What happened? Did the South head south for the winter? The new year’s blustery entrance and record deep freeze are taking their toll on me. I need some heat.
I’m hungry for somethin’ soulful to warm my innards and Deep Fried Southern Style, the 2010 compilation CD from Shanty’s Records more than satisfies my appetite for smokey old tunes, hot guitar licks and lip-smackin’ vocals. The 21-track disc is a tasty combination of soul-blues, R&B and shag tunes. So whether you’re fixin’ to sit back and enjoy it by yourself or invite a mess of folks over to dance and carry on, get yourself some Southern Style.
Track one is the soulful “A Love To Call Mine” by Johnnie Taylor. Penned by Paul Taylor, it’s from Taylor’s This Is Your Night album (Malaco Records 1984), and a sweet way to open the album. Track two is another tasty morsel, this time by Oscar Toney Jr., “No More Heartaches,” from his album, Sundazed (Bob Grady Records 2001).
Track three is “Katrina Katrina,” (think “Corina Corina”) by blues piano legend Henry Gray, from his Times Are Gettin’ Hard CD (Lucky Cat Records 2009). After 50 or 60 years, you think it might start to get stale, but Henry’s as real as ever.
Next on the menu is “Memphis Women & Chicken,” the classic from T. Graham Brown’s T. Brown Graham Live (Aspirion Records 2004). This soul-country tune was written by Gary Nicholson, Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts.
I have to confess here, that I don’t often enjoy compilation albums. I find them disjointed and without a concept.
Not this one.
Producer David Wade, who is also the owner of Shanty’s Records, has done a fine job of selecting tunes. The fledgling label, which he founded in 2010, is based
on the premise of “bringing back the songs and artists that have slipped through the cracks, or have been forgotten along the way.”
One of my favorite tunes on the disc is the soulful “Can’t Tear Myself Away” by Jamaican born singer/songwriter Ruby Turner from her 2005 R&B release So Amazing.
Burlington, N.C.’s Holiday Band is represented with another Dan Penn tune, “I’m Your Puppet,” originally performed by James and Bobby Purify in 1966 and later Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill.
Two tracks from the Roadrunners are also included. Track 11 is “Let the Boogie Woogie Roll” written by Nugetre, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler; and track 18, “Devil With a Blue Dress On,” made famous by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Vocals on these two are by the late great Earl Gaines. On piano is Jay Spell, who sadly just passed away over New Year’s.
T. Graham Brown is back with his “Brilliant Conversationalist.” This is the original title track from his second album for Capitol Records (1987).
Mark Roberts & Breeze gives us “The Way You Love Me” and a rockin’ version of the 1997 Wayne Toups tune “Love Me As Hard As You Hurt Me.” The latter is also on his Cover To Cover album (Shanty’s Records 2010).
From Rickey Godfrey comes “G-Man,” written back in the 80s by Rickey’s brother and sister-in-law, Ronnie Godfrey and Kim Morrison (they’re also singing backup). A little trivia for you, this tune was featured for a bit on G. Gordon Liddy’s Radio America show in the late 90s.
Holly Singletary-Artis, well known throughout the Carolinas as one of the high-energy vocalists in the now defunct Sammy O’Banion & Mardi Gras, does a beautiful job on Carlene Carter’s “Come Here You.”
Deep Fried Southern Style is a deliciously rich music gumbo blending all my favorite ingredients – blues, R&B and soul. I wanted to know how David Wade developed his taste in music.
A deejay since the early seventies, he tells me his first gig was with the Air Force. From there, he went to CBS radio, where he hosted the syndicated Salty Dawg Blues & Review Show.
“I have been fortunate to have been able to deejay all over the world – on military bases, at American Embassy functions, state functions and more. I spent 21 years in the Air Force, retiring in 1989. Throughout my military career, I was able to keep playing music.
“I also owned Shanty’s Beach & Blues Club in Carolina Beach, N.C., which was nominated for a Cammy is first year of being opened. Shaggin’ Time was also nominated for Internet Radio Show of the Year the same year – 2009.”
Additional tracks on Deep Fried Southern Style are “Swanee River Rock” written by Ray Charles and performed by Manny Lloyd of Soul Posse; “Airtight Alibi,” another Johnnie Taylor original; “Broken Hearted Melody,” by Eliza (a hit for Sarah Vaughn back in 1959); “Stop Me From Starting This Feeling” by Clinton Horton of the Magnificents; “More Love,” a Smokey Robinson tune sung superbly by Holly Singletary-Artis; “Bubba White’s” by Charleston, S.C.’s Rick Strickland from his 2008 release Island Soul; and “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” by Men of Distinction.
