The MVP'S Uncovered!

The MVP'S Uncovered! magazine cover

The MVP’s 1971 release for the Buddah label, “Turning My Heart Beat Up” has become one of the most iconic records to have ever been spun on The Northern Soul Scene, due to its inclusion as part of the soundtrack of Granada Televisions 1977 documentary, ‘This England”. On the much maligned night their camera’s entered the underground nocturnal world of Wigan Casino.

There have been several different schools of thought throughout the ensuing decades as to whom the group really were? From claims that they were a white pop group, a claim probably based on some of the other middle of the road material that the songs writers and producers Bobby Flax and Lanny Lambert have in their repertoire.

Others believed them to be in all probability the same group as the Florida outfit ‘The MVP’(Most Valuable Players) who recorded a string of 45’s and an album of the same name on the MVP label. Fortunately at last all these previous assumptions have now been disproved.

The real story behind the identity of the group arose albeit unintentionally when following a licensing deal between us (Soul Junction Records) and veteran Atlanta, GA songwriter, performer and producer Thomas ‘Tee’ Fletcher, from whom we had licensed The Combinations Kimtone 45 rarity “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”.

When we asked Tee Fletcher if he had any promotional photo’s or background information on The Combinations he advised me that he would introduce me to a former recording artist and friend of his, one Mr. Al Davis quote “Al’s the best person to ask”! So during the ensuing conversation with Al Davis the following story of the true identity of The M.V.P’s unfolded:  

The Combinations were a vocal quartet out of Atlanta, Georgia, who recorded a solitary 45 single entitled “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me/The Goddess Of Love” in 1968 for the vanity Kimtone label. This project was a collaboration between Thomas Fletcher (or as he’s more widely known as ‘Tee’ Fletcher) and Billy Lyles.

 

Combinations - I'm Gonna Make You Love Me - Kimtone.jpg

Tee would feature as producer and arranger upon both sides of the 45, with him being the songwriter on “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”. Tee remembers the group’s original line-up as being the lead singer Emory Cloud supported initially by a bass singer known as Smitty, a first tenor known as Big Harold and a second tenor Little Harold, with Smitty later being replaced by Jack Fraser (prior to the Kimtone 45 release).

Although the Kimtone 45 did make some noise locally for The Combinations they had by then already built a reputation as a sharp well rehearsed working group who performed regularly throughout  the states of Georgia, Florida and The Carolina’s. A later merger between two groups would see Emory Cloud and Jack Frazer from the Combinations joining up with Jesse Bryant and Alphonzo ‘Al’ Davis of the group known as ‘The Classic’s, the name under which this new ensemble continued to perform, for the immediate future anyway.

Jesse Bryant, Al Davis and Jack Frazer all knew each other well having previously performed with Louis Grant as part of the Doo Wop group The Continentals who recorded the 1962 outing “It Doesn’t Matter/Whisper It” (Hunter 3503) with Louis Grant being the songs composer.

One of the Atlanta clubs where The Classic’s often performed was situated on the formerly named Hunter Street now known as Martin Luther King Street, and was named after it’s owner, the former Major League Baseball player, Donn Clendenon.

Donn Clendenon is best remembered as the World Series MVP (Most Valuable Player) of 1969 when as the first baseman for the New York ‘Amazin’ Mets he scored a series clenching record of home runs for a five game series. It was Clendenon by then acting as The Classic’s manager who was responsible for persuading them to drop the name ‘The Classic’s in favour of and in an act of his own pure self-indulgence, assume the new group name of ‘The Most Valuable Players’ (later abbreviated to just ‘The M.V.P.’S).

  

M.V.P.S (Most Valuable Players) Photo.jpg 

L-R:   Jack Frazer, Alphonzo ‘Al’ Davis, Emory Cloud, Jesse Bryant
Front Seated: Donn  Clendenon (Group’s Manager)

The New York based Buddah label at the time had a series of A&R men working throughout the southern states searching for new talent. It was through Clendenon meeting one of these A&R men and accepted his invitation to take The M.V.P’s to New York that they recorded the Bobby Flax and Lanny Lambert produced and penned “Turning My Heartbeat Up/Every Man For Herself ”(BDA 262).

