Freddy Mangum /1963 – 2009
We recently lost two musicians, one I knew personally and the other only by reputation. Both were significant artists and deserve mentioning here. Freddy Mangum, 46-year-old lead vocalist for Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs passed away unexpectedly on Oct. 7; and Johnny Jones, 73, Nashville blues guitarist and mentor to Jimi Hendrix and countless other musicians, died on Oct. 14, also unexpected.
I first met Freddy Mangum in 2004 in Raleigh, N.C. during a celebration of Carolina beach music, the regional R&B genre. He was recording a number of tunes for the northern soul market with the Sugar Bees, from Florence, S.C. , although his fulltime gig was as a lead vocalist with Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs.
“Freddy was with me for 15 years,” Maurice Williams told me in a telephone interview earlier this week. “I was managing him now, and I produced ‘Mama Didn’t Know,’ his single on the GAD label. We had so many plans … a solo album for him … it’s such sad timing, here he has this song on the charts and he passes away.”
After years of hitting the high notes for Maurice, Freddie Mangum had just come into his own. “Mama Didn’t Know,” which was written by Curtis Mayfield, is a bona fide hit and climbing the beach charts.
Fred Shaw, who owns Bradley House Productions and is also the Sugar Bees drummer, said, “We’ve been friends for years. I was devastated when I heard. I was in Washington D.C. and left to go to the funeral in Durham. Over 500 people showed up, could hardly fit them…
“We’ve done a lot of recording together … and I always knew when we went onstage that he was going to pull off a great show. Freddy just had that magic in his voice. I never heard him hit a bad note.
“The Zodiacs will be different now. They’ll go on, of course; they’ve had their share of loss in the group, but they’ll go on.”
Shaw continued, “ Maurice was just so proud of Freddy … Freddy was great to be around. He was always positive … a good friend. ”
Williams agrees, “He was like a godson to me, to me and my wife, Emily. He had a fantastic personality … He was my right hand man, I put him in charge of the band. He conducted rehearsals. He helped me produce, too. He set everything up for us. I was going to get off the road and Freddy would have the Zodiacs…” His voice trails off and it’s obviously a sad moment for Maurice Williams.
I feel so fortunate that I got to see him just last month. Jerry Goodman of GAD Records and Maurice Williams decided the group would make a last minute appearance at Craig Fleming’s Beach Music 45 record showcase at the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach. Some three hundred fans were treated to over an hour of hits like “Stay,” “Little Darlin’” and Freddy’s own “Mama Didn’t Know.”
They rocked the place.
This would be the last time I saw Freddy Mangum perform and the last time I spoke with him. We talked about setting up an interview. He was going to be my next long interview. I’m a Freddy fan and I wanted to know what was ahead for him.
Life’s too damn short.
Johnny Jones/ 1936 – 2009
Johnny Jones, although not a household name, played a major role in Nashville’s Jefferson Street R&B scene as depicted in the 2004 Country Music Hall of Fame’s Last Train To Nashville project and compilation CD (Vol. 1 and II) of the same name.
Jones was born in 1936. It’s said he experienced his first live blues performance by Joe Hill Lewis in Memphis, Tenn. at the age of 13. By the early 50s he had relocated to Chicago with his mother, a move that would place him in the midst of the great blues players of the time and help shape his own musical career. He shared a flat with harpman Walter McCollum. Together they formed a group, often playing with Junior Wells and Freddy King.
Jones moved to Nashville sometime in the early 60s, where R&B icon and songwriter Ted Jarrett took him under his wing and taught him how to read music In Nashville, Jones worked as a studio musician and played in his own band, the Imperial Seven.The group worked regularly at the popular New Era Club. It was with this group that Jones met a young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix, who regularly sat in with him at the club. During this period, Jones also played rhythm guitar with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown in the house band for “The Beat,” a Dallas television program.
In the mid sixties, Jones was a founding member of another band, the King Kasuals*, which included not only Hendrix but also bass player Billy Cox, who was later part of Hendrix’ Band of Gypsies and also played with him at Woodstock.
Shortly afterward, as Johnny Jones & the Imperials, Jones released three funked up tunes: “It’s Gonna Be Good,” “Soul Poppin’” and a cover of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” “Soul-Poppin’” would be included on vol. 2 of the Night Train To Nashville disc set. “Really Part I” was included on vol. 1 and “Lucky Lou,” originally performed by the Imperials, but not recorded in the studio was also on vol. 2.
Jones would go on to work with musicians such as Bobby Blue Bland. Continuing to gig around Nashville, he mentored many of the younger Nashville guitarists and played the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival every year.
Just last month, Jones was one of the speakers at a memorial jam in honor of his own mentor – Nashville treasure Ted Jarrett ( single, “You Can Make It If You Try and album, Night Train To Nashville).
There has been no funeral, but tentative plans are in the works for a celebration of the man and his guitar mastery at The Place on Second Avenue in Nashville.
*There are numerous references to this band as both King Casuals and King Kasuals.
Writer Dariel Bendin can be contacted on the Internet on MySpace (MySpace.com/culturejunkie); Facebook and Twitter (Twitter.com/darielb).
By Rickey Godfrey
Observations About an Old Pro, Donny Trexler, at Captain Poo’s
When I walked into Captain Poo’s about a quarter till nine on Tuesday night, I already knew I was gonna be entertained by a real pro, Donny Trexler. The atmosphere was festive, but not too rowdy; you could tell right away that most of the crowd were folks who came here every Tuesday night to hear this one man band do his stuff. As I sat down to order some wings and tacos, and of course, a margarita,
I became immediately riveted by Donny Trexler’s soulful voice. It didn’t take me long to realize that Donny’s priority was doing a great interpretation of every song that he sang. His sequenced backing tracks that he used were a little subdued for my taste, but emphasized even more Donny’s desire for his audience to clearly understand the words to every song he did. On occasion he would encourage the crowd to sing along with him. Well, that’s normally nothing new for any entertainer, but in this case, I was listening to a first-rate singer do these songs. Donny’s vocals were very soulful, as good as it gets in my opinion, and his guitar playing was flawless, nothing flashy, but still supporting his vocals. I suppose you could say he knew how to lay down the rhythm grooves to help bring to life his backing tracks.