Closing out the CD is the bluesy “You Do Me Wrong” by DieDra from Living the Bluz (RuffPro Records 2010) . That’s her husband Keithan Ruff wailing on the guitar and playing just about everything else on the track, too. I expect you’ll savor Deep Fried Southern Style down to this last tasty bite. I sure did.
Additional album credits: sequencing Midi, Richard Robertson and Terry Nash; engineering, J.K. Loftin/Cape Fear Studios.
Cagle & Nash
If you’re not located in the Carolinas, you may not yet know about this Charlotte, N.C. duo, but Cagle & Nash are one of the best R&B acts around. Greg Cagle plays saxophone, guitar and sings lead vocals. Rick Nash plays a mean trumpet. Both are talented composers.
This soulful recording consists of 11 tracks and for my money, any one of them could be released as a single. Presentation throughout is solidly polished. This is pop meets old school and the result is spectacular. All songs on Soul Complete were written by Greg Cagle and Rick Nash.
The first song into it, I knew I was in for a treat. “Pick Up the Phone” is a jazzy piece that shows off the vocal talents of Greg Cagle, and Rick Nash – what a horn player!
The second track, “December,” boasts some equally rich horns. Also of note are the disc’s harmonies by Cagle and backup singers Robyn Springer and Jarrett Gillis.
Musicians on Soul Complete include: Greg Cagle (drum programming, saxophone, lead vocals, background vocals, guitar, bass, vibraphone), Rick Nash (trumpet), David Rhyne (percussion), Joe Miers (bass), Bobby Aycock (piano), Larry Gianneschi, Zach Wheeler, Greg Mitchell (alto sax), David Floyd (string arrangement, strings), Robyn Springer (lead and background vocals), Jarrett Gillis (background vocals), Tovaris Matthews (drums), Kenneth Leonard Jr. (piano), Steve McGuirt (drums), Bill Baucom (piano), Di Yonna Mitchell (lead vocal).
If you’re a fan of R&B, soul or pop, you’ll want to give this album a listen.
C&N is releasing another CD titled Loungevity later this month. I haven’t hear any of it yet, but I’m expecting big things.
Awendaw Green Records
I love the simplicity and authenticity of this CD. There’s virtually no digital manipulation. It’s just one lone acoustic bluesman singing, picking and stomping his own version of backwoods Delta blues.
Jeff Norwood is a superb storyteller. He doesn’t judge. He just tells it like it is – whether he’s singing about sex, race, religion, love, money or catfish, he just has a story to tell.
“Bad Ass Boogie” is “the way music was made, back in the woods, back in the day, everybody got high, everybody got laid, that was the tune that always got played, the bad ass boogie.”
“Walking Catfish Blues” really is about a big ole catfish walking around looking for love and something to eat.
“Horny Road” is the back country counterpart to suburbia’s Lover’s Lane, only the couples don’t stop.
In the same vein, “Shake” will transplant you to a street corner or a front porch on a sticky summer evening when temperatures and hormones are on the move.
Our faithful bard wrote all but one of Awendaw’s ten tracks. “Kokomo Blues” was written by North Mississippi blues guitarist/singer Fred McDowell (1904 – 1972).
Norwood, who grew up working on a S.C. farm, has paid his dues working some rough roadhouses and juke joints. Maybe that’s why he’s so matter of fact about his subject matter.
Awendaw, which is named for the small S.C. town where Norwood records, should be part of any serious blues collection.
I first heard this phenomenal performer at a club in Columbia, S.C. He was playing to a packed room – folks who knew the lyrics to every tune and the story behind it. It didn’t take me long to appreciate Edwards’ considerable vocal talent and songwriting skill. His voice is whiskey-edged velvet, tender and tough at the same time.
His latest CD, Everything Changes delivers the same kind of live energy and raw vocals that keep his fans coming back for more. As a songwriter, J Edwards ( and yes, his first name is J) wears his heart on his sleeve, and while his tunes aren’t necessarily autobiographical, he makes us believe they are.
The 11-track disc opens with a rockin’ Delbertesque number called “Junkyard of Love,” a song about a guy talking about a girl who’s maybe worked her way through most of the guys at the bar, and by the end of the tune, he’s going to get himself a “mechanic to start working out the kinks in his heart.” He’s ready to move on.
“Carole Ann” is a hauntingly sweet tune of life on the road. Edwards then picks up the pace for “Can’t Get Over You.”
