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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Soul Music Concerts From The Past



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"Who Else Wants To Create Your Own Unique Drum Beats?"


As a bona-fide old head, I have heard and witnessed a lot of changes in music, especially soul music over the last 40 plus years.

I have loved soul music ever since I first heard JAMES BROWN,S  "Don,t Be A Drop Out".


My earliest recollection started one rainy night in the late 50s, when my father had his radio with its makeshift wire antenna turned on.

There came from the small tinny speaker, its sound drifting in and out, music from a station right out of Nashville, Tennessee.


I can,t recall the name, but I remember that it advertised selling records through a commercial called "ERNIE,S RECORD MART".


My education of soul music began that night before I finally drifted off into slumberland.


A few years later with the debut of shows like "HULLABALLO", "WHERE THE ACTION IS", "THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW", and "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW", R&B music artists began to showcase their talents on national television.


The emergence of shows such as "SOUL TRAIN", "MIDNIGHT SPECIAL", "ABC,S IN CONCERT" DON KRISHNERS ROCK CONCERT" brought on live performances by some of the greatest groups in the history of rock, heavy metal, folk and soul music.

SLY & THE FAMILY STONE, THE COMMODORES, JAMES BROWN, STEVIE WONDER,  IKE & TINA TURNER, SAMMY DAVIS JR., and others became semi-regulars, delving in light-hearted banter or controversial thought-provoking conversations with the host and/or other guests on the shows.

The long running prime-time "ED SULLIVAN SHOW" showcased a multitude of talent such as THE TEMPTATIONS, THE SUPREMES THE JACKSON FIVE, SAM & DAVE etc., and late night talk show king   JOHNNY CARSON had many  guests R&B performers on board  throughout his long reign.

Appearances on these top-rated shows helped guarantee standing room only crowds in sold-out venues.







Fast forward to 1968, when a next door neighbor took me to the local auditorium to my first live R& B show.

I finally saw the music stars that I heard on radio
radio and occasionally saw on tv.

The experience was nothing short of breathtaking
for a fellow around the age of 10.

Plunking down $5 at the door, I was able to see the likes of soul balladeer extraordinaire PERCY SLEDGE( When A Man Loves A Woman), THE DELFONICS (LA, LA , LA, LA, I LOVE YOU), PIGMEAT MARKHAM and the headliner, JOE TEX.

Comedian PIGMEAT MARKHAM of "Here Comes The Judge" fame came on stage much to the delight of fans (he later did a recurring skit on ROWAN & MARTIN,S  LAUGH IN tv show).


Dressed in a light straw hat and plaid outfit, PIGMEAT MARHAM  had the crowd roaring with side-splitting laughter as he bantered back and forth with his side-man while doing his famous comedy routines.



With his well-coiffured head of hair and tailor-made three piece outfit,  PERCY SLEDGE sang a medley of his hits that had the females in the crowd swooning to his smooth, silky brand of soul music. 



He was a crowd favorite as he envoked many screams from the female concertgoers as well as the guys who knew they had their ladies in the right mood for the night.

 

The headliner of the show was the great JOE TEX, who had everyone literally standing on their seats!


Joe was one of the heavy-weight singers throughout the 60s and early 70s.  He is rumoured to have originated the famous microphone tricks ( which he taught James Brown early in the careers).


Fronting an ultra-tight band, he went through quite a few of his hits one after another.

He didn,t sing much, mostly talking and ad-libbing, (he was considered one of the first "rappers" of the 60s)especially his latest song, "Skinny Legs and All". 




One of the show,s highlights was during the song, which featured a sponsored dance contest for the woman with the skinniest legs.

Several women got on stage hoping to win the prize of $100 (hey, it was a lot of money back then).

A big-wigged skinny-legged gal got up on stage, shaking her money maker and took the prize home! 

No doubt about it, she won hands down with those toothpick legs and all!


Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see quite an array of R&B performers in their prime.


BETTY WRIGHT,  JERRY BUTLER, CLARENCE CARTER, KING FLOYD, THE BAR-KAYS,  NATALIE COLE, THE ISLEY BROTHERS, among others. 



The greatest of them all was none other than Mister Dynamite himself,  JAMES BROWN!


He truly earned every title bestowed on him, self-imposed or not!

