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    Long-time soul music fan, collector, writer, researcher, compiler and annotator

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  • Public Real Name
    Peter Nickols
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    Verwood England
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    I'll Go Crazy Don Bryant

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  1. As a result of interest in my Timmy Willis piece by Greg Burgess of this group (and also by George Korval of the Yahoo Southern Soul Group) the three of us started to dig even deeper into the lost corners of the internet etc. and we have now acquired new information about Willis and his career as well as finding two photos of him (which lead me to suspect that he is NOT the guy in the white suit in the middle of the Suspicious Can Openers group photo, whom we now think - having seen a graduation pic of the guy - is probably Ron Johnson of the Openers). It will take me a week or two before I can finalise an improved updated version of the Willis story but, when it's done, I'll ask Mike if he will replace the present one with the new one. So, watch this space..... Pete N.
  2. You're welcome. As you can see there were a few "soul" connections but I did wonder if Mike would want to post this one as it is primarily more about the gospel world than the soul one. But great soulful voices are always worth writing about or, better still, listening to. I am revamping my Timmy Willis article as quite a bit of new info has been dredged from the internet's lost corners including two photos of the guy whom I now no longer believe is the white-suited performer in the group photo of the Suspicious Can Openers. When I have finished my revamped piece I will suggest to Mike that he replaces the present article with the new improved version! Best wishes. Peter
  3. Little Johnny Jones - Feature A while back I listed my Top 50 all-time favourite deep-soul recordings and posted this to the Southern Soul Yahoo Group. Although my listing was intended to represent the best secular Deep Soul performances, the recording which made it to No.1 was actually something of a “cheat” on my part. It’s easy to see how important the gospel influence was to the deep-soul style but the recording at the very top of my pile is actually a genuine gospel song, cut in the soul era in the deep-soul mode and simply just SO good that I had to allow it to “cross over” since, if you were to substitute secular lyrics for its sanctified ones, it would need no other change whatsoever, so deeply soulful is the recording as it stands. The piece actually stems from 1972. The pre-disco-era early 70’s indeed saw some wonderful deep soul recordings made and, whilst some fans will always associate classic-soul with merely the 60’s, both the classic soul genre and its deep-soul sub-genre maintained a strong presence up until about 1974. More about this very special deep-gospel recording by Johnny Jones in due course - but first, what of the vocalist himself? Picking the greatest male gospel voice of all time would clearly be a very subjective exercise and, with so many different styles of gospel music and so many different ranges and timbres of voices to choose from, to attempt to make such a choice is almost impossible. The great power lead voices like Ira Tucker, Clarence Fountain, Julius Cheeks, Archie Brownlee, Brother Joe May, Silas Steele and Morgan Babb have to be in the reckoning, plus there have been some great bass-baritones too like Jimmy Jones. Then there are the high-tenors - most notably perhaps the amazing Wilmer ‘Little Ax’ Broadnax – and we can’t overlook the quieter but still super-interpretive lead vocalists, notably the hugely influential Sam Cooke. However for his sheer unbeatable combination of mellifluousness, power-when-needed, shrieking on-key, ad-lib insertions, interpretiveness and emotional involvement, a very real contender for me would have to be ‘Little’ Johnny Jones. Jones was born close to the Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia on December 8th 1930. His father, the Rev. Benny Jones, was a holiness preacher at the nearby Watts Chapel Church. Johnny’s own introduction to singing in that church came early. He recalls that when he was only 6 or 7 years of age his ‘daddy’ would have him sing to ‘warm up’ the congregation. Then his father would preach before inviting Johnny to sing again. By the time he was 13, Johnny had joined the local Daggert brothers, Bill, Joe, Richard and Billy-James to form a gospel quartet called variously The Daggert Brothers Quartet or simply the Daggert Boys (note the term ‘quartet’ is traditionally used for all small gospel groups however many actual members they may have). Two years later (and still only 15) Johnny found himself singing second lead in the South Carolina-based quartet Andrew Johnson & The Southern Six. Much later, in about December 1955 this group would cut two sides for John Dolphin’s Los Angeles-based Hollywood label and two more would appear in early 1957 - but of course Jones was no longer connected with the group by then. While Jones was touring with the Southern Six, his talents were noted by Barney L. Parkes, manager of the the significant female gospel soloist Edna Gallmon Cooke (‘The Sweetheart Of The Potomac’), who duly recruited him to become a member of her regular backing group The Singing Sons (who later, without Jones, would evolve into the Florida Robins). It is likely that Jones was recruited to the Sons to simply support her regular personal appearances as Edna did not start to record until the Spring of 1949. The Sons themselves also first recorded in 1949 (on July 14th) but Johnny was not by then amongst their personnel. Unlike many gospel-raised and trained vocalists, Johnny had never been shy at also utilising his great God-given voice for the ‘devil’s music’ (i.e. that of a secular variety) and in 1955, while the already highly-successful secular group The Drifters were waiting for Johnny Moore to become a permanent lead-vocalist replacement for the booze-loving Little David Baughn, Johnny was asked to sing with the group at some live performances, although he did not feature on any of their recordings. On his return to his Augusta GA home ground in 1956 Johnny was recruited by the manager of the Swanee Quintet to initially sing second lead alongside the Rev. Ruben W. Willingham as it was felt the addition of a highish tenor voice would keep the Swanees’ sound more contemporary to the gospel needs of the day. The Swanees would become Jones’ ‘home’ for a number of years and he would sing with them on and off up until 1968 - and even return briefly in the late 70’s and for personal