a matter of fact, I wrote a hit with Norman.  We wrote Do Your Dance.  It was intended to be for my album.  When we wrote it, Rose Royce was coming off the album Car Wash.  Norman asked me ‘do you wanna save this for your album or do you want some money right now and we put this on Rose Royce’s album’?  I said ‘let’s put it on Rose Royce’s album.  I need the money’ (laughing).  I got a platinum platter on that one.”

  Do Your Dance was released in 1977 – Rose Royce’s platinum album In Full Bloom came out that very same year – and Spyder’s own Whitfield album, Music Web, hit the streets a year later, followed by Only Love in ’79.

  After one single on Hatter in Detroit in ’83 called Spyderman, Dwight got involved in movie music two years later, and this time on the Motown label.  “I had left California and when I returned to California, I ran back into Norman and he asked me, did I want to take a chance with him on a movie theme, and I said ‘yeah, let’s do this’.  He said ‘the only way you can do it is change your name’.  I used my real name, which is Dwight David and did the theme song to Berry Gordy’s Last Dragon.”

  Spyder and Norman still worked together later on a Four Tops album.  “I don’t know what’s happening with that.  That was the only album that Norman ever did on the Four Tops.  Since Norman died, I don’t know what’s going to happen with it.  It’s been sitting there in the can for years.  I have a song on there that I wrote, Just another Day (I think of you), which I might wind up recording myself.”

  “I do have a four-song EP out there, which is self-titled.”  The songs on this Spyder Turner mini-CD (1998 and 2006) include Stand by me, You Keep Me Wondering, I Don’t Wanna Go Home Tonight and This Is Your Life.  “I also have a single called What Goes Around Comes Around.”  Two years ago Spyder was in the studio with an Englishman by the name of Carl Dixon and some well-known musicians and background singers.  “I did three songs – Tell Me (Crying over you), Detroit (City by the River) and Glory Fleeting.”  There’s more info on Carl’s website at


  Spyder’s latest CD, I’m Gonna Miss You (AJA), is a slow and haunting song and features powerful singing from Spyder.  “Frances Nero asked me to do a movie with her.  It was called The Passing of Ezra Hazlette, where I play Ezra Hazlette’s best friend.  We wrote a song together, I’m Gonna Miss You, and we made a pack that if any of us dies the remaining one will sing the song at the funeral, so that’s where that song came from.”

  Frances: “Classical pianist William (Billy) Thompson played all instruments on the electronic keyboards. Atonge Gardner, Chimyria Law and Frances Nero provided backing vocals for lead singer, Spyder Turner.  This tune was recorded at Release Productions in Southfield, Michigan.”  The tune was written and arranged by Frances Nero.

  Spyder: “Right now I’m planning on putting a new band together and starting back to work.  I usually have a 9-piece band that I carry with me.  I took a year off.  My mom and my brother died, and I didn’t kind of want to do anything after that for awhile, but now I’m getting ready to get back to it... and plan on recording again sometime in the near future.  I have songs that need to be recorded.”  (Interview conducted on April 1, 2010; acknowledgements to David Cole).



  The Beavers were 12-13 years old, when they cut their first single for Atlantic in 1971, a cover of Why Do Fools Fall in Love.  After that first single, Paul Kyser out of Jersey City, New Jersey, took the lead singer, Jimmy Briscoe, and the four other boys under his wings and produced, arranged and wrote the rest of their records until 1977 on the J-City, Pi Kappa and Wanderick Records.  Originally the group hailed from Baltimore, Maryland.

  Normally I’m not a big fan of kiddie sound, but in this case Paul’s Philly-infused arrangements and above-standard songs make this CD a delightful listening experience.  On the other hand, Jimmy’s voice was breaking already around mid-70s.  The Flame Still Burns (Soulscape, SSCD 7020;; 22 tracks, 78 min.!; liners by John Ridley) offers single sides, cuts from the two albums by the group and three previously unreleased tracks.  All three are ballads, and especially the title track, The Flame Still Burns, is a nice love serenade.

  The CD proceeds chronologically and first you can hear echoes of the Delfonics, then Blue Magic and finally a light touch of the Stylistics, too.  The first charted single was a highly melodic ballad called Where Were You (When I needed you) (# 68 in ’73), followed by their biggest record and signature song, My Ebony Princess (# 59 in ’74), a slow praise to that one special lady.  I’ll Care for You (# 93 in ’75) falls into that same romantic category, while the last charted single, Invitation to the World (# 91 in ’77), already surrenders to disco beats.  I Only Feel This Way When I’m with You (# 86 in ’75) is not included, but I guess it’s because some of these tracks sound like they were lifted from vinyl and perhaps that particular track didn’t qualify sonic-wise.

  Besides those small ballad hits, my seal of approval goes still to another sweet song, You’re My Love, My Life, My Soul, and especially to Together, Together (We’ll Find the Way) and True Love (Is Worth More Than Gold), two strong and dramatic big ballads.  Eight uptempo and fourteen downtempo songs, this compilation was a pleasant surprise from a group that, I admit, I didn’t follow very closely at the time.


  Dorothy Moore was Malaco’s leading lady in the latter half of the 70s in terms of sales, but Jewel Bass’s significance to the company shouldn’t be ignored either.  You can find her name among the background singers on almost all of Malaco’s recordings those days.  She’s a strong singer and she had releases of her own, but I think that the material failed her.

  Malaco Soul Sisters (Soulscape, SSCD 7021; 21 tracks, 70 min.; liners by Paul Mooney) gives us twelve songs from Jewel and nine from Dorothy.  Altogether nine tracks remained in the can at the time.  Jewel’s part consists of six sides from her four Malaco singles between 1973 and ’79 plus six unreleased cuts.  A rich, big-voiced soul ballad titled All Good Things Must Come to an End (in ’73) and a beautiful slowie named Overflowing (for you) (in ’77) are the two cream cuts for me among those official releases.  The rest four are either funky or disco numbers.  Overflowing was produced by Eddie Floyd and co-written by Tommy Tate.  The six unreleased songs include disco, pop and funk, but also a melodic mid-tempo song called Turn off the Pain and a very worthwhile version of Seeing you again, a gentle ballad co-penned by George Jackson.  You can find Jewel on Facebook.

