Jimmy Hughes - Neighbor, Neighbor (Fame 1003)
Here's the hit 45 version of Neighbor, Neighbor that charged into the R&B top five in 1966. Jimmy Hughes told me on the phone that Ray Stevens was the guy who came in and 'funked it up' on this re-recorded version of a Huey Meaux tune that was released as an album track two years before.
Ray Stevens? Like, Everything Is Beautiful Ray Stevens?
Well, I did a little digging around and found out a few things.
As a young station manager at WGST in Atlanta, Bill Lowery started up his own publishing company in the early fifities. He held the rights to Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula when it broke wide open in 1956, which helped him expand into all aspects of the business. In 1958, Lowery founded the National Recording Corporation (NRC), which would include his own record pressing plant, distributorship and studio. He hired some young musicians, and formed a top-notch rhythm section that included Jerry Reed, Joe South and, yes, Ray Stevens. He was affiliated with many area record labels, most notably JUDD, which was run by Sam Phillips' brother, Jud. By late 1961, for whatever reason, the company went bankrupt, and lost its studio and all its assets.
After re-organizing, Lowery got wind of Rick Hall's studio in Muscle Shoals, a few hours drive away. He got his band back together and began making the trip to cut some sides on a new vocal group he had signed called The Tams, who would break into the R&B top ten in early 1964 with What Kind Of Fool (Do You Think That I Am). Lowery brought his crew with him, which by then also included Felton Jarvis and Tommy Roe. His musicians worked side by side with Hall's 'first rhythm section' of Norbert Putnam, Jerry Carrigan and David Briggs, and cut some great records in the process.
It was these 'city boys' that put the idea into the heads of the homegrown talent that they could be making a lot more money in Nashville, as there was always plenty of session work to go around. Eventually the local boys left, and went on to their own incredible heights in Music City. Hall just kind of shrugged it off, and fashioned a new rhythm section that would, some say, dwarf the accomplishments of the first one.
They were young, though, and it took a while for people coming in from the outside to put their trust in them. When Buddy Killen cut Joe Tex there, he brought in some member's of Joe's road band and, as we all know, Jerry Wexler brought in Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill to work on the early Fame recorded Atlantic sides.
Rick Hall, apparently, did the same thing.
This positively crankin' record we have here today was released on May 28, 1966. According to our compadre Bob Wilson, John R was all over it, and played it on his show all summer long. The song just knocked Bob out, and he made sure he tuned in to WLAC just so he could hear it. When he ended up becoming Richbourg's session leader in Nashville, he 'went nuts' when John told him that they were going to Fame to record Joe Simon in 1967. The first question he asked Rick Hall was; "Who played the guitar on Neighbor, Neighbor?" "Joe South," Rick said.
Joe South? Like, Games People Play Joe South?
Yes, indeed. It would appear then, judging by what Jimmy Hughes said about Ray Stevens being there, and what Rick told Wilson over forty years ago, that the rocking, funky band on here must be Bill Lowery's NRC crew, rocking it all the way into the top five.