“I hope these dreams will come true”, so goes a line in the song “Let Our Love Grow Higher”. Well we often dream that rare soul icons such as Eula Cooper would be re-discovered and make a triumphant return to performing live. Of course it needs something to trigger such a process. Something such as a specialist record label licensing rare old 45 tracks from a long extinct outfit who never really managed to make much commercial impact. Well not too long ago, US based specialist label Numero added a new compilation to their well-respected ‘Eccentric Soul’ series — ‘The Tragar & Note Labels’. The publicity surrounding this release made Eula aware that there were still many fans of her music, spread right across the world, Not one to rest on her laurels, when offered a live gig in New York, she jumped at the opportunity.
So last November, at the Five Spot in Brooklyn, Eula made her New York live debut 40 years after her first 45 was issued. Strangely, that first single had made such an impact in her hometown of Atlanta that New York colossus Atlantic Records had licensed the single for national distribution. Inspired by the reception she got from the New York audience, Eula has now bitten the bullet and agreed to head overseas to perform for the first time ever. There’s nowhere better for this debut to take place than the Prestatyn Weekender.
Eula was born in 1953 in Opelika, Alabama (west of Columbus) but moved to Birmingham at an early age. The family moved again when she was 6years old, this time the destination was Atlanta. Here, she got into singing in church and it wasn’t long before she made her public appearance debut. At age 9 she entered a talent show held at the Magnolia Ballroom in Atlanta and on this she sang "What Two Can Easily Do" (in late 63 / early 64). Even at this young age, she was already displaying her considerable vocal abilities. Singing a cappella, she won the contest and her career was almost launched. A few years passed and Eula was only managing to impress her school friends with her vocal efforts.
One day in 1968, she was entertaining her friends by singing a song she had written (“Shake, Daddy, Shake”) whilst they all tried clothes on in a shop in the city. The storeowner liked what he heard and suggested she head upstairs to the offices above the shop. Along with her friends, she took the advice and found Jesse Jones sitting at a desk in his Tragar Records office. She sang the song for him and was immediately sent home to fetch her mother. Jesse instantly recognized that in Eula he had probably discovered someone he could mold into a real star.
In no time, Eula’s first 45 hit the shops. “Shake Daddy Shake” immediately made the local charts and was picked up for national distribution by Atlantic (they made “Heavenly Father” the plug side). So after spending her weekdays at Booker T Washington High School, the weekends would be devoted to spells in the recording studio or on stage. “Try” (arranged by Tommy Stewart) became the A side of her next 45 outing with her Motown connection being renewed on its flip with a cover of “Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things” (this had been meant for Richard Cook but he had failed to show up in the studio). “I Can't Help If I Love You” also escaped in 1969 on Tragar 45’s (twice). The label was however experiencing a major cash crisis and it soon lapsed into hibernation, but Eula’s crowning glory was about to take wing. Starting up the Super Sound label, Jones decided a more professional product was needed. So Eula was taken over to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio to work with the highly proficient in-house team there. The result was “Let Our Love Grow Higher”, a song written & arranged by Tragar stalwart Bill Patterson in 1970. It was to prove to be Eula’s finest hour.
Funds were still short though and this deficiency meant the song was lost in the shuffle due to lack of promotion. The Super Sound label quickly sank without trace but was soon replaced with Note Records. “I Need You More” escaped in 1971 and this particular cut is Eula’s personal favorite (it was used again in 1972). The strings on the track were arranged by Wade Marcus who also worked for Motown, Atlantic, Stax and Chess. After the journey across to Florence (200 miles), she was so tired that she fell asleep in the studio. The backing on the track was finished while she slept; luckily she woke in time to add the lead vocals. When not studying at school, in the studio or on the road, Eula sang in the choir.
She next teamed up with fellow choir members Shari Billingslea and Deborah Tolls to form Cherry Blend. The trio cut the fine “Love Is Gone” in Muscle Shoals and it was released by Note. King Records were impressed and so licensed it for release in 1972. But Eula was soon back to solo recording duties, this time at Fame Studios. The Sam Dees song “Beggars Can't Be Choosey” was laid down and coupled with “I Need You More” (being used once again) in 1973. This Note Records track became Eula’s first UK release when in 1979 it was issued here on the Grapevine label. Back in America, “Standing By Love” was re-cycled for her next and (unfortunately) last US 45 release.
Eula went off to college, started a family and then followed Jessie Jones across to California. Here she continued to play live gigs and even hooked up with Jones to lay down more tracks (1984) but none managed to escape from the tape vaults. She even prepared to sing back-up for Chaka Chan but refused to go on the actual tour after getting the short end of the stick with regard to some songs she largely composed for Chaka. Eventually she moved back to the south and bought into the more mundane 9 to 5 lifestyle. Luckily, the reaction to the Numero CD changed that and she’s now ready to dive back into the entertainment pool. The appreciative reaction of the Prestatyn Weekender audience certainly guaranteed that she didn’t regret her decision. Dreams did come true for many people at the weekender, Eula being one of them.
Photo's of Eula at Dig Deeper can be seen at:
Details of the recent appeal and further links can be viewed at: