Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bill Coday - You're Gonna Want Me (Crajon 48204)

You're Gonna Want Me

Bill Coday 1942-2008

When I got the news this summer that Bill Coday had died, I was involved with the whole Lattimore adventure, and so never got a chance to say goodbye. He had come up singing the blues in juke joints in rural Arkansas, before heading to Chicago in the early sixties. When Denise LaSalle first heard Bill sing at the Black Orchid, she knew he was the real deal, and signed him up to the label she had started with her husband, Crajon. Her own initial release on Crajon had been picked up by the Detroit based Westbound label after it made some local noise, and she had stayed on with them. I'm not sure who got there first, but both Westbound and Crajon soon began recording with Willie Mitchell at Royal Studio in Memphis, an arrangement that helped propel both labels into the R&B top fifteen within two weeks of each other in early 1971 - The Detroit Emeralds' with Do Me Right, and Bill Coday's monster Get Your Lie Straight (Denise herself would follow, of course, with her own Willie Mitchell produced #1 smash Trapped By A Thing Called Love later that summer). This wonderful selection we have here today was the B side of Bill's breakthrough record, and demonstrates his talent not only as a singer, but as a songwriter as well... move over, Johnnie Taylor! I'm loving Hi Rhythm's bluesy side here, man. His Crajon singles would be leased for national distribution by Galaxy, and he would chart one more time for them (with When You Find A Fool Bump His Head) before signing with Epic in the mid seventies. Coday's career was still going strong, and he was a regular visitor to the Southern Soul Blues charts for Memphis based Ecko Records into the new millennium. In 2005, he formed his own company, B&J Records, releasing Jump Start to critical acclaim, as well as a 2006 Christmas Collaboration with Karen Wolfe. Bill was due back in the studio this summer, but he never made it. He was felled by a massive stroke on June 7th. May God rest his soul. Let's pause here a moment and remember these other greats who have passed on before us during the past year:
May they rest in peace.
2008 has certainly been an interesting year here at the the ol' B Side... a year which saw yours truly stepping off the curb just a little bit further, and working with some incredible people along the way. I consider myself truly blessed to have lived both the Lattimore Brown and O.V. Wright sagas, with all of their ups and downs. Following the road that took me from Mississippi to Memphis and back again (twice), has left a profound imprint on who I am, and what it is I do. I will never forget it. It was also a year which saw the site featured in such places as The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Commercial Appeal which, while bringing in more visitors, also brought with it a certain amount of notoriety... notoriety which may have resulted in the recent cage-rattling by the 'International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the record companies it represents', and the deletion of some of my material. A situation which I find truly ironic, as I was recently contacted by one of those very same 'record companies it represents' asking for help in promoting one of their re-issue products... go figure. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? I'll see you next year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Benny Gordon - True Love Is All I Need (Capitol 5367)

True Love Is All I Need

Benny Gordon 1932-2008

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of the one and only Benny Gordon, who died on Christmas Eve of complications rising from an inoperable stomach tumor. His funeral will be held today at 1 pm at the Hampton District 2 Auditorium in his home town of Estill, South Carolina. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family. He will indeed be missed. I had met Benny during my soul detective fact finding mission to South Carolina in June of 2007, and was working with him and his family (who were kind enough to supply me with the portrait above) in putting together his life story. Below is a short synopsis of that story that first appeared on Soul D after I interviewed Benny by phone back in 2006: He grew up in the small town of Estill, South Carolina down along the Columbia Highway, and started a band with his brother Sammy on guitar. Originally a Gospel outfit, they called themselves Benny Gordon and the Christian Harmonizers. According to Benny, their song Brightly Bean was a huge hit, and put them 'on top' in the Gospel field. That song led to an appearance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, which would become "the only gig I ever got fired from!", says Benny. They were apparently just tearing the house down, and the local headliner complained to Joe Crain (the Apollo's booking agent), and refused to follow their act. Joe sent them packing! Benny soon saw where the money was, and moved to Brooklyn, where he and Sammy crossed over and formed the infamous "Soul Brothers". Their first record was the legendary Camel Walk on Teddy McRae's New York based Enrica label, which became somewhat of a local hit in 1962. It becomes difficult to sort out the labels he recorded for at this point (as Benny said himself, "I don't think I missed any of 'em!"), but great records on Wand (please see The A Side), RCA, Shadow, NewMiss, Phil LA of Soul (and more) would follow. The incredible Give A Damn (About Your Fellow Man) has become a Funk favorite, and his version of J.D. Bryant's (Get It) Come And Get It is a much sought after slab of dynamite as well. We talked for awhile about New York soul, and how it never got the press it deserved, which led to the subject of Bobby Robinson. Bobby was the king of the whole scene, according to Benny, and there didn't seem to be a time when he didn't have a hit on the R&B charts. J.D. Bryant used to hang around in Benny's basement in Brooklyn while he rehearsed with Sammy and the rest of the Soul Brothers, and they "shared quite a few drinks" together. If you take a look at the publishing credits on the lousy ebay scan of 'Come And Get It' above, you can make out that it was published by 'Bob-Dan Music', which was of course owned by Bobby Robinson and his brother Danny. More evidence of the existence of New York Soul! Even back in the sixties, Benny realized that there was money to be made in the "white market," and the Soul Brothers soon became the house band at Trudi Heller's legendary discotheque and club on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Frequented by all the 'glitterati' in town, Trudi's gave them exposure they just wouldn't find anywhere else. It seemed only natural, then, that Truman Capote would turn to Trudi to provide the entertainment for his legendary Black And White Ball, otherwise known as the Party Of The Century. With all of New York (as well as Hollywood and D.C.) vying for an invitation, Capote ruthlessly selected 500 guests to attend the extravaganza at the Plaza Hotel in 1966, with music provided by the Soul Brothers. Benny said they were "really gettin' down heavy", when he noticed Frank Sinatra heading for the stage! He wasn't sure what to expect, but when 'Old Blue Eyes' got up there he told him, "Boy, go ahead and sing them blues - blow their minds!" Can you imagine? "His eyes were really blue!," Benny told me. He eventually moved back 'down home' with his family, and operated his own club for years... A South Carolina legend, we will talk more about Benny in the days to come. May God rest his soul.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Louis Jordan - Santa Claus, Santa Claus (Pzazz 15)

