Andy Chapman - Happy Is The Man (ATCO 6558)
Happy Is The Man
Hey, folks, how's everything? You know after I spoke with Huey P. Meaux on the YouTube thing last month, I took a little heat.
In my opinion, no discussion of Southern Soul can be complete without including Huey Meaux. When the opportunity to speak with him presented itself, I took it in the interest of preserving this rich history while we still can. Keep in mind that the person who brought Huey down in the first place was none other than Tom "The Hammer" Delay, who came up out of the same East Texas neighborhood Huey did. DeLay is now out of Congress and on Dancing With The Stars.
"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone..."
Meaux had cemented his reputation as a hitmaker when, on the heels of his success with Sir Douglas, he brought a song he had produced back in Houston to a NATRA convention in Atlanta in 1965. WQXI deejay Pat Hughes took it and played it on the air, and the phones lit up. "You've got another hit on your hands," he told Huey. Don Robey, who was at the convention, heard about all of this, and picked the song up for distribution on his Back Beat label. Treat Her Right would propel Roy Head and The Traits all the way to #2 pop for Robey that Fall. Huey had done it again.
Huey sent me this awesome picture of him in the studio with Roy working on the record. He said that when it came time for Robey to pay him the money he owed him, Don put his gun up there on the desk the way he usually did. When Huey calmly put his own pistol right up there alongside it, he wrote him a check right then and there...
Shelby Singleton brought Huey a Memphis group called The Hombres, and he agreed to produce them there in Houston. The resulting Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) would cruise to #12 Pop in 1967, this time on Verve/Forecast. "After that." Huey said, "they got crazy on me and I had to cut 'em loose. Some of 'em, when they hear themselves on the radio for the first time, they get to thinking why the hell they ever needed you in the first place..." They never charted again.
Later that year, Meaux took a record that was making some local noise on Houston deejay Skipper Lee Frazier's Ovide label and brought it to the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic. Frazier had taken a popular vamp that the T.S.U. Toronados had been laying down at their live shows and had Archie Bell ad-lib some vocals over the top. Skyrocketing to the number one slot on the Billboard Hot 100 for Atlantic in the Spring of 1968, Tighten Up would become the absolute sensation it remains to this day (it's just recently been named as Houston's Very Best Song Ever).
Wexler was ecstatic, and from that point on, he and Huey became "like brothers," Meaux said. Atlantic had signed Barbara Lynn, and when Huey made the move to Clinton, Mississippi and opened up Grits n' Gravy, they released great 45s like This Is The Thanks I Get and You're Losing Me that he produced on her there.
Shown here at the studio with Peggy Scott and Jo-Jo Benson, the records Meaux cut during this period are among his best.
He had been using Dorothy Moore's group The Poppies as background singers on those records, and he would produce the first two solo 45s on her there at Grits, leasing them to MGM through some deal or other with Shelby Singleton and Alan Lorber. Covering Sir Doug''s big hit (as He's About A Mover) around the same time that Otis Clay was cutting it at Fame for Wexler's Cotillion subsidiary, it was Clay's version that made the charts (as the publisher, I'm sure it was just fine by Huey either way). Released under the name Dottie Cambridge, these singles remain undiscovered gems from a time years before Malaco and Misty Blue. Which kind of brings us to our current selection...
When I asked Huey about Andy Chapman, he had no idea who the hell I was talking about. I told him I had an ATCO 45 on him that was obviously produced there at Grits n' Gravy. "I don't remember nothin' 'bout him," he said, "which is kinda funny, cause I usually remember them all..." So I started googling. Other than the fact that someone named Andy Chapman was apparently quite the soccer player, I couldn't find anything. So I figured I'd search 'ATCO 6558' instead. What I found out kind of blew my mind (you can read the equally amazing story about the flip side of the record over on The A Side).
According to Soulful Kinda Music, the vocalist on this side is actually Tommy Tate; "...apparently he remembers doing it as a demo only and was unaware of it's release," they said. Wow! So, I asked Huey about that. Tommy, he told me, was the regular session drummer at the studio during its brief existence (!), and he recalls cutting some demos on him. Check out Tommy's drum work on here, man! I asked him about the rest of the 'house band' at the studio, and he could only remember the name of the bass player - Jimmy Jones. That ring any bells with anybody? "That record was probably something that Jerry Wexler was willing to take a gamble on," he said. I don't blame him, I think it's excellent, and yet another great song from Thomas, Mcree and Thomas...
Wexler was one of the few people who stayed in Huey Meaux's corner when he went away to jail and the whole Grits n' Gravy thing fell apart. It was Meaux, after all, who introduced Wexler to people like Mac Rebbenack, Doug Sahm, and Willie Nelson. People Jerry would produce some of his favorite albums on in the 1970s. "I talked to him the day before he died," Huey told me, "and he said I was the number one producer. 'What about you?' I asked him. 'I had all that Atlantic money behind me... you did it out of your back pocket, and with feeling.'"
Yes he did.