  Dorothy’s ( part covers her four singles on Avco, GSF and Chimneyville in 1972 and ’73 and ’74, which means that they all came out before Misty Blue.  A mid-tempo toe-tapper called Cry like a Baby (by Armstead-Ashford-Simpson) was her first solo record to hit the charts in ’73 (# 79).  Other good releases included See How They’ve Done My Love, a driving uptempo song, One Day You’re Gonna Hurt Me, a dramatic soul ballad and Same Old Feeling, a mid-tempo, melodic pop song.  Just the One I’ve been looking for is a familiar swayer, whereas Two of a Kind is another big ballad.

  I can very well understand why the rest three songs – the stomping I Know, the soft Diamonds and the poppy Love Me like you Used to – remained in the can.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not spectacular enough, which no way means that you should bypass this otherwise worthy compilation.


  If Tomorrow Never Comes (Soulscape, SSCD 7022; 20 tracks, 79 min.!; liners by John Ridley) draws fifteen tracks from the three albums the group cut for Frederick Knight’s Juana label.  Additionally there are five single-only sides, so this package covers the years from 1975 till 1981.  Naturally Frederick acted as a producer, and on the first album Wardell Quezergue did the arranging and Mike Lewis after that.  From 1977 onwards David Camon was the main composer.

  The first album, In Control (’77; 5 tracks on this CD), was quite funk and dance orientated, but the next one, Fill Your Life with Love (’78; 6 tracks) is crammed with gorgeous, “quiet soul fire” ballads and the third, Next in Line (’79; 4 tracks), was split between four fast and four slow songs and those slow ones were picked up for this retrospect.

  According to chronological order the opening song is the group’s first Juana single in ’75, a driving and tuneful dancer called Is That Long Enough for You, penned by Frederick with Bettye Crutcher.  Another uptempo song, The People Want Music, became their first charted record (# 82-soul) a year later, but the single that made me take notice for the first time was a storming, gospelly number titled This Train (by Frederick Knight).

  After six fast tracks in the beginning we finally get to torch songs.  Somebody’s Gotta Win, Somebody’s Gotta Lose became the biggest hit for the group (# 8-soul, # 102-pop) and here we can enjoy it in its whole 8-minute entirety.  It was followed by another equally impressive slow jam, Heaven Is Only One Step Away (# 37-soul; 7:13), and the third in a row was If Somebody Cares (# 65-soul).  On the Fill Your Life with Love album there were still such slow gems as I’ll Miss You Always, Listen to the Children, Getting Over You, Castles in the Sky and If Tomorrow Never Comes.

  An almost painfully slow song named We Don’t (# 43-soul) was written by Joe Shamwell and Tommy Tate, and Tommy himself recorded it too - alongside some other Controllers songs – for his own Juana album.  Other touching slowies from the Next in Line album were the powerful If Tears Were Pennies, I Just Don’t Know and Hurt Again by LoveMy Love Is Real was the last Juana single to chart in ’82 (# 76-soul).

  The Alabama-based four-man group was founded in mid-60s for gospel purposes first and was later called the Soulful Seven.  Their baritone lead singer, Reginald McArthur, and his often anguished delivery was the main attraction.  In the 80s the group went into bigger things on MCA and Capitol and the last album I have, Clear View, was released on Malaco in 1997.  The group still exists, but this CD is an apt testimony of the survival of genuine soul music in the midst of disco craze.


  Malaco Soul Brothers, vol. 2 (Soulscape, SSCD 7023; 17 tracks, 49 min.; liners by John Ridley) goes hand in hand with the first volume and the Malaco Soul Sisters compilation above.  Carrollton Pierre Love and Jimmy Dobbins aka Jimmy Brown are starring on this volume.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2005 - Paul Harris Photography

  C.P. cut one single with Wardell Quezergue for the Chimneyville label in 1971, a thrilling southern soul ballad called I Found all these Things, backed with King Floyd’s ripping mover, Never Been in Love before.  The rest of his early 70s Malaco cuts remained in the can and were released for the first time almost ten years later on a Japanese comp.  Most of them were demos and uptempo dancers but included also one down-to-earth SS slowie titled So Glad You’re Gone and a more dramatic, big ballad named Your Life without Her – if only they had finished that one!  Every Man’s Dream is a perfect vehicle for dance-floors, while These Uncertain Years comes off almost like a pop song.

  C.P. Love: “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard some of those songs.  I only had I Found all these Things.  The rest were released in Japan and I didn’t receive a demo.  The picture on the cover was taken years later at a studio here in New Orleans.  I’m very happy for the interest soul fans still have in my work.  There are still many unreleased recordings out there I recorded for other people.  Some I myself would be very surprised to hear.”

  Jimmy Dobbins had three self-penned Chimneyville singles released in ’73 and ’74.  They are mainly rolling dancers or pounding stompers, and among them also Wrong Road and Sugar Bear come close to pop territory.  I was most attracted to an emotive downtempo song called A Quitter Never Wins, but the two unreleased cuts – Finally and Teasin’ you – also fascinate with their exciting arrangements.  Jimmy was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1945, and he passed away in 1995.

  C.P. is still active on the New Orleans scene.  “I have a collection of my work on the internet I’ve put back together after losing a lot in hurricane Katrina in 2005 on Facebook and  The C.P. Love Band based out of New Orleans is going strong and ready to continue recording.”


