THE RICHARD CAITON STORY
Compiled by David and Val Box 2016
With a lot of help from Richard Caiton, Garry J. Cape and Paul Mooney
Ask an American soul fan to name their favourite New Orleans’ artists, and they will probably choose Allen Toussaint, Lee Dorsey, The Meters, Irma Thomas and Robert Parker. Ask a European or Japanese soul fan the same question and they are more likely to select Willie Tee, or an even lesser known artist such as Richard Caiton, a forgotten figure of the New Orleans soul and R&B scene. Even few New Orleans musicians from his era recall his name.
However, in Europe and Japan, Richard’s emotive, soulful recordings have become revered, and are highly sought after. Richard Caiton’s name has been kept alive over the last forty years by fans outside the United States. In overseas R&B/soul record collecting circles, some copies of his original singles have changed hands for well in excess of £1000, and in the last few years the prices have escalated.
Richard James Caiton was born on December 26th, 1944. One of an extended family of seven children, Richard grew up near the St Bernard housing project in New Orleans. Whilst he attended Clark High School, he taught himself to play piano and he sang in the church choir; the church in question here being the St John’s Divine Baptist. Back then, Richard could barely afford to buy records, but listened to the radio a lot; he especially liked the Motown Sound and Curtis Mayfield. Smokey Johnson lived across the street and he was a great influence. “I remember the time when Smokey was putting together ‘It Ain’t My Fault’.”
Richard won his first talent show at Clark High School, singing ‘I Love You’, a song he wrote himself. “Even then, I consciously wanted to do my own individual thing and not copy anybody else.” That might have limited his success, but he was convinced that was the way he wanted to go.
Richard’s debut recording was cut in 1964 with bandleader Dave Bartholomew at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans. ‘You Look Like A Flower’, with the B-side ‘Listen To The Drums’, was released on the Los Angeles-based GNP Crescendo label, GNP #327, a label owned by Los Angeles producer Gene Norman. “A cousin of mine knew Dave. He brought me to his office and he was interested in recording me.” The record got a few plays locally, but it really didn’t do much.
From 1966, Richard recorded for the Up Tight label, an independent label operated and owned by Ulyen Coleman, based in his home town - New Orleans.
He released four singles on Up Tight. First up was #101 ‘Our Love Is True’, backed with ‘Without Your Love’, which received radio plays on WYLD and WBOK. Richard made an appearance on Eddie Williams’ Three Way TV Show (New Orleans’ first dance music show for African Americans) on WGNO Channel 26, but few additional gigs came Richard’s way.
Richard’s second release on the Up Tight label turned out to be his biggest seller: ‘Take A Hold Brother And Sister’. “That was a big song. That was in the time when you could have a big record right here in New Orleans. It did pretty well around here, maybe 30,000 or so. At that particular time, it was the ‘black consciousness’ period; that’s where I got the idea from. Curtis Mayfield had ‘Move On Up’ around that same time. Yeah, these things still sound pretty good.” Richard recalls a Chicago label being interested in distributing ‘Take A Hold….’ nationally, but nothing happened.
In an interview conducted by Garry Cape and New Orleans’ producer the late Isaac Bolden, in 2003; Isaac commented “You know, the Temptations could have done that song ‘Take A Hold…’.. Can’t you hear it? Oh Lord, they could have done that good! That would have been a number one record for them. If Berry Gordy would have signed you….”, Bolden speculated, “if only you’d been at Motown instead of in New Orleans.”
Richard’s third release on Up Tight, ‘I’d Like To Get Near You’, is now highly regarded in modern soul circles and commands a very high price tag if ever a copy turns up for sale. The last time this appeared on Popsike was 2005, with a price tag of £1172.
Garry asked Richard “What inspired you to write your third release ‘I’d Like To Get Near You’?” “At that time” Richard recalled, “there was a song called ‘Colour Him Father’ and it gave me the idea. I wrote it with Eddie Williams. We came up with the melody and stuff together. That was a nice song. Those are real strings! My stuff was just a little too pretty to be a hit,” he laughed. “I could still sing that song today. My idols were Curtis Mayfield and Nat King Cole, and I liked the Gamble and Huff style of production.
During the interview, listening to ‘Reflections’, a Motown-sounding stomper, which was the final release on Up Tight, brought back more memories for Richard. “This is another song I wrote with Eddie Williams. It was recorded in Houston. We tried to get a different kind of sound, more of a Motown type sound,” he revealed. “I always tried to write like Motown, they were my idols.” This turned out to be the rarest release to obtain, it just never comes up for sale.
