In honor of the birthday of Shirley Owens Alston Reeves, founding member of the Shirelles, I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend the Shirelles live LP "Spontaneous Combustion". So often music fans of the younger generations are left with only recordings, a handful of photos, and if we're lucky one or two video clips of artists from the past. These are the things that draw a picture of our perception of who these folks were in their hey day. The portrait we're left with is often incomplete.
Such is the case with a group like the Shirelles, in spite of them being hugely popular. Most of us know the Shirelles from their extremely polished sound on their recordings. Unlike artists of today like Beyonce and Kanye West for example, we don't get a glimpse of their personalities outside of their records. That's why this live LP, released slightly after the height of their popularity, is such a treat. We get to hear a more laid back and gritty side of the Shirelles, complete with entertaining stage banter. They joke around with each other, make references to their romantic involvements and personal lives, and they get to cut loose. In other words, we get to see them as real people. The entire album is worth a listen just for the experience of getting to know the members of the Shirelles a little bit better.
"All My Trials" was reportedly a Bahamian folk song, possibly originating in the US South and brought to the islands where it was "rediscovered" and brought back to the states and adopted by the 50s and 60s folk music movement. It was sung in reference to the Civil Rights Movement and found its way into soul music in a variety of ways.
Most people aren't used to hearing protest songs with lines like
"If living were a thing that money could buy,
You know the rich would live
And the poor would die"
from the Cookies. They're best known for their definitive Brill Building pop-girl group hits like "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby" and "Chains" (which is more of a veiled message song).
This record was actually their first after two years without a label. It's the B-side to a soft psych-soul production of a song "Wounded" and was produced by the singing group The Tokens (best known for their huge hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"). It turns out the world wasn't interested in this edgier version of the Cookies and this ended up being their last single. It's a great way to go out though and I think you'll find it still very relevant 47 years later.
This week it looks like I'm going to focus on songs you might hear at Sugar Town this Saturday. I plan on debuting this, my new theme song this Saturday. It was recorded in 1964 and based on a Wrangler commercial. Yes, a girl group singing about a dance based on action slacks. It's a dream come true. This was produced by Jerry Ragovoy (one of my favorite producers) and strangely did not make a big splash on the charts. I guess it was too much of a stretch for the people of 1964, but not for you! You're gonna love this!
It's my favorite time of the year, MASHED POTATO SEASON! In honor of that most delicious of mushy starches, I thought I'd feature what is currently my favorite mashed potato dance record. This was gifted to me by my dear friend and sometimes DJ partner, Wild Man James. How could I not love a girl group named in honor of Carrie Grant?! There are a couple of on-line sources that say that it's Bill Haley & the Comets backing Carrie on this cut. Of course, you can't believe everything you read on the internet, but if it's true then this is by far the best Bill Haley and the Comets record ever. It's a high kilowatt workout, able to power any Cuisinart mashing your potatoes this holiday weekend.
So pour some gravy on it and get all kinds of sloppy with me!
I'll admit that I know nothing about this record except that it has an adorable label and I've played it at nearly every disco party I've ever thrown. One more thing, I'm sure there is someone out there who can tell me all about Stage Three and producer Dwight Mitchell. Come forth and spill the beans. The rest of you just listen to this record and enjoy the groove.
Today Eloise Laws turns 71. I wish her a birthday as badass as she looks on the cover of her 1977 debut album for Invictus.
The mid-70s were ripe with overtly sexual dance tracks. Of course they were tame compared to the dance cuts of today, but back in the 70s this was a revolution being waged through rhythm - a sexual revolution.
You could say this record picks up where Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby" left off just a couple of years before. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that Summer's record was a prelude to this much grittier, nasty funk-soaked soul jam. This is perhaps the lowdown dirtiest Holland-Dozier-Holland got. And in the afterglow their label folded. It was a glorious, orgasmic ending to a spectacular run creating some of the best soul and pop hits of the 60s and 70s.
I have so deeply fallen in love with this record that I've begun to wonder if I'm crazy. Why do I think that? Because I don't understand why this record is only mentioned in passing whenever some soul nerd writes about Memphis deep soul belter Barbara Brown. So I have to wonder, do I just have bad taste or are other people just not paying attention? That's a rhetorical question. Don't feel compelled to answer that.
Maybe it gets overlooked because it's the flip side of Barbara's classic deep soul, slow burner "I Don't Want to Have to Wait." Who knows.
All I know is that this record moves me. I love Barbara's performance. I love the production. I love the arrangement. I love the concept. I love that it falls in the sisterhood of "listen here girls" songs. It perfectly captures the feeling of emptiness of the person left behind in a relationship.
All the more special was finding my copy in Barbara's home town of Memphis exactly one year ago. It really was my favorite recording at the time and there it was waiting for me to find on 45 in the heart of Memphis.
Take a listen.
On this day in R&B history in 1954, "Oop Shoop" by Shirley Gunter and the Queens of LA entered the r&b charts. It was the first record by an all female R&B group to chart. At the time it was declared a new example of a "rock n roll record" by legendary DJ Alan Freed. Because of this, Shirley is considered one of the first women in rock 'n' roll. Has she been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? No, but her brother was as a member of The Coasters. Shirley Gunter - One of the innumerable under-appreciated trailblazing ladies of rhythm & blues.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!