Soul Serenade: Garland Green, “Jealous Kind Of Fella”

Garland GreenA couple of weeks ago I wrote about Danny White, a southern soul singer who toiled for years looking for a hit that proved elusive. This week, I’ll take a look at a singer who managed to find that hit, even reaching to Top 20 on one occasion, before fading from the memory of most people.

Garland Green was born in Mississippi, one or eleven children. He joined the great northern migration when he moved to Chicago at the age of 16. Green was still in high school when his singing talent came to the attention of Argia Collins, a local restaurateur. Collins became Green’s patron and paid for him to attend the Chicago Conservatory of Music where Green studied voice and piano.

While he was in school Green began to sing in the clubs around town and he won a talent contest at a place called the Trocadero. The win earned him the chance to open a show for Lou Rawls and Earl Hines. Joshie Jo Armstead was in the audience the night of the concert. Armstrong had written songs with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson and she saw something in Green. Armstrong arranged for Green to record in Detroit and the resulting single, “Girl I Love You,” found enough local success that MCA Records picked it up for national distribution on their Revue Records imprint.

Green recorded a few more singles for Revue before being moved up to MCA’s most prominent label, Uni Records. “Jealous Kind of Fella” was a song co-written by Armstead and Green along with R. Browner, and M. Dollinson. When the single was released in 1969 it raced up the charts, reaching #5 on the R&B chart and winning a Top 20 spot on the pop chart while selling a million copies. Unfortunately, the follow-up single, the oddly titled “Don’t Think I’m a Violent Guy,” failed to come anywhere near matching the performance of “Jealous Kind of Fella,” not even cracking the Top 100. That put an end to not only Green’s association with MCA but his partnership with Armstead as well.

Green landed at Cotillion Records, an Atlantic subsidiary. He released five singles for the label but only the Donny Hathaway-produced and arranged “Plain and Simple Girl” found any success. The single was a Top 20 R&B hit but again didn’t crack the pop Top 100. The lack of success led Green to depart Cotillion for Spring Records. There he released five more singles including “Let the Good Times Roll” (not the Shirley & Lee song), and “Bumpin’ and Stompin’.” None of the singles found anything more than minor success on the R&B chart which led Green to yet another label, RCA.

At RCA, Green released three more singles and an album that was produced by Leon Haywood. The search for another hit continued to come up empty for Green. He moved to California in hopes of changing his luck. There he recorded for an indie label called Ocean-Front Records. The album that Green released for the label was co-produced by Lamont Dozier but only the single “Trying to Hold On to My Woman,” a song that had been a hit for Dozier a decade earlier, found any traction, reaching #63 on the R&B chart.

There was no quit in Green, however. He continued to record and release his own records until 2011 when he signed a new record deal with a subsidiary of CDS Records called Special Soul Music. The following year, Green released his first album of new material in 29 years, the appropriately titled I Should’ve Been the One. Indeed.

Soul Serenade: Dobie Gray, “Drift Away”

Dobie GrayFor a pop songwriter, the gold standard is a song that has a chorus that people can sing along to. That kind of thing not only goes a long way toward having the song becoming a hit but also gives it longevity. If your chorus is catchy enough people are likely to still be singing it years later. Having spent some time in bars with jukeboxes and live bands I think it’s fair to say that “Drift Away” qualifies as one of those songs.

Lawrence Darrow Brown was born in 1940 into a family of sharecroppers in Texas. His grandfather was a Baptist minister which is how Brown first became inspired by gospel music. He moved to Los Angeles when he was in his early 20s with an eye on an acting career but it isn’t easy to break into the Hollywood scene so Brown turned to singing to make some money while he was waiting for his chance.

Brown recorded for several labels during this period, under several names. One of the people he encountered was a guy named Sonny Bono who thought the independent label Stripe Records would be a good fit for Brown. Once he signed on the people at the label suggested the name Dobie Gray which was inspired by the then-popular TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

He may have acquired his name at Stripe but he accomplished little else. Success didn’t come until 1963 when he was recording for Core-Dak and it was a modest success at that. The single “Look at Me” climbed to the not-too-lofty position of #91 on the Billboard Hot 100. Two years later, however, Gray struck gold with his #13 hit “The In Crowd.” With the legendary Wrecking Crew backing him up, Gray hit the Hot 100 again with the follow-up, “See You at the Go-Go.” But things dried up for a while, a long while, after that.

Gray kept recording for small labels and he even got some of that acting work he’d come to L.A. for in the first place. He spent 2 1/2 years in the cast of the L.A. production of the musical Hair.

