We looked into the world of post-Otis Memphis soul in “Memphis 70”. There we saw how Memphis black music adapted to the death in December 1967 of its talismatic superstar. We found that it had grown and adapted, through funk to a sweeter form of soul and the rise of importance of Isaac Hayes and Al Green. After that study we felt that there was a back story that needed to be told of the gritty, dirty and down right funky grooves of Memphis in the 1960s. We wanted to look beyond the obvious and the explore the less well knowns and obscure. We have delved into the depths of the Stax and Goldwax tape vaults and rounded up some unusual masterpieces.
At Stax we have lifted such dancefloor classics as ‘The Hawg’ by Eddie Kirk who was then part of the Otis Redding Revue. A storming, funky harmonica-led almost instrumental (it includes some distorted shouts from Mr K himself, recorded through his harmonica microphone). Genius like this means that this record will cost several hundred pounds, particularly as it was not released outside Memphis. Then we’ve chosen the amazing Eddie Purrell’s ‘The Spoiler’ that has recently proved itself an inspiration on a UK Top 40 hit. Prince Conley’s ‘I’m Going Home’ is a sought-after 45 on the mod scene from the days before the label had been named Stax. Other amazing Stax recordings include the two Dixie Nightingales singles that came out on the short-lived Gospel subsidiary, Chalice, and the first single by Isaac Hayes.
Set up in the wake of Stax’s success Goldwax could never match its achievement but did create music every bit as good. Included is Percy Milem’s glorious take on ‘She’s About A Mover’ , every bit a Memphis soul classic. The more obscure artists include Wee Willie Walker with a take on the Beatles’ ‘Ticket To Ride’ and an unreleased gem by an unknown artist liberated directly from the tape vault. We also returned to the XL vaults to bring forth the soaring voice of Barbara & the Browns, and there’s William Bollinger’s ‘Shake, Shake Shake’ – previously unreleased – that could quite easily er, shake dancefloors.
In the rare corner we are very lucky to have the Packy Axton- Johnny Keyes masterpiece ‘Double Up’, which walks all over CL Blast’s version on Stax. Willie Cobbs’ superb original of ‘You Don’t Love Me’ is a song that became a rock hit when covered by the Allman Brothers and, when re-titled ‘No No No’ found reggae fame for Dawn Penn. Junior Kimbell provides a seriously twisted version of ‘Tramp’ – proving that he had always had a compelling and unique style long before his 1990s rediscovery on the Fat Possum label.
So here is an introduction to 1960s Memphis soul and R&B through a left-field route. Proving without doubt Memphis was most definitely the real Music City USA.
By Dean Rudland