Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Violiaires - Groovin' With Jesus

"Groovin' with Jesus is soul music in every possible sense of the term -- few other records achieve so flawless a balance between the spiritual and the secular, offering salvation in both the Holy Ghost and the unholy groove. The Violinaires' postmodern gospel-funk fits comfortably alongside crossover acts like Aretha Franklin, channeling the power of the church to tackle the sociopolitical conflicts of the post-civil rights era -- from the Sly & the Family Stone-inspired title cut to covers of Hair's "Let the Sunshine In" and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," Groovin' with Jesus never allows its higher purpose to undercut the low-down soulfulness of the music, delivering filthy funk in the classic James Brown tradition." AMG

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shakey Jake Harris - Mouth Harp Blues

"Jake Harris knew how to shake a pair of dice in order to roll a lucrative winner. He also realized early on that his nephew, guitarist Magic Sam, was a winner as a bluesman. Harris may not have been a technical wizard on his chosen instrument, but his vocals and harp style were proficient enough to result in a reasonably successful career (both with Sam and without).
Born James Harris, the Arkansas native moved to Chicago at age seven. Admiring the style of Sonny Boy Williamson, Harris gradually learned the rudiments of the harp but didn't try his hand at entertaining professionally until 1955. Harris made his bow on vinyl in 1958 for the newly formed Artistic subsidiary of Eli Toscano's West Side-based Cobra Records. His only Artistic 45, "Call Me If You Need Me"/"Roll Your Moneymaker," was produced by Willie Dixon and featured Sam and Syl Johnson on guitars.

The uncompromising Chicago mainstream sound of that 45 contrasted starkly with Jake Harris' next studio project. Prestige's Bluesville subsidiary paired him with a pair of jazzmen -- guitarist Bill Jennings and organist Jack McDuff -- in 1960 for a full album, Good Times (the unlikely hybrid of styles working better than one might expect). The harpist encored later that year with Mouth Harp Blues, this time with a quartet including Chicagoan Jimmie Lee Robinson on guitar and a New York rhythm section (both of his Bluesville LPs were waxed in New Jersey).

Jake Harris and Magic Sam remained running partners for much of the '60s. They shared bandstands at fabled West Side haunts such as Sylvio's, where he was captured on tape in 1966 singing "Sawed Off Shotgun" and "Dirty Work Goin' On" (later available on a Black Top disc by Sam) -- and Big Bill Hill's Copacabana before Harris moved to Los Angeles in the late '60s. He recorded for World Pacific and briefly owned his own nightclub and record label before returning to Arkansas, where he died in 1990. AMG

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bill Coday - Love Gangsta

Hopefully most of y'all remember that Preslives first introduced us to Bill Coday last year.

Born May 10, 1942, in Coldwater, Mississippi, Coday, the second of twelve children, was brought up in rural Arkansas with a strong religious Baptist background. Like many other great R&B singers, Bill was brought up singing gospel in church choirs and local quartets. Soon he crossed over to the Blues and began performing in juke joints around Blytheville, AK, with a band that included blues guitarist Son Seals Jr. He moved to Chicago in 1961 was spotted by Denise LaSalle while he was performing at the Black Orchid club. "Denise and her former husband, Bill Jones, owned Crajon Records. They signed me to their label, changing my name from "Chicago Willie" to "Bill Coday."

LaSalle teamed Coday with Memphis soul icon Willie Mitchell (co-architect of the Al Green/Hi Records sound). Coday's first singles for Crajon Productions were "Sixty Minute Teaser" and "I Get High on Your Love". "They did fairly well, but it was the next record that would launch my career in the R&B field". That next singlewas "Get Your Lies Straight," that put Coday on the map when he charted at #14 on the R&B charts in 1971. The follow up single was leased to Galaxy Records and "When You Find a Fool, Bump His Head," (a LaSalle composition) reached #48 R&B in summer 1971.

In 1973 Coday was signed to Epic Records, resulting in the minor hit "I'm Back To Collect" and a couple other singles including "A Man Ain't A Man" & "I Don't Want To Play The Game". Following this brief alliance Bill's recording days pretty much dried up for the next two decades. He still made a living on the road and "may have recorded in Muscle Shoals" in the late 70s (Bill doesn't remember). He was also briefly affiliated with Phil Walden, founder of Capricorn Records but they didn't see eye to eye so Bill parted ways and went back on the road. In 1984 it was LaSalle again that jump started Bill's career, hiring him as an opening act which eventually led to a recording contact with Ecko Records. So finally in 1995 Coday's second full length recording (if you count a 1978 collection of Crajon singles) was released and quickly became a hit on the "Chitlin' Circuit" with such colorful songs like "Her Love Is Good Enough To Put In Collard Greens" & "Dr. Thrillgood". The set also included and update of is signature hit, "Get Your Lies Straight". Five more CDs followed for Ecko until he decided to start his own record label, B & J Records, with partner James Wolfe. His first release was "Jump Start".

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bobby Bland - That Did It!, The Duke Recordings, vol 3

The final volume of Bobby's great Duke recordings. As I sit in the office today and listen I am wondering how in the hell he didn't have any breakthrough hits out of this stuff. Remember that this is largely 1965-66 when you are listening and tell me why none of these great songs ever manages to cross over. Bobby always does well on the R&B charts but he is absent from the Pop charts. At least one answer is that he is still mostly singing adult songs for adults and the path to crossover is the Teen market.

" That Did It is the third and final installment in MCA's series of double-disc compilations of Bobby Blue Bland's Duke recordings. This set collects everything he recorded between 1965 and 1972, including two unreleased tracks and several alternate takes. Although the music on That Did It isn't quite as strong as the songs on the first two installments of the series, it does collect a full 16 singles that have never appeared on an album before, as well as featuring several top-notch album tracks. For Bland fans, the collection remains a necessary purchase -- this is Bland's final set of essential recordings."

Bobby Bland - Turn On Your Lovelight (The Duke Recordings, vol 2)

The coolest thing about writing this blog is the listening to prepare! Each time one of these guys has totally knocked me out and I'm sitting there thinking 'well what the hell tops that' and I pull up the next item on my list (yeah, there is a list and no I ain't giving anyone a peek) and as soon as it starts to play my grin spreads and I say 'Okay, that will work'.

