Archive for the ‘Stax’ Category

Norm West

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Listen: Baby Please / Norm West
Baby

In the last few years, M.O.C. Records has become a favorite when obscure soul labels haunt my brain. You know they’re worth pursuing once a few singles, all good, find there way into your life and then, even Wikipedia doesn’t shed any info on the company.

Such is the case here. From ’62 to around ’69/’70, the label was timidly distributed by London, and when my first orange swirl encounter occurred via a Big Amos title, I knew another chapter of collecting had begun.

My best find so far: ‘Baby Please’ by Norm West from early ’66, which turned out being a $50 Northern single, according to the NORTHERN SOUL PRICE GUIDE. Both sides of this one are credited to D. Bryant, and given Norm West’s two previous singles were released by Hi, I’m just guessing it’s Don Bryant.

Later, a member of the successful Stax act, The Soul Children, it’s nice to hear he ended up winning.

Mable John

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Listen: Don’t Hit Me No More / Mable John
MableJohnDontHit.mp3

What about these lyrics? I wonder if a label would even dare ask their artist to sing them in this day and age?

I recall seeing ‘Don’t Hit Me No More’ in the mark down bin at Woolworth’s and sprang for the 39¢. Besides, I’d seen but not heard one too many Mable John, sister of Little Willie John, singles by then, seemingly a new one every three or four months. Always a meager few neatly displayed in the RnB section at Walt’s Records, the downtown Syracuse shop that carried ten or so copies of anything English that had reached their charts and released in The US.

Likewise, the store was chock full of all the current deep blues and soul singles. Those hovering anywhere near the BILLBOARD RnB chart had their own real estate on the shelves as well. It was anybody’s guess which were the greats amongst them, but once they hit those discount bins, label, writer, producer and in this case, song title pointed this little kid toward many a cherished item all these years later.

The Staple Singers

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

We The People / The Staple Singers

Listen: We The People / The Staple Singers
We

I constantly regret never seeing The Staple Singers when Pops was alive. I actually was obsessed with this single for the longest time, starting around me getting my first jukebox in ’87. It’s actually the B side to their ‘Oh La Di Da’ hit from ’73, peaking at #33 in Billboard’s Pop chart, primarily because of RnB airplay and sales, as I never once remember hearing that song on the radio back then.

I was pretty cautious to put only extra, well played records in the jukebox, as my original Rock-Ola would definitely do a number on them. These titles were no brainers in the good old garage sale days, when you’d pick this stuff up for 10¢ a piece, tops. Not having the strength to pass up even the most marginal single, I ended up with hundreds of doubles, that are still oozing out of my over stuffed garage. Forget about putting a car, bike or anything else in there. Last summer, I would just manage to squeeze a few more records in and rapidly have to slam the door. An episode of Horders looms. I have since organized it all a bit, but they are still stacked pretty much to the ceiling. It does make for a fun afternoon digging in. You forget all the titles you end up with, well I do at least. So there are always gems to put a smile on my face when rummaging through.

Well ‘We The People’ just sounded so hot on the jukebox that I became addicted. I particularly love the lyrics, perfect circa ’72 /’73 with the hot pants references etc. This never shows up on any of their compilations, but is on the album, BE ALTITUDE – RESPECT YOURSELF.

Jimmy McCracklin

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The Walk / Jimmy McCracklin

Listen: The Walk / Jimmy McCracklin
The

His biggest chart hit, ‘The Walk’, was the result of an AMERICAN BANDSTAND appearance in ’58, although the record had been released in ’57. Thus was the power of a very few, limited music outlets at the time. Then it was called television.

Dick Clark’s weekly program must have been aggressively worked for such precious exposure. To Dick Clark’s credit, many of the black acts, often who’s records were covered by white performers thus robbing the originals of the hit, were given shots. Jimmy McCracklin was one.

‘The Walk’ is a great combination of RnB and Jump Blues, which he carried over from the release of his first single, ‘Miss Mattie Left Me’ in 1945.

He went on to record for a few labels including Imperial and Stax, where with Lowell Fulson, co-wrote the massive ‘Tramp’ as recorded by Carla Thomas & Otis Redding, and as recently as 2007 played the San Francisco Blues Festival for the sixth time.

This copy came with the original jukebox tab stapled to it’s sleeve, where it shall remain.

Ann Peebles

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Listen: I Don’t Lend My Man / Ann Peebles
I Don't Lend My Man / Ann Peebles

Hi Records, with their Willie Mitchell led house band, not many labels had anything on them. Between Hi and Stax, the 70′s must have been a fantastic time to live and play in Memphis.

Always having a major soft spot for London Records, and the UK parent company Decca, meant I was interested in all their subsidiaries: Parrot, Deram, Tribe, Press and, despite a very different sound and roster, Hi. I have never passed up a Hi single at a garage or church sale. Can’t physically do it. And if it’s in the company sleeve, well forget it. As a result over the years, I’ve got loads of extras, so many Al Greens, for instance. Hey, they always come in handy: the jukebox, new friends, new neighbors, copies if I ever get that summer house.

