Saturday, November 24, 2007

Syl Johnson - Come On Home (Hi 2295)

Come On Home

I got an email over the weekend from Jud Phillips, directing my attention to a great Commercial Appeal article about tonight's incredible event at the Stax Museum in Memphis:

Monday, November 26, 2007      7-9 p.m.

"THE STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL MUSIC has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stax Records all year. And now we pay homage to Memphis’ other great label, Hi Records, with a special Last Mondays in Studio A concert by the Hi Rhythm Section and Syl Johnson! Yes, the Hodges Brothers, Howard Grimes, and Archie Mitchell are reuniting for a rare Memphis performance in a tribute to legendary Hi Records owner/producer Willie "Pops" Mitchell. Together, Mitchell and these musicians have written, recorded on, and produced some of the great music in American History, including that of Syl Johnson himself, along with Al Green, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Don Bryant, and dozens of others..."

Wow!  Another one of those times that make me wish I lived in Memphis...  As you may recall, we talked about Poppa Willie and his importance to this music back in August, then we kind of made a left and followed Reggie Young and Bobby Emmons after they left the building. Let's go back and take a look at what happened at Hi after they left.

In the late forties and early fifties, in a rural area east of Memphis called Germantown, Leroy Hodges formed a blues band called the Blue Dots. His twelve children grew up listening to that band and, as they got older, sat in with them whenever they could. By the time he was a teenager, Leroy Jr. had formed his own group, The Impalas, and began performing around town. Another founding member of that band was a kid names Archie Turner, who was the stepson of Willie Mitchell.

They would rehearse for hours at Mitchell's house, and Leroy's younger brother, Mabon (who had been nicknamed 'Teenie' ever since they were little kids), began hanging around, trying to get noticed. Willie gave him some pointers on his developing guitar technique, and basically paid attention to what he was doing. Teenie thought that was great and, before long, he was at the house so much that he just kind of moved in, and Poppa Willie took him under his wing. He would accompany Mitchell to his regular gigs at the Manhattan Club, and would get up on stage and play with them whenever he got the chance. By 1965, he had become a regular member of the band. Over the next couple of years, Leroy (with The Impalas now history) would become the bass player, and their brother Charles (who had been the keyboard man for O.V. Wright) would join on the organ. Once Al Jackson Jr. decided to concentrate more on his session work at Stax, Howard 'Bulldog' Grimes (the man he replaced at the label) would become Willie's regular drummer.

As things changed over at Hi, and the Bill Black's Combo guys drifted away, it was only natural that Mitchell use the members of his working band to fill in the gaps. By 1969, Willie (as the newly appointed vice president of the label) was ready to take things in a different direction. Cutting back on his live gigs, Mitchell brought in his brother James to lead the horn section, and stepson Archie on the piano. Moving away from the 'instrumentals' that had defined the label for so long, he set out to find the right vocalists to take things to the next level. One of the first singers Willie signed was a kid from Arkansas named Al Green. In the Commercial Appeal article, Mitchell says "...I was looking for a specific sound, and he was the only one that could hear jazz changes and really sing in that style. Once we got that together, I just kept making arrangements like that and that was just hit after hit." It was indeed. As we talked about in August, Green's Hi singles spent over six years on Billboard's R&B chart between 1970 and 1979. Hi Rhythm, as they grew to call themselves, played on every single one of those records.

They were also backing Charles' old buddy O.V. Wright on his truly amazing Back Beat stuff (in addition to continuing the job once he made the move to Hi), and were the driving force behind so many influential records by Ann Peebles and Otis Clay. As the 'Hi Sound' developed, with guys like Bowlegs Miller, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love rounding out the brass, Rhodes, Chalmers and Rhodes handling the backup vocals, and James Mitchell's trademark string and horn arrangements, the body of work they created over there on South Lauderdale Street is something that may never be equalled. 

