Monday, 30 September 2013

Anthony and the Aqualads / Chantells

The Aqua Lads played largely as a revue act (later with The Chantells) around Charlotte, NC and Myrtle Beach,  although they also backed national R&B bands further afield, including Canada. The group ran from 1963-1969 and had over twenty members during this period. Five 45s by The Aqua Lads were released; of particular northern soul interest are “I Remember” on Gold Bee (GB-1650) from 1965 and “I’ll Never Know” on Aqua, recorded with The Chantells on vocal lead in 1968.

Much has already been written about the legendary Stafford Top of the World all-nighters. Following northern soul’s commercial peak of the late seventies, many previous rare soul devotees left the scene altogether, feeling that the core philosophy and musical direction of the scene had lost its way. Rare soul returned truly underground in the next decade. However, the die hards and new soul fans perceived the emergence of ‘Stafford’ and similar venues at the time as rescuers of the scene from a downward spiral of musical commercialism and the stale self-repetitive nature of the northern soul scene just passed. Sixties 'newies' and 'alternative' oldies  (previous underplayed or unplayed soul in the UK) from the Stafford era are held up to this day as some of the finest soul from the scene's history. Anthony and the Aqua Lads' "I Remember" epitomised the sound of that period.

Mark Dobson (aka "Butch"), one of the most respected DJs and collectors on the scene for around 30 years, originally acquired the Aqua Lads, and introduced it to the UK soul crowd via renowned Stafford DJ Keb Darge. “I got the Anthony and the Aqua Lads track from the States in the early 1980s” Butch reported. “I met Keb Darge at the beginning of the Stafford all-nighters and played it to him. He thought it was great and we made a trade on it. In the late 1980’s I was in the Carolinas and met someone with an old travel case full of memorabilia from the 1960s including copies of Anthony and the Aqua Lads, an acetate of the record and some photos of the group. I got the records, but he wouldn't part with the photos. The acetate states the artist as Anthony Monor and Aqualads and was from Greensboro, NC. The motto was We record anything worth keeping."

Of the Aqua Lads, Roy Edwards (co-founder, guitar, writer, arranger from 1963 to 1969), Anthony (Tony) Maner (vocals from 1963 to 1968) and a later band member Ken Hatley (bass guitar, 1967) were located for interview. Tony and Roy were asked about the early days, which included involvement in a US airforce band and a local black college group:

Roy Edwards (RE): It’s funny how time can make some things fade or blur.  But I remember most of the things about the group.  Tony and I were stationed in Libya, at Wheelus Air Force Base. In 1964 we played in a band called The Renegades.  We played on base and downtown Tripoli.  Tony got out early and went back to North Carolina.

Anthony Maner (AM): I had put a band together with five students from a local black college (Livingston). A local newspaper, The Salisbury Post, did an article with picture of me on my drums.  The students left college and left the band. So I found a guitar player, Roger Goodman and Roy Edwards came into the picture about that time.

RE: The day I shipped out, Tony called me and asked me to help him out with a band to play from Livingston College. I helped them out on that weekend and was going to go home but the guys picked up a couple gigs and asked me to stay another week, which I did.  My musical background was mostly doo-wop and rock and roll.  But when I was in NC I saw James Brown live at the Civic Center in Raleigh.  I was hooked on soul. Later I went to see Otis Redding too and was blown away by his voice and soulfulness.  I turned 21 years old while I was first at Tony's in Salisbury, NC.  Tony was originally the drummer.  I played guitar and wrote or arranged the songs.  The guys from Livingston College broke up so Tony and I started out with new men.  I wanted us to do our material like James Brown. So Tony came off drums and went out front.

AM: We found the keyboard player Johnny Hess playing for a 4th July celebration from the back of a flatbed truck.  A drummer was found playing in a small group in Salisbury.  We started to practice in my parent's home. We practiced five days a week, 6 or 7 hours a day, for 3 months.  When we were ready we took a trip to the beach and played in the Bowery Club. We played six shows, made $50.00, then came back to Salisbury and practiced again for another month.

AM: Before long the group were approached by a guy called Ralph Farmer, who asked if we needed a manager. Young and innocent, I said yes.  Farmer got us an audition with the largest talent agency on the east coast of the United States.  The president of the agency signed us on as Anthony and the Aqua Lads.  We started playing in Charlotte, NC and it grew from that.  The band by then consisted of Anthony Maner (vocals), Johnny Hess (keyboards), Roger Goodman (bass), Charlie Taylor (drums) and Roy Edwards (guitar).

Mark Windle (MW): Do you recall the release “I Remember” on Gold Bee records - how did you get signed to this label?

AM: We recorded “I Remember” in 10.6.65 in North Carolina.  At the time we travelled the east coast. When we played Boston we were approached by Gold Bee records about a contract.

RE: We went to New York City, to Scepter Records and Al Goldner. We were looking for a label and Al put us on the Gold Bee label.  He had a new group at the time called The Intruders.

MW: Al Goldner who owned the Gold Bee label - was this another name for or relative of George Goldner, the guy who owned Red Bird, End, and various doo-wop labels?

RE: As far as I know the name of the producer was either Al or Sam Goldner with the main Scepter label.

MW: Did The Aqua Lads do any recordings which got as far as tapes or acetates, but maybe didn't make it to vinyl?

RE: We did a lot of songs but it was so expensive to record in those days, the money wasn't as good.  The Beatles helped that a lot though. As far as I know I wrote all the songs for The Aqua Lads and did all the arranging except for the brass which I left to Spanky (Jeryl Smith), on tenor sax. I never got a penny for those songs I did for The Aqualads, The Chantells and Earl Dawkins in the early days.

The next members of the revue set up were to be The Chantells (not to be confused by the group of the same name who recorded Indian Giver on Verve), who were two young girls from High Point, NC called Vicki Skinner and Debbie Newton. Debbie is no longer in the singing business, but Vicki is still very active on the beach scene. Her musical influences were very much soul orientated, including Barbara Lewis and Mary Wells. The Aqua Lads asked them to join in the summer of 1966. The Chantells recorded “I’ll Never Know” on Aqua in 1968, which found its way to UK shores in the early eighties. “I was first to play The Chantells in the UK” says Butch. “Originally got it from John Anderson at Soul Bowl around 1981. It cost me £100, a lot of money at the time. I eventually got to play it later, around 1985 and had it covered-up as The Bobbettes. I think it got some plays at Tony’s New Empress Ballroom in Blackburn, London’s 100 Club and a few other places.”

Band members Roy and Ken explained how The Chantells joined the band, and the Aqua Lads’ recollection of recording “I’ll Never Know”:

MW: Do you remember The Chantells who recorded with you on Aqua?  "I'll Never Know" has been a sought after sound on the northern scene over here for more than 20 years. Were they part of the Anthony and the Aqua Lads revue?