The amazing thing to me is that I am being very picky about what goes up here and yet there is no issue with material, I could easily maintain this pace for a year without scraping for quality stuff.

I think I mentioned in part one of 3B that I have personally referred to him as The Voice' for a long time. Given the recent posts here I was certain I would be rethinking that moniker as I wrote this one. Well I'm sitting here listening to disc one of this pair and I am not moved to recant a damn thing! This here is one Singin' Mo Fo! Listening to Bobby and Junior Parker (who is up next) I am at a complete loss to explain how neither guy ever crossed over to the white market. They always did well on the Circuit and in the Race Market but despite singing far superior songs that others had hits with, the Pop charts ignored them.

I frankly thought that as I sat here certain tracks would elicit special raves but this stuff is so uniformly excellent that it is hard to single tunes out (I should, however, mention that Stormy Monday is currently kicking my ass). Bobby's band leans heavily on Jazz on many tracks with some absolutely killer trumpet and saxophone solos on the ballads.

Bobby Bland - The Duke Recordings, Vol. 1 (2 discs)

They most often call him "Bobby Blue" but to me he is better called "The Voice". Here is a man who is so DAMN good that even after he develops his 'frog' or 'chicken bone', an at least partially involuntary kind of throat feedback that results in this awful 'BLAT', but we choose to ignore it because what he sings in between is too pretty to believe. In his prime he is simply an unmatched Blues Crooner whose liquid pipes quickly exceed even his former boss Junior Parker! (yeah, HE is coming soon too!) 

Here is volume one (2 discs) of The Complete Duke Recordings. These are all released as singles between 1952 and 1960, although some are later bound into subsequent albums. At times in this early material you hear shades of Jackie Brenston and Rosco Gordon.

"Robert Calvin Bland (born January 27, 1930) better known as Bobby "Blue" Bland, is an American singer of blues and soul. He is an original member of the Beale Streeters, and is sometimes referred to as the "Lion of the Blues". Along with such artists as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Junior Parker, Bland developed a sound that mixed gospel with the blues and R&B.

Bobby "Blue" Bland was born in the small town of Rosemark, Tennessee. Later moving to Memphis with his mother, Bland started singing with local gospel groups there, including amongst others The Miniatures. Eager to expand his interests, he began frequenting the city's famous Beale Street where he became associated with an ad hoc circle of aspiring musicians named, not unnaturally, the Beale Streeters.

Bland's recordings from the early 1950s show him striving for individuality, but any progress was halted by a spell in the U.S. Army. When the singer returned to Memphis in 1954 he found several of his former associates, including Johnny Ace, enjoying considerable success, while Bland's recording label, Duke, had been sold to Houston entrepreneur Don Robey. In 1956 Bland began touring with Little Junior Parker. Initially he doubled as valet and driver, a role he reportedly fulfilled for B. B. King and Rosco Gordon. Simultaneously, Bland began asserting his characteristic vocal style. Melodic big-band blues singles, including "Farther Up the Road" (1957) and "Little Boy Blue" (1958) reached the US R&B Top 10, but Bobby's craft was most clearly heard on a series of early 1960s releases including "Cry Cry Cry", "I Pity The Fool" and the sparkling "Turn On Your Love Light", which became a much-covered standard. Despite credits to the contrary, many such classic works were written by Joe Scott, the artist's bandleader and arranger.

Bland continued to enjoy a consistent run of R&B chart entries throughout the mid-'60s. Never truly breaking into the mainstream market, Bland's highest charting song on the pop chart, "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" peaked at #20 during the same week The Beatles held down the Top 5 spots. Bland's records mostly sold on the R&B market and he had 23 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts and in the 1996 Top R&B book by Joel Whitburn, Bland was rated the #13 all-time best selling artist.

Financial pressures forced the singer to cut his touring band and in 1968 the group broke up. He suffered from depression and became increasingly dependent on alcohol. He stopped drinking in 1971; his record company Duke was sold by owner Don Robey to the larger ABC Records group. This resulted in several successful and critically acclaimed contemporary blues/soul albums including His California Album and Dreamer, arranged by Michael Omartian and produced by ABC staff man Steve Barri. The albums, including the later "follow-up" in 1977 Reflections in Blue, were all recorded in Los Angeles and featured many of the city's top sessionmen at the time.

The first single released from His California Album, "This Time I'm Gone For Good" took Bland back into the pop Top 50 for the first time since 1964 and made the R&B top 10 in late 1973. The lead-off track from Dreamer, "Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City", was a strong R&B hit. Later it would surface again in 1978 by the hard rock band Whitesnake featuring singer David Coverdale. Much later it was sampled by Kanye West on Jay-Z's Hip Hop album The Blueprint (2001). The song is also featured on the soundtrack of the crime drama The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) starring Matthew McConaughey. The follow-up, "I Wouldn't Treat A Dog" was his biggest R&B hit for some years, climbing to #3 in late 1974, but as usual his strength was never the pop chart (where it hit #88). Subsequent attempts at adding a disco/Barry White flavor were mostly unsuccessful. A return to his roots in 1980 for a tribute album to his mentor Joe Scott, produced by music veterans Monk Higgins and Al Bell, resulted in a fine album Sweet Vibrations, but it failed to sell well outside of his traditional "chitlin circuit" base.

In 1985, Bland was signed by Malaco Records, specialists in traditional Southern black music for whom he made a series of albums while continuing to tour and appear at concerts with fellow blues singer B. B. King. The two had collaborated for two albums in the 1970s. Despite occasional age-related ill-health, Bland continues to record new albums for Malaco, perform occasional tours alone, with guitarist/producer Angelo Earl and also with B.B. King, plus appearances at blues and soul festivals worldwide.

Monday, June 24, 2013

RIP Bobby 'Blue' Bland...

NY Times:
Bobby (Blue) Bland, the debonair balladeer whose sophisticated, emotionally fraught performances helped modernize the blues, died on Sunday at his home in Germantown, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis. He was 83.

 His death was confirmed by his son, Rodd, who played drums in his band. 

Though he possessed gifts on a par with his most accomplished peers, Mr. Bland never achieved the popular acclaim enjoyed by contemporaries like Ray Charles and B. B. King. But he was nevertheless a mainstay on the rhythm-and-blues charts and club circuit for decades.

