This CD seems to have been on the back burner for some time, but now it has come to the boil with the explosive intensity of Spencer Wiggins’ vocals.
I recall back in the early 70s meeting a guy in Brighton who was returning home who had decided to sell his 45 collection. Whilst picking through them I came across Spencer’s Uptight Good Woman and asked naively “What’s this like?” After a few seconds on the turntable, I was smitten and had discovered “real soul”, or to be more specific the kind of soul cooked up on the banks of the Mississippi or down in Muscle Shoals in the 60s. Uptight Good Woman still sends shivers down my spine as Spencer sings over the haunting organ and tells us of his desire for “a good little woman who will stay by my side” before the band break into full power.
This 22 track CD collects together all the sides from the Goldwax period. Some of the later masters recorded by Goldwax at Fame and subsequently sold to Fame are not included; they were erroneously issued as Goldwax sides in the 70s and 80s. This CD is the very best of Spencer Wiggins from his golden period in the mid-to-late 60s.
When I first started on the quest of finding out more about Goldwax artists, Spencer Wiggins was at the top of my list. None of my sources knew what had happened to him. Then a series of contacts began, starting with UK collector Nick Sands, who gave me Dan Greer’s telephone number, who then gave me Spencer’s brother Percy’s number. The singing soul brothers were still in touch, and I was able to speak to the Spencer, then recently retired. Our conversations are the basis for the notes which accompany this CD. There are also previously unpublished photos courtesy of Percy Wiggins and Goldwax producer and co-owner Quinton Claunch.
Spencer has been overlooked by the popular press, and even by some soul commentators, in favour of James Carr. Hopefully this first UK collection will demonstrate that he has a place up there with the greats. Spencer accepts that if he had had management he may have been more successful in the 60s, but like many artists he decided to drop out of the business when there weren’t enough gigs to pay the bills. He left Memphis and re-located to Florida in the 70s and though he tried gigging at weekends, he soon gave up as the live music clubs closed during the disco boom. He continued to sing at his local church, where, following in his father’s footsteps, he became deacon. When I last spoke to him he had just released a gospel CD. Unfortunately he was adamant that he would never sing secular music again; so we are just left with this legacy of classic songs from the lost age of southern soul.
All the songs here are the product of a multi-ethnic mix which had been sown in the soil of Memphis and Muscle Shoals and washed up on the banks of the Mississippi over several generations. When you listen to the songs you can hear a multitude of styles, from the rocking R&B beater Soul City USA to the country soul of Once In A While and through to the bluesy Sweet Sixteen. Spencer can also take a song which we know so well like I Never Loved A Woman and add his own special ingredients. Just listen to the way he lets the notes roll away from the title before the guitar run. His interpretation of the lyrics of songs such as That’s How Much I Love You make you feel every ounce of the emotion wrung out by him as he interprets great songs from George Jackson, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, among others.
By Colin Dilnot