  After Stax folded, the Soul Children, among others, had to find a new recording home, and indeed they were approached by Epic and as a result cut their next album, Finders Keepers (’76; # 54-soul), with Don Davis at United Sound Studios in Detroit.  Norman West and J. Blackfoot wrote the uptempo title tune, which also became their first single (# 49-soul).  Anita Louis was the third member those days.  Among other notable tracks on the album there were three songs that Don had cut on the Dells earlier – We Got to Get Our Thing Together, the funky A Little Understanding and a terrific, 6-minute version of the beautiful If You Move I’ll Fall (# 99-soul).

  A gentle ballad called Good-bye Is Not the Only Way was appreciated by the group so much that they put it also on their latest album, Still Standing in 2008.  I’m Just a Shoulder to Cry On is a poignant ballad that Johnnie Taylor covered later, Midnight Sunshine is a nice beat-ballad and finally Anita is leading on a 6/8 slowie called One Broken Home for Sale.

  Finders Keepers was a truly soulful album that often gets overlooked in the afterglow of the Stax period.  It wasn’t a big seller and the group members openly express their dissatisfaction at the company because of the lack of promotion.  The group, however, cut still a follow-up for Epic, Where Is Your Woman Tonight? in 1977, but to no chart action anymore.  Now those two albums are paired for There Always/Epic Southern Soul (Shout 61;; 19 tracks, 73 min.; liners by Clive Richardson).

  The second album was produced and written by David Porter.  Again, there are many touching soul ballads on display, such as Where Is Your Woman Tonight (# 96-soul), You Don’t Need a Ring, If You Want a Woman Like This and You Got Me Over.  Among the uptempo and mainly funky tracks, the one that most likely makes you want to dance is called There Always, but it’s an easy number also to listen to.  This CD offers intense soul music from a powerful southern group, and you can read their whole story at


  This CD titled The Gospel Sound (Shout 62; 26 tracks, 78 min., liners by Clive Richardson) is based on Anthony Heilbut’s book by the same name, published in 1971, and the succeeding double-album.  It mainly features both singing preachers and later gospel solo vocalists, and spiritual quartets, and it covers the period from 1926 till ’57.

  Blind Willie Johnson cut most of his records in the late 20s, and here we can listen to five of them.  Accompanying himself on guitar, his gruff voice was one of the most distinctive ones, and I still cherish my ’70 album, on which Samuel B. Charters documents his story.  Incidentally, in 1971 in the “Blues News Poll” here in Finland Blind Willie became first in the category of blues singers.

  The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet was a harmony group that popularized hymns in the 40s and mostly a cappella.  Of the five samples here, the most interesting one is their political analysis called Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’Mitchell’s Christian Singers (4 songs) were forerunners in that genre already in the 30s, and the Dixie Hummingbirds (4 songs) and the Pilgrim Travelers (2) burst into more wild jubilee in the 50s.

  The big-voiced Mahalia Jackson (3) in a way crossed over with her almost operatic style, which leave us Arizona Dranes, Dorothy Love Coates and Bessie Griffin to round out the compilation.


  Similarly to the Beavers above, the Ebonys was a strong vocal group, which unfortunately never had its due.  That’s why Forever/Philly Soul Gems (Shout 63; 13 tracks, 54 min.) is so valuable CD, because it brings to light their vocal prowess, which bears a resemblance to that of Teddy Pendergrass and, even more, the Dells... and that’s saying a lot.  The main figure here is their baritone singer, James Tuten, but the roles of the other singers – David Beasley (high tenor), Clarence Vaughan and Jenny Holmes – must not be underrated.  This group out of Camden, New Jersey, was founded in 1968 and it broke up ten years later.  As Clive Richardson writes in the liners, today there seems to be “more than one unit touring under the name.”

  This compilation covers their recordings for the Philadelphia International label between 1971 and ’73.  Practically the same tracks were released already earlier on Collectables in 1995, but that CD has long been deleted.  Gamble & Huff produced the group and they wrote or co-wrote nine out of the twelve songs on display here.  The group had one album released, The Ebonys (# 33-soul in ’74), and five of their seven PIR singles charted.  In fact, an intense and deep soul ballad called You’re the Reason Why became the first hit for PIR in ’71 (# 10-soul, # 51-pop).  It was followed by a haunting beat-ballad named Determination (# 46-soul) and - after one Christmas single – by a stirring scorcher titled I’m So Glad I’m Me, which can be compared to those frantic uptempo numbers the Dells came up with in the late 60s.

  The second bigger hit for the group was a caressing and another intense slow number called It’s Forever (# 14-soul, # 68-pop), and it was followed by a terrific, deep reading of I Believe (# 34-soul), which inevitably brings to your mind some of the standards the Hesitations reworked a few years earlier (Born Free, the Impossible Dream).  Finally Life in the Country (# 69-soul) is a sweet, lilting song, written by Theodore Life and Phil Terry.  On the album the only song that wasn’t released on any of the singles was again a deep gem named I’ll Try.  The most fierce and compelling numbers among the six fast tracks are Sexy Ways, Nation Time and Do You Like the Way I LoveForever is a tremendous compilation, which, I’m sure, both Philly and deep soul fans find irresistible.


  In Memphis 1972-77 (Kent, CDKEND 329;; 21 tracks, 74 min.; liners by Dean Rudland) is sub-titled “the Sounds of Memphis and XL Recordings.”    It covers the period, when George returned to Memphis and Willie Mitchell and started writing for Hi artists in 1971 up to the moment when he left for Muscle Shoals in the late 70s.  The first track is his highest charted single (of the only two that charted), a poignant ballad titled Aretha, Sing One for me (# 38-soul in ’72), which he and Willie produced together.  It’s one of the rare songs on this CD that George didn’t write himself.

  George’s follow-up on Hi Records paired his two gentle songs, Let Them Know You Care and Patricia, and the latter one was originally meant for Al Green.  George: “I never could get a song on Al.  At first Willie promised me I would get a song on him, a song called Patricia that Al really loved, but when Al got big I couldn’t get a song on him.  Al mostly started writing his own songs and by Willie and whoever.  But me and Al remained the best of friends.”