I got the impression that Donny was partial to the southern soul music of the 60′s. He did songs like “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding; “Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett; but then Donny shifted gears, and showed off his versatility by doing something slow – “Christmas in Dixie” originally performed by Alabama. He also did southern rock and blues tunes, too, like “Stormy Monday” by the Allman Brothers. When he played that song, he didn’t use a guitar pick, and then commented, “If y’all noticed, I didn’t use my pick on that song, cause Rickey Godfrey is here tonight, and he doesn’t use a pick, so I thought I would try playing without one.”
Calabash Flash got up and sang “Johnny Be Good” and I sang “Giving It Up For Your Love” by Delbert. While all this is going on, about every couple of minutes someone would come by and drop a dollar or two, and sometimes larger bills (grin) in Donny’s tip jar.
I was amazed to find out that Donny has been playing at Captain Poo’s every Tuesday night from 6 to 10, for many years, and he rarely ever takes a break. In his words, “I just don’t want anybody to leave, and I’m afraid they might, if I take a break.” Donny’s philosophy seemed to be “the customer comes first, whatever a person wants to hear I’ll do it if I know it.” On one song he said, “Give me just a moment to find the words, I haven’t done that song in a while.” He really tries to honor any musical request, meanwhile, the stack of money in the tip jar keeps growing looking like a pile of autumn leaves laying in there. Between songs, Donny tells me, “I work seven nights a week, if I can, and I make a little bit of money on each gig which helps me to survive.” Well, he was being modest, as folks continued their regular slow and steady parade to the tip jar.
At one point Donny plays guitar by himself with no backing tracks and does “39, 21, 40 shape”, and “Hey Baby” two beach music classics, encouraging the girls to sing along with him first, and then the guys. Here was an old pro at work who knew every entertainment trick in the book, and everybody was united in their approval of what he was doing.
One thing that really impressed me was Donny’s use of his digitech vocal harmonizer. When he turned on the machine it would electronically produce vocal harmonies on the vocal lines Donny would use it on. Donny told me, again between songs that he had this particular machine for 18 years, and had two more of them as back-up units, an important tool to enhance his vocals. Most of the time when you hear an entertainer like Donny, it’s an average singer, but as I said earlier, Donny is truly one of the best blue-eyed soul singers on the coast, what a great combination of skillful entertainer, guitarist and great singer. Donny has a huge following, many who regularly come out every Tuesday night to hear this gifted musician. Keep up the good work, Donny!!
Wilmington, N.C. keyboard player Terry Nash is pretty excited about his newest musical venture. I first heard about it on Facebook and then from Terry’s wife, Windy, and I’m intrigued enough now, that I thought I’d share it here.
The Weather Channel Boyz is a funk jazz group that’s made up of musicians from assorted bands like Mark Roberts & Breeze and Painted Man, who share a love of instrumental funk jazz. The name derives from the jazz instrumentals that are a staple on the Weather Channel. (A CD is currently in the works and a proposal will be sent to the popular cable station.)
Band members include:
•“Funky” Leroy Harper, tenor, alto, soprano sax and keyboards
•Richard “Smoochie” Robertson, trumpet, muted trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and keyboards
• Terry Nash, keyboards
• Sylvester “Sam” Bryant, drums, percussion
• Tony Mallard, drums, percussion
• Gerard Torchio, drums, percussion
• Jonathan Ward, percussion
• Brent Sisson, bass
• Thomas Stanley, bass
• Albert Rogers, bass
•Bobby Roberts, tenor sax
•Jason jackson, alto sax
•Vince Peeples, guitar
••Ethan Hanson, guitar
Other featured musicians include:
•Katja Rieckermann (Sax Player for Rod Stewart & Aerosmith)
•Simon Russell (Soul Power Posse) Nina Repeta (Dawson’s Creek)
•Vince Peeples (Painted Man)
•Mark Roberts (Breeze Band)
•William “Bosz” Bostic (Painted Man)
Weather Channel Boyz will be making their debut at a special fundraiser for EarthSave, a global nonprofit promoting healthy and life-sustaining food choices. It was created by John Robbins, the author of “A Diet of a New America.” The local chapter was started about five months ago by former Wilmington business owner Pat Benair. She says, “Our mission is to educate, inspire, and empower people to shift toward a diet centered on fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes – food choices that are healthy for the individual and for the planet.”
Brent Carter (Tower of Power) was also scheduled for the show, but due to the recent death of his father may not be appearing.
EarthSave SENC meets the last Wednesday of every month. Meetings include a vegetarian/vegan/raw potluck and a movie, lecture, or guest speaker. Meat eaters are encouraged to attend.
I’m not sure about living without the occasional hamburger, but I’ll be at the event in Greenfield Park. I’ve been to the MySpace page (Myspace.com/weatherchannelboyz) and I want to hear this band live!
If You Want To Go
What: EarthSave SENC’s presentation of An Afternoon of Blues, Jazz and Funk with featured artists Funky Leroy Harper, Painted Man, Benny Hill, The Groove Campaign & the debut of the Weather Channel Boyz
Where:Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 302 Willard Street, Wilmington, N.C.
When: Sunday, Oct. 18, 1 to 6 p.m.
How Much: Advance $15; Gate, $20
Information: Pat Delair, firstname.lastname@example.org