Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nappy Brown - Don't Be Angry (Savoy 1155)

Don't Be Angry


A giant of early R&B, Nappy Brown was just a huge influence on everybody from Ray Charles to Jackie Wilson. Convinced by Savoy Records chief Herman Lubinsky to leave his Gospel past behind him, he began singing the devil's music in 1954. This monster hit we have here spent 15 weeks on the R&B charts in 1955, including 3 weeks in the number two slot, held there by Little Walter's My Babe and Brother Ray's I've Got A Woman. If it sounds a little like the records Atlantic was cutting across the river, that's probably due to the presence of Sam 'The Man' Taylor, the elemental sax man on so many of their great sides. Brown's smokin' 1957 version of (Night Time Is) The Right Time preceded Charles' smash by a couple of years (not to mention our man Lattimore Brown's 1961 cover), and further illustrates what a pioneer he was. He toured constantly throughout the fifties, and it was his full-bodied vocal style and fabled stage antics that helped lay the groundwork for Soul.

After reportedly spending some time behind bars in the sixties, Nappy kind of disappeared from the public eye for a couple of decades before he came roaring back on the Blues circuit in the 1980s, recording albums for Landslide, Black Top and New Moon. Just last September, his Blind Pig release Long Time Coming was nominated for a Blues Music Award, and Nappy was featured as the cover story in an issue of Living Blues. He was back on the road, touring Europe that fall.

According to Wikipedia; "At the ceremony for the Blues Music Awards in May of 2008, Brown gave one last electrifying performance, capping an incredible comeback year." Well, as fate would have it, I believe that I actually witnessed his final performance at the Crawfish Festival in New Jersey on June 1st. He gave it his best shot, but It was obvious that he wasn't well, and he all but collapsed as he left the stage. Nappy was hospitalized for a 'multitude of illnesses' later that month, illnesses which finally took him home this past Saturday.

Funeral services will take place at St. Paul's Baptist Church in Brown's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina this coming Saturday, September 27th at I pm.

It Don't Hurt No More.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Earl Palmer - Honky Tonk Part II (Liberty 55356)

Honky Tonk Part II


"He was my right hand. He was a professor of music... it's like I died myself." - Dave Bartholomew

Earl Palmer joined Bartholomew's band in 1947, and it was his drums on Fats Domino's 1949 breakthrough record, The Fat Man, that essentially created Rock & Roll. As the number one session man at Cosimo's J&M Studio there on Rampart Street, the big beat he laid down on seminal records by Fats, Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price and, of course, Little Richard changed the face of American music forever.

In 1957 he was lured to the west coast by Eddie Mesner of Aladdin Records. Once he got there, he found as much work as he could handle, continuing to cut Domino's big hits for Imperial, and working with the newly 'crossed-over' Sam Cooke. Within a few years, he had established himself as the 'first call' stick man in Los Angeles, recording with everyone from Sinatra to The Beach Boys... Count Basie to Tom Waits. He was an integral part of Phil Spector's 'wall of sound', and that's him playing on songs like You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling and River Deep, Mountain High. The list of soundtracks he worked on for both film and television out in Hollywood are too numerous to mention, but included personal favorites like The Flinstones and Mission Impossible.

This cool single we have here is taken from Drumsville!, a 1961 album he cut for Liberty Records. It was produced by the label's A&R man, Snuff Garrett, the guy who had 'discovered' Buddy Holly down in Texas, and gave Brill Building hack Phil Spector his first job out on the coast. That's fellow New Orleans transplant Plas Johnson blowing that wild sax and, even though it's a little too heavy on that sixties bachelor pad vibe for me, Earl's drums are right there in the pocket.

Just like they always were.

May He Rest In Peace.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Temptations - Cloud Nine (Gordy 7081)

Cloud Nine


Motown giant Norman Whitfield passed away this past Tuesday. The music he left behind him will live on forever.

In 1966 he replaced Smokey Robinson as the producer of The Temptations, and sent a song he had written for them with Eddie Holland all the way to #1 R&B, where it would sit for two months. Ain't Too Proud To Beg remains one of the truly great songs of our time and, like a cannon shot across the bow of American popular music, it let the world know that Norman Whitfield had arrived. Whitfield and Holland would provide the group with three more #1 smashes, (I Know) I'm Losing You, Beauty Is Only Skin Deep and I Can't Get Next To You, but Norman wasn't through.

He teamed up with Barrett Strong to form a songwriting team whose output just boggles the mind. They would write all time classics like:

Which were all, of course, #1 hits.

This incredible single we have here today was released around Thanksgiving in 1968. It only made it to #2, because Johnnie Taylor's monster Who's Making Love (produced at Stax by Detroit transplant Don Davis) still owned the top spot that fall. I was in the ninth grade when it came out and it spoke in many ways to where I was coming from back then - " ain't got no responsibilities!" I heard that. It remains one of my favorite songs ever (check out Dennis Coffey!).

The monumental work that Norman would go on to produce with the Temptations on Whitfield-Strong compositions like Runaway Child Running Wild, Ball Of Confusion, Psychedelic Shack, and the mighty, mighty Papa Was A Rollin' Stone sound just as powerful to me today as when I first heard them on the radio back in high school.

Thank You, Mr. Whitfield for a job well done. May you rest in peace.

Monday, September 08, 2008

O.V. Wright - You're Gonna Make Me Cry (Back Beat 548)

You're Gonna Make Me Cry

The news is out...

NOVEMBER 15th, 8pm

That's right folks, we are going ahead with our plans to hold a very special night of music in Memphis this fall in conjunction with the dedication of the memorial at O.V.'s final resting place. After many months of behind the scenes work, we are pleased to announce that the event will take place at Morgan Freeman's brand new Ground Zero Blues Club downtown on Saturday, November 15th.

With accompaniment provided by the one and only Hi Rhythm, we will be celebrating the timeless music they helped create with O.V. and Willie Mitchell. We are in the process of working out the rest of the details, and will post more information about the show here as it becomes available...

This cool 45 is O.V.'s first hit after he left Goldwax. Recorded at Royal in those pre-Hi Rhythm days, note the very cool Reggie Young guitar.

Amazing stuff.