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Roger Hatcher

Roger Hatcher cover

An old article (now updated) that I wrote about 16 years back .................

 

Roger Hatcher was a member of a very musical family, apart from his brothers Will and Roosevelt, his cousin was of course the most famous Hatcher, Charles (Edwin Starr). Roger had been involved in the music business for many years without ever having enjoyed the level of success that Edwin gained. However in 1996, he did get to enjoy the most comprehensive release of his entire career when the U.K. CD 'The Roger Hatcher Collection' (16 tracks) was released by Expansion. Roger was always a very difficult guy to deal with and this fact must have been a major reason why he jumped from label to label throughout his career. No doubt, if he had established a more trusting relationship with some of the people who signed him to record contracts, he would have been more successful.

 

Roger was born in Birmingham, Alabama on September 29, 1946. His brothers were his inspiration and he wanted to follow in their footsteps, playing sax as Roosevelt did or singing like Will. He was brought up in an area that was a musical hotbed. Other gospel / soul singers from the area included Alex Bradford, Mitty Collier, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Kell Osborne, Frederick Knight, Barbara Joyce Lomas (of B.T. Express), Bill Spoon, Richard and Jessie Fisher. At Butler Elementary School his music teacher, Mrs Cullum, complimented him on his fine voice and gave him a lot of encouragement and help. He continued to develop his singing technique in the choir at Healing Spring Baptist Church in East Avondale and at Hayes High School. Roger wrote his first song, "I Need Someone", at high school where after lessons had finished for the day he would go to the music room and develop tunes on the piano. Roger wrote by ear as he couldn't (and indeed never learnt to) read music and the song was inspired by his girlfriend, Linda Doyle. At times, he would get together to write songs with his neighbour, and long-time friend, William Bell (Bill Spoon).

 

Roger had great ambitions but unfortunately he didn't yet realise that you had to rehearse a song many times before you became proficient at performing it. He entered a high school variety show and decided he would sing Jackie Wilson's "Work Out" but his performance was a disaster. He messed up so badly his school sweetheart, Linda Doyle, said if he ever tried to sing on a show again she would leave him. It took quite a while for him to live the experience down but it taught him a lesson. Before the next year’s show he rehearsed James Brown's "Please, Please, Please" with a band. His girlfriend’s threat was still hanging over him but he went ahead and performed on the show and his improvement pleasantly surprised quite a lot of the audience on the night. Roger’s favourite singers at the time were David Ruffin, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke and Johnnie Taylor in that order.

 

After completing school in 1964, Roger moved to Detroit. Here he went straight to Golden World Records to try to land a recording contract. The folks there liked what they heard and told him to come back the following week. But the following Monday it was snowing heavily and his girlfriend talked him out of going downtown to the studios. Roger always said this was the biggest mistake he ever made. Golden World signed a lot of artists in the 1960’s (including Edwin, the Holidays and Shades Of Blue) and lots of them had big national hits. Even more of the singles the company released in that period went on to become local hits. As Roger had missed out at Golden World, he had to sign with a much smaller (and not as well financed) label. He had written "Get A Hold Of Yourself” and “I Need You”. After he had signed with Clifford ‘Sonny’ Marshall’s Dotty's Records, these were recorded and released as by 'Little' Roger Hatcher. Copies of the track escaped on the Del-La-Northern label but Roger always contended that it was Dotty’s that he was signed to (Del-La-Northern was co-owned by Clifford Marshall; so he could well have arranged with Johnnie Mae Matthews for it to escape on that label instead).

 

Whatever was the case, the 45 was only promoted in Detroit and even there it failed to break through. Strangely, a miss-pressing of the tracks came out on the Ten High label, whilst a Lee Jennings track (“I Been A Fool” - which used the backing track to Roger’s "Get A Hold Of Yourself”) exists on a Dotty’s 45 miss-press. Anyway, Roger cut a new self-written song; "Party Over Yonder". This track was used as the flip to "I Need You", which was released again becoming his follow up single. Dotty's didn't have the necessary resources or expertise to promote their releases effectively and so Roger’s records failed to make the impact he had hoped for (It mattered little after Sonny Marshall was arrested, tried and jailed in the summer of 1968).

 

Roger had travelled home to Birmingham for Christmas (1967?) and as his bus journey took him through Nashville he made the decision to call in on Nashboro Records while he was there. His visit proved successful and he was signed to a record contract by Shannon Williams. When he returned to Nashville for his first recording session with Excello, Bob Holmes went through Roger's file of self-written songs (about 300 in all) and selected two of them for him to cut. So "I'm Gonna Dedicate My Song To You" and "Sweetest Girl In The World" were recorded and a single was released in June 1968 (Excello 2297). Bob Holmes did the musical arrangement for the songs and the backing singers on the session were another Excello group, the Avons (of "Since I Met You Baby" fame). Roger had again written "Sweetest Girl..." for his high school sweetheart, Linda Doyle. The A side,"Im Gonna Dedicate My Song To You" sold well and became a hit in various regions. However due to the company’s lack of co-ordinated national promotion, this success occurred over a period of some months. By the time the record was becoming popular in one major market, it was going down the local charts in others. Because of this, it never made the Billboard national soul chart. Its sales in America did however lead to a U.K. release for the track (b/w a Freddie North track) on President. However "Sweetest Girl In The World", which wasn't issued here, was the side which was to go on to become a favourite with U.K. NS fans.