You could put all the
aforementioned entertainers on one side of a stage and JB on the other, and all eyes would be on James Brown! 



His show was mostly self-contained, with members of his backing troupe (BOBBY BYRD, MARVA WHITNEY, VICKI ANDERSON, etc.) taking solo spots before joining the band for the explosive second half of the show.

Every bit the ultimate entertainer, JAMES BROWN rocked the house so hard you almost got tired of just watching him!!





I have witnessed JB live thru the years from 1969 up to 2004, from the James Brown Orchestra, to the JBs New Breed Band, the Soul Generals and other incarnations. 


He was always backed by some of the greatest sidemen in soul music history. Saxophonist extraordinaire MACEO PARKER Parker( who Brown made a household name by calling him for imprompt solos).


Others such as  guitarist JIMMY NOLEN( who invented the scratch stroking of the strings), drummers CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD and JABO STARKS, bassist BOOTSY COLLINS (possibly the most dynamic bassist ever in the JB lineup), FRED WESLEY (trombonist who was an intregal part of JB,s music throughout the early to mid-70s) helped make up the JB groove.


They were among the many band members that kept the funk strong behind the Hardest Working Man In Show Business.


There were two to four drum sets lined up across the stage. One drummer would do certain songs while another would accent JB,s movements (like his knee drops). He would sometimeswould also check out local drummers before the show and let them perform briefly onstage.


Band members were told to always keep their eyes on JB.


"The Man" himself might signal a switch anywhere from on stage; doing a split, jumping up into the air, coming out of a spin, even between two drummers in midsong at any given time!





After over an hour of shouting/ singing/ pleading/ begging in the second half of the show, he makes his way around the stage to shake hands with those lucky enough( that would be me included) to be in front.


Shaking hands with a sweat-drenched, in his prime JAMES BROWN as he came around the stage that night in 1970 is something I will never forget!


I reached my hand out to meet his, and he firmly gripped and shook my hand.


When he looked straight at me and flashed that wide crocodile grin, I could have sworn time froze for a second!



Other veteran soul singers, such as MILLIE JACKSON, TYRONE DAVIS, BETTY WRIGHT worked in smoke-filled nightclubs and small arenas.


These "chitlin circuit" clubs were sometimes spilling over with folks; other times one-third full.


But no matter how big or sparse the crowds were, the R&B veterans always came out and gave their all for the audiences like it was their last performance.


Sometimes after a show, the artists were willing to talk or sign autographs or take pictures for just a little while.


It was their way of thanking people for buying their records and coming out and supporting them.



To me, it showed the mark of true entertainers who never took their fans or their performances for granted.



The road or the "chitlin circuit" of the 50s and 60s (as it was called) was a lesson in survival in more ways than one.


The old artists came under fire in ways that today,s "young school" can only imagine to a degree.


The road could be a a thrilling but dangerous experience.  Traveling on old buses, in over-crowded station wagons, or rickety planes that barely got off and on the ground were a part of life on the road. 

Unfortunately, several artist lost their lives traveling either on the road or by plane.


OTIS REDDING, (his plane went down in an icy lake one cold night in 1967), BUDDY HOLLY, PATSY CLINE(country music) among others lost their lives in plane crashes.


Dealing with racism (especially traveling in the South, meeting people married or had significant others, unplanned pregnancies, all were a part of life for many entertainers.


Quite a few artists found out that they had fathered children while  engaging in "one nite stands".


James Brown had at least three  children outside of the five that he had with two of his wives.


Screaming Jay Hawkins( "I Put A Spell On You" fame) was rumoured to have fathered at least 53 children.


Many artists were cheated out of their money by not only unscrupulous promoters, but by their own record companies.





SAM COOKE, along with JAMES BROWN became one of the first black artists to take control of his entire production.  RAY CHARLES gained control of his own master tapes.


MARVIN GAYE, STEVIE WONDER, CURTIS MAYFIELD also took total charge of their own musical destinies. 

They realized that "show

business" meant becoming involved in the business end of things also.






A few TV shows of the 70s that showcased live performances were; "ABC,S  IN CONCERT ", "DON KRISHNER,S ROCK CONCERT" and of course, "THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL".


"SOUL TRAIN" featured mostly lip-synch performances but a few artists did live sets complete with touring bands, offering rare glimpses on live TV what occurred in concert.