Do you remember Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies? He was played by Max Baer, Jr. and after his acting career, Baer became quite a successful manager. One of his clients was a band called Pollution that had formed in 1970 and included Gray as the lead singer. The band recorded two albums that didn’t make much noise and by 1972 Gray had signed with Decca Records. He prepared to work on an album for the label to be recorded in Nashville with Mentor Williams as producer. Williams was the brother of the very successful songwriter Paul Williams with whom Gray had recorded some demos earlier.

Dobie Gray

One of the songs they recorded in Nashville was “Drift Away” which featured that indelible chorus as well as some fine guitar work from Reggie Young. The song was written by Mentor Williams and first recorded by John Henry Kurtz in 1972. The following year it became a #5 smash for Gray, selling a million copies and earning a Gold Record. Gray followed it up with his cover of “Loving Arms” which did respectable but not spectacular business, reaching #61.

By then Decca had been enfolded into MCA Records and Gray made three albums for the label. None of them was very successful, a problem Gray felt was caused by the fact that MCA “didn’t know where to place a black guy in country music.” Now a permanent Nashville resident, Gray signed with Capricorn records and had modest success with his last two solo singles, “If Love Must Go” (#78), and “You Can Do It” (#37). During this time, Gray toured in Australia, Europe, and after persuading the authorities to allow him to play to integrated audiences, South Africa.

Gray recorded for Capitol Records in the 1980s and had some success on the country charts. He continued to tour and release albums in the 1990s. Unexpectedly, “Drift Away” became a hit all over again when Gray recorded a new version of the song with the band Uncle Kracker in 2003. The new version made it all the way to #9 on the Hot 100 that year and spent an incredible 28 weeks at the top of the Adult Contemporary chart.

Dobie Gray died in Nashville in 2011. He was 71 years old. And we’re still singing that chorus.

Soul Serenade: Denise LaSalle, “Trapped by a Thing Called Love”

Denise LaSalleWhen Koko Taylor died nine years ago, the title “Queen of the Blues” was bestowed on Denise LaSalle. Then LaSalle died in January of this year and the title has been vacated, at least for the time being.

LaSalle had the classic upbringing for a blues singer. She was born in Mississippi to a family of sharecroppers. She took the well-trod road north to Chicago when she was 13 and moved in with an older brother. Like many southern singers, LaSalle was influenced by both country and blues music. She began to make her name in R&B circles around the Windy City and in 1967 she signed with the legendary Chess Records label. “Love Reputation” was her first single for the label and while it was not a huge national hit, it did show some promise regionally.

Denise LaSalle

It was her third single, “Trapped By a Thing Called Love,” that had the magic. By the time it was released in 1971, LaSalle had moved on to the Detroit-based Westbound Records. The song, which was written LaSalle, was a huge hit for her, topping the R&B chart, reaching #13 on the pop chart, selling a million copies, and earning the singer a Gold Record. The record was co-produced by LaSalle and her then-husband Bill Jones.

The following year, LaSalle scored again with “Now Run and Tell That,” and “Man Sized Job” both of which were Top 5 R&B singles and made the pop chart as well. All of LaSalle’s early hits were recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Hi Records in Memphis. In 1975, LaSalle left Westbound for ABC Records where she scored another Top 10 R&B hit with “Love Me Right” in 1977. When ABC Records was sold in 1978, the new label, MCA, dropped LaSalle mostly because they didn’t know how to market black music.

Malaco Records came calling shortly thereafter and LaSalle began a long and successful career with the label. Over the course of more than 20 years with Malaco, LaSalle released 11 highly regarded albums for the label. Eventually, LaSalle moved on from Malaco and made two gospel albums for Ordena Records before returning to secular music with three albums for Ecko Records.

More than ten years after she left the label, LaSalle returned to Malaco in 2010 and released the album 24 Hour Woman. During this time LaSalle continued to perform and was a popular artist at blues festivals. She was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2015.

Denise LaSalle, the “Queen of the Blues,” died on January 8, 2018, at the age of 78.

Soul Serenade: Peaches & Herb, “Let’s Fall In Love”

Peaches & HerbI was going to call in sick this week. I’ve been down with some evil thing for a few days, and I’m sure the boss would have understood. After all, I never take sick days. And that’s the point. I have written this column week in and week out, foul weather and fair, for well over six years now and I can’t recall missing a week. If you search for “Soul Serenade” on the Popdose website you can find over 300 entries in this series. So ill health be damned. I’m going to tell you about Peaches & Herb.

