Tag Archives: Music

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


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.


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.

Otis Clay: Live at S.P.A.C.E.

otis clay
Otis Clay performs this Saturday night (January 5th, 2013) at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston.

He’s a Chicago-bred deep soul artists I’ve profiled before on Darkjive. He’s recorded on a ton of labels (including Kayvette, Dakar, Hi, One-Der-Ful, and his own Echo imprint since his beginnings in the 1950s), but it’s his consistency that stands out.

This event is celebrating the release of his latest album, “Truth Is”.
for more info, and to buy tickets, click here

Never Records… the Reclaimed Soul Interview cut on wax.

Fresh from New Orleans, it’s my interview with Ted Riederer…. that he cut by hand on clear wax. It’s the first Reclaimed Soul interview that was played directly from a real record to play on the radio show!

Ted Riederer is a New York based artist who is in New Orleans running a pop-up record store this month called Never Records. Never Records is outfitted with recording equipment and his record cutting machine (or lathe), and he is recording local artists for free this month. Only two copies of the sessions are committed to wax: one copy for the artists and one for Never Records.


Listen to fresh episodes of Reclaimed Soul Thursdays at 8pm CST on vocalo.org!

Crate Digger as Archaeologist….

Someone recently described me as an Archaeologist. At first, I didn’t really see the connection, but then I thought for a moment. One of the things I love most about record collecting is how much akin it is to an Archaeological “dig”. A person finds the physical record, occasionally has to dust it off, and often there is incredible meta-data housed on the labels and sleeves that don’t make into CD liner notes and aren’t embedded into an mp3.  Case in point: above, a 1970s Roots Reggae 12 inch single I picked up at a local record store. I see that it belonged to someone named C.T. (scrawled in pen in the corner), and that it was purchased on the North Side of Chicago at a place called Studio 1 Records [“the place for Carribean Sounds and Crafts”], based on a rubber stamped logo.

This particular recording very clearly displays the ingenuity that occurred in the process of getting this record (that was pressed in Kingston, Jamaica and still smells like incense) out to the public. On the outside, it’s packed in a generic white paper sleeve with the word “disco” printed near the center hole cut out. But on the inside, it’s clear that the sleeve was made from repurposed paper. In fact, it was made from uncut flats created to be boxes of Jamaican Ovaltine Biscuits (a national favorite snack cookie, then and now). Dope.

So much more than I would have gotten from your garden variety download.

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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.

Ricky Allen: He can’t stand no signifying… come to think of it, me either.

signifying (verb): a good-natured needling or goading especially among urban blacks by means of indirect gibes and clever often preposterous put-downs

-Webster’s Dictionary

Ricky Allen recorded the booming groover “I Can’t Stand No Signifying” on Jack Daniels’ West Side-based Four Brothers label round about 1966. Both Jack Daniels and Johnny Moore (the co-writer on this track) created blues-soaked soul cuts for a number of artists, including Junior Wells, throughout the late 1960s.

Ricky Allen, a native Nashvillian, came to Chicago in 1958, and was very popular on the blues club circuit in the 1960s. One of his songs, Mel London’s “Cut You A-Loose” charted on the R&B Charts in 1963, and even got heavy airplay on Top 40 pop station WLS. Allen recounted in a 1993 Chicago Tribune interview with Bill Dahl:

“I got back, man, WLS – they didn’t play no blues. (But) Every time you turned on the station, it was on.”

“Signifying” has got exactly the sock it to me-slash-somebody’s ’bout to get cut vibe I love.  To me, this gritty music is the link between the blues brought North in a satchel during the Great Migration and the glossier Chicago Soul (complete with lush strings and horns) that came later. Gotta love that piano riff at the top. Jive on.

Al-teen Records: Bill Meeks’ little ships of soul

Bill Meeks was, in the late sixties, a jingle writer here in Chicago who started a record label called Al-teen. The label was based at 82nd and Stony Island, and put out records by Sunday (Williams), Drake and the En-Solids, Earl Duff, The Supurbs (sic), and Johnny McCall. Many of the tunes were composed by D. McGilberry. None of them were hits in their day.

Many small labels existed in this town, and most of them were born out of someone’s dream. They sent out little ships into the murky waters of the Industry hoping to reach that unknown shore of stardom. So many of those ships, those records, are still floating out there (testaments to those dreams).

Below, a couple of my favorite cuts from the label. Both are now worth a pretty penny. “Ain’t Got No Problems/Where Did He Come From” by Sunday was a hot enough platter here in Chicago that it got picked up for national distribution by Chess (which makes it Alteen’s most successful production).  To my ears, “Where Did He Come From” (the original B-Side) is the star of the story.

“I Need You” By Johnny McGill is a bit of a grittier record with sparser production, but has that particular leanness of a “little ship” sort-of-record that I love. You can feel that the record is a love child: created of of passion rather than obligation.

Female background on all of the Al-Teen cuts was by a group called The Voices. This is them singing along to Sunday’s “Ain’t Got No Problems” in 2009 (forty years after the fact) on a local radio show called “Sitting in the Park”. Wow. All of the talents of a whole bunch of people (and a whole bunch of hopes) rode on these little ships. I respect that. Jive on.

The Ones: SDYL

I catch Khari Lemuel (pictured below) and Yaw (top, right) all over the place (the Library, 75th street, Red Kiva), and recently, I heard them performing at the Brown Sugar Bakery to celebrate owner Stephanie Hart’s birthday.  I dug them both separately, but as a duo (calling themselves “The Ones”), they are beyond belief. Both pour their souls into performances, but in their own way. While Yaw is supremely charismatic, Khari is stunningly intense. The collaboration is not their first: Yaw covered Khari Lemuel’s composition “Where Will You Be” a few years back.

About a year ago, The Ones posted “SDYL” (below) on Youtube. It’s a musical S.O.S., and the video contains images of moments in our time when the world seemed to be swirling out of control. Khari told me recently that the recording is, in fact, a rough cut, and they are in the process of getting “SDYL” (along with the makings of a new album mixed down and mastered). Can’t wait. This is just the type of music that carries on the legacy of great music born in Chicago. Jive on.

NOTE: photos shown were taken for darkjive.com during the 2010 “Taking to the Streets” Festival in Marquette Park. The performance ranks with one of my favorites I’ve seen of them, and featured a great backing band, including Junius Paul on Bass Guitar, Corey Wilkes on Trumpet, and Agustin Alvarez on Guitar.

UPDATE: Khari just sent me a link to the video below, behind the scenes one-camera video of Khari and Yaw performing “By and By”: from their upcoming album. I’ve really loved hearing this song’s arrangement evolve over the course of many performances. It’s smouldering, spiritual, rock-infused vibe is the business… I’m curious to see how it winds up sounding in the final cut.

Groove Conspiracy… coming this Thursday.

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).

Groove Conspiracy. All vinyl, no cover. Jive on!