News for the ‘R’n’B/Soul’ Category

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #90 – Labelle: “Lady Marmalade” b/w “Space Children”– Epic 8-50048

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #90 – Labelle: “Lady Marmalade” b/w “Space Children”– Epic 8-50048

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”

With that one line from today’s jukebox classic, American music fans were introduced to a certain creole lady of the night and also got a French lesson. At the same time, America also discovered the wonders of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, who collectively went under the moniker of Labelle.

Labelle was not a new entity in the music business. The group formed in the 1960s in Philadelphia under the name The Blue Belles with the same lineup as above, plus Cindy Birdsong (who went on become a member of Diana Ross and The Supremes). They scored several soulful doo wop flavored ballads that highlighted Patti’s huge set of pipes including “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song),” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Over the Rainbow.”

The group changed their name to Labelle after Birdsong left for The Supremes in 1967 and shared co-billing with Laura Nyro on her Gonna Take A Miracle, album which in my estimation is one of the greatest records ever recorded. (If you’ve never heard this album, stop reading and go to Spotify immediately!) By 1974, the group changed their persona and became an outlandish funk group. The group’s sexually infused personality and freaky party attire made them huge with the Gay community, and to this day, Patti LaBelle is still one of their main divas.

“Lady Marmalade” was written by Bob Crewe, who also wrote most of the Four Seasons’ biggest hits with Bob Gaudio, and Kenny Nolan, who along with Crewe wrote Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You” and many others. The track was produced by none other than recently-passed New Orleans’ favorite son, Allen Toussaint, who wrote numerous hits including “Working In The Coalmine,” “Yes We Can-Can,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights” and “Mother-In-Law,” to name but a few. He is also heard playing piano on the track.

Labelle was not the first group to take a crack at recording the song. It was originally recorded by Nolan’s group, Eleventh Hour in 1974. It was Toussaint who chose the song for Labelle’s chart-topping album Nightbirds. The song topped the R&B and Pop Singles charts in 1975, knocking out another Crewe and Nolan’s composition, “My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli from the top slot.

The song saw a resurgence in popularity in 2001 when it topped the charts again after it was recorded by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, and Pink. That version was produced by Missy Elliott for the soundtrack to the film Moulin Rouge. It went on to win the 2001 Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. It is the only song to top the U.S. and UK charts twice. The song was also covered by All Saints (who topped the UK charts with it), Sheila E., the disco group Boogie Knights and Lords Of Acid.

The aforementioned hook of the song, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” which translates to “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?,” was originally spoken in the play A Streetcar Named Desire by the character Blanche DuBois. When LaBelle performed the song on TV, they were forced to change the famous line to “Voulez-vous danser avec moi, ce soir?” which means “Do you want to dance with me tonight.”

Patti Labelle: “I swear I had no idea for a while what it meant, until I asked Bob Crewe, who recorded it, ‘what’s voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?’ He told me, ‘Oh gosh’, I said, ‘what will my mother think?’” (New Musical Express via Songfacts.com)

By 1977, Labelle’s popularity began to decline and all three members went their separate ways, each scoring hits on their own. Today, Patti LaBelle is still the most visible member of the group and has rightfully held on to her title as Diva.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

I’ve posted the whole album here for your listening pleasure!

Edited: December 1st, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circles” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circles” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

He truly was the fifth Beatle…he was also a Rolling Stone, and Billy Preston also did numerous sessions with a stellar cast of characters that included Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Richard, Sly & The Family Stone, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and dozens of others. He also co-wrote Joe Cocker’s smash hit “You Are So Beautiful” and sent hits like “Space Race,” “Outa-Space,” “Nothing From Nothing,” “With You I’m Born Again” (with Syreeta Wright) and today’s jukebox classic, “Will It Go Round In Circles” up the charts.

The list of albums he’s appeared on reads like a history of classic rock ‘n’ roll including The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Love You Live, Black And Blue and Tattoo You, The Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Concert For Bangla Desh, Dark Horse, Extra Texture, Thirty-Three & 1/3 and Gone Troppo, and Ringo Starr’s Ringo and Goodnight Vienna. He was, indeed the Forrest Gump of keyboards to the biggest bands in the land. And if that’s not enough, he was also the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live, he inspired Miles Davis who named a song after him on his Get Up With It album, and he also coined the phrase “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” for Stephen Stills.

Preston first came into The Beatles’ circle back in 1962 when he was a sixteen year old touring member of Little Richard’s band. But it wasn’t until 1969 when George Harrison walked out on the Let It Be sessions, and returned with Preston in tow in an effort to get the other three fabs to be on their best behavior during the acrimonious sessions that led to their last two albums as a group. At one point, John Lennon suggested that they add Preston as the fifth member of the band to which McCartney quipped that four Beatles were bad enough. (The Beatles – A/B Road: The Complete Get back Sessions, January 24th via Wikipedia)

“George Harrison, a friend of Preston, had quit, walked out of the studio and gone to a Ray Charles concert in London, where Preston was playing organ. Harrison brought Preston back to the studio, where his keen musicianship and gregarious personality temporarily calmed the tension.” (Harrington, Richard (June 8, 2006). “‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston Made the Greats Even Greater”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-02 via Wikipedia)

Preston was signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label where he launched his solo career in 1969 with the gospel single “That’s The Way God Planned It” and the album of the same name that were both produced by George Harrison. After a second Apple LP release went nowhere, Preston signed with A&M Records where he found his greatest solo success.

Today’s jukebox classic was one of two chart-topping singles Billy Preston recorded (“Nothing From Nothing” was the other). The song was written by Bruce Fisher, who was working in the mail room of NBC-TV. Inspiration for the song came after Preston walked into the writing session and told Fisher “I got a song that ain’t got no melody.” The song was originally released on his 1972 solo album Music Is My Life that featured the musicianship of The Brothers Johnson (George Johnson on guitar and Louis Johnson on bass), and a horn section that included Tom Scott and Jim Horn. The flip of today’s single is Preston’s gospel-flavored cover of the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird.”

During his later years, Preston served time in prison for tax evasion and suffered from kidney disease and high blood pressure. He died in June of 2006 after several months in a coma of malignant hypertension which caused his kidneys to shut down and respiratory failure.

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: October 27th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #76 – Martha and the Vandellas: “Wild One” b/w “Dancing Slow”– Gordy 7036 (L8/M8)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #76 – Martha and the Vandellas: “Wild One” b/w “Dancing Slow”– Gordy 7036 (L8/M8)

Today’s Song of the Day is the second single in the jukebox by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. As a result, I will pick up some of the biographical information I wrote about the group from my piece on “Jimmy Mack” (Jukebox Series #23) for this article.

Martha and the Vandellas was one of the most successful girl groups to come out of Motown. Unlike The Supremes, the Vandellas’ sound was far grittier and more danceable than the sugary pop that catapulted The Supremes to fame. Their list of classic hits includes “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Come And Get These Memories,” “Quicksand,” “Live Wire,” “Jimmy Mack,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” and their signature single “Dancing in the Street.”

Today’s jukebox classic was not one of Martha and the Vandellas’ biggest hits, but it is one that has a distinctive uptown Brill Building sound to it, by way of Detroit. The song was written by William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter who also were two of the three songwriters of the group’s defining hit “Dancing In The Street.” In fact, the backing track to this song was an alternate version of the backing track to “Dancing In The Street,” with the crucial difference of a heavily boosted drum track that sends the record into the dance floor stratosphere.

The song climbed to #11 on the R&B charts, but only placed at #34 on the Hot 100 singles chart. However, don’t let the somewhat anemic chart stats fool you; this song is every bit as potent as their biggest hits with its larger than life drum sound, tinny AM radio horn charts, and of course, the sultry vocal talents of Martha Reeves. The song was a tribute to bikers and was inspired by The Shangri-Las’ “Leader Of The Pack” and The Crystals’ “He’s A Rebel.”

Personnel on the track includes Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly, William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Joe Hunter on background vocals, with instrumentation by various members of Motown’s session group The Funk Brothers, including Benny Benjamin on drums, James Jamerson on bass, Jack Ashford and Ivy Jo Hunter on percussion and Robert White and Eddie Willis on guitar.

The song was included on The Vandellas’ 1965 Dance Party album, as was the flip of today’s jukebox classic “Dancing Slow.” The album centered on a clutch of singles that were released during the previous year including the hits “Dancing In The Street” and “Come And Get These Memories,” plus the popular album track “Motoring.”

The flip of today’s single, “Dancing Slow” was a supper club ballad that was supposed to cast Martha Reeves in a new light as a nightclub performer. Around this time, Diana Ross and The Supremes scored three consecutive chart-topping singles, so Motown did not want The Vandellas’ to compete on the charts with the label’s new superstar group (even though Martha Reeves could sing circles around Diana Ross). As a result, the group was sent to the studio during the summer of 1964 to record a selection of MOR pop ballads, Broadway tunes and standards for a supper club album that never saw the light of day. Ultimately, The Supremes went on to become Motown’s biggest recording act, pushing Martha and the Vandellas to the side and ultimately off the label.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 27th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #73 – Aretha Franklin: “Day Dreaming” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Atlantic 45-2866 (E8/F8)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #73 – Aretha Franklin: “Day Dreaming” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Atlantic 45-2866 (E8/F8)

Today’s jukebox classic is a self-penned nugget from Aretha Franklin’s classic Young, Gifted and Black album. The song features some of the most lilting and sensuous vocals Reethy ever captured on record.

Young, Gifted and Black was Aretha’s most consistent platter and it captured her at her absolute prime in a year that saw the release of classic soul albums like Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly, Al Green’s I’m So In Love With You and Let’s Stay Together, Bill Withers’ Still Bill and Cymande’s self-titled debut. Amongst its tune stack are the hit singles “Rock Steady” and “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool for You Baby),” along with today’s song “Day Dreaming.” The album won Aretha her sixth Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Female Artist in 1973.

“Day Dreaming” was released in 1972 and climbed to #5 on the pop charts, while topping the Hot Soul Singles charts for two weeks and selling over a million copies. The track features Donny Hathaway on electric piano, jazz great Hubert Laws on flute, session greats Chuck Rainey and Cornell Dupree on guitar and Bernard Purdie on drums. It was produced by the Atlantic Records supreme team of Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd and it has been covered by the likes of Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Will Downing, Corinne Bailey Rae and many others.

The subject of Aretha’s day dreaming was said to be Temptations singer Dennis Edwards, however Franklin has never disclosed who the man of her day dreams really was. Franklin: “’Day Dreaming’ was rather personal and I was thinking about someone who used to be a friend of mine. I’ll give you a hint. Used to be with one of the hottest groups in the country, tall, dark and fine. ‘OOOOwww wooo wooo wheee!” – he could sing!” (Aretha Franklin: The Queen Of Soul by Mark Bego via songfacts.com)

The song was released during the height of the singer songwriter era casting Aretha Franklin in a new light as one of the most influential female singer songwriters of the day, along with Roberta Flack, Carole King and Carly Simon who composed and performed their own material.

The flip of today’s single is Aretha’s take on the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” which originally appeared on his Otis Blue album in 1965. The song was written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler, who also recorded his own version. Aretha’s cover was also included on Young, Gifted and Black. The song has been covered by a myriad of artists including The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Ike and Tina Turner, Etta James, The Tindersticks, Joe Cocker and Seal.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 14th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #72–Curtis Mayfield: “Freddie’s Dead” b/w “Underground” – Curtom CR-1975 (C8/D8)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #72–Curtis Mayfield: “Freddie’s Dead” b/w “Underground” – Curtom CR-1975 (C8/D8)

They called them “Blaxploitation” films. They were films that were created specifically for the African American urban market during the early 1970s. They weren’t known for their story lines or for the greatest acting, but they were chock full of action, and they were soundtracked by some of the greatest soul artists of all time.

No list of great Blaxploitation soundtracks would be complete without Across 112th Street by Bobby Womack, Shaft by Isaac Hayes and Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye. And then there were dozens of “second tier” films and soundtracks that were not as well known, but had their musical moments of potency including Black Caesar by James Brown, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadass Song by Melvin Van Peeples, The Mack by Willie Hutch and Together Brothers by Barry White. Perhaps the finest Blaxploitation soundtrack of them all is Super Fly by Curtis Mayfield, where not coincidentally, today jukebox classic comes from.

Super Fly was directed by Gordon Parks, Jr. and starred Ron O’Neal as an African cocaine dealer. It is one of the few Blaxploitation films where the soundtrack out grossed its parent film. The soundtrack was released in 1972 on Curtis Mayfield’s own Curtom record label and spawned two million-selling singles, including the title track which climbed to #8 on the pop charts and #5 on the soul charts, and today’s jukebox classic “Freddie’s Dead,” which placed at #4 on the pop charts and #2 on the black singles charts in 1972 before the release of the film. Additionally, the soundtrack also included the song “Pusherman” which also garnered significant airplay and would not be out of place on any Curtis Mayfield greatest hits collection.

Like Marvin Gaye’s colossal What’s Goin’ On from the same period, the album featured socially conscious lyrics that reflected the reality of inner city life which were an anomaly for the times. When it was released, record company brass at Buddah (which distributed Curtom Records) didn’t believe the record would sell, however the album ultimately topped the pop charts for four weeks and the black charts for six weeks.

Interestingly, the song was only featured in the film as an instrumental which kind of makes sense since the song’s stance is decidedly anti-drug use, while the film centers on the doings of a bad-ass drug dealer. As a result, it was not eligible for an Academy Award nomination because the lyrics were not heard in the film. The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, but lost out to The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.”

Personnel on the single includs Curtis Mayfield on vocals and guitar, Joseph Lucky Scott on bass, Master Henry Gibson on percussion, Morris Jennings on drums and Craig McMullen on guitar. It has been covered by Fishbone, MFSB, The Derek Trucks Band and E.U.

The flip of today’s single features an atmospheric spoken intro that morphs into a scuzzy lowdown, sinister vibe with a spiraling guitar figure. It’s a sound that only Mayfield could pull together with his otherworldly falsetto. It was culled from his previous album, Roots which was released in 1971.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 8th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #65–The Drifters: “On Broadway” b/w “I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes” – Atlantic Oldies Series OS-13013 (J7/K7)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #65–The Drifters: “On Broadway” b/w “I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes” – Atlantic Oldies Series OS-13013 (J7/K7)

It was one of the greatest songs to emanate from the Brill Building in New York City, and it was recorded by The Drifters, one of the greatest R&B groups of all time. “On Broadway” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, with an assist from Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, four of the most hit-laden songwriters to come out of the hallowed halls of the Brill Building. The story behind the song’s inception exemplifies the creative and collaborative spirit of the writers who were also very much in competition with each other.