“Lover’s Moon Over South Carolina,” is a road trip anthem with a special yen for heading home to South Carolina. It was voted in the top three at the Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guild of South Carolina songwriting competition.
Let yourself give in to “Skye.” Crank it up and go. It’s just plain fun.
Track seven, “Baby,” is going to take your breath away and fill you full of longing and sweetness until you just ache all over. This is that whiskey velvet I was talking about. Add to that, guitar work by Charles Funk … well, just wait for the goose bumps. They comin’.
Without even giving you time to recover, “If I Had To” is up next and it’s another tune that strips away the layers as you listen to it. Good stuff. Also called “Conner’s Song,” J was inspired by Columbia’s Chris Conner, lead singer for Sourwood Honey and later The South, who passed away in late 2007 of lung cancer.
“Use Me” takes the emotion from the previous two ballads and channels it into a rockin’ romp for the whole band.
Edwards’ songwriting ability is evident on “Catch Me,” a song of love and leaving and lamenting the contradiction of it all. The road warrior longs to stay but feels the constant pull toward the highway. As with most all J Edwards’ songs, powerful vocals combine with solid band performances.
All songs were written and performed by J Edwards (acoustic guitar). Other players include Charles Funk (acoustic, rhythm, lead guitars); Hesham Mostafa (bass guitar); Greg Bickley (keys on “Catch Me” and “Lover’s Moon;” Buddy Parker (keys on “Junkyard of Love;” Evan Simons (drums); Mike Marchbanks (drums on “If I Had To” and “Can’t Get Over You;” Erin Bates (background vocals on “Junkyard of Love”).
At this writing, the J Edwards Band has begun work on a new blues CD. They expect to be back in the studio by early March and hope for a summer release.
You simply can’t have a conversation about the hottest vocal groups to come out of the New York scene without including Little Anthony and the Imperials. Lead singer Anthony Gourdine gave a voice to teenage passion and angst back in the fifties and continues to push the boundaries of contemporary R&B today.
Gourdine was visiting the Grand Strand last week as part of a promotional tour, and I had the chance to talk to him about the man, the music and the upcoming Little Anthony and the Imperials concert recording at Myrtle Beach’s Palace Theater on Sunday, Sept 13.
I’m here to tell you that anyone who pigeonholes Anthony Gourdine as a blast from the past is missing the mark.
His – and the group’s – longevity in the business is due at least in part because they refused to let others define them. “I’ve always followed my instinct … don’t allow anyone to define me,” Anthony Gourdine told me emphatically, and it would become a theme of the afternoon’s conversation.
“I’m a creative human being, that’s what I am,” he went on to say. “I’m a singer. I’m an actor. I’m a writer. I’m working on a book right now, with a ghostwriter. I’m in a perpetual state of growth.
“My music teacher Mrs. Ethel Mannix was the first person to open me up to art. When other kids were out playing sports, I was listening to Beethoven.”
Gourdine’s father, who was a jazz musician himself, didn’t support the teenager’s interest in music. He felt the life was too hard.
But the budding vocalist was already friends with Clarence Collins, who founded the precursor to the Imperials – originally named the Chesters – when he was 13 years old. “It’s as though there was a hand on us, moving us in a certain way,” Anthony told me, “I like to think it was God himself. It’s destiny. I’ve always been an adventurer. My mother encouraged me in music.”
The young Imperials would have a record contract with End Records within a year, change their name to the Imperials, and have a double-sided hit record. The A side was “Tears On My Pillow” and the flip side hit was “Two People In the World.”
Also singing with the teenage Imperials was a second tenor named Ernest Wright. Amazingly, this core group – along with singer/choreographer Harold Jenkins, a member of Little Anthony and the Imperials and later the Imperials during the 70s – make up today’s innovative R&B group, Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary for the group. “People love survivors,” Anthony laughs, “and we are definitely survivors.”
Unlike so many other 50s vocal groups relegated to anachronistic reunion shows or tours, Little Anthony and the Imperials celebrate their past without living it all over again. A tangible example of this is You’ll Never Know, the group’s CD, produced by Clarence Collins and released in 2008. Clearly a labor of love, it pays homage to the past even as it reaches to the future.
The 12-track disc includes a combination of new jazz-driven arrangements of old favorites and original tunes that – in Anthony Gourdine’s words – are going to surprise people. The album’s featured single is Gourdine’s duet with Grammy award winner Deniece Williams, known for her pop R&B tunes including “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” her duet with Johnny Mathis.Also included is a new version of the 1964 hit “Hurt So Bad,” (performed during the group’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show), and it is definitely not the same old same old. A new arrangement by Mary Ekler leaves no question that that this group isn’t rehashing old material.