Teenie Hodges had also developed into quite the songwriter, and collaborated with Al Green on such classics as Here I Am (Come And Take Me), Love And Happiness and the truly untouchable Take Me To The River. We've mentioned this before, but a lot of people don't realize that Reverend Al's version was only released as an album cut, and that the big hit belonged to Syl Johnson, who took it all the way to #7 R&B in early 1975 (it's also now up on The A Side).

If you've been around here a while, you already know that I think Johnson is just one of the coolest people ever. His Twinight material is the stuff of legend, and the fourteen singles (and two LPs) he made for Hi between 1971 and 1978 are simply fantastic. Today's selection here is a case in point. Released in September of 1975 as the B side of his harmonica fueled #15 R&B hit I Only Have Love, this airy and simple love song just drips with talent. Co-written by Poppa Willie and yet another unsung hero of Memphis soul, Earl Randle, Johnson's emotional delivery over that killer Hi Rhythm arrangement just knocks me out. I imagine that's Archie Turner playing that awesome piano, as that's definitely Charles Hodges working the Hammond. Top shelf stuff, folks.

Hi Rhythm would release an album of their own in 1976 called On The Loose, as well as a single pulled from the record, Superstar. Neither one of them sold very much and, with the ownership of the label in flux, by the following year they had pretty much ceased to exist as a cohesive unit. Charles would go on to become an ordained minister, while Teenie, Leroy and Howard have continued to perform sporadically over the years, most recently as 'Memphis Rhythm' backing performance artist Cat Power. Archie has remained at Royal Studio, helping Willie and 'Boo' run things, while Syl Johnson has kept on keeping on...

If you're anywhere near McLemore Avenue in Memphis tonight, you owe it to yourself to go check this out... if you're like me, however, and you can't make it, take consolation in the fact that it's just recently been announced that both Syl Johnson and Hi Rhythm are scheduled to appear at this year's Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans...

Age Ain't Nothing But A Number.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Arthur Conley - Burning Fire (Atco 6588)

Burning Fire

You know, it's funny how things come together sometimes.

A couple of months ago, 'doctor spock' (who I imagine is a different guy than the noted pediatric authority), left this in the comments: " a lover of Jamaican music, I've always been heavily into the b-sides, giving the 'versions' to the songs. My favorite American b-sides are Atlantic 6588b Burning Fire by Arthur Conley and the 'version' of Shame Shame Shame." After which I did a little digging, and came up with today's awesome selection. I think Spock was on to something... this is the real deal (we'll save Shirley & Company for another day).

When Otis Redding died in December of 1967, Arthur Conley not only lost his best friend, but his producer as well. Once things had calmed down a bit, Atlantic teamed him up with their most empathetic and sensitive producer, and booked him into American in Memphis to record material for a new album, Soul Directions. The music Tom Dowd and Arthur came up with there in early 1968 is simply amazing, yet often overlooked in favor of Conley's Fame sides. The first single pulled from the album, Funky Street, hit #5 R&B, and the follow-up, People Sure Act Funny, made #17. Not Bad. This phenomenal cut we have here was released as the B side of that single in June of 1968, and was also written by Conley and Dowd.

Seeing as how we're kind of smack dab in the middle of our 'American Fest', I thought now would be as good a time as any to put this one up here. Once again, check out ol' Reggie Young, man. Chrisman's drums, Cogbill's bass, Bobby Emmons' piano... as good as it gets. I'm sure that's the Sweet Inspirations on the back-up vocals... a seriously high quality hidden soul masterpiece, folks - thanks Doc! That's definitely Arthur overdubbed on a second vocal track as well, something which they apparently did with him as a matter of course in those days (I guess that means we can finally put the question we asked over on The A Side to rest).