They were both born in Washington, D.C. Herb Fame (born Herbert Feemster) starting singing as a child. Eventually, he took a job in a record store, which is where he met Van McCoy, who introduced him to an A&R guy by the name of Dave Kapralik who signed Fame to Date Records, a Columbia subsidiary. Meanwhile, Francine “Peaches” Barker (born Francine Edna Hurd) was singing with the Darlettes. When they got a deal with Date Records they changed their name to the Sweet Things.

McCoy produced two singles for the Darlettes, but when they didn’t go anywhere Kapralik had the brilliant idea of teaming Peaches & Herb to record as a duo. They released their first single in December 1966 but “We’re in this Thing Together” wasn’t getting any traction. Then a DJ in St. Louis flipped the record over and “Let’s Fall in Love” became Peaches & Herb’s first hit.

“Let’s Fall in Love” was an American songbook standard, written in 1934 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and recorded by luminaries like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and the Four Aces. The Peaches & Herb version made it to #11 on the R&B chart, and crossed over to the Pop chart, reaching #21.

The next two years saw Peaches & Herb have a string of hits including “For Your Love,” and “Love is Strange.” But Barker got tired of the touring life so Fame got himself a new Peaches in the form of Marlina Mars, who had been a member of the Jaynettes, for live performances. Barker still sung on the records though and even made some solo records for Columbia under the name Francine Barker.

Fame retired in 1970 and became a D.C. cop. He decided to get back into the music business six years later but once again he needed a new Peaches. McCoy recommended Linda Greene, and the most successful Peaches & Herb era began. At first, they recorded for MCA, and McCoy produced their first album for the label, but only one chart single came out of it, the ironically titled “We’re Still Together.” I guess it depends on what your definition of ‘we’ is.

Peaches & Herb

Then they moved on to the Polydor label MVP and things started to happen. The album 2 Hot went gold and “Shake Your Groove Thing” streaked all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up single from the album was a little something called “Reunited,” which went triple platinum and topped both the R&B and Pop charts. There were several more hits for Polydor including “I Pledge My Love” before the duo moved on to the Entertainment Company, where they released their seventh and final album in 1983.

Fame retired again and again went into law enforcement, working for the U.S. Marshal Service. Greene and her husband Stephen Tavani released three gospel albums. But Fame couldn’t stay retired, and while still working at the Marshal Service he revived the Peaches & Herb name in 1990, this time making Patrica Hawthorne the fourth Peaches. But they only ended up doing a few shows and didn’t record together.

Despite the fact that the Fame and Greene version of Peaches & Herb had sold nine million records for Polydor, Fame was not as well off as he should have been. He sued his former label and won the unpaid royalties he was entitled to. Now financially secure, he opted to put the money in the bank and keep working at the law enforcement job he loved.

By now you see a pattern, right? Yes, there was a fifth Peaches. She was named Miriamm and she became part of the duo in 2002. This is the pair that you see on PBS fundraising specials like Rhythm, Love & Soul that still air periodically. Sure enough, there was a sixth Peaches, Wanda Makle. That duo was planning to make an album in 2008 but it didn’t happen, and Peaches number seven, Meritxell Negre came over from her home in Barcelona for the gig.

This time there was an album as Fame and Negre released Colors of Love in 2009. It was the first Peaches & Herb album in more than 25 years. But eventually, Fame returned to number six and the Peaches & Herb that are touring these days are Fame and Makle. Stay tuned for further developments.

Soul Serenade: Leon Haywood, “It’s Got To Be Mellow”

Soul Serenade - Leon HaywoodIt’s ironic that I would be celebrating the life and music of a Houston native just one day after the Houston Astros eliminated my beloved Yankees from the playoffs. When did those Astros get to be part of the American League anyway? I hate this one-game playoff thing and I would have said that win or lose. It’s terrible for a team to have a successful 162-game season only to have it end as the result of one game. It doesn’t prove a thing. Oh well … (more)

Soul Serenade: Leon Haywood, “It’s Got To Be Mellow”

Soul Serenade: Tavares, “Check It Out”

TavaresI don’t have to stray very far from home for this week’s Soul Serenade. Providence is just 30 minutes away from my home in southern Rhode Island. And it’s in Providence that the five Tavares brothers were born and raised. The capitol city is home to a substantial Cape Verdean-American community, and it was from that community that the brothers sprung … (more)

 

Soul Serenade: Garland Green, “Jealous Kind Of Fella”

Soul Serenade - Garland Green

Popular songs are a funny thing. What is it that makes some hit songs live on forever, while others are forgotten with the passage of time? Is there something in the melody or lyrics that give a song its staying power? I suppose that if anyone knew the answers they would be cranking out timeless hits on a regular basis …

Soul Serenade: Garland Green, “Jealous Kind of Fella”