Monday, January 30, 2006

Jimmy McGriff - I've Got A Woman Pt. II (SUE 770)

I've Got A Woman Pt. II

Now that I can't turn on my radio without hearing Kanye West's hatchet job of Jamie Foxx's imitation of Brother Ray's Song of Songs, I figured it was time to testify!

Ray Charles' first records, on the Swingtime label, were west coast styled smooth R&B numbers that leaned heavily on the influence of Nat Cole and Charles Brown. When he signed with Atlantic Records in 1952, he began to find his own voice. He took up residence at the Foster Hotel in New Orleans the following year, and began sitting in with as many of the "local cats" as he could down at The Dew Drop Inn.

Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones asked him if he'd like to play piano behind him on a "record date" about this time, and Charles jumped at the chance. He ended up more or less producing the session with Lloyd Lambert's band down at Cosimo's studio. When Specialty released The Things That I Used To Do, it became the biggest R&B hit of 1954, spending 21 weeks on the charts, with six weeks at number one. This pretty much convinced Ray that, if he wanted his own sound, he needed to form his own band. He was able to talk Atlantic into it by agreeing to back Ruth Brown as well, and set out for Texas to put it all together.

A record that was receiving almost as much airplay as Guitar Slim's that summer was It Must Be Jesus by The Southern Tones. There were probably more Gospel stations than R&B ones at that time in the South, and the music was just everywhere. It was on a tour with Ruth Brown that Ray and his trumpet player Renald Richard heard the song on the car radio. They began "messin' around" with it and, by the next day, Richard had come up with some new lyrics. Ray called Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic and asked them to come down to Atlanta to hear him and his new band. Wexler reports that he was "stunned" by the quality of their new material, and how tight the band was. They booked time at local radio station WGST's studio and recorded four songs under "primitive" conditions.

When Atlantic released I've Got A Woman in January of 1955, they weren't quite sure how it would go over (if you look at the trade magazine ad at left, it appears that it was originally viewed as a B side!). Well, in the words of Peter Guralnick, it "set the music industry on it's head", went straight to number one R&B, and stayed there. The record was denounced from many a Southern pulpit as "the devil's music", and blues performers like Big Bill Broonzy looked on it as "mixing the sacred with the profane". All of this publicity, I'm sure, was music to the ears of Ray and Atlantic, and only served to make it an even bigger hit. It is commonly referred to today as "the first soul song".

Now, I had always heard all that about Ray "bringing church" into the music and all, but it wasn't until I started looking into things a little further that I realized what all the fuss was about... he had taken a current Gospel hit (one that everybody in his mostly black, mostly southern audience was likely to know) and put new words to it - words about his baby bringin' him lovin' when he's in need... my, my! It is said (although I haven't unearthed a copy for myself yet... ) that it is literally a note for note thing.

What a trip...

Bob King, the guy who wrote the original tune for The Southern Tones, was a blues influenced guitarist who was a big fan of North Carolina's Blind Boy Fuller. He joined Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers as their first guitar player in the summer of 1955. Less than a year later he would die of kidney failure.

Meanwhile, young James McGriff was serving his time in Korea as an MP. Upon his return home to Philadelphia, he got a job in the police force. The music was "in him", however, and he began moonlighting gigs playing the bass behind artists like Big Maybelle at the famous Pep's Showboat on the South Side. He had always dug the organ, though, and when he heard Richard "Groove" Holmes play at his sister's wedding, he was hooked. He quit the cops and began concentrating on the Hammond, actually going to Julliard while continuing to study with Holmes as well as with Jimmy Smith and Milt Buckner.

Jimmy was playing in a small club in Trenton, New Jersey when his arrangement of I've Got A Woman caught the attention of Joe Lederman, who owned a small label called Jell Records. When his recording of it began to make some noise locally, it was picked up by Juggy Murray's Sue label for national distribution. It was a huge hit in 1962, breaking into the top 5 R&B as well as landing at #20 Pop, proving once again the power of this incredible song... by the time we get to Part II over here on the B side, Jimmy and his combo (featuring Morris Dow on the guitar and Jackie Mills on the drums) are just wreckin' the joint, y'all!

McGriff would go on to become one of the giants of the genre-busting funky organ, recording everything from acid jazz to straight ahead gospel, soul, and blues.

His 1969 album The Worm would crack the R&B top ten, and pave the way for his 70's classics like Groove Grease and Soul Sugar. He has recorded over 100 albums, collaborating with everybody from Junior Parker to Hank Crawford and Dr. Lonnie Smith.