Now, as you may recall, I put up a lengthy post about Arthur back in September of last year. In it, we discussed how he had changed his name to Lee Roberts and settled down in The Netherlands, far away from all the hype and bustle. I recently recieved a 'comment' on that post asking for more information about Conley's life in Holland. As fate would have it, Cies (the proprietor of the great Just Moving On, and one of our major soul detectives), lives in Rotterdam. I figured I'd ask him. He told me that 'Lee' was Arthur's middle name, and that 'Roberts' was his mother's maiden name. He changed it after he chose to live quietly with friends in Ruurlo, way out in the woods...

Cies also sent along a link to an excellent video that aired on Dutch television in March of 1988. Do yourself a favor and have a look. It's not only incredibly interesting, but very moving as well. To see that Arthur Conley, member of the Soul Clan and one of the biggest stars of 1967, finally found peace in such simple surroundings does the heart good...

And now, as the extended family gathers around in yet another opportunity to eat (and drink) too much, let us give thanks for our own simple blessings, reflect a little on how short life really is, and be willing to accept love on its own terms...

" a burning fire, way down in my soul."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mighty Sam - Silent Tears (Amy 990)

Silent Tears

Mighty Sam McClain is the genuine article.

As one of a family of thirteen children growing up in Winnsboro, Louisiana, he learned early on that life wasn't gonna be easy. Singing with his mother at Church on Sundays taught him the power of song, and helped him realize that he had a special talent. By the time he was in seventh grade, Sam (with the help of his gym teacher) had put together a group of his own, and was earning some money playing parties on the weekends. Maybe his stepfather resented that, I don't know, but he made it a point to try and bring this gifted boy down, telling him that he'd 'never amount to nothing'. Within a year young Sam was gone, setting out on his own to prove him wrong.

Heading up the road to Monroe, he got a job as the 'valet' for local bluesman Little Melvin. Travelling all over the South with him, he cut his teeth out there on the 'Chitlin' Circuit' in the late fifties and early sixties. When Melvin's featured vocalist Sonny Green left to pursue his solo career, young Sam stepped up and took his place. As he began to make a name for himself with his full throated vocals, he became known as 'Good Rockin' Sam'. On a swing through Pensacola, Florida in 1963, McClain liked it so much that he decided to stay, holding down a regular gig at the fabled 506 club. Tom's Tavern, another juke joint across town, hired him one night and, apparently unable to remember the 'Good Rockin' part, billed him as 'Mighty' Sam. The name stuck...

In 1956, an aspiring Nashville songwriter named Don Gibson recorded a song he wrote called Sweet Dreams (Of You), which made it to #9 on Billboard's Country and Western chart. It was picked up later that same year by Shreveport honky tonk hero Faron Young, who would take it all the way to #2, second only to an upstart kid named Elvis Presley. In 1960, Gibson, who was by then a superstar in his own right, cracked the top ten once more with his own newly recorded version.

In early 1963, Patsy Cline was finishing up work on an album with producer Owen Bradley. The primary architect of 'music row', his sweeping vision and trademark lush orchestrations had revolutionized the 'Nashville Sound'. Although Cline was afraid she might lose her 'down home' audience, she couldn't help but be impressed with the quality of the sessions. Before the record was released, she would meet her end in that fateful plane crash in March of 1963. The version of Sweet Dreams (Of You) she had recorded with Bradley was released as a single within a few weeks, and rocketed to #5 Country, while barely missing the Pop Top 40. This timeless song indeed 'had legs', and had earned its reputation as a Country 'standard'...

As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, local Pensacola dee-jay Papa Don Schroeder caught Mighty Sam's act at the 506 club in the summer of 1966. Itching to fulfill his destiny as a record producer, he approached Sam about travelling to Fame Studios with him up in Alabama (where he had cut demos with Rick Hall back in his Nashville days) with him to do a session. Schroeder had set it up for a weekend, when Hall could spare the studio time, but Sam was reluctant to lose a lucrative Saturday night at the club. Finally, he relented, and made the trip to Muscle Shoals with Papa Don and his father-in-law.