The Brill Building sound actually came from two buildings. There was the actual Brill Building at 1619 Broadway where Lieber and Stoller had their offices, and there was the offices of Aldon Music which were housed at 1650 Broadway. Weil and Mann worked at Aldon Music and originally recorded versions of “On Broadway” with The Cookies and The Crystals. Lieber and Stoller, who were housed at 1650 Broadway had booked a recording session the day after The Cookies’ session in the same studio and put word out that they were still looking for one more song for The Drifters to record. Weil and Mann forwarded “On Broadway” to Lieber and Stoller who liked it, but wanted to make some changes. An all-night writing session ensued with all four songwriters, culminating in a simpler rhythm and different lyrics.

Cynthia Weil: “We originally wrote “On Broadway” for a group called The Cookies. Our friends Carole King and Gerry Goffin were writing for them and Gerry was producing and they were short one song. Barry had this concept of writing a “Gershwinesque” pop song and I, being a Broadway fanatic wanted to write a lyric about my favorite street and all it stood for. The ideas seemed to mesh so we wrote the first version of “On Broadway.” The Cookies and later The Crystals cut it but neither record was released. Then our publisher told us that Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller were looking for songs for The Drifters. We played them our song and they thought we needed to make some changes for their group. They said we could go home and work on it or rewrite it with them. We idolized them and jumped at the chance to team up. Using the basic melody that Barry had written and my opening lines all we created the “On Broadway” that went on to be a hit by The Drifters and George Benson.” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil Website – http://www.mann-weil.com)

The Drifters had an ever-changing lineup (hence the group’s name) that included three main lead vocalists in succession. Their original lead vocalist was Clyde McPhatter who was with the group for one year and sang on the hits “Such A Night,” “Money Honey,” “Lucille” and “Honey Love.” The second main incarnation of the group featured Ben E. King who sang on the hits “There Goes My Baby,” “Dance With Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “I Count The Tears” and “Save The Last Dance For Me.” After King’s departure for a solo career, Rudy Lewis came on board and lent his golden tones to “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “Up on the Roof” and today’s jukebox classic. Lewis was with the group from 1961 until his untimely death in 1964.

The musicians on the track included Phil Spector who played the guitar solo, Joe Newman and Ernie Royal on trumpet, Billy Butler, Bill Suyker and Everett Barksdale on guitar, Russ Savakus on Bass, Gary Chester on Drums and Phil Kraus, Nick Rodriguez and Martin Grupp on percussion. The song appeared on the group’s 1964 album Under The Boardwalk which featured Rudy Lewis’ last recordings with the group before his death, and the emergence of their next lead singer Johnny Moore, who had been McPhatter’s temporary successor in the 1955 incarnation of the group. (The numerous lineup changes within The Drifters are confusing to say the least and I won’t delve much farther into this here.)

The song reached the #9 position on the pop charts in 1963 and it was covered by George Benson, whose smooth jazz rendition brought it back to the top ten of the charts in 1978. The song has also seen covers by The Coasters, The Dave Clark Five, Eric Carmen, Bobby Darin, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Gary Numan, Tito Puente, Lou Rawls, Neil Young, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra and Sly & The Family Stone. Both David Bowie and Genesis quoted the melody and lyrics of this ever popular favorite in their respective songs “Aladdin Sane” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.”

The flip of today’s single is “I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes” was written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick who also wrote “Under the Boardwalk.” This sequel is strongly reminiscent of “Under the Boardwalk,” and just as good, to boot! It’s got a great guitar line at the front of the tune, and it appeared on The Drifters’ 1965 album I’ll Take You Where the Music’s Playing. The personnel on the track includes Johnny Moore on lead vocals, Charles Thomas on tenor vocals, Eugene Pearson on baritone vocals, John Terry on bass vocals and Billy Davis on guitar. The album was the first Drifters record to be released after the death of Rudy Lewis.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: August 17th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

There’s always been a fine line between country and soul music (i.e. Charley Pride), but never has the line been so thin than on today’s Song of the Day. “Take A Letter Maria,” by R.B. Greaves features a soulful mariachi-flavored horn part that would fit comfortably on both a country and soul track.

The song was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama featuring their crack studio crew including Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett on electric piano, Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitars, David Hood on bass and Mel Lastie on trumpet. Most of the musicians on the record had recently broken away from FAME studios where they were featured on many Atlantic recordings to start out on their own.

David Hood: “It was our first big hit. First gold record after we had gone out on our own. We were getting pretty nervous, because we thought Atlantic was going to quit using us and we were going to go broke. So it was a big relief when R.B. Greaves came along. ‘Take a Letter, Maria’ was just a fluke. We all thought it was good when we cut it, but we didn’t think it was anything all that special. And here it becomes a hit.” (Song Facts.com)

The song was written by Greaves, but was recorded by both Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder before he committed it to wax at the insistence of producer and record label boss Ahmet Ertegun. It reached the #2 slot on the Billboard pop charts in August of 1969 and sold over a million copies. It also spawned two charting country covers by Anthony Armstrong Jones who brought the song to #8 in 1970, and Doug Stone who landed the song at #45 on the Country charts in 1999. The song has also been covered by the likes of New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Gary Puckett, Boots Randolph, Jimmy Ruffin, Mel Tormé and Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers.

The song was featured on the album R.B. Greaves which was produced by Ahmet Ertegun. David Hood: “He (Ertegun) was a tremendous recognizer of talent and of songs. He knew music and musicians about as well as anybody on earth, but he was very hands off. He sat in the control room…He had his feet propped up on the console and had a yellow legal pad in his lap. We thought, gosh, he’s making all these notes and doing all this stuff. And we go in there, and he’d just been doodling and drawing stars and stuff.” (SongFacts.com)

The album includes covers of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “Ain’t That Good News,” and five songs that were penned by Greaves. (R.B. Greaves was the nephew of Sam Cooke.) The flip of the single is another Greaves composition that did not turn up on his debut Atco album.

Greaves continued to have moderate chart success with such covers as Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” before leaving Atco Records in the early 1970s. His only other chart single was “Margie, Who’s Watching The Baby,” which bubbled under at #115 in 1972. Greaves died of prostate cancer in September of 2012 at the age of 68.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: July 22nd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

She was Motown’s first big star and a favorite of The Beatles , and songs like this Smokey Robinson-penned gem that climbed to the #2 position of the R&B charts and the #8 position of the pop charts in 1962 are the reason why.

Wells came to Motown after passing Berry Gordy a song demo that she had intended for Jackie Wilson to record. Gordy had her sing the song for him and was suitably impressed enough to have her record “Bye Bye Baby” and released it as her first single which climbed to #8 on the R&B charts in 1961.

After this success, Gordy teamed her up with Smokey Robinson. Today’s jukebox classic was one in a long line of hits composed specifically for Mary Wells by Smokey Robinson, that also included “My Guy,” You Beat Me To The Punch” and “Two Lovers,” that established Wells as Motown’s first big star before leaving the company at the height of her powers in 1964.

“The One Who Really Loves You” is one of the finest examples of Robinson’s compositional magnificence. The song features a super-catchy ear worm of a tune highlighted by Wells’ cool lilting vocal that projects just the right amount of adult sophistication aloft in the mix. It all comes to you backed by a Harry Belafonte- influenced Calypso beat and smooth harmony vocals by The Love Tones (Carl Jones, Joe Marls & Stanford Bracely) who recorded backing vocals on many Motown sessions in 1962, but were never afforded a single of their own. The song was from Wells’ 1962 album of the same name which also included hit single “You Beat Me To The Punch.”

The flip of the single is every bit as good as the A-side, and was culled from Mary Wells’ 1961 debut Motown album called Bye Bye Baby I Don’t Want To Take A Chance. The single was reissued in 1965 after Wells left the label with the sides flipped to minimal chart action.

Wells’ success came to an end at Motown after a dispute with the label over the royalties from her recording of “My Guy” which she claimed were used to promote The Supremes’ single “Where Did Our Love Go” rather than one of her own records. Wells freed herself from Motown giving up royalties from the records she recorded for the label and the use of her own likeness to promote them, and signed with 20th Century Fox records where she had little chart success.

After recording many good records for Atco, Jubilee and Reprise that failed to chart, she finally found herself back on the charts again in 1981 with the Disco hit “Gigolo.” More records followed for a succession of smaller record labels that offered little promotion until Wells was diagnosed with cancer in 1990. She also sued Motown for unpaid royalties and reached a settlement with the label. Wells succumbed to laryngeal cancer in July of 1992 at the age of 49 leaving a legacy of soulful gems in her wake that are ripe for reinvestigation.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: July 20th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles”

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 04769 (M4/NL4)

Some of the world’s best-loved and biggest hits have their origin in afterthought…

“Grazing In The Grass” was originally an instrumental hit recorded by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela that topped the charts in 1968. Masekela came to record the song after purchasing a cowbell-infused novelty record in Zambia called “Mr. Bull #5.” After turning in his debut album to UNI Records which was contractually short by three minutes, the label suggested he cover the single. While in the studio, actor and singer Philemon Hou came up with a new melody which became “Grazing In The Grass.”

Masekela thought little of the song, but included it on the album anyway to fulfill his contract. When UNI executive Russ Regan decided to release it as a single, Hugh Masekela became the first South African recording act to reach number one on the pop charts. (Fun fact: The guitarist on Masekela’s version of the song was Bruce Langhorne, who was the subject of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”) (songfacts.com)

The Friends of Distinction was a soul group from southern California that formed in 1968 around Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love. Elston and Butler were members of The Hif-Fi’s, who warmed up for Ray Charles on tour, along with Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore who went on to form The 5th Dimension. The group secured a recording contract with RCA Records after joining forces with ex-Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown who took on management of the group.

When Elston heard Masekela’s hit version of the song, he wrote lyrics to it for Friends Of Distinction to record. Their version hit #3 on the pop charts and #5 R&B.

The song has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Chet Atkins, Boney James and Meco, and has been featured in many films including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Jackie Brown, I Shot Andy Warhol and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.

The flip of today’s single is The Friends’ follow-up single “Going In Circles” which was also a million seller that climbed to #3 on the R&B charts and #15 pop in 1970. The slow jam heartbreak/coming-of-age song was written by Jerry Peters and Anita Poree and has been covered by The Gap Band, Isaac Hayes (on his Black Moses album) and Luther Vandross.

The story goes that after six albums and five years of hits including “Love or Let Me Be Lonely,” “Time Waits for No One,” and “I Need You,” The Friends Of Distinction broke up somewhat acrimoniously with Elston and Butler going separate ways to work outside of the music industry. By 1990 the legacy and influence of The Friends’ recordings had grown substantially. After not speaking to each other for many years, Elston and Butler agreed to work together again, however the reunion was short lived as Butler suffered from a heart attack and died in Elston’s arms. Elston reformed the group in 1996 with new members including Geno Henderson, Wendy Brune and Berlando Drake. They continue to tour and perform the music of The Friends of Distinction around the world today.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 31st, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #31 – The Isley Brothers: “That Lady (Part 1)” b/w “That Lady (Part 2)” – T-Neck 45 RPM Single 2251 (A4/B4V3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #31 – The Isley Brothers: “That Lady (Part 1)” b/w “That Lady (Part 2)” – T-Neck 45 RPM Single 2251 (A4/B4V3)

From gossamer to “grit-tay”…the other day I featured a satiny-smooth jukebox classic by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles…today we’re going gritty with this funky 1973 track by The Isley Brothers.

They were one of the longest running R&B groups of all time forming in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1959 and recording and touring together in some form through 2010.

The Isley’s were responsible for such indelible hits as “Shout,” “Twist And Shout,” “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You),” “Black Berries,” “It’s Your Thing,” “Pop That Thang,” “Love The One You’re With,” “Summer Breeze,” “Fight The Power,” “Harvest For The World,” plus many others. Today’s Song Of The Day comes from their 1973 album called 3+3.

The album’s title alludes to the fact that the three original members of the group, Ronald, Rudolph and O’Kelly Isley, made their brother-in-law Chris Jasper and brothers Ernie and Marvin Isley, the other 3, full time members of the group.

The album became their first platinum album, selling over one million copies. Along with “That Lady,” two other tracks from the album made waves on the R&B charts including their cover of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” (#10 R&B) and “What It Comes Down To” (#5 R&B). The group also covered Jonathan Edwards’ hit “Sunshine” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” for the album.

“That Lady” was originally recorded by The Isley’s back in 1964 under the title “Who’s That Lady.” That version was cut at a slower tempo and was driven by a spare staccato drum pattern, a roller-rink organ part and a full-blown horn section. The group decided to record the song again after Santana covered it on their Spirits Dancing in the Flesh album.

At first, Ronald Isley was against cutting the track again, however the rest of the group convinced him that the arrangement would be much different and it would highlight the guitar work of brother Ernie. Ernie’s guitar playing was informed by the Isley Brothers’ association with Jimi Hendrix who played with the group in 1964. Hendrix can be heard on the group’s “Testify” and “Move On Over And Let Me Dance” singles. The song became their first top-ten hit since 1969’s “It’s Your Thing,” climbing to #2 on both the Pop and R&B charts. Brother Ernie’s guitar solo was later sampled by The Beastie Boys on the track “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” from Paul’s Boutique.

Another distinction about today’s jukebox classic is that it is one in a long line of two-part singles. When 45 RPM singles ruled, it was customary to break longer tracks into two parts for the single release. The Isley Brothers were no stranger to the two-part single, and as far back as 1959, “Shout” was released as a two-parter. Many of James Brown’s singles were released in the two-part format including “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud,)” “Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine,” and “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.” Other notable two-part singles include Joey Dee’s “The Peppermint Twist,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Suzie Q,” Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep On Truckin’,” George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby,” Rick James’ “Super Freak,” Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” and Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane.” What other two-part singles can you think of?

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 18th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

Before The Miracles, before Berry Gordy and before Motown, a talented singer and aspiring songwriter named William Robinson formed a group called The Matadors. The Matadors consisted of Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Warren Moore and Claudette Rogers.

They met a hungry promoter named Berry Gordy who had his first taste of success by writing the Jackie Wilson hit “Reet Petite.” The Matadors auditioned for Gordy who liked the group, especially their lead singer. When Williams told Gordy that he could write songs, the two sat down and wrote an answer record to The Silhouettes’ 1958 hit “Get A Job,” and called it “Got A Job.”