appearances on into the 90’s. On his first lead-vocal on his return to the group in 1977, he would cut a gospel version of Phillip Mitchell’s soul-song “Starting All Over Again” which had been a No.4 R&B and No.19 Pop hit for Mel & Tim in 1972 on Stax 0127 after being cut at Muscle Shoals Sound. On Johnny & The Swanee’s 1977 single (Creed 5239) Johnny is actually welcomed back into the group via a spoken intro to the recording. However, back in the 50’s, his earliest appearances with the group were interrupted when he took on a similar role in the gospel fold as that which he had recently taken with the Drifters in the secular one. In the late-summer of 1957, Sam Cooke had left the big-name gospel quartet The Soul Stirrers to begin his own solo secular career (his last recording with them was on August 19th that year), and the Stirrers were waiting for his permanent replacement Johnny Taylor to ready himself for that particular hard-to-fill role. In the event, Taylor did not record with the Stirrers until February 4th 1958 and, in the interim, with Cooke gone, Johnny (who knew Sam well from when the Swanees had been supporting the Stirrers on gospel programs) was duly recruited to sing lead on several of the Stirrers’ performances, at least two of which were recorded but never issued. There was a beautiful, haunting and very Cooke-like studio recording of “Stand By Me Father” and an absolutely outstanding intense and extremely emotive live rendition of the much-recorded “When The Gates Swing Open” (a song later beloved by the great gospel and soul singer Otis Clay but perhaps best-nailed in 1966 by the amazing female soloist Inez Andrews). The interesting thing is that this song, then so recently performed by Jones in front of the Stirrers, would become the very first one that Johnny Taylor would cut with that group at their February 4th 1958 studio session - and in 1959 he would duly front them also on “Stand By Me Father”, this after the quartet had moved from Art Rupe’s Specialty label to Sam Cooke’s own then relatively new Sar imprint. Taylor was indeed a fine singer who would go on to enjoy a hugely successful secular soul career - but I know whose versions of these two gospel songs I prefer – and they’re not his! Johnny Jones did not stay with the Chicago-based Stirrers for long and claims that the Windy City’s snowy winter weather did not suit his southern Georgia soul. It seems he was also missing his home-town girlfriend and so he soon returned south to resume his residence with the Swanee Quintet. This Quintet’s roots stemmed from The Hallelujah Gospel Singers, formed in 1939 by Charlie Barnwell who, with Rufus Washington and William ‘Pee Wee’ Crawford began touring around their native Georgia and South Carolina before linking up in 1945 with James Anderson and Ruben Willingham to create the Swanee Quintet. For ten years they would feature on a local daily radio show, during which time they won the regional Golden Cup Award for seven consecutive years. In one public performance they allegedly sang in front of 18,000 people and they also appeared at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall in 1957 – but they did not begin their recording career until around December 1951, some six to seven years after their formation. It was then that they featured as one of the first gospel acts to record for the Nashboro label. Nashboro Records had been formed in June of that year by Ernie Young, the owner of Ernie’s Record Mart mail-order operation, by then based at 179 Third Avenue in Nashville. After an early aborted attempt by Young to create a “hillbilly” music outlet, Nashboro quickly became his main gospel logo, while blues and R&B would later emerge on his Excello subsidiary, introduced in August 1952. From his early days with the Swanees it seemed Jones possessed a light and airy albeit genuinely impressive tenor (clearly influenced by, but not derivative of Cooke) but it held latent power and could also effortlessly soar into the falsetto range, sometimes proving an almost startling but very successful complement to Willingham’s preaching baritone (as on the absolutely outstanding “Sleep On Mother” from 1958, the lovely lilting-paced “Lowly Jesus” from about 1959, and the pacy foot-tapper “Holy Ghost Got Me” from 1960) whilst it was also sometimes allowed full rein as a solo tenor lead-voice (as on “Over In Zion” and the self-penned “My Father’s Land” both from 1959, plus “Take The Lord With You”, “Great Change In Me”, “I Want To Move” and “Jesus Loves Me” all from about 1961/2). By the time of these slightly later Swanee tracks, over in the secular arena the classic soul era was only just beginning but on performances like “I Want To Move” Jones already used the kind of emotive melismas, shrieks and “Oh Lord” ad-lib-interjections that would become the staple fare of the deepest secular examples of soulful vocal interpretation. Even based on Jones’ earliest gospel recordings, respected gospel authority and historian Opal Louis Nations regarded him as “perhaps the finest, most delicate falsetto lead of all time” and, as Nations adds: “he possessed a unique way of effortlessly splitting one note into two”. Jones’ lyrical, soulful, smooth timbre and often – though not always - restrained singing style may have been related to his long-term denominational affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This denomination has historically featured less-demonstrative musical rituals than, for example, the Black Baptists or the Pentecostalists. In 1966, the Swanees supported the James Brown Revue at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem and from this association James and his band (with the help of Bob Holmes) produced and recorded the group on 4 tracks. Two of the tracks, the Willingham-led “That’s The Spirit” and the Jones-led “Try Me Father”, were first issued on a 45 by Syd Nathan’s Federal label (#12542) as by Rev. Willingham & His Swanees. Federal was of course also the label for which James Brown himself recorded and “Try Me Father” is simply a gospelising by Jones of Brown’s September 18th 1958-recorded secular Federal 12337 R&B hit “Try Me”. But Jones’ recording was cut some 8 years later in the middle of the classic 60’s soul era and is an outstanding example of a 60’s gospel performance which uses the then contemporary deep-soul style. It could easily have scraped into my Top 50 male Deep Soul performances of all time and it certainly “bubbled under” (to borrow an old Billboard phrase). Later, when the four Brown-related tracks were leased to Creed, the same two sides from the Federal single also saw release on a Creed 45 (#5180) and then all four would appear on the first album released by that label on the Swanees entitled “Step