RE: Yes, I remember "I'll Never Know". I wrote it for Vicki Skinner and Debbie Newton. We were on our way back from a gig in Newbern, NC and saw a sign for a battle of the bands.  So we stopped in and saw a blonde and brunette on stage that really had a great front and soulful sound.  Thus The Aqua Lads and The Chantells met.  We started touring almost immediately. Ralph Farmer found Earl Dawkins with a young band and brought him to replace Charles Taylor on drums.  Earl was a terrific drummer.  Later we found out he had a marvellous voice. That was the line up for the revue, the Anthony and the Aqua Lads Revue.  We were a full scale boogie band with four horns and a complete rhythm section.  It was great!

KH: The band became known with a series of singles, and dates filled up. The Aqua Lads played arenas, theatres, colleges and universities around the country and even Canada, playing major club venues. They were considered a popular R&B / soul band playing shows with James Brown, Chuck Berry, Wilson Pickett, Gary U.S. Bonds, The Drifters, The Tams, Jackie Wilson, Arthur Connelly, The Shirelles, Patti LaBelle and The Blue Bells, Arthur Conley, Otis Redding, Gladys Knight and many more including the Motown groups.

Ken, Roy and Tony recalled how eventually the band broke up. Ken’s own website gives some indication of what direction he went in:

“In 1967 we were playing Charleston, SC, living in a condemned motel with no hot water that our manager owned behind his club, the Azalea Room. We were working our butts off almost every night, at the end of the week he might give us five dollars or if we were lucky, $20.00. Though we were making great money, he justified this by charging us rent and making us pay for the gas to gigs. Anthony and I had had enough. On a trip with him through Atlanta and $10.00 between us, we got out on the square in downtown Atlanta. We talked our way into the Piedmont Hotel and called an agent Nat Foster, who came up and actually put money in our pocket and got us back on track. God bless Nat, where ever he is today, a wonderful man.

During those times in Charleston, there was a band playing at the A&N club named the Chocolate Papers, which later became Dr. Hook. The Chocolate Papers, Anthony and myself were the only ones in the entire city of Charleston with long hair and were partaking of things that made you feel good. In 1967 I moved to Nashville, that is when I met and became friends with many of the great writers and artists such as Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Tompall Glaser, Kinky Friedman, Shel Silverstein, Johnny Darrell, Kent Westbury, Vince Matthews, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Kris Kristofferson, Eddie Rabbit, Bud Reneau, Harlan Howard, Cowboy Jack Clement, Captain Midnight, Bob Webster, and Jim Casey. That is also when I got my first deal as a writer and the world of publishing became a reality. These friends opened a lot of doors for me as a young musician and writer. To them and all of the R&B artists that I worked with, because of their belief in me and encouragement, I thank them. It is to all of those people I had the wonderful experience to work with that I owe the successes of my career.”

Tony and Roy gave their perspectives on the demise of the band:

AM: Roger Goodman was fired but the manager Ralph Farmer brought him back – I didn't care for that much.  Over the next several years, I found out that Ralph Farmer was stealing from the band. The band chose to keep Farmer and I chose to leave.  The Aqua Lads continued to record on Aqua records and used the name. Within the next 18 months it was done.  I sued Ralph Farmer for monies due on Aqua.  I won, but Ralph had no money.  After leaving The Aqua Lads, I was offered to open for the Drifters, and travelled with them.

RE: When The Aqua Lads were on our tour in ‘69 in New England, we had a lot of young people in the group and there was a lot of friction between the girls and the brass section.  It was my job as band leader to keep the peace.  Unfortunately I had just too much on my plate and decided to end the tour.  The band went back to NC and after a few months they went their separate ways.  I know Earl Dawkins tried to hold it together but he also got tired of the constant bickering.  Some of the brass went with other area bands.  Debbie just quit singing altogether.  Vicki went on with some of the area groups.  Tony hooked up with Bill Pickney of the Drifters. Tony and Ken worked with them a while, then they broke it off and went on their own and hooked up with Harold Thomas.  Earl worked with groups as a drummer. He was an excellent musician.

To conclude, Ken now runs the Catbone music distribution and recording company. He has had an impressive career in music and visual creative media as an executive and producer for a range of labels and companies. After The Aqua Lads he worked with many recording artists including Richie Havens, Four Tops, Willie Nelson, Johnny and June Cash, The Carter Family, and The Drifters. Executive roles have included Universal Studios, Polygram, Polydor, Verve, and Island Records. Roy still is very active writing, arranging and recording and works together with Ken at Catbone Records. Roger Goodman passed away. According to Tony, Johnny Hess has a truck parts store, although he may now be deceased. Charlie Taylor moved on to The Catalinas, a successful beach band; as to these days, well, nobody can locate him. Earl Dawkins has had a very active career with another long running beach band, The Entertainers.

Vicki of The Chantells continued her singing career performing as a lead vocalist in more than a dozen groups, and has opened for national groups such as The Drifters, Barbara Lewis and Junior Walker. She is still very active on the beach music scene and more recently appeared on the “Queens of Southern Soul” KHP / Southern Soul CD.

And Tony? After the Aqua Lads he went on to sing as lead on a number of hits with one of the versions of The Drifters. He still keeps his hand in music, and current band members include George Cummings from Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Catbone Music.
Julian B. Fowler. Personal coms. May 2012.
Ken Hatley. Personal coms. April 2012.
Mark Dobson. Personal coms. May 2012.
Roy Edwards. Personal coms. April and May 2012.
Tony Maner. Personal coms. May 2012.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Tempests

The Tempests were a very popular band from around Charlotte NC, which ran from 1963 to the mid seventies, with frequent personnel changes (up to twenty five members in its history). They were an all white line up except for their lead vocalists. The earliest version named The Tempest Band recorded “Love Have Mercy”on Atlantic, with Mike Williams on vocals. At this time they were under the management of female DJ and entrepreneur Hattie Leeper before Williams went solo to record the Vietnam war deep soul classic “Lonely Soldier” again on Atlantic. The Tempests’ lead vocalists during their later period on Smash included Hazel Martin who joined between 1966 and 1968 and then Otis Smith who recorded one single with them.

A number of their tracks on 45 received plays or are known to the northern scene, particularly “Would You Believe” (Smash S-2094), “What You Gonna Do” (Smash S-2126) and “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind” (S-2126). The summer 1968 Smash LP “Would You Believe”, however, is the collector's piece, having been released in mono, stereo and a promo format, and was even given a Dutch release by Philips.

Tracks on the LP include “Would You Believe”, “Ain’t No Big Thing”, “Happiness”, “Aint That Enough”, “I Cried For You”, “Someday”, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”, “I Don’t Want To Lose Her”, “What You Gonna Do”, “You Don’t Know Like I Know” and “You (Are The Star I Wish On)”. Whilst albums don’t usually seek particular attention from the northern soul scene, this one certainly does, not only because of the quality of tracks throughout but also because two tracks of major interest (“Someday” and “I Don’t Want To Lose Her”) were not released on 45 format. In 2012 a previously unseen Mercury acetate of “Someday”, was offered for sale on eBay, causing some discussion regarding its authenticity on the rare soul website Soul Source. The acetate now appears to be confirmed as genuine and resides in a UK collection. 

