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Deep Soul Column issue 3/2004 Part 1

Click here to the Part 2 of the column: Part 2

As an update to our 5-part Spinners story this time we kick off with an interview with the latest member of the group, Mr. Harold Bonhart.In April this year Harold replaced Billy Henderson, who was an original member ever since 1954. Billy, who had been ailing lately having had a by-pass and dialysis for his kidneys, was still in a working condition and tried to find out what he was entitled to in case his illness got worse.This caused a conflict of interests within the group, Billy was voted out and now they are in arbitration in New York and have a court case in Orlando.   There should be a decision by the end of September.


  Harold ”Spike”  Deleon Bonhart was born in Detroit on November 13th in 1961.  ”Spike was an old childhood name, because everybody in the neighbourhood had a nick-name.Music is something that I’ve always loved.When I was a child, David Ruffin was a very good friend of mine.  I met him in 1966 or ‘67, when I was only five or six years old.   He was the first entertainer I ever met that took any notice to me as a talent.”

  ”Musically my second and third grade teachers put me on the stage first.That was like in ‘68 or ‘69.My everyday was trying to prepare to be a professional entertainer.  I was always involved with school choirs, from the second grade until twelfth.My first paying gig, when I was 13 years old, was with Charles Beverly.  I made 35 dollars and I sang two songs.”   You can get acquainted with Charles and his latest release on his website at   Charles comes from Gadsden, Alabama, but has later worked in Detroit and in St. Louis with Oliver Sain and Gene Norman at Vanessa and Gino Records.  

  ”Right after school, when I was a teenager I worked in a shoe-store.I’ve done all types of work.I’ve also had a maintenance company.At one time I ran a janitorial service, I was a paperboy, I’ve put up sidewalls, I’ve cleaned windows and when I was a kid I fixed all the bikes in the neighbourhood.”

  ”I started recording demos in 1979 and I would distribute them to friends and family and some industry people.”

  ”Odell Bailey was my best friend and a very dear person that didn’t get his rightful due in the music business.   He was a music mogul and he was one of the first black pioneers to ever have a record store out of Pittsburgh.   He was a music publisher.   He helped George Benson get his career started and he helped Patti LaBelle get her career started.He passed away.   He was an awesome entrepreneur and an awesome record executive.Tell Dell Music Publishing is his publishing company. Millage Records was his label, and he had Varbee Records, too.  He actually is the original songwriter of Since I Don’t Have You.   He was the person, who showed me how to be a professional songwriter or publisher.So I became affiliated with BMI at fourteen years old.   For Mr. Bailey, I wrote a song for Patricia Lamar.It was called I’m In Love With You.  That was around 1991.We did that on Choker Campbell’s label.I was the songwriter, Patricia was the artist and Odell Bailey was the producer.”

  ”I met George Clinton in ‘79, right after graduating, but I didn’t start working with him till years later.   A mutual friend of ours got me involved with him, when he was getting ready to do Come Out Swing for the Simpsons sitcom.   I recorded that song with him in 1993.   I’ve also toured with him and the P-Funk All Stars.I also toured with Clarence Carter and the Coasters.I met Philippe Wynne in 1984.I met him just months before he passed away.  He was doing a session with David Ruffin and Ronnie McNeir.David Ruffin had Philippe Wynne as a vocal arranger, and he invited me just as a young friend, who always admired him.”

  ”In the 80s and 90s I had my own local bands, we called ourselves Perfection.I’ve always liked a big band.I had an 11-piece band that included horn players.  I also formed a group called YOU.  This group never made it.We were just two young songwriters trying to shop for a record deal and trying to learn the art of production.Creatively, Carl Vest and I were not competitive.We decided to pursue different paths.”

  ”In 2000 I took my band to Japan, to Nagoya, where we spent three months performing at Gary’s Motown Sound and played all the Motown hits and lots of other nostalgic music, from Sam Cooke to John Denver.”

  ”I’m known as a soul singer, but I have a very, very serious love for country music and pop music.   I’m influenced by James Taylor very much, and I’ve written a tribute to the late great Jim Croce, who did such songs as Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and Time In A Bottle.   I have been working with Barrett Strong for the last fifteen years.I’ve been almost, what you would call, the hidden source of the movement that Barrett Strong was putting on in Michigan.I was his silent partner, and a personal friend.  For the last fifteen years I’ve been under the wings of Barrett Strong learning how to operate a recording studio.”

  ”I’ve been writing and producing songs for Keith Washington over the last five years.  That is the only well-known artist that I’ve really been connected to as far as a songwriter.I’ve written maybe eight songs for him since he and I have been collaborating.”