Although he has slowed down considerably, Jimmy still performs today and is an absolute master of that Philadelphia organ groove thang that we all love so well.

I've Got A Woman has been covered countless other times (remember the sweet treatment Al Kooper gave it on Easy Does It in 1970?), and is a song that may well live forever.

So, when all is said and done, what do I think of #1 R&B hit Gold Digger? I'll be honest with you, I think it sucks... but I will say this; my two teenaged nephews were over here a couple of weeks ago, and they copied all the Ray Charles I have onto their iPods...

It's all good, I guess.

UPDATE 3/10/06:
As you may know already, I had finally located a copy of the original Southern Tones version of "It Must Be Jesus" just before we went on vacation. Like I said, maybe Gold Digger is just Ray's cosmic justice...

It Must Be Jesus

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wilson Pickett - Nothing You Can Do (ATLANTIC 2381)

Nothing You Can Do

Another one done gone....

Wilson Pickett was born in Alabama and raised in the Southern Baptist tradition. At age 15, he moved to Detroit where he would join local Gospel Quartet The Violinaires.

In 1959 he was invited to join The Falcons, a vocal group that contained people like Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice, and is considered by many to be the missing link between doo-wop and Detroit soul. In 1962, Pickett wrote the amazing I Found A Love for the group which would land them back in the R&B top ten for the first time since 1959.

In 1963 he decided to go out on his own, and began recording for Lloyd Price's Double L label. He also sent a demo of the songs he had written to Jerry Wexler over at Atlantic Records. Although Wexler showed no interest in Pickett, he knew a good song when he heard one, bought up the publishing rights, and quickly released Solomon Burke's take on If You Need Me, which just killed Wilson's own original version in the charts. Pickett was later to say it was "the first time I ever cried in my life".

When his next Double L release, It's Too Late, climbed to #7, Atlantic snatched him up. He would record two singles for them in 1964 with producer Bert Berns in New York, but they went nowhere. That was when they decided to head south.

In May of 1965, Wexler brought Pickett to the STAX studios in Memphis where he would team up with house guitarist Steve Cropper to make history. Wilson had been preaching about "the midnight hour" in his music ever since his days with The Falcons, and Cropper came up with the idea of making a song out of it. As the story goes, it was Wexler's "doing the jerk" that inspired them to "accent the two" and created the "delayed backbeat" sound that would define most STAX recordings for years to come.

In The Midnight Hour was, quite simply, one of those records that changed everything. It shot straight to number one on the R&B charts, was THE song of the Summer of '65, and would become the most requested tune at frat houses and gin joints across America. Pickett was so pleased with his first session at STAX that he personally gave $100 to each member of the studio band (something they had never even heard of before...).

Two more sessions were to follow, resulting in three more hits; Don't Fight It, Ninety Nine and A Half (Won't Do), both written by Pickett and Cropper, and 634-5789 (Soulville, USA) which was written by Cropper and former Falcon Eddie Floyd and would go on to become his second number one smash.

In December of 1965, STAX owner Jim Stewart, along with new A&R man Al Bell, decided to bar all outside artists from recording at their facilities. The reason given was that Pickett was "difficult to work with", and that "his guys" didn't want any more to do with him. Both Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn vehemently deny that to this day, and it seems more like the real problem was with Wexler. He had recently brought Don Covay down there to record as well, and was seen as a brash New York outsider who was attempting to co-opt their trademarked "Memphis Sound".

Atlantic didn't bat an eye, and began recording Pickett at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1966. The first record they would cut there, the incredible Land of 1000 Dances, would become Wilson's third giant number one hit in less than a year. The unreal bar band belter Mustang Sally (written by former Falcon Mack Rice) would follow along with Pickett's cover of Solomon Burke's Everbody Needs Somebody To Love (payback time!) in early 1967. Today's selection was released as the B side of that record.

Written by (the mis-spelled) Bobby Womack, it's a hidden Muscle Shoals gem. Womack had released the song himself on the HIM label in 1965 (I just saw a copy of this 45 go for $153 on eBay...), but his career was in shambles (we'll save that story for another day...), and it went nowhere. He had just begun doing session work at Fame around this time, and this was the first of 17 songs that he would give to Pickett. According to Randy Poe over at the Southern Soul Group, the band that's just cooking along on here is Fame's "second and best" Rhythm Section which featured Roger Hawkins on the drums, Jimmy Johnson on guitar, and Spooner Oldham on keyboards. Wexler had also imported Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill from Memphis to play on the Pickett sessions. Say Amen Somebody!