  After the second Hi single flopped, George started working with Eugene Lucchesi and his Sounds of Memphis imprint.  “At Hi we had a little disagreement over the second record.  I don’t think Hi put as much effort into the second one as they put on Aretha.  So I thought I’d try my next record somewhere else.  Eugene was a real nice person.  He was really trying to get into the music business.  He had other businesses also.”

  George’s first three singles with the Sounds of Memphis were all leased to MGM in ’73 and ’74.  He started with a cover of a pop song, We’ve Only Just Begun.  “It was my idea to record the song.  I loved that song so much that I wanted to do it.”  A beat ballad called How Can I Get next to You followed.  “It was complimentary to the people I like - Bobby Womack, Al Green, Grover Mitchell...”  On the flip side there was a funky number titled Willie Lump Lump, and there were also other uptempo tracks George used to cut those days.  “It was a James Brown kind of thing I was trying to do at that time.  I was just trying something different.”  Both Soul Train and Smoking and Drinking on the next single were fast songs, too; the latter one a sort of ragtime-soul piece.

  A bittersweet ballad named Macking on you – backed with the beautiful Things Are Getting Better – was leased to Chess in 1975.  “It was real pretty.  I thought it maybe might have a chance on Chess, but nothing really happened though.”  Talking about the Love I have for you and the almost churchy I Don’t Need You No More came out on the ER Music subsidiary in ‘77.  “Eddie Ray, who worked with Eugene, and I decided to put that record out.  Talking I had written for the Staple Singers, but I never had a chance to get it to them, so I decided to put it out on myself.”

  There are as many as eight songs on this CD that weren’t released at the time.  Let’s Live for Ourselves is a ticking ditty.  “It was meant to be a demo for Clarence Carter.”  If You Never See Me is another catchy toe-tapper.  “It’s one of those songs I’ve been putting out for nobody particular.”  A beat-ballad called All in My Mind is slightly controversial.  “I laid the track down and I know I played piano on the song, but the vocals... they say it’s me, but it doesn’t sound like me.  It might be one of the musicians that helped me write the song.  I think I had one of the guys lay the vocals down for me, while I was working on putting the music together.”

  Walking the City Streets is a touching, slow song.  “I thought it’d be a good idea, if Clarence Carter did that kind of thing.  It would have been a good story to tell.”  Clarence actually recorded a soft plodder titled Dear Abby.  “I was thinking about putting that out on myself, but then Clarence Carter came along and heard mine.” 

  The downtempo A Woman Wants to Be Loved has a touch of country to it.  “It was just something that I recorded. I think I had in mind Wilson Pickett during that time.  Take Your Love and Go is almost like a rock song, whereas another midtempo track, She Can’t Replace the Love I Have for You, is a mellower ditty.  In Memphis 1972-77 is a heartwarming compilation and a good addition the three CDs we have from George so far.  (Interview conducted on March 30).


  It says on the cover of Southern Soul & Party Blues, vol. 3 (CDS Records, CDC 1029;; 12 tracks, 58 min.) “new & rare songs”, and indeed there are four previously unreleased tracks - but I guess not for long.  Frank-O Johnson is the hero of this compilation.  His soulful duet with Lee Fields on Joe Tex’s Hold What You’ve Got (re-titled Hold On) appeared already on his Ace album, O.J. I’m Guilty, and for this listener it’s the cream cut on this CD.  Ernie Johnson in his gruff and soulful style covers Frank’s deep ballad, Reaching out for You (originally on the Traction album, Pick up the Pieces), and Joyce Lawson does her version of another touching slowie, It Don’t Hurt Like It Used to, which comes from her Phat Sound album (Frank’s label) and which Frank originally cut for his Flashbacks album on Traction.

  Most of the songs stem from the recent CDs by the artist in question; in some cases they even are the opening tracks.  Going back to newies, Bobbye “Doll” Johnson’s delivery on a beat-ballad called Baby Daddy is relaxed and smooth, while Carl Sims excels on a sax-spiced, late-night soul ballad named Just One NightCharles Wilson and Mel Waiters burst into strong vocal interplay on a hammering beater called Something Different about You.  The rest of the artists either belt out the blues (Clarence Dobbins, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Willie West and Carl Marshall & the New Orleans Legends), or sing smooth r&b (Walter Waiters and Sir Charles Jones & Jody Sticker).



  Lee’s second CDS CD titled I’m the Man for the Job (CDC 1025) was produced by Eric Perkins and Harrison Calloway.  The programming doesn’t make you grit your teeth this time, with the exception of a couple of “horn parts.”  I guess the quick-tempo title track with lyrics like “you play six, I play nine” will be one of the hit sounds on this set, with Yesterday I Fell in Love and Are You Leaving Me for Another Man? falling musically into the same bag.  It Ain’t Me No More and 753-L.O.V.E. are nice mid-tempo bouncers and Lifting up the Name of Jesus is a spiritual mover.

  There are only two downtempo songs – the bluesy Got a Good Woman and a relaxed cover of the Commodores’ # 1 hit Easy (’77), which really isn’t suitable material for Lee’s more gutsy style.  On his previous album there was one great soul ballad, Dirt Road to Your Heart, which already had been cut by Lee Morris for his Morris Code 337 album in 1996.  Thanks to Juhani Laikkoja for pointing this out for me.  I even interviewed Lee Morris on the basis of that CD at that point, but had forgotten all about the origins of that fine song.  Anyway, on Lee “Shot’s” current CD there’s nothing to compare to that gem, and, all in all, I’m afraid this is one of Lee’s least worthwhile efforts.  He doesn’t get a chance to show his true talent.