By Step “(Creed 3001). In 1968, Jones was tempted by New York-based record store and label-owner Bobby Robinson to try his hand at some more secular material and two singles emerged. A tasty countrified soul style was employed on Johnny’s version of the otherwise rather hoary old tune “Tennessee Waltz” while its flip (on Fury 550) was the bouncy ”I Find No Fault (In My Baby’s Love)” which would become a favourite on the UK Northern Soul scene. “No Love As Sweet As Yours”/”Stand By Me” duly followed on Fury 553. Jones’ gospel peers didn’t take too kindly to this secular recording adventure (especially as the record labels gave artist credit to “Johnny Jones & Swanee Quintet”) but with no commercial success attained by these 45s, Johnny’s vocal talent and considerable reputation allowed him to return to the gospel fold, albeit he now left the Swanees and formed his own Johnny Jones Singers, which also featured the three Mimms brothers, Augustus (Gus), Dennis and another Johnny. Whilst rehearsing his new group Johnny also took on work as a brick mason at Babcock and Wilcox’s Augusta facility. Johnny and his new group cut three LPs for Creed over as many years, namely “He Walks With Me” (#3013), “Let’s Go Back To God” (#3018) and “A Long Way From Home” (#3025) and several singles for the label also saw release including our featured one from 1972, which (like some of the others) was credited solely to Jones. This superb recording. which deservedly hits my male deep-soul top-spot, is Jones’ version of his self-penned “The Name Jesus” on Creed 5209. With a suitably plodding-paced guitar riff, some gorgeous sanctified organ fills throughout and the use on backup purely on the title phrase and climactic passages of the impressive Mimms brothers, the scene is beautifully set for the totally involved, melisma-full, falsetto-utilising, super-interpretive. emotion-laden lead-vocal from Johnny Jones, by then already some 41 years of age. Jones simply hits the peak of his very considerable powers on this amazing mind- (and ear-) bending paen to the Son of God, although the all-enveloping deep-soul musical setting means this song could just have easily been directed, not at a religious deity, but to the girl of Jones’ dreams. Whilst the singer’s religious sincerity should not be doubted, you don’t have to be able to associate personally with these feelings to wallow shamelessly in the soulful intensity of the piece. As a life-long atheist I have never had any problem relating to the meaning and power of gospel music - or immersing myself completely in this particular, quite superb recording. Johnny Jones - The Name Jesus - Creed A memorial appears on the Find A Grave web-site but this gives Johnny’s birth date as 1939 and therefore his age at death as 60/61. However, this does not tie in with the chronology of his musical career as summarised herein and I’m sticking to the birth date given near the start of this piece (as provided by gospel authority Opal Louis Nations in his 1995 notes to Johnny and the Johnny Jones Singers Nashboro 4535-2 CD reissue compilation “Let’s Go Back To God”). Therefore, Johnny was some six-and-a-half weeks short of his 70th birthday when he sadly passed while still a member of the local African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Greater Ward Chapel. R.I.P. Johnny Jones
  4. News/Article/Feature Highlight: Little Johnny Jones - Feature. More about this very special deep-gospel recording by Jimmy Jones in due course - but first, what of the vocalist himself? View full article
  5. News/Article/Feature Highlight: Timmy Willis Feature. Information about soul vocalist Timmy Willis has always been sketchy but the singer’s “Easy As Saying 1-2-3” is such a monumental slab of deep-soul that I thought a little digging was in order. View full article
  6. TIMMY WILLIS Information about soul vocalist Timmy Willis has always been sketchy but the singer’s “Easy As Saying 1-2-3” is such a monumental slab of deep-soul that I thought a little digging was in order. Of course, the Northern fraternity will doubtless prefer his “Mr Soul Satisfaction” and that’s their prerogative for it’s certainly a fine uptempo stomper. Timmy was born Henry Lee Sapp in or close to Columbus Ohio (date unknown but probably circa 1947/8). In 1966 the would-be vocalist encountered Eugene and Walter McMahan at the local Preview Lounge, the McMahans being teenage musicians from a large local family (they apparently had 13 other siblings!) who had already managed to secure for themselves a residency at the Lounge. The three guys all soon hooked up, Sapp perhaps wisely changing his moniker to Timmy Willis while his back-up friends were already known as the Show Pushers. Managed by Roy Hoover, Timmy Willis & the Show Pushers soon made it to Detroit, where, in 1967, they made contact with the local well-respected drummer, arranger and producer George McGregor. McGregor’s interest in music had begun in his early teens at Hutchins Junior High School on the west side of Detroit, where his fellow pupils apparently included Popcorn Wylie, Barrett Strong, Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin. George McGregor says that he cut Timmy Willis’ first recording of the potent "Mr Soul Satisfaction" in Muscle Shoals at his own cost, chiefly to get that southern-soul-horns sound on it. Some say the rhythm section sounds more like a Detroit crew so I guess it’s possible that just the horns were added in the Shoals but this isn’t what George says. Anyway, it’s certainly a great dance record and it would be coupled on a 45 with the plodding and rather gloomy McGregor song “I’m Wondering”. George would take the finished master of “Mr Soul Satisfaction” to Sidra and do a deal with them for it. They duly released it on Sidra 9013 in November 1967 and subsequently licenced it to Veep whose version (#1279) was released in January 1968. The success of this 45 (it made No.39 on the R&B chart and bubbled under the Pop one at No.120) was the reason that George was awarded a position as Sidra’s A&R director. Timmy Willis -Mr Soul Satisfaction George knew of the Sidra group called The Precisions from when they were on the D-Town label but he had not yet joined Sidra when their "Such Misery"(arranged by Dale Warren) was released in 1966 on the Sidra subsidiary Drew (#101). Once he himself took charge of producing the group, George decided to base its sound around Billy Prince as lead vocalist and co-wrote "Why Girl" to capture the sound he envisaged. At the time copies of "Sugar Ain't Sweet" c/w "What I Want" had been pressed as promos for the second Drew single by The Precisions but the discs were ‘off-centre’. So, rather than re-master them, George took the chance to get rid of "Sugar Ain't Sweet" which