Saturday, September 20, 2008

O.V. Wright - I Want Everyone To Know (Back Beat 597)


I Want Everyone To Know

Produced by WILLIE MITCHELL
Written by DON BRYANT

This is
THE SOUL OF MEMPHIS


BE THERE

Monday, September 08, 2008

O.V. Wright - I'd Rather Be (Blind, Cripple & Crazy) (Back Beat 628)


I'd Rather Be (Blind, Cripple & Crazy)

Hello out there everybody. How's everything?

I am flying down to Memphis tomorrow to work on the upcoming 'O.V. Wright Night' concert... as posted over on ovwright.org:

O.V. WRIGHT NIGHT
NOVEMBER 15th, 8pm
GROUND ZERO BLUES CLUB
MEMPHIS

That's right folks, we are going ahead with our plans to hold a very special night of music in Memphis this fall in conjunction with the dedication of the memorial at O.V.'s final resting place. After many months of behind the scenes work, we are pleased to announce that the event will take place at Morgan Freeman's brand new Ground Zero Blues Club downtown on Saturday, November 15th.

With accompaniment provided by the one and only Hi Rhythm, we will be celebrating the timeless music they helped create with O.V. and Willie Mitchell. We are in the process of working out the rest of the details, and will post more information about the show here as it becomes available.

The concert will serve as the inaugural fundraiser for a new organization called The Soul of Memphis Foundation which, as an outgrowth of our Memorial Fund, will continue to work to protect the unheralded legacy of this unique American art form.

Mark you calendars, and we'll keep you posted!

This positively incredible number we have here illustrates just how killer a combination Poppa Willie, O.V. and the Hodges Brothers were...

There is still a great deal of work to be done to make this concert happen, but I consider it a privilege to be a part of this historic event. I'm going to do my best to make it a night to remember!
__________________________________________________

Today is my birthday.

This month marks three years that I've been doing this, and I want to thank all of you for sticking with me as the site has expanded to the point where you can now listen to over 400 45s on five different pages. Sometimes, I know, it hasn't been easy putting up with my rambling on, and I know it's been like 'all Lattimore Brown all the time' this summer... but, like I said, that whole thing changed me, and I wanted to make sure it was done right. I felt like I owed him that much...

Now that I've finished that up, it's kind of like 'Where do I go from here?', and I'll be honest with you, I have no idea. As I embark on this mission to Memphis, I'm going to try to remain open as the doors open in front of me, and hope that I have the courage and the wisdom to walk through the right ones.

I'll let you know what happens.

your pal - red

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sam Baker - Comin' To Bring You Some Soul (SS7 2613)


Comin' To Bring You Some Soul

Epilogue

There is no force so great as an idea whose time has come...

As you might have noticed, the name Sam Baker showed up again and again as I spun the tale of the Legend of Sir Lattimore Brown. Like true brothers, their life stories are forever intertwined, along with that of the late great Roscoe Shelton. As we have seen, these men were the 'big three' at Sound Stage 7 as John R took over the label and developed it's unique sound. According to the excellent piece on Sam over at Sir Shambling's Deep Soul Heaven; "Apart from Joe Simon, Baker had more 45s issued by John Richbourg on his SS7 label than any other artist – a tribute both to his talent and Richbourg’s enduring good taste..." Sam Baker was good. Really Good. Like Lattimore, his fate has been shrouded in mystery all these years, and the word on the street was that he was dead.

When we first started talking to Lattimore about all of this, he told us that Sam, like himself, was still very much alive. He said he lived in Jackson, but that his brother lived right there in Gulfport, which was just down the road apiece. He told us that once we got down there, Sam's brother would be happy to give us his address. We started hatching plans to reunite these two old friends who hadn't seen each other in forty years, and get the whole thing on film... only we couldn't find Sam's brother. Lattimore had us drive around in circles for a while, then decided it was 'like a needle in a haystack', and we gave up.

That was that, I thought.

Not 10 minutes after the whole 'rainbow vision' thing I told you about yesterday, I plowed the rental car into some kind of construction debris on Highway 90, which is still being rebuilt in the wake of Katrina. Instantly, I had two massive blow-outs, with both tires on the driver's side just ripped to shreds. I couldn't believe it. Here I was in Biloxi, and my plane was due out of Jackson at 2 that afternoon. It was around 9 in the morning... no problem, I could still make it, I thought. They came and towed the car away, then sent a cab to take me to their closest rental location, at the airport in Gulfport, about 25 miles away. By the time we worked all of that out, it was after 11. Not bad, I could still make it, I thought.

