Posts Tagged ‘Little Stevie Wonder’

Little Stevie Wonder

Thursday, December 19th, 2013


Side 1:

Listen: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 1) /Little Stevie Wonder

Listen: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 2) /Little Stevie Wonder

Side 2:

Listen: Workout Stevie Workout / Little Stevie Wonder

Listen: Monkey Talk / Little Stevie Wonder

When it comes to hitting puberty and it’s accompanying voice change for males, I often wish Little Stevie Wonder had never grown up to be Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson’s keepers allegedly had the good sense to castrate the fellow in order to avoid losing that money printing vocal ability.

So when speaking of voice alone, I prefer the early days as exemplified on this EP, hand’s down.

Although ‘I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues’ may be one of the best song titles ever, it pales as rather standard early Motown next to ‘Workout Stevie Workout’ and ‘Monkey Talk’.

Now these two songs have the imaginary ability to transport me outside the window ledge at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, looking in. The songs are like a soul steam bath, possibly amongst the greatest examples of the assembly line sweat shop known to produce the Motown sound and all their wonderfully tambourine heavy swinging singles.

And then, there’s Little Stevie Wonder toiling away his publishing and performances in the middle of it all. Nowadays that might be considered a child labor offense. I never did follow the blow by blows of the label’s financial abuse accusations towards their artists, but he has stayed with the company for his entire career, so go figure.

It’s not hard to see why all those English soul nuts clamored over this initial UK EP release, with it’s aforementioned musical content and period piece primitive artwork.

Ray Charles

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Listen: Tell The Truth / Ray Charles RayCharlesTellTheTruth.mp3

Ok, I’m on a roll. The sudden discovery of Little Stevie Wonder’s ‘Workout Stevie, Workout’ / ‘Monkey Talk’ (see my November 29, 2010 post) has me insatiable for late 50′s / early 60′s call and response gospel blues. Actually, any record from the period will do, so long as it’s full of ecstatic shouts and moans and blasts from horn sections. The wilder the better.

Almost possessed, and by sheer coincidence, I came across Ray Charles’ ‘Tell The Truth’ this past Thanksgiving weekend. Other than a festive day with friends at Lisa’s dinner, it was basically three days spent immersed in records: filing, playing, sorting, filing again, and honestly pulling more singles out of the shelves than the ones being put back in. Oh yeah, and picking up a holy grail 45 collection from Saint Vicki. Can you think of a better way to spend three cold, drizzly days?

Right, so Ray Charles. Let me tell you why his pre-’65 recordings are hot as fuck. From ’54 into the 60′s, Ray Charles toured for 300 days a year with his seven-piece orchestra. 300 days. That’s serious.

He employed Atlantic label mates, a vocal trio named The Cookies, thereby renaming them The Raeletts for when they backed him up on the road. In ’58 – ’59, the musical chemistry between himself and the girls resulted in well documented revival level frenzied shows that according to many a music historian, singlehandedly invented Soul.

Ultimately, during the same January ’59 session at the Atlantic Studios, ‘What’d I Say’ and ‘Tell The Truth’ were recorded live, in very few takes. Ray Charles duets on both with Raelett Margie Hendricks. ‘What’d I Say’ scaled uncountable heights for changing history, bringing true black music to white audiences in a mainstream fashion.

Yet equally hot, maybe hotter, was the underdog of that session, ‘Tell The Truth’. Released eight months or so after ‘What’d I Say’ in late winter 1960, it’s the ugly stepsister to his global smash….and sounds all the more untapped because of it. Every element is here: Margie Hendricks leading the intro, horn section spiking in, his unrefined, carnal vocals, his barrelhouse piano.

All arms raised to the heavens, I can’t stop now – tomorrow bright and early, I’m out the door to find his autobiography BROTHER RAY: RAY CHARLES’ OWN STORY. More to come.

Little Stevie Wonder

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Listen: Workout Stevie, Workout / Little Stevie Wonder StevieWorkout.mp3

Saturday November 27, 2010. 5:30pm. Thought I’d be braving Christmas shopping gridlock mayhem but no…it was an easy sail across town and up to the west side building where Vicki Wickham and her doorman stood by, hand cart stacked with 150 count white 7″ boxes all neatly labeled. The top one: A – Ellison. Oh boy. Was it Andy or Lorraine?

I plotzed when the phone rang several weeks back, Vicki down the other end letting me know she’s found “a lot of 45′s in my storage space”. All forgotten about, for years now. Would I come get them?

“They’re mostly RnB or Soul, and from the 60′s. Oh and the labels all have those big red A’s on them that you like so much luv.”

God bless Vicki Wickham. Really, she is a saint. Forever looking out for me – and to think from her READY STEADY GO Redifussion office to my collection. That’s how these records have travelled. I mean, here are the very copies that resulted in so many bookings on the program. The real artifacts. Thank you Vicki.

This collection wasted no time. It opened a door I’d forgotten all about: early Stevie Wonder, before the voice changed, when he was still known as Little Stevie Wonder. “Workout Stevie, Workout’ was his fifth single, and third non-LP. Coming off ‘Fingertips’, which went to #1 pop, this fizzled at #33. Give a listen though, a pretty high position considering how spontaneous and raw the take is. Did this actually get radio play?

As with all his early releases, ‘Workout Stevie Workout’ was a very bluesy RnB, and sounded live, or pretended to be. Theoretically, the Motown sound began here, but these early singles could just as easily have been from New York’s countless imprints, such as Sue Records, or so many labels out of the south.

Listen: Monkey Talk / Little Stevie Wonder StevieMonkeyTalk.mp3

Even better, the B side. I would absolutely vote ‘Monkey Talk’ the winner of the two tracks. Check out his intro, pretty risqué. What a jam, don’t know what else to call this. Been playing it over and over all day.

One of the many great things about collecting records, you’re always finding something new to be insatiable over. But sometimes it can be right under your nose. Yeah, this UK pressing just entered my world, but the US copy has been in my library…since the later part of the 20th century.