Tag Archives: Chicago Soul

Kitty & the Haywoods: a slice of Chicago Sister Funk.

kitty and the haywoodsThe Emotions were not the only sister group to come out of Chicago. It was all in the family for Kitty and the Haywoods, as well (although they actually consisted of three sisters and a niece). Before Kitty and the Haywoods’ self-titled debut album, Kitty had a long recording history as a background vocalist for such acts as Curtis Mayfield and Terry Callier. She was also a member of The New Rotary Connection (along with Shirley Wahls) after Minnie Riperton departed from Rotary Connection.

1974, Kitty and the Haywoodweiss recorded a single as Kitty Haywood & the Haywood Singers called “Big Black Cloud”. It was produced and arranged by Charles Stepney (who was the creative force behind Rotary Connection). Kitty had also previously released a solo record on the Weis label.

In 1976, the sisters sang back up for Aretha Franklin on the “Sparkle” soundtrack, which was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. Before that, they recorded quite a few jingles in town.

The album Kitty and the Haywoods (1977) was produced by Mercury Records label mates The Ohio Players, and it sounds like a gumbo of the Ohio Players and Labelle at their silver-lame-wearing best.

What I appreciate most about Kitty and the Haywoods is that they were quite literally part of the backbone of the Chicago Recording scene. Too many background vocalists faded away into the shadows, remaining anonymous. But these ladies were able to shine.  Jive on!


The All-Brunswick Records Blow Out (Side A and Side B)

Barbara+Acklin+PNG

A mix of music featuring all local Chicago Soul from the Brunswick Label. The label was originally from New York; but moved most of its operations to 17th and Michigan on Chicago’s Record Row in the mid 1960s. From there, producer Carl Davis steered an all star cast of local talent, like Barbara Acklin (above).

This podcast features the music, and an interview with some of the creative people behind the music.

 

This podcast, like all good B-Sides, features some of the trippier cuts from the Brunswick Catalogue.

 


Tonight is a Chicago soul music blowout on Reclaimed Soul!

Tonight is a Chicago soul music blowout on Reclaimed Soul!

Tonight is a Chicago soul music blowout on the Reclaimed Soul Radio Show! Host Ayana Contreras will play cuts from the catalogue of Brunswick Records. The label moved to 17th and Michigan on Chicago’s Record Row in the mid 1960s, and producer Carl Davis steered an all star cast of local talent.

We’ll hear music by Tyrone Davis, Jean Shy, Jackie Ross, The Lost Generation, The Chi-Lites, Freddie Hughes, Sidney Joe Qualls, Ginji James, Jackie Wilson, The Artistics, Gene Chandler, Marvin Smith, and loads more.

It’ll be a stone gas!

Reclaimed Soul airs Thursdays at 8pm-10pm (CST) on http://vocalo.org, or tune in on 90.7fm and 89.5fm.


Reclaimed Soul Episode 037: Otis Clay’s Truth Is…

otisclayOn this installment of Reclaimed Soul (my radio show), we’re be graced by Chicago vocalist Otis Clay. We listen to some favorite deep records from his 50+ year career that spans Gospel, Soul, and Blues.

We also hear about the father figures in Otis Clay’s career, and about why he decided to start his own record label. He even talks about how it felt to find out that he’s “big in Japan” (among other places).

Plus, we’ll sample his newest album, “Truth Is” which was produced and arranged by Chicago Soul heavyweight Tom Tom Washington (Tom Tom also contributed to this interview).

for more on Reclaimed Soul, visit: vocaloreclaimedsoul.tumblr.com

 


Fontella Bass: In Memorium.

Image

Fontella Bass was an amazing lady who passed away on December 26th, 2012. In memorium, Darkjive revisits a post from 2011 that touches on her legacy on the Chicago Soul scene.

Not only [was] the trajectory of her career fascinating, but she’s arguably the archetype for what Aretha Franklin was to become: a sassy, soulful siren in the first degree.

Ms. Bass comes from the St. Louis, and is a part of a group of St. Louis native vocalists that made their way in Chicago (this includes Chuck Bernard, Little Milton, and Bobby McClure). Her voice can be described as a salt-sweet Alto that is absolutely gorgeous, in my opinion.

She is best known for the HUGE hit “Rescue Me”, which is a Chicago-written, recorded,and produced slice of 60s Soul. Her greatest hit (which she also co-wrote), “Rescue Me” has been featured in movies, commercials, and TV shows galore; but it is also too often mistakenly attributed to Aretha Franklin. Ironically, at the time of its release, Aretha Franklin was singing jazzy pop standards, a’la young Dinah Washington. 

In fact, “Rescue Me” predates Aretha Franklin’s soulful breakthrough release “Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” by a couple of years.

“Rescue Me” was released on Chess Records’ Checker imprint, after which Fontella continued to release soulful gems for the label (my favorites being “I Can’t Rest” and “Lucky in Love”) until 1968 or so.

By 1970, in a plot twist worthy of an arthouse movie, Fontella Bass was married to musician Lester Bowie and had joined him as an expatriate in France in The Art Ensemble of Chicago. There, she served as the vocalist in the group: a seminal, Chicago-based free-jazz combo… I suspect that’s her in the white face paint in the far right corner of the album pictured below.

In 1990, she heard her own voice singing “Rescue Me” on an American Express commercial and was inspired to look into her rights. She wound up suing American Express and its ad agency. She won over $50,000 plus damages in a settlement. Awesome.

for more Fontella Bass music click here and scroll to the bottom of the post.