When I got to Hattiesburg, I hit traffic. There was a sign that said 'Highway 59 Jackson', so I took it... little did I know that this route was going to take me eighty miles out of my way, and add over an hour to my trip. By the time I realized what had happened, I was in Meridian, and it was too late. I was freaking out, driving like 95 miles an hour. I got to the airport in Jackson at 2:01. I just abandoned the car, and ran to the airline ticket counter.

The same storm that I had left back in Biloxi had made it's way to Jackson by then, and there was a deluge of rain and hail hitting the runways. The plane was being delayed... this wonderful woman behind the desk called down to the gate, and they were actually going to bring the plane back so I could get on board. Awesome. Talk about Southern Hospitality! I ran off to the gate, but first I was going to have to go through the Homeland Security, take off your shoes, place all bags on the conveyor belt routine... no problem, I thought, there were only three people in front of me. To my absolute disbelief, just as I got there, the X-ray machine broke. I had never even seen that before. The airline was paging me... doing their best to hold the plane, but they had to search everyone's bags by hand. By the time I got there, it was too late... somebody just didn't want me on that plane.

I started thinking about all of this. There had to be some reason that the fates had conspired to keep me in Jackson for another night... then I remembered Sam Baker. I kind of got a chill. When I told this story to the nice lady back at the Southwest counter, she kind of got one too. She, of course, had never heard of Sam, nor had any of the guys that were handling the baggage. She did know somebody who might be able to help me, though. An old flame of hers was a musician, she said, and had played with just about everyone in town. She tried his cell phone, but there was no answer. She wrote the number on a piece of paper and gave it to me. On the way back to the car, I saw a Jackson phone book, and I took it. If I couldn't get through to this boyfriend of hers, why I was gonna call every damn Baker in the book till I found him.

After about the third Baker had hung up on me, I decided to try and call the number the airline lady had given me... the name of the guy was Chalmers Davis. It kind of sounded familiar to me... but I couldn't place where I'd seen that name before. Well, to make a long story short (ummm...too late, Red), I got through, and he invited me out to his home studio somewhere in the woods south of town to talk about all of this. As it turned out, he's been an accomplished studio musician for years, and had idolized Carson Whitsett as a kid coming up. When he and a friend snuck in to see the Imperial Show Band one night, he knew that's what he was born to do. He would go on to become a Muscle Shoals regular, and was a member of the Fame Gang II. He was there at the birth of Malaco, and his band Natural High was one of the first to record for the label. For the last twenty years, he's been the keyboard man in Little Richard's band. He'd backed Tommy Tate, knew George Jackson, and just about everybody else in town... except for Sam. We went out to dinner and, man did he have some stories to tell! He promised to make some calls and ask around, and the next morning I was on my way back to New York.

Unbeknownst to me, right around this same time, Sam Baker was the subject of a 'thread' on the Yahoo Southern Soul List. Like I said, everybody thought he was dead. When Chalmers' former band mate in Natural High, Adib Owens-Sabir came through with Sam's phone number about two days later, I was about to post a message about it on Yahoo, but Scott Barretta beat me to it. Sam was most definitely still with us.

I've spoken with him several times since then, and he is an absolute delight to talk to. He suffered an aneurysm in 1992, and is confined to a wheelchair, but he's "hangin' tough", he told me. Just a wonderful man, he will be the focus of an article in the next issue of In The Basement, as well as an upcoming CD release on Garry Cape's Soulscape label, with liner notes provided by the aforementioned Sir Shambling. After all these years, we all found him at once... talk about an idea whose time had come!

Rather than compete with the pros, and go into Sam's incredible life story here, I just wanted to lay this positively FAT and funky tune on you, which was recorded at American in their absolute prime. Check out Reggie Young, Bobby Emmons, Gene Chrisman and Tommy Cogbill just working it out, man. How a record like this wasn't a huge hit is beyond me. "Say London, England! I hear you got a thing goin' on over there!" Word. According to the liner notes of the Sound Stage 7 Story, it was recorded in conjunction with a 1967 European tour Baker made with Sam & Dave and Arthur Conley. Those same liner notes go on to say something that Sam wants me to clear up once and for all; "Richbourg had become disenchanted with Baker after having to bail him and his band, along with Ella Washington, out of jail in The Bahamas after he tried to abscond from his hotel without paying."


"Where do these people get this stuff from?" he asked me, "I've never even been to The Bahamas in my life, and I sure enough never left no hotel without paying." As long as we were on the subject, I asked him another hard question... what about the rumor that John R let him go because he was a heroin addict, and was showing up high for recording sessions? "Man, Red, let me tell you, I ain't never messed with no drugs in my life. Above all, I loved my craft, which was singing. I wasn't about to do anything that would hold me back from that, ever." He went on to say that, just as we had suspected, something changed financially between John R and Monument Records in 1969, which resulted in his, Lattimore's and Roscoe's contracts not being renewed, and that was that. Period.