The Up Tight label had only these four releases, which all featured Richard Caiton. After the last release, ‘Reflections’, the label folded. There are some interesting label details: the first release, #101, had a yellow label; the second, #151, came out with two different colours – red and orange, with different imprint designs; the third, #151, (again) came out on a green label with a slight imprint change from the first release; the fourth release #101, (again) came out on a blue/green label, the design being almost identical to the third release.
All the Up Tight releases were recorded at Jones’ Studio, in Houston, Texas. “We did a few tracks down there; they were having some big records out of the Houston area at that time. I used to ride on a bus, and I’d get ideas for songs just by looking at people. You know, if I looked at a pretty girl – sometimes that’s how I would write.”
As many of Richard’s records had sold well regionally, Garry asked him if he’d performed much on the local club scene? “I did a little bit of work in the clubs, but I wasn’t the kind of person who spent a lot of time in the night life. I had a profession (teaching) and I had a degree, so I preferred to leave music as a passion. If it hit, it hit. And if it didn’t, it didn’t. But I really enjoyed writing, my thing was writing.”
In 1969, Richard signed a management contract with Elijah Walker,a music promoter who owned Skyline Attractions. Walker was instrumental in launching the careers of King Floyd and Jean Knight when he sent them to the Malaco studio in Jackson, and assigned Wardell Quezergue to arrange their sessions. So Walker thought he might duplicate their success with Richard.
By the early 1970s, Richard was concentrating more on writing, often with Joe Broussard, Carrol Washington and Ralph Williams (the team who wrote ‘Mr Big Stuff’ for Jean Knight), and Maria Tynes. Working from Elijah Walker’s Musical Associates in New Orleans, Richard had several songs ‘picked up’ by local producers such as the late Wardell Quezergue, who recorded the original four-member Pointer Sisters at Malaco. That very first session yielded ‘Send Him Back’, which was issued on Atlantic 45-2893 in 1972. Written by Richard, with Tynes and Broussard, it became an anthem on the Northern Soul scene here in the UK.
Senator Jones operated several small labels and recorded Richard’s songs ‘I’m So Lonely’ on The Barrons, and ‘I’ve Taken Over’ on Norma Jean in 1972. These 45s were commercial failures, but ‘I’ve Taken Over’ went on to be popular on the UK Modern Soul scene, and was released in the UK on a Grapevine single, #G2K 45-135, in 2003.
Trips to Jackson in 1972 and 1973 resulted in a Malaco single coupling ‘Superman’ and ‘I’m Gonna Love You More’ in 1974 – Malaco M-1020; despite recording another six tracks for Malaco, nothing else was released at that time. This was possibly due to Walker’s unexpected death which left Richard without a label, but he didn’t give up and continued with his writing. Producer Allen Toussaint was impressed with Richard and offered him a job as house songwriter. Richard declined because it would interfere with his teaching career.
Almost 30 years later, Garry Cape found the tracks at the Malaco studios. These were included with Richard’s other recordings, and the CD compilation was issued in 2003: ‘Reflections - Richard Caiton’, Grapevine GVCD3008.
As if following a pattern, Richard’s next two singles were also commercial failures, but both would become cherished overseas in later years. ‘I See Love Girl In Your Eyes’ and ‘I Wonder Will You Always Love Me’ were recorded at Malaco studios and issued in 1975 on Caiburt VPL-3041, a label Richard owned in partnership with Morris Burton.
“I wrote the song ‘I See Love Girl In Your Eyes’ with Joe Broussard. We had planned to release it on another New Orleans singer called Charles Otis, so we went up to Malaco in Jackson. That’s me on piano, Joe Broussard on organ and Malaco’s great studio musicians. We did that one and the song on the other side of the 45, a pretty ballad called ‘I Wonder Will You Always Love Me’. We put it out on Charles, then I decided to put the record out on myself in partnership with Morris Burton, so I took the track down to Cosimo’s studio here in New Orleans and put my vocal on it.”
The track by Charles Otis was put out as #002 on Caraljo Records, Corp, 2019 Deslonde St, New Orleans.
Garry asked: “What about the song ‘I Will Love You Always’? Was it about anyone special?”
“Yes. That song was about my wife – Theola. Every time I hear it I think of her, and about when we got married, because I heard this song playing on the radio the day we got married. It’s not the kind of song that would be a hit,” he added “but it’s a good song to listen to.”
