Tag Archives: Willie Henderson

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

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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


Baby Be Mine: Johnny Williams’ Record Row Gold

streetAbove, enjoy DuSable High School’s own Johnny Williams with Baby Be Mine, a classically Chicago-styled mid-tempo shuffler.  A delicious record, it was recorded at Brunswick Records here in Chicago (1449 South Michigan Avenue, to be exact) for their Subsidiary label, Bashie.  Get a whif of those cheering flutes on the tail end.  A beast.  Pictured at left, Brunswick Records, 1967-late 70s.

Brunswick was originally based in New York, but moved operations to Chicago in the mid ’60s to take advantage of a hotbed of talent that was nationally recognized.  Brunswick’s Jackie Wilson (on lifetime contract to the label) immediately found success working with the Chicago operation, hitting with the 1966 classic “Whispers (Getting Louder)”. 

The label that ultimately brought us the Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, Barbara Acklin, and more also enlisted some of the best producers/arrangers in the city: Sonny Sanders, Carl Davis, Willie Henderson, Tom Tom Washington, and later Leo Graham and James Mack (who taught Tom Tom and Willie Henderson at Crane Junior College).  What they created was a sound that was a perfect hybrid of blues and soul.  Just like the very best of Chicago.


Love is a Merry-Go-Round: Ginji James and “that thing”

ginji_james-love_is_a_merry_go_roundI wanted to share this record with you….because I love it.  From the 1971 (Chicago born-and-bred) album, “Love is a Merry-Go-Round”: it’s Ginji James with “Love Had Come to Stay”.  It’s sitting-in-the-park music from Brunswick Records (recorded on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago).  Sitting-in-the-Park music is that music you hear in your head when you’re feeling all moody and contemplative… like no matter how sunny the day there’s a little bit of your heart stuck on that thing.  Another example of this is “Have You Seen Her” by the Chi-Lites (also from Brunswick).  The lyrics of that song is where I got the name for this genre:

One month ago today
I was happy as a lark
But now I go for walks
To the movies – maybe to the park

And have a seat on the same old bench
To watch the children play (huh)
You know, tomorrow is their future
But to me, just another day

They all gather around me
They seem to know my name
We laugh, tell a few jokes
But it still doesn’t ease my pain….


according to Dusty Groove:

One of our favorswingite Chicago soul sessions of all time — and the only album ever cut by Texas-bred singer Ginji James! Ginji’s got a style that’s both sweet and deep — which makes her a perfect fit for the sweeping, loping arrangements of the record — very much in the best Brunswick Chi-soul style of the time — and carried off perfectly by a team of studio talents that includes Carl Davis, Eugene Record, Willie Henderson, and Tom Tom! Ginji’s vocals are really wonderful — every bit as great as that of labelmates like Barbara Acklin or The Chi-Lites — and the whole set sparkles with a warmth that’s pretty darn hard to find, even in the best soul albums from the time!

From my very own album to you….