Those who feared that Ace’s commitment to the Stax cause has been sidelined by our work on other catalogues of Southern Soul music are in for a treat as we bring you two long-overdue and very-welcome projects from the most fingerclickin’ good label of all time. None of the three female acts featured across the two projects (Hot Sauce, Jeanne & The Darlings and the Charmels) ever had an album release of their own – although one almost did, and the other two recorded enough material during their time on McLemore Avenue to put together an album apiece. Extremely good material, too, as you’ll hear on both CDs.
If Stax had managed to stave off bankruptcy just a little longer, there’s a good chance that Hot Sauce would have seen their album issued; one was both planned and allocated a Volt catalogue number. The group began as as a one girl, two boy trio but quickly became a solo vehicle for the astoundingly soulful voice of St Louis’ Rhonda Washington. Most of the tracks were not cut at Stax, but at Royal Studios, home of the Hi Sound, with strings and things added later in Detroit. Rhonda Washington’s recordings are among the earthiest issued on Volt during the label’s later years, when studio activity was increasingly taking place away from Memphis. Hot Sauce only charted with two of a total of five singles, ‘Bring It Home (And Give It To Me)’ and a version of ‘Stop Doggin’ Me’ that blows Johnnie Taylor’s original into the middle of next week. The others might have done better if promotional budgets had not been cut as the 70s unfolded and the company gradually imploded.
“Good Woman Turning Bad” is the title of their projected Volt album. Thanks to the recent discovery of a proposed track listing, we were able to sequence the CD in the same order. There’s also the bonus of two extremely good non-album B-sides, to complete our anthology of the Hot Sauce catalogue.
Following the demise of both Volt and Hot Sauce, Rhonda Washington is believed to have retreated into the St. Louis gospel scene. Disco was already on its way by the time of her last sessions and she may well have not wanted to be a part of that scene anyway. Wherever she is now or whatever she’s doing, it’s a real treat to be able to get all of Hot Sauce and Rhonda’s sublime sides on one CD for the first time ever. Not so much a ‘Good Woman Turning Bad’ as a good woman singing great.
By Tony Rounce