Those of you who have been following along may have noticed that there was no Soul Serenade column last week. It was the first time that the column didn’t appear in its weekly spot for nearly five years, but there was a very good reason for the absence. Popdose has had a makeover … new look, new host, the whole deal. My colleagues and I owe a great debt to our Leader-In-Chief Jeff Giles for all of his hard work in making this happen. If you’ve ever had to deal with website issues, you know how difficult and downright annoying it can be. Thanks Jeff! Now that we’ve got this new look, and by the way the site is much faster than it used to be too, I encourage you to check out the front page, and by all means read some of the other stories. We have some great writers here. Then return here every Thursday morning as usual for Soul Serenade.
It occurs to me that despite the fact that I love the music that comes out of New Orleans, I have featured precious little of it in this column. This week’s record isn’t going to do much to change that. It’s a great record, and it has the title, and the sound, but the record is not born of the Crescent City. Look for more of the real thing going forward.
Artists usually take a stage name in order to avoid confusion. Gary Anderson however took the name U.S. Bonds in order to create confusion. Anderson was born in Jacksonville, Florida and he eventually found his way to Norfolk, Virginia where he started singing with a group called the Turks.
Bonds met a record producer by the name of Frank Guida, who had a small label called Legrand. It was Guida who figured that with a name like U.S. Bonds, DJs were likely to confuse the singer’s name with a public service announcement which would result in more airplay for Bonds’ records. Clever, huh? I have no idea if the idea worked, but Bonds certainly had some successful records.
Bonds had his first hit in 1960 with “New Orleans.” The record’s hard driving rhythm took it all the way to #5 on the R&B chart, and #6 on the pop chart. The follow up, “Not Me,” wasn’t quite as successful, but the record after that was a massive hit. “Quarter to Three” topped the pop chart in June, 1961, and sold a million copies. That was hardly the end of the story though.
Bonds scored again with “School is Out,” and then tapped into the Twist craze with the smashes “Dear Lady Twist,” and “Twist Twist Señora,” both of which hit the Top Ten. You can’t talk about the Bonds hits without mentioning the name of sax player Gene Barge, whose huge sound was such a prominent feature of the Bonds hits.
By 1963 Bonds was so hot that when he toured England with the Beatles, he was the headliner. But his star began to fade as singles like “Seven Day Weekend,” “Copy Cat,” and “I Dig This Station” failed to make much of a dent. Bond even tried to capitalize on his initial success by releasing a record called “Going Back to New Orleans” in 1966. The single died a death.
That’s where the story of Gary U.S. Bonds might have ended, but Steven Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen weren’t having it. Bonds’ records had a huge influence on them when they were coming up, and they were determined to make sure that Bonds got his due. Together with the E Street Band, Van Zandt and Springsteen recorded two albums with Bonds, Dedication, and On the Line. Dedication spawned the hit single “This Little Girl of Mine,” which reached #11 on the pop chart and #5 on the mainstream rock chart in 1981. Other hits for Bonds during this era included “Jole Blon,” and “Out of Work.”
Bonds was honored by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1997. His 2004 album, Back in 20, included contributions from Springsteen and Southside Johnny. Bonds most recent album, Let Them Talk, was released in 2009. He continues to tour on the oldies circuit.