Gordy thought the name, The Matadors, was far to masculine for a group that featured a vocalist like William Robinson and also a female vocalist, so he changed their name to The Miracles. Gordy negotiated a release of the record on the independent End record label in 1958 and it became a minor hit.

With the money earned from the hit record, Gordy went on to found the Motown record label making Robinson the vice-president…so you may say that both Gordy and Smokey Robinson (as he became known) “Got A Job” with the release of the record of the same name.

The Miracles consisted of Smokey Robinson on lead vocal, Claudette Rogers Robinson (his wife) on backing vocal, Pete Moore on backing vocal, Ronnie White on backing vocal, Bobby Rogers on co-lead vocal and backing vocal, Marv Tarplin on guitar with all other instruments performed by The Funk Brothers.

Songs don’t come any more romantic than the top side of today’s double A-sided single! The first thing that grabs you is the angelic, echo-laden production sound of “I’ll Try Something New” with its elaborate and plush bed of strings. If that doesn’t automatically get your attention, then Robinson’s gossamer vocals are sure to woo even the most hardened heart. (Note: For the ultimate in greatness, check out his soulful vocals during this record’s fade.)

The song was one of The Miracles early singles from 1962 and was also the title track to their third album. Upon its release, it climbed to the #11 position on the R&B charts and settled at #39 on the pop list. In 1969, the song was released as a single by The Supremes and The Temptations together that climbed to #25 on the pop charts and #8 R&B. It was also covered by the disco group A Taste Of Honey in 1982.

The flip of today’s single was a much bigger hit for The Miracles topping the R&B charts and climbing all the way to #8 on the pop list while selling a million copies. “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” is deservedly in the Grammy Hall Of Fame and also holds the distinction of being covered by The Beatles on their second album.

The song was written by Smokey Robinson for his wife (and group member) Claudette after hearing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” on the radio while on a business trip in New York City. When originally released, it was relegated to the B-side of the song “Happy Landing,” however DJs flipped the record and liked it much better. Both songs appeared on The Miracles second album The Fabulous Miracles released in 1963.

The Beatles first heard the song after finding an imported copy from the U.S. and it quickly became a staple of their early live repertoire. It was recorded for their second album WithThe Beatles (in the U.K.) and The Beatles’ Second Album (in the U.S.) featuring an indelible lead vocal by John Lennon.

The Beatles re-recorded the song after EMI acquired their first four track recording equipment; however that version was deemed no better than the original and remains unreleased to this day. They also recorded it four times for broadcast on BBC radio. The song can also be heard in the 1970 Let It Be and it was also featured in a live version from Stockholm, Sweden in October 1963 on the Anthology 1 album.

The Beatles covered several Motown songs early in their career, including “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Please Mr. Postman,” because Berry Gordy gave the group reduced rates as an enticement since they were such a big recording act. The song has also been covered by a myriad of artists including The Supremes, The Temptations, The Zombies, The Jackson 5, Mickey Gilley (#2 Country Hit), Phil Collins, Mike + The Mechanics and She & Him.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 13th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #28 – Average White Band: “Pick Up The Pieces” b/w “Work To Do” – Atlantic 45 RPM Single 45-3229 (Q3/R3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #28 – Average White Band: “Pick Up The Pieces” b/w “Work To Do” – Atlantic 45 RPM Single 45-3229 (Q3/R3)

“TSOP” by MFSB, “Love’s Theme” by The Love Unlimited Orchestra, “Space Race” by Billy Preston, “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter Group, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter,” “Joy” by Apollo 100, “Rock And Roll” by Gary Glitter, “Dueling Banjos” by Eric Weissberg & Deliverance, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango, “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione, “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey and “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield – the 1970s had its share of some of the greatest instrumental hits of all time. While many of these tracks are truly not instrumentals because they either have wordless singing or minor vocal parts consisting of the title being shouted out several times over the duration of the song, they are still rightly classified as instrumental hits.

Today’s jukebox classic stands taller than most on the above list of ‘70s instrumentals. With its propulsive disco beat and infectious horn part, “Pick up the Pieces” managed to set throngs of dancers into motion on disco dance floors around the world.

But it wasn’t always that way…When “Pick up the Pieces” was originally released as a single in the U.K. in 1974; it sank without a trace, completely failing to chart. Three months later, the single came out in the U.S. where it sold a million copies and climbed to the top of the charts. It was then rereleased as a single in the U.K. and it rose to the top five. Not to dis our friends across the pond, but what were they thinking the first time around…

The song crossed over into the disco charts and also spawned an answer record recorded by James Brown’s backing band The J.B.s, called “One By One.” On the record, the J.B.s are credited as AABB, or the Above Average Black Band in homage to AWB. It was also sampled by the likes of The Beastie Boys, TLC, Too Short, Ice Cube, Eric B. & Rakim, Nas, Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest.

The Average White Band originated in Scotland in 1971 and consisted of Allan Gorrie (bass, guitar and vocals), Malcolm Duncan (tenor sax), Onnie McIntyre (vocals, rhythm guitar), Michael Rosen (trumpet), Roger Ball (keyboards and sax) and Robbie McIntosh (drums) and Hamsih Stuart (guitar, bass and vocals).

Even though one of the group’s earliest gigs was as a support act to Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert in 1973, when their debut album Show Your Hand was released on MCA Records the same year, it sold poorly. For their second album, the group relocated to Los Angeles and signed with Atlantic Records.

The album, titled AWB was produced by Arif Mardin and ultimately topped the U.S. album charts on the heels of its chart-topping single. It was also known to AWB fans as The White Album as it featured stunning graphics on a white background that gave the band its memorable logo.

At the height of their initial fame, tragedy struck when drummer and founding member Robbie McIntosh died of a heroin overdose at a party in 1974. Allan Gorrie also overdosed at the same party, but Cher kept him conscious until medics arrived and he survived. Such was the “swinging” party scene of mid-70s Los Angeles. As a result, McIntosh was replaced by Steve Ferrone.

The band continued to release albums well into the 1980s (including a duo album with Ben E. King on vocals), and scored several hit singles including “Cut The Cake” (#31/1974), “Queen Of My Soul” (#23/1976) and “Let’s Go Round Again” (#12/1980). By the early 1980s, Ferrone left the group to work with Duran Duran, while Hamish Stuart went on to tour and record with Paul McCartney.

The group still exists today with McIntyre and Gorrie still on board. Their last album was a live album called Times Squared, released in 2009. The flip of today’s single is an exceptional cover of The Isley Brothers’ top twenty R&B hit “Work To Do,” which was also covered by The Main Ingredient and Vanessa Williams.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 12th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms),” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and the two songs on today’s jukebox single, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

The A-side of today’s double-A-sided jukebox single was originally written, recorded and released as a single on the Dot label by Alexander in 1962. Alexander’s version charted at #68 on the pop charts, while climbing to #10 on the R&B lists. The song is notable because it was covered by The Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me. It was a favorite of John Lennon’s and became part of the group’s early live repertoire. Lennon had a bad cold during the marathon session that produced their first album, which accounts for the roughness of his voice on “Anna.”

If Alexander’s recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s. Alexander’s original version of the song charted at #24 on the pop charts in 1962 and sold 800,000 copies making it possible for Muscle Shoals to relocate its facilities to 603 East Avalon Avenue. The backing musicians on the track included Dan Penn, Tommy Roe (of “Dizzy” fame) and Joe Tex.

The song was also covered by The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, Dean Martin, Johnny Rivers, Billy “Crash” Craddock (whose version was a #10 country hit), Mink DeVille and George Jones and Johnny Paycheck (whose duo version peaked at #18 on the country charts).

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 11th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

The magic in today’s track lies in Lewis’ feathery-light delivery atop the heavenly harmonious shoo-bop-shoo-bops in the background, and one of the all-time greatest roller-rink Hammond organ introductions ever on record. It’s no wonder that “Hello Stranger” climbed to #3 on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts in 1963.

During a time when most recording artists were told what to record, especially if they were women, Barbara Lewis wrote almost all of the songs on her debut album also called Hello Stranger. The hit title song was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago with backup vocals provided by The Dells. Inspiration for the song came from performing shows with her musician father. Lewis: ““I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’”. (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

Lewis’ soul classic has spawned numerous covers over the years. Yvonne Elliman topped the easy listening charts and brought the song into the top-twenty of the pop charts in 1977, Carrie Lucas charted in the R&B top twenty in 1985, The Capitols’ version gained wide exposure as the B-side to their hit single “Cool Jerk,” and Martha And The Vandellas, The Supremes & The Four Tops (together) and Queen Latifah have also given the song a go in the studio.

The flip of today’s reissue single is “Baby I’m Yours,” which was written by Van McCoy. McCoy is best known for the disco smash, “The Hustle” which topped of the charts in 1975, and it is his voice that is heard on the track as part of the choir. Lewis brought the song to the #11 position on the pop charts and #5 R&B in 1965.

She initially did not like the song and gave a lackluster vocal performance of it in the studio in the hopes that it would end up shelved. After the session, producer Ollie McLaughlin told her that she needed to re-record her vocals. McLaughlin chided her into giving the song a winning performance. Lewis: “He said ‘You know, Barbara, Karen can sing that song better than you.’ That was his little daughter. And it pissed me off. I did one more take, and that was the take that they selected.” (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

The song also went on to become a country hit for Debby Boone and Jody Miller. Peter & Gordon brought the song to #19 on the UK Pop charts in 1965, and Cher, Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Maureen McGovern, Billy Preston and The Arctic Monkeys have recorded the song.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 5th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #23 – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: “Jimmy Mack” b/w “I’m Ready For Love” – Motown Yesteryear Series 45 RPM Single Y 455F (E3/F3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #23 – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: “Jimmy Mack” b/w “I’m Ready For Love” – Motown Yesteryear Series 45 RPM Single Y 455F (E3/F3)

I first discovered today’s jukebox classic not in its original guise by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’, but from a cover performed by Laura Nyro and LaBelle on their classic 1971 album called Gonna Take A Miracle. When I first heard Nyro’s version, I didn’t make the connection between the song and all of the other great Vandellas hits I already knew from the radio. It wasn’t until my older sister picked up a copy of Martha and the Vandellas’ Greatest Hits album in 1972 that I finally came to fully appreciate the magic of Motown’s finest girl group.

Martha and the Vandellas was one of the most successful girl groups to come out of Motown. Unlike The Supremes, the Vandellas’ sound was far grittier and more danceable than the sugary pop that catapulted The Supremes to fame. Their list of classic hits includes “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Come And Get These Memories,” “Quicksand,” “Live Wire,” “Wild One,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” and their signature single “Dancing in the Street.”

“Jimmy Mack” was written and produced by the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland and it was the group’s last American top-ten hit reaching #10 on the pop charts in 1967, and #1 R&B. It was also from the last batch of Martha and the Vandellas recordings featuring input from Holland-Dozier-Holland before they left the Motown fold. Not coincidentally, their departure from Motown aligned with the waning of The Vandellas’ popularity.

The impetus for the song came out of an industry awards dinner that Lamont Dozier attended. At the awards, Ronnie Mack won a posthumous award for composing the song “He’s So Fine.” His mother came up to accept the award on his behalf and Dozier decided he’d write the song in tribute to Ronnie Mack.

Lamont Dozier: “‘Jimmy Mack’ was about a kid who had written a song that was quite popular. When they called out his name there was something, along with the way his mother picked up the award, that kind of moved me and the name stuck with me. So when a melody came about that name seemed to spring up and fit well with the music we were writing at the time.” (NME 1984 via Songfacts)

Martha and the Vandellas originally recorded the song in 1964 as a typical teen anthem about lost love, but Motown’s quality control team rejected the recording leaving it unreleased in the Motown vaults. Three years later, Berry Gordy became aware of the recording and hearing a surefire hit made sure the song was released as a single. With the passage of time, the record took on a different meaning, especially to the many African American troops who were stationed overseas in Viet Nam.

The song was included in The Vandellas’ ballad-heavy 1967 album Watchout!, however the single version of this song opens with a drum intro that is not featured on the album cut. Personnel on the track included Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard on background vocals, The Andantes: Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps on additional background vocals and instrumentation by various members of Motown’s session group The Funk Brothers, including Richard “Pistol” Allen on drums, Jack Ashford on vibes, Bob Babbitt on bass, Benny Benjamin on drums, Eddie “Bongo” Brown on percussion, Johnny Griffith on keyboards, Joe Hunter on keyboards, James Jamerson on bass, Uriel Jones on drums, Joe Messina on guitar, Earl Van Dyke on keyboards, Marvin Tarplin on guitar, Robert White on guitar and Eddie Willis.

The song was also covered by the likes of Karen Carpenter, Phil Collins, Sheena Easton (who scored a #65 chart hit with it in1986) and Bonnie Pointer. It was also cut by The Temptations for their 1967 album In A Mellow Mood.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single climbed up to the #9 position on the pop charts and rose to #2 on the R&B charts in 1966. The song was also written by Holland-Dozier-Holland and is a dead ringer for The Supremes hit “You Can’t Hurry Love” which they also wrote.

The track was also on The Vandellas’ Watchout! album and featured pretty much the same musicians as “Jimmy Mack,” except Betty Kelly sings background vocals instead of Annette Beard. The group also cut a Spanish version of the song under the title “Yo Necesito De Tu Amor.”

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: April 28th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #13 – Stevie Wonder: “Superstition” b/w “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” – Motown 45 RPM Single Y559F (E2/F2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #13 – Stevie Wonder: “Superstition” b/w “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” – Motown 45 RPM Single Y559F (E2/F2)

The A-Side of today’s double A-sided jukebox single was the lead single from Stevie Wonder’s landmark album Talking Book. Jeff Beck guested on the album playing guitar on the song “Looking For Another Pure Love.” While in the studio, Beck came up with the drum pattern that kicks “Superstition” into motion. From there, Wonder added the funky clavinet riff that runs through the song and a classic was born. After Wonder wrote the song, he offered it to Beck to record.

In the meantime, Motown chief Berry Gordy heard Wonder’s version and immediately knew it was a surefire smash and pressured Wonder to release it as a single before Beck could commit his version to tape. “Superstition” went on to become Wonder’s second chart-topping hit, his first since “Fingertips” hit the top of the charts in 1963. Jeff Beck was given the song “Because We’ve Ended As Lovers” as a consolation prize which he recorded for his 1975 album Blow By Blow. Beck later recorded Wonder’s “Superstition” with the group Beck, Bogart & Appice.