Plus it’s led to amassing some crazy obscurities: Big Amos, Quiet Elegance, Bobo Mr. Soul, Erma Coffee, Gene Bowlegs Miller. It’s really how I got hooked on Ann Peebles, collecting the label. Probably owned two or three singles before properly checking her out. Then bang. Her’s is a real treasure trove of material. No denying the greatness of ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’. But when she veers toward the Millie Jackson lyrical sass, that’s when I love her most. ‘I Don’t Lend My Man’ – that title tells you everything you’re about to hear before you start.

JUDY CLAY

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Country Girl, City Man / Billy Vera & Judy Clay

Listen: Country Girl, City Man / Billy Vera & Judy Clay
Country Girl, City Man / Billy Vera & Judy Clay

Judy Clay got a raw deal. An early member of The Sweet Inspirations, she grew up singing with her relatives, Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick and Dionne Warwick. She’s on endless sessions (mostly Atlantic) for Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, Aretha Franklin, God only knows how many. When she finally had a hit with ‘Storybook Children’, as one half of the intentionally multi-racial duo Atlantic Records had masterminded: Billy Vera & Judy Clay; network television wouldn’t touch them. Instead Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood got their slots, including performing ‘Storybook Children’ on The Hollywood Palace. Hey, we love Nancy & Lee but hold on.

I used to hear the follow-up, ‘Country Girl – City Man’, on a bunch of stations. It featured The Sweet Inspirations (as did ‘Storybook Children’ and most tracks on their Atlantic LP), mixed RnB with country beautifully, and appealed to lots of formats. It’s another permanent jukebox fixture. I play it a lot. She sounds like she could’ve been an actress, that phrasing.

JudyClayPrivateUKA, Judy Clay, William Bell, Stax

Listen: Private Number / Judy Clay & William Bell
Private Number / Judy Clay & William Bell

If you’re not a believer, check her duet with William Bell.

Melvin Van Peebles

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Listen: Sweetback’s Theme / Melvin Van Peebles MelvinVanPeeblesSweetback.mp3

Melvin Van Peebles was, actually still is, an actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer.

Yes, this music exists because he has the talent to take complete control and responsibility for all parts of the job as a film maker, even the soundtrack. There may be others that do that as well, I’m not sure.

This wasn’t something I realized at the time. By assumption, he was an other great from the Stax roster. Not until getting a reissue of his work several years ago, the advent of the cd had some benefits, did I learn the above.

I say it often, but still worth repeating here. This track is literally made for a jukebox. It’s the life of every party I’ve ever had.

Ty Hunter

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Listen: Bad Loser / Ty Hunter TyHunterBadLoser.mp3

With Berry Gordy’s sister Gwen, Billy Davis started Anna Records in ’59, and later the Checkmate label in ’61. Both were distributed by Chess and one of their first Anna signings were The Voice Masters, whose various members took the lead vocal, depending on the track. Ty Hunter was one, as were David Ruffin and Lamont Dozier.

That web and family tree is all tangled but in a good way. Simultameously, Ty Hunter released singles for each imprint, and had moderate RnB success.

When Gordy/Davis eventually sold the masters of both imprints to Chess, Ty Hunter continued as a solo artist for that label, and released a handful of 7′s. None were hits, but years later became in demand. He’s seldom name checked in the history of RnB/Soul but the purists among us had been well aware for years.

The one Chess release of his that eluded me until now, ‘Bad Loser’, became a jaw dropping Sunday morning rummage sale find. ’tis that season again.

Listen: Something Like A Storm / Ty Hunter TyHunterSomethingLike.mp3

Like Hi, Motown, Stax etc, each company’s entire roster seems to have played, recorded, written and produced each other. Noticing Bo Diddley co-wrote this B side, I can’t help wondering, is that him on the bv’s, did he play on it, was he there?

After Ty Hunter’s run with Chess ended, he joined The Originals in ’71. Signed to Motown, and with Marvin Gaye producing some of their intital hits, they continued to have a decent run of US RnB chart entries. Ty Hunter finally got some deserved recognition – it only took fifteen years or so.

The Persuaders / Junior Tucker

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / The Persuaders PersuadersLuck.mp3

Only in hindsight did I hear The Persuaders version of ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’. God only knows how that happened. I worked at a one-stop in Fall ’73, delivering records to accounts, and to my apartment….bad karma. I thought there wasn’t a 7″ I had left out of those personal allocations, but obviously I was wrong.

Add to that, how did I miss it on the radio? There was nothing else to listen to while doing those said deliveries and this one went pop, peaking at #39 in Billboard that very November.

Eventually, around the Christmas season, I got moved inside, pulling orders and restocking. At this I was a whizz. Could do it in my sleep – and loved it. I was in the LP department – all organized by label, then chronologically by catalog number within each. Can you imagine sections for King, Okeh, Fontana, Sue, Deram, Philips, Parrot, Stax, Smash…….ok enough torture.

