Soul Serenade: The 8th Day, “She’s Not Just Another Woman”

The 8th DayAfter nine years and well over 400 columns, I’ve decided to change Soul Serenade from a weekly to an occasional column. Obviously, there are more than enough classic soul records to fuel a column like this for a lifetime but the truth is that while the column’s title mentions a specific song what I’ve really been doing is telling the stories of the artists behind the songs. And while many artists had multiple hits, how many times can you tell the same story? Are there artists who I’ve never covered? Of course. The 8th Day is one such group and I’ll certainly find more. But the fact is they’re harder to come by on a weekly basis. I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey albeit on a bit more infrequent basis.

In 1967, the songwriting and production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland left Motown in an acrimonious dispute with Motown owner Berry Gordy, Jr. The trio formed their own family of record labels that included the Hotwax, Music Merchant, and Invictus imprints. The roster of these labels was mostly made up of groups that were assembled for the occasion. They were either supergroups or lineups that were pieced together for a specific record. Often the members of the groups didn’t even know each other or hadn’t worked together before being called on to record for one of the labels.

The story of the 8th Day begins with another group that was recording for Holland-Dozier-Holland, 100 Proof (Aged in Soul). 100 Proof itself had been assembled by Holland-Dozier-Holland and the lineup included Steve Mancha, Eddie Holiday, and Joe Stubbs (brother of Levi Stubbs). The group had scored an R&B hit with “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup” but then scored really big with a crossover smash called “Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed” which reached #8 on the pop chart and sold a million copies of the Hotwax release. The label decided it would be a good idea to release a 100 Proof album to capitalize on the success of the single.

The 8th Day

“She’s Not Just Another Woman” was a cut on the album and anyone with ears could tell that it was a hit. The song was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland but because of their ongoing dispute with Gordy, it was credited to C. Wilson and Ronald Dunbar. DJs started playing the track off the album. The problem was that “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” was still rolling up the charts and the label didn’t want anything, such as a new single by the same group, to get in the way. That’s where the 8th Day came in. It was simply a matter of changing the group’s name on the label of the single and releasing it on Invictus instead of Hotwax. That is 100 Proof’s Steve Mancha singing lead on “She Not Just Another Woman.” Sure enough, it was a hit, reaching #11 on the pop chart in 1971.

There was one little problem: there was no 8th Day. When the second 8th Day single, “You Got to Crawl (Before You Walk)” began to find some chart success, that problem had to be resolved, and quickly. Holland-Dozier-Holland did what they had done so well before and simply assembled a group for the occasion. The lineup included Melvin Davis, Tony Newsome, Lyman Woodard, Larry Hutchison, Ron Bykowski, Michael Anthony, Bruce Nazarian, Jerry Paul, Lynn Harter, Carol Stallings, and Anita Sherman. Now that there was an actual band, 8th Day recorded two more singles for Invictus but while “Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Mo (Three’s a Crowd)” and “If I Could See the Light” both reached the R&B Top 30, it wasn’t enough to keep the band together.

Holland-Dozier-Holland are often credited for their brilliant songwriting and production but it seems that they were also pretty adept at assembling talent and providing songs for their put-together groups to take up the charts.

Soul Serenade: Dennis Coffey, “Scorpio”

Dennis Coffey

Session musicians often toil in obscurity. People hear the hit records and become fans of the artists whose names are on them without ever knowing the names of the musicians who created the sound that they love. In recent years however, session players have finally been getting their due. There have been acclaimed documentaries about the Wrecking Crew — who were behind hundreds of hits recorded in Los Angeles in the ’60s, the Swampers — the crew that played on all the soul hits that came out of Muscle Shoals, and the Funk Brothers — the unsung heroes behind all of those Motown hits. Despite that recent notoriety, there are still hundreds of studio musicians who remain unsung despite their contributions.

One way for a studio musician to become known was to record under his own name. Musicians who started in the studio and became stars in their own right include Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, who were both part of the Wrecking Crew, and Darlene Love, who was a successful background singer before making it on her own.

Dennis Coffey is a Detroit guy. He began his career as a guitar player in groups like the Royaltones, a band that not only had some regional hits, but also played on recording sessions with artists like Del Shannon. By the late ’60s, Coffey was the hot guitar player in town, playing on hits like the Reflections “Just Like Romeo and Juliet,” and Darrell Banks “Open the Door to Your Heart.”

Dennis Coffey

PHOTO COURTESY OF CLARENCE AVANT – INTERIOR MUSIC CORP.

The legendary Motown bass player James Jamerson heard what Coffey was doing, and recommended him to producer Norman Whitfield. The next thing you know, Coffey was a Funk Brother. He played the innovative guitar parts on smash hits like the Whitfield-produced “Cloud Nine,” “Ball of Confusion,” and “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations. That’s Coffey you hear on Edwin Starr’s “War,” “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne, and Diana Ross and the Supremes “Someday, We’ll Be Together.”

In the early ’70s Coffey set out to make it on his own as an artist and producer. He and his partner Mike Theodore hooked up with Sussex Records owner Clarence Avant. At Sussex they wrote songs and arrangements, and produced hit records. Among their successes were Gallery’s hit single “Nice to Be With You.” While at Sussex the pair would produce two albums for Sixto Rodriguez who, although initially ignored, has had a career resurgence in recent years, spurred in no small part by the documentary film Searching for Sugar Man.

One of the teams biggest hits came from Coffey’s second solo album, his first for Sussex. “Scorpio” was not only a million-seller, and a funk classic, it also became an important record in the development of hip-hop. Coffey didn’t stop playing sessions though, and you can hear him playing on hits like “Boogie Fever” by the Sylvers. Over the years he’s played on records for Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and others.

When Coffey was gaining fame in the studio in the late ’60s, he was spending his nights playing live gigs in Detroit clubs as part of the Lyman Woodard Trio, which included organist Woodard, and drummer Melvin Davis. The trio began playing in 1966 at a place called Frolic Show Bar. By the following year they had decamped for a long-term residency at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge.

“We played there once a week and always packed the house,” Coffey said. “Much of our audience was middle to upper class folks who were judges, attorneys, businessmen and women who just loved listening to our brand of funk, jazz, rock and soul. I even hooked up a strobe light to the stage and would hit the switch that shut off the main lights. The strobe would go off while we’d jam on stage. It blew their minds!”

What wasn’t widely known until recently was that some of these shows were recorded using studio quality equipment. When word of these recordings reached Resonance Records, it was decided that the public needed to hear the music.

“Right off the bat I was intrigued and felt compelled to release these recordings and tell the story of Dennis Coffey, who is to me one of the unsung heroes of guitar,” said Resonance producer Zev Feldman.

Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin’ at More Baker’s Showplace Lounge was released on vinyl in November. On January 17, 2017, Resonance Records will release CD and digital versions.