His vocals, punctuated by the occasional squalling shout, were restrained, exhibiting a crooner’s delicacy of phrasing and a kind of intimate pleading. He influenced everyone from the soul singers Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to rock groups like the Allman Brothers and The Band. The rapper Jay-Z sampled Mr. Bland’s 1974 single “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” on his 2001 album, “The Blueprint.”

Mr. Bland’s signature mix of blues, jazz, pop, gospel and country music was a good decade in the making. His first recordings, made in the early 1950s, found him working in the lean, unvarnished style of Mr. King, even to the point of employing falsetto vocal leaps patterned after Mr. King’s. Mr. Bland’s mid-’50s singles were more accomplished; hits like “It’s My Life, Baby” and “Farther Up the Road” are now regarded as hard-blues classics, but they still featured the driving rhythms and stinging electric guitar favored by Mr. King and others. It wasn’t until 1958’s “Little Boy Blue,” a record inspired by the homiletic delivery of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, that Mr. Bland arrived at his trademark vocal technique.

“That’s where I got my squall from,” Mr. Bland said, referring to the sermons of Mr. Franklin — “Aretha’s daddy,” as he called him — in a 1979 interview with the author Peter Guralnick. “After I had that I lost the high falsetto. I had to get some other kind of gimmick, you know, to be identified with.”

The corresponding softness in Mr. Bland’s voice, a refinement matched by the elegant formal wear in which he appeared onstage, came from listening to records by pop crooners like Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Perry Como.

Just as crucial to the evolution of Mr. Bland’s sound was his affiliation with the trumpet player and arranger Joe Scott, for years the director of artists and repertory for Duke Records in Houston. Given to dramatic, brass-rich arrangements, Mr. Scott, who died in 1979, supplied Mr. Bland with intricate musical backdrops that set his supple baritone in vivid relief.

The two men accounted for more than 30 Top 20 rhythm-and-blues singles for Duke from 1958 to 1968, including the No. 1 hits “I Pity the Fool” and “That’s the Way Love Is.” Steeped in vulnerability and emotional candor, his performances earned him a devoted female audience.

Though only four of his singles from these years — “Turn On Your Love Light,” “Call on Me,” “That’s the Way Love Is” and “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” — crossed over to the pop Top 40, Mr. Bland’s recordings resonated with the era’s blues-leaning rock acts. The Grateful Dead made “Love Light” a staple of their live shows. The Band recorded his 1964 single “Share Your Love With Me” for their 1973 album, “Moondog Matinee.” Van Morrison included a version of “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” on his 1974 live set, “It’s Too Late to Stop Now.”

Mr. Bland himself broke through to pop audiences in the mid-’70s with “His California Album” and its more middle-of-the-road follow-up, “Dreamer.” But his greatest success always came in the rhythm-and-blues market, where he placed a total of 63 singles on the charts from 1957 to 1985. He signed with the Mississippi-based Malaco label in 1985 and made a series of well-received albums that appealed largely to fans of traditional blues and soul music.

Mr. Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 1997.

Robert Calvin Brooks was born on Jan. 27, 1930, in Millington, Tenn., just north of Memphis. His father, I. J. Brooks, abandoned the family when Bobby was very young. His mother, Mary Lee, married Leroy Bridgeforth, who also went by the name Leroy Bland, when Bobby was 6.

Mr. Bland dropped out of school in the third grade to work in the cotton fields. Though he never learned to write music or play an instrument, he cited the music of the pioneering blues guitarist T-Bone Walker as an early influence.

After moving to Memphis in 1947, Mr. Bland began working in a garage and singing spirituals in a group called the Miniatures. In 1949 he joined the Beale Streeters, a loose-knit collective whose members at various points included Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Earl Forest and B. B. King, all of whom went on to become popular blues performers as solo artists.

Mr. Bland also traveled as a part of the Johnny Ace Revue and recorded for the Chess, Modern and Duke labels before being drafted into the Army in 1952. Several of these recordings were made under the supervision of the producer Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in Memphis; none sold particularly well.

After his time in the service Mr. Bland worked as a chauffeur, a valet and an opening act for the Memphis rhythm-and-blues singer Junior Parker, just as he had for Mr. King. He toured as a headliner throughout the ’60s, playing as many as 300 one-night engagements a year, a demanding schedule that exacerbated his struggles with alcohol. He performed widely, in the United States and abroad, until shortly before his death.

In addition to his son, Rodd, Mr. Bland’s survivors include his wife, Willie Mae; a daughter, Patrice Moses; and four grandchildren. Rodd Bland said his father had recently learned that the blues singer and harmonica player James Cotton was his half-brother.

Mr. Bland’s synthesis of Southern vernacular music and classy big-band arrangements made him a stylistic pioneer, but whatever he accomplished by way of formal innovation ultimately derived from his underlying faith in the emotional power of the blues.

“I’d like to be remembered as just a good old country boy that did his best to give us something to listen to and help them through a lot of sad moments, happy moments, whatever,” he said in a 2009 interview with the syndicated “House of Blues Radio Hour.”

“Whatever moments you get of happiness, use it up, you know, if you can, because it don’t come that often.”

Daniel E. Slotnik

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brother Cecil Shaw - I Want To Know

It has been a while since we had a two-part Sunday service and I got carried away reloading these gems from Preslives - I will have some totally new things next week, I promise.

Judging from the recent discussion on the blog, at least a few people are enjoying the gospel posts.  So I will continue in that direction.

"I Want to Know" is another of the most important short-lived gospel releases on the Acrobat label - the complete recordings of Brother Cecil Shaw.  True, records would indicate that there were another 11 songs recorded.  But they have never seen the light of day, and it seems that nobody is planning to open up the Peacock vaults any time soon. 

Despite making relatively few recordings, Brother Cecil Shaw was an important figure in gospel history, one of the key figures in the great transition in gospel quartet singing from Jubilee to hard and "shout" gospel.   Two of the pioneers in that transition have been featured in previous posts on this blog: R.H. Harris with the Soul Stirrers and Silas Steele, who is featured on the Spirit of Memphis collection.   Some other key figures did not make any recordings at all.  For Brother Cecil Shaw, we are lucky to have these 18 tracks

I will not go into any biographic details here since I can refer you to a fantastic comprehensive essay on Brother Cecil Shaw written by Opal Lee Nations that can be downloaded here:

Opal Lee Nations notes that Brother Cecil Shaw was one of the few singers who could go toe to toe with Archie Brownlee and Julius Cheeks on the program.  In fact, he reports an event in this essay where Archie Brownlee and the Blind Boys refused to perform after a tremendous opening set from Brother Cecil Shaw.