The front half of the warehouse was dedicated to the 45′s. Maude did my version of the job up there, and she had a Kevin pile – one of everything. Well, sometimes 5 or 10, depending on varying factors. Once a one hundred count box was full, off to the tape dispenser, then on to the cart, bound for the delivery truck, it went. Oh to go back in time.

Still, I didn’t end up with a copy of this one for years.

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / Junior Tucker JuniorTuckerSomeGuys.mp3

Fast forward. 1980.

Oldest trick in the book: cover classic soul songs in a reggae style. Pretty much works every time. In this case, beyond great.

I fell in love with Junior Tucker’s ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’ upon release. I dare say it got played hundreds and hundreds of times in my record room that year, and on my radio shows.

Corinne and I were both reggae lovers, having been weened on the hard corp Lee Perry and Jack Ruby releases Howard was sending our way starting in ’76. An all time favorite series, THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC, especially Volume 3, became our crowd’s anthem anthology. And I dare say all my best friends from that period can be transported back to some of the greatest times of our lives when we spin it nowadays.

Had I known then, that about ten years after Volume 3′s release, I would one afternoon walk into Chris Blackwell’s office, and suggest reviving the series with a Volume 4 and 5 (Volume 5 exclusive to reggae style RnB covers – this was included), and that he would say “Yes”, my heart would have frozen.

Eddie Floyd

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

eddiefloydraise, eddie floyd, steve cropper, stax, janis joplin

Listen: Raise Your Hand / Eddie Floyd EddieFloydRaise.mp3

It wasn’t hard to love Eddie Floyd’s ‘Raise Your Hand’. The pure grit of his voice would have you enjoying the phone book if he decided to sing it. Like all things Stax, you got the added value of Booker T & The MG’s on backup, and many times Booker T and/or Issac Hayes producing. In the ‘Midnight Hour’ groove of the day, it was a big favorite. Along comes Janis Joplin and her Kozmic Blues Band to hurricane it into a riot inciting opening live number. That’s just what happened on May 2, 1969 at the Syracuse War Memorial. Already an hour and a half late on stage, due, as I found out many years later, to a heroin slump that had tour manager and band dunking her head in buckets of ice water usually reserved to keep the dressing room drinks cold.

Yeah, she had a really great manager, Albert Grossman. Praise has been showered on this many for his guidance of Bob Dylan and The Band. But when it comes to Janis Joplin, it sure does have a stink all over it. Clearly, he didn’t help her, just put her on tour to rake it in. Why not, he’s already destoyed Big Brother & The Holding Comapny with cohort Clive Davis, what’s the point of stopping now?

Well when she hit the stage, the place errupted. There was no stopping the mayhem, even after she pushed a sercurity officer right into the crowd (the world’s first stage dive?) who by now, with about ten others, had engulfed she and the band to try calming the crowd by threatening to end the show early. Not a smart move. Great fun to see as a youngster.


Watch: Raise Your Hand / Tom Jones & Janis Joplin

Just to prove the power of her delivery, check out the above clip with Tom Jones from his 1969 US TV series. Tom’s undeniably a great soul singer, but by the end, even he was indeed no match for Janis. Still hugely powerful on both parts.

eddiefloydbringuka, eddie floyd, steve cropper, stax

Listen: Bring It One Home To Me / Eddie Floyd EddieFloydBring.mp3

I always had a soft spot for Eddie’s ‘Bring It On Home To Me’, despite it’s tame formula. Let’s face it, Stax became a dependable assembly line. Even despite that reality, this was of favorite.

Johnnie Taylor

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

johnnietaylortestifyuk1, johnnie taylor, stax

Listen: Testify (I Wonna) / Johnnie Taylor JohnnieTaylorTestify.mp3

Okay, so the title isn’t as good as his ‘Cheaper To Keep Her’, but the groove is crazy. I own just about every single Johnnie Taylor ever made, and definitely all the ones on Stax. None of them can touch this. Like with most, Booker T & The MG’s are clearly playing all over it and unbelievably, ‘Testify (I Wonna)’, never gets props. It wasn’t even included on the box set, THE COMPLETE STAX SINGLES. Sorry. I’m confused. Not only was it a single, but a classic Don Davis production.

Syl Johnson

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Come On Sock It To Me / Syl Johnson

Listen: Come On Sock It To Me / Syl Johnson SylJohnsonComeOnSock.mp3

Take Me To The River / Syl Johnson

Listen: Take Me To The River / Syl Johnson SylJohnsonTakeMeRiver.mp3

Sock it to me. A teen catch phrase in the late 60′s that was immortalized via Syl Johnson’s first hit single. Despite only one week at #97 in Billboard, not unlike Screamin’ Jay Hawkins ‘I Put A Spell On You’ (which sold over a million singles but never charted…hmmm), everyone knew this song at the time. Everyone.

A few years later, he joined Hi Records roster and his output was flawless. Often overshadowed by label mate Al Green’s chart success, it’s actually Syl who had the hit with ‘Take Me To The River’. Everything that came out of Hi’s studios, particularly when Willie Mitchell produced, sounded very linear, almost identical but it never mattered. It was an insatiable sound and is as equally signature to Memphis as Stax.