  Incidentally, this and all the other southern soul indie CDs below can easily be purchased at


  Stan is another very soulful singer, who I rate very high, but also in this case I have to wait for his next album to hopefully hear the kind of thrilling music he used to record.  Production on I Like It! (CDC 1030) is shared by Carl Marshall (7 tracks), Rick Lucas & Bob Jones (1 track) and Simeo, who has remixed four Floyd Hamberlin Jr.’s earlier songs from the Man Up CD.  Considering that a duet called Who Knows You appeared already on Nellie Travis’ I’m a Woman album and the song Change (Family Reunion) from Stan’s I’m Comin’ Back CD is also remixed, we are left with only six new songs.

  The most convincing and inspirational vocal delivery we can hear on Never Gonna Give You Up, and the most joyous singing together with Jamonte Black, Rue Davis and Little Buck is struck up on If I Could Reach Out, an Otis Clay bravura.  Stan sings the Natural Four song, Can This Be Real?, in a style close to Al Green, and actually those three tracks are the only delights on this CD, which once again is marred by Carl Marshall’s horrible “horns.”


  Will Easley is one of the most exciting artists to enter the southern soul arena recently, although actually he’s been entertaining for over forty years by now.  His strong and masculine voice fills any space immediately and brings the essential element of raw and uncompromising soul into his music.

  “I was born in Pensacola, Florida, in August 1954.  I moved to Atlanta in the 70s, where I lived for many years.  My mother, Voncile Williams, was a singer and my father, Willie Easley, Sr., was a trumpet player, but they never pursued a career.  They had to work jobs, so that they could take care of us.  In the early years, in the late 60s, we siblings had a little group called the Soul Rolls.  I’m just about the only one in my family that really went out and pursued it.  I’ve been in music all my life, ever since I was a kid.  I used to sing in the choirs, back in the church.”

  “When I was in the military in the early 70s, I used to travel around the country and sing at the military bases.  I was in Special Service.  After that I was under a management contract with Redd Foxx Productions.  In the 70s, coming up, I just couldn’t get out there and just sing for a living and make it.  I had jobs, of course.  I had responsibilities and things I had to do.  It was singing... and jobs.  I did other things in the music business as a promoter, and I did musical shows down on the beaches in Florida.  I had a TV show at Pensacola Beach called The Will Easley Show, and I picked up a lot of my fan base from there.  I also did a tour with a play A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”  Will was involved in movie business as well.

  “The first time I recorded was years ago.  I recorded some gospel stuff in Florida at the Fowler studio.  I think that was back in the 80s.  I just recorded them.  I never released them.  Next I did some country stuff, because I sang country music for a few years.  I did my first professional show back when I was fourteen years of age, opening up the Charley Pride show.  That was in my home town, Pensacola.  I’ve always loved country music.  Those recordings were back in the 80s, too.  I didn’t have a record deal then.  I just ended up writing and recording some songs.  One of my songs, Full Time Man, won a contest at a local radio station back then, so I guess my country songs were alright (laughing).  I’ve done many recordings.  It’s just that I’ve never released them to people.  I just like to write, then I record it and pack it away.  I have a large library of songs that I’ve done.”

  Will’s first released records were cut ten years ago.  A heartfelt song called Don’t Ya like it from 2000 is actually still in demand, and the same year it was followed by an album titled Will Power on Nivel.  “That was David Levin, and he passed on.  He died of cancer.  I think we were on the right track, but he got sick and passed on and the record company folded, but we enjoyed doing that one CD with him.  He was part of the Levin’s law firm.  The label was Nivel, it was Levin spelt backwards.  That particular CD had more of an r&b twist than southern soul, even though we were trying to market it in the southern soul market.  I never agreed with how they were trying to do that, because it would keep your fan base confused.”  On some of the songs on the set Will sounds remarkably like the late Al Wilson.  Will hooked up with his current recording company through an associate of CDS Records, and as the first thing Will Power was re-released last year under the title of Sweet Sexy Soul (CDS 1009) with three new songs on it ( 

  Will’s second CDS album, Smokin’ (CDC 1031) hit the streets not long ago and it was cut in Montgomery, Alabama, where he moved from Atlanta three years ago.  The set was produced by Will and Eric Perkins, and eight out of the ten songs on display were penned by Will and his wife, Patricia Ann Crimes.  “On some of the songs there were real live instruments like guitar and bass.”  The CD is dedicated to the memory of Jay K McCoy.  “He used to be my manager and he passed away in the middle of us working on the project.”

  The CD kicks off with a quick-tempo dancer named Wiggle When She Walk, which was released as the first single.  Why You Wanna is another fast bouncer, written by Marcus Daniels, but then tempo comes down for a swaying ballad called Damn Fool.  “It’s really a message song.  I’m trying to send a message out especially to young ladies that let these young fellows come in and just make a fool out of them.  Make them go get jobs.  Don’t let them sit in your house all day, while you go to work.  Don’t let them go on driving around in your car picking up other women.  It started out as a message to one of my daughters, and it may be our next single release.”

  Work with it and Big Girls Ain’t Moody are both booming and loud beaters, while Back in the Mood is more of a mid-pacer.  Whatever is a smooth and romantic ballad.  “There’s a message to men.  If you want a relationship, whatever it takes, make that woman happy.  It’s a song about trying to keep people together.  The divorce rate in this country is sky-high, because people just give up too easy.  I wanted to write songs that had messages in them.”

  The most compelling uptempo song is the stomping I Got You.  “That’s a man with a lot of confidence - I don’t have much, I don’t have a lot of money and I don’t live in a big house, but I’ve got the woman that I love.  That song is kind of about me and my wife.”

  Will’s own favourite alongside Wiggle is a gentle and sentimental song titled Mama, I Love You.  “I lost my mother a few years ago.  Before she died, I had written this particular song for her, and she loved it.  It’s just something I’m going to do on every CD project that I do.  I want to put on a mother’s song, because I want people to realize that mama’s not going to be here forever.  My mother always loved my singing.  When I was a kid, she would call me in and give me a quarter and say ‘son, sing mama a song’.”