Once again, Richard took the ride up Interstate 55 to Jackson in 1978 to record two more tracks, the uptempo ‘Where Is The Love’ and the gentle ballad ‘Thank You’.
“Wardell arranged the session and he did the strings for me. We used Malaco’s players and Dorothy Moore was one of the backing singers, though I overdubbed the male vocal parts. It was a good session but when we got through I didn’t have the money to release it, so I gave it to Senator Jones to release on his label, JB’s #131. Senator was pretty hot around here at that time.”
The disco-flavoured ‘Where Is The Love / Thank You’, issued on Senator Jones’ JB’s label, is another Modern Soul favourite, and this was to be Caiton’s last single, as he decided to devote more time to his family and to his teaching administration career, which he continues to practice to this day. Over the years, Richard has been made aware of the demand for his records with soul fans in Europe, and these particular singles have kept his name to the fore.
A quote from Richard… “I never did music for money; it’s always been for love. I’m humbled by what’s happening, and I really appreciate that, at last, folks finally appreciate what I’ve done.’
Since then Richard has recently been active again with his music; he made an appearance at Soul Essence in 2013 and performed at last year’s Ponderosa Stomp festival in New Orleans.
After hearing him at Soul Essence where they used his records as backing tracks I thought how great would it be to have Richard performing a full concert with a full backing band and background singers in the UK for the very first time!!
Well here we go! On the 19th November 2016 Richard Caiton will be performing at the Wilton.
WILTON’S SOULFUL SESSIONS - SATURDAY 19TH NOVEMBER 2016
RICHARD CAITON LIVE AT THE WILTON
A soul night featuring a very special performance from a southern soul legend, supported by our fantastic full eight piece band, including background vocalists, *PUSH*. The night will have the same format as our previous artist nights. Richard will perform two 30 min sets featuring most of his released recordings, and a number of his Malaco recordings that never made vinyl. This will be the first time Richard has performed live with a full support band in the UK. We are so proud to have Richard performing at the Wilton, so come on guys, let’s give him a great welcome with a capacity crowd.
Just to add to this fantastic night the next issue of Soul Up North, featuring Richard Caiton, will be available and Richard will be pleased to sign copies. A cd featuring all the songs Richard will perform on the night will also be available for Richard to sign. We will also have a few copies of Richard’s long deleted Grapevine 2003 cd release - “Refections”, for sale on the night.
Tickets are available now at £23.00 or £26.00 OTD if not sold out. The night will run from 9.00pm to 3.00am as before, with our guest DJ’s Soul Sam, Arthur Fenn, Mike Charlton and residents Boxy & Mouse playing the very best 60’s – 70’s and crossover soul throughout the night. Watch out for further information on the Soul Source website and Facebook. Our usual PayPal payment arrangement is available at www.greywoodhall.co.uk/soulfulsessions or by contacting Boxy on 01924 894555
Acknowledgements: To Richard Caiton for making this possible and for being so patient with my many telephone questions.
Thank you to Garry J. Cape and Paul Mooney – for help and kind permission to copy information from your research for the Grapevine CD release in 2003.
Val Box for her typing skill and putting up with my tantrums….
RICHARD CAITON DISCOGRAPHY
GNP Crescendo GNP 327 - “You Look Like A Flower / Listen To The Drums” - 1964
Up Tight 101 - “Our Love Is True / Without Your Love” - 1966
Up Tight 151 - “Take A Hold Brother And Sister / I Will Love You” - 1968
Up Tight 151 - “I’d Like To Get Near You / It’s Been A Long Time“ - 1969
Up Tight 101 - “Reflections / Forgive Me Baby” - 1969
Malaco (unissued recordings 1972 - 1973) These tracks were released on the Grapevine compilation CD “Reflections” GVCD 3008 in 2003
“Got To Get Across To You”
“I’ll Do Anything For My Baby”
“I Gotcha My Baby”
“What’s Wrong Baby”
“I’m Not The Other Man”
“I’m Not Gonna Be A Victim”
Malaco M -1020 - “I’m Gonna Love You More / Superman” - 1974
Caiburt VPL - 3041 - “I Wonder Will You Always Love Me / I See Love Girl In Your Eyes” - 1975
JB’s 131 - “Thank You / Where Is The Love” - 1978
Grapevine CVCD 3008 - “Reflections - Richard Caition” - 2003