When Wonder turned 21, he renegotiated his contract with Motown Records giving him total control over his music with increased royalties and publishing. The first fruit of his negotiation was the album Music Of My Mind that included “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” the flip side of today’s double-A sided jukebox classic.

The song was one of the first tracks that Wonder worked on with Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff who invented the TONTO (The Original New Tumbrel Orchestra) synthesizer and recorded under the name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band. Margouleff: “Stevie showed up [at our studio] with the TONTO LP under his arm. He said, ‘I don’t believe this was all done on one instrument. Show me the instrument.’ He was always talking about seeing. So we dragged his hands all over the instrument, and he thought he’d never be able to play it. But we told him we’d get it together for him.” (songfacts.com) The duo would go on to help shape the recording of Wonder’s Talking Book, Innervisions and Fullfillingness’ First Finale albums.

Wonder is heard playing all of the instruments on the record including the TONTO, except for the electric guitar which was played by Buzz Feiten and the trumpet and saxophone played respectively by Steve Madaio and Trevor Laurence.

The song clocked in at over eight minutes in its original guise on the Music Of My Mind album and was written about former Motown secretary and Wonder’s first wife Syreeta Wright. The lyric “trying to boss the bull around” is about Syreeta trying to exert some control on Wonder who is a Taurus.

The first part of the song talks about “Mary’s” desire to leave her current life behind to chase the goal of stardom. The song’s second “Where Were You When I Needed You” part finds the song’s narrator wondering when she will be coming back and why it is taking so long. Musically, the second part of the song was a re-working of Wonder’s 1971 single “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” from his Where I’m Coming From album. The song was released as a single and climbed to the #33 slot on the pop charts. Indeed, Wonder’s marriage to Syreeta broke up soon after he completed work on Music of My Mind.”

Both songs on today’s Jukebox classic double A-sided single were originally issued as separate singles, each with a different B-side. The original B-side to “Superstition” was “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” and the original “Superwoman” B-side was “I Love Every Little Thing About You.”

The clip of “Superstition” accompanying this piece is an alternate live in-studio performance of the track with a full backing band.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 31st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #9 – The Pointer Sisters: “Yes We Can Can” b/w “Jada” – Blue Thumb 45 RPM Single BTA-229 (1973) (Q1/R1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #9 – The Pointer Sisters: “Yes We Can Can” b/w “Jada” – Blue Thumb 45 RPM Single BTA-229 (1973) (Q1/R1)

This Allen Toussaint-penned gem comes from the Pointer’s self-titled debut album from 1973. It’s infectious…it’s funky…it’s contagious…it’s been often sampled, but never improved upon!

The Pointer Sisters were indeed real sisters. They began as a duo performing under the moniker “Pointers, A Pair” in 1969 featuring sisters June and Bonnie. Anita joined in 1970 and they became in-demand background vocalists, singing for the likes of Grace Slick, Sylvester, Boz Scaggs and Elvin Bishop. While backing Bishop in 1971, they were signed by Atlantic Records where they released several singles that went nowhere. Sister Ruth joined in 1972 when they signed with Blue Thumb Records.

On Blue Thumb, their goal was to meld their jazz and vocalese style of singing with the sounds of be-bop and funk in order to create something new and unique. They topped this all off by dressing in 1940s clothing making them stand out amongst the funky threaded artists of the early 1970s. One of the first songs they recorded for the album was Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” which came to them via producer David Rubinson.

The song established the sisters as a recording act reaching #11 on the pop charts and #12 on R&B. Backing the Pointers on the album were Willie Fulton on guitar, Dexter Plates on bass and Gaylord Birch on drums. The album also included the top forty hit “Wang Dang Doodle,” plus the Wilton Felder composed “That’s How I Feel” and the flip of today’s single “Jada,” which was named after Anita Pointer’s daughter.

While the group found early success in the 1970s, their career really took off in the 1980s with a string of smash hits including their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire,” “He’s So Shy,” “Slow Hand,” “Automatic,” “Jump (For My Love),” “I’m So Excited,” and “Neutron Dance.”

Today’s Song Of The Day was written by Allen Toussaint and originally recorded in 1970 by Lee Dorsey under the title “Yes We Can.” Toussaint is one of New Orleans’ favorite sons, responsible for penning a jukebox full of classics that have spun gold for those who have recorded them. Songs like “Mother-In-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “Working In The Coal Mine” (Lee Dorsey, Devo), “Fortune Teller” (Benny Spellman, Rolling Stones, The Who), “Southern Nights” (Glen Campbell), “Java” (Al Hirt), “Whipped Cream” (Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass), “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” (Robert Palmer), “What Do You Want The Girl To Do” (Boz Scaggs) and today’s Song Of The Day have poured out of his pen and up the charts, and these are just the tip of his iceberg of hits.

Toussaint has also contributed his arrangement and production talents to a stellar list of albums including Paul McCartney & Wings’ Venus And Mars and its single “Listen To What The Man Said,” Labelle’s Nightbirds and its single “Lady Marmalade,” The Band albums Rock Of Ages, Cahoots and The Last Waltz, and Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees. Post Katrina, he recorded an essential album with Elvis Costello called The River in Reverse, a traditional New Orleans jazz album called The Bright Mississippi and an exceptional live album.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 24th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #8 – Luther Ingram: “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” b/w Hot Butter: “Popcorn” – Collectables Records Double A-Sided 45 RPM Single COL-3170 (O1/P1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #8 – Luther Ingram: “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” b/w Hot Butter: “Popcorn” – Collectables Records Double A-Sided 45 RPM Single COL-3170 (O1/P1)

Today’s classic comes from a double A-sided reissue single on the Collectables record label released specifically for jukeboxes featuring two big hits by two different artists. Most of the records in the juke are original pressings, however this was the only copy of Ingram’s soul classic I could find at the time I was looking, plus having two hit singles by two different artists on one record is indeed a bonus.

The A-Side of today’s double-sided single is Luther Ingram’s infidelity ballad “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right),” which is one of the greatest soul singles of all time! The song was written by STAX songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson. Banks also wrote the Sam And Dave classic “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” and billed as “We Three” with Raymond Jackson and Bettye Crutcher, wrote Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” and The Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).”

“If Loving You Is Wrong” was originally recorded in 1970 by The Emotions with an up-tempo arrangement that didn’t serve the song well. As a result, the record was left on the shelves of STAX records unreleased. Luther Ingram moved to Memphis after several failed attempts at a recording career in New York City and signed a recording contract with the KoKo label which was distributed by STAX Records. With the label, he found success scoring the top-ten R&B hit “Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)” in 1970.

While at STAX, Ingram discovered The Emotions’ version of “If Loving You Is Wrong” and rearranged and recorded the song as a mournful ballad. His version topped the R&B charts and rose to the number three position on the pop charts in 1972, selling over four million copies.

The song has been covered by a plethora of artists including Isaac Hayes, Rod Stewart, Percy Sledge, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ramsey Lewis and Cassandra Wilson. Millie Jackson’s 1974 chart version of the song was expanded into an eleven minute suite complete with a spoken “rap” which was nominated for two Grammy Awards. Barbara Mandrell also scored a country hit with her rendition of the song in 1978.

If all Ingram did in music was to give us this signature recording, his stature would be sealed as an R&B great, however Ingram was also the co-writer(with Mark Rice) of The Staple Singers’ empowerment anthem “Respect Yourself.”

The flip of this double A-sided single is “Popcorn” by Hot Butter. “Popcorn” is a bubbly electronic confection composed by German musician Gershon Kingsley who was known for his work composing classical and Broadway music, and writing TV commercial jingles. Kingsley recorded the influential electronic album The In Sound from Way Out! with Jean-Jaques Perrey for Vanguard Records in 1966. The album promoted the use of synthesizers in pop music years before German recording artists Can and Kraftwerk.

Kingsley first recorded “Popcorn” for his 1969 album Music To Moog By, and then recorded the song again in 1971 with his First Moog Quartet. Stan Free was a member of The First Moog Quartet and re-recorded the song in 1972 under the name Hot Butter.

Hot Butter’s record came out during the moog craze of the early 1970s that saw classical records by the likes of Walter/Wendy Carlos (Switched On Bach) and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) cross over to the pop charts and sell millions of copies. Hot Butter’s recording was one of the first all-electronic records to chart on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart, peaking at #9 pop and #4 on the adult contemporary charts.

The song was not named for popcorn that you eat; rather it was an amalgam of “pop” for pop music and “corn” for the kitsch and novelty of the recording. It has been covered by the likes of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Jean Michel Jarre, Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops, James Last, Norrie Paramour, Ronnie Aldrich and The Muppets.

Kingsley also wrote the music used by Disney theme parks for its Main Street Electrical Parade and the theme from the TV game show The Joker’s Wild.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 23rd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #6 – Rufus – “Tell Me Something Good” b/w “Smokin’ Room” – ABC Records 45 ABC-11427 1974 (K1/L1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #6 – Rufus – “Tell Me Something Good” b/w “Smokin’ Room” – ABC Records 45 ABC-11427 1974 (K1/L1)

In taking stock of the records that inhabit my jukebox for The Jukebox Series, I’ve come to learn something about myself that I’d like to share. I find it somewhat amusing that there are no records newer than the 1970s included, and with the exception of a few 1950s nuggets, nothing earlier than the 1960s. This leads me to believe that I either find myself in a state of musical developmental retardation, or that every record I’ve chosen for the jukebox is geared to make me feel nostalgic for the years when I was in middle and high school.

This really shouldn’t be such a surprise because when you think about it, the music that we consider OUR music typically harks back to those golden teenage days when we were in public school. It doesn’t matter that those years for some (me included) were the most dreadful years of my life. We still look back on them with rose colored glasses verifying the idea that nostalgia truly is the past with the pain removed, and the musical comfort food that inhabits my jukebox really points this out.

Today’s Song of the Day is Chaka Khan’s breakout hit as a member of Rufus. Rufus evolved out of the ashes of Chicago group, The American Breed who scored a hit with “Bend Me Shape Me” in the late 1960s. After the American Breed disbanded several members formed a band called Smoke who added vocalist Paulette Williams to the lineup. That group later became Ask Rufus named after a column in the magazine Popular Mechanics. After several more lineup shifts, Ron Stockert was added to the group as vocalist and artistic director and Williams left, recommending her friend Chaka Khan as her replacement.

During the early days of Rufus (shortened from Ask Rufus), Khan was considered one of two co-lead vocalists sharing vocals duties with Ron Stockert. However, when the songs featuring Khan’s lead vocals began to get attention, she became the focal point of the group leading to Stockert’s departure during the recording of their 1974 Rags To Rufus album.

At this point, the group consisted of Chaka Khan on lead and background vocals, Dennis Belfield on bass and background vocals, André Fischer on drums and percussion, Kevin Murphy on organ and clavinette, Al Ciner on guitar, Ron Stockert on vocals and keyboards, Tony Maiden (uncredited) on guitar and talk box and Nate Morgan (uncredited) on keyboards.

The Rags To Rufus album was the group’s last album credited to Rufus, after this they would be forever known as Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. The album also included the huge hit “You Got The Love” (#10 pop/#1 R&B) written by Ray Parker Jr. and Khan, and on the strength of its two singles, the album sold well over one million copies earning a platinum certification.

Today’s Song of the Day was written by Stevie Wonder and climbed to the #3 position on the pop and R&B charts in 1974. Wonder is said to have recorded a version of the song, but it remains unreleased to this day. “Tell Me Something Good” was one of several songs that Wonder wrote and gave away to female vocalists around this time. Two others notable examples are Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” (#1 R&B/#3 Pop) and the title track to Minnie Riperton’s chart-topping album Perfect Angel.

Wonder liked the way Chaka Khan sang his song “Maybe Your Baby” on Rufus’ self-titled debut album and decided to give the group another one of his songs to record. As Khan tells it, “Tell Me Something Good” was not the first song that Wonder brought to the band. Wonder came by the studio and played a song called “Come And Get This Stuff,” but Kahn told Wonder that she didn’t like the song. After learning Khan’s astrological sign, Wonder then gave Rufus “Tell Me Something Good” to record and also helped in the studio with the arrangement, going as far as to coach Khan in the way he wanted her to sing it. The single would go on to win the 1975 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. (Note: Wonder’s “Come And Get This Stuff” would later turn up on his ex-wife’s album Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta.)

“Tell Me Something Good” also features an early example of the use of a talk box during the chorus. The talk box was played through a guitar by Tony Maiden and was also made famous by Joe Walsh on his track “Rocky Mountain Way” and by Peter Frampton on “Show Me The Way” and “Do You Feel Like I Do.” The sultry B-side of “Tell Me Something Good” is “Smokin’ Room,” an album cut also culled from Rags To Rufus.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 18th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #5 – Ben E. King – “Spanish Harlem” b/w “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” – Atlantic Oldies 45 OS-13068 (I1/J1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #5 – Ben E. King – “Spanish Harlem” b/w “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” – Atlantic Oldies 45 OS-13068 (I1/J1)

Today’s Song of the Day exposes me for who I really am…a sucker for a great pop song. Give me a lush hummable melody and a simple lyric that I can relate to, add to it some strings for sweetening, and I’m a happy boy. So it should come as no surprise that the music that emanated from The Brill Building in New York City (1619 Broadway on 49th Street) from the late 1950s through the mid-sixties is right up my alley.

I think that growing up in proximity to New York City gave me an added appreciation of the music that came from that building’s hallowed halls, as the rhythm of the streets, the vibe and sounds of the city are inherent in every recording, and “Spanish Harlem” is certainly no different.

Today’s jukebox classic is from a double A-sided single I purchased cheaply on line when I first got the juke. It is one of the original records I put in there, and it is also one that I can’t see myself ever taking out. I just never tire of Ben E. King’s classic “Spanish Harlem.”

The Spanish Harlem section of New York City was a crime-ridden Latino neighborhood, and the 1960 hit was written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector and released on the burgeoning Atco record label. Leiber’s partner Mike Stoller, did the arrangement on the track and came up with the song’s signature intro fill that runs throughout; however he does not receive a composer credit. Mike Stoller: “I presumed my contribution was seminal to the composition, but I also knew that Phil didn’t want to share credit with anyone but Jerry, so I kept quiet.” (Songfacts.com)

The song was King’s first hit after leaving The Drifters, climbing to the #15 position on the R&B charts and #10 Pop, and it also served as the title track of his debut solo album. Singing background vocals was a then-unknown Dionne Warwick (as a member of The Gospelaires). The day the track was cut was indeed very productive, as King also recorded his follow-up single “Stand By Me” during the same session.