had been put together by Dale Warren as the A side of the single and replace it with "Why Girl". I imagine any spare copies of "Sugar Ain't Sweet" were junked and this is why they are so rare. Strangely, in another quote (from an interview of George by Soul Source’s Rob Moss), McGregor says “we did 'Such Misery' on Timmy Willis first but then decided to put it out on the Precisions to kinda launch them”. However, if he arrived at Sidra after the Precisions first Drew 45 of the song had been cut he could hardly have been that involved, albeit in yet another quote (this time from his sleeve-notes to a Precisions Outta Sight CD) he says “the first version recorded of ‘Such Misery’ was tried using Paul Merritt (so apparently not Timmy Willis) on lead vocals. He left the group shortly afterwards and his version was not used for the first Drew 45.” The Merritt version was the one much later released on a Joe Boy single, wrongly credited to Timmy Willis due to duff information. This UK single was a year 2000 one-sided commemorative release on JBA-007V3 relating to the Northern Soul nights held at the Lea Hall Social Club in Rugeley in the UK, a long-time local facility, originally opened to serve the area’s coal-mining community. Joe Boy was a UK indy label run by graphics designer Glenn Gunton, who sometimes used the name ‘Joe Boy’ as his own alias, and who would go on to become a director of the aforementioned Outta Sight Records, along with long-time Northern Soul guru Tim Brown. In 2010, Outta Sight would release “The Sound Of Sidra” CD (OSCD 011) which included Willis’ “Mr Soul Satisfaction” and three Precisions tracks – and later they would release the Precisions CD compilation referred to in the previous paragraph. McGregor explained to Rob Moss that “Sidra was owned by two white guys, Ray Jackson and Joe Casey, and a black guy Joe Brown. Joe Casey's kids recorded for us. They were called Ronnie and Robyn. Sidra gave me a chance to recruit artists, write and produce, so I got right to it. We had the Precisions, Barbara Mercer, and Timmy Willis and I used Mike Terry to arrange. Our tactics were to see what kinda thing Motown were putting out on the Tempts and then do the opposite with the Precisions – if they put a ballad out we would put something out up-tempo. If they put out something funkier, we would put something smooth out, and it was working. It was driving them crazy over there. Paul Williams and Otis (Williams) of the Tempts told me this themselves. On the third release we kinda got hijacked 'cause Mike Valvano and Charlie Basaline came in and convinced Sidra’s owners to cut one of their songs, 'If This Is Love (I'd Rather Be Lonely)' on the Precisions. It should never have been released as the A side – we should have gone with 'You'll Soon Be Gone'. We lost momentum. I was told later that Motown had paid Mike and Charlie $10,000 to go over to us to wreck the system, by putting their song out on them. The Precisions were as good as the Tempts and should have been a lot bigger than they were. In the end, there was a lot of politicking that destroyed us (Sidra) – I guess that's what Motown wanted.” Anyway, back in the late 60’s, buoyed by having a modest hit with Timmy’s first 1967 outing, Veep duly put out two more Willis sides in July 1968, this time clearly cut in Detroit, namely “Gotta Get Back To Georgia” and “Don’t Let Temptation (Come Between You And Me)” on Veep 1288, both co-penned by long-time producer (and husband of Kim Tolliver) Fred Briggs and the aforementioned Mike Valvano. The “B” side was a stunning piece of emotional slow-to-mid-paced soul with Willis singing powerfully and impressively, whilst “...Georgia” was a driving piece of swampy funk, again with Willis performing really strongly, albeit things get a tad messy mid-track when he ‘fights’ vocally with the could-be-better girl back-up singers and the tune loses a bit of direction until it returns to its strong main groove. Sadly, though, this 45 failed to chart. Interestingly, in a August 17th 1968 special Billboard World Of Soul edition, Timmy Willis’ personal manager is listed as Sidra co-owner Ray Jackson with his booking agent shown as Phil Walden, who was of course more usually associated with southern-based singers. However, Timmy stuck with George McGregor as a producer with further writing ventures and recordings duly resulting. George again takes up the story, explaining how he recorded stuff with a view to leasing it to the national labels: “If I produced a session I usually would not play drums on it 'cause I couldn't see the big picture and might miss something on the recording. At that time, we would cut the session first and then shop it to different companies later. If I came up with songs, I would assemble the musicians on the understanding that if I got a deal they would get a share of it. We had a real tight bond and trusted each other, so there was a lot of honesty amongst us. We supported each other. I would usually go to New York to get a deal 'cause that was the closest and best place to get to the record companies. I got a deal for Tobi Lark at Cotillion (as Toby Lark in 1969 she cut the old Joe Morris-penned standard “Shake A Hand” and McGregor and Mike Valvano’s “Twenty Four Hours”, both sides produced by McGregor, Valvano and King Curtis on Cotillion 44025); Gwen Owens at Jubilee (actually at Josie, the Jubilee subsidiary, Timmy Willis and McGregor co-penning her Josie 1009 August 1969 No.40 R&B hit “Keep On Living”); Rena Scott at Epic (“I Finally Found The Love” and “Testify”, coupled on 1972’s Epic 5-10864, were both produced by George who also solely penned the ‘A’ side and co-penned the ‘B’ side); Almeta Latimore (real name Hattie Almeda Latimer) at De-Vel (“La La” on De-Vel ZS7 6754 from 1973) but we went down to Memphis to record that one 'cause I wanted a different sound. We went to Stax. She was a good writer and had a hell of a voice; Bettye Lavette at Epic (Epic 50143 from 1975 saw one side, “Thank You For Loving Me” penned and produced by George while #50177 from the same year saw one side produced by George and Ron Dunbar, namely Kenny O’Dell’s country-song most associated with Charlie Rich, “Behind Closed Doors”); and Ruby Andrews at ABC (George co-penned and produced 4 of the 9 tracks on Ruby’s 1977 Detroit-recorded album “Genuine Ruby” # AB-1002 having also co-penned and produced her earlier 1976 ABC 12215 single side “I Got A Bone To Pick With You”. From the album, George’s “Queen Of The Disco” also saw 45 release for Ruby in 1977 on ABC 12257 and the same year his “Cinderfella” also made it to the ‘B’ side of Ruby’s ABC single #12286). But back in the late 60’s, it was McGregor’s connection with Jerry Blaine’s New York label Jubilee that would