“Someday”, a moody mid tempo dancer - and at that slightly at odds with most of the other songs on the LP – suited the early eighties northern soul scene perfectly when musical appreciation took a slower tempo approach with a craving for beat ballads and mid tempo dancers. “Someday” was played out in the UK by Guy Hennigan at Stafford Top of the World in 1985, covered up as Bobby Paris. Guy had this confession to make:

”It was Martin Meyler from Crewe who turned up The Tempests LP, and for some strange reason gave it to Keb (rather than me!) to cut an acetate of “Someday” from it. Anyway Keb turns up at my flat in Derby on the Friday night before the Stafford all nighter with the cut and as normal over the next 24 hours we did some swaps and sales. One of the trades involved me getting another cut of The Tempests, which I had said to Keb to cover-up as Bobby Paris, and also to play it that night at Top of the World. However, I was on before him that night (we used to switch around). Not only did I play Keb’s copy of the disc....I played it twice. It went massive that night, just off those two plays. Even though Keb played it later in his spot, I got the credit for breaking it. It was very competitive in that period between DJs, and in particular between Keb and I. But I can justify my sharp trick of stealing Dargie's thunder on that one, with the simple fact that it sounded so much better after I'd introduced it! know what, he has never really forgiven me to this day!” 

“I Don’t Want To Lose Her” was also played out on the northern scene, covered up this time as Cecil Washington. Van Coble, bass player for The Tempests, talks of the beginnings of the band and the period leading up to their recording contract:

“Mark, here goes. I'm not much of a story teller. The band was started by two brothers, Mike and Roger Branch, in the very early 60's. Just a mess around band sorta. The backing of Mike Williams, produced by DJ Hattie Leeper at Arthur Smith’s Studio in Charlotte NC, got them started in shooting for a record contract, but they were told they needed to add some better musicians than the ones that played on these recordings. By 1966, the band line-up was Nelson Lemmond (drums), Roger Branch (guitar), Mike Branch (keyboard), me on bass guitar, Tom Brawley (flute & baritone saxophone), Gerald Schrum (tenor saxophone), Rick White (tenor saxophone), Ronnie Smith and Jim Butt (trumpet). At other points in The Tempests’ life, Ray Alexander, Bill McPhearson and Eddie Grimes all played trumpet. Our influences were The Tams, James Brown, Sam and Dave, most Stax stuff, James and Bobby Purify, Muscle Shoals music etc. By the time we got this line-up working good together the sax player Rick White met up with Dave Joy, from York, SC, who had a friend in Falls Church, VA. He was a manager / record producer named Ted Bodnar. Ted liked our music. We needed a lead singer and Roger's Dad, who was a police officer on the Charlotte force, was asked to see if he could locate a singer named Hazel Walker. He came back with Hazel Martin. A true blessing for us."

“Things were now solidified with our producer Ted Bodnar. We signed contracts individually and started recording first at Edgebrook Studios in DC and the balance of the recording was done at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte. Roger, Mike, Hazel and I wrote most of the songs we recorded, while Jim Butt did the horn arrangements.”

Liner notes by Poker Record’s Dave Flynn and David Timperley on the 2007 reissue of the Smash album referred to the label releases and the bands initial recording success:

“The next step was landing a major record company deal; enter Smash Records – a subsidiary of the mighty Mercury set-up. With that sort of professional clout behind them, this was the ideal opportunity for The Tempests to make a dent in the charts and potentially hit the big time, aided specifically by the nationwide muscle that Mercury boasted. By this point the band extensively featured Hazel Martin. Hazel - who was their fourth singer - had a powerful and distinctive style that enriched the band perfectly and during August 1967 they made an impact with the up tempo “Would You Believe”. It peaked at number 127 in the US Bubbling Under chart. Smash wanted to build on this momentum so an album of the same name quickly followed. Every track featured the winning combination of Mike Branch’s searing organ work, Hazel’s pleading vocal and some totally awesome brass work; everything blazing full on and powering its way high in the mix. Three more 45s followed on the Smash imprint during 1967 and 1968 (MW: “What You Gonna Do”, “Out of My Life” and “In the Cold Light of Day”). Throughout this exciting period, the band performed with many other bands including The Four Tops and The Tams.”

Van Coble continued the story for me:

“During this time we were booking through Hit Attractions’ Harvey Grasty. We played fraternity row parties from Mississippi to Delaware, local clubs like The Cellar, big show and dances at Charlotte's Park Center and the Coliseum, plus USO Shows; we stayed quite busy. In all our travels in the south and southeast we never encountered any racial problems because we were an integrated band, either at motels or restaurants. Go figure, but its true. We were treated well by all. During this time we played so many shows with The Tams we became good friends with Joe Pope, Sleepy, Horace and the guys, shared many a drink with them; they preferred brandy if memory serves me right! The bookings with The Tams were called The Tams and The Temps. The radio stations that broke “Would You Believe” were Big Ways Top Forty Charlotte Station, others from Mississippi and all along the eastern seaboard including WABC in New York City.  Our first two 45s were well received on the eastern seaboard and down south but we just couldn't get airplay on the west coast. I guess weak promo guys couldn't get it done. I never saw any numbers on the LP sales, I know I bought some in a department store in Florida for $1.99 each in the early 70s. That's why Nelson Lemmond and myself were really pleased when we found out about Northern Soul, that's great!”

“After the release of “Would You Believe” we signed with the Premier Talent Agency out of New York City for concert and package shows. They ran us ragged. We played so many shows we out ran our money, things were tight, living on cheeseburgers and washing socks and underwear in the bathtub where we were staying. This really took its toll on us. We just wanted to get back down south or home where we could be with our families and go back to like it was before, working a day job and playing locally in the Carolinas.
This is what finally tore the recording group apart. Mike and Roger kept trying to keep the band going by adding new guys and cutting back to a four piece band with a girl singer called Nan Mason. Hazel and I (who had previously co-written “I Don't Want To Lose Her” and “Whatcha Gonna Do” on the LP) joined to create Marco Records for one recording, “Southern Ocean Sunshine” backed with “Out of My Life”. As you’ll guess the ‘Mar’ stood for Martin and the ‘Co’ for Coble  (MW: Nat Speir of the Rivieras, and a childhood friend of Van’s, did the horn arrangements for the project. Hazel Martin later went on to play with The Spontanes for eight month period in 1972). Hazel passed away in 2008.”

The Tempests continued to play until they broke up in 1975.  Mike continued to contribute to beach scene via Surfside records in 1979 with ex-Showmen / Chairmen of the Board lead singer General Johnson. Mike has since passed away. Roger moved to New Orleans and became a producer and engineer at Sea-Saint studios. He now owns Oak Street Recording Studio in New Orleans. Gerald Schrum died around 2010. Roy Alexander later became arranger of the Motown horn section.