  The final song, Faith, is written by Eric Perkins and it’s a soulful spiritual ballad.  “It was something that Eric was going through, and when he first let me hear the song it sounded so much like me.  You got to hold on to your faith.  That’s all you got.”  A couple of times Will makes a sort of bubbling sound with his mouth by tapping his tongue against upper teeth and lip.  “That’s just an old trademark.  Everybody has to have a signature.  It’s called scatting.  It’s been around for a long time, but people just don’t do it anymore.”

  Will’s on the road a lot these days.  “Whenever I use a band, I usually use a 5-piece band, but I do a lot of track shows also.  I would love to take a band everywhere I go, but unfortunately with the economy the way it is promoters won’t pay what they used to pay.”

  Will names the late Eddie Kendricks, Charley Pride and Lenny Williams his favourite artists, and among the groups he thinks highly of the Temptations and the Commodores.  “I’m going to hang on with this southern soul that I’m doing now.  I like it and I’m comfortable with it, and I’m trying to build me a fan base doing southern soul.  I want to take southern soul to another level.  When the Grammys come on, you see rock, gospel, r&b, but you don’t see the southern soul guys going on there getting Grammys.  I want to be one of the first ones that cross it over to that.  I want to work real hard and introduce people to southern soul music.  I think it’s a great art and beautiful music.  It makes you feel good.  It lifts you up.” ( (Interview conducted on April 6; acknowledgements to Dylann DeAnna).


  What a disappointment!  Are they trying to turn a great, 56-year-old Southern soul singer Floyd Taylor into a teenage idol?  I won’t even go into songs or forces behind them, but I would never have believed that they give Floyd non-songs and meanderers with a contemporary, pounding, stuffy and repulsively programmed background; they even use those lovely boxes to distort human voice.  Floyd’s singing is in big contradiction with machines.  If ever I listen to this CD again, which I doubt, it’s because of two slowies, All of you, All of me and Someone to Love you.  In voice and looks Floyd is a dead ringer for his dad, Johnnie Taylor, but here the legacy is wasted.  Hold on to Floyd’s three earlier Malaco albums. (


  JoAnne Delapaz is very prolific these days, and Ms Jody’s in the Streets Again (ECD 1121; is already her fifth Ecko CD in four years.  Produced by John Ward, the songs were for the most part written by Ms Jody (4), John Ward and Gerard Rayborn.  The only exception is a mid-tempo ditty titled I Can’t Feel You No More, which was produced, arranged and written by Michael Holt, Percy Friends and Larry Chambers.

  The title tune and Lick If You Can’t Stick are mid-paced blues romps, whereas Weekend Lovin’, Tell Me When You Want It, Deal With It and Finders Keepers are all more quick-tempo bouncers.  The poppy and bopping The Bop has already evolved into a hit.

  The tempo comes down on the relaxed You Meant It for My Bad, But It Turned out for My Good, the darkish I Won’t Be Back and the romantic I Wanna Make Love to You Tonight (with irritating horn imitations), but the cream cuts are a hurting country & soul ballad called I’ve Got the Strength to Walk Away and another country & soul beauty named You Had It All.  It’s all very nice, but tends to become a bit samey, so some experimenting and limit-breaking wouldn’t hurt.  But if it sells, who am I to argue.


  Get in Touch with Me (Gunsmoke 792058; was produced and arranged by Jesse and Felton Pilate, and by programming they’ve created quite a full sound, but unfortunately those unconvincing horns appear here a couple of times, too.  There are thirteen tracks altogether, but three songs are doubled as remixes and at least two ballads – I Can’t Help but Smile and Visiting Rights – have appeared on Jesse’s earlier albums.

  Ghetto Booty and Marvin Sease’s Hoochie Mama are funky numbers, whereas Smoke and Fire is a more mid-tempo beater.  The title tune, Get in Touch with Me, is a longing and romantic slowie, while the seasonal It Doesn’t Seem like Christmas is a blue beat-ballad, and Ernie Johnson’s song Share Your Love (with someone Else) maintains the same mood. 

  It wouldn’t be a Jesse James record without social messages and on this CD there are two slow jams that deliver them, If He Can’t Hold His Pants up How Can He Hold You up and It’s Time for a Change, which borrows passages from Martin Luther King’s speech (like What Happened to the Dream earlier) and which is connected to the tragic events that caused Jesse to lose his son and grandson.  This is another solid and also thought-provoking set from Jesse.


  Jerry Minnis’ Let It Ride (Brimstone Records; was cut in his hometown, Memphis, and the programming this time is actually quite tolerable with the exception of Carl Marshall’s two slow-to-mid-tempo tracks and his distinguished “horns.”

  Three dancers – this is at least the third time Nasty is included on Jerry’s CDs – are counterbalanced by one bluesy moan (She Ain’t Giving Me None) and one slightly dragging beat-ballad (You Got Something) but even more so by three thrilling and soulful SS ballads – She Lied on me, Make a Choice (both produced and written by another Brimstone artist, Ricky White) and Silly.

  On some tracks Jerry sounds remarkably like the late Gerald Levert, which isn’t bad at all, but due to better material, however, his first album, Last Word in Lonesome, still remains his best work (


  Jae B Barnes ( wrote and produced most of Shake It Up (on NorthWest Records out of Atlanta, Georgia) with some help from his wife, Dee Robinson.  Unfortunately both the six uptempo cuts, and four downtempo beat-ballads - including one obligatory blues number - are all rather clichéd.  Also the cover of the Staple Singers’ Let’s Do It Again is somewhat lifeless, which leaves us with the best track, a cover of George Jackson’s touching ballad, Walk Away with Me, which Johnnie Taylor cut for his Good Love! album and which also vocally is Jae’s strongest performance here.  Here he shows that he can put emotion into his singing, but he needs better material and production next time.