As Papa Don recalls it, Rick Hall didn't even come in for the session, and it was engineered by Dan Penn. Nobody really had any material ready, and so they worked on a few 'old saws' like Georgia Pines and, yes, Sweet Dreams (Of You). They were feeling pretty good about the results, until, as Sam tells it, somebody walked in with a copy of Billboard, and they couldn't believe their eyes. Not only was a version of Sweet Dreams already climbing the charts, it had been recorded by some kid named Tommy McLain who grew up in Jonesville, not fifty miles from Sam's hometown! Pretty spooky stuff, and McClain was convinced his 'career was over', even before it got started.

Undaunted, Papa Don loaded everybody into his International Harvester and set out for Nashville, where he still had a few connections. Their first stop was old friend Buzz Cason's office, and he loved the tapes. Cason then called Bell Records owner Larry Uttal, who was hanging around Nashville looking for the next big thing. Convinced he had found it, he offered Papa Don and Mighty Sam a contract. Hastily recording Cason composition Good Humor Man as the B side (as a way of thanking him with the 'mechanicals'), it was released as Amy 957 in the summer of 1966 (in spite of lucrative counter-offers from Jerry Wexler, who was not Uttal's biggest fan).

Although not reflected in the Billboard charts, Mighty Sam's version of Sweet Dreams was a big record in spite of (or maybe even because of) Tommy McLain's top twenty hit. Cason's infuence in Nashville (which I'm sure included WLAC), along with Uttal's in New York got it plenty of airplay in those markets. Before long, Sam was playing the Apollo, and things were looking good. His follow-up record, a high energy cover of Buster Brown's 1959 #1 R&B smash Fannie Mae, kept him popular out there on the circuit, although it once again failed to dent the charts.

On a return trip to Pensacola, Sam made what he feels may have been his biggest mistake when he took Papa Don to see The Dothan Sextet at his old haunt, Tom's Tavern. Schroeder, just as he had done with McClain, lured James Purify and Robert Dickey to Muscle Shoals, and the rest is history. After they hit the big time with I'm Your Puppet, Sam says he 'couldn't even get Don on the telephone'. When I told Schroeder (who was kind enough to leave a comment a couple of weeks ago) I was going to write this piece, he emailed me & said, "Mighty Sam was a very important part of my life. Unfortunately, he never did forgive me for not doing the same for him that I was able to do for the Purifys, Toney... etc. but God knows I tried. Sweet Dreams and Fannie Mae were the closest..."

In the Sundazed interview he goes on to say, "I guess he was just a little too black for the white market…not for me though. He was over the line even from Bobby Bland. But he was a great artist…a great artist. And I really tried, man. You see all those sides I cut on him? We just couldn’t make it happen." I do believe that Papa Don was trying, as Sam's Amy sides, when you listen to them today, are uniformly excellent. Today's selection is the flip of his fifth non-charting single for the company, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham's In The Same Old Way. With the possible exception of Arthur Conley's deeply emotional rendition, Mighty Sam's version remains the definitive one. The cool B side you're listening to was co-written by Papa Don and Oscar Toney Jr, and released in 1967. I'm not sure where it was recorded, although the fact that Toney is the co-writer would seem to place it after Schroeder made the move to American in Memphis... the guitar work here is positively amazing! What do you think... Reggie Young? Eddie Hinton? Moses Dillard...? {ed. note 11/15: OK, I just confirmed it with ol' Papa Don himself - the single was indeed cut at American, and features our guitar hero Reggie Young along with the rest of the 'Memphis Boys'. Thanks, Papa!}

Nothing if not persistent, Papa Don would continue to release 'product' on Mighty Sam right up until the day he walked away from Uttal and Bell/Mala/Amy in 1969. Listening to these records today, as I said, it's hard to imagine why they didn't meet with greater success. You can check them all out on the excellent Sundazed CD Papa True Love - The Amy Sessions. Once Papa Don had left the business (temporarily), Mighty Sam began working with his 'right hand man', Charlie Capri.