 

Roger wasn't happy that he had missed out on a national hit and wanted to be with a bigger label and so he asked for (and was granted) a release from his contract. At Nashboro he had got to know Bob Holmes and although Roger moved to Cleveland in 1968, the two kept in touch. Eventually they managed to get back together, again this being down in Nashville. Bob was developing a tune, the melody of which Roger thought was perfect for a love song. But Bob had written lyrics for it on a sexual theme, the title being "Looking For Some Quick Action". Roger worked on Bob and was allowed to come up with an alternative set of lyrics, the result being "I Dedicate My Life To You". The pair then amended the melody slightly to suit the new lyrics and Roger went into the studio to cut it. As he didn't have a record company at the time, Roger financed the recording session himself. He invested everything he had except for $200 to fund the studio session. In all four songs were cut, "I Dedicate ...", "Gonna Make Love To Somebody’s Old Lady", "Call Mr Sweetback" and "You Got The Wrong Number". Bob was a music lecturer at the local university and used to get a large number of his students to help him out on sessions. As a result of this Roger was backed by 21 instruments on the tracks; strings, flutes, horns, etc., everyone playing live with no overdubbing being used.

 

It was essential that Roger sold the tracks to a label to get his money back so instead of returning to Cleveland he went down to Memphis. His first port of call there was Hi Records, but the song wasn't to Willie Mitchell's liking. Moving on, he next visited Stax Records. The company's A & R man, Carl Smith listened to the tape but also wasn't impressed enough to buy it. However (Stax engineer) Henry Bush had also listened to the tape and he thought the tracks had commercial potential. So Henry advised Smith to sign Roger. Smith wouldn't change his mind but Roger had mentioned that he knew Don Davis, so he was advised to go and see Don. Don was in the McLemore Avenue studio doing some work for the company, so Roger immediately went to see him. Roger had earlier written "Girl, Come On Home" which Don had cut on Major Lance in Muscle Shoals (Major insisting on having half credit for writing the song before he would cut it). Major's track had been issued in October 1971 (Volt 4069), so Don was already familiar with Rogers work. The two talked and Don took his tape to listen to along with a number of others he had to assess. After keeping Roger waiting for 30 minutes while he played the other tapes, he got around to Rogers and was shocked to find himself listening to fully completed tracks and not just sparse demo versions. He was very impressed with "I Dedicate My Life To You" and so he signed Roger to his Groovesville Productions company. The song was leased to Stax who released it in June 1972 (Volt 4084) backed by "Gonna Make Love To...".

 

However Don wasn't infamous for his business wheeling and dealing without cause. His major act at the time was the Dramatics (also signed to Stax) and Don played them Roger’s song. Like Don they thought the song would be perfect for them and so Don swung a plan into action. Roger stated that Don arranged for Stax to stop pressing up copies of his single when the initial stocks had sold out. Within no time the company's warehouse ran out of copies, orders were left unfilled and the record died on its feet. The Dramatics worked on the song and in 1973 Don cut an alternative version of it on the group and this was released on their 'Dramatically Yours' L.P. (Volt 9501). Needless to say with a big groups name now attached to the song, it promoted itself and went on to gain wide radio exposure. (the above is purely Roger's version of events and he was notorious for his deep felt opinions and disputes with his record companies). Deeply hurt, as he thought that the proceedings had robbed him of the chance of breaking through with his song himself, Roger had a big row with Don. As a result, no more product on Roger himself was released by Stax and the two men became enemies for many years. [Don must have thought it was a good ploy though and he used it again at times. Another example of this being in the 80's when he signed Ronnie McNeir so he could cut some of his songs on L.J.Reynolds for Capital]. Don had also wanted to add his name to Roger's tracks as co-producer, which he obviously wasn't (the tracks being complete when Don first got to hear them). Roger was so disgusted at all Don's actions that he asked (yet again) to be released from his contract with the record company.

 

After this had occurred, Roger cut another of his songs back in Nashville. "Caught Making Love" was intended for release on a small label Roger had set up himself in Cleveland, Black Soul. Roger pressed up 1000 copies of the single in 1973 ("Do Not Disturb" being the B side), the majority of which were sent to radio stations and shopped around major labels. Bob Holmes was responsible for the arrangement on the track and it also featured Virginia Davis, who made noises appropriate to the song’s theme halfway through. Roger went to New York to try and land a major deal on his single. Columbia Records weren't interested but Scepter Records liked it and said they would get back to him. Two weeks passed and Roger was contacted back in Cleveland and told that the company had changed its mind and wouldn't license the record. So Roger pressed up another 5000 copies (Black Soul 101) and started to promote it; in no time it was selling really well locally. He returned to New York with the sales figures and Mickey Eichner at Columbia Records was so impressed by the figures that he picked up the record for release by the label. They issued it, as Columbia #45993, in February 1974. Unfortunately Virginia's performance on the track was just too life-like for the radio stations and it was banned by many, so killing its chances of reaching a wider audience. The song's potential wasn't lost on those people who did get to hear it though and one such person was Clarence Carter. He added a rap to the lyrics and under the revised title of "I Got Caught" cut it for ABC Records in 1975 (ABC-12130). Clarence acted as producer on his own version, using Mike Terry as the arranger, and with ABC promoting it correctly it became a big hit.