Santa Claus, Santa Claus

Well, folks, it's that time of year again... Louis Jordan was the man. Like Fats Waller before him, he came up out of Harlem and brought the humor and the rhythm with him. A member of Chick Webb's band (an outfit that was also home to folks like Jesse Stone, Jimmie Lunceford, and Ella Fitzgerald), he made a name for himself at the fabled Savoy Ballroom in the mid-thirties, where Webb's band regularly 'cut' all comers. By the end of the decade he had moved on, and his gregarious personality packed the Elks Rendevous, the Harlem club where he and his band had taken up residency, every night. In what may just be the moment when Rock & Roll was born, Jordan decided to scale down the traditional Swing orchestra to a tight outfit called the Tympany Five. In the early forties, the Five brought their new brand of 'jive' to the midwest, working rooms like the Capitol Lounge in Chicago and the Fox Head Tavern in Cedar Rapids, defining the sound that would make Jordan the 'King of the Jukebox' over the next ten years. To understand just how influential Jordan was on the development of Rhythm & Blues (and, consequently, Rock & Roll) consider the fact that his music has spent more time at the top of the R&B (or as it was known in those days, 'race') charts than anyone else's ever. His string of 113 weeks (well over two years) at #1 is a record that, I think it's safe to say, will never be broken. In addition to the five consecutive number one hits that immediately followed World War II (setting the stage for the 'post-war' R&B explosion), Jordan and his band would propel some 52 other 78s onto the charts, 49 of those into the top ten. They were huge. Songs like Saturday Night Fish Fry, What's The Use Of Gettin' Sober, Caldonia and Choo Choo Ch'Boogie still hold up today as the groundbreaking masterpieces that they were. Louis Jordan also pioneered the use of Soundies, decades before MTV, and appeared in some of the final Race Movies, which were directed primarily at a Black audience. Jordan's appeal erased all boundaries, however, and like contemporaries Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong he was able to 'cross-over' on a regular basis, hitting the pop top forty some 18 times (including placing G.I. Jive at #1 for two weeks in 1944), and even reaching number one on the Country charts twice during those same war years. Incredible. The fifties weren't kind to Jordan and the R&B pioneers he had inspired like Amos Milburn and Charles Brown. As a whole new generation discovered what was now being called Rock & Roll, it's R&B roots didn't seem to matter much to them. Jordan's last chart hit would come in the summer of 1951, shortly after which he would leave Decca (the record company he had been with since 1938), and sign with Irv Green's Mercury label in an attempt to modernize his sound. It didn't work, and he found himself getting second billing (something that would have been simply inconceivable just a few years before) to upstart kids like Chuck Berry, who had borrowed his trademark guitar riff from Carl Hogan, the guitarist in the Tympany Five. By the early sixties, Louis was all but forgotten by the music industry. In 1962 he joined Chris Barber's Jazz Band on a highly successful tour of the U.K., but returned home to an indifferent public. He would be one of the first artists Ray Charles signed to his new Tangerine label that same year, producing two LPs and eight singles over the next few years that didn't sell much. This cool record we have here today was cut in 1969, and finds Jordan hooked up with another founding father of R&B, Paul Gayten (I wonder if that's him playing that awesome piano?), who had just started up his Pzazz label out in Hollywood. Written and arranged by left coast Jazz wizard Teddy Edwards, Louis sounds every bit as good as he ever did. He was 66 years old when he died of a heart attack in 1975. The impact he continues to make on American music will live on forever. Now, as things begin to get even more crazy than usual here at the B Side hacienda, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy and a healthy holiday season... I hope Santa does the right thing! Merry Christmas, everybody!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Here They Come...

Hi folks.

Last month my podcast was shut down for violating the Gcast 'terms of service' which prohibits the use of copyrighted material... even if that material was ripped from an obscure and long out-of-print vinyl source.

