Percy Milem - Crying Baby Baby Baby (Goldwax 315)
Crying Baby Baby Baby
I'm kind of telling this story backwards, but bear with me...
You already know what a fan I am of the Goldwax label. It was home to some of the best Memphis Soul ever recorded. This awesome side we have here today is, in the words of our idol John Ridley, "...the pick of the bunch. Simply one of the best songs ever put out by the company." I hear that.
Percy Milem was the lead singer for The Lyrics, the Memphis vocal group who had the first ever R&B release by Quinton Claunch and Doc Russell, Darling (Goldwax 101). Their second single for the label was picked up by ABC, but didn't do much. At that point, they apparently decided to cut Percy as a solo artist, and released two 45s on him, this one (whose rockin' A Side, the George Jackson penned Call On Me, should have been a hit), and the way cool two-sider She's About a Mover/I Don't Know What You Got (But It's Got Me) (Goldwax 326). Both of these records go for over $100 if you can find them...
Released in 1966 and 1967 respectively, these singles (as you can hear on today's selection) both feature the unmistakeable sound of our Memphis guitar hero, Reggie Young. I'm guessing it was recorded at American Sound, although it's entirely possible they cut it at Sam Phillips... either way, with Young on the guitar, I'd bet the farm that's the rest of the Memphis Boys on there as well... keep that in mind. Anyway, Claunch apparently thought enough of Milem to invite him back to record (along with James Carr) when he revitalized Goldwax in the 1980s, resulting in The Many Moods of Percy Milem, which was re-issued on Black Grape by our man Garry Cape not too long ago.
Now... as you may have seen over on the red kelly channel, my man Chase Thompson was in town last week, working on the I'm Not Through trailer. "There's this Lattimore song on iTunes," he told me, "that I've never heard before. I asked him about it while we were down in New Orleans, and he said he didn't remember where he had recorded it, or anything else about it." Hmmm... I thought, this sounds like a job for soul detective! Sure enough, the song in question, The Man Next Door, is not listed in either of the discographies I've seen; the Japanese Vintage Soul page, or the addendum to the In The Basement article (issue #53).
Interestingly, a couple of the Friends of Lattimore (Danny Morrison and Pierre Baroni) emailed me to draw my attention to this:
This is the first copy of this 1977 John R compilation of Lattimore's Sound Stage 7 era material that I've seen for sale in the three years I've been looking... and the price is way out of my league! The album included some previously unreleased material (like Boo Ga Lou Sue and It Hurts Me So Bad), but not 'The Man Next Door'. It's not on the current re-mastered Soulscape package, Nobody Has To Tell Me, either.
When I listened to it, I thought Nashville right away, as it has this whole Owen Bradley sort of Country feel to it. As a matter of fact, it immediately puts you in mind of the great Harlan Howard song that John R cut on Ella Washington, He Called Me Baby (as we all know, Chuck Chellman would cut Lattimore on another great Harlan tune, I Wish I Felt This Way At Home, at Fame in 1969). So I started looking around. I found a tune with the same name by Country fiddler Benny Martin that was cut on Music Row in 1962. Bingo, I thought, only when I listened to it, it was a different song entirely. I checked the BMI and ASCAP databases and found a few others... one written by our recently deceased Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, but that wasn't it either. There were some Reggae versions... no dice.
Next, I found one written by a woman who owned a Knoxville, Tennessee publishing and promotion company. This had to be it, I thought, Lattimore lived in Knoxville for years (and, as we recently found out, his daughter still does!). So I emailed her. Wrong again...
Somehow, though, I knew I had heard this song before... maybe it had the wrong title. So I googled some of the lyrics and found this YouTube page. There it was! The same song... only there was no label or artist information, only '07 He cried baby baby'. But I knew that guitar, it had to be Memphis... had to be Reggie Young. Then the light went on - Goldwax! After that it was a cinch to track it down, and find out the real title. Although I had it on the supremely excellent The Goldwax Story Volume 2, I prevailed upon our deep-crated benefactor in The Netherlands, Peter H, for the vinyl.
Here's the previously unknown Sir Lattimore Brown version:
The Man Next Door
It appears on iTunes in two different compilations, the subsonic Please, Please, Please, which was released in April of 2008 by something called 'Jukebox Entertainment' and 19 Best of Lattimore, which was made available on iTunes just this past April by 'Platinum Records'. Who are these people? What's their deal? They somehow license this stuff for less than the 99 cents they get from Apple, and put it up there figuring they don't have a whole lot to lose. I can tell you this, Lattimore gets nothing. Not one cent out of those fine ninety-nine... and it seems fairly obvious, judging from the fact that they can't even bother to get the titles right, that the songwriting and publishing 'mechanicals' are not being paid either... but I digress.
So, whaddya think? Nashville or Memphis? Did John R and Allen Orange cut it in Music City, or bring it with them to the Bluff? OR (which is my guess) did Chips and the Boys pitch them this song they had already cut on Percy when Sound Stage 7 started recording at American in 1967?
My pal Erick Crews (the son of Don Crews, Chips' partner at American Sound) sent me this 1982 photo of the mythic studio that he found on the web just last week. It may be the best picture yet discovered of 827 Thomas Street... you know that part in the trailer where Lattimore is kind of looking both ways in front of this overgrown vacant lot?
...well that's what the corner of Chelsea and Thomas looks like today. What a shame. Let it be known out there (as if you didn't know already) that I am on a mission to get American Sound the hometown recognition that it deserves, before it's too late.