  ”I had met the Spinners in passing.   Barbara Henderson and I worked for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra together in 1978.  They were planning to record a new CD.  Bobbie Smith’s daughter is a personal friend of mine.   She told her dad that she knew someone that could write songs and had a lot of good songs.  Bobbie Smith called my house in November last year and asked me to send him some material at the request of his daughter and some personal friends, like Tony Green, who knew me.”

  ”I’m the new Rubberband Man now.The reason why I had to step in, is because of Billy’s illness.   My purpose was at first to write and produce for the album, which would have included Billy Henderson.   We’re evaluating material right now and trying to decide which of the songs that I have written will best fit the Spinners.Everywhere we go I am excepted as a performer as well as excepted as a Spinner being that I am there replacing somebody, who was a founder and leader for fifty years.   Even to day I sign my autograph ‘remembering Billy’.I’m very loyal to Billy.   I wish him a speedy recovery.   I wish him great health and great wealth.I’ll hold Billy’s spot down as long as he needs for me to hold it down, hoping to see him back on stage doing what he loves to do.”


  Ricky is a young man out of Washington, D.C., and you can listen to him, watch him and read more about him at his debut album, Rewind (Virgin; ‘04), they’re deliberately taking us back to the sixties and close to the Stax sound, which, I guess, is due to Joss Stone’s recent ”retro soul”  success.  In this case I’m not the one to complain, since I like Ricky’s soulful style and his husky voice a lot, songs are good and rootsy and there’s a real live rhythm section backing him up.   The orchestration is horn-heavy, while on two emotive slowies the strings are arranged and the string section conducted by none other than Mr. Arif Mardin.

  Rewind is produced by Josh Deutsch and he also wrote most of the songs together with Ricky, Jesse Harris and Guyora Kats.  The song on the first single, It Ain’t Easy, appeared on Wilson Pickett’s recent Bullseye album (It’s Harder Now), and one of the background ladies on this pleading mid-pacer is Vaneese Thomas.   Among a couple of average beaters there are lilting, old-fashioned beat ballads (I Let You Go, If It’s Love, Are You Lonely Too?), one jolly mid-paced ditty (Oh Yeah) and emotive slowies – the almost spiritual Why, the melancholy It’s Over Now and the sentimental and beautiful A Woman’s Touch.

  Ricky has already been compared to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Al Green, and in spite of that usual ”PR” exaggeration I’m very pleased with this CD, so grab it while he’s still at it.   Soon Ricky may be a lost soul, since he has already hinted that his next album will be more hip-hop orientated.


  Wilson’s latest CD, Back To Basics, is jointly released by Bob Grady Records and Wilson’s own M&M Records.Half of the ten songs were written by Wilson himself, but on three he had Terry Montford as a co-writer.   They also produced the set together.   ”Terry’s been with me for about fifteen years.We’ve worked together on a lot of projects.”   Terry also plays bass, drums and keyboards.Recorded in Nashville , ”most of the guitars are live and most of the other stuff is programmed.”   Among background singers you can spot such names as Jeanette Meadows, Wilson’s wife, and Chauncey and Shavaughn Meadows.   ”Those are my daughters.   Chauncey is fifteen, going to college, and Shavaughn is twenty-one and she just graduated from college.”

  A tender, pleading ballad called When You Really Love Somebody has already been around for awhile.   ”It was the first single.   It was released about three or four weeks before the CD, and we’re getting a real good response on that one.   It’s a new tune.”

  The set opens with a sharp and catchy party number named Shake, which to these ears has hit potential in it.   ”Since the CD’s been released, a lot of the disc-jockeys like that Shake, so maybe it’ll be the next single, I’m not sure yet.I wrote Shake recently, about five months ago.”

  Can’t Have Your Cake is a hard-hitting beater.”It’s a new song, but it’s old to me, because it’s something that I wrote maybe six-eight years ago.”   A dancer titled Finders Keepers was first recorded by the Zircons with Wilson in the line-up in late ‘69 on Capitol.”We got a good response on it back in the 70s, but we got a lot of new generations out there that hadn’t heard this music, so I thought it might be a good time to kinda reinvent it.”

  Stop Cheating Love is an airy floater with real-to-life lyrics to it.”Actually I wrote that one based on a friend of mine going through a sort of a situation like that.”   You Ain’t Comin Back is a delicate, melodic ballad.   ”Actually it was the flip of Finders Keepers, and it was written by Robert Eppinger, who was a member of the Zircons.”