Wexler finally got his wish, as Capri got Mighty Sam a deal with Atlantic Records in 1970. After only two singles that didn't make the charts (one of which was included on Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers last year), the big company lost interest, and dropped him (maybe going with Uttal wasn't such a bad idea after all). Capri's next stop was Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi, where they recorded the great cheatin' song Mr And Mrs Untrue.

Atlantic was the Malaco distributor at that point, and refused to pick up the single on an artist they had just cut loose. Malaco decided to release it anyway and, in what must have seemed like 'deja vu all over again' to Sam, they watched in disbelief as Candi Staton's version of the same song appeared on Fame around the same time. Candi's record climbed all the way to #20 R&B, while Sam's died on the vine. Unreal. As the market for his kind of music began to disappear in the mid-seventies, the once mighty McClain sank into a dark and desolate period that found him living on the streets, and eating out of garbage cans.

Drifting to New Orleans, he came to the attention of The Neville Brothers, who were instrumental in getting him recorded by the small Orleans label in 1984. An album would follow a few years later, after which Sam was invited to perform in Japan. A live LP (which featured Wayne Bennett on the guitar) was released by Japanese label DeadBall in the mid-eighties.

All of this brought him to the attention of Hammond Scott, and he became the featured vocalist on the 1987 Black Top release Hubert Sumlin's Blues Party. Although this is probably what caused Sam to be categorized from that moment on as a 'Blues' artist, at least he was working again. Relocating to Houston, he tried his hand at real estate, but the music was in his blood.

A move to Boston in the early nineties was followed by the critically acclaimed Audioquest album Give It Up To Love in 1993. Now able to support his own band, Sam found regular work in and around New England, as well as touring the European 'festival circuit' every year. Moving to southern New Hampshire, he put down roots, and has continued to release great records right up to the present day, forming his own record label and production company in 2003.

An unashamed Christian, Mighty Sam's music refuses to be categorized, and contains elements of Gospel, Blues and Soul, in a true reflection of what lives in his heart. As a way of giving something back, his latest project has been to join in the Give Us Your Poor campaign to end homelessness. In addition to appearing on the album (released this past September), he'll be performing at the benefit concert this Friday, November 16th at the grand re-opening of the Strand Theater in Boston.

Just Like Old Times.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oscar Toney, Jr. - Ain't That True Love (Bell 672)

Ain't That True Love

Oscar Toney, Jr. grew up in the forties in Columbus, Georgia. He began singing with local Gospel quartet The Sensational Melodies Of Joy while barely into his teens.

Young Oscar won the amateur competition at the landmark Liberty Theater so many times that he wasn't allowed to enter them anymore. By the late fifties, The Sensational Melodies took to singing doo-wop as well, calling themselves, simply, The Melodies. In 1958, Toney and his two brothers formed another vocal group called The Valentines, eventually changing their name to The Searchers, as their own version of the Coasters' Searchin' had become their signature song. They recorded one single for the tiny Mac label in 1960.

That label was owned by a local entrepreneur named Donald 'Cement' MacNally, who owned a popular nightspot, The Club C'estbon. He was also the leader of the 'house band', The Kayos. Cement recruited Oscar to help fill in with the group here and there, and by the early sixties, he had become a regular member. In 1964, Toney, who was already writing his own material, hooked up with Macon record man Bobby Smith who would lease Can It All Be Love to King. The record didn't do much.

The Dothan Sextet, the R&B powerhouse that (as we discussed last week) was headed by James & Bobby Purify, performed regulary at another Columbus watering hole, the Club Lavanna. Just as Mighty Sam McClain had done, Oscar began singing with the group from time to time, and after James and Bobby left to sign with ol' Papa Don, his performances with them became more and more frequent. According to Oscar, Papa Don saw him with the Sextet one night in Pensacola, and offered him a contract.