Welcome back, Sam Baker. We missed you!
_________________________________________________

Well, it's official. I Believe In You, the long awaited collection of Sam Baker's Sound Stage 7 singles was released this past Monday, September 15th. Lovingly remastered in glorious mono by Paul Mooney, it's the latest in a long line of stunning CDs issued by Garry Cape on his Soulscape label. This is the first appearance of most of these songs on CD and, with real liner notes written by the inimitable John Ridley, you really need to own one of these.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Lattimore Brown - Warm And Tender Love (Ace 3012)


Warm And Tender Love

Part Eight


The seventies were pretty rough on Sir Lattimore. After he left Knoxville, he told me that he drifted back to 'where he started out' in Little Rock, Arkansas. He re-connected with a woman he had known 'back in the day', and they got married. She was a chain-smoker, he said, and only used her lighter once a day, lighting the rest of her non-filtered Pall Malls one from the other. Within a couple of years, she died of cancer. Alone once more, Lattimore headed back out on the road.

Phil Walden's priorities had changed by then, and he was no longer representing his chitlin' circuit artists. Left to fend for himself, Lattimore knew musicians in just about every town in the South, and was usually able to put a gig together 'on the strength of his name'. He didn't know it, but all of that was about to change. When he was back in Nashville, he had often worked with one of the seminal R&B bands to rise up out of Jefferson Street, Louis Brooks and his Hi-Toppers.

Despite the huge national hit they had cut with Earl Gaines in 1955, Brooks kept a low profile, and didn't stray far from Music City. His outfit would become a proving ground for many an upcoming musician, as they essentially became the 'house band' of the North Nashville scene. One of those musicians was a young keyboard player named Benny Latimore. Originally from Charleston, a small town outside of Chattanooga, he had come to the big town to make a name for himself.

When that didn't seem to be happening, he relocated to Florida, where he became a part of the nascent Miami soul scene, signing on with up and coming producers Brad Shapiro and Steve Alaimo. After a couple of releases on the tiny Dade and Blade labels went nowhere, Alaimo took him with him when he joined up with Henry Stone at T.K. Records. I'm not sure who made the decision, but somewhere around in here they decided to drop the 'Benny' and from then on he was known simply as Latimore.

Stone put him on his Glades label, and a cover of Stormy Monday would break into the R&B top 40 in 1973. That's when the trouble started. According to our Lattimore, this led to all kinds of confusion, with his gigs being misrepresented as Latimore's and vice-versa. The people that printed up the posters he said, were used to seeing his name on there, and assumed that this new 'Latimore' must be him, which began creating major problems. When Let's Straighten It Out was released in 1974 things got really crazy.

Spending two weeks at #1 R&B (and even cracking the Pop top 40), this monster song propelled Latimore onto the national stage, and his suave and sexy good looks fit right in with the new breed of seventies soul singers that seemed to be everywhere. How could Lattimore Brown compete with that? There were near riots at clubs along the circuit where people (mostly ladies) showed up expecting to see this new sensation, and found out it was this other Lattimore who, of course, had been there all along. However inadvertently, Benny Latimore had stolen his name, and the gigs got fewer and farther between.

Down in Jackson, old friend Sam Baker's father ran a few night clubs, and Lattimore was always able to get work there. It was Sam who introduced Lattimore to Johnny Vincent in 1975. Vincent had already lost a couple of fortunes by then, and the once mighty empire he had built up in Jackson was now operating out of his shoestring studio at 209 West Capitol Street downtown.

Vincent had re-activated his Ace label in 1971 (it had been dormant since 1962, when the records stopped selling), and was trying to recapture some of the magic, independently recording and releasing 45s just like he had in the old days. He brought Bobby Marchan (who, as the lead vocalist for Huey Smith and the Clowns, had sung on some of the label's biggest records) back, and picked up Geater Davis as John R's labels were unraveling, bringing Sam Baker in to produce a couple of songs on him at the studio.

This is the scene Lattimore walked into in Jackson, producing both sides of what would become his final release. Today's selection, no doubt chosen to appeal to the ladies, is a cover of the timeless Joe Haywood song that Percy Sledge had taken into the top five back in 1966. Although it stays pretty close to the Atlantic arrangement, his smooth introduction and Otis-like improvisations there towards the end, keep it interesting. The flip is a duet with Marchan (although his name doesn't appear on the label) on Sam & Dave's first hit, You Don't Know Like I Know.