  They call Lattimore “Soul Survivor”, which is an apt epithet after all the trials and tribulations he’s gone through in his life.  You can read more about it in Spencer Williams’ liner notes to Lattimore’s latest EP, and that bio is available also on the internet at  The EP (RTM EP109) was produced and arranged by Bob Wilson and we are treated to real live rhythm section, horns and background singers.  This is the first time Lattimore has cut new music in thirty years.

  Lattimore’s reading of Pain in my Heart is filled with agony and soul, and the familiar Otis song is arranged to genuine 60s style.  This is basic southern soul music the way they used to make it in the heyday.  The Itch is almost like a sing-along, rolling dancer, with even some rock guitar licks.  You can watch the video on the website above.  For the sake of Lattimore and simply good music I urge you to listen to and hopefully purchase this nostalgic and delightfully “puritan” record.


  I Am an American is a song that Kenneth Gamble ( discovered at the late Father Divine’s Circle Mission Church.  Now they have only not re-recorded the song with the Temple University Orchestra and Choir featuring Patti Labelle, but they also shot a documentary DVD titled The Making of an Anthem (   The CD was produced by Mr. Gamble and he also did the narration on it.

  On the DVD during 45 minutes they go through the history of the song and its revival, but for the Philly music lovers the most interesting part is a ten-minute bonus called Gamble and Huff Musical History. 

  When I first heard the song, I couldn’t believe it!  Do they still make this kind of music?  It was like from an old John Wayne movie, and you could almost picture the cavalry riding in.  They say it carries “universal message”, but I say no!  It’s nothing but an ultra-patriotic, an almost nationalistic U.S. song.  This is the kind of music that is best kept inside those patriotic circles and not spread outside.  I feel the same way about religion, too - and I’m a member of the church.  More often than not it only irritates outsiders and turns them against it.  Intensions may be good, but non-comprehension of the tastes and thinking of the outside world causes only resistance.  The closest I can compare this to is the current Russian national anthem that was revived from the Stalin days.  And I’m serious.  Both songs are very patriotic, very pompous, but at the same time melodramatic and naive.  The best elements are the big orchestra and choir, and Patti is the only factor that brings soul into this song.



  Subtitled The Detroit Soul & R&B Index, Keith Rylatt’s book is a massive and comprehensive research into the city’s music scene, apart from Motown and its subsidiaries.  Keith writes that “this book is dedicated to these mostly unsung Detroit heroes and heroines, whether they are artists, label owners, producers, writers, arrangers, engineers, whatever.”  Published by Stuart Russell this year in Great Britain, this 320-page volume has impressive illustration with numerous interesting old photos, ads, posters and record labels.

  The first 140 pages consists of 47 articles about Detroit’s music history after world war two – strong on jazz and blues - significant places and studios (United Sound, the Snakepit, Tera Shirma and the Flame Show Bar) and companies such as Fortune, Lupine, Anna, Check-Mate, Harvey, Tri-Phi, Thelma, Westbound/Eastbound and Invictus with all the subsidiaries.

  Some producers, writers and entrepreneurs get their own chapters (e.g. Johnnie Mae Matthews, Ed Wingate, Don Davis, LeBaron Taylor, Tony Hester, Clay McMurray, George McGregor, Mike Hanks, Al Kent, Ollie McLaughlin, Armen Boladian and H-D-H).  Keith hasn’t forgotten musicians, either; witness James Jamerson, Earl Van Dyke, Jack Ashford and Mike Terry, but a large proportion of the pages is dedicated to significant artists, such as Andre Williams, Richard “Popcorn” Wylie, Melvin Davis, Don Mancha, Emanuel Lasky, George Clinton, Edwin Starr, Darrell Banks, J.J. Barnes, McKinley Jackson etc.

  The second, 124-page section is titled “Detroit connection, an A-Z of the motor city’s artists”, and it features hundreds and hundreds of artists that either were Detroiters, or had musical ties with the city.  Under the name of the artist there are listed the labels he/she/they recorded for, often a short bio and - in case of a group – its members.  Unfortunately the perpetual mistake I’ve been fighting against for years still prevails: the Dramatics never called themselves the Dynamics.  I’ve checked this with Ron Banks twice.

  The third main section is called “Detroit Incorporated, an A-Z of the motor city’s soul, r&b and blues labels and companies located in Detroit & South Michigan after 1950” and on the following 37 pages all those imprints are listed with addresses and owners (if available) and the artists on them. 

  This is a great reference book and essential reading for all fans of the Detroit sound; be it from the northern soul perspective or just as a history lesson.  The book is crammed with information, and you can purchase it at

  There’s also a CD to go with the book, Groovesville USA/Detroit Soul Classics (Outta Sight, OSCD010; 24 tracks, 62 min.; 7 prev. unissued; liners by Keith Rylatt), which covers the years from 1965 till ’68 and has cuts from such labels as Revilot, Groovesville, Karate and six others. 

  The CD centres round Don Davis’ operations, and although there are many mediocre stompers and dancers on display, some fine and energetic music is available, too.  Baby Please Come back Home is a haunting toe-tapper by J.J. Barnes, a stomper called Love on a Lease Plan is credited to Johnnie Taylor and Darrell Banks is as convincing as always on Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You.  The cream cut is Melvin Davis’ driving dancer named I’m the One Who Loves You, although his singing is mixed way too back.  Other noteworthy fast numbers are Don’t Be Sore at Me by the Parliaments, Has It Happened to you yet by Edwin Starr and I’ll Never Forget You by the O’Jays, which certainly differs from their other output those days.  Among other artists you can spot such names as Jackey Beavers, Steve Mancha, Tony Hester, Pat Lewis (or Terri Bryant), Willie Hatcher and Robert Ward.

  In conclusion let’s still pay tribute to Don Davis and go back to my interview with him a few years back and read some extracts covering his early career.  Don was born on October 25 in 1938 in Detroit.  Don: “First it was the church.  My family went to church three times a week, and the music was to me the most attractive thing about the church.  Then in school I started playing trumpet, then I went to saxophone, and finally in high school I went to guitar.”  Those days Don’s main interest was jazz.