Van continued his career in music:

“After The Tempests I stayed involved in music, teamed up with Nelson Lemmond, Nat Speir and produced several artist for various record labels (no hits though) including Lee Webber on Excello, Sandlewood Candle on 440 plus (a subsiduary of Monument records) and Vann (me) on Mother Cleo Records. During this time I went back to school and got a degree in electronics. I went to work for the largest electronics supply company and sound contractor in the south east. I went from being a service technician to sales manager over the sound and communications division, starting a life long endeavour of over forty years in this business. All this time staying active in music, playing gigs on weekends, putting together my own home studio. I am still recording and producing in my studio. My most financially successful project Nelson, Nat and myself did was for R. J. Reynolds Co. “A Blues Album”. We recorded this at Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans with Allen Tousaint and Marshall Sehorn, Man, it was a blast.”

“We were just a bunch of Good Ol’ Boys that almost made it in music. Thanks for playing our music, it does an old heart good to hear that some where in the world somebody's listening and dancing to the The Tempests.”

The Tempests were inducted into the CAMMY Beach Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

Copyright E. Mark Windle 2013


Dave Flynn. Personal coms. May 2012. Author permission obtained to use sleeve notes from Poker CD reissue of ‘Would you believe’ (Deck CD 100; 2007).
David Timperley. Personal coms. June 2012. Cherry Red Records. Company permission obtained to use sleeve notes from Poker CD reissue of ‘Would you believe’ (Deckcd 100; 2007).
Guy Hennigan. Personal coms. June 2012.
John Roger (J.R.) Branch. Personal coms. June 2012.
Lu Rojas. Personal coms. June 2012. Oak Street Studios contact.

Van Coble. Personal coms. August to October 2012.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Development of the beach music scene through to the 1960s

Beach music technically encompasses a range of musical genres, not exclusively soul music. The term itself was a retrospective one, coined in the late sixties and early seventies. However the beach ‘scene’ can actually be traced back at least a couple of decades from here and ultimately to the development of the official dance of the Carolinas: the Shag. The beach music scene would not have existed without the Shag, indeed it started with it. 

By the 1950s kids (black and white) were listening and dancing to national bands who played blues orientated race music and doo-wop. Artists  like The Clovers and Clyde McPhatter were popular. Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith was a household name in the Carolinas. He was a talented country composer, guitar player, fiddler and radio presenter (and the original writer of the “Duelling Banjos” instrumental which was re-recorded and used on the 1972 film Deliverance). Arthur became successful after the Second World War with his Calling Carolina radio show and the Arthur Smith Show on the Charlotte NC WBTV channel. In the mid to late 1950s through his talent hunt search, he discovered doo-wop acts such as The Embers, Harry Deal & the Galaxies and Maurice Williams who would later go on to become big beach names of the sixties and beyond. Other TV shows also followed suit, particularly around NC, as a showcase for teenage music and dance talent. 

Motown, soul and R&B had arrived by the 1960s and could be heard all over the south east from radio stations with geographically wide broadcasting capabilities, both inland and along the coastal areas. These fresh sounds were an immediate hit with local high school and college students as well as vacationing teenagers and many local bands picked up on this. Of all the phases of the beach music scene, this period is undoubtedly the most prominent on the scene. Indeed, soul and R&B has remained the primary influence for beach bands that have followed in subsequent decades. 

Students played a major political role in the civil rights movement as discussed earlier, but also had a role in developing and supporting the 1960s beach music scene. Southern college and university fraternities by the 1960s had become social living communities notorious for drinking, sex and partying hard. The emerging sound of soul appealed to black and white students alike. Local bands, usually made up of high school or college students, were frequently hired to play at frat parties and high school proms and made their bread and butter in this way. It is not surprising then that many groups, including those discussed here, were a ‘live act’ or revue first and foremost, and vinyl recordings were sparse. 

Bob McNair, a (white) North Carolina resident, has been a fan and collector of beach, soul and R&B music for pretty much all of his adult life. Brought up in Sanford and now residing in Winston-Salem NC, he recounts his earliest memories of his record buying days. “I distinctly remember my very first 45 record purchase" says Bob.  "In 1961, my best friend at the time, Billy Neal and I combined our funds (50 cents each) to buy “Blue Moon” by the Marcels at Buchanan’s TV-Appliances-Music store in Sanford, NC.  Buchanan's had a fully stocked record shop inside of the appliance store.  The shop was sound proofed with thick double paned glass so that you could crank up the volume on the high end stereo system with a manual turntable.  The little shop was loaded with all the current 45s and LPs of the day including pop, rock, soul, country and black gospel. Mr. Buchanan had a private airplane and he would fly with his wife weekly to Charlotte, NC to stock up on all the latest releases and hot sellers.  I worked in the shop sometimes on the weekends. Often for free, or for a couple of records. They had many black customers who would buy the latest R&B, soul and black gospel, like the Blind Boys of Alabama.  I loved this music and got exposure to songs I may never have heard otherwise. Screw Pat Boone, the Beach Boys and the Beatles. We wanted James Brown, Joe Tex, Booker T. & the M.G.s, The Temptations, The Tams, Wilson Pickett, The Showmen, Gene Chandler, The C.O.D.s and many more. That was only the beginning of a lifetime of  loving soul music."

Racial tolerance and intolerance among artists and fans

“We were all what you might call middle-class white - our neighbourhoods looked like Beaver Cleaver’s of the 1960s” says Nat Speir, founder member of Bob Meyer and the Rivieras. “But we were always very aware of the race issue and the sensitivity of our black acquaintances. We talked a good bit to Curtis and The Impressions about this when worked with them - but things were usually so rushed there was little time for that in most situations. Some of my friends’ parents became heroes to me by inviting four young black men from the Bedford-Stuyvesant project in New York to come and spend a summer with us in our homes, sponsored by an ecumenical group. They were singers too - fancying themselves as younger Little Anthony and the Imperials or The Manhattans. We gigged together for about four months and we all learned a great deal. Yes there were many tricky situations with these guys and with some of the national acts. But booking agents protected the groups somewhat. They wanted to make money. Also Charlotte was never like Mississippi. It was usually cool in Charlotte, or Greensboro, or Columbia - not everywhere was though in the early to mid 60s. The larger cities and towns were segregated in many ways of course. But the "the deal" with the south east was that there were many ways we did interact. Middle class whites wanted black music. Some find this hard to understand. Why would the Charlotte Country Club Deb Ball want Hank Ballard instead of The Beach Boys for their entertainment? But I was right there every chance I got. I heard and got to know many soul and R&B acts in those places. On my turf of course. I doubt I would have been welcome on their’s. And that's fair.”

Despite the racial tolerance in at least some areas of the Carolinas, The Rivieras did experience tensions when out on the road with coloured artists in the south east:

“The Barbara Mason gig in South Carolina, 1966 was one of those things that reminds you of how small and powerless you are." says Nat. "The Rivieras were playing at a small college for women in the Darlington area. Barbara Mason along with our band and singers provided the entertainment. It was a good gig. Nice audience. No trouble. At the end of the gig we were packing up our gear and looking at the girls file out of the auditorium when some of us noticed that talmost everyone she was appointed to find out if we could help. After a few minutes she reported back that Barbara was tired and upset because she couldn't find a place to stay - the motels on the nearby highway were white only. Georgia insisted that we do something. We would go get her a room, pay for it ourselves, and get her moved in so she could get some sleep, seemed like the perfect answer. Of course it wasn't. Ms. Mason politely declined saying that it wouldn't work and we'd be found out. We slowly got the message that pride and dignity might be involved too. Georgia couldn't let it go - but we had to. Ms. Mason said that she and her guitar player would just point the car North and drive all night if need be. It was a good gig but we were all quiet as we hit the highway in our van. I know it turned out ok. This kind of situation was probably played out over and over in the early days. Within a couple of years all the motels and hotels were integrated.”

