Listen: Slip-In Mules / Sugar Pie De Santo SugarPieSlipIn.mp3
I was so taken by her name from the very first time I saw it: Sugar Pie De Santo. You see I’m a pushover when it comes to cakes, pies, basically anything from bakeries. And there are none quite like the ones in mainland Europe. I first travelled there in ’87 with X and 10,000 Maniacs and had just become an unbearable militant vegetarian, basically making all my friends uneasy whenever they ate any meat. At least I had Natalie and Exene, both vegetarians, on my side for the trip, but still, not very nice I realize now. Those bakeries were safe neutral ground for us all. The places were so good, especially the ones in Holland and Switzerland. Oh and Denmark too. I still think about them.
There was a great record store just down from The Paradiso in Amsterdam, where both bands were playing. The window was jammed with Checker/Chess records and we were just staring at all the great sleeves. It was late and the place was closed. There were at least two from Sugar Pie De Santo. And next door was a Bakery & Sweet Shoppe. It must have been there for decades. Ever since, I’ve associated her with bakeries, good ones too.
I attended the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Awards show in Philadelphia September ’08, Vivian Green was singing with Chaka Kahn. It was heaven on earth for rubbing shoulders with legends: Bill Withers, The Dixie Cups, Mable John, Aretha Franklin, The Marvelettes, Earl Van Dyke, The Soul Brothers, Martha & The Vandellas, so many, they were all there.
I had no idea until arriving that Sugar Pie De Santo was being inducted. Plus she even performed and no one was ready. She owned the place, wow, what a fireball and a voice to stop most others in their tracks. I’m inclined to say she stole the show, but Bill Withers doing ‘Grandma’s Hands’ was pretty fierce too. ‘Slip-In Mules’ has always been my favorite single by her, although I have many. Her phrasing of toes into toesies is classic.
Worth getting immediately: SUGAR PIE DE SANTO / GO GO POWER: THE COMPLETE CHESS SINGLES 1961 – 1966 (Ace CD 317). It’s all her Chess A & B sides, including this one. Pretty much a must-have.