On these recordings, you can hear a resemblance in vocal approach and dynamics between Brother Cecil Shaw and Archie Brownlee.  Although Archie Brownlee started recording at any earlier date than Brother Cecil Shaw, whose first recordings date from 1952, the latter was very much active in the 1940s.  Brother Cecil Shaw may have therefore been a strong influence on Brownlee.   Opal Lee Nations also notes that the most famous Blind Boys song that features Archie Brownlee, My Father, was actually based on the Brother Cecil Shaw song, Jesus Be My Keeper.  The Blind Boys covered several other Brother Cecil Shaw compositions as well.  

The Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio - Bones in the Valley and Can I Get a Witness

I'm going to re-run this marvelous post from Preslives that appeared around a year ago; I imagine the are a number of you that missed this rareity.

The Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio were one of the most dynamic quartets that took the 1950s sound of Julius Cheeks and the Sensational Nightingales forward into the 1960s.  As Gospel supplied the elements that fueled the evolution of R&B into Soul in the 1950s and 1960s, Gospel also wasted no time in borrowing back what it could from R&B to modernize the spiritual sound.  This cross-pollination was so intense that, by the mid-1970s, much of R&B and gospel became virtually indistinguishable except for the lyrics.   Like other quartets that came to prominence in the 1960s like the Violinaires and the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Gospelaires made use of a full R&B-type band accompaniment and vocal innovations of secular groups like the Five Royals to carry on the rich hard gospel tradition.

The Gospelaires were formed in the mid-1950s in Dayton, Ohio, and steadily built a strong reputation that led to a contract for Peacock records in 1957.   The two records on this compilation come from their mid-1960s prime, when the group was fronted by the one-two punch of Bob Washington and Paul “Easy” Arnold.  The Gospelaires trademark was the use of repeated hypnotic riffs, over which Washington and Arnold would steadily turn up the heat with the aim of driving the Congregation into a frenzy   There exist some good video tapes of this unit doing exactly that.   You might find a few on Youtube. 

This CD that combines The LPs Can I Get a Witness and Bones in the Valley is another of the precious few short-lived Peacock Spiritual Series releases from late 1980s, after which time the reissue of the Peacock gospel catalog was abandoned indefinitely by MCA.     

May this music help infuse your Soul with the spirit on this Sunday morning!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Luther Ingram - Four On Koko

Thanks again to Cliff!

"While R&B singer Luther Ingram remains best remembered for the piercing 1972 ballad "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," he was also a gifted songwriter, teaming with Mark Rice to co-write the Staple Singers' classic empowerment anthem "Respect Yourself." Born November 30, 1944, in Jackson, TN, Ingram spent the majority of his adolescence in Alton, IL, launching his singing career in a group featuring his siblings. As a teen he also began writing songs, and later ventured out as a solo act, most notably opening for Ike Turner in East St. Louis.

Ingram eventually migrated to New York City, where according to legend he briefly roomed with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix. In 1965 he signed to Decca and cut his debut single, "You Never Miss Your Water," followed by a cover of Jamo Thomas' "(I Spy) For the FBI" on Smash. After little-heard efforts for indies Hurdy-Gurdy ("Run for Your Life") and HIB (the instrumental "Exus Trek"), Ingram relocated to Memphis, signing to producer Jimmy Baylor's fledgling KoKo label. Initial efforts like the 1967 single "I Can't Stop" and the next year's "Missing You" failed to generate much interest, but when Baylor negotiated a distribution deal with Stax Records in 1969, Ingram's fortunes improved dramatically. Later that same year he scored his first R&B Top 20 hit with "My Honey and Me." 1970's "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)" not only cracked the R&B Top Ten, but also peaked just outside the pop Top 40.

With his recording career flourishing, Ingram expanded into freelance songwriting, partnering with R&B veteran Rice in 1971 for the Staples' "Respect Yourself." The single was a crossover smash, fall just shy of the Billboard Top Ten, and in the years to come received cover treatments by everyone from Joe Cocker to actor Bruce Willis. A year later Ingram notched a blockbuster of his own with "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," a potent tale of infidelity written by Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson, and Carl Hampton. Ingram's rich, intimate vocal proved a perfect match for the material, selling over a million copies and reaching number three on the pop charts, although country crossover queen Barbara Mandrell later scored a smash cover version as well. A series of R&B chart hits including "You Were Made for Me," "Always," and "Love Ain't Gonna Run Me Away" followed, and in 1973 he returned to the pop Top 40 one final time with the sublime "I'll Be Your Shelter (In Time of Storm)." At the peak of Ingram's fame, however, KoKo ran into financial turmoil and during the remainder of the 1970s he issued only a handful of additional singles, all of them undermined by distribution and marketing issues. After more than a decade out of the limelight, Ingram signed to Profile in 1986 and resurfaced on the R&B Top 40 with "Baby Don't Get Too Far." The minor hits "Don't Turn Around" and "Gotta Serve Somebody" followed, and in 1992 he wrapped his recording career with the Ichiban single "I Like the Feeling." After years of health struggles including kidney disease and diabetes, Ingram died of heart failure on March 19, 2007." by Jason Ankeny,AMG

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ann Sexton - The Beginning

In the course of presenting this blog and the reading/research necessary in doing that, I have often been confused by references placing what are to me clearly southern soul artists in something called 'Northern Soul' (note capitals). I have finally come to understand that those references are to a U.K. musical/dance movement that doesn't actually include what I would call northern soul (i.e. Motown, Philly, etc.). How confusing! Anyway that explains the reference in the wiki article below.

"Ann Sexton (born Mary Ann Sexton, February 5, 1950) She was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and is the cousin of singer and songwriter Chuck Jackson. Influenced by gospel music, she sang in her church choir and won local talent shows before singing back-up on a recording by Elijah and the Ebonies. She married the group's saxophonist, Melvin Burton, and the pair formed their own band, Ann Sexton and the Masters of Soul, in the late 1960s.