Defining the musical terminology

When one delves deep, the definition of beach music is blurred. The beach music scene has encompassed a range of styles such as jazz, rock and roll and even country, similar in the way the European popcorn scene has embraced soul, R&B, jazz and standards from across the decades, and the northern soul scene with early R&B and latin boogaloo alongside rare soul. However, whilst the Shag dance scene was already synonymous with a ‘beach scene’ long before the development of R&B and soul in the early 1960s, by this point soul became much more than a mere compatible musical style which fitted the 4/4 requirements of the dance. To this day beach music pretty much is soul music, not exclusively so, but predominently. 

When further refining the term in the context of the 1960s, a reasonable approach may be to reserve beach music for local and national acts (black and white) that particularly had a whole or partial R&B / soul repertoire along the coastal areas of the Carolinas at the time, or were big hits on the beach then. But even this is an over-simplistic view. As Greg Haynes’ work demonstrates, a myriad of teenage garage bands existed well outside of the Carolinas, who were aware of the emerging appeal and accessibility of the ‘new’ black sound of R&B and soul to a white audience, particularly on the beach resorts. Some tapped into this, even though their own individual musical approach may previously have been more mainstream pop orientated. A few bands briefly explored soul, some stuck with it, and others started with the specific intention of providing this music. 

Many bands and vocal groups were actually based inland. With the exception of the Wilmington NC-based group The Generation, or Ron Moody’s outfit from Richmond VA, all the acts described in this book were from areas which lie anywhere between 150 to 500 miles from the coast. Key R&B radio stations broadcast throughout the whole of the south east, ensuring access for teenagers even in remote locations. Inland pools and lake pavilions with jukeboxes were dotted throughout the Carolinas, which offered a ‘substitute beach’ environment where teenagers could swim and listen to music. Take as an example the Williams Lake rural resort near Fayetteville NC, which was originally built during the Second World War and continued to be a popular venue throughout the 1960s. Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five played there in Easter ’65. Other bands included The Monzas, The Aqua Lads, Gene Barbour and the Cavaliers, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, and national acts like Jackie Wilson, Barbara Lewis, Eddie Floyd and Mary Wells. That said, many inland bands also regularly travelled hundreds of miles (despite the dangers outlined by Nat Speir earlier) to play gigs at the coastal resorts. Long running groups like The Embers, Harry Deal and the Galaxies and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs travelled extensively to both coastal and inland venues. 

Vinyl recordings from the lesser known 1960s party based beach bands and soul-orientated garage bands were often few and far between. Home grown beach releases may have received reasonable airplay and became sizeable hits locally in the south east at least for a brief time, but then failed to break out further afield, and hence may be relatively unknown in other parts of the USA, let alone other countries. Many records completely failed to get off the starting block because of poor promotion or sheer competition. Payola also played its part to a greater or lesser degree in some records gaining radio airtime. In her autobiography, Hattie Leeper, DJ and manager of The Appreciations, reports she was offered bribes as a local Charlotte DJ. She admits that she was offered oriental rugs, chandeliers, airline tickets, luggage, china, silverware, watches, cameras, electronics, big cash, meals, a poodle, fresh fruit boxes and flowers, as well as recording sessions to cut her own mentored groups.

Some local bands occasionally met with national recording success – The Embers had Atlantic releases and The Tams with ABC. Local studios however were very industrious themselves. Yet another major achievement of Arthur Smith was the long running Arthur Smiths’ Studios in Charlotte where many country and soul artists sessioned. James Brown recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” here. These studios were also a popular choice for beach bands. 

Acceptance of beach and garage bands by the northern soul scene.

The northern soul scene is often pre-occupied with its black roots, yet of course a huge number of classic northern soul tracks were blue eyed soul. Well loved examples over the course of the history of the scene stretch from Scepter's Ronnie Milsap to the more recent discovery of Athens Rogues and the like. Critics of this genre may pass the pseudo-philosophical comment that “white folks can’t sing soul”, often on the basis of a tame pop approach to melody or vocal and musical structure. A completely redundant argument perhaps when, for example, you consider group sounds like The Magnificent Men on “Keep on Climbing”, and the Righteous Brothers “Its Up to You” (who can deny this track as soul, and they got their name after a comment made by a black audience!), or gritty solo vocals such as Turley Richards with “I Feel Alright” and Barbara Dane on the R&B and civil rights flavoured “I’m on My Way”. Dean Parrish (a.k.a. Phil Anastasi), surely one of the most well known of northern soul artists, is a white American-Italian. Admittedly, the pop approach can be found to some extent in purpose made beach sounds of the 1970s, where the intention was, unashamedly for them, to manufacture the ‘feel good’ factor of a previous decade. However those willing to undertake more than a cursory delve into the soul of the south in the 1960s will soon reveal the true diversity offered: a combination of mid and up tempo records, gritty vocals, sweet group harmonies and records with true soul appeal, irrespective of racial mix. It should also be remembered that whilst many local 1960s beach and soul bands were typically characterised by a white line up - at the end of the day, this was the nature of the scene’s development - this was not a pre-requisite. Some were integrated bands, some with black lead vocals, or in the case of The Delacardos or The Appreciations, had an all black vocal group. Colour, at least in this musical context, was and is irrelevant. 

Copyright E. Mark Windle 2013.


Bob McNair. Personal coms. July 2012. Permission obtained to use scans of his booking communications with Hit Attractions.
Clay Smith Arthur Smith - Composer, Musician, Entertainer and Business Entrepreneur. Available at: 
John Hook. Personal coms. June 2012. Permission to use information from Myths and Near Myths. Available at:
Nat Speir. Personal coms. July 2012.
Unknown author (Untitled Harry Driver Story). Shagger Magazine (1995) volume 2, number 2. Southern Shaggers Ltd., Laurens , SC. 
Southern Garage Bands website. Available  

Friday, 27 September 2013


OK, yes I should have posted this first, but The Appreciations story was timely so thought I'd get the story out when I did! Anyway better late than never. These acknowledgements are relevent for the first 20 or so topics to be posted up here over the next few months, which will essentially be the contents of the softback. Any contributions to further additional material will be duly acknowledged within the text. First and foremost though, I must dedicate this work to my most lovely wife and daughter Annette and Caitlin for their immeasurable support and patience over the best part of a year. A huge thank you Annette for putting up with my endless hours of internet researching and emailing, and for your constructive criticism throughout. Forgive the occasional shirking of household duties. Cheers too, to brother-in-law David Brennan for proof reading the book.