At this point, Lattimore told me, Johnny Vincent (whose real last name was Imbragulio) took him aside and told him that he had heard there was a 'hit' out on him. He said that the southern mob that controlled the R&B circuit down there had seen enough, and didn't like all that name confusion business messing with the money they made from the clubs. You can take this any way you want to, folks. I know it seems hard to believe at this late date, but Lattimore Brown was convinced. For what it's worth, Jim Lancaster, who worked with Vincent shortly after this, told me that he heard Johnny tell that 'hit' story several times, and that it was certainly no joke. "Since Johnny was a Sicilian (or descended from them) folks had a tendency to believe him when he went into his 'Mob' stories..." Jim said.

In any event, it worked. Lattimore Brown was done performing and recording for the remainder of the decade, literally in fear for his life. Latimore, meanwhile, would chart ten more times for Henry Stone during the same time frame, and sail through the disco era in fine shape. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not trashing Benny Latimore. I like his music. It just seems kind of unfortunate the way all of this went down. To this day, the similarity of the names of these two artists is the source of much confusion, and I can't help but wonder whose idea it was to drop the 'Benny' in the first place.

The 1980s found Lattimore back in his comfort zone in Little Rock, where he went back to doing what he enjoyed the most, running a juke joint. Known as the "Owl's Club", he and his partner operated this one as an after hours establishment where the bands didn't even start until every place else had closed down. There were epic all-night jam sessions, he said, as the musicians from the other clubs would show up and hang out till they closed at eight the next morning. Dale Hawkins was a regular, as was Texas blues man Larry Davis. Another frequent visitor to the club was then Governor Bill Clinton, who would drop by to blow his sax with his brother Roger's band. As the neighborhood around the club became increasingly unstable, they were forced to close their doors in 1989.

After that happened, Lattimore's 'feet got itchy', he told me, and after a life spent out on the road he was ready to move on. He poked around a bit in places he had lived before, like Dallas and Shreveport, but nothing much was going on. In 1997, he was involved in an incident which found him in fear for his life once again. He asked me not to go into detail here and, believe me, I can understand why. Suffice it to say that it was in his best interests to relocate to a place where he thought he would be safe. A place where he could take advantage of the VA benefits he had earned all those years ago in Korea. He moved to Biloxi, home to the massive VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.

As we've seen, it was that very same Coast which betrayed him, with Katrina (and now Gustav) delivering him into a cataclysm of almost biblical proportions. Through it all, Lattimore has remained a profoundly religious man, who reads that very same bible every day of his life. When we finally got back to his hotel room in Biloxi after our journey together, he asked me if I'd like to pray with him. We knelt on opposite sides of the bed, and as he thanked God for the blessings he'd received, and for sending him people like me and Chase and Bob Wilson who had come and found him after all these years... I couldn't contain myself.

I went outside and I wept.

The next morning, it was time to leave. A huge storm was blowing in off the Gulf. Fast moving steel grey clouds swirled overhead as I headed out in the rented car. The sky felt like a reflection of what was going on inside my brain. I knew the experience we had all just shared was deep, deeper than I could even imagine. I knew that somehow things had changed, and that I would never be the same. As the wind howled, the heavens suddenly busted open, sending massive sheets of tropical rain tumbling sideways through the streets. Thunder echoed through the canyon of casinos, as I made my way slowly out of town.


All at once the rising sun burst through the clouds, and illuminated the retreating storm off to the west. There in front of me was the most brilliant rainbow I had ever seen, standing out in stark contrast against the charcoal sky. It seemed to span the entire peninsula, from the Gulf to the Back Bay... with Lattimore's hotel directly underneath. I watched in disbelief as bolts of lightning seemed to actually strike their way through the bands of color. I had never seen anything like this. It felt like a vision. What did it mean? I don't know - maybe nothing.

I've thought about it a lot since then, though, and for me it's come to represent the apparent contradiction of absolute beauty living right next door to the ultimate evil... of the dark as a necessary component of the light. It's helped me to understand the reality of a life of tragedy that is continually redeemed through faith, of art that is purchased with pain... of the true meaning of soul.

Such is the legend of Sir Lattimore Brown.

...epilogue
______________________________________________________________

I'd like to thank all of you who have taken the time to contribute to our effort to get Lattimore back on his feet. As of this morning, he was going into the VA Hospital for some kind of exploratory surgery for a spot on his lung. FEMA has agreed to place him back in a hotel room temporarily upon his release, pending a more permanent arrangement.

I told him about the money people have been sending in, and he said to tell all of you that he loves you. If you'd like to join us as a 'Friend of Lattimore', please click on the photo above to make your donation.

