Archive for the ‘Alvin Robinson’ Category

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

Alvin Robinson / Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Listen: Something You Got /Alvin Robinson
Something You Got / Alvin Robinson

The voice. It’s why there’s not a song Alvin Robinson ever recorded that doesn’t hit dead center. Even though his steady income through the 60′s until the late 80′s was as a guitarist, it’s one of the wonders of the world that Alvin Robinson’s voice never took center stage, as in I wonder how that’s even possible. There are some great blog overviews of his recorded history, this one will lead you onto to others.

My first introduction to ‘Something You Got’ came via Them, one of the many highlights on THEM AGAIN. Not long afterward, my uncle gave me Alvin Robinson’s version, complete with the jukebox tab, basically unplayed, out of some malt shop account his vending company serviced. In most such locations, white rock soaked up kid’s dimes, bar only Motown mainstream hits when it came to anything black based. Not sure why he’d even take a chance on records like these, given jukebox companies needed to buy their records from one stops and seldom got anything but double A sided promos for free, which were clearly unusable in the players.

Listen: Something You Got /Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown
Something You Got /Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown

Years later, in a panic to get everything Maxine Brown centric, what did I discover but a version and vocal that could actually equal Alvin Robinson’s. A mid-chart (#55) Billboard Top 100 single in ’65, it was one of several duets they released together and their most successful. Three of the others, coincidentally, all peaked at #91.

Alvin Robinson

Friday, February 19th, 2010

AlvinRobinsonBabyDontUSA, Alvin Robinson, Atco, Holland-Dozier-Holland

Listen: Baby Don’t You Do It / Alvin Robinson AlvinRobinsonBabyDont.mp3

Correct. It’s the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit from ’64 by Marvin Gaye, covered by many a Mod band (The Who, The Poets, The Small Faces) in that heyday, and come late ’68, by Alvin Robinson as well.

Not nearly enough Alvin Robinson circulates on 45, which is both surprising and a shame. His guttural blues vocal style was instantly signature, and copied by some of the best. Plus his guitar playing, then in much studio demand, had a similar swagger. So logically, during sessions with Dr. John, did Atco decide to give him a studio whirl, resulting in this, his only single for the label. Given the purity of his sound, and his legendary New Orleans cred, it’s rather shocking that Ahmet Ertegan and Jerry Wexler didn’t release more sides.

The nice thing about this one is it’s subtlety. You don’t realized how strong a grip it has until you find yourself playing it repeatedly. Well I did at least.