This venture is not something I could have taken on alone. I needed the expertise of folk from both sides of the Atlantic. Rare soul and beach music collectors and DJs from the UK, Europe and the US were all invaluable: for filling gaps in my knowledge, provision of information on discographies, for stories behind how these sixties soul tracks were ‘discovered’ by DJs and collectors, and for how the records were introduced to an eager northern soul crowd. Thanks in this regard go to DJs Mark ‘Butch’ Dobson, Guy Hennigan, Arthur Fenn and Richard Searling. Other very knowledgeable rare soul collectors and DJs who assisted magnificently with information and label scans include Phil Shields, Chalky (Karl White), the ‘three Daves’ - Dave Moore, Dave Abbott and Dave Flynn, Bob Abrahamian, Andy Dennison, Ged Parker, Benji Schlamp, George Gell, Timothy Leonard, Mike Gibbs, Don Kitchin and Kev Roberts. Thanks again to Dave Flynn and also David Timperley from Poker Records / Cherry Red for permission to use liner note excerpts from their CD release of The Tempests LP.

I also of course have to acknowledge the guys involved in this project who gave us this music in the first place. I am so grateful for their willingness to tell of their contribution to the beach, soul and R&B scene of the 1960s: Anthony and the Aqua Lads, namely Ken Hatley, Roy Edwards, Tony Maner and Billy Ray Smith; Charles Harris (The Appreciations); Donny Trexler (Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five) and his wife Susan Trexler; Roger Scruggs and Chip Wood (The Greater Experience); Ronnie Grier (The Delacardos); Chris Cooke and Brian Mann (Novas Nine); Ron Moody (Ron Moody and the Centaurs); Eddie Miller and Chuck Shipton (The Generation); Rick Crider and Roy Thompson (The Chashers); Sam Camp (The Avalons); Wayne Womble, Doug Hyler and Tom Mathewson (The Soulmasters), Gerald Fleming (The Athens Rogues) and Tim Newell and Jack Kelly (The Soul Six). My greatest gratitude has to go to Nat Speir, founder of The Rivieras. Nat: Bill Bradford, your fellow SFB member from one of your more recent projects, told me you would be a storehouse of stories from that era and was he right! Huge thanks also to Nat’s long time friend Van Coble from The Tempests – between the two of you, you have been an immense help not only in telling your own stories and providing visual material but also in supplying contacts for other local bands of that era. I feel I have made a strong friendship here and know that there’s plenty more material I’m going to have to get out of you guys for the next edition!

I must also tip my hat to other stateside individuals for information and assistance: Bob McNair has been my Man in Havana - well Winston-Salem, North Carolina! Not only a ‘Connoisseur of Fine Swine’ (a Carolina barbeque pun I am taken to believe), Bob is a life long beach music collector who saw several of the local bands as a teenager. A perfect resource for getting the perspective of a Carolinian who lived through it all. Well almost...when I asked for stills of the 60s Embers all I got was “What? We were too busy drinking beer and chasing girls to take photos!” Thanks for all the sound file swaps, your beach for my northern! Other US contacts who require mention include Ted Hall (owner of Hit Attractions Booking Agency, Charlotte), Hattie Leeper (North Carolina’s first black female DJ and manager of The Appreciations), Harriet Coffey (contact for Hattie Leeper), Aaron Fuchs (for Soul-Tay-Shus Records / Tuff City Records), Amy Blakefield (for Gusto Records Inc.), Marion Carter (Ripete Records), Jason Perlmutter (Carolina Soul website), Chris Bishop (Garage Hangover website), John Hook ( and author of Shagging in the Carolinas), Jeanette Bleckley (information on Lamarr Collins), Sandy Williams and Emily Marriott (contacts for Eddie Miller of The Generation), Lu Rojas (contact at Oak Street Recording Studios for Roger Branch of The Tempests), Brandon Lunsford (Archival Services Librarian, James B. Duke Memorial Library at Johnson C. Smith University; contact for yearbook photos of The Appreciations), Mike Dugo (, Andy Patterson and Dave Strickland (Southern Garage Bands website) and Pete McKnight.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Appreciations - Part 2

Atlantic wanted to sign The Appreciations for “Afraid Of Love” / “Far From Your Love”, but Hattie didn’t want both groups on Atlantic, a decision which Charles says both the group and Hattie later regretted. The tracks were released on Jubilee in April 1965, and did make some noise in Charlotte and other cities. The boys, along with their backing band drawn from the best musicians in Charlotte, were booked for a number of public appearances across the Carolinas and Cleveland, Ohio for the rest of the year.

Their next recording was “I Can’t Hide It” / “No, No, No” (Aware 1066). Hattie set up Aware for this sole release. The tracks were recorded in 1966 at the Golden World / Ric Tic Records Studios in Detroit. The group liked the Motown sound and wanted to be part of it. Willie Mitchell (band leader, producer, wind and keyboard player) coached and arranged the session and according to Charles, played baritone sax. Mitchell is perhaps more associated with Memphis than Detroit. In reality however he wrote, produced, arranged and recorded a number of tracks for Lee Rogers, Buddy Lamp and others  on Detroit labels such as Wheelsville, Premium Stuff and D-Town, either from his Memphis base or in Detroit itself.

The Aware release enjoyed some success in the south east and mid west regions. Up to that point The Appreciations’ ‘bread and butter’ work was confined to weekend campus frat parties mainly because they were still students at JCSU. However the success of their first two records allowed them to play in the summer break on the military bases of the east coast and Myrtle Beach, Atlantic Beach, Virginia Beach and Florida.

“We also had some challenging times however” says Charles. “There were times we were broke with hardly enough money to get to the next gig. There were times when we were refused accommodations or some would have too much to drink at a frat party and use a racial slur. Once we underestimated travel time and were two hours late for a show. We barely had enough money to get there and were depending on the money we would get paid. We arrived at the auditorium and started to rush to unload the equipment to get the band set up. A woman came out and said “you boys get right back in your bus and go back where you came from and we are not paying you one red cent”. We’d travelled over 600 miles to that gig."

By late 1966, Melvin and Oscar were drafted or enlisted into military service, which the remaining members knew would take them out for two or three years. They were replaced by Horace “Nick” Nichols as lead vocal and James Ardrey as baritone vocal.

The Appreciations' next recording was to be “She Never Really Loved Me” / “Place in My Heart” (Sport 108). The instrumentation was laid down in Memphis with once again Willie Mitchell’s involvement, the vocals for both tracks were recorded in Nashville, and final mixing possibly occurred in Detroit. Sport was a New York distributed label of primarily Detroit artists and producers founded by Andrew ‘Shelley’ Harris. The label ran from 1967 to 1968. Some of the luminaries who produced and arranged on the label included Joe Hunter, Lorraine Chandler and Andre Williams, all big names in Detroit soul circles. Artists included The Four Sonics, Tony Daniels, The Master Keys and The Dramatics.