provide the outlet for Timmy Willis’ own next two 45s. In May 1969 Jubilee put out “I Finally Found A Woman” (#5660), a self-penned, high octane, drum-propelled dancer complete with Pickett-esque screams, the side hitting No.44 on the R&B chart coupled with the pretty impressive country-soul styled mid-pacer “Neveruary” (a track co-penned by Willis and McGregor). Then, in January of the following year, the ultra-deep and absolutely top-drawer piece of emotional soul “Easy As Saying 1-2-3” (#5690) was released and made No.46 on the same chart, coupled with the strutting, powerfully-delivered “I’m A Man”, both these sides being solely penned by Willis. Timmy Willis - Easy As saying 123 “Easy As Saying 1-2-3” made No.4 in my all-time Male Deep Soul Top 50 and is much-revered by deep fans, not the least of whom was the late, great Deep Soul guru Dave Godin, whose description of the track in his notes to UK Kent’s 1997 CD release “Deep Soul Treasures Volume 1” (CDKEND 143) sums it up perfectly: “ A superb deep church organ opens with a few sparse chords that are soon joined by a sharp and cutting guitar - and Timmy Willis’ exquisitely sweet, light yet rasping tenor declaims the lyrics with an intense and magical conviction. Obviously under the spell of the winning musical formula of the late Otis Redding, Timmy’s voice is actually much more pure and assured. Stunning brass work...cascades across the vocal patterns in an almost independently-minded way and the end result is an outstanding Deep Soul classic....and in order to ease the emotional pain that this presents you with, what do you have to do? Why, spin it again...and again...and again.” Now, looking at the labels of Timmy’s two Jubilee 45s all one sees is reference to them being Gee-Mac Productions (i.e. George McGregor) with the publishing chiefly in the hands of Jerry Blaine’s Jubilant company. Therefore at first glance they appear to be no more than George McGregor-produced Detroit sides leased out to a New York label for national distribution. However, well-informed southern soul fans, including John ‘Sir Shambling’ Ridley and UK Ace/ Kent regular compiler and annotator Tony Rounce have long been convinced that these sides were cut in Muscle Shoals, with Ridley certain the players on the session(s) were Eddie Hinton, Barry Becket, David Hood and Roger Hawkins. To my ears, “Neveruary” has the most obvious Shoals area sound of all of these fine recordings, a cut which aurally just couldn’t have stemmed from any Detroit studio of the time. Rounce also suggests that Willis’ second 45 from 1970 could have been cut in the Shoals a year or two earlier than its release date. Now, Willis’ first Jubilee 45 saw release (as already noted) in May 1969 and I personally think both of these sides plus both of those on the second Jubilee release were probably all cut at one and the same Shoals-based session as it seems unlikely to me that George McGregor would send Timmy – a singer with only one small hit under his belt at that time – all the way down to Alabama on two quite separate occasions. It is surely more likely that four or more tracks were cut at this session, four of these seeing release on the two subsequent Jubilee 45s. However, the next question is - where in the Shoals would such a session have been held? Well, most people would look at the personnel allegedly present (as stated by Ridley) and plump immediately for Muscle Shoals Sound – but that studio had only been opened by the guys soon to be known as The Swampers on April 1st 1969 (this date is confirmed on Page 14 of Section 8 of the MSS entry to the US National Register Of Historic Places, the first time I have found such confirmation as no researchers seem to have suggested a single date before). Of course, April always seemed likely to be the month the studio opened as the first noted visitor to record there was Cher, brought down to Alabama to cut her first solo album at a session commencing on April 21st by Jerry Wexler, who had a major interest in the studio, wanting to retain access to the same Shoals musicians he had recently been using at Fame and having therefore paid towards the cost of its new 8 track system, Atlantic’s engineer-supremo Tom Dowd having first ensured that the proposed MSS set-up would be fully compatible with Atlantic’s own system back in New York. So if Willis’ first Jubilee 45 was already on the market by May of that year, it is clear that the two tracks on it must have been cut in April or earlier and therefore, whilst they indeed could have been very early products of the new MSS studio, I can now confirm (I believe for the very first time anywhere) that they were not - and that in fact these tracks (and most likely Willis’ other two Jubilee sides, including “Easy As Saying 1-2-3”) were cut at Fame on March 14th 1969, with Eddie Hinton on guitar and David Hood on bass and with almost certainly Barry Becket on organ and Roger Hawkins on drums, as correctly surmised by John Ridley. This confirmation comes from David Hood himself who kept session dates in a book and has come up with this one, albeit from the hundreds of sessions in which he featured he cannot personally recall the occasion. He agrees from hearing MP3s of the tracks that it certainly appears to be Eddie Hinton on guitar - and long-term No.1 Eddie Hinton expert and Zane CD compiler/producer/owner Peter Thompson (who has released all those wonderful Hinton demos on his label and who also kindly contacted David Hood for me) similarly agrees this has to be Hinton. The one surprising thing is that in his interview with Rob Moss and in his self-penned notes to the Outta Sight CD, George McGregor never once mentions going down to the Shoals in ’69 to cut these particular sides and, seeing as he claims he had done just that somewhat earlier to record Timmy on “Mr Soul Satisfaction”, it seems very odd that he would not mention returning there at this later date. Anyway, three months after Willis’ “Easy As Saying 1-2-3” left the charts, Jerry Blaine would retire from the record business, selling Jubilee to a company called Viewlex - but as Timmy’s Jubilee outings had only been leases, this didn’t stop the singer hoping for more success, perhaps with other ‘national’ labels with which McGregor already had connections. However, this prospect seems to have come to nothing at this time and Timmy’s Detroit connections were soon more or less severed in 1971 when he returned to his native Columbus, Ohio to rejoin what was essentially an enlarged version of the Show Pushers. Eugene and Walter McMahan had most likely returned to Columbus from Detroit somewhat earlier, after it had become apparent that their services were no longer required in respect of Willis’ recordings with McGregor; but two