 

Untitled-1 copy.jpg

The lead vocals on “Turning My Heartbeat Up” were performed by ex Combination lead singer Emory Cloud, while the lead vocals on the 45’s flipside “Every Man For Herself” were performed by Al Davis. “Turning My Heartbeat Up” would later become a popular sound on the UK northern soul scene achieving iconic status with its inclusion in the sound track of the 1977 Granada Television Documentary “This England” feature of Wigan Casino. Unfortunately there was to be no more recording made and sadly all the members of The Combinations have since passed away, with the exception of Alphonzo Davis, the last of ‘The M.V.P.’S’.

Words By: David Welding

The above is an extract taken from the sleeve notes of the forthcoming Soul Junction CD album: “We Got A Sweet Thing Going On” Volume 2

Acknowledgements to: Thomas ‘Tee’ Fletcher , Alphonso ‘Al’ Davis and Allen McKeown.

Group photograph courtesy of: Alphonzo Davis

 

 

 The M.V.P's Turning My Heart Beat Up.jpg

 

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  1. 7 Day Lovers

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Chalky profile photo

Posted

The 45 became such a popular record on the UK northern soul scene it warranted a reissue.

The reissue apparently (crazily?) commanded a sum well into three figures on ebay.

The US issue is seriously rare in comparison to the demo.  If anyone can supply a scan of the flip it would be appreciated.

soul R 2248376 1303227362.jpeg

soul R 2248376 1303227368.jpeg

Chalky profile photo

Posted

 

 

guyh profile photo

Posted

Could Emory Cloud be the Emory from Emory and The Dynamics then? They are both Atlanta labels. It's a good bet... 

Chalky profile photo

Posted

8 minutes ago, guyh said:

Could Emory Cloud be the Emory from Emory and The Dynamics then? They are both Atlanta labels. It's a good bet... 

Here's Emory & the Dynamics from 1968, there is a similarity between Emory Cloud and the middle guy stood up. Hard to tell as both at a different angle.

Emory & Dynamics 1968.jpg 

Juniorsoul profile photo

Posted

On 02/07/2016 at 15:19, chalky said:

Here's Emory & the Dynamics from 1968, there is a similarity between Emory Cloud and the middle guy stood up. Hard to tell as both at a different angle.

Also The Four Dynamics?

Louise profile photo

Posted

23 minutes ago, guyh said:

Could Emory Cloud be the Emory from Emory and The Dynamics then? They are both Atlanta labels. It's a good bet... 

The same school of thought did cross my mind Guy and the question has been asked but currently all the living protagonists in this story don't seem to know, either way. So currently the jury remains out for now. :thumbsup:

Dave

Chalky profile photo

Posted (edited)

22 minutes ago, Juniorsoul said:

Also The Four Dynamics?

The lead singer of Emory & the Dynamics (Emory) left and was replaced, hence the change off name to The Four Dynamics.

Edited by chalky
Steve G profile photo

Posted

Interesting read and the two Emory's certainly look similar in appearance.

 

Seano profile photo

Posted

Fascinating thanks Chalky (and David Welding).

Chalky profile photo

Posted

52 minutes ago, seano said:

Fascinating thanks Chalky (and David Welding).

Thank Sean.  Dave should take the credit as he did all the detective work on this.

Ian Parker profile photo

Posted

A great,story. Hats off for the research 

Dave65 profile photo

Posted

Fascinating article, cheers for posting. 

Juniorsoul profile photo

Posted

23 hours ago, chalky said:

The lead singer of Emory & the Dynamics (Emory) left and was replaced, hence the change off name to The Four Dynamics.

Ok mate, every day's a school day I guess. :thumbsup:

Great article

Stevecee profile photo

Posted

Great stuff guys!

Andy Rix profile photo

Posted

I love stuff like this

Nice one Dave

Andy

Guest profile photo

Posted

Great article. Another piece of the Northern Soul puzzle falls into place!!

MVP'S arranged and conducted by the great Horace Ott, also deserves a mention!

 

Guest Jimmy Scriv profile photo

Posted

Great stuff. Love reading articles like this. Well done to all concerned.

Great stuff. Love reading articles like this. Well done to all concerned.

Andy Rix profile photo

Posted

On 09/07/2016 at 19:33, solidsoul said:

Great article. Another piece of the Northern Soul puzzle falls into place!!

