Ichiban has a knack of finding new and often times surprisingly soulful talents, either to its own label, or to feed its distribution net. But many times these artists also disappear mysteriously, sometimes after only one album. Let's hope that this won't be the case with their new discovery, Mr. Rue Davis.
Rue's eight-tracker, I'm In Love With The Girl Next Door, was originally released on Kon-Kord Records out of Hollywood, California, but Ichiban took it, added three tracks and released through their own system by the name of YOU ARE MY HONEY POO (Kon 4213). The set is produced by the owners of Kon-Kord, the Patterson twins, Estus and Lester. One of the mixers, by the way, is Leon Haywood. Rue has penned seven songs, and they are all very basic r&b tunes and almost everyone rings a bell.
The set opens with a catchy, Tyrone Davis like lilter, Honey Poo. "I, incidentally, wrote that tune about my wife." It is followed by Don't Let Nobody Make A Fool Of You, kinda funk-softie, written by Bobby Griffin and V. Davis. "I have not met the gentlemen. I was just asked to record it. They are some friends of Estus and Lester. I think it's a good tune for the people out there to jam."
I'm In Love With The Girl Next Door is a light, uptempo swayer, very much in Johnnie Taylor vein, also vocally. "I wrote that mainly in a Las Vegas music style. A lot of people say this is a blues tune, but I don't call it that." Next one, a smooth and soulful beat ballad, Hard To Live Without You, would also sit comfortably in any Johnnie Taylor album. "Hard is a very personal song. I wrote that about an incident that happened to me many years ago." Alongside with the title track it's also Rue's own favourite on the set.
Heaven Has Sent Me Your Love is a mellow ballad with strong vocals from Rue, and also with a touch of Sam Cooke. "I wrote that as a wedding song." You'll Never Find Another Baby is a spirited, good-humoured dancer. "It's a good dance tune. In a club, when you hear that, that makes you get up and dance. I get a lot of compliments from folks saying 'hey, you sound like Al Green'. It's got a lot of Al Green traditions in it."
Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It was a hit for Z.Z. Hill in '77. "It was my idea. I always was a person that was God-gifted with so many different voices, and Z.Z. Hill was one of my idols, besides Sam Cooke, and this particular song I've always wanted to sing."
Baby is a very catchy and snappy dancer. "I love the song Baby, because if you listen, you can hear some strong points of Marvin Gaye hits in there. I kinda wrote that in a Motown way, and I wrote this song, because I also wanted it to cross over."
We all cherish Jimmy Ruffin's first hit in '66, What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted? "Broken-Hearted was a song also that I've always wanted to sing, but I've always had a hard time learning it. We kinda changed the tempo, and made it a little more pop."
The set closes with a straight blues track, You Gonna Make A Good Man Do Wrong. "It's all down blues, and if you remember Ted Taylor, you have this same kind of dramatical type sound. A lot of people say `hey man, this sounds like Ted'. So this is mostly a song I wrote that would go good for all the people that like Ted Taylor, Johnnie Taylor and Little Johnny Taylor. As a matter of fact, on my next one we're gonna have a little bit 'bout the same thing."
So, how did Ichiban find Rue? "Actually what happened was, and it was a blessing, Estus and Lester just happened to send the CD down there, and the guy over at Ichiban was kinda overwhelmed over it. They wanted to go ahead on, take over and distribute my music nationwide, but we had to have three more tunes recorded" (Honey Poo, Don't Let Nobody Make A Fool Of You and You Gonna Make A Good Man Do Wrong).
We'll follow our `deeply' tested pattern, and as a next thing start studying Rue's career. "I was born in Houston, Texas, June 24th 1955. Now I'm living in Memphis, but working mainly in the LA area. My adopted mother was a great influence in my life. Her name was Ella Mae Davis, and she was a gospel singer, so I came up in church, singing at the age of five. She had a gospel group, The Allen Gospel Singers, that would always be singing out there in different churches, and she would put me up in front of everybody and I would sing solos."
Rue's greatest musical influence, however, has been Sam Cooke, and "as a youngster, back in school, I had different people that I liked - Elvis Presley, Smokey Robinson, The Beatles - those people in the 60's."
It wasn't until Rue was way over twenty when he finally got the bug. "I started singing professionally in '79. I went to a club with a friend of mine, sang a song, and from there my career started. I went into the blues area. I didn't know anything about the blues, but I knew I had the talent to sing all different types of music. Bobby 'Blue' Bland was a friend of mine, and had me in his house rehearsing. Also B.B. King stuck in my head, and from that time one I started singing the blues, from '79 on to the eighties.
One night I went into a club in Houston, got up and sang. There was a lady that I knew. Her name was Lady D, a notable singer that helped me got started in the blues area. She helped me get my first forty-five, my first record in 1980. I had written songs, I have been a writer since I was eight. She took me into the studio and recorded a song called `Shake It Loose'. I had a three-piece band in the studio. It wasn't the best sound at all. It was on Palladium Records. It was just a record label where everybody in Houston would go to record. After that I started playing in different clubs, going out of town.
My biggest breaks came round about '84-'85. The next thing that happened to me was a lady by the name of Trudy Lynn introduced me to another record company I delt with called Honey Bee Recording Studios. Freddie Cole recorded me. The releases were on Freko Records. I had written a song called `Things Are Gonna Get Better', and that came out. Things was a ballad. The flip, `I Know My Baby Can', was like a real uptempo, fast rendition. Then I recorded another song called `Life Can Be Beautiful' (b/w `I Feel You, Feel Me'). Now I was in a better recording studio and my music started sounding better."
In the meantime Rue was also engaged in some radio work, in the mid-80's.
"Right after that I wrote a song called `Hard To Live Without You', which is redone now on Kon-Kord. I recorded `Hard' in Las Vegas, and the gentleman I recorded it for couldn't get it together, finishing up the song, and I found out he was trying to steal my song. I took the tape and came back to Houston. A friend of mine, Tom Neal, told me he would invest two hundred and seventy-five dollars and take it to the pressing plant. So he made a forty-five out of it. `The Girl Next Door' was recorded in Houston also. `Girl' and `Hard' was put on this record and released on Neal's Enterprise. So he is the one that started this whole thing. This was approximately about '86. Right after that I went to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, started singing in clubs and started getting popular. There's another lady, Barbara Manson, who's played a great part in my life. She introduced me to Redd Foxx.
In Los Angeles I met the Pattersons, Estus and Lester, my producers. I was singing at a club, and they took great interest in me. I introduced my songs to them. I had bought my old records back, the records I had recorded in Houston and Vegas. They redid `Hard' and `The Girl' and made a single out of it first, and that's how I started with them. That was about '93.
Now I'm concentrating very much on trying to come out with my second album. The title of the album I got in mind is `You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too'. I would like to expose good clean love songs to the public. I would like to get into that Marvin Gaye area.
I wanna say to all the people in Europe that I wanna all ya go out and buy that album, and I hope very soon to come over and see ya."