Detroit’s black music scene 1961-64 – about to spread soul music across the world.
Detroit gave the world soul music through the success of Motown, which was scoring big hits from 1959. The Motown sound would be studied and aped by hundreds of acts and dozens of labels around the city. “Birth Of Soul – Special Detroit Edition” features several Motown connections, including a previously unheard Martha Reeves song and an unissued number from Berry Gordy’s first wife, Thelma. Graham Finch’s 8,000 words in the booklet are exemplary and tell the tale of Detroit’s long-neglected soul roots with authority and style.
Influential writer/producer and early Motown artist Richard “Popcorn” Wylie features on two tracks, including Priscilla Page’s haunting ‘My Letter’. Funk Brother Joe Hunter co-wrote ‘Nosey Folk’ with Martha Reeves of the Del-Phis, who would soon become Vandellas. The Del-Phis also sing backing vocals on Joe’s song ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, as recorded by Leon Peterson. Detroit soul heroes J.J. Barnes, Gino Washington and Melvin Davis represent evergreen stars who sang in the city throughout the soul years. There are unissued gems from Norman Whitfield’s group the Sonnettes, Tony Clarke, who would go on to success at Chess, and Leon Peterson, while Mike Hanks and Dave Hamilton’s stables of acts are represented by James Lately, La Wanda William, Geraldine Hunt, the Penn Etts and Hamilton’s daughter Charmaine.
More successful was Barbara Lewis, whose glorious ‘Think A Little Sugar’ featured on the flip of her 1963 hit ‘Hello Stranger’; Timmy Shaw’s ‘I’m A Lonely Guy’ also sold well as the flip to his hit ‘Gonna Send You Back To Georgia’. The Falcons and Volumes display their doo wop roots on two superb soul ballads, while the Pyramids perform ‘Shakin’ Fit’, a raucous dance number. Like Melvin Davis, whose ‘Wedding Bells’ is tougher than the title suggests, Betty Lavett (as she spelt her name at the time) was there at the start and performs to this day. Betty’s ‘Here I Am’ is the sort of blues-based song she entertained the crowds with at the Twenty Grand and Phelps’ Lounge.
The Donays’ ‘Devil In His Heart’ earned international fame when the Beatles covered the song on their second LP. It was produced by the Correc-Tone stable, as were the brilliant early soul cuts from Marva Josie and Laura Johnson. OtherDetroitmusic business luminaries who appear in the credits include Johnnie Mae Matthews, Lee Rogers, Ollie McLaughlin, Fred Brown, Robert Saunders, Janie Bradford, Robert Bateman, Brian Holland, “Sonny” Sanders and Armen Boladian. The vast majority of tracks are new to CD; five are new to the world.