There are plenty of websites devoted to rare concert tapes and dvds that can be found if one looks hard enough.


Many rare clips can be seen on Youtube such as WAYNE COCHRAN ,sometimes known as the white James Brown ( if you ever get to see his version of "Please, Please Please" live on video it is a definitely a classic!), THE SUPREMES ROGER TROUTMAN AND ZAPP,etc.







Technological advances in the world of video today allow viewers to enjoy the concert experience in the confines of their own home.


More and more videos of past artists are released on dvd with more coming after clearing release copyrights.


A rare find " THE HARLEM MUSIC FESTIVAL" filmed in 1969, featuring MOMS MABLEY, PIGMEAT MARKHAM, B.B. KING, GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS, MAHALIA JACKSON, & SLY & THE FAMILY STONE, among others, was found and is being restored for future release by Historic Films Inc.


The 1972 concert film "WATTSTAX" (often called the Black Woodstock ), featured such diverse talent as JOHNNY TAYLOR, RUFUS THOMAS, LITTLE MILTON, JESSE JACKSON. 



A dvd was finally remastered and released on dvd as a 2-disc set.


  Another great concert documentary ,"SOUL TO SOUL", featured IKE AND TINA TURNER, SANTANA, THE VOICES OF EAST HARLEM, THE STAPLE SINGERS, WILSON PICKETT and others on a trip to Ghana, West Africa in 1971.




"IKE AND TINA TURNER LIVE IN HOLLAND", "BLUES VIEWS" (a collection of rare live performances by JOHNNY TAYLOR, BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND, SHIRLEY BROWN, DENISE LASALLE, LATIMORE, LITTLE MILTON, etc.


"RICK JAMES LIVE IN GERMANY 1982, JAMES BROWN LIVE AT STUDIO 54, KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND LIVE 1974, BOBBY WOMACK; SOUL SENSATION LIVE AND LIVE ON THE JAZZ CHANNEL ( the 1st one is my personal favorite) and many others are now available on dvd for home enjoyment.


Others hopefully headed for the dvd treatment include; "It,s Your Thing", a live (abeit very rare) 1970 concert at Yankee Stadium with headliners THE ISLEY BROTHERS and also starring MOMS MABLEY, THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS, and THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS.



Also the following  shows rumoured to be prepped for release on dvd; JAMES BROWN: LIVE AT THE OLYMPIA, PARIS FRANCE, 1966, 1967, and 1971.


I have often wondered why MICHAEL JACKSON, PRINCE, and others have never officially released some of their early concerts on video.


There are tons of websites devoted to either trading or selling rare bootleg concerts by the dozens.


No doubt many fans would love to have the "JACKSON,S VICTORY TOUR" concert, "PRINCE LIVE AT 1ST AVENUE", as well as the "JACKSON FIVE LIVE IN JAPAN" (a live album/cd exists and if there is truth to the rumour, a filmed video as well).


UPDATE:  There is footage of THE JACKSON FIVE doing a tour of Africa in the mid seventies but only available to tv producers and the like(not available to the public just yet)!


See for yourself at www. jacksonfiveinafrica.com ( I got it but the video quality is sub-par. Only for die-hard fans!)



Most likely rights of ownership and other factors come into play, as well as remastering and distributing the materials.


With long forgotten films and recordings being discovered more often , don,t be too surprised if the above mentioned items as well as others might see the light of day sometime in the future.


So if you happen to be an old head like me, a young old head, a young head, a teenager, a tweener, grade schooler, a toddler, or a just a baby sitting in his stroller bopping its head in time to the music, if you,re just hearing snippets of old tracks in rap records, just happen to catch one of the oldies soul shows on PBS or BET concert series, or just plain curious about old school music, then guess what?


Your education of soul music has begun, so check out Youtube (many rare clips of R&B artists available), Amazon.com, Ebay, search the web, join discussion forums, read music trade magazines, browse flea markets.


Chances are sooner or later you will find what you are looking for.


Then make yourself a snack, put in a dvd of your favorite soul artist, sit back in your favorite chair and get your groove on.











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I have been around (40+ years),grew up with and still enjoy old school soul music. I am a beginner in internet marketing and enjoy the challenge of making money on the internet.