of their younger siblings, Jerry and Ronnie, along with three of that pair’s classmates (Ron Johnson, D. C. Collins, and Cornell McLeary) had all got together to form the strangely-and-somewhat-psychedelically-named group the Suspicious Can Openers. On Timmy’s return to Columbus he duly joined this group as their main vocalist, his manager Roy Hoover and Eddy Parker forming a production team, named Mo-Soul Productions. By now this group was a full horn-funk ensemble and it duly recorded a couple of instrumentals, namely the tense funker "Fever In Your Hot Pants", penned by Parker and Willis and the slow "Tuesday In the Rain", penned just by Parker, which was actually a backing track designed for an unreleased vocal, possibly by Willis. This instrumental 45 appeared in 1971 on Mo-Soul 111123, having been recorded at Columbus’ Magnetic Studio. Around this time a photo appeared of the group: With six guys in the photo it seems clear that Willis was included in it along with the two McMahan brothers and their three pals and, as he was the featured vocalist and the guy now with three hit records to his name, it seems likely he is the person centrally seated in the contrasting predominantly white outfit. No solo photo of Willis is known to exist in the public domain so this may be all we have - but of course the guys in the photo are not actually named at all let alone by their positions in it - and so we can’t be 100 per cent certain that Willis actually is the guy sitting in the middle. It’s interesting to note from the sticker attached to the photo that the group’s agency for personal appearances in the early 70’s was based not in Ohio but in Pauline, Kansas and during this period the group regularly played club venues both in their local region and also more widely in the mid-west. There is another photo of the group, probably taken somewhat later in view of the even bigger Afros and the ‘flares’ being worn, which can be found in the Black History section of the Pinterest web-site. This though is somewhat blurry, albeit 6 guys still feature so Timmy may well be in there somewhere! Apparently the Can Openers finally disbanded in 1974. However, in that same year, Mo-Soul released another 45, this time by a certain Vikki Kenyatta (with Linda Davis) on Mo-Soul 481-28. This was a vocal version of "Tuesday In The Rain", apparently using the same instrumental recording that had been released by the Suspicious Can Openers. It's possible that the vocal had also been recorded earlier, although whether it is the one that was originally intended to compliment the Can Opener’s backing track is uncertain. The B side was again a purely instrumental version of “Tuesday In The Rain” apparently credited this time simply to the Mo-Soul Band. According to the Discogs web-site, The Mo-Soul team would next release a 45 on their Kandun label. It seems unlikely that any of the Can Openers were involved as apparently the label credit is simply awarded to the Jupiter's Release Band and, in any event, the Can Openers had probably already disbanded by the time of this recording. The 45rpm records web-site’s list of Ohio label releases includes one further Kandun 102689/102690 release from 1977 by a certain Butch Johnson, which coupled “Everlasting Life (Everlasting Love)” with “Smooth Dancin’”. During his early 70’s spell with the Can Openers, in 1972 Timmy Willis also managed to secure what would turn out to be his final solo recording session, over on the West Coast and it seems he toured again as a solo act for a while after this release. The 45 on Epic 10934 coupled “Give Me A Little Sign” with “Don’t Want To Set Me Free” and was released in November 1972. Despite a Radio Action and Pick Single reference in the December 23rd edition of Billboard, the 45 never made it to the charts and, frankly, wasn’t quite in the league of his best earlier work. The record was produced by Marlin McNichols and Melvin ‘Wah Wah’ Watson (real name Melvin Ragin and best known as a fine Motown Funk Brothers guitarist) and these two guys got co-writer credits on both tracks along with Willis himself. The sparse staccato funk of “Don’t Want To Set Me Free” is well above average for this genre and the ‘A’ side “Give Me A Little Sign” is a stop-go ballad with a well constructed hook, Timmy certainly giving it the full treatment, especially at the climax when he really cuts loose. To my knowledge no further information about Timmy’s activities after the mid-70s has ever surfaced but if anyone knows different please help complete the Timmy Willis story. Peter Nickols
  7. Perhaps you could add the release date here on this board once it is known and also whether it will only be available from Honest Johns direct or whether the likes of Amazon will stock it. Thanks.
  8. Further to my recent article on Joe Valentine, I have now mounted one on Timmy Willis, who you will recall cut sides like "Mr Soul Satisfaction" (which pleased the northern fans) and "Easy As Saying 1-2-3" (which was a magnificent deep-soul winner). My article contains a couple of things which I have managed to confirm and which I have not seen elsewhere before, namely the exact date that the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio commenced operations and the date, place and session men relating to Timmy Willis' four Jubilee sides. I would also like to thank and credit Rob Moss (I believe of this forum) for his interview with Willis' producer, George McGregor from which some of my text is drawn. The article is available for 7 days for safe download from this URL https://tinyurl.com/ydae7eu8 Best wishes to all group members/ Pete N.
  9. News/Article/Feature Highlight: Joe Valentine only put down some 14 tracks in the early-soul era between 1960 and 1968 and yet still managed to produce three stone deep classic performances View full article