Talking about the CD, Gourdine said, “People will be surprised. It’s what happens when folks come to our shows. They’re surprised.”
Who are their fans, I wanted to know. “We’ve had an influx of people in their 30s and 40s, whose parents told them about us, and we have folks in their 50s and such. We’re a contemporary R&B group, so our fans are anyone who loves R&B.
Little Anthony and the Imperials were honored last year with induction into the Carolina Beach Music (CBMA) Hall of Fame.
“You know, we used to play the beach towns … quick gigs here and there … and we never realized we were part of building something … it’s humbling,” Anthony said.
Despite growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gourdine’s family is from the Charleston, S.C. area. “I think it’s in the DNA,” he told me, “because even though this isn’t my home, I feel at home. I hear the Geechee and I know it. I live in Las Vegas now, but it feels good to be on this tour through the Carolinas.”
The concert at the Palace Theater stands apart from the rest of the tour because this show is being recorded for broadcast purposes. Tickets are $45 and are available at the theater’s box office or online at www.palacetheatremyrtlebeach.com. The theatre is located at Broadway At the Beach. For more information, call toll-free 800-905-4228
In addition to the event at the Palace, the Carolina tour includes stops at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, N.C.; War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro, N.C.; Odell Williamson Auditorium at Brunswick Community College in Supply, N.C.; and other locations. S.C. shows include the Peace Center Concert Hall in Greenville, the Newberry Opera House and the North Charleston Performing Arts Center among others. For a complete schedule, log onto the website at http://www.littleanthonyandtheimperials.com or visit the group’s MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/littleanthonyandtheimperials.
Me, I can’t resist being part of history in the making. I’ll be front and center at the Palace Theater on Sept. 13. What song do I want to hear most? Surprise me, Anthony.
©2009 Dariel Bendin. All rights reserved. This will also be published in Beach Newz in Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine.
When Odell Mickens calls me, he’s on the turnpike returning from Philadelphia, where he’s just played organ at the funeral of his friend’s sister. His friend is Earl Young, legendary drummer and owner of the Trammps, known around the world for their 80s hit “Disco Inferno.”
Mickens has played bass guitar for the renowned disco and soul group for the past 23 years. Once working 300 nights out of the year, the Trammps now play – by choice – fewer than 40 gigs per year, mostly benefit concerts and disco events like the Disco Explosion Tour featuring the likes of KC & the Sunshine Band, the Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Evelyn Champagne King and Sister Sledge. They pack the house wherever they go.
Mickens wants to work more often, however, so five years ago he formed R&B group Wallstreet. The five-man band plays the New York City area, New Jersey, Delaware and the Carolinas whenever the Trammps aren’t on tour. Derrick Dupree (“Body Work” from the dance flick, Breakin’) handles lead vocals; Rich Nichols is on guitar; Pat Smith is the drummer; Rob McCoy plays bass; and Mickens is the group’s keyboard player.
“I’ve made my living playing bass,” says Odell, “But the organ is my first love. Put a Hammond B Three in front of me and I’m happy.”
Mickens first became interested in music as a teenager, “When I was about 15, I had a buddy whose dad was a jazz bass player. I learned how to play Wilson Pickett and I got into some James Brown grooves.
Still in high school, Odell and his buddy formed a band that played school events. “We didn’t go to any of our proms,” says Mickens, “because we were playing at them.
“I came up through the sixties during Motown and soul, but I gravitated toward the Beatles, Cream and the Stones because they were playing instruments. I remember seeing George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic. They had crazy outfits and guitars. They weren’t just standing there!
“I thought, “I want to do that! That was a big moment for me. That’s when I started taking it seriously.”
Odell’s high school band evolved into Exit Nine, an eight-piece horn band with a substantial following in Jersey.
“This was the eighties. We were the regular house band at this club in New Brunswick called The Cave. We’d pack about 2,000 people in there. The band would travel upstate New York or Scranton, Pa. for three weeks and then we’d play The Cave for the fourth week.
Performing at The Cave, Exit Nine opened for many big name bands including Cool & the Gang, Patti Labelle, the Commodores, BP Express and the Trammps.