She was seen performing with the group by songwriter David Lee, the owner of the small local Impel record label, who recorded and released her first solo single, "You're Letting Me Down", in 1971. She then signed to John Richbourg's Seventy 7 Records, part of the Sound Stage 7 group, for whom she recorded a series of singles in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. In 1973, "You're Gonna Miss Me" reached no.47 on the Billboard R&B chart, and she released the album Loving You, Loving Me. Many of her recordings were co-written by herself and her husband, and several later became popular on the Northern soul scene in the UK. She recorded ballads as well as dance tracks, and the Sound Stage 7 label released her album The Beginning in 1977. It featured the single "I'm His Wife (You're Just a Friend)" which reached no.79 on the R&B chart.

She later worked at a New York school as a paraprofessional, using her married name Mary Burton. After her 1973 recording of "You're Losing Me" was featured in the 2003 film, 21 Grams, Sonny Hudson, who worked in the same school, answered some internet inquiries about her. Hudson, acting on her behalf and that of the German DJ and promoter Dan Dombrowe, began negotiations and after a lengthy period, Sexton agreed to go on stage again after a 30 year absence. In March 2007, she made her first performance since the 1970s at the Baltic Soul Weekender in Germany. She performed again at the Baltic Soul Weekender in April 2008, and has continued to make occasional appearances at festivals in the US and Europe since then." wiki

The Five Stairsteps

This one is for and from Cliff, this was a group from his Chicago youth. I have to admit that I've been a little slow to post it because stylistically I'd call this northern soul as opposed to southern soul. To me it shares more with Motown than Muscle Shoals, but what the hell.

"May 29, 2013 Clarence Burke Jr., the lead singer of the Five Stairsteps, a sibling rhythm-and-blues group that had its best-known hit in 1970 with “O-o-h Child,” died on Sunday in Marietta, Ga. He had turned 64 the day before.  His death was confirmed by Joe Marno, his friend and manager. No cause was given.

The Five Stairsteps — four brothers and a sister — formed in Chicago in the mid-1960s, having learned to play instruments and sing from their father, Clarence Sr., a police officer, and their mother, Betty. They were once called “the first family of soul,” a moniker later adopted by the Jackson 5.

It was Betty Burke who came up with the name the Five Stairsteps after noticing that when the siblings stood next to one another in order of age, they resembled a staircase.

Besides being the lead singer, Mr. Burke was the group’s choreographer and guitar player and wrote a number of its songs. At 16 he was the co-author of the group’s first hit, “You Waited Too Long,” which reached No. 16 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1966.

The Stairsteps had a string of hits, including “World of Fantasy” and “Something’s Missing,” but their only Top 10 pop hit was the tender ballad “O-o-h Child,” written by Stan Vincent, which sold more than a million copies and reached No. 8. The song has been sampled by many hip-hop artists, notably Tupac Shakur in his 1993 hit “Keep Ya Head Up.”
The others in the group were his sister, Alohe (contralto), and his brothers James III (first tenor), Kenneth (second tenor) and Dennis (baritone). A younger brother, Cubie, joined the group later.

Clarence N. Burke Jr. was born on May 25, 1949, in Chicago and attended Harlan High School there, as did his siblings. They survive him, as do his parents; two more brothers, Leonard and Martin; his wife, Crystal Howell-Burke; three sons, Clarence III, James IV and Khabeer; two daughters, Dichelle Connell and Nadirah Bannister; and many grandchildren. He lived in Marietta.

The Stairsteps’ last hit was “From Us to You,” released on George Harrison’s Dark Horse label in 1976. The band broke up soon after, but four of the brothers, including Mr. Burke, formed another group, the Invisible Man’s Band, in 1980. That group’s biggest hit was “All Night Thing.”

At his death Mr. Burke was still recording and performing as a solo artist."
NY Times Obit

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music & More Sweet Soul

"Conley was born in McIntosh County, Georgia, U.S., and grew up in Atlanta. He first recorded in 1959 as the lead singer of Arthur & the Corvets. With this group, he released three singles in 1963 and 1964 ("Poor Girl", "I Believe", and "Flossie Mae") on the Atlanta based record label, National Recording Company.

In 1964, he moved to a new label (Baltimore's Ru-Jac Records) and released "I'm a Lonely Stranger". When Otis Redding heard this, he asked Conley to record a new version, which was released on Redding's own fledgling label Jotis Records, as only its second release. Conley met Redding in 1967. Together they re-wrote the Sam Cooke song "Yeah Man" into "Sweet Soul Music", which, at Redding's insistence, was released on the Atco-distributed label Fame Records, and was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It proved to be a massive hit, going to the number two position on the U.S. charts and the Top Ten across much of Europe. "Sweet Soul Music" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

After several years of singles in the early 1970s, he relocated to England in 1975, and spent several years in Belgium, settling in Amsterdam, Netherlands in spring 1977. At the beginning of 1980 he had some major performances as Lee Roberts and the Sweaters in the Ganzenhoef, Paradiso, De Melkweg and the Concertgebouw, and was highly successful. At the end of 1980 he moved to the Dutch village of Ruurlo legally changing his name to Lee Roberts (his middle name and his mother's maiden name). He promoted new music via his Art-Con Productions company. Amongst the bands he promoted was the heavy metal band Shockwave from The Hague.

A live performance on January 8, 1980, featuring Lee Roberts & the Sweaters, was released as an album entitled Soulin' in 1988.

Conley died from intestinal cancer in Ruurlo, Netherlands aged 57 in November 2003. He was buried in Vorden."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dan Penn and Eddie Hinton

If you do any reading about the history of Fame studios and Muscle Shoals, you will find numerous references to Dan Penn's legendary demos that often left the stars who were given those demos to learn the songs, shaking their heads in wonder. More than once the comment was heard "Why the hell do you need someone else to sing this? This version is terrific!"; then someone would point out the skinny blond kid over in the corner with his guitar and say "Yeah, but it's him." The idea that maybe they might have a talent who could have been a superstar somehow never seemed to occur to anyone, including apparently Penn himself. 

Now nearly five decades later (the recordings were made between 1964 and 1966) we are finally able to experience what they were all talking about and I for one, find them even better than I could have imagined. No matter weather you may prefer the originally released versions, they were after all sung by some great singers, each of these is a remarkable little gem and a wonderful insight into the songwriter's original vision of the song. I couldn't stop listening to this one for a week after I got it.