Oh well.

This morning I woke up and found this:

"Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that certain content in your blog infringes upon the copyrights of others. The URL(s) of the allegedly infringing post(s) may be found at the end of this message.

"The notice that we received from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the record companies it represents... will be posted online... The IFPI is a trade association that represents over 1,400 major and independent record companies in the US and internationally who create, manufacture and distribute sound recordings (the "IFPI Represented Companies").

"The DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider liability in case of copyright infringement. We are in the process of removing from our servers the links that allegedly infringe upon the copyrights of others. If we did not do so, we would be subject to a claim of copyright infringement, regardless of its merits...

"Please note that repeated violations to our Terms of Service may result in further remedial action taken against your Blogger account..."

Sincerely, The Blogger Team

Affected URLs:

The 'affected URL' in question was a post I wrote about Jerry Wexler and Dusty Springfield when Jerry turned ninety in January of 2007. It's gone. Along with the scratchy 45 version of So Much Love, went the 2500 words or so that made up the post. My words. Did I back them up? No. Lucky for me, though, I reposted most of it as part of a tribute to Jerry when he passed away in August...

This is the second time they've deleted something I wrote without any warning (the first being an O.V. Wright A Side post from 2006). Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. After all, I 'agreed' to the 'terms of service'... right?

This may be the beginning of the end for the whole 'audioblog' concept, I don't know. We'll see.


- red

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ray J. - Right Place Wrong Time (Hep' Me 111)

Right Place Wrong Time


One of the most colorful voices in Southern Soul (a term which he re-invented in his own image and likeness) has left us, passing peacefully in his sleep at his 'ranch' outside of Jackson, Mississippi. Born in Jackson, Jones had moved to New Orleans in the early fifties and eventually carved out a niche for himself as an independent 'record man' and producer, one who seemed to thrive after most of the other small companies had gone out of business. His first label, Black Patch, was home to Rockie Charles' debut single, the very cool Riccasha in 1968. A succession of labels would follow (like Shagg, Superdome and Jenmark) on which he cut local artists like The Barons and Guitar Ray. As he told Jeff Hannusch in The Soul of New Orleans; "As I got more artists, I didn't want to go to the radio station with seven records on the same label... the dee-jays would say 'I can't play all of those records...' So I started new labels and I switched colors on the record labels to make them look different." Another of them was called J.B.'s, on which his re-recorded version of Mardi Gras standard Second Line (the original White Cliffs master by Bill Sinigal having been lost in the Cosimo Matassa bankruptcy) would appear in 1974, and get played to death every Carnival season since. J.B.'s was also home to great records by James Rivers and Charles Brimmer. We've already talked about how it was Brimmer's version of God Bless Our Love that charted in 1975, after Chelsea picked up the J.B.'s original for national distribution. The most enduring of all of the Senator's imprints, however, was Hep' Me, which he operated right up until the day he died. This greasy chunk of funk that we have here today was the very first release on the label in 1973. Recorded at Deep South Studios in Baton Rouge, Ray J. was the stage name of one Raymond Jones, who was the keyboard man in Brimmer's band, in addition to holding down a day job as the music teacher at Xavier Prep back in the Crescent City. He would work with the Senator for years as an arranger, alongside folks like Sam Henry Jr. and Wardell Quezergue. Once Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn opened their Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans, Jones became one of their best customers, working out some kind of percentage deal with Sehorn in exchange for studio time. He would produce some of his best records at the studio on folks like Barbara George, Tommy Ridgley, Bobby Powell, Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and, of course, Johnny Adams. Johnny had signed with Jones after his run with Shelby Singleton had taken its course, and recorded a slew of singles that kept him out there in the public eye. His Hep' Me version of Conway Twitty's After All The Good Is Gone was leased to Ariola Records, who would cut an album on him as well. When Adams left Hep' Me to sign with Rounder in 1983, the Senator read the handwriting on the wall. His radio connections had dried up, as stations got bought up by the corporations, and the role of independent label owner just wasn't happening any more... at least not in New Orleans. By the end of the decade, Senator Jones had returned home to Jackson, working briefly with local legends Johnny Vincent and George Jackson while getting the lay of the land. His partnership with Warren Hildebrand in Mardi Gras Records in the nineties helped define what was happening in southern 'grown folks' music as records by folks like Sweet Miss Coffy, Peggy Scott-Adams, and The Love Doctor became hits in the down home radio market in a genre that would become known as 'Southern Soul'. It was the Senator who believed in a young kid who would go on to be considered the 'King' of the music, Sir Charles Jones, with songs like Love Machine and Is There Anybody Lonely hitting big on the charts in the new millennium. Hep' Me artists like Mr. X and Lil' Kim Stewart soon joined him, and the label became a force in the deep south market, which is what the Senator had been shooting for all along... Quite the character, he was also the host of his own late night radio show on WMPR in Jackson. Known as 'Uncle Bobo', he regaled listeners with stories of his life out on the ranch, chasing around his farm animals in between cutting the latest hits at his home studio. He was something else.