Tag Archives: Local Chicago Music

Preserving the Beats at Chicago State University.

 

BoomBoxRegularThis Saturday, February 28th at 2:15pm, I’ll be speaking on a panel at Chicago State University as part of the Symposium titled:

Preserving the Beats: Collecting Chicago Hip Hop

Here’s a description of the subject matter to be covered:

Collecting is one part of preservation of hip hop. For the history and culture to survive we need wordsmiths who write and publish about Hip Hop in order to document the past and future of the genre. This panel will discuss the importance of publishing for a variety of outlets—scholarly/ academia, blogs, journalism, niche and new media. Additionally, panelists will discuss the current climate of the publishing industry, self-publishing/ promotion via the internet, and the need to preserve the digital content.

Here’s the full list of scheduled panelists:

 

  • Samir Meghelli; Historian/Writer, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ayana Contreras; Blogger and Host/producer of Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo (Sister Station of WBEZ)
  • Ian Collins; Academic Resident Librarian at the University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Ryan Brockmeier; Director, Producer, Co-Writer, Art/Design of the documentary Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop

Of course, artful, true-to-life preservation of stories behind music is near and dear to my heart, so I’m glad to be a part of this discussion. More info below….

preserving the beats event flyerClick here to register.

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The Early Editions: Swinging Soul and Afro-Pop from the Windy City.

early editions

“People Try” b/w “What is Wrong With Grovin'” is  a hip little record from about 1968 by the Early Editions. It’s a Chicago record, crafted by James Mack on the Aries label, but not much else is known about the group itself. My best educated guess is that the group consisted of a lounge act and/or some studio session vocalists. 

UPDATE: I found out from Theresa Davis (a one-time member of The Emotions, and an amazing session and solo  vocalist, as well) that the group consisted of three of her sisters and one of her cousins. Below is an image of the group.

early editions 2

Anyway, both sides of this record are pretty great. give a listen to snippets from both sides below. “People Try” is a peppy-yet-hip bossa nova romp, while “What is Wrong With Grovin'” is a cover of an afro-pop record by Hugh “Grazin in the Grass” Masekela.

Chicago was testing the waters as a “world city” via music, apparently.

Jive on.


Terry Callier: You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman.

We lost Terry Callier on Sunday. He was an artist who melded Soul, Folk, and Jazz seamlessly. My first experience with his music is detailed below.

This portion of the post was originally posted on Darkjive on October 17th, 2009:

I remember where I was when I first heard [“Dancing Girl” by Terry Callier]: the local round-the-way record store [back when  I was in high school].  The carpet was checkered with the maytag logo in bittersweet on brown (harkening back to the store’s past life).  There we stood in a communal experience that began with the shop owner saying, “You’ve got to hear this record”. We stood waiting.  Waiting melted away to awe.  Nine minutes later we knew life was a bit different…just wait for the progression of the track.  It blossoms and eventually bursts.

“Dancing Girl” is from the album, “What Color is Love” (Cadet, 1973).  A great record for a chilled autumn day.

Terry Callier was a childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield and co-wrote numerous Chicago Records for artists as diverse as the Soulful Strings, The Dells, and Garland Green.  He spent much of the eighties and nineties as a single father, raising his daughter, Sundiata, and working at the University of Chicago.

He returned to recording in the late nineties to critical acclaim, and released “Hidden Conversations” (his fifth album in 10 years) this year[2009].  It features Massive Attack.

Jive on…. Jive on.

2009 was to be his last appearance on record. Since I first discovered him, I’ve fallen in love with a number of his compositions,

such as: “Ordinary Girl”, “You Don’t Care”, “You Goin Miss Your Candyman”, and others.

I’ve also realized that he co-wrote a few of my old Chicago favorites, including: “You Can’t Get Away that Easy” (as performed by Lee Charles and, later, by Garland Green), “The Love We Had Stays on My Mind” (as performed by The Dells), “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love” (as Performed by Billy Butler & Infinity), and “I’d Rather Be With You [performed by the Dells].

Below, Terry singing You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman. Because I do.