The group's second Sport recording was “It's Better to Cry” (Sport 111). For many years it was rumoured that the instrumental backing for the track was facilitated by The Tempests. This seemed plausible. Hattie Leeper was also manager at the time of Mike Williams who recorded the Vietnam war song “Lonely Soldier”. The Tempests Band had backed Mike Williams and also The Appreciations on some live appearances. However Charles dispels the myth:

“In 1967 we recorded “It’s Better to Cry” and “Gimme Back My Heart” at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, NC. These songs were released on Sport Records. The studio band was Moses Dillard and The Tex-Town Review from my home town in Greenville SC. Moses was a couple of years behind me in high school. I remember when he first started learning to play the guitar. Most of us didn’t think he would ever be able to play the instrument. The sounds he made during high school were horrible. However, after a couple of years he had become a highly respected guitarist and music arranger. As a matter of fact “Mose”, as he was called, arranged the music for the songs right there in the studio during the session. Pay attention to his guitar licks on both songs. James “Toon” Debeuneure provided the lead vocals for both songs on this recording session. “It's Better to Cry” put the group on the map with the beach music sound. We were booked by Hit attractions owned by Ted Hall, the young entrepreneur who dominated the market for the beach music bands.”

Despite its popularity in the south east, the scarcity of this record appears to be related to a simultaneous release of another record on the same label, The Four Sonics “Easier Said Than Done” - another northern soul favourite. Sport had signed a distribution deal with Amy-Mala-Bell around the time of the two records. Amy may have put out the Four Sonics on Sport 111 to follow up on a previous release by this band, whilst locally Sport had released the Appreciations on the same number. Thus The Appreciations track may have been withdrawn shortly after its release. The claimed writers of “It’s Better to Cry” were New York based David Blake and Frankie Nieves, from Phil Medley’s Starflower Music Company. Frankie Nieves brought out his own very different latin soul take of the track, on the 1968 Speed LP “The Terrible Frankie Nieves”. When Blake was asked a few years back on Soul Talk ( about “It’s Better to Cry” he didn’t know anything about it ending up on Sport until the 1990s. David Blake also produced the previously unreleased Johnny Watson version which eventually saw the light of day in the 1980s on Valise.

By 1969 the group were still dreaming of becoming national stars. Charles recalls how they held their own when appearing on stage with other big acts like Marvin Gaye, The Delfonics, The Manhattans, but The Appreciations just couldn’t get the right material. Things were changing. Melvin and Oscar had returned from the military. Melvin rejoined the group but now it was Nick’s turn to be drafted. Plans were to go to Chicago or Philadelphia to access professional songwriters and arrangers, but Toon and Lewis decided they would quit the group, partly due to family responsibilities. Melvin also left the group unexpectedly and went to New York. Oscar decided he would complete his college degree and was not going to continue in The Appreciations.

“We all remained friends with each other” says Charles. “The regrets that we all had were that none of us ever received any royalty payments. I don’t recognize the names of the people claiming credit for writing a couple of the songs and I have no idea how their names got put on the labels.  We had good times together. Some led successful lives after the group. James “Toon” Debeuneure had a successful corporate career. He gave it up and went back to school after he was in his fifties to get a Masters in Education. He did that in order to contribute to the African American kids in the Washington, DC inner city schools. On 9/11 Toon was killed when chaperoning his fifth grade students on a National Geographic trip to California as a result of winning an essay contest. Their plane was crashed into the Pentagon. Lewis Dowdy earned a PhD in Psychology. He taught and counselled students at Johnson C. Smith University and currently is a professor of Psychology at Barber Scotia College in Concord, NC. Oscar Melton became a manufacturing electronics technician within the contractor sector for the defence industry. He is retired and lives in Baltimore, MD. James Ardrey owned a construction business in Washington, DC. Horace “Nick” Nichols lives in Charlotte, NC. I spent forty years in positions of supervision/management roles. I retired from Michelin Tire Corporation in 2007 after a 30-year career and live in Simpsonville, SC, a suburb of Greenville. I dabble in a real estate investing and spend a lot of time with my five grand children. I sang with a local group here in Greenville beginning in 1998. This group was named The Viverhearts. I was one of the lead singers and first tenor. I had a bad case of bronchitis which damaged my singing voice and I left the group in 2006 because my voice was shot. Now I sing in the shower when no one is around to hear a bad note. Hattie is still in Charlotte. (MW: Hattie Leeper became Professor of Communications at Gaston College in North Carolina. In 2000 she was inducted into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame). We lost contact about eight years ago. At that time she was active in community affairs.” 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Appreciations - Part 1

The Appreciations will be a very familiar name to rare soul collectors, with records such as “I Can’t Hide It” and “It's Better to Cry” known and loved on the  northern soul scene for many years. Despite this, their history until now was virtually unknown, other than that they were a vocal group from North Carolina and had some kind of connection with Detroit. A year’s worth of searching to identify group members, their manager, events and photographs has finally sorted this.

Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, NC is a small independent university, originally founded by the Presbyterian Church to serve the local black community. In February 1965 students Charles “Fever” Harris (lead vocal, first and second tenor), Oscar Melton (lead vocal, baritone), James “Toon” Debeuneure (vocal, second tenor), Melvin Robinson (lead vocal / first tenor) and later Lewis Dowdy got together to form a vocal group to play on campus and in venues throughout the Charlotte area. Horace “Nick” Nichols (lead vocal) and James Ardrey (baritone) covered for Melvin and Oscar whilst they were in military service. Two other members, Lee Webber and Artie Brown, had brief spells with The Appreciations although they do not feature on any of the recordings. Four releases in all are associated with the group, with at least three of interest to the northern soul scene. Charles starts the story:

“While I was out of school one semester, my former room mate came home for a weekend. He was raving about a freshman from New York City who had taken the freshman talent show by storm. He said that he stole the talent show by singing “I Stand Accused” recorded by Jerry Butler and that he actually sounded better than Jerry. Of course I found this hard to believe and could hardly wait to get back to school the next semester to hear this guy. When I returned to JCSU the entire campus was buzzing about Melvin Robinson. I introduced myself to Melvin Robinson and Oscar Melton and asked if they would be interested in forming a group with me and my room mate Toon, to give competition to the popular on-campus group called The Hopes.

Prior to this, each of us had performed as a single vocalist. We got together a few days Melvin had the best lead voice and was chosen as the primary singer for the group. We decided to name the group The Inspirations. After practicing for about a week we were able to determine the vocal parts. The Inspirations appeared on a talent show at JCSU and stole the show from The Hopes. The next day everyone on campus was talking about the lead singing and the harmony that we had. Our first song performed as a group was “I Only Have Eyes” as recorded by The Flamingos. Within a couple of months our popularity began to spread beyond the campus into the city of Charlotte. We sang at a couple of clubs. All of our performances at that time were acapella.”

Charles remembers Toon contacting a number of local radio stations in the area. Popular DJ Hattie Leeper was impressed after hearing them audition and became their manager. Hattie had started radio work back in the 1940s at the WGIV station in Charlotte. She was initially taken on as a hired help when she was about 14 years old, but over a seven year period rose up through the ranks to DJ whilst pursuing higher academic education at the same time. She became widely known and respected as the first black female DJ in the Carolinas. By the late 1950s “Chatty Hattie” Leeper was a household name. In the following decade she extended her skills to song writing and promoting national R&B acts including a pre-Smash version of The Tempests (called The Tempest Band), and Mike Williams of  “Lonely Soldier” fame. She even ran her own "Stack-O-Records" music store in North Charlotte on Pegram Street for a while before going back to school for her Masters degree. 