The red hot Pickett would hit the number one spot again with his next record, a smokin' cover of Dyke & The Blazers' Funky Broadway. The now legendary fight between Rick Hall, Jerry Wexler, and Ted White (Aretha Franklin's husband and manager) occurred somewhere around this time, and Atlantic found themselves once again without a Southern base of operations.

Wexler lent Chips Moman some money to upgrade the equipment at his American Studios in Memphis, and began recording Pickett there in July of 1967 (an arrangement that was sure to drive Jim Stewart up the wall!). He continued to crack the R&B top twenty regularly during this period, most notably with Womack compositions I'm In Love, I'm A Midnight Mover, and I Found A True Love.

Pickett moved back to Muscle Shoals in late 1968, where he would record his take on Hey Jude with a young guitarist named Duane Allman. Covers of other hits would follow (Born To Be Wild, You Keep Me Hangin' On) with varying success, before he teamed up with Philadelphia legends Gamble & Huff to produce classics like Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number Nine and Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You. It was his own songwriting skills that would put him back in the number one slot with Don't Knock My Love, Pt.1 in 1971.

He left Atlantic in 1973 and recorded for a number of outfits including RCA, Motown, and his own short-lived Wicked label, but nothing much was shakin'.

In 1988, I somehow got like fifth row tickets for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Spectacular at Madison Square Garden in NYC, which was concieved as something like a 13 hour extravaganza that attempted to cover all the bases (from Crosby, Stills and Nash to Rufus Thomas... Lavern Baker to Vanilla Fudge, it was some show!). Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn anchored the rhythm section that backed up the R&B and Soul acts. When Wilson Pickett (shown here with an unidentified fan...) took the stage and lit into Midnight Hour with most of the original STAX house band behind him, I just lost it... whew! The rest of the sparse afternoon crowd may have been there for the much-touted Led Zeppelin reunion (which sucked), but this was soul nirvana for yours truly! I was the only guy in the whole joint that was even standing up. I'll never forget it, man.

Pickett was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, the same year that the movie The Commitments introduced his music (as well as his status as THE MAN) to a new generation. Despite all the acclaim, personal problems would dog him for the rest of the decade.

In 1999, his Bullseye album It's Harder Now would earn him a Grammy nomination as well as three W.C. Handy Awards in 2000.

Pickett bought a farm in Ashburn, Virginia and began doing some benefits in the area. He continued to perform over a dozen shows a year (including his awesome 2001 Jazz Fest appearance in New Orleans), until he was sidelined by ill health in 2005.

When he died this past Thursday, good friend and fellow Soul Clan giant Solomon Burke said that Wilson's favorite songs were his Gospel songs, and that he was truly a preacher at heart. "He was a guy who was not wicked, but just real", he said.

He was also just plain BAD.

I'm sure Cole, Cooke and Redding were waiting to welcome him home.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sam Cooke - Trouble Blues (RCA 8803)

Trouble Blues

Sam Cooke's influence runs so deep through the heart of this music that I hardly know where to begin.

First off let me say that, if you haven't done so already, you owe it to yourself to read Peter Guralnick's Dream Boogie: The Triumph Of Sam Cooke. This incredibly in-depth biography captures so much history between its covers, man. From the beginnings of modern Gospel music in post-war Chicago to Cosimo's studio in New Orleans... from Little Richard, Jesse Belvin, and Jackie Wilson to Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte, and Nat King Cole, this book just blows me away!

The story of Sam Cooke is the story of Black America's struggle for Civil Rights... of a remarkable man whose belief in himself and his own talent went on to open doors and provide opportunities never before dreamed possible in Jim Crow's America.

Born in Clarksdale (!), Mississippi in 1931, Sam was raised in Chicago in the very bosom of Gospel music. He was singing with his brothers and sisters in his father's Church by the time he was six years old. He would go on to lead The Highway QC's as a teenager, and was recruited to replace the renowned R.H. Harris as lead vocalist for the legendary Soul Stirrers before he turned twenty years old.

He was to become arguably the most popular singer in all of Gospel, regularly tearin' down the house wherever The Stirrers performed. His boyish charm and good looks kept him a favorite with the ladies, and it was said that he "brought sex into the church".

