Friday, April 23, 2010

Ben E. King - Hey Little One (ATCO 6666)

Hey Little One

It totally amazes me sometimes how everything, eventually, seems to be connected. Last time out, we were talking about the mighty Soul Clan single, and I was postulating that maybe, just maybe, the backing tracks had been cut at American. We spoke about how everyone involved, from Womack and Covay to Burke, Tex and Conley had cut records with The Memphis Boys around the same time. But, as you may have noticed, I failed to mention Ben E. King. Well, shortly after that, I decided to write about that most unheralded of all the Clan members over on The A Side, and I found something very cool:

Yes, according to the Atlantic Records Discography for 1968, Ben E. King had also recorded in Memphis, with 'Arif Mardin's Orchestra' that October. Till I Can't Take It Anymore had been released as ATCO 6637 in January of 1969, and broke into the R&B top forty. It would also be included on the hastily put together Soul Clan LP on ATCO, which was fleshed out using cuts by each individual artist, that February. Just to give you an idea of where Atlantic's head was at in those days, ATCO LPs released that same month included Ball by Iron Butterfly, and Buffalo Springfield's Retrospective.

Solomon Burke was already gone, charting that March for his new label (Bell) with his awesome Fame recorded version of the Penn/Oldham/Johnson chestnut Uptight Good Woman (driving Jerry Wexler, I'm sure, just a little further up the wall in the process). King, no doubt, saw the handwriting on that wall, and by the time ATCO released this incredible record we have here today in April of 1969, he had already made the decision not to renew his contract. Needless to say, the label didn't promote the single, and I'd be surprised if many copies were pressed after the initial run of 'white label' promos.

So, the discography thing just says 'Memphis', and besides Ben E., only refers to 'Arif Mardin (arr) and others', as being on this session, so how do we know this was cut at American? Well, first of all, there is the fact that the label lists King Curtis as Mardin's co-producer, and American was his home away from home in those days. Mardin and the King were a team, and it was Curtis who brought Mardin's talents as an arranger to the attention of Jerry Wexler, who then turned around and made soul history by using him on those initial New York Aretha sessions. They had been working closely together ever since and, along with Tom Dowd, cut some simply amazing music there at 827 Thomas Street.

There is all of that, and then there's this...

Another name that jumps out at you on the label is that of the songwriter, Dorsey Burnette. A Memphis legend, he had formed the influential Rock and Roll Trio with his brother Johnny back in the early fifties. In 1956, he had hired a young kid named Chips Moman to go on the road with them, and travel out to the west coast. It was out there in California that Moman did his first session work, and got to know his way around a recording studio. He was hooked. The Trio basically broke up at that point, and after Dorsey cut a couple of singles that didn't do much, he decided to concentrate on his songwriting.

Burnette got himself noticed by Ricky Nelson, who would take one of his compositions, Believe What You Say, into the top five in 1958. The Burnette Brothers were then signed by Imperial (Nelson's label), and had songs covered by some of their old school R&B guys like Roy Brown. By 1960, Dorsey had signed with Era Records, and his first single for them, Tall Oak Tree, would go to #23 Pop. Hey Little One was the follow-up, and made it to #48. It's just a great record, man...

In 1968, the song was all over the radio again, as Glen Campbell took it and crossed over from #13 Country into the middle of the Hot 100. His album of the same name would top the Country LP Charts that year, and send another single, I Wanna Live, into the Pop top forty. Hey Little One was suddenly hot again, and helped put Burnette, who had been struggling with a series of personal demons since his brother Johnny's premature death in 1964, back on his feet. Capitol subsequently signed him, and he hit the Country charts regularly for them on his own in the early seventies.

Anyway, I'm betting that Chips Moman might have had something to do with the selection of this song by the Atlantic producers, and this haunting atmospheric American Group work of genius puts me in mind of the sound they would be creating for Elvis in just a few short months.

It is truly a hidden gem.

OK, folks, thanks to Noel-23 down there in the comments, I would say we now have definite proof that this awesome record we have here was cut at American Sound. He was kind enough to point me in the direction of the scan at left of King's prior ATCO single (6637), both sides of which (according to the discography) were cut at the same session as 'Hey Little One'. There on the label credits it reads "Produced & Arranged by Arif Mardin and King Curtis Recorded at American Studios Memphis, Tennessee". Why that information was left off the later single is anybody's guess, but it proves our suspicions were correct. Which, of course, means that ALL of the Soul Clan members cut at American in 1968...


Blogger Funky16Corners said...