From Hatty’s autobiography Chatty Hatty: the Legend it is clear she had strong relationships with a range of local and national artists but also DJs, studios, producers and label owners from the west coast, New York, Chicago and Detroit. Associates included Berry Gordy, Jerry Wexler, Florence Greenberg of Scepter and many others. This was partly through her role as secretary of the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers which allowed her to travel extensively throughout the US, and was useful in developing connections to get The Appreciations noticed by some major players in the business.Within a couple of weeks Hattie had arranged an audition for talent scout with Atlantic Records. 

“We were advised to come up with some original songs to record” says Charles. “None of us had any experience in songwriting. A classmate called Rosemary Gaines approached us with a song she had written entitled “Afraid of Love”. She played and sang it for us. We liked the song. Hattie advised us that we would need another song for the “B” side. Within a few days Toon penned the song “Far From Your Love”. Chatty informed us that the talent scout would come back to hear the songs. During the audition, the scout suggested to hire someone who could sing a bass part, to give the background some bottom. We approached one of our friends, Lewis Dowdy, who sang bass in the JCSU choir about accompanying us on a recording session to sing bass. Two weeks later we were in the Atlantic Records studio in New York City recording both songs. The music arranger liked the job that Lewis did and advised us to consider adding him as a member of the group. We became a five-man group. Before the record was released we discovered that a gospel group had a patent on the name The Inspirations, so we changed our name to The Appreciations.”

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Day One. Introductions, the "book", 1960s soul and the southern states

After an intensive year of researching, writing and publishing my first book  "It's Better to Cry" on rare soul and R&B from the 1960s south eastern states, I thought it was about time to expose the project to an even wider audience via the web. While the tangible character of a book appeals to many, I became quickly concious through sales and sales enquiries that was not only the rare soul fan from the UK who was interested in expanding their knowledge base in this area. The European rare soul scene, US collectors, US musicians and relatives of musicians were also clearly very interested in the work that was going on. I became aware that, whilst the process of self publishing and producing a book was rewarding in itself, limitations including printing and overseas posting costs as well as the difficulties of bulk order supply logistics overseas restricted my potential audience. Hence the purpose of this blog. As well as laying down my initial findings in the format here, I wanted a platform to enable me to explore and present the topic of soul music further, beyond the confines the book set in terms of the number of artists and labels.

So to start. My rationale for undertaking this project is perhaps best - and most conveniently for me - explained by a cut and paste job of the introductory chapter from "It's Better to Cry".....

"....My appreciation of soul music has been a long lasting one, and a life long lesson at that.  Aged fourteen, I was initially attracted to the northern soul scene as a clandestine alternative to the mainstream pop of the day which attracted my school peers. Through the years as a soul fan, then rare soul collector and occasional DJ, I developed an interest in the breadth of musical subgenres within the rare soul scene itself, including sixties soul, rare Motown, latin boogaloo, R&B, seventies and modern soul, deep soul and ballads.

So, where did beach music and southern soul fit in on my musical journey? My first memories - though I probably didn’t even know the terms at the time - were likely at the very beginning of my foray into northern soul. Well known and even chart breaking sounds, such as those by The Tams or The Prophets were established classics on the northern scene, at least once upon a time, and were easily accessible, cheap collection builders. In this embryonic phase I was also aware of blue-eyed soul oldies with a particular sound which appealed to me, usually involving big rhythm and horn sections and often an uptempo infectious beat, using The Embers as a benchmark. Through time though, I mentally abandoned these records to some degree. My collection would focus for the next few decades on what I perceived at the time as ‘proper’ rare BLACK American soul on tiny labels from Detroit and the other major cities of the north.

Fast forward 30 years. Now in my mid forties, I am finding once again that more of my personal collection is being built from 1960s output from the Carolinas and thereabouts. Not necessarily classic beach hits, but obscure releases, sometimes black artists but predominantly white garage bands with a soul edge from the Carolinas and the neighbouring states of Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee.  I am also being pulled toward more recently discovered 1960s sounds played on the northern scene today which after a bit of detective work, turn out to be these white 1960s garage bands form the south east. Hopefully this is an indication of another subgenre to contribute toward sustaining the future northern soul scene for more years to come. Some of these bands ‘sounded black’, or were integrated groups with a black lead vocal, or were all black vocal groups. Others may have been more obviously white, with that characteristic breezy production, but always with soul and an absence of the ‘pop’ factor that ultimately made some of the more established beach classics less attractive to a now matured UK soul scene.

This project then: it would be superfluous to cover ground already comprehensively provided by well respected resources on the subject of the beach music, such as the Greg Haynes Hey Baby Days tome and his ongoing online work, or Jason Perlmutter‘s Carolina Soul website; or to present the more well known sounds which became local hits, already competently described in Rick Simmon’s book Carolina Beach Music: the Classic Years. It must be acknowledged from the outset that the value of these resources as base reference sources has been absolutely priceless. However I also wanted to personalise this writing experience - the primary inspiration for the artists and records of choice are favourites from my own collection, although these are also records which I hope the northern soul collector or fan will find particularly relevant to the scene. I make no apologies for being self indulgent!

For this project, the first objective was to provide the setting. To explore the history of how black music settled and developed in the Carolinas and neighbouring states. To research the drive for young white and black artists and audiences to appreciate soul in this neck of the woods. I also wanted to track down and interview some of the artists to get their personal take on what was going on. Finally I wanted to place these records in the context of the rare northern soul scene in the UK and Europe, through interviewing some of the collectors and DJs in order to assess how these rarities were located and introduced to the UK (and now European) scene. Hopefully the reader will find that these processes bring the records and bands very much to life, and that this book may serve as a future reference source of another musical era passed but not forgotten.

One of the most helpful aspects of obtaining a historical account of life and music in the Carolinas and surrounding states is that many of the musicians are still very active around the south east, either on the beach scene or elsewhere. So, the resources are there if you can access them. Some bands and individuals are still playing live or recording, others moved onto producing or were successful in other related ventures. What seemed clear previously from both Greg Haynes and Jason Perlmutter’s work is that the surviving artists, whether successful or less so, were all keen to collaborate and tell their story. I found this too. The hardest part of this assignment by far has been the detective work tracking these guys down, a mammoth task indeed. Yet without a doubt, also one of the most enjoyable rewards of the journey. I thank the artists, their relatives, researchers who have gone before me, and of course the northern soul scene collectors, DJs and fans for all their support and assistance in this venture...."

However I need to expand on this introduction originally written for "It's Better to Cry". As mentioned previously the future content of this blog intends to also venture slightly further afield than the south east states alone, to consider the significant contribution to soul music from black, white and hispanic artists in peripheral areas such as Texas, Louisiana and such. Hope you enjoy the ride.

E. Mark Windle
September 2013