Listen Locally: DJ Ayana at Maria’s….

Reclaimed Soul’s host, Ayana Contreras, is perhaps best known for spinning classic Chicago Soul records, but on Tuesday, October 2nd, she plans to mix it up and play cuts from the trippier and (even) grittier side of her Chicago Music collection. She will also feature what she likes to call the “Rock Hand Side of things”: artists like Rotary Connection (pictured above), Hudsen Bay Company, New Colony Six, Howlin Wolf, Young Turks, Elmore James, Spanky and Our Gang, Lost Generation, Magic Sam, Five Stairsteps, The Family, Shadows of Knight, The Buckinghams, John Klemmer, Bobby Rush, Little Milton, Junior Wells, Aesops Fables, Baby Huey and the Babysitters, Syl Johnson, and much much more will be on deck. Of course, all will be spun on vinyl.

 Tuesday October 2nd /9pm-1am

Maria’s Packaged Goods

960 West 31st St., Chicago

rotary connection


Reclaimed Soul Episode 007: Architects of Chicago Soul, Building for Tomorrow.

Image

In this installment of my radio show (called “Reclaimed Soul”), I feature interviews with some Architects of the Classic Chicago Soul sound who are “scratching and crawling” today to restore the South Side Clubs and Venues that made them who they are as artists. Two such architects are profiled below:

Tom Tom Washington (pictured here) is basically my hero. He’s also a very humble and cool individual to be around.
As a Chicagoan and a music lover, his distinctive Horn and String Arrangements are like home to me.
Tom Tom came up in Chicago’s Ida B. Wells Projects and studied music under the tutelage of James Mack (an awe-inspiring arranger in his own right). He wound up arranging dozens of records for Chicago Music Heavyweights such as Earth, Wind, & Fire, The Emotions, Tyrone Davis, Deniece Williams (who is from Gary, IN), The Staple Singers, Ramsey Lewis, Leroy Hutson, The Chi-Lites, Otis Leavill, Betty Everett, Jerry Butler, Loleatta Holloway, and many, many, more.

We also talk to Gene Barge, a legendary Producer/Arranger who worked at Chess Records (working with Etta James, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Billy Branch, and many more). A saxophonist, he was also a session man on recordings all over town. He later received a Grammy for his work in Chicago with Natalie Cole. He also starred as “Percy” in Andrew
Davis’ “Stony Island” (1978) recently released on DVD for the first time.

For more on Reclaimed Soul, visit: http://vocaloreclaimedsoul.tumblr.com

for more on Tom Tom Washington, click here

for more on Gene Barge click here


McKinley Mitchell: This place ain’t getting no better.

Based in Chicago, McKinley Mitchell was one of the Chicago School of R&B belters I’m so fond of (these include Garland Green, Otis Clay, Johnny Sayles, and Tyrone Davis). Unfortunately, for all his vocal prowess, he was sort of slept on in his day.

He recorded some seriously beautiful sides for George Leaner’s One-Derful Records in the mid-60’s, Chess (also in the mid 60s), and Sandy Wilborn’s Sandman Records in the early 1970s. He had a regional hit in the mid 60’s with “The Town I Live In”.

Below, “This Can’t Be the End”. His patent-leather smooth growl is really evident on this. Written by Willie Dixon, this is (to me) a really a great record, the sort that hints at what a great stage performer he must have been. Jive on!


Pat and Pam: sisters in soul.

Pat and Pam Cordell were twin singers who followed in the great tradition of Chicago Kiddie (or in their case, Teen) Soul in the early 1970s. They also happened to be original WVON Good Guy Lucky Cordell‘s daughters. Lucky Cordell (pictured at left) was a disc jockey turned General Manager at one of the most influential Soul Radio Stations in the country. That had to have helped in getting some airplay in the day. What also helped was having some of the best songwriters, arrangers, and session musicians in the game working on their cuts.

Word on the street says that though they were young, they were quite adamant about recording more adult fare than most young recording artists were at the time (no talk of school books-and-stolen-looks here).

They only released two singles, but both are lovely and worth seeking out. Below, enjoy “I Love You, Yes I Do”, a rollicking Chicago stepper that never fails to impress at my gigs around town.


More and More: Little Milton’s plea for more as the cost of living was skyrocketing.

Whew. That was a long blogpost title, huh? I know. But, let me explain:

In late 1967, Chess Records’ Checker subsidiary released this record entitled “More and More” by Little Milton, where the chorus sings and growls:

“More and More… all the time!”

Ironically, the flip is a meandering soulful blues cut called “The Cost of Living”. So, maybe the editorial statement of the release was:

“The Cost of Living” is “More and More”!

Or, maybe, on a more hopeful note:

With “The Cost of Living” growing “More and More”… find More with Less!

Either way, it’s a beautifully grooving little record by Little Milton in the vein of all his grooving blues-soul hybrids cut here in Chicago in the late 1960s (my favorites being “Drifting Drifter”, “Blind Man”, “Don’t Leave Her”, “Poor Man”, and more). It also just happens to make me pretty happy.

James (“Little”) Milton Campbell, Jr. recorded most of his best known material here in Chicago, but he hailed from St. Louis. In addition to growling soulful vocals, he also played blues guitar. Oh yes, and he wasn’t particularly little.