Lattimore Brown - Bless Your Heart (77 2144)
Bless Your Heart
PART SEVEN"John R was a good man... an all the way good man." That's what Lattimore told me. Anyone else I've ever spoken with who knew him has said the same thing. This was a straight shooter, an honest man who treated his artists fairly, and expected the same in return. As we've seen, he was willing to 'go to the wall' to get the sound he wanted, driving to Memphis on a regular basis to record with the best in the business. After five years of his association with Fred Foster and Monument Records, his J.R. Enterprises had leased over 75 singles to Sound Stage 7.
In 1969, though, something changed.
Shut out of Memphis once again, John was determined to try and create his own 'house band' right there in Nashville. He worked out a deal with Scotty Moore, who had recently opened his own Music City studio on 19th Avenue South, and set about making that happen. Continuing to use our man Bob Wilson as the session leader, he put together the band he would come to call 'The Music City Four', which would include top shelf musicians like Kenny Buttrey, Mac Gayden and Tim Drummond.
It was Wayne Moss' bass line on a song written by Monument's Harlan Howard that paved the way for all of this, and proved to Fred Foster that it was possible to pull it off. Richbourg had been recording Joe Simon at American in Memphis, and had also done some sessions with him at Fame in Muscle Shoals (resulting in one of our fave B Sides), but none of those records could touch the phenomenal success of The Chokin' Kind. When John R played the master for Fred Foster he told him "I think you need to remix it. The bass is way too hot."
John asked him to trust him on this one, and released it the way it was. The record would spend over three months on the charts, including three weeks at number one R&B. Fred, of course, had been wrong, and he was ecstatic about it. The label had never seen that kind of success before and it kind of changed everything. Foster, for whatever reason, didn't seem as interested in leasing as much material from J.R. Enterprises as it had in the past, and decided to concentrate on Simon, hoping for a repeat performance. By mid 1969, Roscoe Shelton, Sam Baker and Sir Lattimore Brown were all gone, and in addition to Simon, Richbourg's Sound Stage 7 releases were new Nashville productions on folks like Ella Washington, Jackey Beavers and Moody Scott.
John R started up two of his own labels at this point, called Sound Plus and Seventy 7, which were apparently created to serve as an outlet for the stuff that Monument wasn't interested in. Although he would release some truly great 45s on a roster of artists that would come to include Willie Hobbs, Earl Gaines, and Ann Sexton (among others), the records weren't selling, and without the big company behind him, there wasn't much of a budget for promotion.
He would form yet another (albeit short-lived) label named Luna somewhere around in here, and helped to bail out his partner Allen Orange's own floundering House Of Orange imprint by signing Geater Davis. Moving Davis over to Seventy 7 eventually, he managed to break into the R&B charts for the label. Orange became his full-time promotion man. There are those who say that this was a mistake. What little money Richbourg had soon began drying up, and he found it difficult to pay for studio time.
Turning to the mountain of material he had 'in the can', John R began releasing Lattimore Brown records once again. J.R. Enterprises had retained the rights to all of the masters they had recorded for Sound Stage 7, and re-released some of that material (sometimes on both labels at once!), in order to keep up a steady supply of 'product'.
He would go so far as to release an LP called 'This Is Lattimore's World', which was composed entirely of stuff that had been previously recorded. Lattimore told me that he never knew the album existed, and had never even seen a copy. Of the twelve tracks on the record, seven had been released on Sound Stage 7, and three more had been issued as singles on Seventy 7. These singles, like the awesome number you're listening to now, represent some of Lattimore's best material.
Try as I may, I have been unable to determine where and when these records were cut (except for the flip of our current selection, Don't Trust No One, which, as we've seen was recorded at Stax). Songs like So Says My Heart and It Hurts Me So Bad (which was an LP only track) are just fantastic, and I find it hard to believe that Fred Foster passed on them. For that matter, I don't understand why Lattimore was let go, based on the quality of this material. When I asked him, he just kind of shrugged. There is some bogus story about how his 'lack of focus' in the studio irked Richbourg, but I don't believe that... especially in light of those awesome Renegade cuts he did with Chuck Chellman almost immediately after he was given his walking papers.
As I was getting ready for this post, I noticed that this wonderful song we have here was co-wriiten by Lattimore and 'C.Curry'. C. Curry had also been the composer on one of the LP only tracks, Boo Ga Lou Sue. This had to be Clifford Curry, I figured. I was able to track Clifford down through his manager, Joe Meador, and spent a delightful hour on the phone with him. He's remained active in the business, and continues to make 'shag' records for the beach music crowd, even though he lives in Nashville. Like most everybody else, he thought Lattimore was dead, and he couldn't believe we had found his long lost friend. He told me that he met Brown when he came into Knoxville to play a gig at Harper's V.I.P. Lounge, and that he liked the town so much he decided to stay.
The two became fast friends, and hung out together all the time. Curry, who wrote most of his own material, recorded demos of his songs with a piano player named Winfred Doggett on a little Wollensack tape recorder that he had. Lattimore liked two of the songs, and brought them to John R in Nashville. Clifford never heard another word about them, he said, and didn't know if they had ever been released, or even recorded, until now. This was all news to him... incredible.
Just as he had done in Dallas, Lattimore opened up a club in Knoxville and re-activated his booking agency, using the connections he had made through his many years in the business to bring in top name acts. He had gotten married, and he and his wife ran the place, calling it The Silver Slipper. When she died following open heart surgery to correct a congenital valve defect, it laid him low, he told me. He closed the place down and walked away from the music business altogether... at least temporarily.
continued in PART EIGHT
OK, I've put together a podcast of some of the records we've been talking about here that haven't been posted so far. It starts out with Lattimore's other two Renegade sides, then goes back to some Zil, Duchess, Sound Stage 7 and Seventy Seven material. I've also included those Roscoe Shelton and Sam Baker sides that were cut at Stax, as well as the ones that were arranged by Dan Penn at American Sound, among a few other things. As always, you can listen to it over there in the sidebar, or check it out here.