“Spanish Harlem” was also covered by Aretha Franklin in 1971 who scored an even bigger hit with it climbing to the #1 position on the R&B charts and #2 on the Pop charts. Dr. John is also heard playing piano on her version. The song was also covered by the likes of Laura Nyro (on her essential 1971 album Gonna Take A Miracle), Jay And The Americans, The Mamas & The Papas, Leon Russell, Chet Atkins, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass and even Led Zeppelin, who used to incorporate the song’s melody into live performances of “Dazed And Confused.”

The flip of this double A-sided 45 is King’s 1962 version of “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” which was written by Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun and Betty Nelson (although my 45RPM copy is credited only to “Nugetre” which is Ertegun backwards). King’s version of the song climbed to the #2 position on the R&B charts and up to #11 on the Pop side. The song was also covered again by Aretha Franklin on her 1970 album Spirit in the Dark. Her version peaked at #1 on the R&B charts and went to #11 Pop.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 15th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #3 – Isaac Hayes – “Theme From Shaft” b/w “Café Regio” – Enterprise 45 ENA-9038 (E1/F1)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #3 – Isaac Hayes – “Theme From Shaft” b/w “Café Regio” – Enterprise 45 ENA-9038 (E1/F1)

Call him “Shaft”…call him “Black Moses”…call him “Chef”…but one thing is for sure, he was responsible for some of the funkiest and smoothest hot-buttered soul ever committed to wax. Today’s Song Of The Day inhabits the E1/F1 position in my jukebox and it is Isaac Hayes’ first chart-topper from 1971. “Theme From Shaft” also won the Academy Award for best film score that year, making Hayes the first African American to win an Oscar in the composer category.

Hayes initially agreed to write the score for the Shaft film only if he was given the chance to try out for the lead role. And while he did have a bit part in the film as a bartender, he was never afforded the opportunity to audition for the lead. Fortunately he decided to fulfill the agreement anyway. When film director Gordon Parks approached Hayes about writing the score, he described the character of Shaft as a “black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks” and Hayes picked the description up verbatim for the song.

“Theme From Shaft” was initially not intended to be released as a single, however once the soundtrack was released, the song received extensive club play where it gained popularity. Two months after the album’s release, the single came out and went on to be a great influence on 1970s disco. The song could have been credited to “Isaac Hayes & Dawn” as the background vocalist who says “Shut Your Mouth” was Telma Hopkins, who along with Joyce Vincent Wilson (the other background vocalist,) were both members of Tony Orlando’s backing group Dawn. The band backing Hayes on the track was The Bar-Kays.

In the days before sampling, the high-hat cymbal on the intro was picked up from an Otis Redding single that Hayes arranged: “Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness,’ I had a hand in arranging that. At the end, Al Jackson was doing some stuff on a hi-hat, and I thought if I sustained that kind of thing on a hi-hat, it would give a relentless, dramatic effect, and it worked.” (songfacts.com) The wah-wah guitar part played by Charlie Pitts was originally intended for an unfinished song hanging around the STAX vaults.

Hayes started out playing sax for The Mar-Keys before becoming the keyboard player for the STAX Records house band writing classic songs with his partner David Porter like “Soul Man,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “B-A-B-Y.” He also wrote the not-so-classic “Chocolate Salty Balls” for South Park where he provided the voice for the Chef character before falling out with Trey Parker and Matt Stone over the content of an episode that poked fun at Scientology.

Hayes’ brand of symphonic soul was perfect for love making, and numerous children were no doubt conceived to the strains of his extended recordings of “Walk On By,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Never Can Say Goodbye,” from classic albums like Black Moses and Hot Buttered Soul.

The flip of the single is the breezy instrumental “Café Regio” which featured musical backing by members of STAX groups, The Bar-Kays and The Movement.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 8th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co.

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co.

Cliff Nobles was a gospel singer from Alabama who relocated to Philadelphia to break into the recording industry. He was quickly signed to Atlantic records where he recorded three singles: “My Love Is Getting Stronger,” “Let’s Have A Good Time” and “Your Love Is All I Need” that failed to find any action on the charts.

As a result of his affiliation with Atlantic, he was signed to a local Philadelphia record label called “Phil-L.A. of Soul Records” by independent producer Jesse James and formed the group Cliff Nobles & Co. consisting of Benny Williams on bass, Bobby Tucker on guitar, and Tommy Soul on drums.

The group’s second single was “Love Is All Right” b/w “The Horse.” The single didn’t feature the playing of Nobles regular band but, instead, featured a group of Philadelphia session musicians put together by Leon Huff called the James Boys who went on to become the Sigma Sound house band MFSB.

While “Love Is All Right” made no waves on the charts, DJs began play the instrumental track on the flip. “The Horse” was merely the instrumental backing track to “Love Is All Right” and Cliff Nobles was nowhere to be found on the record.

The song began to climb the charts, peaking at #2 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts in July of 1968, and went on to sell a million copies. Once the song began to ignite a nationwide dance craze, Nobles went back into the studio and recorded a new vocal track outlying the dance moves to the song. The label released the album The Horse and several instrumental follow-up singles all credited to Cliff Nobles & Co. in which Cliff Nobles was nowhere to be heard.

After his music career was over, Nobles worked in construction and later in the electricity generation industry. He died in Norristown, Pennsylvania in October 2008, at the age of 67, leaving behind this indelible and instantly recognizable instrumental classic.

Edited: March 1st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Work Song” by Nina Simone

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Work Song” by Nina Simone

Here’s one that was released the year I was born, yet it sounds as hip and current as, well, I am. OK, it is hipper and more current than I am, but it goes to show just how timeless Nina Simone’s recordings really are.

Simone’s interpretive talents as a singer and piano player earned her the nickname, “The High Priestess of Soul,” and put her right up there with greats like Anita O’Day, Odetta, Sarah Vaughan and Judy Henske, who all possess a similar earthy style. She was a terrific songwriter, comfortable mingling soul, gospel, folk and blues into a stew that was uniquely her own, and she was also an outspoken Civil Rights activist.

It took a long time for me to crack the hard façade that Nina Simone projected, before I could really appreciate the depths of her talent. Her severe earnestness over the struggles she faced as a black woman during the infancy of the civil rights movement created a seemingly impenetrable barrier between me and her music. But with maturity on my side, I’ve come to love and respect Simone’s whole approach, and the influence she’s had on everyone from Laura Nyro and John Lennon (who cited her recording of “I Put A Spell On You” as an inspiration for The Beatles “Michelle”) to Alicia Keys and Diana Krall.

Simone came to Colpix Records in 1959, after scoring a big hit with “I Loves You, Porgy” on the Bethlehem label. Her deal at Colpix gave her complete artistic control over the material she recorded which was unheard of at the time, and she released nine albums for the label, seven of which were recorded live in front of an audience. Today’s Song of the Day, the much covered “Work Song” written by Nat Adderly and Oscar Brown, Jr., is from her second record for the label, 1961’s studio effort Forbidden Fruit.

Part of the album’s excellence comes down to Simone’s sympathetic backing trio consisting of Chris White on bass, Bobby Hamilton on drums, and crucially, the great Al Schackman on guitar, whose tasty licks light up this entire recording, especially on the tunes “Just Say I Love Him” and the album’s opener “Rags And Old Iron.” But its Simone’s vocals and amazing piano accompaniments, especially on “Gin House Blues,” the swaggering “I Love To Love” and the album’s title track, “Forbidden Fruit,” that really elevate the proceedings to new heights of gospel fervor.

Later albums like Nina Simone In Concert from 1964 and the essential RCA album Nina Simone Sings The Blues from 1967, included signature songs that dealt with the civil rights issues of black women like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Backlash Blues,” “Four Women” and “To Be Young, Gifted And Black,” which was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway. She was also responsible for introducing the songs “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “House of the Rising Sun,” years before The Animals recorded them.

Additionally, her recordings of “Sinnerman” and “Forbidden Fruit” were sampled by the likes of Kanye West and Timbaland, but her greatest success came surprisingly from the song “My Baby Cares For Me” which was recorded on her 1960 debut album for Colpix, but didn’t become popular until 1987 when it was used in a UK television commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Edited: February 15th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soul Drummers” by Ray Barretto

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soul Drummers” by Ray Barretto

Like Tito Puente before him, Ray Barretto is one of the all-time greatest “Soul Drummers” of them all. He gave us the “El Watusi” in 1961, “Senor 007″ in 1969 and this gem in 1967. The music emanated from el barrio, the South Bronx and Spanish Harlem in New York City, via the then-fledgling Latin record labels like Tico and Fania. Like Rap music in the early 1980s, this music sprang up from the streets and changed the world forever.

Ray Barretto was born in New York City and cut his teeth playing conga with Charlie Parker, José Curbelo and Tito Puente. He replaced Mongo Santamaria in Tito Puente’s band in 1957 and stayed on for four years before working with Herbie Mann. In the early 1960s, he was also a member of the house band for the Prestige, Riverside and Blue Note record labels.

In 1961, Barretto released his breakthrough single “El Watusi,” which captured the sounds of the New York City streets and transported the Latin sound out of the barrio and into the public consciousness. “The Watusi” kicked off a national dance craze and was just one of a handful of recordings by the likes of Willie Colón, Joe Cuba (“Bang! Bang!”) and Mongo Santamaria (“Watermelon Man”) that resulted in introducing a new popular crossover genre in Latin dance music known as Boogaloo.

In the wake of “El Watusi’s” success, Barretto struggled to chart with a follow-up hit. However, he did become an in-demand session player and worked on Jazz albums by Gene Ammons, Cannonball Adderley, Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, Art Farmer, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Mann, Yusef Lateef, Lou Donaldson, Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery, Cal Tjader and Weather Report. He also sessioned on rock albums by The Rolling Stones (congas on “Sympathy For The Devil”), Average White Band (Cut The Cake album), Bette Midler (her debut album) and The Bee Gees (Main Course album).

Barretto finally gained his commercial footing after signing with Fania Records in 1967 and releasing the album Acid where today’s Song Of The Day originally appeared. The album combined the sounds of Latin, funk and soul music and included the influential tracks “A Deeper Shade Of Soul,” “Teacher Of Love” and “El Nuevo Barretto.” During his seven year stint with Fania, Barretto released nine successful albums, became the director of The Fania All Stars, and established himself as one of the leading players in Salsa music.

Barretto continued to release popular albums throughout the 1980s including the Grammy winning album Ritmo En El Corazón he recorded with Celia Cruz.

On January 13, 2006, he was awarded the Jazz Masters Award by the National Endowment for the Arts which was a distinction for lifetime achievement. He suffered a heart attack two days later and underwent several heart surgeries before succumbing to his illness on February 17, 2006.

After years of dormancy and total disregard, the Fania label recently reactivated with a comprehensive reissue program through Universal Music in 2007, resulting in the essential 2-CD compilation Ray Barretto Que Viva La Musica (Ray Barretto: A Man And His Music).

Edited: February 9th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Anna (Go To Him),” “You Better Move On,” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, remains largely unknown to most people, or even worse, totally forgotten.

And if his recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s.

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for the Buddah label.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute to Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music and are essential.

Edited: November 4th, 2014

Groovy Ghouls and Haunted Hits – The Ultimate Halloween Playlist by Eric Berman

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Groovy Ghouls and Haunted Hits – The Ultimate Halloween Playlist by Eric Berman

For your Halloween party pleasure, cue this ghoulish playlist up in Spotify!

  1. This Is Halloween from the Nightmare before Christmas
  2. Monster Mash – Bobby Boris Pickett
  3. Boris the Spider – The Who
  4. Haunted House – Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs
  5. I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  6. Theme from the Munsters – Billy Strange
  7. The Blob – The Five Blobs
  8. The Adams Family Main Theme – Vic Mizzy
  9. Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley
  10. Witch Doctor – David Seville
  11. They’re Comin’ to Take Me Away – Napoleon XIV
  12. Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group
  13. Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
  14. Witchy Woman – The Eagles
  15. Season of the Witch – Donovan
  16. Hocus Pocus – Focus
  17. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  18. Thriller – Michael Jackson
  19. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
  20. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo
  21. Ghost Town – The Specials
  22. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
  23. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
  24. Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band
  25. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
  26. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie
  27. The Creature from the Black Lagoon – Dave Edmunds
  28. Pet Semetary – Ramones
  29. Zombie Zoo – Tom Petty
  30. Devil Inside – INXS
  31. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow

Edited: October 30th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Crossword Puzzle” by Sly Stone

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Crossword Puzzle” by Sly Stone

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman comes from Sly Stone’s oft-neglected 1975 album High On You. Yes, it was the beginning of the end for Sly’s relevance, but this album still offers plenty of good listening.

Hip-Hop aficionados will recognize the indelible horn riffs from De La Soul’s “Say No Go” featured on their classic 3 Feet High And Rising album.

Edited: October 27th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “You’re Still A Young Man” by Tower Of Power

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “You’re Still A Young Man” by Tower Of Power

They took us “Down To The Night Club” in “Bump City” and showed us “What Is Hip”…yet today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman doesn’t get much more soulful than this!

Tower Of Power was the East Bay California horn-fueled brain child of Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka who are as renowned for their own recordings as for the horn work they’ve done for everyone from Santana to PIL.

The group auditioned for Bill Graham to play his Fillmore West Auditorium, and Graham was so enamored of them he signed them to his own San Francisco record label and released their debut album called East Bay Grease in 1970, scoring the regional single “Sparkling In The Sand.”

“You’re Still A Young Man” was the first single from the group’s second album Bump City. The album was their debut album for Warner Bros. Records where they achieved most of their fame, and the song climbed to #29 on the Billboard pop charts and #24 on the R&B singles list in 1972. “You’re Still A Young Man” features the shimmering, soulful lead vocals of Rick Stevens who after leaving the band was convicted of murder and served 36 years in prison. He was paroled in 2012.

The Tower of Power lineup on Bump City includes Rick Stevens (lead vocals), Skip Mequite (tenor sax, flute, vocals), Emilio Castillo (2nd tenor sax, vocals), Greg Adams (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals), Stephen “Doc” Kupka (baritone sax, vocals), Mic Gillette (trumpet, trombone, vocals), Willie James Fulton (guitar, vocals), Dave Garibaldi (drums), Francis Rocco Prestia (bass) and Jay Spell (piano).