“When we opened for the Trammps in the very early eighties, I became friendly with Earl Young, the band’s drummer and owner. He invited me to play bass with his band. In 1983, I went to Boston and I’ve been with the Trammps ever since. We’ve toured Europe, Canada, the Caribbean. Through the Trammps I also got to know Bunny Sigler, who wrote many of the big soul songs, some of them back as a staff writer at Gamble & Huff [which became Philadelphia International Records ca. 1970].He went on to say, “Working with Earl Young and Bunny Sigler has been invaluable.”
Young, considered by many to have invented disco drumming (using the Hi-Hat cymbal throughout the recording, which deejays liked because it helped them cue up the music), got into music publishing early in his career. Both Young and Grammy-nominated Walter “Bunny” Sigler are savvy musicians, writing and producing for themselves and other artists. Bunny Sigler was a co-writer for “Somebody Loves You Baby,” Patti Labelle’s million seller and he also wrote Instant Funk’s “I Got My Mind Made Up.”A true R&B pioneer, Sigler’s work has been sampled by Mary Kay Blige and other pop and R&B stars of today.
As Odell talks about playing with the Trammps, he laughs, “It’s funny to me that the Trammps recorded tunes like ‘Zing Went the Strings’ and ‘Sixty Minute Man,’ both big R&B hits, but it’s ‘Hold Back the Night’ that’s had the biggest impact in the Carolina beach music market.”
Mickens first played Myrtle Beach during the Trammps 2002 tour at nightclub 2001. He had already cut his single, “Finally Friday,” so he gave a copy to the deejay, who played it, liked it and sent it over to 94.9 The Surf in North Myrtle Beach.The song was then included on 120inc’s Soul Street compilation CD (2002). This was the beginning of a whole new fan base for Wallstreet.
Subsequent Wallstreet singles, all written by Odell Mickens, have also made it on various beach compilations. “The Little Things” was released on More Soul 4 (2004); “Closing Time”is on KHP’s Locals Too (2005).
Performing for the first time at the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival in 2007, the group was a runaway hit with beach music fans who loved the band’s “classic” beach sound and old R&B stylings.
Wallstreet’s next singles, “I’ve Got a Feeling and “Such a Beautiful Girl” were both included on KHP label’s Thinking About You (2008).
What’s next for Odell Mickens?
“Wallstreet is really looking forward to this year’s Festival in Charleston,” says Odell, “Harriett [Grady-Thomas] has been a blessing . . . a real treasure to us.” The band takes the stage in Charleston at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29 right after New York soul singer Angel Rissoff.
Mickens is also talking to Rissoff about working together in the New York-New Jersey area. “I hope we can make that happen,” Odell says, “We’re going to see what we can work out. There may be another Trammp tour coming up, too.
Wallstreet is currently in the studio working on their upcoming singles, “He and She” and “Something You Got,” with some production help from Bunny Sigler. Wallstreet Live In Concert is also in the works. Recordings for it will include some from the Myrtle Beach area.
If you’re into sizzling soul, order up some Odell Mickens and Wallstreet. They deliver.
This piece is also being published in the Beach Newz music column of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 18 – July 2, 2009, p. 24.
This Charleston band has been partying for years. Their main job is to have fun … and when they have fun everyone has fun. The popular dance band includes six sing-from-the-gut vocalists and the horn section is nothing to sneeze about either.
Bass player Jack Tankersley and Mike Shuler (guitar/vocals) founded the group in 1991. Both had been with the Rivieras. Jack was co-leader with Jimmy Hendricks, but left after a difference over which direction the band should take. Shuler followed shortly afterward and the two formed East Coast Party Band (ECPB). Jack serves as the day-to-day operations guy, handling bookings, costumes, song selection, etc. and Mike is his business partner, making decisions about the band.
Joel Reese (vocals/trumpet) and Mark Black (musical director/vocals/saxophone) make up the horn section. Jerry Polk (vocals/drums) was invited to join the band by his dad, the late Gerald Polk, who passed away in 2004.Prior to working with ECPB, The senior Polk had also been a member of the Swingin’ Medallions and the Melody Makers. Jason Moore (saxophone/keyboards) eventually replaced him. Rounding out the group are David Fuller (vocals/keyboards), James Moore (guitar/vocals), and Jack’s wife of 25 years, vocalist Beverly Tankersley.
Polk, who started playing drums professionally at age five, has performed with Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. David Fuller began playing the downtown nightclubs of his hometown, Mount Pleasant, when he was still a teenager. In Columbia, S.C. he joined Lion a band managed by deejay Woody Windham. The group was signed by Mainstream Records and enjoyed some regional success.
