Friday, January 01, 2010

More Sad News


The one and only Earl Gaines passed away at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville on New Year's Eve. Earl was kind enough to meet with Bob Wilson and I during our Soul Detective Allen Orange investigation back in 2007. Soft spoken and elegant, I was just in awe of him... I spoke with him again this past October, when I brought Lattimore to Music City on the road trip. He had just cancelled a European tour for health reasons, and was unable to make the Jefferson Street reunion we had set up at Marion James' house, because he told me he was going into the hospital that day. I asked him if everything was OK, and he said he was fine...

May God Rest His Soul.

Here's what I wrote about him on Soul Detective a while back:

Earl Gaines came to Nashville from Alabama in the early fifties. After playing drums on Arthur Gunter's seminal Baby Let's Play House in 1955, he got a job as the lead vocalist with Louis Brooks and his Hi-Toppers. Together they would take It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day) all the way to #2 R&B that summer (held back from the #1 slot by Fats Domino's Ain't It A Shame). The record put Excello on the map, but when subsequent singles didn't do much, the label dropped him in 1962.

After bouncing around to a couple of local labels, he started working with WLAC dee-jay Hoss Allen in 1964. Recording at Bradley's Barn with roughly the same crew that John R had been using for Sound Stage 7 (minus Allen Orange and Bob Wilson, of course) Hoss began to produce some sides that he shopped around to the record companies. A single, The Best Of Luck To You, was picked up by (of all people) Hanna-Barbera, and released on their HBR label in 1966. Although it would cruise to #28 R&B, the company decided to fold the label and concentrate more on the Jetsons and the Flintstones. Allen got Earl a deal with Starday-King, and despite quality releases on Hollywood and Deluxe (one of which, the MLK tribute Our Friend Is Gone, would feature our man Bob Wilson on the piano), Nothing much was happening with Earl's Career.

In 1972, after Hoss Allen's failing health curtailed his involvement in the business, Gaines signed with fellow dee-jay John R's Seventy-Seven label. John handed him off to Allen Orange. After three singles that failed to make much of an impression, Earl would crack the R&B top 40 once again in the fall of 1973:

77 131 A

Hymn Number 5

A cover of The Mighty Hannibal's 1966 Vietnam hit, I like Earl's version better. When he exhorts those awesome background singers to 'Moan, Children!', it's simply one of the greatest moments in Southern Soul history. Orange's great big production here is flawless, and Earl is just belting it out. A much better singer than Geater Davis ever was, Earl's energetic delivery takes the record to the next level. One of my all-time favorite J.R. Enterprises products!

The follow-up single, although just about as good, failed to make the charts:

77 135 A

I Can't Face It

I don't know if this was recorded at Music City or Muscle Shoals, but the band on here is just on fire! Check out the fat bass line, the oh so Toussaint piano - with the guitar mixed way up front, and the multi-tracked percussion... a masterful job of production by Orange to say the least. Gaines once again is just going for it at the top of his range, singing his heart out. The B side of this record was Earl's version of Soul Children, with Orange apparently trotting out the old 1969 rhythm track and having him sing over the top. It was worth a try, I guess. {this just in - according to our pal Bob Wilson, the backing track here was recorded during the same sessions as the original 'Soul Children', and was initially intended for Paul Vann. That's Wilson (who also wrote the rhythm arrangement) smokin' the 88s along with Tim Drummond, Mac Gayden, Troy Seals and New Orleans' own Karl Himmel laying down that percussion. It was recorded at Music City circa 1969}...

I'm gonna miss him.
Funeral Services for Earl Gaines:

Friday, January 8th
St. Luke CME Church
2008 28th Ave. N.
Nashville, TN 37208

Visitation: 10am
Musical Tribute: 11am
Funeral Service: 12 noon


Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Sorry to hear it, Red. A lot of greats went on to glory this year.

You've had another busy year, my man! Keep up the important work in your usual fine style. All the best to ya in this new year.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Now this is so darn sad. I was due to interview Mr Earl Gaines right before the Christmas holidays for broadcast in the new year but heard he was in hospital, so we postponed but now......R.I.P.

11:51 AM  

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