HomePosts Tagged "Mercury Records"

Mercury Records Tag

Soul Serenade - The FalconsThe Falcons were a vocal group whose membership at one time or another included such luminaries as Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, Sir Mack Rice, and Joe Stubbs. They formed in Detroit when Floyd and Bob Manardo, who worked together in a jewelry store, decided to put together a group. Manardo brought in his friend Tom Shetler, and Floyd enlisted Arnett Robinson. Eventually bass singer Willie Schofield was added to the lineup.

The year was 1955, and the Falcons were one of the first integrated groups. They played a lot of clubs around Detroit, but would also venture off to the east coast on occasion. In 1956 Mercury Records was holding auditions. Thinking that the auditions were in Chicago, the Falcons headed there only to learn on their arrival that the auditions were being conducted in New York.

Soul Serenade - Bobby MarchanI have this friend named Billy. The world at-large knows him as the Reverend Billy Wirtz. If you saw him, with his long hair and copious tattoos you would think he’s some wild rockabilly madman, and that is exactly what he wants you to think … when he’s on stage. Off stage he’s one of the most gentle and kind people I know, and he is a walking encyclopedia of popular culture.

Although I haven’t seen Billy for a long time, I retain fond memories of the times I’ve seen him play. He is road dog, and he tours non-stop, mostly in the south. So if you hear that he’s coming to your town, make it a point to be there. I guarantee you a great evening of music, along with a lot of laughs.

Soul Serenade - Brook BentonI don’t know if it has been the same where you live, but here in the northeast, and in New England in particular, we are having a most unusual autumn. We have enjoyed temperatures in the 50s and 60s for weeks on end. There has been a noticeable lack of frigid temperatures, ice, snow, and the other factors that often define the season here. Yesterday I took a ride down to a nearby beach. Surfers, paddle boarders, and kayakers were all enjoying the water, and guys in shorts were tossing around a football on the beach.

I have to admit that it’s been enjoyable. The older I get, the less I like the cold and snow. The thing is, it’s not normal. Or is this the new normal? Climate change is no longer a theory, or a prediction, it’s a reality. Maybe it’s the cause of this unseasonable weather. I don’t want to spoil the party, but maybe this temperate weather is not a good thing. Then again, we could get buried in snow in January, and this will all be forgotten.

So what’s the fixation on weather this week? Well, we’re going to talk about rain. We haven’t had much here recently, but the rain I’m talking about fell in Georgia on one particular night, many years ago. Tony Joe White chronicled it in a song, and Brook Benton brought that song to the world a few years later.

Do you know who Joseph Arrington, Jr. was? If I told you where he was from you would figure it out quickly. He was born in Rogers, Texas in 1935 and moved to Baytown with his mother when his parents divorced. In high school Arrington played baritone sax and sang in a local church gospel choir. The young Joe Tex, taking his last name from the state of his birth, entered a lot of talent contests, and the one he won in Houston offered a free trip to New York City.

Don Covay left us recently. He left behind a splendid resume that reflected his work as a singer and songwriter. Covay never allowed himself to be pigeonholed into one genre or another. His music reached out to fans of soul, R&B, and rock and roll alike. In fact, one of the musicians that Covay worked with early on eventually became the most iconic guitarist in the history of rock and roll.

I’ve never been much of a roller coaster fan. To be honest, even though I know that a lot of people love the ride, I don’t get the appeal. The same goes for any of those rides that are fast and high. The carousel has always been more my speed. That said, I think we can all agree that love is definitely akin to riding on a roller coaster.

You may have guessed that the Ohio Players were from Ohio. It was in the city of Dayton that they got together in 1959. They were the Ohio Untouchables then, and the lineup included vocalist/guitarist Robert Ward, Marshall “Rock” Jones on bass, Clarence “Satch” Satchell on sax and guitar, drummer Cornelius Johnson, and Ralph “Pee Wee” Middlebrooks on trumpet and trombone. The primary role for the band was backing the Falcons, the “I Found a Love” group from Detroit that included Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd at one time or another.

Alright, so Mel Carter wasn’t exactly the embodiment of the gritty soul sound we came to expect from singers like Otis Redding or James Carr. Although Carter’s was a more pop-oriented sound, it’s all part of the of the big stew that is the music we love.

Carter came from Cincinnati and was already singing at the age of four, when his grandmother held him up so that he could sing into the microphone in the recording booth at a penny arcade. Carter’s career really began however when he was signed by Quincy Jones to record for Mercury Records. His work for the label might not have yielded any hits, but it did get the attention of prominent figures in the music industry.

No, they weren’t brothers in the fraternal sense. And even though they are often considered to be representatives of the Chicago soul sound, both Richard Dunbar and James Leon (Jimmy) Diggs are natives of Washington, DC.¬†Dunbar and Diggs sang together in a group called the Starfires, which recorded for Decca in the late ’50s. Diggs also sang for a group called the Carltons that recorded for Argo, a Chess Records subsidiary, in ’64 and ’65. Both the Carltons and the Knight Brothers were signed by the New York office of Chess Records.

He began his career singing for Detroit’s Lando Records as “Little Carl Carlton.” If you’ve heard him sing, you can probably imagine why. His voice bears some similarity to that of Stevie Wonder, and the “Little” was stuck on Carlton’s name to try and make some hay on the great Motown star’s early ’60s name.

There were a couple of minor hits for Lando including “So What,” and “Don’t You Need A Boy Like Me,” both of which went on to become popular on England’s Northern Soul circuit. The records got the attention of songwriter and producer Don D. Robey, who was a sketchy character to say the least. Robey signed Carlton and moved him to Houston to record for Robey’s new label, Back Beat Records.

Soul Serenade

Candy & the Kisses - The 81Dance crazes. There were a lot of them in the ’60s. Chubby Checker sparked a national frenzy with his version of “The Twist,” which was originally recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. Joey Dee & the Starliters had a variation called “The Peppermint Twist” that got a lot of attention. The Miracles sang about “Mickey’s Monkey,” and the Orlons scored with “The Watusi,” which was second only to “The Twist” when it came to ’60s dance crazes. The Olympics, the Marathons, the Jive Five, and Ike and Tina Turner all celebrated the “Hully Gully” in one way or another.

For awhile there, it seemed as if inventing a new dance craze, or even just singing about it, was a direct ticket to the top of the charts. But the nation lost its innocence when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and shortly after that the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion troops appeared on our shore. Whether it was because of bad timing, or simply bad luck, some dance records just didn’t take off as they might have a year or two early. That was the sad fate experienced by a vocal group called Candy & the Kisses, who hailed from Port Richmond, NY. The group was led by Candy Nelson, and included her sister Suzanne, and friend Jeanette Johnson.

Last night I learned of the death of Dobie Gray and I posted something on Twitter reflecting the fact that this god awful week for the world of music has also seen the deaths of the wonderful soul singer Howard Tate, blues guitar legend Hubert Sumlin, and Stax star J. Blackfoot. E.J. Friedman (@loudersoft) concurred that it has been a nightmare, and mentioned the importance of celebrating these great artists while they’re alive. I replied that I try to do that every week in this column.

I fucking hate it when I have to use the column as a eulogy for someone who has been lost. After all, as I’ve said time and time again, these people are irreplaceable. We won’t see their likes again. On the other hand, I suppose it’s inevitable that as time goes by we will lose more and more of these stars of the ’50s, ’60s, and even the ’70s. Inevitability doesn’t make it hurt any less though.