Originally from Clover, S.C.Mark Black grew up with music. The Black Brothers, his father’s family (including his aunt) performed locally and practiced in the basement. By age ten, Mark had decided that he would play the saxophone. After graduating from Appalachian State University, Mark joined the Fabulous Kays. He was a member of the Embers from 1996 to 2004, and signed on with ECPB as their musical director. For the past two years, he has also played with The Legends of Beach, made up of former Embers bandmates. A very successful studio musician, Mark is also known for producing two full-length documentaries that have aired on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.
Joel Reese has played trumpet with some of the best – Marvin Stamm, Rich Mattison, Bill Watrous and Roger Pemberton. And despite undergoing surgery for throat cancer in 1998, he’s still playing … and partying.
East Coast Party Band has recently been named as official ambassadors of Mount Pleasant, where they play on a regular basis. These ambassadors of fun will be at the Charleston Beach & Shag Music Festival at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 30. You won’t want to miss the party.
This piece is also being published in the Beach Newz music column of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 18 – July 2, 2009, p. 24.
Ready To Party (2009)
Label: KHP Records
Ready To Party, the dance-driven offering from KHP Music features 14 tracks designed to get you on your feet and groovin’ to the music. This is the collection produced in conjunction with the National R&B DJ Association and released in time for Spring S.O.S., the ten-day shag extravaganza held in North Myrtle Beach every year. The compilation includes music for shag, line dancing, bop and swing.
Overall I like this disc a lot. The tunes are a nice mix of originals and covers, which happily, are sufficiently obscure that listeners won’t feel as though they’re sifting through the recycle bin. Plus, the production value is consistently good, which isn’t always the case with compilations.
Opening track is Chicago soulman Lonne Givens’ take on “I’m Ready To Party,” which was written by Sidney Bailey and John Ward in the 80s. You may remember versions by both Ollie Nightengale and Billy Scott. KHP has changed the tempo a bit and added instruments to the arrangement. A great opener, it sets the tone for the whole album.
Band of Oz is in the number two slot with an Al Green tune – “Build Me Up.” This is already a big hit with shaggers in the Carolinas.
Track number three, “Help Yourself To Me,” is written, produced and performed by Nashville soul-blues artist Rickey Godfrey. Backup vocals are handled by brother Ronnie Godfrey and sister-in-law Kim Morrison Godfrey. The guitar solo is classic Rickey Godfrey. With horns inspired, in part, by Willie Tee’s “Thank You John,” this one is also climbing the shag charts.
Vicki Skinner’s “See You Later” is track four. If it sounds familiar, Dee De Sharp recorded it in the eighties, but Skinner’s version is sultrier and sexier. A great slow shag.
“Doot Dootsie Wah” from Little Isadore & the Inquisitors is filling dance floors up and down the east coast. It’s doo wop with an edge, hard to resist.
Track six is another tune already shakin’ things up, “We’re Tight,” a duet by the bluesy Rhonda McDaniel and soulman from another planet, Angel Rissoff a.k.a Little Leopold, formerly with Little Isadore. This is a remake of a 1966 Rufus Thomas duet with daughter Carla, on the Stax label.
King Tyrone and the Graveyard Ramblers bring us “You Ain’t Got No Sense,” written by front man and prolific songwriter Jim Quick. KHP recut the original and added some big band sound that will be a surprise to anyone familiar with Quick’s unique brand of rock and soul.
Mark Roberts & Breeze covers the 1972 tune, “Don’t Ever Be Lonely,” by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. It’s been rearranged very successfully with a shag beat. This is another tune that’s filling the dance floors.
“Mr. Zachary,” track nine, from the Taylor Manning Band, was written by Taylor Manning, who penned her first tune at 13 years old. Lead singer for the band, she follows her cover of “Mercy” last year with another hot dance tune.
The Magnificents cover the Aretha Franklin hit “‘Til You Come Back To Me,” which was co-written by Stevie Wonder and hit No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 3 on Billboard in 1973. As usual, the Magnificents live up to their name.
Smoothie lovers, the Out-of-Towners bring you an old favorite, “I’ve Got the World On a String,” made famous by Ole Blue Eyes in 1954. This is dance music.
Track 12, “She Pulled the Trigger,” a kind of funny racy number about being shot in the patooty is by Bobby Smith, of the Poor Souls. FYI, this is the on air mix, no naughty language.
Kenny Vance and the Planotones are up next with “Miss Annie.” Originally performed by doo wop group, the Plurals, in the fifties, this is Kenny Vance’s second mix on this song. According to the record label, he’s fattened it up a bit.