  After getting your breath back it’s time to hit the dance-floor again with Let’s Do That Thang.   ”Probably that one is older than anything on the CD.I wrote that song back in the early 70s.”   Another stepper, Oh Girl, appeared already on Wilson’s first Bob Grady album.   ”I’ve had several disc-jockeys to tell me that I need to put that one back out.I think, on that first album, Memories, there were so many good songs on there that Oh Girl got kinda overlooked.”

  Don’t Be Surprised doesn’t slow things down.”It’s an old song.   That’s part of the whole reason for naming the album Back To Basics, because most of those songs I wrote back in the 70s and 80s.  Actually this song was released on the Best Of CD ”  (in 2003).   The closing soul ballad, the emotive Hold On My Heart, also came out on the Memories CD first and earlier it was cut by Reuben James and Dalton Reed.

  Wilson turned sixty on July the third this summer, and we’ve talked to him a couple of times before and had a look at his recording history.He first started with the Capes, who recorded a ditty called Vow for Chat in the early 60s, and then went on to have singles as a member of the Zircons since 1962 (on Federal, Heigh-ho, Hip Spin and Capitol).   ”Actually the Capes and the Zircons were the same group, which just changed names.”   After the Meadows Brothers and going solo Wilson hooked up with Bob Grady, and now Back To Basics is their fourth release (excluding Best Of).

  The r&b indie scene is going through a difficult period these days.”It’s a struggle for new artists.One main reason is because you got so many people here bootlegging CD’s.  It’s just so difficult now to get a hit as opposed to eighteen years ago, and looks like it’s getting even more difficult.   For some reason there doesn’t seem to be any law and force getting behind trying to stop it, and it’s making it so difficult for a younger artist to break through.  Actually it’s affecting us also, and coupled with a pretty bad economy it’s just a little tough right now.Also gigs are less right now.”

  Already earlier Wilson has said that he’s not going to record forever.”I’m gonna look at this CD and just kinda wait and see, how this one does.I’m gonna make a judgement after that.   I think that my plan is eventually to go into recording younger talent.”


  After a ten year’s recording break Percy Sledge is back with a new studio album, Shining Through The Rain ( Varèse Sarabande; ‘04).Recorded in California and produced by Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg, much of the same personnel that worked on Percy’s previous album, Blue Night, appears on this CD, too.Not only the producers, but nine of the players and the three Waters ladies on the background have returned to the studio for Percy (, which prompts me to add that all of the playing is live.Percy’s acquaintance from forty years back, Clayton Ivey (piano, organ), is now added to the rhythm section.

  When listening to this newie, seems like time has stood still, since Percy’s distinctive voice and style haven’t changed a bit.Due to the background of the producers, the songs derive mainly from pop, rock and country – and as far as I can gather they all are covers – but they perfectly suit Percy’s straightforward, serious singing.

  There’s a Swedish connection through two rock artists, Mikael Rickfors and Carla Olson, who are co-writers on four songs here.   Both the opening title track, a melodic toe- tapper, and the poignant, beautiful closing ballad, Road Of No Return, appeared on Mikael’s Happy Man Don’t Kill album (‘97).Misty Morning is a straight country ballad, whereas a poppy, mid-paced jogger called Rubies & Diamonds comes from Carla’s Sweden USA album (‘88).

  Carla is primarily known from the Textones fame in the 80s, while Mikael was a one-time member of the Hollies in the 70s, which must be the reason for the inclusion of Lonely Hobo Lullabye, a country & pop ballad from the Hollies’ Another Night album (‘75).

  Other tracks that come from the pop world include a pretty song titled A Lonely Violin, which the Bee Gees – one of Percy’s favourite groups, by the way – wrote and recorded for their ‘73 album but which, for whatever reason, remained unreleased at the time.   Jackie Lomax – originally an early 60s Liverpool rocker and a member of the Renegades, among other groups – wrote and recorded for his ‘69 Apple album, Is This What You Want?, a slow and beaty pop song called Fall Inside Your Eyes, which Percy revives here for more soul-inclined ears.

  Of the three remaining uptempo cuts 24 – 7 – 365 is a beater, which some may remember from Charles & Eddie’s Chocolate Milk album (‘95), and the old country song, Big Blue Diamonds, is done with a swinging big-band arrangement and with Paul Jones sharing the vocals.On the black side the song is best known by Little Willie John and Tommy Tate.Bobby Moore’s Searching For My Baby has inspired Percy into a hilarious and lively performance, and I guess this isn’t the first time he’s singing this song, since both Bobby and Percy hail from the same Alabama region and know each other already from the 60s (you can read our interview with Bobby Moore in our previous issue).