MVP'S arranged and conducted by the great Horace Ott, also deserves a mention!

 

I did ask Horace about this session  ...... just another day at work for him ... reflects the Johnny Pate stories ... so he didn't know who they were but he did recall that it was a really good song

Andy  

On 09/07/2016 at 19:33, solidsoul said:

Great article. Another piece of the Northern Soul puzzle falls into place!!

MVP'S arranged and conducted by the great Horace Ott, also deserves a mention!

 

I did ask Horace about this session  ...... just another day at work for him ... reflects the Johnny Pate stories ... so he didn't know who they were but he did recall that it was a really good song

Andy  

Mal C profile photo

Posted (edited)

Just a snippet about Horace Ott, I was lucky enough to speak to Marva Josie some years back, she remembers Horace was really really late for the recording of 'Don't' I mean well over 2 hours or so late, maybe that added to the overall final cut!! 

anyhow back to "Turning my Heartbeat up"...

Edited by Mal C
Soulstrutter profile photo

Posted (edited)

Very good article Chalky which I have just found researching Emory & The Dynamics.

This snippet may be of interest.  Found a comment on a YT posting for 'Let's Take a Look At Your Life' from 2014 (here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDJs_79lSE8).  from someone 'claiming' (as you can never be sure?) to be the one of the members (William Harris) daughter.  There is also a photo of them scanned from the Grapevine William Bell - Atlanta Soul CD

"This is my father William Harris singing on the second verse, such a shame that the credit for the talent on this record is not given to him and the other only other living original group member Emory Harris , who is singing lead on this song. I have seen other get rich off their hard work and talent."

So from that I deduce that Emory (Harris) is probably not the Emory Cloud (unless of course at some point he changed his name?). I am also guessing that William & Emory were brothers and (in 2014 at least) they are both still around.

Have to say though there does seem to be a 'similarity' if Emory Harris is 2nd from left???

soul Emory & The Dynamics200

Also just found this photo (may have been the one Chalky previously posted above) but link is now dead.

soul emory dynamics 1960s press photo_1_562ef86fa0436573932a4628dd34c0d9

Edited by Soulstrutter
  • Up vote 1
Firecrest profile photo

Posted (edited)

According to John Ridley, our greatest living writer on Soul Music, Emory & the Dynamics were from Albany, Georgia, worked at a club called The Royal Peacock and were managed by by civil rights campaigner Jess Williams. 

A little research via the internet has revealed Emory & The Dynamics to be led (as soulstrutter suggests) by Emory Harris. He was a member of the cultural significant The Freedom Singers who were chronicled by Alan Lomax in the early 60s on an LP called 'Freedom In The Air, Albany , Georgia' (on You Tube). There is a Wikipedia entry for them. They began as a movement at Albany State College. Emory Harris sings that rousing anthem 'We'll never turn back'.

Emory & The Dynamics were present and performed at the famous 1967 Southern Christian Leadership Conference where Bernice Reagon and Sydney Poiter addressed a large crowd . They are described as SCLC 'Freedom Singers', suggesting that they were a political   singing group. The members of the group are recorded on another site and the Harris family are prominent. One of the leaders of the Albany Civil Rights Movement is Rutha Harris, who is Emory's sister.

Emory Harris cut a few secular records with the Dynamics (two?) but returned to Civil Rights campaigning. Here he is with his sister Rutha in 2014 singing the moving anthem mentioned above.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Firecrest
  • Up vote 2
Firecrest profile photo

Posted (edited)

Emory Cloud was an older singer who had first recorded in 1957 with the Atlanta based The Debonaires. According to a doo-wop website. He co-wrote their reasonably successful 'Darling' on Herald.  Bill Lowery  produced the Debonaires, or Five Debonaires as they were called originally on "Whispering Blues / Darling" (Herald 509). The group included: Emory Cloud, Arthur Simon and Milton Boykin, while Wesley J. Jackson arranged and provided guitar backing.

Donn Clendenon,  the manager of the MVPs owned clubs in Atlanta but was at the height of a stellar career as Most Valuable Player for the New York Mets. Now I know what MVPs stood for!

 

 

Edited by Firecrest
The Yank profile photo

Posted (edited)

1969 Baseball card - 

 

soul Donn2

soul Donn

Edited by The Yank
  • Up vote 1


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