Sam's tremendous songwriting skills were already apparent during his Gospel days. He could pick up a Bible and write another best seller for Specialty Records seemingly at will. He couldn't help but notice the success that people like Ray Charles were having by bringing "church" into their R&B hits and, with the encouragement of Specialty producer Bumps (Tutti Frutti) Blackwell, he decided to "go pop".

Specialty wanted no part of this, and so Sam signed with the upstart Keen label who released his self-penned (although still attributed to his brother L.C. for contractual reasons) You Send Me in 1957. The record went straight to number one on the pop charts, and established Cooke as a bona-fide crossover phenomenon with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and everything!

He would become partners with former Pilgrim Traveler J.W. Alexander in his own publishing company, and they would go on to form their own record label, SAR, in 1959 in order to "record people we like". Never one to turn his back on his past, Sam's first release on the new label was The Soul Stirrers' Stand By Me Father with Johnnie Taylor (doing his best Sam Cooke imitation) now handling the lead vocal spot.

In 1960, Sam signed with "lilly-white" RCA records where he would be produced by pop mavens Hugo & Luigi, two cousins hired by the label to crank out the hits. While their production style sometimes got in the way, they would keep him charting consistently for the company. They also were smart enough to know when to get out of the way.

Such was the case with the 1963 album Night Beat, considered by many to be Cooke's finest hour. It was recorded over the course of a weekend with a small combo that included jazz legend Barney Kessel along with the indispensable Clif White on guitar, Hal Blaine on the drums, and a 16 year old named Billy Preston on the Hammond organ. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the album relies heavily on Charles Brown's material and may have been conceived as a kind of payback for Bring It On Home To Me.

RCA would release Little Red Rooster as the single from the album in October of 1963 but, although it climbed as high as #11 on the pop charts, it doesn't really reflect how great an album this really is. Today's B side (used as the flip of the forgettable Let's Go Steady Again) is more like it. Sam's smoky take on Brown's smooth California brand of the blues is just priceless... I love this record, man!

Meanwhile, "civil unrest" was spreading throughout America. The horrific treatment Sam had endured as a black entertainer touring the South had given him first hand experience with what was going on. He had become friends with people like Cassius Clay (actually producing a record on him for SAR) and Malcom X. Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement resonated in his soul. When he heard "white boy" Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind he knew he "had to write something". The resultant A Change Is Gonna Come may well be one of the greatest records ever made.

On December 11, 1964 Sam Cooke was shot dead by the night manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles.

An edited version of A Change Is Gonna Come was released as the B side of Shake 11 days later... can you imagine?

People still mourn him.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Pilgrim Travelers - Talk About Jesus (ANDEX 5008)

Talk About Jesus

A B Side tribute to an American Icon.

Lou Rawls was raised by his grandmother in the Ida B. Wells projects in the "dirty thirties" of the South Side of Chicago. He was singing at the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church by the time he was seven years old.

Gospel music was king in the "Bronzeville" neighborhood where he and his pal Sam Cooke grew up, with kids singing on the street corners and staging "singing battles" to show off their chops. He and Sam sang together briefly in the Teenage Kings Of Harmony, and as the older Sam moved on to head the Highway QC's and later, The Soul Stirrers, Lou was always one step behind.

He sang lead with local group The Holy Wonders, and was later recruited by The Chosen Gospel Singers and relocated to Los Angeles (again shadowing Cooke). He would sing on his first record with them in the mid-fifties, before joining J.W. Alexander's Pilgrim Travelers.

The Pilgrim travelers were one of the first Gospel groups to sign with Art Rupe's Specialty Records in 1947. When the musician's union went on strike in 1948, the ever resourceful Rupe continued to record the Travelers 'a capella', with a microphone recording their shuffling, tapping feet. The resulting "walking rhythm spirituals" were a huge success, with Specialty releasing one hit after another. They toured constantly throughout the forties and fifties, often sharing programs with The Soul Stirrers and Archie Brownlee's Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi.

Lou enlisted in the Army as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in 1955. Upon his release two years later, he took up his spot as the full time lead vocalist for the Pilgrim Travelers. J.W. Alexander had by now left Specialty, formed his own publishing company, and worked out a deal with Keen subsidiary Andex Records. The Travelers went on to release 14 singles for the label, the best of which were collected in the 1957 album "Look Up!". "Talk About Jesus" (a reworking of The Bells Of Joy's million seller for Peacock in 1951) features the young Rawls' incredible voice in a truly powerful setting. A great record like this, to me, gives a sense of the depth of the Gospel experience that would color so much of Lou's (and so many others) later work.

After a show with Sam Cooke in St. Louis in November of 1958, Lou stayed behind with Sam and his guitarist Clif White while the rest of the group went on ahead to their next gig in Greenville, Mississippi. Cooke's driver, Eddie Campbell, assured everybody he'd have them there in plenty of time. They were running late. Eddie was driving fast. They slammed into a stalled truck on Highway 61. Eddie was killed instantly, Clif suffered some broken bones, Sam miraculously received only minor scratches, and Lou Rawls was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. As it turned out, he was in a deep coma, and would stay that way for six days. When he awoke, he had suffered almost total memory loss, and it would take him a full year to completely recover. By that time The Pilgrim Travelers had ceased to exist.

Lou began singing "secular music" in local L.A. clubs and was soon noticed by Capitol Records A&R man Nick Venet, who offered him a contract. His debut album, Stormy Monday, a great smoky jazz inflected blues record recorded with The Les McCann Trio, was released in 1962, the same year he would provide the now legendary back-up vocals on Cooke's Having A Party and Bring It On Home To Me.

They would reunite the Pilgrim Travelers to back him up an on album later that year, but for the most part Capitol (who was riding high with mega-chart busting hits by The Beatles and Beach Boys) wasn't quite sure what to do with Lou.

1966's Lou Rawls Live marked the first time that his proto-rap soul style was heard on vinyl, and the record quickly went gold. Rawls, and his new producer David Axelrod, would follow that with his breakthrough monster soul hit Love Is A Hurtin' Thing, which crossed over and landed at #13 in the Billboard Hot 100.

A Woman Who's A Woman

This unbelievable Bobby Bland styled belter, co-written by Axelrod cohort H.B. Barnum, was the B side of the follow-up record, You Can Bring Me Your Heartaches. Yeah, Baby!

Rawls would win his first Grammy in 1967 for the awesome Axelrod composition Dead End Street and it's opening monologue rap about the Windy City. They would go on to record some 10 albums together for Capitol highlighted by his 1969 cover of Mabel John's Your Good Thing (Is About To End).
The best of the material from this period has been released on the great I Can't Make It Alone: The Axelrod Years (although our current B side isn't on there).

Lou signed with MGM in 1971, and wasted no time in earning his second Grammy for A Natural Man later that year. Unhappy with MGM's approach to his music, Rawls moved around a bit before teaming up with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to produce his best known work.

1976's You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine on Philadelphia International was an absolute stroke of genius, cutting through so much disco fluff to deliver the deep soul that was behind it all. Rawls was back on top, earning yet another Grammy in 1977 for Unmistakably Lou.

Lou always was a master at working the crowd, and saw his chance at even greater exposure by signing on as "The Voice of Budweiser" in 1979. He became personal friends with August Busch III, and used that corporate sponsorship to create the Lou Rawls Parade Of Stars Telethon which would go on to raise over $250 million for the United Negro College Fund over the next 25 years.

He never forgot where he came from.

His instantly recognizable velvet gravel voice and his way cool persona kept him in demand in Hollywood. Lou appeared in countless TV shows and movies (most recently Leaving Las Vegas and Blues Brothers 2000), as well as providing voice-overs to animated children's shows like Garfield and Hey, Arnold.

He released over 75 albums (his last work being two Gospel efforts on Malaco, and Rawls Sings Sinatra on the Savoy Jazz label), and continued to tour constantly, performing over 150 shows a year.

Lou Rawls was a lifetime Chicago White Sox fan, and sang the National Anthem before game two of the World Series this past October.

In November, he was scheduled to perform at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame event honoring inductee Sam Cooke. The word was out that he had cancer, and it was unsure if he would make it. He showed up and sang Jesus Be A Fence Around Me. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

He had come full circle.

You've got a home up above, my brother.

May you rest in peace

Monday, January 02, 2006

Charles Brown & Amos Milburn - I Want To Go Home (ACE 561)

I Want To Go Home

We talked about this song a couple of weeks back in our Amos Milburn post. After some further digging, it appears that (lucky for us!) it was actually released as the B side of Educated Fool, a Huey Smith styled rocker that didn't do much in the charts...

Charles Mose Brown grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, learning to play classical piano as a boy. He earned a degree in Chemistry at Prairie View A&M college, and was teaching in local schools when the war broke out. Classified as 4-F because of his asthma, Brown was assigned as a "junior chemist" at a defense plant in California, but the music was in his blood.