Emilio Castillo told the Song Facts website the story behind the song: “I had a girlfriend that was six years older than me. I was 18, she was 24 and that’s actually what happened. She had kind of cut me loose because of the age difference thing and the whole plea in the story is the young guy’s saying, ‘I’m not too young, I’m not wasting my time and I do love you like a man can truly love a woman.’” (Song Facts)

In 1973, vocalist Lenny Williams and saxophone player Lenny Pickett joined the fold and the Tower Of Power horn section began playing on dozens of records by artists including Little Feat, Cat Stevens, Elton John, The Monkees, Rod Stewart, Rufus, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship, Heart Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, Toto, Santana and Phish. Tower Of Power still performs concerts today and they appear as session player on many albums.

Edited: September 30th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby And The Romantics

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby And The Romantics

The magical ingredient of today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman that sets it apart from all others is the ear-gasmic, swirling roller rink organ.

“Our Day Will Come” was Ruby & The Romantics’ first hit and only million seller from way back in 1963. While many think the group was a one hit wonder, their follow-up single, “My Summer Love,” rose to #16 on the charts.

Ruby And The Romantics were also responsible for the original version of the song “Hey There Lonely Boy” which became a hit for Eddie Holman in 1969 as “Hey There Lonely Girl,” and “Hurting Each Other” which did the trick for The Carpenters in 1972.

The group featured Ruby Nash on lead vocals with Ed Roberts, George Lee, Ronald Mosley and Leroy Fan on support vocals. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons brought “Our Day Will Come” back to the charts in 1975 with their remake of the song which just missed the top ten at #11.

Edited: August 13th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Harlem Hendoo” by Al Hirt

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Harlem Hendoo” by Al Hirt

Time was running out. By 1968, the gravy train that artists like Al Hirt and Herb Alpert had ridden to fame on, was about to make a stop. Sure, Alpert would score his last huge hit, the #1 Bacharach and David gem “This Guy’s In Love With You” in 1968, but shortly after that, even Alpert’s run at the top would end until the mid-1980s.

Things were even worse for Al Hirt. It had been four years since Hirt was on the top with singles like the Allen Toussaint-penned “Java,” “The Green Hornet Theme” and “Sugar Lips,” plus top-ten albums like “Honey In The Horn” and “Cotton Candy.” Changes would have to be made, so like many others of his ilk, Al Hirt decided to try new things to see if he could keep himself commercially viable.

The sound would have to be updated, so in 1967 “The Round Mound Of Sound” (as he was known) released the album “Soul In The Horn.” Gone was the old, good-time-trad-Jazz-Dixieland-Bourbon Street sound of yore, only to be replaced by certainly the funkiest, au go-go sounds to ever come out of Hirt’s horn. Think “Shagadelic,” but a whole lot more jazz, and a whole lot more serious in the groove department.

Hirt sets the tone right from the opening cut with a cover of Booker T. & The MG’s 1966 single “Honey Pot.” Perhaps the album’s most famous song is today’s Song Of The Day, “Harlem Hendoo,” which was famously sampled by De La Soul for the track “Ego Trippin’ Pt. 2” from the album “Buhloone Mindstate” and also by The Roots on the track “Stay Cool” from their 2004 album, “The Tipping Point.”

Credits for this album are hard to come by, but what I do know was that the sessions were arranged by George “Teacho” Wiltshire (known for his work with Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters, Gene Pitney and many others) and produced at RCA Victor’s Studios in New York City and Chicago by Paul Robinson (who would later produce tracks for Maxi Priest in the 1980s).

The lion-share of the songs were written by Paul Griffin, who was famous for session work with King Curtis, Bob Dylan (on Highway 61 and Blonde On Blonde, no less), Van Morrison, The Isley Brothers, and Steely Dan (on Aja). There are several other tracks from the record that really cashed my register, including the island-flavored “Calypsoul” and the relentlessly groovilicious “Love Ya’ Baby.”

Al Hirt’s foray into soul never did bring him back into the charts or the forefront of the music scene, but he did continue to play at his club in New Orleans, and years later make many DJ crate diggers very happy.

Edited: July 29th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Creepin’” By Stevie Wonder

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Creepin’” By Stevie Wonder

When it comes to a vibe, this song’s got it all in spades.

Today’s Song Of The Day comes from 1974′s Fulfillingness’ First Finale which was released shortly after Wonder’s near-death car accident, making this album an all-the-more-important part of his canon.

However, at the time of its release, it was seen as somewhat of a disappointment following nearly-perfect records like Innervisions (1973) and Talking Book (1972). And if that wasn’t enough, the record that followed it was 1976′s Songs In The Key Of Life which was also critically acclaimed, leading most people to gloss over this record.

Upon closer inspection, Fulfillingness’” has much to offer with classics like “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away,” “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” “It Ain’t No Use,” “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and “Please Don’t Go.”

Here’s the bottom line: the run of records Stevie Wonder released from 1971′s Music Of My Mind through 1976′s Songs In The Key Of Life should be an essential part of any music collection and not to be missed!

Edited: July 24th, 2014

Pitchfork Music Festival – Day 1 by Eric Berman

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Pitchfork Music Festival – Day 1 by Eric Berman

It was an exceptional first day at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.

Every year I go to this festival and come away with all kinds of new bands I would never otherwise have heard that become new favorites. Day one was no different with a great chill soul singer named SZA (Solana Rowe) who is part of Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment crew. Her debut album entitled Z” came out this past April and I’m listening to it on Spotify as I type this.

Also amazing was Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks an Animal Collective offshoot project that was as wiggy and psychedelic as the mothership but with added guitar crunch.

Other highlights of the day included Beck who opened with “Devil’s Haircut” and performed no less than three tracks from the “Midnight Vultures” album which, judging by crowd reaction has surely grown in stature over the years. Giorgio Morodor’s DJ set touched on almost all phases of his career as images of his protégé’s including Donna Summer drifted on and off the screen.

There was also the welcome return of Neneh Cherry (daughter of Jazz trumpeter Don Cherry) who performed much of her new album and, of course also performed her 1989 hit “Buffalo Stance.” Another early highlight of the day was Factory Floor, an industrial dance band from London, England.

Edited: July 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 4th Of July Playlist

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 4th Of July Playlist

Here’s my ultimate 4th Of July playlist:

  1. “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie (http://youtu.be/XaI5IRuS2aE)
  2. “Power And The Glory” by Phil Ochs (http://youtu.be/ZelYGi5ZTPw)
  3. “America The Beautiful” by Ray Charles (http://youtu.be/TRUjr8EVgBg)
  4. “Freedom” by Richie Havens (http://youtu.be/W5aPBU34Fyk)
  5. “Saturday In The Park” by Chicago (http://youtu.be/e0HDsguQcsE)
  6. “U.S. Blues” by Grateful Dead (http://youtu.be/DPBLfzTPCDc)
  7. “One Time One Night” by Los Lobos (http://youtu.be/qmgfLI1NBe8)
  8. “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp (http://youtu.be/qOfkpu6749w)
  9. “Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (http://youtu.be/PdiCJUysIT0)
  10. “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty (http://youtu.be/nUTXb-ga1fo)
  11. “4th Of July” by X (http://youtu.be/lhu807VUY24)
  12. “4th Of July” by Aimee Mann (http://youtu.be/vOYI85anqmQ)
  13. “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (http://youtu.be/KgFHM8HMbWQ)
  14. “Independence Day” – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (http://youtu.be/gnAJlJHXn_M)
  15. “Don’t Pull It Down” from the Broadway Musical Hair (http://youtu.be/_w2gyWE0M0k)
  16. “America” – by Chita Rivera and Company, from the Original Soundtrack of West Side Story (http://youtu.be/GB4lOWfgD5s)
  17. “Young Americans” by David Bowie (http://youtu.be/ydLcs4VrjZQ)
  18. “America” by Neil Diamond (http://youtu.be/hc-v8CFJzu4)
  19. “America” by Simon & Garfunkel (http://youtu.be/ZO3gWIGzH3A)
  20. “Sail Away” by Randy Newman (http://youtu.be/uwwhHI_IMog)
  21. “American Tune” by Paul Simon (http://youtu.be/AE3kKUEY5WU)
  22. “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke (http://youtu.be/gbO2_077ixs)
  23. “American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley (http://youtu.be/gbE1Dg-4fvI)
  24. “Back In The USA” by Chuck Berry (http://youtu.be/xGCJ5j7oVWc)
  25. “Spirit Of America” by The Beach Boys (http://youtu.be/log61aFaNS4)
  26.  “Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash (http://youtu.be/JnivJb3Rv5A)
  27.  “The Star Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix (http://youtu.be/sjzZh6-h9fM)
  28. “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Tones (http://youtu.be/WsDOvbTQzwo)

Now add your tune to the list and publish on your Facebook feed…Happy 4th Of July!

Edited: July 3rd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Slow Down, Love” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Slow Down, Love” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

I got dap dipped several years ago. What’s that? You say you don’t know what it is to be dap dipped? Well, I’ll tell you…

The moment you first lay your lucky ears onto the retro-soul sound of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings is when you’ve been dap dipped. It’s kind of a “daptism” of sorts.

Jones and her band have been releasing records over the last fifteen years that sound like they were recorded in the late 1960s…and that’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing! So convincing is their sound and presentation, that many people think Sharon Jones has been in the public eye for many more years than she really has.

Jones was a soul singer since she was a child in Georgia, singing in church and local talent shows while also backing local soul bands in the 1970s and taking on any kind of recording session work she could get. Without a recording contract of her own, she became a corrections officer at Riker’s Island and an armored car guard for Wells Fargo before receiving her big break in 1996 while singing background vocals for soul legend Lee Fields.

That session was organized by owners of Pure Records, a French record label owned by Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann) and Philip Lehman. Jones was the only one of three background vocalists booked to show up for the session, so she recorded all of the backing vocals herself which impressed Roth and Lehman. At the end of the session, they recorded her first single “Switchblade” (b/w “The Landlord”) backed by members of the Brooklyn, New York bands Antibalas and The Mighty Imperials who later became her backing band The Dap-Kings. The song was released on the compilation album The Soul Providers in 1996.

Lehman and Roth formed the new Desco record label out of Brooklyn specializing in retro soul and funk releases that many fans believed to be original recordings from the late 60s and early 70s. Jones recorded three more singles for the label. After releasing records by Lee Fields, The Sugarman 3 and The Daktaris, Lehman and Roth parted ways in 2000 over creative differences paving the way for Roth to start a new label with Neal Sugarman (of Sugarman 3) called Daptone Records. The label has been Sharon Jones’ musical home ever since and all of her recordings have been under the direction and production of Bosco Mann.

Each record Jones & the Dap-Kings released for the label has garnered more fans than the one before. There was Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (2002), Naturally (2005), 100 days, 100 Nights (2007), I Learned The Hard Way (2010), the Soul Time compilation (2011) and her most recent album where today’s Song Of The Day comes from Give The People What They Want.

While Jones’ rise to dominance in the retro soul world may seem somewhat effortless once she met Roth, it hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations beginning during the summer of 2013. With a tour to promote a new album set to release during the summer of 2013, it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with bile duct cancer which was later changed to stage two pancreatic cancer. As a result, Jones underwent surgery and chemotherapy cancelling the release of her fifth album and the tour.

On the mend, Jones returned to the stage in November 2013 and her Give The People What They Want album was released to positive reviews in January 2014. She will bring her tour to Chicago tomorrow night. One of the songs on the album is called “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” and in light of Jones’ health issues, the song should probably take on a whole new meaning tomorrow night.

Today’s Song Of The Day was the first single released from her latest album which was given away with pre-orders for the album when Jones’ announced her illness last summer. The track has an “end of the party” kind of groove that is chock full of ennui. Unfortunately, the song is not available on its own on Youtube; however I’ve uploaded a link to the whole album. While brief at only 33 minutes, the album comes chock full of great tunes that will surely be exciting to see her bring to the concert stage tomorrow night. It’s certainly worth a spin while you’re online reading this piece.

Edited: April 10th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #98 – Sly & The Family Stone: “Hot Fun In The Summertime” b/w “Fun” – Epic 5-10497

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #98 – Sly & The Family Stone: “Hot Fun In The Summertime” b/w “Fun” – Epic 5-10497

It doesn’t matter what time of year you hear today’s jukebox classic, it still has the power to put you back into the long hot days of summertime when you used to go out first thing in the morning to hang with your friends and not return until food was up for offering at lunch and then dinner time. And as you got older, the song conjured the feeling of freedom felt on the even longer summer nights that made life living for.

The piano introduction wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1950s doo wop recording and the pastoral string arrangement on this Sly & The Family Stone classic captures the heat and the wide open spaces of those hazy crazy days of summer innocence like no other song could.

While it perfectly encapsulates that carefree summer feeling, there’s an undercurrent of melancholy that runs throughout the song. The simple explanation is hinted at in the lyrics “First of the fall and then she goes back / bye, bye, bye, bye there.” with the coming of the end of summer. However, many others thought the song was also a comment on race riots that were in the new headlines throughout the summer of ’69.

The single’s release came hot on the heels of the group’s landmark performance at Woodstock resulting in it climbing to the #2 position on the pop charts and #3 on the soul charts in spite of Epic Records’ initial reluctance towards release a summer single at the end of August.

It was recorded along with “Everybody Is A Star” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” for an in-progress album that was never completed in the wake of the demands put on Sly and the group in the wake of Woodstcok.  As a result, the song debuted on the group’s 1970 Greatest Hits album which was Epic Records’ attempt to keep the band’s name in the marketplace while they were out on the road touring. The record ultimately sold over five millions copies (their biggest selling album) and climbed to the #2 position on the album charts.

Sly Stone never got around to making stereo mixes for the three new songs on Greatest Hits and until the group’s catalog was remastered in the late 1990s, the songs never existed in true stereo. The personnel on the single consisted of Sly Stone on piano and vocals, Freddie Stone on guitar and vocals, Larry Graham on bass and vocals, Greg Errico on drums, Cynthia Robins on trumpet and Jerry Martini on tenor sax.

The song was covered by The Beach Boys and Manhattan Transfer, and it provided inspiration to Phil Collins for his song “Misunderstanding” and the group Toto for their hit single “Hold The Line.”  On the flip of today’s single is “Fun” which is the best track from the group’s third album Life, and also appears on the Greatest Hits album.