The Fabulous Kays are the closers, with “10 Pounds of Party”, written by the band’s Tony Pace. This uptempo tune is sure to please swing dancers west of the Mississippi.
Ready to Party is a lot of fun and I like it more with each play.
This will also be published in the entertainment section of Coast and Alternatives magazines(May 21 – Jun 4, 2009, p. 26) in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Rick Strickland is a prolific, sometimes obsessed songwriter. He tells me he writes a song most every day. In fact, when he and wife, Gail, sat down to document his total tally of tunes, it came to some 2,500.
“And some of them are pretty good,” he laughs, “so I shouldn’t ever run out of pieces to record.”
Good thing, because in August 2008, the award-winning musician decided to bring to life a long-time dream and form a totally new band. A seven-piece band.
A sessions player for more than 20 years, Strickland has recorded with and opened for some of the country’s top acts, including Carl Perkins, Todd Rundgren and B.B. King. He has also produced over 50 albums in a wide range of musical styles. His work has made it to the silver screen (Modern Love/1990) He has composed two productions for the Columbia City Ballet. He has performed at the Georgia Music Awards, backing Tommy Roe, Joe South and Ray Stevens. He was Billy Joe Royale’s musical director for three national tours.
In 2007, he received a CBMA award for Solo Album of the Year for ” Something Smooth, and in 2005, he took home Songwriter of the Year. Also in 2005, “Something Smooth,” the single was No. 1 on the beach charts for the entire year.
Rick had been so successful with his three-piece group, I wanted to know what motivated this major change.
“I had a great response to the trio,” agreed Rick, “But I started thinking about what else I could do. My attention span isn’t all that long! My wife got tired of listening to me talk about it and finally said, ‘Hey, you have access to some great players. Let’s make an A list.’ So we did. And they all said yes!”
The newly incarnated Rick Strickland Band includes Rick, of course, on lead vocals and – on occasion – guitar, bass and drums, (but he is best known for his four-octave vocal range). Lesa Hudson is on keyboards and vocals; Debbie Anderson, vocals and guitar; master of the B3, Art Benton on keyboard and vocals; Gary Bruce on guitar and vocals; Chris Grant, playing bass guitar; and Ken Lancaster on the drum kit.
The successful singer/songwriter isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, however. His new band continues to nurture its R&B roots, building on Strickland’s 20-year history as a singer, musician, composer and producer.
“We’re really leaning toward the soul side of the genre, all of us. But what’s different for me, in particular, about the new band,” explains Strickland, “is the interaction between human beings … instead of overdubbing.
“When we perform tunes from Island Soul [Rick’s 2007 CD], there’s more air around them now. The harmonies are perfect, but there’s more ‘give.’ We’re still going to deliver my ‘signature’ vocal harmony, but we’ll be showing off a little more in instrumentation.
“I love the collaboration among the players; they’re not just executing what I say. You know, when I first heard Lesa and Debbie at a music festival, it was their vocals that struck me … and why I called them.
“Well, turns out Lesa is also a songwriter AND she’s classically trained on the piano. She’s got a solo CD out with a single that’s currently No. 15 on the Christian-Country charts. And Debbie, besides being one of the best harmony singers around is a very solid rhythm guitarist.”
What about Art Benton, I wanted to know. I knew from an earlier interview that Art played keyboard on Island Soul and I knew he had played with a group called the Pallbearers, who had two national hits on Fontana and Delphi Records.
“Art is the best keyboardist I’ve ever worked with. He’s equally at home in the studio or on stage. He is an incredibly tasteful and sensitive player who has a knack for fining the sweet spot in any arrangement.
I used to play a solo gig at Brinsen’s in Charleston, near Folly Beach,” Rick went on to tell me. “Art kept showing up and leaving me business cards. He was repairing dialysis equipment next door (We call him MacGyver, by the way). He kept giving me his card, but I was kind of cynical. When the Something Smooth CD came out, I was with 120inc and Mike Farver kept telling me we needed to do some live gigs. I needed a keyboard player. I had Art’s latest card, but before I called him, I happened to ask Steve Wiggins [five-time Grammy nominee, lyricist and lead singer for Big Tent Revival] if Art was any good. ‘Hell yeah,’ came the response. Art Benton is the B3 player from Heaven.’ Well, that was three years ago, and we’ve been working together ever since.”
Guitarist Gary Bruce is known regionally for his work in bands like Second Nature, Mama’s Home Cookin’, The Blue Chip Band and Fresh Air.