 You would think that one unknown white soul genius in a tiny group of musicians would be plenty but when writer/guitarist Dan Penn left the Muscle Shoals Sound he was soon replaced by another jaw dropping talent named Eddie Hinton. These too are primarily unreleased song demos that will have you shaking your head in wonder. So much talent! No wonder that Duane Allman tried to poach him for the Allman Brothers Band (I assume instead of Dickie Betts?); his vocals and guitar would have made them even more epic!

Hinton, much more than Penn, did pursue individual success but bad luck, drugs and mental issues combined to keep him in obscurity. 

"Eddie Hinton (15 June 1944 – 28 July 1995) was an American songwriter and session musician best known for his work with soul music and R&B singers. He played lead guitar for Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971.

As a session guitarist, Hinton played on hit records recorded by Wilson Pickett, Arthur Conley, Aretha Franklin, Joe Tex, Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, The Staple Singers, The Dells, Paul Kelly, Johnny Taylor, Elvis Presley, The Box Tops, R.B. Greaves, Boz Scaggs, Evie Sands, Looking Glass, Toots Hibbert and Otis Redding.

Hinton was a songwriter in his own right as well. His most well known song is "Breakfast in Bed" which has been recorded many times, most notably by Dusty Springfield and by UB40 with Chrissie Hynde. He also co-wrote "It's All Wrong But It's All Right" sung by Laura Lee." wiki

Friday, June 14, 2013

Darrell Banks Is Here!

Numba three in our series from the Shares courtesy of 'patsoul.

"Darrell Banks (born Darrell Eubanks) (July 25, 1937 – February 24, 1970) was an American soul singer.

Born in Mansfield, Ohio, Banks grew up in Buffalo, New York, and learned to sing in gospel churches before choosing a career in secular music. He signed with Solid Hitbound Productions/Revilot Records, who released his 1966 single "Open the Door to Your Heart" (which, curiously, is legally named "Baby Walk Right In"), written by Donnie Elbert. When the single came out, Banks was credited as the songwriter instead of Elbert, and a protracted legal battle ensued; however, while the courts settled the matter (eventually in Elbert's favor), the tune scaled the US charts, peaking at #2 R&B and #27 on the Billboard Hot 100. A second single, "Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You", hit #34 R&B and #55 pop later that year. Moving to Atco Records, he released the singles "Here Come the Tears"/"I've Got That Feelin" and "Angel Baby (Don't Ever Leave Me)"/"Look into the Eyes of a Fool" in 1967, neither of which charted. Atco also released a full-length of his which included his Revilot singles. Atco subsidiary Cotillion Records released his last single under the Atlantic Records umbrella, "I Wanna Go Home"/"The Love of My Woman".

From there Banks signed to Stax Records, who released another full-length album of his in 1969 material and two more noncharting singles. They would be Banks's last recordings; in February 1970, Banks was shot and killed by policeman Aaron Bullock in Detroit, Michigan after Banks intervened in his affair with Banks's girlfriend, Marjorie Bozeman." wiki

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Baby Washington - That's How Heartaches Are Made 1963

Number two in this series of shares from 'patsoul'.

More from the great Baby Washington: "Jeanette "Baby" Washington cut her finest songs for Sue in the early '60s. Although few made the charts, all were delivered with conviction, sung in an earnest and riveting manner, and produced with minimal gimmicks. While the title track is perhaps her best cut, this album thankfully covers many lesser-known tracks and avoids the singles that have frequently popped up on numerous anthologies. "Careless Hands" and "Standing on the Pier" are superior to material that did get airplay..." AMG

Robert Parker - Barefootin'

Not long ago 'patsoul' left some links in the Shares but the Mediafire links became unavailable very quickly as they often do these days. After watching some conversation as to how to fix that from the sidelines, I've decided to help out and re-post the ones that I picked up.

First up: For me, Robert Parker appears most in my collection as a saxophone player for Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Huey P. Smith, but to most I suspect he is best known for the song Barefootin'. This 1965 Wardell Quezergue produced album has become pretty rare so don't miss out on the opportunity.

"Robert Parker (born October 14, 1930) is an American R&B singer and musician, best known for his 1966 hit, "Barefootin'".
Parker was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and started his career as a saxophonist, playing with Professor Longhair on his hit "Mardi Gras In New Orleans" in 1949. Over the next decade, he played with most of New Orleans' musicians, including Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Huey "Piano" Smith. By 1958, he had started recording solo, having a local hit with the instrumental "All Night Long". In 1965 he signed for Nola Records, and had his biggest hit with "Barefootin’". Although he continued to record, he failed to repeat his success in terms of sales, and his recording career effectively ended in the 1970s. However, he continued to perform and tour for many more years, remaining especially popular in the UK.
In April 2007, in recognition of his contributions to Louisiana and national music, Parker was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

On July 19, 2009, he performed "Barefootin'" and "Where the Action Is" in a "Tribute to Wardell Quezergue," a concert at Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York." wiki

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Little Buster & The Soul Brothers - Right On Time!

"Little Buster (September 28, 1942 – May 11, 2006) was an American soul and blues musician. He was born sighted, but developed glaucoma at age of three. By the time his vision was completely gone, he was fluent on six instruments, including the guitar. Born in Hertford, North Carolina, he moved to Westbury, Long Island at age sixteen. His first professional gig was at the Brooklyn Paramount, where he was a back-up guitarist for Alan Freed's Rock and Roll shows. He also became a regular at Long Island clubs.

In 1961, Buster composed his first original song "Looking For a Home" while living in Glen Cove. First recorded on Josie/Jubilee after winning a talent contest at Harlem's Apollo Theater in 1964, Buster released "Looking For a Home". He recorded a series of singles there, including his biggest hit in 1968, Doc Pomus' "Young Boy Blues". Buster's last single with Josie was "City of Blues" / "Cry Me a River". His singles and several new compositions were compiled for the 1970 album, Looking For a Home that was finally released by the UK label Sequel in 1997.

Buster changed his focus, concentrating on live blues with his band, The Soul Brothers. Buster married his wife, Mary, in 1969.