Sly & The Family Stone went on to follow the success of their Greatest Hits album with a record that focused on the bummer side of the era called There’s A Riot Going On. Several hit singles would follow including “Family Affair” and “If You Want Me To Stay,” but for all intents and purposes, the group’s run on the charts and in the public eye never burned as bright as in the summer of 1969.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: April 9th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #92 – WAR: “The Cicso Kid” b/w “Beetles In The Bog”– United Artist UA-XW163-W

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #92 – WAR: “The Cicso Kid” b/w “Beetles In The Bog”– United Artist UA-XW163-W

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

When they first began recording, it was Eric Burdon and WAR and WAR was billed as the backing band for Eric Burdon of The Animals. The group was the brainchild of Burdon and Jerry Goldstein who was a member of The Strangeloves and the co-writer of a whole host of classic singles like “I Want Candy,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Come On Down To My Boat,” “Sorrow” and “Hang On Sloopy.”

Goldstein was Sly & The Family Stone’s manager when he saw WAR performing in a bar and signed them to his own Far Out Production company. With Burdon at the helm, WAR scored the smash hit “Spill The Wine” from their 1970 debut album Eric Burdon Declares War. Another album followed, before Burdon went his own way leaving WAR to establish themselves as an entity in their own rite.

With Goldstein’s management of the band, it wasn’t long before WAR began scoring hits on their own like “All Day Music” and “Slippin’ Into Darkness” from their 1971 All Day Music album. WAR’s unique sound was steeped in Latin Jazz, psychedelic Rock and Funk, layering Lee Oskar’s harmonica lines over Charles Miller’s saxophone in unison on extended jams.

The year 1972, saw the release of their breakthrough chart-topping album, The World Is A Ghetto, with its title track hit (#3 R&B, #7 Pop) and AM radio classic “The Cisco Kid” which climbed to #2 Pop and #5 on the R&B charts.

The origins of the character of The Cisco Kid came from the O. Henry story The Caballero’s Way in which the character was a villain. When The Cisco Kid debuted on TV, he became a Mexican hero and the show centered on his adventures in the old west. The show ran from 1950-1956 and starred Duncan Renaldo as The Cisco Kid.

The song was written by the group’s guitarist Howard Scott who wanted to write a song about an ethnic hero. On the day he wrote it, he was visited by drummer Howard Brown.

Drummer, Howard Brown: “Howard has always been a major contributor. He was in Compton, he had this apartment. I came up there and when I got up there he was sitting on his amp. He said, ‘Harold, I got this idea. Cisco kid was a friend of mine.’ That idea came about because there were no ethnic heroes at that time. Mainly, we were seeing people like Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers. There wasn’t really anybody to relate to except Cisco Kid. He was like the total different kind of person.

We wanted to give kids, people, another alternative besides the ones that were right in our face, obvious heroes. And it worked out really good, because it had the right kind of hook, it was a fun song. People at that time didn’t want to be hearing about no more wars or anything, they just wanted fun music. And the tonality was brilliant.”  (Songfacts.com)

Today’s jukebox classic features the group’s classic lineup of Lee Oskar on harmonica, Lonnie Jordan on vocals, organ and percussion, B.B. Dickerson on bass, Papa Dee Allen on percussion, Howard Scott on guitar, Harold Brown on drums and Charles Miller on saxophone. The flip is a tribal funk instrumental that closes out he The World Is A Ghetto album.

WAR continued to score hits throughout the 1970s including “Low Rider,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Summer,” “Gypsy Man” and many others. Charles Miller was murdered in 1980 and Papa Dee Allen succumbed to a heart attack while performing on stage in 1988.

In the mid-1990s, Far Out Productions/Jerry Goldstein won the use of the name WAR in federal court, and original keyboardist Lonnie Jordan began touring under that name. The other 4 surviving core members toured under the name The Music Band and formed The Lowrider Band in 2007. Meanwhile Burdon got back together with Lonnie Jordan for a one-off reunion, billed as Eric Burdon and WAR, at The Royal Albert Hall in 2008.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: March 24th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #91 – Eddie Kendricks: “Keep On Truckin’ Part 1” b/w “Keep On Truckin’ Part 2”– Tamla T-54238F

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #91 – Eddie Kendricks: “Keep On Truckin’ Part 1” b/w “Keep On Truckin’ Part 2”– Tamla T-54238F

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

Originally a member of The Primes (to the Supremes’ Primettes), Eddie Kendricks possessed one of the most soulful voices in the group that would later be renamed The Temptations. With the group, Kendricks angelic falsetto voice climbed the charts numerous times on such classics as “Just My Imagination,” “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Get Ready” and dozens of others too numerous to mention here.

After Kendricks’ acrimonious split from the Tempts in 1971, they went on to score a monster hit with “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and released a single called “Superstar (Remember How You Got To Where You Are)” which was a slam at Kendricks before the hits began to dry up.

In the meantime, Kendricks would have to wait a few years for one of his records to click with the American public, but when “Keep On Truckin’” did, it sold over a million copies and topped both the R&B and Pop charts, ushering in the Disco era and making him the most successful solo artist from the group.

The song was written by producer Frank Wilson, Anita Poree and Leonard Caston Jr. In the track, Kendricks’ returned the favor by including a reference to his old group in the lyrics: “In old Temptations’ rain, I’m duckin’ / For your love though sleet and snow, I’m truckin’.”

The track was released on Kendricks’ self-titled third album featuring backing by Darrell Clayborn and James Jamerson on bass, Billy Cooper, Dean Parks and Greg Poree on guitar, Ed Greene and Kenny Rice on drums, Gary Coleman and Jack Ashford on percussion, Harold Johnson and Leonard Caston on piano and Kin Errisson on congas. The album version of the song ran over eight minutes for maximum dancefloor pleasure; however it was split into two parts for its 45rpm single release.

Kendricks’ disco success continued with the release of “Boogie Down” the following year, which climbed to the #2 slot on the Pop charts and topped the R&B charts. In the 1980s, he appeared at Live Aid, backed Hall & Oates (with David Ruffin) on their Live At The Apollo album and was inducted into The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame as a Temptation. Kendricks died of lung cancer at the age of 52 on October 5, 1992.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: March 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #90 – Labelle: “Lady Marmalade” b/w “Space Children”– Epic 8-50048

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #90 – Labelle: “Lady Marmalade” b/w “Space Children”– Epic 8-50048

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”

With that one line from today’s jukebox classic, American music fans were introduced to a certain creole lady of the night and also got a French lesson. At the same time, America also discovered the wonders of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, who collectively went under the moniker of Labelle.

Labelle was not a new entity in the music business. The group formed in the 1960s in Philadelphia under the name The Blue Belles with the same lineup as above, plus Cindy Birdsong (who went on become a member of Diana Ross and The Supremes). They scored several soulful doo wop flavored ballads that highlighted Patti’s huge set of pipes including “Down The Aisle (The Wedding Song),” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Over The Rainbow.”

The group changed their name to Labelle after Birdsong left for The Supremes in 1967 and shared co-billing with Laura Nyro on her Gonna Take A Miracle, album which in my estimation is one of the greatest records ever recorded. (If you’ve never heard this album, stop reading and go to Spotify immediately!) By 1974, the group changed their persona and became an outlandish funk group. The group’s sexually infused personality and freaky party attire made them huge with the Gay community, and to this day, Patti LaBelle is still their main diva.

“Lady Marmalade” was written by Bob Crewe, who also wrote most of the Four Seasons’ biggest hits with Bob Gaudio, and Kenny Nolan, who along with Crewe wrote Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You” and many others. The track was produced by none other than New Orleans’ favorite son,  Allen Toussaint, who wrote numerous hits including “Working In The Coalmine,” “Yes We Can-Can,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights” and “Mother-In-Law,” to name but a few. He is also heard playing piano on the track.

Labelle was not the first group to take a crack at recording the song. It was originally recorded by Nolan’s group, Eleventh Hour in 1974. It was Toussaint who chose the song for Labelle’s chart-topping album Nightbirds. The song topped the R&B and Pop Singles charts in 1975, knocking out Crewe and Nolan’s composition, “My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli from the top slot.

The song saw a resurgence in popularity in 2001 when it topped the charts again after it was recorded by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, and Pink. That version was produced by Missy Elliott for the soundtrack to the film Moulin Rouge. It went on to win the 2001 Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. It is the only song to top the U.S. and UK charts twice. The song was also covered by All Saints (who topped the UK charts with it), Sheila E., the disco group Boogie Knights and Lords Of Acid.

The aforementioned hook of the song, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” which translates to “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?,” was originally spoken in  the play A Streetcar Named Desire by the character Blanche DuBois. When LaBelle performed the song on TV, they were forced to change the famous line to “Voulez-vous danser avec moi, ce soir?” which means “Do you want to dance with me tonight.”

Patti Labelle: “I swear I had no idea for a while what it meant, until I asked Bob Crewe, who recorded it, ‘what’s voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?’ He told me, ‘Oh gosh’, I said, ‘what will my mother think?’” (New Musical Express via Songfacts.com)

By 1977, Labelle’s popularity began to decline and all three members went their separate ways, each scoring hits on their own. Today, Patti LaBelle is still the most visible member of the group and has rightfully held on to her title as Diva.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: March 17th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circle” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circle” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

He truly was the fifth Beatle…he was also a Rolling Stone, and Billy Preston also did numerous sessions with a stellar cast of characters that included Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Richard, Sly & The Family Stone, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and dozens of others. He also co-wrote Joe Cocker’s smash hit “You Are So Beautiful” and sent his own hits like “Space Race,” “Outa-Space,” “Nothing From Nothing,” “With You I’m Born Again” (with Syreeta Wright) and today’s jukebox classic, “Will It Go Round In Circles” up the charts.

The list of albums he’s appeared on reads like a history of classic rock ‘n’ roll including The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Love You Live, Black And Blue and Tattoo You,  The Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Concert For Bangla Desh, Dark Horse, Extra Texture, Thirty-Three & 1/3 and Gone Troppo, and Ringo Starr’s Ringo and Goodnight Vienna. He was, indeed the Forrest Gump of keyboards to the biggest bands in the land. And if that’s not enough, he was also the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live, he inspired Miles Davis who named a song after him on his Get Up With It album, and he also coined the phrase “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” for Stephen Stills.

Preston first came into The Beatles’ circle back in 1962 when he was a sixteen year old touring member of Little Richard’s band. But it wasn’t until 1969 when George Harrison walked out on the Let It Be sessions, and returned with Preston in tow in an effort to get the other three fabs to be on their best behavior during the acrimonious sessions that led to their last two albums as a group. At one point, John Lennon suggested that they add Preston as the fifth member of the band to which McCartney quipped that four Beatles were bad enough. (The Beatles – A/B Road: The Complete Get back Sessions, January 24th via Wikipedia)

“George Harrison, a friend of Preston, had quit, walked out of the studio and gone to a Ray Charles concert in London, where Preston was playing organ. Harrison brought Preston back to the studio, where his keen musicianship and gregarious personality temporarily calmed the tension.” (Harrington, Richard (June 8, 2006). “‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston Made the Greats Even Greater”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-02 via Wikipedia)

Preston was signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label where he launched his solo career in 1969 with the gospel single “That’s The Way God Planned It” and the album of the same name that were both produced by George Harrison. After a second Apple LP release went nowhere, Preston signed with A&M Records where he found his greatest solo success.

Today’s jukebox classic was one of two chart-topping singles Billy Preston recorded (“Nothing From Nothing” was the other). The song was written by Bruce Fisher, who was working in the mail room of NBC-TV and Billy Preston. Inspiration for the song came after Preston walked into the writing session and told Fisher “I got a song that ain’t got no melody.” The song was originally released on his 1972 solo album Music Is My Life that featured the musicianship of The Brothers Johnson (George Johnson on guitar and Louis Johnson on bass), and a horn section that included Tom Scott and Jim Horn. The flip of today’s single is Preston’s gospel-flavored cover of the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird.”

During his later years, Preston served time in prison for tax evasion and suffered from kidney disease and high blood pressure. He died in June of 2006 after several months in a coma of malignant hypertension which caused his kidneys to shut down and respiratory failure.

Edited: February 27th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #76 – Martha and the Vandellas: “Wild One” b/w “Dancing Slow”– Gordy 7036 (L8/M8)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #76 – Martha and the Vandellas: “Wild One” b/w “Dancing Slow”– Gordy 7036 (L8/M8)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Today’s Song Of the Day is the second single in the jukebox by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. As a result, I will pick up some of the biographical information I wrote about the group from my piece on “Jimmy Mack” (Jukebox Series #23) for this article.

Martha and the Vandellas was one of the most successful girl groups to come out of Motown. Unlike The Supremes, the Vandellas’ sound was far grittier and more danceable than the sugary pop that catapulted The Supremes to fame. Their list of classic hits includes “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Come And Get These Memories,” “Quicksand,” “Live Wire,” “Jimmy Mack,” “My Baby Loves Me,”  “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” and their signature single “Dancing in the Street.”

Today’s jukebox classic was not one of Martha and the Vandellas’ biggest hits, but it is one that has a distinctive uptown Brill Building sound to it, by way of Detroit. The song was written by William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter who also were two of the three songwriters of the group’s defining hit “Dancing In The Street.” In fact, the backing track to this song was an alternate version of the backing track to “Dancing In The Street,” with the crucial difference of a heavily boosted drum track that sends the record into the dance floor stratosphere.

The song climbed to #11 on the R&B charts, but only placed at #34 on the Hot 100 singles chart. However, don’t let the somewhat anemic chart stats fool you; this song is every bit as potent as their biggest hits with its larger than life drum sound, tinny AM radio horn charts, and of course the sultry vocal talents of Martha Reeves. The song was a tribute to bikers and was inspired by The Shangri-Las’ “Leader Of The Pack” and The Crystals’ “He’s A Rebel.”

Personnel on the track included Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly, William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Joe Hunter on background vocals, with instrumentation by various members of Motown’s session group The Funk Brothers, including Benny Benjamin on drums, James Jamerson on bass, Jack Ashford and Ivy Jo Hunter on percussion and Robert White and Eddie Willis on guitar.

The song was included on The Vandellas’ 1965 Dance Party album, as was the flip of today’s jukebox classic “Dancing Slow.” The album centered on a clutch of singles that were released during the previous year including the hits “Dancing In The Street” and “Come And Get These Memories,” plus the popular album track “Motoring.”

The flip of today’s single, “Dancing Slow” was a supper club ballad that was supposed to cast Martha Reeves in a new light as a nightclub performer. Around this time, Diana Ross and The Supremes scored three consecutive chart-topping singles, so Motown did not want The Vandellas’ to compete on the charts with the label’s new superstar group (even though Martha Reeves could sing circles around Diana Ross). As a result, the group was sent to the studio during the summer of 1964 to record a selection of MOR pop ballads, Broadway tunes and standards for a supper club album that never saw the light of day. Ultimately, The Supremes went on to become Motown’s biggest recording act, pushing Martha and the Vandellas to the side and ultimately off the label.