The guitarist said, “I’ve known Rick since about 1975. We always had a good chemistry going and talked about playing together, but sometimes these things don’t work out right away. Other commitments get in the way. We’ve been able to work together over the past couple years, and, when he called about the new band, the time was right. I was still playing with Fresh Air, but ready to make a move.”
Says Rick, “I was working with White Witch, fresh from playing bass on tour when I met Gary, so we’ve known each other a long time now. Gary, like Art, is great on stage and in the studio. That’s Gary doing the acoustic guitar solo for “Best Love” on Island Soul. He’s also one of the most sought after guitar teachers in the southeast. He perpetually has a waiting list of 50 to 100 potential students.”
Drummer Ken Lancaster has played with R&B group, North Tower, the Okaysions and Nashville’s Clifford Curry. Strickland says, “Ken has an incredible sense of meter, sort of like a human metronome. Playing with him and Chris [bassist Chris Grant] is like sitting down in a big easy chair.
“I first met him the year I won the solo album award. He was working with the PA company doing the awards show.”
Ken adds, “I was a stagehand. I wanted to get in with a band, so I was listening to all of them, and I gave Rick my card.
“‘You’ve got good timing,’ Rick told me. Well, a year or so went by, and I saw him again. ‘You’ve got good timing, ‘ Rick told me again, only this time I auditioned. Rick is awesome. I’ve been in the Charlotte area, but I’m moving to Charleston next month. I love what we’re doing.
“I love eighties metal and beach music.”
Did I just hear right? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Ken is laughing on the other end of the telephone, “I can’t help it. I’ve always loved the metal stuff but I relate to beach music. It reminds me of family times at the outer Banks when I was a kid. I’m infatuated with the whole beach scene. I even shag a little”
The latest addition to the group is bass player Chris Grant, who Rick says is “smooth and solid, but has chops when the song calls for it.” Chris toured and recorded for several years with N.C. blues legend Skeeter Brandon, who passed away just over a year ago. He’s also worked with Big Bill Morgenfield, son of Muddy Waters, and blues guitarist Jimmy Thackery.
The new Rick Strickland Band is making its debut on Saturday night, April 25, at the Spanish Galleon in North Myrtle Beach during S.O.S. Spring Safari, the annual ten-day celebration of shag dancing and beach music, the regional sub-category of the R&B genre.
“We’ll be going into the studio almost immediately after that,” said Strickland. “We are excited about putting a band album out. It’s gonna be great.”
I have to agree.
Rev. Bubba D Liverance
Let My Peoples Dance (2008)
Label: Ain’t Bad Records
You know you’re in for some fun when the guy’s name is Rev. Bubba D Liverance, his band is called the Cornhole Prophets and the CD is titled Let My Peoples Dance. What you may not know until you pop it into the player however is the topnotch songwriting, musicianship and production quality of this disc.
Take your cues from the title, and get ready to boogie. Opener and title track, “Let My Peoples Dance” is a cleverly written shout out to the masses to take a minute to feel the beat and shake your bootie. “That’s What You Do” is a very danceable soul tune penned by Bubba and Sam Hankins. According to the good reverend, it was written in the same mold as “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” by the Swingin’ Medallions where the writer’s so affected by a girl, her lovin’ made him turn flips, shout out loud and finally made him pass out. In this tune, her lovin’ has him “speaking in tongues.”
The swingin’ “My Baby’s a Seafood Platter”(Rusty McHugh/Wild Okra Music ASCAP) is one of just two not written or co-written by Rev. Bubba. “Ain’t No American Idol” is the rev’s initiation of a backlash against American Idol. He thinks they should have better finalists. In “Mo Better,” Bubba’s affection for 60s soul and R&B is apparent. “If You Can’t Shag” is one of the most popular – and controversial – tracks on the CD. The full lyric is “If you can’t shag, get your ass out of Carolina.” It was reportedly inspired by an eighth grade South Carolina requirement to learn the State dance – the shag. Can that be true? If you can’t shag, you can’t graduate from eighth grade?
By the way, the horns are none other than the Memphis Horns: Wayne Jackson (trumpet); Donnie Sanders (sax); and Carl Hale (trombone). Yep, the very same Memphis Horns from Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” and Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds.” Musicians include Bubba D Liverance (guitar/vocals); Sam Hankins (guitar/vocals) Jane Rhodes (keyboard/vocals); Jonas Schultz (keyboard/saxophone/vocals); Austin Solomon (bass) Russell Garner (drums/percussion). DB. April 7, 2009.
A version of this post will be published in the entertainment section of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue April 9 – 23, 2009, p. 26.