Schroeder (quoting, once again, from the Sundazed interview) remembers it differently: " walks this guy named Oscar Toney, Jr. He comes to my kitchen, and my cooks hadn’t shown up that day, and I’m back frying chicken. And this guy walks in wearing a beautiful, full length, black, leather coat. Nice looking guy. And he says, ‘Papa Don? Mighty Sam sent me, and I’m Oscar Toney, Jr. And I want to cut a hit record for you.’ I said, ‘Man, I’m sorry, I just don’t have time to listen now. But if Mighty Sam sent you, I know you’re great.' I had a tremendous amount of respect for Mighty Sam. 'But I will commit to try you out in a couple of weeks, and if I like it, we’ll cut a couple of sides on you. I’m going to be in the studio with the Purifys’ on such and such date in Memphis. You meet me in there'..."

As it turned out, Papa Don was in the middle of the four or five day black-beauty fired marathon session on the Purify's Shake A Tail Feather when Oscar showed up. He waited. Then he waited some more. Once Schroeder noticed him, he said "‘Oh, yeah. Oscar.’ The guys were tired. And I said, ‘Wait a minute, man. Let’s listen. Oscar’s still sitting here waiting.’ Everybody’s about to die, wanting to take a break. I said, ‘Oscar, step up to that microphone right there, guy... I want you to sing me the greatest old song that you know...' He said, ‘Well, I wrote this little recitation to go with an old Jerry Butler song...’ and he stood up to that microphone and he started this little rap... Bobby [Emmons] joins in while he’s doing that little recitation on the front. The guys kick in. This is starting to sound good! I said, ‘Go back to the top and let’s try this again, Oscar.’ He starts, the whole band kicked in, and we cut a smash version of ‘For Your Precious Love’... and we cut it in 15 minutes. He just stood up to the mic, and sang the song one time and I couldn’t find a thing I wanted to change. That was one of those great rare one-take performances in the record business that you hear about. Unbelievable. It was absolutely unbelievable. I’ll never forget it."

As legend has it, Papa Don then put a phone call through to Larry Uttal in New York in the wee hours of the morning. Papa Don: "Dan Penn was there at American Studio when I was cutting ‘Shake A Tail Feather', and he said, ‘Papa Don, I just cut a dynamite record, and I sure hope you’ll try to get me a deal...' I owed him, man - he and Spooner wrote the biggest record of my life... I said, ‘Dan, it’s a done deal, but I can’t listen to it ‘til I get through...’ He said, ‘Alright, I’ll be right here.’ Well, man, by the time I finished with [the session] old Dan’s still there, and he reminded me, ‘Pop, you gonna hear my record?’ Well, I’m on the phone calling Larry Utall... and Dan, by this time…is out of his gourd. I get Larry on the phone . ‘Hey Larry, Papa Don... I’ll tell you what - I think I’ve got us some records...’ and I played him ‘Shake A Tail Feather.’ He went bananas. This is 2:30, maybe three o’clock in the morning. ‘I signed us another act.’ He said, ‘Yeah? What’s his name?’ I said, ‘Oscar Toney, Jr.’ ...what a wonderful name for a soul artist. And then I played him ‘For Your Precious Love.’ And he said, ‘Wow!’... then I told... Chips to cue up Dan’s record. Now remember, I hadn’t even heard it yet. I said, ‘Hey, Larry, I want you to know I picked us up another record. And he said, ‘Yeah? Well, what’d we pay for it?’ I said, ‘800 bucks and eight percent.’ He said, ‘Great! I’ll be down there next week, and I’ll close the deal for it then.’ I said, ‘Here, let me play it for you: 'Lonely days are gone, I’m-a goin’ home, ‘cause my baby just wrote me a letter'…'The Letter' by the Box Tops! Is that a funny story?"