He won an "amateur hour" type contest in 1944, and started working with Bardu-Ali's orchestra. Ivie Anderson soon hired him to tickle the ivories at her famous Chicken Shack. It was here that he got noticed by guitarist Johnny Moore, who hired him as the pianist for his new trio, The Three Blazers. Johnny's brother Oscar was tearing it up on the local club scene with The King Cole Trio and, soon enough, the Blazers were too.

The groundbreaking Drifting Blues became a huge (#2) hit for the upstart Philo label (soon to become Aladdin) in 1945, and The Three Blazers were on their way.

Johnny Moore's Napoleonic mistrust of just about everyone kept the trio label-hopping, but they continued to chart on a regular basis. Both Billboard and Cashbox named them as the top R&B trio of 1946. In 1947, they released the perennial favorite Merry Christmas Baby, which is still going strong today.

Charles Brown was writing all the music, singing all the songs, and selling all the records, and yet Johnny Moore's name was still up front. Something just didn't seem right, and so Charles set out on his own in 1948. Signing an exclusive contract with Aladdin, he continued to crank out the hits, cracking the R&B top ten consistently between 1949 and 1952. Songs like Trouble Blues, Hard Times, and Black Night were absolutely HUGE and placed him squarely on the top of the R&B heap, influencing up and coming artists like one Ray Charles Robinson.

By the mid-fifties Mr. Brown, like so many of his contemporaries, had trouble making the transition to 'rock & roll'. He sued Aladdin for unpaid royalties in 1956, effectively ending his association with them, and signed with Atlantic for a brief period.

Although his records weren't selling like they used to, Charles still drew a respectable crowd to his live performances. It was at one of these, a double-bill with Amos Milburn at The Dew-Drop Inn, that Johnny Vincent signed both of them for his Ace label in 1959. He brought them down to Cosimo's studio and recorded Educated Fool and our current B side with the good ol' house band.

Brown would release one more single on Ace before signing with King Records in Cincinatti in 1960. Incredibly, he was to write and record another timeless classic, Please Come Home for Christmas by the end of the year.

Charles continued to work club dates around the Cincinatti area at this time, basically taking whatever work he could get. He was apparently an inveterate gambler, able to lose large sums of money almost as fast as he made them. He ended up deep in hock to a syndicate boss by the name of Screw Andrews, who kept him playing (with a gun to his head) as the house band at his Copa Club in Newport, Kentucky (a 'sin-bin' right outside of Cincinatti). It was here that Sam Cooke would hear Charles perform I Want To Go Home as part of his regular show whenever he was in town. Cooke was a big fan, and would often tell him that someday he was gonna record it with him...

By 1962, Andrews was dead, and Brown was free to return to the west coast. By this time, Sam had written new lyrics to the song, and asked Charles to come down and play piano at the recording session for his tune, now re-titled Bring It On Home To Me. Brown declined, opting instead to go to the racetrack... The rest, as they say, is history, with Sam and long-time Chicago Gospel pal Lou Rawls nailing it on the second take, this phenomenal song would go on to become the giant hit that it remains today (please check out Peter Guralnick's excellent Dream Boogie for more on Cooke and his world).

Brown is credited as co-writer on the back of this "Best of Sam Cooke" CD I got in the late 80s, but apparently nowhere else... not on the single, or on the vinyl version of the same greatest hits package, or - where it really counts - in the BMI Reperoire database. This all seems kinda strange, as Cooke truly was a HUGE fan, releasing an incredible blues-themed album, Night Beat, at the height of his career in 1963 that was made up almost entirely of Charles Brown compositions...

Anyway, Mr. Brown's phone basically stopped ringing for the remainder of the sixties and seventies, and he had given up playing music entirely.

In 1986 he would release an album called One More For The Road on the Blueside label, and people began to take notice. Other critically acclaimed albums were to follow and in 1989 he became an inaugural recipient of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award. He would tour with Bonnie Raitt in 1990, and go on to perform and record regularly throughout the decade, finally getting some of the recognition he deserved.

One of my fondest memories is of seeing him play solo at a small club in NYC around Christmas time during this period. He sounded, and looked, just about as great as ever, joking about how nobody, including himself, could believe how old he really was.

Charles Brown was awarded a Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1997, and was recording with everyone from Etta James to Elvis Costello. 1998's So Goes Love was to be his last record, and is, believe it or not, one of his best.

Charles died of congestive heart failure in January of 1999.

He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in March of that year.

They were a little late.