Edited: February 11th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #73 – Aretha Franklin: “Day Dreaming” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Atlantic 45-2866 (E8/F8)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #73 – Aretha Franklin: “Day Dreaming” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Atlantic 45-2866  (E8/F8)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Today’s jukebox classic is a self-penned nugget from Aretha Franklin’s classic Young, Gifted and Black album. The song features some of the most lilting and sensuous vocals Reethy ever captured on record. The album was Aretha’s most consistent platter and it captured her at her absolute prime in a year that saw the release of classic soul albums like Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly, Al Green’s I’m So In Love With You and Let’s Stay Together,  Bill Withers’ Still Bill and Cymande’s self-titled debut.  Amongst its tune stack are the hit singles “Rock Steady” and “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby),” along with today’s song “Day Dreaming.” The album won Aretha her sixth Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Female Artist in 1973.

“Day Dreaming” was released in 1972 and climbed to #5 on the pop charts, while topping the Hot Soul Singles charts for two weeks and selling over a million copies. The track features Donny Hathaway on electric piano, jazz great Hubert Laws on flute, Chuck Rainey and Cornell Dupree on guitar and Bernard Purdie on drums. It was produced by the Atlantic Records supreme team of Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd and it has been covered by the likes of Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Will Downing, Corinne Bailey Rae and many others.

The subject of Aretha’s day dreaming was said to be Temptations singer Dennis Edwards, however Franklin has never disclosed who the man of her day dreams really was. Franklin: “’Day Dreaming’ was rather personal and I was thinking about someone who used to be a friend of mine. I’ll give you a hint. Used to be with one of the hottest groups in the country, tall, dark and fine. ‘OOOOwww wooo wooo wheee!” – he could sing!” (Aretha Franklin: The Queen Of Soul by Mark Bego)

The song was released during the height of the singer songwriter era casting Aretha Franklin in a new light as one of the most influential female singer songwriters of the day, along with Roberta Flack, Carole King and Carly Simon who composed and performed their own material.

The flip of today’s single is Aretha’s take on the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” which originally appeared on his Otis Blue album in 1965. The song was written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler, who also recorded his own version. Aretha’s cover was also included on Young, Gifted and Black. The song has been covered by a myriad of artists including The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Ike and Tina Turner, Etta James, The Tindersticks, Joe Cocker and Seal.

Edited: February 6th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #72–Curtis Mayfield: “Freddie’s Dead” b/w “Underground” – Curtom CR-1975 (C8/D8)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #72–Curtis Mayfield: “Freddie’s Dead” b/w “Underground” – Curtom CR-1975 (C8/D8)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

They called them “Blaxploitation” films. They were films that were created specifically for the African American urban market during the early 1970s. They weren’t known for their story lines or for the greatest acting, but they were chock full of action, and they were soundtracked by some of the greatest soul artists of all time.

No list of great Blaxploitation soundtracks would be complete without Across 112th Street by Bobby Womack, Shaft by Isaac Hayes and Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye. And then there were dozens of “second tier” films and soundtracks that were not as well known, but had their musical moments of potency including Black Caesar by James Brown, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadass Song by Melvin Van Peeples, The Mack by Willie Hutch and Together Brothers by Barry White. Perhaps the finest Blaxploitation soundtrack of them all is Super Fly by Curtis Mayfield, where not coincidentally, today jukebox classic comes from.

Super Fly was directed by Gordon Parks, Jr. and starred Ron O’Neal as an African cocaine dealer. It is one of the few Blaxploitation films where the soundtrack out grossed its parent film. The soundtrack was released in 1972 on Curtis Mayfield’s own Curtom record label and spawned two million-selling singles, including the title track which climbed to #8 on the pop charts and #5 on the soul charts, and today’s jukebox classic “Freddie’s Dead,” which placed at #4 on the pop charts and #2 on the black singles charts in 1972 before the release of the film. Additionally, the soundtrack also included the song “Pusherman” which also garnered significant airplay and would not be out of place on any Curtis Mayfield greatest hits collection.

Like Marvin Gaye’s colossal What’s Goin’ On from the same period, the album featured socially conscious lyrics that reflected the reality of inner city life which were an anomaly for the times. When it was released, record company brass at Buddah (which distributed Curtom Records) didn’t believe the record would sell, however the album ultimately topped the pop charts for four weeks and the black charts for six weeks.

Interestingly, the song was only featured in the film as an instrumental which kind of makes sense since the song’s stance is decidedly anti-drug use, while the film centers on the doings of a bad-ass drug dealer. As a result, it was not eligible for an Academy Award nomination because the lyrics were not heard in the film. The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, but lost out to The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.”

Personnel on the single included Curtis Mayfield on vocals and guitar, Joseph Lucky Scott on bass, Master Henry Gibson on percussion, Morris Jennings on drums and Craig McMullen on guitar. It has been covered by Fishbone, MFSB, The Derek Trucks Band and E.U.

The flip of today’s single features an atmospheric spoken intro that morphs into a scuzzy lowdown, sinister vibe with a spiraling guitar figure. It’s a sound that only Mayfield could pull together with his otherworldly falsetto. It was culled from his previous album, Roots which was released in 1971.

Edited: February 5th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #65–The Drifters: “On Broadway” b/w “I’ve Got Sand In My Shoes” – Atlantic Oldies Series OS-13013 (J7/K7)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #65–The Drifters: “On Broadway” b/w “I’ve Got Sand In My Shoes” – Atlantic Oldies Series OS-13013 (J7/K7)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

It was one of the greatest songs to emanate from the Brill Building in New York City, and it was recorded by one of the greatest R&B groups of all time, The Drifters. “On Broadway” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, with an assist from Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, four of the most hit-laden songwriters to come out of the hallowed halls of the Brill Building. The story behind the song’s inception exemplifies the creative and collaborative spirit of the writers who were also very much in competition with each other.

The Brill Building sound actually came from two buildings. There was the actual Brill Building at 1619 Broadway where Lieber and Stoller had their offices, and there were the offices of Aldon Music which were housed at 1650 Broadway. Weil and Mann worked at Aldon Music and originally recorded versions of “On Broadway” with The Cookies and The Crystals. Lieber and Stoller, who were housed at 1650 Broadway had booked a recording session the day after The Cookies’ session in the same studio and put word out that they were still looking for one more song for The Drifters to record. Weil and Mann forwarded “On Broadway” to Lieber and Stoller who liked it, but wanted to make some changes. An all-night writing session ensued with all four songwriters, culminating in a simpler rhythm and different lyrics.

Cynthia Weil: “We originally wrote “On Broadway” for a group called The Cookies. Our friends Carole King and Gerry Goffin were writing for them and Gerry was producing and they were short one song. Barry had this concept of writing a “Gershwinesque” pop song and I, being a Broadway fanatic wanted to write a lyric about my favorite street and all it stood for. The ideas seemed to mesh so we wrote the first version of “On Broadway.” The Cookies and later The Crystals cut it but neither record was released. Then our publisher told us that Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller were looking for songs for The Drifters. We played them our song and they thought we needed to make some changes for their group. They said we could go home and work on it or rewrite it with them. We idolized them and jumped at the chance to team up. Using the basic melody that Barry had written and my opening lines all we created the “On Broadway” that went on to be a hit by The Drifters and George Benson.” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil Website – http://www.mann-weil.com)

The Drifters had an ever-changing lineup (hence the group’s name) that included three main lead vocalists in succession. Their original lead vocalist was Clyde McPhatter who was with the group for one year and sang on the hits “Such A Night,” “Money Honey,” “Lucille” and “Honey Love.” The second main incarnation of the group featured Ben E. King who sang on the hits “There Goes My Baby,” “Dance With Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “I Count The Tears” and “Save The Last Dance For Me.”  After King’s departure for a solo career, Rudy Lewis came on board and lent his golden tones to “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “Up On The Roof” and today’s jukebox classic.  Lewis was with the group from 1961 until his untimely death in 1964.

The musicians on the track included Phil Spector who played the guitar solo, Joe Newman and Ernie Royal on trumpet, Billy Butler, Bill Suyker and Everett Barksdale on guitar, Russ Savakus on Bass, Gary Chester on Drums and Phil Kraus, Nick Rodriguez and Martin Grupp on percussion. The song appeared on the group’s 1964 album Under The Boardwalk which featured Rudy Lewis’ last recordings with the group before his death, and the emergence of their next lead singer Johnny Moore, who had been McPhatter’s temporary successor in the 1955 incarnation of the group. (The numerous lineup changes within The Drifters are confusing to say the least and I won’t delve much farther into this here.)

The song reached the #9 position on the pop charts in 1963 and it was covered by George Benson, whose smooth jazz rendition brought it back to the top ten of the charts in 1978. The song also saw covers by The Coasters, The Dave Clark Five, Eric Carmen, Bobby Darin, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Gary Numan, Tito Puente, Lou Rawls, Neil Young, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra and Sly & The Family Stone. Both David Bowie and Genesis quoted the melody and lyrics of this ever popular favorite in their respective songs “Aladdin Sane” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.”

The flip of today’s single is “I’ve Got Sand In My Shoes” which was written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick who also wrote “Under The Boardwalk.” This sequel is strongly reminiscent of “Under The Boardwalk,” and just as good, to boot! It’s got a great guitar line at the front of the tune, and it appeared on The Drifters’ 1965 album I’ll Take You Where The Music’s Playing. The personnel on the track included Johnny Moore on lead vocals, Charles Thomas on tenor vocals, Eugene Pearson on baritone vocals, John Terry on bass vocals and Billy Davis on guitar. The album was the first Drifters record to be released after the death of Rudy Lewis.

Edited: January 23rd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

There’s always been a fine line between country and soul music (i.e. Charley Pride), but never has the line been so thin than on today’s Song Of The Day, “Take A Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves which features a soulful mariachi-flavored horn part that would fit comfortably on both a country and soul track.

The song was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama featuring their crack studio crew including Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett on electric piano, Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitars, David Hood on bass and Mel Lastie on trumpet. Most of the musicians on the record had recently broken away from FAME studios where they were featured on many Atlantic recordings to start out on their own.

David Hood: “It was our first big hit. First gold record after we had gone out on our own. We were getting pretty nervous, because we thought Atlantic was going to quit using us and we were going to go broke. So it was a big relief when R.B. Greaves came along. ‘Take a Letter, Maria’ was just a fluke. We all thought it was good when we cut it, but we didn’t think it was anything all that special. And here it becomes a hit.” (Song Facts)

The song was written by Greaves, but was recorded by both Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder before he committed it to wax at the insistence of producer and record label boss Ahmet Ertegun. It reached the #2 slot on the Billboard pop charts in August of 1969 and sold over a million copies. It also spawned two charting country covers by Anthony Armstrong Jones who brought the song to #8 in 1970, and Doug Stone who landed the song at #45 on the Country charts in 1999. The song has also been covered by the likes of New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Gary Puckett, Boots Randolph, Jimmy Ruffin, Mel Tormé and Country Dick Montana of the alt country group Beat Farmers.

The song was featured on the album R.B. Greaves which was produced by Ahmet Ertegun. David Hood: “He (Ertegun) was a tremendous recognizer of talent and of songs. He knew music and musicians about as well as anybody on earth, but he was very hands off. He sat in the control room…He had his feet propped up on the console and had a yellow legal pad in his lap. We thought, gosh, he’s making all these notes and doing all this stuff. And we go in there, and he’d just been doodling and drawing stars and stuff.” (Song Facts)

The album includes covers of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “Ain’t That Good News,” and five songs that were penned by Greaves.  (R.B. Greaves was the nephew of Sam Cooke.) The flip of the single is another Greaves composition that did not turn up on his debut Atco album.

Greaves continued to have moderate chart success with such covers as Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” before leaving Atco Records in the early 1970s. His only other chart single was “Margie, Who’s Watching The Baby,” which bubbled under at #115 in 1972. Greaves died of prostate cancer in September of 2012 at the age of 68.

Edited: January 9th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

She was Motown’s first big star and a favorite of The Beatles , and songs like this Smokey Robinson penned gem that climbed to the #2 position of the R&B charts and the #8 position of the pop charts in 1962 are the reason why. Wells came to Motown after passing Berry Gordy a song demo that she had intended for Jackie Wilson to record. Gordy had her sing the song for him and was suitably impressed enough to have her record “Bye Bye Baby” and released it as her first single which climbed to #8 on the R&B charts in 1961.

After this success, Gordy teamed her up with Smokey Robinson. Today’s jukebox classic was one in a long line of hits composed specifically for Mary Wells by Smokey Robinson, that also included “My Guy,” You Beat Me To The Punch” and “Two Lovers” that established Wells as Motown’s first big star before  leaving the company at the height of her powers in 1964.

“The One Who Really Loves You” is one of the finest examples of Robinson’s compositional magnificence. The song features a super-catchy ear worm of a tune highlighted by Wells’ cool lilting vocal that projects just the right amount of adult sophistication aloft in the mix. It all comes to you backed by a Harry Belafonte- influenced Calypso beat and smooth harmony vocals by The Love Tones (Carl Jones, Joe Marls & Stanford Bracely) who recorded backing vocals on many Motown sessions in 1962, but were never afforded a single of their own. The song was from Wells’ 1962 album of the same name which also included hit single “You Beat Me To The Punch.”

The flip of the single is every bit as good as the A-side, and was culled from Mary Wells’ 1961 debut Motown album called Bye Bye Baby I Don’t Want To Take A Chance. The single was reissued in 1965 after Wells left the label with the sides flipped to minimal chart action.

Wells’ success came to an end at Motown after a dispute with the label over the royalties from her recording of “My Guy” which she claimed were used to promote The Supremes’ single “Where Did Our Love Go” rather than one of her own records. Wells freed herself from Motown giving up royalties from the records she recorded for the label and the use of her own likeness to promote them, and signed with 20th Century Fox records where she had little chart success.

After recording many good records for Atco, Jubilee and Reprise that failed to chart, Wells found herself back on the charts again in 1981 with the Disco hit “Gigolo.” More records followed for a succession of smaller record labels that offered little promotion until Wells was diagnosed with cancer in 1990. She also sued Motown for unpaid royalties and reached a settlement with the label. Wells succumbed to laryngeal cancer in July of 1992 at the age of 49 leaving a legacy of soulful gems in her wake that are ripe for reinvestigation.

Edited: January 7th, 2014