Tom Tom Washington (pictured at left) 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.
In my cratedigging, I actually look for his name on a record as a mark of excellence. I call it looking for a “Tom Tom”. I have at least a couple of hundred cuts he’s had a hand in (under the names Tom Tom, Tom Tom 74, Tom Tom 75, Tom Tom 84, Tom Tom Washington, and a few other aliases).
Tom Tom Washington also branched out and worked with artists from all over the world, including Phil Collins and The Whispers. The Whispers are a Los Angeles-based group, and in 1978, he did arrangements for an album called “Headlights”. I know this because I recently found a 45rpm single taken from the album. I’m not usually a fan of the Whispers, but it’s a beast, featuring the top cut, called “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)” (which is about exactly what you think it’s about), and the B-Side called “Try and Make it Better”, which is bangin’. The tunes’ arrangements capture the distinctive sound that Tom Tom made classic on hits by Earth, Wind, & Fire and The Emotions. It’s amazing. But why wouldn’t it be? It’s a “Tom Tom”.
Join DJ Ayana and Simeon Viltz (of the Primeridian) as we stretch out musically at Morseland. I’ll be spinning with a Chicago accent, as always, and will be featuring local treasures including a cut or two by Leroy Hutson. A college friend of both Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack (all attended Howard University), Hutson was on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records in the 1970s (listen below to 1976’s “Lover’s Holiday”, and for more on Leroy, click here).
(photos: Labor Day 1936 at 31st Street Beach, Chicago) found at bvikkivintage
I love “I’ll Never Forget You” by Nolan Chance. Released here in Chicago in 1969, its creation was a collaboration between Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, and Leroy Hutson (arguably the patron saints of Chicago Soul for the decade that was to come). The song has aural dream sequences: One moment, Nolan is reminiscing the sand-in-shoes good times spent with his lost love. The music is floaty, featuring dreamy keys and a güiro, the same scraping percussion instrument in the Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk”.
The next moment, Nolan is snapped back into reality and the music features rhythmic, ebbing horns that recede like the tide. It makes me want to go to the beach. Enjoy the pictures and the music….
NOTE: Nolan Chance (born Charles David) was raised in LaGrange, IL, and was at one time a member of the Artistics. Another record of his that I picked up based on my love for “I’ll Never Forget You” is “I’d Like to Make it With You”, the B-side of “Sara Lee” (released in 1972, and NOT the same song as the similarly titled “Make it With You” by Bread). Great sassy Chicago brass and pulsating rhythm. Jive on.
Performing below (in Ghana, circa 1971) is Roberta Flack. She is singing “Gone Away”… a cool, loping soul record from her album “Chapter Two”. This record was written by the one-two-three Chicago-bred punch of Leroy Hutson, Curtis Mayfield, and Donny Hathaway (before his own breakout single “The Ghetto”). “Gone Away” was also recorded by The Impressions and Lovelace Watkins (in a Chicago recording session) around the same time, 1970. Look for the crescendo around 3:00 (sampled for T.I.’s hit “Whatchu Know About It”). Jive on!
It’s about to go down. Old Soul 45’s spun with love at the Morseland. Selections by me (DJ Ayana) and Gaucho. Join us this Thursday November 12 starting at 9:30pm. No Cover. The Morseland is located at 1218 West Morse in Chicago (just blocks from Sheridan). Here’s a sample of some of the proudly local grooves we’ll feature….
By way of the Bay Area, it’s Chicago’s own Natural Four. They signed to Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records in 1972, after five years without a hit, and within a year they gave us this blue light basement classic: “Can This Be Real.”
Inexplicably, the Natural Four never reached the success they deserved, dissolving in 1976. Robert Pruter, author of the book Chicago Soul, pointed out that they most likely suffered from the trend of doo-wop style vocal groups succumbing to the age of Disco, which mainly favored solo artists. But the Natural Four shone brightly, if only for a moment. Jive On.
Hutson collaborated with Hathaway on “The Ghetto”, a smash 1970 hit (Hathaway’s first).
In 1971, three months out of college, Hutson replaced Curtis Mayfield as lead singer of The Impressions. He recorded two albums with the group before going solo.
In 1976, Leroy Hutson released his third album: Hutson II. Recorded at Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Studios (on North Lincoln Ave. in Chicago), he predated D’Angelo by twenty odd years in the sheer smoothness category. “Love this Feeling” (below) is just a taste of what Leroy Hutson is made of.