Great song Red. Check out this connected bit I wrote a while ago.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Jer.Eps said...

Any idea what the "csg processed mono master" means?

10:00 PM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Good question, Jeremy... no clue!

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Noel-23 said...

Red -
The label for Ben E. King's "It Ain't Fair" 45 says "Produced & Arranged By Arif Mardin and King Curtis, Recorded at American Studios, Memphis Tennessee". So if the songs for both 45's were recorded at the same session then it stands to reason the "Hey Little One/When You Love Someone" 45 was also recorded at American.
I'm in CA for work and all my stuff (i.e. records) is in storage back east so I don't have my record with me to check but if I remember correctly the B-side label ("Til I Can't take It Anymore") also says "recorded at American Studios".
I looked online though and i did find a picture of the "It Ain't Fair" 45 label on here's the page:

It really is amazing how everything interconnects. I used to check your blog everyday but I haven't for a few months, meanwhile I've had Ben E. King's double cd 'anthology' in heavy rotation, especially these 4 songs. Then I come on here and you've got 2 amazing posts on him.
I've always loved his late 60's Atco singles and i completely agree he doesn't get enough credit. That double cd 'Anthology' which contains almost all his great Atco singles (out of print on cd, available on itunes) is great but it came out in the early 90s. It'd be great to see an updated release, maybe with unissued tracks from the vaults and expanded liner notes. Like a Rhino-Handmade or Ace UK type reissue.
Keep up the great work,

2:17 AM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Noel -

Awesome! Thanks for the link to that scan... I would say that definitively proves that 'Hey Little One' was cut At American as well... I totally agree about some kind of new retrospective on Ben E. - and why don't we, as the 'Soul Community' try to get him back on stage as well.. as part of the 'American Reunion', maybe??

Thanks again!

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Noel-23 said...

No, THANK YOU. Seriously man after all the enjoyment and information i've gotten (and amazing music I've heard) from your blog it feels really great to contribute in any way.
I love the idea of an "American Reunion", heck maybe raise money for a museum or something to honor everything created there. I have always loved Aretha's version but Ben E King's "It Aint Fair" is just amazing. One more testament to the incredible talent of everyone involved with American.
I was thinking about it and I gotta correct my own comment: Ben E. King's double CD anthology contains a lot of great stuff but not "almost all". Theres still a bunch of great singles A+B sides not on there. All of his A+B sides were included on Sequel UK's Ben E. King Anthology 6 CD series in 1996 but they're all out of print. The singles were spread out, a handful on each CD Volumes 1-4 as bonus tracks after the album. And Vol.5 ("What Is Soul") being a straight compilation of the remaining later singles. So what I'd LOVE to see is a double CD compilation of only non LP single A+B sides and unreleased stuff. Hopefully someone from Ace or Shout or Rhino Handmade reads this blog.
I own all those Anthology CDs but as I said before majority of my records are back east. But i did remember that theres a lot of good information in the liner notes that you'd find interesting. So I looked around online and found a site for the arranger Claus Ogerman that has jpegs of all the pages of liner notes of Volumes 1-4. Here's the link:

There's lots of great info there about Atlantic, Bert Berns, Leiber+Stoller, Etc. I was hoping the site would have the liners to vol.5, which contains the recordings made at American, for furter info for your current American Singles series - sadly Vol.5 is not included on the site. BUT the liners to volume 4 detail his recording session in Muscle Shoals and I figure you're always interested in Muscle Shoals.
This brings up a question: In the liners to Volume 4 it states that the song "so much love" was produced by none other than Rick Hall, but in New York City, not Muscle Shoals. The liners state that it was Hall producing not Carole King as was long thought. But the Atlantic discography you mention in the post says it was Carole King. I've seen discograpies and heard people that list one or the other but I'd love to know definitively: Do you know if it really was Rick Hall? I don't have my usual reference books at hand(Sweet Soul Music, Etc) to check in but off the top of my head i don't remember mention of this in Guralnicks' "Sweet Soul Music" or Barney Hoskyns "..Brokenhearted" either.
Thanks again,

3:49 AM  
Anonymous Noel-23 said...

Darn it. I tried to indent and space the paragraphs in my message so it was easier to read but it didnt come out that way upon posting. Sorry about that.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

OK, Noel (and everybody else), this thorny dilemma is currently being addressed over on Soul Detective:

QUESTION SIX - Did Rick Hall Produce Ben E. King in 1966?

Help us get to the bottom of it!

11:02 AM  

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