In 1995, Buster recorded his Bullseye release, Right On Time. This release brought him worldwide exposure, with a W.C. Handy Award nomination, and a runner-up award for Living Blues magazine's Critics' Award. His 2000 CD Work Your Show opened up mass media exposure via CBS This Morning, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Late Show with David Letterman, on Dan Aykroyd's House of Blues Hour, international music festivals, and articles in Juke Blues, Backyard Blues and 20th Century Guitar magazines.

In 2000, Buster began his own label with friends Steve Kleinberg and Ayanna Hobson, where he released his final CD, Little Buster and the Soul Brothers, Live Volume One. His band consisted of himself on guitar and vocals, Jerry Harshaw on saxophone, Frank Anstiss on drums, Alan Levy on bass and Robert Schlesinger on keyboards. As Andy Breslau said in the liner notes for Right On Time,

    "Edward 'Little Buster' Forehand is a sublimely talented soul singer, a tough blues guitarist and a sure-handed songwriter with a knack for making rhythm and blues songs that evoke the classic 1960s sound. As one of New York's great undiscovered treasures, Buster has played the Long Island club circuit for over four decades."

During four decades many musicians honed their skills in Buster's band. These included Lee Vaughn on saxophone, Val and Cousin Brucie on bass guitar, Lionel Cordew on drums, Jonathan Kampner on drums, Eileen Murphy on drums (now with the Borinquen Blues Band), Chris Candida on drums, Ed Hoey on percussion, Gene Cordew on keyboards, Roast Beef Joe on keyboards, and guitarists Scott Ross, and Stevie Cochran.

In 2004, Little Buster suffered from a series of strokes. In May 2006, he died as a result of complications from those strokes and diabetes. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Long Island Blues Society in 2002 for his efforts on behalf of music. He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mavis Staples - Have A Little Faith

A pleasant Sunday morning to you all. This mornings service is by the luminous Ms Mavis Staples.

"If ever there were a time for Mavis Staples to return to recording, 2004 is it. Her tenure with her family's group the Staple Singers led by her late father Pops offered a steadying, positive presence on the pop scene during the late antiwar unrest and civil rights struggles of the 1960s through the 1970s. They offered up notions of personal responsibility, dignity, and spiritual hope in a heady and uncertain time. Have a Little Faith is a stellar collection of bluesy folk gospel and classic soul grooves recorded for modern times. Staples co-produced with Jim Tullio, who has also worked with John Martyn (who makes a cameo here) and Richie Havens. The album is subtle, laden with beautiful dark grooves, moody guitars, organic percussion, and B-3 and Rhodes piano. One can feel the presence and influence of Pops on these sides. He was a musician who understood that the empty spaces left on a record were as important as the music. Tullio gives Staples' gorgeous, grainy contralto a lot of room to weave its own magic amid the wonderfully warm, down-home swirl of the band. The album opener, "Step into the Light," was written by Robi Draco Rosa, Tullio, and Staples and features Martyn on guitar. The Delta blues acoustic slide feel that accompanies Staples at the beginning of the tune is counter-anchored by Chris Cameron's clavinet and the backing vocals of the Dixie Hummingbirds. The title cut comes right from Stax/Volt in its beautifully articulated guitar lines and a combination of B-3 and Wurlitzer. But it's Staples' voice with its welcoming conviction and certainty that soars: "There's evil all around us/We got to rise above/Got to fight the good fight/With that war with love/Hold on, hold on/Help is on the way/There's a better tomorrow/I can feel it today." What's amazing is that you believe her. Her reworking of the great Delta tune "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (with additional lyrics by Pops) is as storefront church as it gets. The message tunes, like "Ain't No Better Than You" and "At the End of the Day," are the gritty soul and funk tunes that are desperately needed right now, and the kind of songs that used to come bursting from the AM and FM dials by major and marginal artists alike. A Chicago choir aids Staples and the band on "In Times Like These," written by Tullio and LeRoy Marinell; even R. Kelly couldn't deliver a tune as inspirational as this one. There's nothing overblown about it's all-heavy, heart-lifting soul. The set ends with the first tune the Staples ever sang and recorded, a bare-bones, deep blues rendering of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," with acoustic slide guitars, a bass harmonica, and hand percussion with a Wurlitzer backing Staples' understated yet devastatingly emotional performance. Have a Little Faith is a glorious return for Staples and is capable of inspiring those who are lucky enough to encounter it." Thom Jurek, AMG

Saturday, June 8, 2013

O.B. Bryant - Where Did You Get That Thang?

Here is another pleasant surprise that I found in the deep discount bin at the store. Not much info out there on this guy, but here is what I've got.

O.B. Bryant was born in Vienna, GA, I would guess sometime in the early to mid 40's (judging by his dates of military service). Like most blues singers he started singing in the church as a youngster. He cites Al Green and Bobby Bland as major influences.

Shortly after moving to Atlanta and beginning his career in 1965 with several local R&B units, he was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1966. Upon his return from the war the demands of providing for a family took precedence over music and he went to work for the Post Office for the next three decades. Once his kids were grown and he had retired from the USPS it was finally time to return to his first love.

I can't find any mention as to keeping his hand in the local scene on a weekend warrior basis, but as polished as he is, it seems likely. This was his first record, made in 1998 on the tiny Million Dollar Showcase Records. The packaging is minimal but the production and the band are quite good and Bryant is a very fine singer, I imagine he is fun to see. All of these tracks are apparently his own compositions and they are good songs! He has been working the south in classic southern soul reviews with the likes of Otis Clay, Latimore, Denise LaSalle and Clarence Carter. I'm keeping an eye out for him down here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Robert "Bilbo" Walker - Rompin' & Stompin (1998)

I've got a little trio of modern recordings to offer up before we do a week or two of re-up requests.

Robert 'Bilbo' Walker was born in the Clarksdale, Ms area in 1937. He became interested in music upon meeting Ike Turner through his sister's boyfriend and his long friendship with David Porter (Isaac Hayes' onetime partner at Stax). Walker spent much of his career going back and forth between the Delta and Chicago and his style is reflective of both. His influences include Turner, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Freddie King and Sam Cooke. He played both Delta juke joints and Chicago south side clubs for a couple of decades before he bought a farm in Bakersfield, Ca, becoming a full time farmer and part-time musician. In the late 90's Walker did a pair of albums on the Fedora label, this is the second (and better) of the two. A great selection of tunes delivered with passion and individual style, I took a flyer on this one and was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Billy Wright - The Complete Billy Wright - WAY Before His Time!

