As I’ve told you before, inspiration for this column comes from all sorts of places. It could be a song I hear on the radio or television, or simply something in the air that tripped something in my brain and helped me to remember a song I hadn’t thought of in a long time. Other times a friend will mention a song that works well for the column, or posts a song on Facebook that takes me back.
That’s the way it happened this week. A talented musician friend by the name of Barry Holdship posted on Facebook that his Monday morning mantra was “oogum, oogum, boogum, boogum, boogum …” I think we all know that feeling, right? But suddenly, the music of Brenton Wood was in my head, and I couldn’t let it go without learning more.
Wood was born in Shreveport, LA, but his family moved to southern California when he was child. Eventually they settled in Compton, and Wood attended high school there. It was while he was enrolled in East Los Angeles College that Alfred Jesse Smith took the stage name Brenton Wood. Speculation is that he may have been inspired by the close proximity of the wealthy Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
It was during his college years that Woods’ musical talent began to rise to the surface. He started writing songs, and worked on his piano playing skills, and with influences like Sam Cooke and Jesse Belvin, Wood was on his way. His earliest singles, for the Brent and Wand labels, failed to gain much notice. When he moved to Double Shot Records, however, things began to change.
Wood’s first single for Double Shot, “The Oogum Boogum Song,” was a crossover hit, reaching #19 on the Billboard R&B Chart, and #34 Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1967. But a bigger hit was in the works, and Woods scored with “Gimme Little Sign” later that same year. The single made it to #9 on the pop chart, #19 on the R&B chart, and sold over a million copies.
Wood had a decent sized hit with his next single, “Baby You Got It,” which was #34 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #30 on the R&B chart. After “Lovey Dovey Kinda Lovin'” barely scraped into the Top 100 in 1968, Wood didn’t have another chart hit for nine years. In 1977 he returned with “Come Softly to Me,” a duet with Shirley Goodman, which only managed to make it to #92 on the R&B chart.
In 1986 Wood released an album called Out of the Woodwork (clever title, huh?) which blended re-recordings of some of his old stuff with new tracks. It took 15 years, but Wood released the This Love is for Real album in 2001. One year ago Wood teamed up with a band called William Pilgrim & the All Grows Up on a new version of “Gimme Little Sign” which appears on the band’s album, Epic Endings.