  “I did early Motown recording sessions.  When I started playing those sessions, I eventually was asked to join a label called Thelma Records, which was Berry Gordy’s first wife’s record label.  Her mother asked me to come in.  The first recording session I played on was J.J. Barnes’ Won’t You Let Me Know (on Kable 437 in ’60).  Thelma’s mother was involved in that.  Then I went from there to starting my own label, which was a joint venture with Thelma and myself and which was called Da Co, which was Davis and Coleman.  1960 and ’61 were my last years at Motown.  Then I went to Indianapolis and stayed there till ’64.  There I was in a group called the Psychos, believe it or not...”


  They won me over the minute I saw on the cover of the book a picture from an Oscar Toney Jr. session.  Inside they tell more about the first session, where Oscar is asked about a song that best illustrates his talent and Oscar answers that “there was that old Jerry Butler song, For Your Precious Love... and I wrote this recitation ‘into each life a little rain must fall / every day can’t be Sunday / every smile isn’t a smile of happiness / and every tear that’s shed is not a tear of joy’.”  It doesn’t quite tally with what Oscar told me for my in-depth feature (in our printed paper # 4/98), but that’s not important here.  This new book is.

  Memphis Boys/the Story of American Studios (University Press of Mississippi, Jackson; ISBN 978-1-60473-401-0) is put together and written by Roben Jones, a girl hailing from West Virginia, during the last ten years based on research and countless interviews with musicians, patrons (Quinton Claunch, Papa Don), songwriters, engineers and a few artists, too.  This densely written book has 430 pages with two columns on each page, and the ever-important index is included.  The only minus is the shortage of pictures.  There are only six pages of them.

  Chips Moman, of course, has the leading role, but along with him and his partner, Don Crews, Memphis Boys concentrates on core musicians, the rhythm section at the American Studios.  The book is dedicated to the late Tommy Cogbill (bass, guitar), but also Reggie Young (lead guitar), Bobby Emmons (organ, piano), Gene Chrisman (drums, percussion), Mike Leech (bass) and Bobby Wood (piano) are in the limelight.  Other important figures include Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Bobby Womack, Wayne Carson, Mark James and Donnie Fritts.

  The book proceeds chronologically and tells first, how the Memphis Boys came together from different sources – Sun, Hi, Stax – and how the Bill Black Combo was one significant stage.  Opposite to some previous statements about the break-up between Chips and Stax in the early 60s, here they say openly that Chips actually got the Stax running and he was the victim due to not getting paid as agreed, and Jim Stewart and Steve Cropper are the actual crooks.  Chips remained bitter about that for years to come.

  American was founded in late ’64 and their first triumphs included It’s Wonderful to be in Love by the Ovations, Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaos (who was quite a character), Keep on Dancing by the Gentrys and Born a Woman by Sandy Posey.

  One of Chips’ main guidelines was that “songs are the most important things, and then you have to have people who can interpret them.”  In the 60s their songs were mostly melancholy and sad stories about hardships in life, storylines that the southerners could relate to those days.  As the studio started attracting more and more attention, the line of the visiting artists grew longer and the Memphis Boys were invited to play also in other studios such as in Muscle Shoals and New York.  They are behind many masterpieces by Wilson Pickett, Mighty Sam, the Purifys, James Carr, Spencer Wiggins, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Esther Phillips, the Sweet Inspirations, Clarence Carter, Joe Simon, Joe Tex, the Masqueraders, Dionne Warwick, Roy Hamilton, the Blossoms, Sonny Charles, Carla Thomas and Bill Medley.

  Besides soul music they cut pop and country, too, with Charlie Rich, B.J. Thomas, the Box Tops, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Merrilee Rush, Dusty Springfield, Neil Diamond, Brenda Lee, Petula Clark, Janis Joplin, and their peak session in the public eye took place in 1969 with Elvis Presley.

  In 1970 there were already weak signs of Chips losing his focus, his new girlfriend Toni Wine confused the established pattern in the studio among the musicians and a law suit and non-fulfilment of the plans with biggies all thrust the upswing little by little into downhill.  With no appreciation from the city of Memphis either, finally in the summer of 1972 Chips moved his operations to Atlanta and later to Nashville.

  During the eight years they scored with 122 chart records.  Memphis Boys tells in detail, song-by-song and session-by-session the whole history from the perspective of the musicians, producers, arrangers, writers and engineers.  It’s an easy read with many interesting episodes.  All Memphis music and southern soul fans should purchase this book.


  A renowned Philly musician, producer, songwriter and arranger, Bobby Eli, has put together a writing and production team called the Four Generals.  We remember Bobby not only as a member of MFSB, but also as a composer or co-writer of such memorable songs as Love Won’t Let Me Wait, Sideshow, Three Ring Circus, Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely and Zoom.  Wearing his production hat, he has worked with such acts as Atlantic Starr, Rose Royce, Jackie Moore and Booker Newberry III.  These days he has his own Studio E (, where some of the recent projects include new albums by Deniece Williams, George Clinton and the 3 Tenors of Soul - Russell Thomkins, Jr., William Hart and Ted Mills.

  The lady general is none other than Janice McClain, the daughter of Sandra McClain (of the Fashions fame) and a fine vocalist, who had a couple of small hits in the 80s – Smack Dab in the Middle on RFC/Warner in ’80 and Passion and Pain on MCA in ’86, as well as a self-titled album on MCA that same year. 

  Lawrence Drinks comes from church and still today Brother Drinks is heading the Music Ministry at the Golden Star Baptist Church.  This singer, songwriter and musician has joined forces in a publishing company with another colleague, Michael Anderson, who has been busy earlier with theatrical plays, jingles, book publishing and even a band of his own.  The Four Generals is on starting grid and we’ll be hearing from them soon.

Heikki Suosalo

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