  Change My Mind is a pretty country ballad, Love Come Rescue Me also a melodic and simple slowie and My Old Friend The Blues, a touching and poignant country song, was first cut on the Guitar Town album (‘86) by its writer, Steve Earle.   A very enjoyable collection of ” soulified”  country and pop songs.


  We talked to Jim (in our # 1/2000) right after the release of his Still Lovin’ CD and learned that Jim has played over thirty years by now, mainly in the Washington D.C. and Maryland areas.   I quite like Jim’s husky, pleading voice, but I wonder what happened to his 6-piece band, because on the new CD he is using to an extent a typical indie programming.

  With the running time of mere 32 minutes, Portrait Of A Masterpiece (Ja Ben Productions; ‘04), is almost equally divided between covers and new songs.   Lady Mary (House) is the featured vocalist on Who Is She To You (by Creative Source in ‘74; co-written by Bill Withers), but this time her dusky and unimaginative interpretation is anything but inspiring.   Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me (‘62) is one of my favourite melodies, but here Jim’s version doesn’t bring any additional value or new angle to it.   The same goes for Out In Left Field (Percy in ‘67) and In The Midnight (Wilson in ‘65), too.

  Still Partying, Hot Loving and Put Up Or Shut Up are quite nice, light dancers, whereas Can We Steal Away is one of those slow infidelity ballads.  The high-light, however, is a duet with Jim’s long-time friend and a co-musician, Roy C, on a blooming soul slowie called That Girl Is Mine.


  After having listened to a pile of indifferent CD’s, every now and then there comes a record that literally wakes you up and resurrects your faith in the survival of Southern indie soul music.   Booker Brown’s Passion Of Love (Blues River Records; ‘04) did just that for me.With six magnificent tracks out of ten, today that’s a lot… especially considering that there’s only one inferior cut.

  Booker is an impressive soul shouter and he also wrote or co-wrote eight songs on display here.   Recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, and produced by Morris J. Williams and Percy Friends, customarily the only live instruments are guitars, but in this case the programming is done skilfully and on some tracks you hardly notice it under Booker’s roaring delivery and strong background vocal accompaniment.

  The opener, Cuchie Cuchie, is a laid-back dancer, written by Booker and Aaron Weddington.   ”Aaron is my manager, and also he owns Blues River Records.”   In the same vein there are a poppy and intimate mid-pacer called Anytime You Want It and the first decoy of the CD, a smooth jogger named Backyard Party.   That one inferior cut is titled Sugar Daddy, an awful bluesy mid-pacer with dirty rock guitar licks, vocoders and other similarly wonderful elements.

  The title song, track # 2, was the one that got me excited in the first place.This vibrant, rollicking stormer with a full-blooded sound and big-voiced and – indeed – ”passionate”  singing from Booker is repeated as a ”club mix”  at the end of the CD and on there even the rap parts in the middle are tolerable.  ”Passion Of Love is my favourite, and Backyard Party.”   I Need Your Love is another dynamic uptempo scorcher and almost as breathtaking.

  Still Lonely is a thrilling and highly emotive soul deepie, written by the late Quinn Golden.”Me and Quinn were real good friends.We go back until high school together.”   Both on Still Lonely, and another powerful, almost gospelly soul ballad called Same Thang Booker has a lady dueting with him.”We met her in Washington, D.C.She’s a real good singer, she’s sung in Washington’s churches.   I met her and she decided to cut the song with me, so we went into the studio and did it.  Her name is Linda Govan.”   I’m So Glad is the third intense ballad on the set.

  ”I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on January the 17th, 1951.My mother, Pauline Brown, was singing gospel and she has sung with the Staples Singers; also with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.She sang a lot in churches around Arkansas.”

  Naming James Brown, the Temptations and Bobby Bland his early influences, Booker got hooked up with music for good in the early 70s.”I started singing in different clubs and have travelled with different stars, like Latimore and Johnnie Taylor.   My first single (in 1991) was a song named Good Old Southern Blues.That was on the TOC label.My first CD, Stir It Up, was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, with Ichiban Records, who had a deal with TOC Records.The second one, Good Loving Daddy, and the third one, Heat Undercover, I recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, and they were with Quinn Golden’s QP Records.This new one, Passion Of Love, is the best CD I’ve recorded.”

  This scribe couldn’t agree more, and I’m still amazed at Booker’s magnificent singing.  You can read more about him at   Passion Of Love is one of the highlights of the year so far, so all you raspy indie soul fans, grab this CD!

Continue to part 2

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