Those of you who have been here for a long time may wonder why I am revisiting this post and why they should bother with a download. Well here is the deal...of the 33 tracks I offered last time, all but 3 have been replaced with far superior remasters, not only that but I have added ELEVEN MORE TRACKS to make this the first ever COMPLETE Billy Wright (at least according to my discography.) So there you go as far as motivation, this is the best sounding yet and only complete set that exists. You will see that I've left the source covers on each track. 
my original post: I told you there was a Founding Father for Little Richard and Esquerita and here he is! Given how good this dude was it is so sad that no one even remembers him. He mentored Richard and inspired Esquerita and he is so obscure that I'd never even heard the name till Cliff hipped me! When you listen to Wright, then Richard and Esquerita, tell me if you think we ever have a James Brown without these guys. James was just the first straight guy in the line.

Here is the entire wiki history: "Billy Wright was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout his career, he was known as the "Prince of the Blues."He was a key figure in Atlanta blues after World War II and had a major influence on rock and roll pioneer Little Richard, whom he helped get his first recording contract.

He recorded his last sides in 1959. He continued to do shows around Atlanta until he suffered a stroke, and then died of a pulmonary embolism, just before his 1991 Halloween Show at the Royal Peacock in Atlanta."

 "A prime influence on Little Richard during his formative years, "Prince of the Blues" Billy Wright's hearty shouting delivery was an Atlanta staple during the postwar years.
Wright was a regular at Atlanta's 81 Theatre as a youth, soaking up the vaudevillians before graduating to singing and dancing status there himself. Saxist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams caught Wright's act when they shared a bill with Charles Brown and Wynonie Harris at Atlanta's Auditorium, recommending the teenaged singer to Savoy Records boss Herman Lubinsky.
Wright's 1949 Savoy debut, "Blues for My Baby," shot up to number three on Billboard's R&B charts, and its flip, "You Satisfy," did almost as well. Two more of Wright's Savoy 78s, "Stacked Deck" and "Hey Little Girl," were also Top Ten R&B entries in 1951. The flamboyant Wright set his pal Little Richard up with powerful WGST DJ Zenas Sears, who scored the newcomer his first contract with RCA in 1951. It's no knock on Richard to note that his early sides sound very much like Wright. (except for being nowhere near as good of course!)

Wright recorded steadily for Savoy through 1954, the great majority of his sessions held in his hometown with hot local players (saxist Fred Jackson and guitarist Wesley Jackson were often recruited). After he left Savoy, Wright's recording fortunes plummeted -- a 1955 date for Don Robey's Peacock discery in Houston and sessions for Fire (unissued) and Carrollton in 1959 ended his discography. Wright later MCed shows in Atlanta, remaining active until a stroke in the mid-'70s slowed him down." AMG

The final 2 tracks, "Wind It Up/If I Didn't Love You", do not appear in the Blues Discography but were on the Have Mercy Baby compilation, they come from a 45 on the Chris Records imprint out of Atlanta. I don't have a certain date for them but I'd guess they were around 1959, possibly a little later.

note: there are 4 links because I rushed my upload and omitted 2 tracks (#'s 36 and 44), you will need all 4 to have a complete set.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bettye LaVette - Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart

Bettye LaVette has always shown a taste for variety in her music and an utter conviction in the way she sings every song. Her career has been, in her own words, "A life lived across the tracks from fame." These recordings come from the 1969-70 period at Silver Fox. Still a teenager, she sings with maturity and the band is great.

"Bettye LaVette (born Betty Haskins, January 29, 1946)
LaVette was born in Muskegon, Michigan, and raised in Detroit. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she did not begin singing in the church, but in her parents' living room, singing R&B and country and western music. She was signed by Johnnie Mae Matthews, a local record producer. In 1962, aged sixteen, she recorded a single, "My Man—He's a Lovin' Man", with Matthews, which became a Top Ten R&B hit after Atlantic Records bought distribution rights. This led to a tour with rhythm and blues musicians Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, Barbara Lynn, and then-newcomer Otis Redding. She next hit the charts with “Let Me Down Easy” on Calla Records in 1965. This led to a brief stint with The James Brown Revue. After recording several 45–rpm singles for local Detroit labels, in 1969 LaVette signed to the Silver Fox label. She cut a handful of tracks, including two Top 40 R&B hits: “He Made A Woman Out Of Me” and “Do Your Duty”. The Memphis studio musicians on these recordings have since become known as The Dixie Flyers..."

The next chapter for Bettye is Child Of The Seventies, anyone have it?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Doris Duke - I'm A Loser

This is one of those that grows on you, Doris was badass and so is the band.

"Deep soul diva Doris Duke was born Doris Curry in Sandersville, GA, in 1945. After stints in a series of gospel units, including the Raspberry Singers, the David Sisters, and the Caravans, by 1963 she was settled in New York City, working as a session vocalist in addition to backup duties at the legendary Apollo Theater. Under her married name of Doris Willingham, she cut her debut solo single, "Running Away from Loneliness," for the tiny Hy-Monty label in 1966; "You Can't Do That" followed two years later on Jay Boy. Despite solid reviews, neither record made a commercial splash, and she returned to her session career, often commuting to Philadelphia to record with the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. When former Atlantic Records producer Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams Jr. struck out on his own, he signed the singer and renamed her Doris Duke, recording the 1969 LP I'm a Loser at Capricorn, Phil Walden's studio in Macon, GA.

Though considered the finest deep soul record of all time by no less than soul expert Dave Godin, I'm a Loser was rejected by dozens of labels before it finally surfaced on Wally Roker's Canyon label. Although the first single, "To the Other Woman," cracked Billboard's R&B Top Ten, Canyon soon spiraled into financial disaster, destroying the album's commercial momentum. Duke spent the next several years in creative limbo, finally reuniting with Swamp Dogg for 1975's Mankind label release A Legend in Her Own Time -- their partnership ended acrimoniously prior to its release, however, and the record received scant attention. Duke next resurfaced on the British label Contempo with Woman, a much-acclaimed set released stateside on the Scepter imprint. After 1981's Manhattan set Funky Fox, she retired from music, and at the time of this writing her whereabouts and activities are unknown." AMG