It sure is Papa Don, and when For Your Precious Love (now up on The A Side) hit #4 R&B only two weeks after Shake A Tail Feather had climbed to #15, Uttal was pretty happy. He was downright ecstatic when The Letter spent an entire month in the number one spot on the Pop charts later that summer. That was some phone call! A phone call that put Chips Moman and his American Studio squarely on the map, once and for all (Atlantic would have Esther Phillips recording there within a month).

Today's cool selection was released as the B side of Toney's big hit, and features an awesome 'American Group' arrangement of a song he had written for the session. Check out Reggie Young! Remember a few weeks back when we talked about Young leading Bill Black's Combo as they opened for the Beatles on their first U.S. tour, and how George Harrison was observed paying particular attention to Reggie's guitar work? Well, I'll be dipped if this doesn't sound like something off of Yesterday and Today...

Oscar puts me in mind of O.V. Wright here, with his soulful Gospel edged vocals... I love that opening scream! Tommy Cogbill shows why he was considered the best bass player around in those days, just listen to him burn it up, man! Incredible stuff. As the guy who held down the bottom on so many great soul records, he never received the credit he deserved.

If you look closely at the label, you'll notice that production credit is shared by 'Papa Don, Cogbill, Emmons, Chrisman & Young'. Truly a group effort, I think Schroeder really appreciated the contributions of the guys in the studio, and realized that he couldn't do it without them.

Also listed on the label (in addition to Moman) is an engineer named George Schowerer. As it turns out, George was the engineer at Mira Sound in New York City, a funky little studio set up in an old restaurant in the basement of the decidedly greasy Americana Hotel. This is where Papa Don overdubbed the background vocals, with his Brill Building trio of Ellie Greenwich, Doris Troy and Melba Moore. A pretty amazing record.

They brought Oscar back into American to cut the rest of the tracks for an LP that capitalized on the strength of his top five single, and his versions of those Penn/Moman chestnuts Dark End Of The Street and Do Right Woman - Do Right Man (if a little heavy on the strings) are worth the price of admission. A single pulled from the album, a cover of Turn On Your Lovelight, broke the R&B top 40 in the fall of 1967. By the end of the year, the friction between Chips Moman and Papa Don was coming to a head.

Without Love (There Is Nothing) would crack the R&B top 50 in early 1968. A 'Papa Don Production', it was probably recorded in Florida. Toney wasn't happy with the results, saying "Papa Don had his own studio in Pensacola, but he could never come up with the right sound... Chips had professional musicians, and he could engineer that board. He could get that mix. Papa Don was trying to do that for himself, but he just couldn't."

Adding to the widening gulf between the two men was, I believe, the fact that Oscar's own excellent compositions (like A Love That Never Grows Cold) were perennially issued as B sides, and he just wasn't getting the appreciation he felt he deserved. According to Papa Don, "...a few months later, Oscar called me... and he says ‘Pop, I quit! I just don’t like being on the road all the time.' I couldn’t believe it!" But, according to Oscar, "I'd had about as much as I could stand, him disrespecting his artists... the only way I knew to hurt him was through the pocket. I had to sacrifice myself to hurt him." Be that as it may, the body of work these two men created has stood the test of time.

Bell would release a few more singles on him 'out of the can', but Toney would never chart again. He signed with Phil Walden's Capricorn label in 1970, and although they would issue four singles (with a fifth being picked up by Atco), his career was at a standstill.

Still a favorite overseas, he was signed by the UK based Contempo label, where he would release a critically acclaimed album, I've Been Loving You Too Long, in 1975. The label would release two singles as well, but they failed to connect with an audience, especially back in the States. By the end of the decade, he had returned to his roots in Gospel music and got a 'day job' back in his old hometown, leaving his life as a soul singer behind him.

In 2000, Oscar returned to the studio in Atlanta with producer Bob Grady for a 'Southern Soul Renaissance'. The album they came up with, Guilty, has recently been re-issued by Shout. As far as I can tell, he still performs locally down south.

Now, there's somebody I'd like to see at the ol' Ponderosa Stomp...