Posts Tagged ‘The Chambers Brothers’

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.

The Chambers Brothers

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Listen: I Can’t Turn You Loose / The Chambers Brothers
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Right at their commercial peak, when ‘Time Has Come Today’ was pretty big even at Top 40, The Chambers Brothers swung through Syracuse for a concert. I had some of their early gospel singles, was already excited to be hearing them on the radio so frequently and therefore anticipated the live show for weeks. Damn if I can remember why, but I went along with my parents to the airport earlier that afternoon to collect a relative, I’m guessing.

In the 60′s, airports were not full fledged shopping malls with restaurants and bars that would compete for one’s plans on a Saturday evening out. Instead, and especially in the case of the Hancock Airport in Syracuse, it was a lonely, empty building with uncomfortable seating on a good day. But on this particular afternoon, The Chambers Brothers flew in. From afar, I spotted a flock of floppy hippie hats and put two plus two together fast. So I barreled down toward their gate, and walked along with them back toward the outdoor pickup area, enthralled to be talking to these guys who made such raw soul records. I had a ton of questions.

Well the looks on my parent’s faces were priceless. Here their young son had in one moment dashed off toward an arrival gate, and in the next was walking back toward them surrounded by half a dozen black guys twice his height, all dressed in loud prints and colors. My Dad pretty quickly lit up though, figuring it out. He being a longtime jazz fan was forever telling me stories of seeing Billie Holiday and Miles Davis during his Air Force years, and now was familiar with bands like The Chambers Brothers from the music overflow that poured nonstop out of my bedroom. Plus, he was dropping the gang and I off at the show later that night. He held a particularly great conversation with Willie Chambers, this I remember well.

Their version of Otis Redding’s ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’ was the highly anticipated followup to ‘Time Has Come Today’. Appropriately housed in a full color sleeve, as all confident followup singles were over at Columbia, it’s shocking to accept the single’s soft landing at #37. The vocal performance so powerful it must have scared off pop programmers. In one way, I’m surprised Columbia didn’t insist on polishing it up for airplay, thereby possibly prolonging their ascent. In hindsight though, I’m glad it was left to rip, despite still being bitter about the band’s commercial profile gradually sagging thereafter.

Johnny Winter And

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Listen: Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Mono) / Johnny Winter And JohnnyWinterAndFlash.mp3

Please remember, this came out at a time when blistering acid blues guitar solos were still pretty new and defiant. Mix that up with a skinny, skinny, skinny albino, silky straight white hair, a bloodless complexion, blue velvet jacket and voila: recipe.

Having made a few tame, more traditional blues recordings for labels like Imperial, Johnny Winter signed to Columbia during their great late 60′s renaissance. A time period that saw Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Chambers Brothers, Moby Grape, Al Kooper and Pacific Gas & Electric added to it’s roster.

The first two Columbia albums were pretty much in that trad blues vein, a touch more electrified. The touring to support them included making the rounds of Fillmore type venues in the US.

By album three, Johnny Winter, the artist, became Johnny Winter And. By infusing more Little Richard style wildness and covering a handful of RnR standards, they band and idea blew up.

They were so powerful live, that for a short time, I’m not sure anyone could top them at their game. Despite being consistently out of tune on stage (a result of the mania specific to this live show), no one cared. It was a tornado of sound and action. You couldn’t take your eyes off them nor sit still.

JOHNNY WINTER AND LIVE became the time tested true documentation of that period. Definitely one of the most exciting live recordings in my collection. The mono 7″ excerpt of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ edits out the second solo, a real shame. Definitely check the full length for that. Meanwhile, a single, like the live show from which it came, has rarely been hotter.