 

Undaunted, Roger got on with his life and career. The next thing he wrote was "We Gonna Make It". When it was cut, Roger co-produced the track with Bob Holmes and Ted Jarrett. Because he was broke at the time, they arranged for Audio Media to pay for the Nashville recording session. However, when the record was released in the U.K., Roger wasn't credited on the label for his production work and Bob Holmes' name had mysteriously appeared as co-writer. That’s the record business for you; it isn't what you do that you get paid for, it's what you can get credited with. In the U.S. the track was released on the Brown Dog label, backed with "High Blood Pressure which Bob Holmes had helped Roger to write. As stated this single gained a U.K. release, coming out in February 1976 on Mint (Chew 5). With the song being published by Holmes Publishing Company, Roger stated that he never received any royalties for all his efforts. The experience taught him a lesson and Roger decided not to co-produce anything again, to help ensure he retained control over his work.

 

Roger's career went through a quiet period but in 1986 the Platters version of his old song "Get A Hold On Yourself" was released in Europe by Deluxe Records. In 1987 he released "I Want Your Love" c/w "Let Your Love Shine On Me" on his Superbad Record label. The former track being cut at Boddies Studio, with the later at Snyders (both in Cleveland). His labels base was Suite 8, 4768 Walford Road, Warrensville Heights, Cleveland and from here Roger had plans to record both himself and other artists (Sugar Taylor being one of these). He would also try to promote the product himself to try and thus increase its chances of finding success. His personal life was however in turmoil as, at the time, he was going through a divorce from his second wife, Janice. So his labels (Black Soul, Black Magic) and career weren't the most important thing to him at the time. When he did get back to his career he went into Boddies Studio again and cut 3 self-written songs; "Disco Queen", "Gonna Rock You Like A Baby" and "The Baby Woun’t Go To Sleep". These tracks were the first that Roger had arranged himself and marked the point at which he assumed total control over his recorded work. "Gonna Rock You Like A Baby" was intended to be the title track of a proposed L.P. but unfortunately the project was never completed and so the song remained unissued.

 

Roger continued to create product and he shopped it around in an effort to get a deal. As part of this process he would send out master tapes of his tracks and on many occasions he wasn't aware what became of these. This situation resulted in Roge’rs most infamous release, his ultra-rare and collectable Guinness L.P. This record was totally unofficial and was released without Rogers permission or knowledge. In fact it was only a number of years later, when contacted by British collectors trying to obtain copies of the LP, that he became aware of its existence. Amongst the tracks included on that album were "You Must Have Come From Heaven", "Your Love Is A Masterpiece" and a reworking of "Let Your Love Shine On Me". The illegitimate origins of the L.P. are betrayed by the lack of background information included on the sleeve and also by the inclusion on it of 2 non Roger Hatcher tracks. Later in 1987 Roger relocated to Los Angeles and the area was to be his last home base. He continued to record after moving there (using studios like Hit City) but didn't have the necessary finances to release much of the product.

He worked with other artists and one of these was a group named Black Pepper (about who very little is known. Roger had written a song that he thought ideal for them; “You Keep Running Out of Gas”. He produced and arranged the risqué song on them and it escaped on the Golden Wax label. In 1991 he pressed up some 12" copies of one of his songs, "Stormy Love Affair", and shipped these over to the U.K. to sell. In 1995, he landed a deal which resulted in "The Best Of Roger Hatcher" C.D. (containing 13 tracks he had cut over a period of years) being released in Japan. He followed up in 1996 by signing a deal with Expansion Records here in the U.K. They released the most comprehensive collection of his recorded work, putting it out on the CD, 'The Roger Hatcher Collection'. This included tracks such as "She’s All I Got", "Stormy Love Affair", "Warm And Tender Love", etc. with some of the tracks being previously unissued. Roger hoped to use the release to re-launch his career back in the U.S. and so asked for many copies of the CD to be sent to him (posting them out as promo items to US contacts). He continued working with other artists in addition to recording new tracks himself. He was desperate to come over to the UK to promote his CD and to repay his loyal U.K. followers by performing live here. Unfortunately this never occurred and Roger's career began to slip away.

 

He died in 2002 in San Bernardino, California and is now just a distant memory to everyone except members of his family and the most ardent of soul fans. Perhaps if his demeanour hadn't been so combative and he had teamed up with supportive music biz people in his early years, things would have turned out differently. Unfortunately, now, we will never know what he could have achieved given a more settled relationship with a major record company

J 'Roburt' S

 

 

 





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I posted Stormy Love Affair in my Youtube channel a while back and on Saturday, someone with an ID of rojeio posted "I miss you dad r.i.p." which I thought was really sad.

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