You guys are the greatest!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Trouble He's Seen



The Trouble I've Seen

Hey folks, listen, I spoke to our man Lattimore last night. Things were not good.

He said he had been evacuated in a school bus to a makeshift shelter in the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson along with thousands of others. They brought him back to Biloxi yesterday afternoon. Everybody else on the bus returned home, except for Lattimore. The hotel he was in had 'checked everybody out' as a part of the evacuation, and would not check him back in without prior FEMA approval which, apparently, was not forthcoming. The only thing he had to go back to was that van.


The van that was 'locked down' in a parking lot about a mile from the Hard Rock Casino. As you may have heard, a tidal surge of between 9 and 15 feet covered Highway 90 in Biloxi during the storm, and flooded the parking garage and ground floor of the casino. It also completely devastated Lattimore's van. The van into which he had put all his worldly belongings before he was evacuated, as he had no other possible place to put them. He lost everything.

All he had left was the clothes on his back. When I spoke with him last night he was literally shellshocked, and wandering the streets of his old neighborhood, unsure of where he was going to lay his head. He is 77 years old, and three nights of trying to sleep in the seats of the Coliseum had already taken their toll. His car was gone. His clothes. His radio and TV. All of his personal papers and photographs. Gone.

Again.

I've been working on the final installment of our story here, and was planning on posting it today... only the story won't let me. The song you're listening to now is a field recording we made in the car as we drove up Highway 61 last June:

"I make so many people happy, laughing and happy
then I walk home, and have to cry all night
'cause deep down in the heart of me
nobody knows the trouble I've seen."


Good God.

Last night, I didn't know what to do. It was late. I couldn't sleep thinking about him out there alone. When I got up today, I vowed to do something, and I will spend the day working the phones trying to get him some help. In the meantime, if this man's life story has moved you in any way... if you ever felt like you'd like to give something back, now is the time:


BECOME A FRIEND OF LATTIMORE BROWN

By clicking on the photo or the link above, you will be directed to a PayPal page where you can donate any amount you wish, either via PayPal or your credit card. This money is not going to some big organization or charity, it is going directly to our friend Sir Lattimore. Please consider taking a moment to help out. Together we can make a difference in the life of this remarkable man.

Thank You.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again


As Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast, millions of people have been forced to flee their homes.

One of those people is Lattimore Brown. Repeated phone calls to the hotel that FEMA has placed him in down in Biloxi yesterday went unanswered. The desk manager told me that everyone in the hotel was being evacuated by 2 pm.

When Katrina hit, Lattimore's van, on which he only had one more payment, had been 'locked down' (immobilized by the Repo Men) because the payment was late. As we've mentioned before, he gets his VA check on the first of the month, and was going to make the payment on September 1st. Katrina hit on August 29th. Unable to drive, he was forced to send his wife on a bus trip from which she would never return. The van was washed away by the storm. Insurance didn't cover that kind of catastrophic loss. It was gone.

Eventually, Lattimore was able to get another minivan from the same car lot that sold him the first one. When we got there in June, he told us that that van had been stolen from the parking lot of a Winn-Dixie in Gulfport, and he had to walk over 15 miles back to the FEMA trailer he was living in, sleeping that night on the side of the road. He reported the van stolen, and never heard another word from the police. Literally stranded, he now had to travel everywhere on foot.

When we got back from Memphis, He asked me to drive him over to the car lot, so he could try and work out some kind of deal to get back on the road. Lo and behold, the stolen van was there. As it turned out, the police had found it just a few days after it had been taken, but had no address for Lattimore as this was around the same time that FEMA had shut the trailers down, and moved him to the hotel. The van sat in the impound lot until they finally traced the lien-holder on the vehicle, which was the car lot. According to them, they had to pay over $500 in fees to the city to get the vehicle released. Before they would give it back to Lattimore, they told him he'd have to pay that, along with the car loan payments he had missed. On the first of July, he did just that so he could get back on the road. The car, though, had some serious electrical problems, and he had to pay to try and get those fixed... with the price of gas the way it is, it wasn't long before he was broke again.

When I spoke with him last week, he told me that they had come and locked down the van once more, and that he was waiting until September 1st so he could afford to pay the note and get his car back... only he was forced to evacuate yesterday, August 31st. Faced once again with the same impossible situation, did he decide to get on the bus - the same bus that took his wife away for the last time - or try and weather the storm somewhere on the streets of Biloxi?

I honestly don't know. As of this writing, there is already water running down those streets, as the angry Gulf pounds away at that narrow strip of beach...

God bless you Lattimore Brown, wherever you are.