 


Amanda Love: You Keep Calling Me By Her Name.

 

Image

(above,  45 sleeve art by Johnny Spencer. for more on him, click here)

Not a lot is known about Amanda Love (which is probably an alias). What I do know is that she put out this bluesy number on Mel London’s Starville label about 1967. Mel London was a Chicago songwriter/producer/record label owner who was instrumental in launching the careers of Junior Wells and Ricky Allen.

Amanda Love’s record “You Keep Calling Me by Her Name” is the sort of record that swung in many a South Side tavern here in Chicago. It sort of sounds like the result of if Nancy Wilson had come to Chicago to record back then: polished vocals atop a rough and ready track. Jive on!

 


One Day I Was Walking: Soulful Gospel from the Swan Mellarks (Update!)

Just to give you some warning… Lynnell Harris (misspelled as Lindell Harris on the label) has an amazing tone and vocals that are SOOOOO bananas.  This record was recorded for tiny Valberst Records in the 70s here in Chicago at Pervis Staples’ (of the Staple Singers) Studio.

“One Day I Was Walking” has been in my head for at least two years.  Very basic track.  Very soulful delivery. Very dope guitar work. Jive on!

UPDATE: Here are the comments from the original post for more info on this record.


Dorothy Donegan: Chicago’s own Jazz Cover Girl

Darkjive focuses mainly on soul music born and bred here in Chicago during the golden era of Chicago Soul: the 1960s through the late 1970s. Anyone who knows me, however, knows I am passionate about a variety of music that has come out of our city: especially soul, blues, and jazz.

That said, recently an old cover of local titan-of-print Ebony Magazine (from July of 1946!) caught my eye for both the byline and the cover girl:

The cover featured local jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan, and the byline read: “Is Jazz Going Highbrow?”

A graduate of DuSable High School, Donegan studied music with Walter Dyett, as did so much of our homegrown talent (like Nat King Cole). She was noted for her abundance of sass and personality (which was apparent in her stage show, but never really translated to record sales). That personality helped win her a following in Chicago’s South Side club scene which featured spots like the Crown Propeller Lounge where a contortionist named Atlantis (though some say she was called Aquanetta) performed in a fish tank (pictured at left in 1954 with King Kolax… underwater).

That abundance of personality proved to be both a blessing and a curse. The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff once wrote:

“Her flamboyance helped her find work in a field that was largely hostile to women. To a certain extent, it was also her downfall; her concerts were often criticized for having an excess of personality.”

Dorothy Donegan won an American Jazz Master fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1992. She was 70 years old.

Very sassy, indeed.

Below, Dorothy Donegan performing in 1945. Jive and jitterbug on!


Tom Tom 84 goes Hollywood.

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”.


Melodic Expansions: David Boykin Expanse with DJ Ayana… pass it on.

Psssst… David Boykin Expanse with DJ Ayana. It’s a righteous situation at a secret location. RSVP info@perpetualrebel.com for more info.


I Just Want to Be Loved: Lee Charles breaks it all the way down.

Wow. What a little stunner. I played this 1973 cut during my second set at Morseland this past Thursday. Such a quality Chicago cut.  Arranged by the mighty, mighty Tom Tom Washington (who later worked with the likes of Earth, Wind, & Fire), this was co-written by Lee Charles with Lowrell Simon [from the group The Lost Generation (famous for the hit “Sly, Slick, & Wicked”), and, later, Lowrell (famous for “Mellow, Mellow, Right On”)].
Lee Charles also wrote songs for Jerry Butler’s famous Workshop in the early 70’S. Beautiful early appearance of some spacey Moog sounds and some solid truth.


Curtis Mayfield wanted to get a little bit.

 

This 1976 record by Chicago’s own Curtis Mayfield used to be a favorite spin in my College Radio days.   It’s been back on my radar in recent days. “Give a little bit, Get a little bit, Take a little bit” picks up on the theme of the classic “Give Me Your Love” with an offer for a more even exchange. Very lean groove, yet it somehow still has a whole bunch going on (check the masterful guitar work). Jive on!