I see a similar pattern in many of the vocal groups I read about. Someone gets drafted and is replaced and then someone else leaves and is replaced, as time goes on the group is made up of a whole new cast of characters. Reminds me of the story of the bloke who’s owned the same axe for twenty-odd years, having only replaced the handle twice and the head three times. It was 1963 when Let’s Kiss And Make Up was released and The Falcons had been around for eight years already. The Motor City group included the Wicked Wilson Pickett singing lead and Sir Mack Rice baritone. Neither Eddie Floyd or Joe Stubbs were members at this time. Along with Pickett’s trademark raspy vocals, the standout sound on Let’s Kiss And Make Up is the tremelo-laden guitar of Robert Ward. He played in a band called The Ohio Untouchables, who often backed The Falcons and later became the Ohio Players of ’70s funk fame.
This is a superb version of an old gospel song, Saints Go Marching In, that was picked up by the jazz crowd and became a standard, one that’s particularly associated with New Orleans. The Gospel Believers, however, came from the other side of the country. In fact, the record states that they were The Gospel Believers of Detroit, Michigan. Which makes me think that there may have been other Gospel Believer groups elsewhere in the US in 1950 when this Detroit group laid down today’s selection for Fortune Records. It’s a short song, but it finds the time to move up a gear about halfway through. I played this along with a whole congregation of other gospel and gospel inspired records during my most recent radio show, which you can listen to here in case you missed it.
Fourteen year old Stevie Wonder recorded This Little Girl in Detroit with the backing of the Funk Brothers. It was released as a b-side in the period between his Little Stevie, child genius stage, which produced the #1 pop hit Fingertips, and the more mature sounding Stevie Wonder on his next big chart success, Uptight (Everything’s Alright). For anyone who wants to know more about this particular song and how it fits within the context of what Wonder, Motown and pop music were doing in ’63/’64, there’s an interesting deconstruction of it here. I think it’s a tune and look forward to testing it out on an unsuspecting dancefloor tonight at Joe’s in Camden for Get Rhythm.
Two really cool tunes now from a musician who’s been around the block more than a few times and continues to perform to this day. Released in 1967 on the Detroit-based soul label Ric-Tic, You Got It And I Want It has that Northern sound, that steady snare beat. Andre Williams tells it straight, he sees what he likes and he likes what he sees. His lyrics have just the right amount of menace and I can’t think of a song where his vocals sound stronger. You Got It And I Want It was revisited by Williams, together with The Dirtbombs, on The Black Godfather record, released in 2000. I Can’t Stop Crying is a raspy-voiced piano ballad, which on first listen sounds like it could be a Tom Waits outtake. If you’re in the mood to find out a bit more about Andre “Mr Rhythm” Williams, take a gander at this interview he did with Nardwuar in 1998.
Mary Wells – I’m Gonna Stay
Mary Wells – The One Who Really Loves You
Today’s selections include Motown’s Mary Wells’ first hit, The One Who Really Loves You, which was released in 1962 when she was just 19. Both tunes are killer, but I’m mostly feeling the flip side, I’m Gonna Stay. Wells’ vocals are heartfelt and the production, courtesy of Smokey Robinson, is beautifully sparse.
Sir Mack Rice – Mustang Sally
Like so many of the blues greats – Son House, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, etc. – Mack Rice was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. As a teenager, his family (again, like so many families) moved North, settling in Detroit. Although mainly successful as a songwriter, Rice’s own big hit came in 1965. Mustang Sally was produced by Andre Williams, who bestowed Rice with the moniker Sir Mack Rice. A year later, a former compadre of Rice’s in The Falcons, Wilson Pickett, took Mustang Sally even further up the charts. The song received more recognition when, in 1991, it prominently featured in The Commitments, a film about some unemployed Irish folk who form a soul band. When I hear today’s version of this tune though, all I hear is Andre Williams — the way some instruments hang around at the back of the beat, the clean piano, the punchy horns. The more I recognise Williams’ sound in recordings, the more I consider him criminally underrated as a producer of R&B/soul.
Twistin’ Kings – Congo Part I
Twistin’ Kings – Congo Part II
The Twistin’ Kings are actually Motown’s house band, the Funk Brothers. They — or, more likely, Berry Gordy — invented the moniker for the purpose of recording an album that cashed in on the popular twist craze. The album missed the mark but, late in 1961, Gordy released Congo Twist as a single anyway. He brutally split it into two parts so it fit onto a seven inch record. Gordy also cut a shout-out to murdered Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba from the beginning of the track. Still, this record retains a wild sound, driven by drummer Benny Benjamin’s relentless rhythms, which incite the African vibes alluded to in the title. The second part contains various hollers and mimicked tribal vocal sounds interspersed with the heavy drumming, tambourine and piano playing. Needless to say, this ain’t your typical twist record.
Willie Jones – Mary
A member of Detroit vocal group The Royal Jokers, Willie Jones also recorded a couple of cuts for New York’s Big Top label. Mary, a rhythm’n’blues shouter, was released in 1960. Detroit certainly was producing a lot of talent back then; as a teen, Jones sang in a choir with Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, and Della Reese!
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – (We’ve Got) Honey Love
The great thing about Motown (Tamla, Gordy etc.) is that there’s always more to discover. Here’s a beautiful tune from Martha and The Vandellas, released in 1969. I’m really enjoying the light background instrumentation and stabbing strings on this one.
The Dynamics – Misery
What an amazing tune from Detroit’s The Dynamics is presented here for your listening pleasure. I only stumbled upon Misery recently and, although I must have sampled before buying, didn’t fully realise its utter brilliance until I took the square brown cardboard package it arrived in home and put a needle on the record. Wow. I just had to keep listening to it, over and over. I was floored. As regular readers are no doubt aware, I’m very attracted to sounds that fall between the cracks of musical genres and this is a perfect example. With original beat and vocal styles, Misery is hard to place but devastatingly effective. As has been written about before, the band that went on to become The Who, The High Numbers, released an uncredited version of this as their first single. They called it Zoot Suit.
An Aquarium Drunkard
Be Bop Wino
The B Side
Carlos Rene's Scene64
Derek's Daily 45
The Devil's Music
Flea Market Funk
Frankie Bundle's Mazzetta78
Home Of The Groove
Jester Wild Show
Kogar's Jungle Juice
La Dimension De Trastos
Liam Large's Rekkids
Mean Mojo Mathias
Night Beat Records
So Many Records, So Little Time
You Got Good Taste