Trouble Up The Road started as a song called You’ve Got To Lose. It was written by Ike Turner and recorded by him and his Kings Of Rhythm in 1958 for Cobra Records, but never released. In 1961, between takes at an Ike & Tina recording session, Jackie Brensten, who sang on the original, had another crack at it. This time his vocals had added agitation, the guitar riff was extra electric, the beat more persistent, and the whole arrangement was a lot heavier – the result is this masterpiece.
Calvin Carter’s dynamite string-laden instrumental version of What’d I Say was released in 1961, just a couple of years after Ray Charles’s original hit. It was put out by Vee-Jay, a label his sister (Vivian, the Vee in Vee-Jay) co-founded and he worked for as an A&R man. Carter also wrote songs. His biggest, I Ain’t Got You, was recorded by everyone from Jimmy Reed and Billy Boy Arnold to The Blues Brothers and Andrew Dice Clay in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.
Fats Domino recorded Why Don’t You Do Right for ABC-Paramount in 1965. The bright brass backing is just one marker of the stylistic change from his many collaborations with Dave Bartholomew at Imperial. On this song, which has a distinctive big-city jazz feel, it works. Why Don’t You Do Right is often sung from a woman’s perspective – famously by Peggy Lee, Della Reese and Jessica Rabbit. Having a woman telling her man to go get her some money softens the lyrical allusions to prostitution. When Domino sings the same words, with the gender roles reversed, he sounds like a straight out pimp. Why Don’t You Do Right’s first incarnation was as Weed Smoker’s Dream by the Harlem Hamfats in 1936. It’s about a man, the weed smoking protagonist, who wishes his woman friend would go earn some money by turning tricks.
Since penning the million-selling Hit The Road, Jack, Percy Mayfield became a songwriter inextricably linked to Ray Charles. He also recorded many great sides for Charles’s Tangerine label. My Jug And I came out in 1965 as the flip to Give Me Time To Explain. Mayfield’s honeyed vocals fit perfectly with the smooth instrumentation that’s characteristic of records by both Mayfield and Charles. His lyrics typically tell a tale of heartache, but with a wry acceptance, and My Jug And I doesn’t stray from that path. I guess it wouldn’t be the blues if it did. A Percy Mayfield album titled My Jug And I was released by Tangerine the following year.
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.
In 1953, sweet voiced Herman “Little Junior” Parker went to record at Duke Records in Houston. Over a short period, he had already recorded for Modern and Sun in Memphis. Parker was joined by Bill Johnson’s Blue Flames, which included Johnson himself on piano and Pat Hare on guitar. Hare provides the backbone of Can’t Understand, a repetitive rhythm that’s hard to disassociate from the sound of a (mystery) train. This was around the same time that Hare recorded his own distorted version of I’m Gonna Murder My Baby, something he infamously actually did sometime later.
Here are two sax-driven dirty-sounding instrumentals from The Fifty Milers, a group I can’t find out anything about. Both sides were produced by Bobby Day, who wrote Little Bitty Pretty One; the writing credit is under his birth name, Robert Byrd. The Grunt was written by guitarist Adolph Jacobs, one time member of The Coasters. You possibly know it already from the salacious Las Vegas Grind compilation series. Like Day, Jacobs recorded for Class Records in the late 1950s. Today’s offering is Eva Records catalogue number 101, which is likely to have been the label’s first release. The only other Eva release I can find is 103, Dennis Weaver’s Chicken Mash. That one came out in 1963, so I guess The Grunt wouldn’t have been too far ahead of it.
Rhythm & blues with a whole lot of soul is what we get from Mary “B” on this 1962 scorcher. Something For You, Baby was written by Mary Banks, whose life details seem to have somewhat faded into obscurity. It was released on Fling Records, a label run by Bobby Robinson who also ran Fire, Fury, Enjoy and others. Banks released one more record for Robinson on Enjoy, but that’s about all I can find out about her. What a voice though, just listen, and great Marshall Sehorn production too. I’ll be spinning this in and out for a long long time.
You Hurt Me is a simply incredible soul ballad from Little Willie John. His vocals on this tale of heartbreak will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand tall. It was released in 1960 as the b-side to Walk Slow. How a tune like this ends up on the flip is beyond me – although I have seen an advert in a Billboard magazine from the time describing it as a ‘double-play disk’. Like all of LWJ’s singles, this was released in the US by King Records out of Cincinnati, but mine’s a Canadian pressing on Delta.
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