  10. Joe Valentine When it comes to recording top-drawer ultra-emotive deep-soul, only a few exponents have managed to produce more than one supreme example in their recording careers and even the very few, like James Carr for example, who managed to produce several, usually released quite a large number of soul sides in total throughout the classic-soul era from which those few deep gems emerged. However, when we consider that, even including unreleased items at the time, Joe Valentine only put down some 14 tracks in the early-soul era between 1960 and 1968 and yet still managed to produce three stone deep classic performances (all of these actually recorded in the two-year period 1967 to 1968), this clearly says a lot about the man’s impressive voice and its ability back then to be intensely emotive. What’s more Joe wrote all his own material – no external writers renowned for their ability to create such emotional soul (like Dan Penn, George Soule or George Jackson for example) were involved – and, what’s more, Joe’s deep-soul gems were all originally cut for his own Val label out of Austin, Texas. Joe Valentine, recording artist, musician, and songwriter was born and raised in New Orleans. He began his professional career at age 14, as a featured vocalist with the Mitchell Lennix Rhythm Swing Band and was soon signed to Percy Stoval’s Continental Music Attractions. Apparently he supported a young Ray Charles at one point and he cut his first record, ”I Still Love You”/ “Young Lover” in circa 1960, at the alleged tender age of 16 for Merit Records (#1002), before soon forming his own band, Joe Valentine & The Imperials. He would go on to cut further singles on Rachan 311 (“She’s Gone Again”/”Coming On Home” – reissued on Athens 209) and on Doug 849 (“Sweeter Than Sugar (And Twice As Nice)”/”Let It Be Love”). “She’s Gone Again” was a very good early piece of mournful deep-soul but not quite in the same league as Joe’s three winners from later in the decade. The Rachan label was out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina (the very next single to Joe’s release, The Ascots with Bob Davidson’s “Have Gun (Will Travel)” coupled with “White House” on Rachan 312, shows this location on its labels). The producers of Joe’s Rachan tracks are shown as Dixon & Douglas but so far I have not been able to identify these guys. The Athens label was based at 1719 West End Building, Nashville. Not much is known about the Doug label but both the songs on Valentine’s Doug 45 were published by Red Stick Music, a company owned by Sam Montel (real surname Montalbano) who was based in Baton Rouge and who, around the time of the Doug single (1963), had launched Dale & Grace on his parent Montel imprint. Another of his labels was Michelle named after one of his daughters but he certainly created a number of other small short-lived imprints, usually using a person’s name, so it seems quite likely (as Joe Valentine was in the Baton Rouge area at this time) that Doug might well have been a local Sam Montel-owned enterprise. Joe had first moved to Baton Rouge at age 18 and he spent the next 10 years there as a regular attraction at West Baton Rouge’s Carousel Club. After that, he relocated to Austin, Texas where he would remain. In the mid-60’s in Austin he formed his own Val label and first recorded the moody, typically Crescent City-styled mid-pacer “One Night Of Satisfaction” and the superbly deep “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” on Val 67119, the sides later picked up for issue on his Ronn label (#14) by Shreveport’s Stan Lewis. Next on Val 7225, Joe cut the bouncy dancer later favoured by the UK Northern Soul scene, “I Lost The Only Love I Had”. This was coupled with the ultra-deep winner “Surely I Will Never Do You Wrong”, this latter track seeing a title-change to “You Got To Believe In Me” when eventually picked up (though not issued at the time) by Stan Lewis. However, Joe’s next outing appeared solely on the Ronn label (#30), this being another deep-jewel called “A Woman’s Love” which was coupled with the faster, would-be dance-crazer, “Hands On, Hands Off” As you will surely have noted, it was within this fine clutch of 1967/8 recordings that we find our three deep-soul gems. They were “I Can’t Stand To See You Go”, “Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong” aka “You Got To Believe In Me” and “A Woman’s Love”. For years I have tried to decide which of these deep masterworks I prefer the most and it comes down to almost a tie between “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” and “A Woman’s Love”, with the latter track just shading it. In my all-time Top 50 deep-soul listing I have “A Woman’s Love” at No.12 and “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” at No.32. “Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong” is just a tad tougher and rougher and is largely an almost spoken rather than sung piece. It doesn’t feature in my all-time Top 50 and yet its almost funerial approach is something which massively appeals to many deep-soul lovers, myself included. Looking at these 3 gems in a little more detail, “A Woman’s Love” has an almost regal beauty about it. It’s a super-emotive slow-paced paen to womanhood and the need a guy has to be loved - and when Joe lets go vocally (melodiously but powerfully) in front of the impressive brass it’s surely a goose-bump-inducing moment for any deep-soul fan. “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” is Joe’s most reissued side and the lovely, almost drifting organ work and the sparse but so effective guitar fills and runs beautifully complement the tear-inducing, oh-so-emotionally-involved mellifluous vocal. No huge histrionics here – one can just wallow unashamedly in Joe’s sheer involvement in the piece and his utter sadness at the departure of his loved one. The scene for “Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong” is set by some lovely striking but mournful brass work in the introduction and then Joe enters the fray, almost speaking rather than singing his demonstrative appeals to his girl to believe in him and to not ditch him for a third party. Then the emphasised parts of the vocal are sung before speech returns - but it’s a spoken plea which is so phenomenally soulful in its delivery that the listener simply becomes enveloped in Joe’s expressive prose. This is an outstanding listening experience rather than an outstanding song but it’s still ‘deep-soul heaven’. Also a consummate live performer, in his time Joe has apparently shared the stage with not only Ray Charles but also Chuck Berry, Joe Simon, Johnny Taylor, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Floyd and Joe Hinton. In the early 70’s, he toured the U.S. and Europe with the late Joe Tex as both his bandleader and additional featured vocalist. Around this time Joe also co-wrote the 1971 releases of "Wheels of Life" (King 6373 and People 2503) for Lynn Collins, who was a performer with the James Brown review from 1969 through the 70s and who enjoyed 9 R&B hits in that decade (2 of which were Pop hits too). In 1979 Joe cut a one-off solo 45 for Cocoa Studio (#0369) (see track-listing below) but by the late-80’s Lynn Collins was touring with Joe Valentine’s own Band and on his 1991 album “For Ever And Ever” (recorded in Austin TX on Tee-Jay NR 18554) he duetted with her on 3 of the tracks (see discography below for track-listing).The recordings were produced by Ron Brown and Nolan Smith and Joe’s manager at the time is shown as Tobe Addison. His 90’s Tee-Jay sides would also include at least 3 duets with another female vocalist, Linda Green (see tracks 24, 25 and 26 of “Then And Now” track-listing below). An earlier also Austin-recorded Tee-Jay extended-play 12 inch album called “One Night Stand” (NR 17381) had emerged in 1988. This had contained just 4 solo Valentine tracks, 2 each of which had been also paired on two separate 45s (see track-listing below for details). By this time, Joe had also become owner of the Valentine’s Night Club in Austin and from 1995 he would become a regular performer at the 311 Club in Austin’s Sixth Street Music District. In 1990, Japanese P-Vine issued 6 of Joe’s Val/Ronn tracks on their various-artist CD named after one of those tracks, “A Woman’s Love – Classic Soul Jewelry #1” (PCD 2162) (see track-listing below). Then, in 2001, UK Westside issued four of the same tracks on their compilation “Soul Jewels Vol.1 – Losers Win Sometime” (WESA 912) and, in the same year, Fuel included “I Can’t Stand To See You Go” on their “From Chicago To Shreveport” various artists compilation (#2000). Fuel would also reissue the same Valentine track on their later “Jewel/Paula Story” CD in 2011 (once again, see discography below). Meanwhile, in 2000 Joe issued two CD’s semi-privately. These were “From The Soul” and “Love Is On My Mind” (see track-listings below). Then in 2002, he released a 2-volume CD set, "Then and Now" (subtitled “Singing In The Key of Love”). Volume 1 ("Then") contained 14 of Joe's best songs from the 60's & 70's, while Volume 2 ("Now") featured 15 Tee-Jay tracks from the 80's & 90's. These were issued as two separate CDs in their own individual jewel-cases, each being given the same issue number, Val 2001 (see below for track-listing). Joe sadly passed away July 13, 2018. A report of his passing states he was 81 years of age but if the reference to him being only 16 at the time of his first recording is true, then he would have been only 74 years of age. DISCOGRAPHY Merit 1002 I Still Love You/Young Lover (c.1960) Rachan 311 & Athens 209 She’s Gone Again/Coming On Home (1963 on Rachan, 1964 on Athens) Doug 849 Sweeter Than Sugar (And Twice As Nice)/Let It Be Love (c.1963/4) (Note: this Doug 45 was also issued with “I Need You” as the flip – but this song is identical to “Let It Be Love”). Val 67119 & Ronn 14 One Night Of Satisfaction/I Can’t Stand To See You Go (1967) Val 7225 I Lost The Only Love I Ever Had/Surely I’ll Never Do You Wrong (= *You Got To Believe In Me – Ronn unissued) (c.1968) Ronn 30 A Woman’s Love/Hands On, Hands Off (1968) Ronn unissued: *You Got To Believe In Me (P-Vine PCD 2162 & Westsde WESA 912) I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong (P-Vine PCD 2162 & Westside WESA 912) Soul City USA (P-Vine PCD 2162). Cocoa Studio 0369 Until The Real Thing Comes Along/There Goes Another Dream Of Mine (1979) Tee Jay NR 17379 One Night Stand/All The Love I Have For You Is Gone (1988) Tee Jay NR 17380 Sharing Your Love/True Love (1988) “One Night Stand” (Tee Jay NR 17381) (1988) Side 1: 1 One Night Stand 2 All The Love I Have For You Is Gone Side 2: 1 Sharing Your Love 2 True Love “A Woman’s Love” (Jap. P-Vine PCD 2162) (1990) various artist compilation. 6 tracks by Joe Valentine 1 A Woman’s Love 2 I Can’t Stand To See You Go 3 One Night Of Satisfaction 4 I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong 5 Soul City U.S.A. 6 You’ve Got To Believe In Me. “For Ever And Ever” (Tee Jay NR 18554) (1991) Side 1: 1 Our Love Will Last Forever 2 One More Night With You 3 If You (duet with Lynn Collins) 4 Let’s Have Tonight (duet with Lynn Collins) Side 2: 1 Forever My Love 2 To Be In Love With You 3 You Know (duet with Lynn Collins) 4 Our Love Will Last Forever (instrumental version) “From The Soul” (Val 1937D) (2000) 1 Turn Back The Hands Of Time 2 I Can’t Give You More (Than All The Love I Have) 3 That’s What Love Is About 4 In The Name Of Love 5 I Should Have Known 6 This Time 7 I Had It All The Time “Love Is On My Mind” (Val 2001D) (2000) 1 I Need Some Lovin’ Tonight 2 Make Sweet Love To You 3 Let’s Make Love Tonight 4 Kick Me When I’m Down 5 You’re Bad 6 Since I Met You Baby 7 Come To Me Val 7225 I Lost The Only Love I Ever Had/Surely I'll Never Do You Wrong (2001) (Note ~ this was a legal reissue by Joe himself of his c.1968 Val 45 – see above) “Soul Jewels Volume 1 – Losers Win Sometime” (Westside WESA 912) (2001) various artist compilation. 4 tracks by Joe Valentine 4 You’ve Got To Believe In Me 9 A Woman’s Love 15 I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong 25 I Can’t Stand To See You Go “From Chicago To Shreveport” (Fuel 2000 3020611452) (2001) various artist compilation. 1 track by Joe Valentine 6 I Can’t Stand To See You Go “Then And Now” (Val 2001) (2002) (Disc 1 – Vol.1 - 60’s & 70’s) “Then” 1 I Lost The Only Love I Ever Had 2 Surely I Will Never Do You Wrong 3 Woman's Love 4 I Can't Stand To See You Go 5 One Night Of Satisfaction 6 I Can Feel My Love Coming On Strong 7 Soul City U.S.A 8 Another Dream Of Mine 9 Until The Real Thing Comes Along 10 Our Love Will Last Forever 11 You Know (Joe Valentine With Lynn Collins) 12 Let's Have Tonight 13 Our Love Will Last Forever (Instrumental) 14 Hands On Hands Off (Disc 2 – Vol.2 - 80’s & 90’s) “Now” 1 One More Night With You 2 If You (Joe Valentine With Lynn Collins) 3 Forever My Love 4 To Be In Love With You 5 One Night Stand 6 All The Love I Have For You Is Gone 7 Sharing Your Love 8 True Love 9 If You Let Me 10 Look What We've Done (Joe Valentine With Linda Green) 11 Let Me Be There For You (Joe Valentine With Linda Green) 12 Don't Know How to Live Without You (Joe Valentine With Linda Green) 13 Come to Me 14 Let's Have Tonight (Joe Valentine With Lynn Collins) 15 First Day of Your Life “Jewel/Paula Story” (Fuel 2000 3020618972) (2011) various artist compilation. 1 track by Joe Valentine 8 I Can’t Stand To See You Go Peter Nickols Youtube Joe Valentine - I Can't Stand To See You Go Joe Valentine - Surely, I'll Never Do You Wrong Joe Valentine - A Woman's Love Ronn
  11. Some time ago I uploaded a listing of my personal Male Top 50 Deep Soul favourites to the Yahoo Southern Soul group and I've started writing a few articles about some of the singers featured, especially those who don't always get much publicity even on the web. I started with Joe Valentine, three of whose 1967/8 sides I rate as wonderful deep-soul recordings, two of which made it into my "fifty". Here is a (safe) download link to a Word docx file of my piece for anyone who might be interested. This link is only valid for about 6 days from the date of this message (June 9 2020). https://tinyurl.com/yanmsqmt Am a long-time member of the above-mentioned Yahoo group but am new to Soul Source, albeit I have often accessed it when researching in the past. Best wishes to all members. Peter N.

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