Hi everyone, this week we’re concluding our cliff notes look at Early Sixties Soul Music.
Just as a reminder, each weekly recommended music posting features the following sections:
I. Very Brief Artist Bios
II. Freegal Music Recommendations (streaming music)
III. CD Music Recommendations Of The Week
IV. Videos Of This Week
V. Wild Card Print Book Recommendation Of The Week
VI. References (for those who’d like to know a bit more about the artists of the week).
This week we’ll we’ll check out the music of Gene Chandler, Major Lance and a selection of some of the great artists that recorded for the legendary label Stax Records during the sixties and seventies. And next week we’ll kick off a month long look at the artists and groups of the first British Invasion – the one that started with The Beatles performances on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and was succeeded by a second British Invasion of more experimental sixties rock, that roughly began with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band in June of 1967.
I. Very Brief Artist Bios
Gene Chandler: Gene Chandler was born Eugene Dixon on July 6, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois. Chandler began his singing career in Chicago in the late fifties singing a mixture of traditional rock n’ roll and R&B as a member of the group The Du-Kays, also seen spelled The Dukays.
The Dukays recorded several cool albums which wove sounds of traditional R&B and rock with doo-wop and, you can hear the emerging sound of Soul music in their early sixties hits. The band had two minor charting singles during the early sixties: The Girl is Evil and Owl Night, and actually recorded a version of the soul classic Duke of Earl. Just after the band recorded their version of Duke of Earl, Gene Dixon decided to go solo and he re-recorded Duke of Earl on a new label and with a new stage name – Gene Chandler. And the song went all the way to the top of the pop charts in 1962. Duke of Earl became Chandler’s signature song and he even went on to perform concerts wearing long robes and a crown as if he truly was an earl.
As a solo artist Chandler stepped away from the Doo Wop style and began singing music that combined the musical elements of Soul Music – traditional Rock N’ Roll and R&B. He never again had a huge cross over hit. However, he continued to hit the R&B charts during the sixties era with several other cool songs including: Just Be True, Bless Our Love and Groovy Situation.
And although the sixties were Chandler’s charting heyday, he continued recording through the seventies and had several more hits including Get Down and Does She Have A Friend.
Today, Chandler lives in Chicago and continues to play concerts.
Major Lance: Major Lance was born in Winterville, Mississippi on April 4, 1939 and moved to Chicago as a youth. Lance sang Gospel music as a child and attended Chicago’s Wells High School where he met two other future Soul & R&B greats, Impressions co-founders Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler. Early in his career Lance sang with the Five Gospel Harmonaires and with Otis Leavill and his Floats. And it was Lance’s connection with Leavill, who like Mayfield and Butler was a childhood friend, that landed him his first recording contract with Okeh Records in 1962. Lance’s first single, the Mayfield written tune Delilah, was not a hit; however, his second single, The Monkeytime, was a major league smash. The Monekytime brought Lance to the front and center of attention of pop and R&B fans. The song was a huge crossover hit, cracking the top ten on both the R&B and Pop charts and establishing Lance as a solid member of the new Soul Music scene. Lance had a number of other hits in the sixties including: Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, The Matador, Come And See, Hey Little Girl, Think Nothing About It, Rhythm, Ain’t No Soul (In These Rock ‘N’ Roll Shoes) & Too Hold To Hold.
Lance’s musical heyday was in the sixties, and he sporadically recorded in the seventies and eighties and played concerts until his health failed in the nineties.
Major Lance died in 1994 at the young age of 55 leaving behind some great soul music.
Stax Records: Stax Records was founded in Memphis in 1959 as Volt Records by siblings Jim Stewart and Estelle Stewart Axton. Stewart and Axton changed the name of the label in 1961 by combining the first two letters of their last names.
And many, many artists recorded for Stax and, became well known to music fans as a result, including their house band Booker T. & The MG’s, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Delaney & Bonnie, Eddie Floyd, Isaac Hayes, Little Milton, Mavis Staples, The Bar-Kays, The Dells, The Mar-Keys, William Bell, The Staple Singers and Rufus and Carla Thomas.
During the sixties and early seventies Stax recording artists had a whopping 410 singles hit the charts!
Stax music, collectively, sits at the crossroads of soul, traditional rhythm and blues and traditional rock music; you can hear the elements of all three styles woven into the music of Stax artists. And even though we’re now decades away from the years that saw those charting singles recorded, somehow they still sound as fresh and vibrant today as if they were recorded yesterday.
II. Freegal Music Recommendations (streaming music):
The Very Best of Gene Chandler:
This album contains a selection of Chandler’s sixties hits including: Duke of Earl, Night Owl, You Threw A Lucky Punch, Just Be True, What Now? and more.
Here’s a link to stream The Very Best of Gene Chandler album:
Gene Chandler’s Greatest:
The music on this album falls outside the genre of sixties soul instead offering the great sounds of seventies soul with elements of funk woven in — but it is a great album so I thought I’d include it!
Songs on this album include: Get Down, Does She Have a Friend (For Me?) and When You’re # 1.
Here’s a link to stream Gene Chandler’s Greatest Hits (of the seventies):
The Very Best Of Major Lance:
This best of collection features sixteen songs including: The Monekytime, Mama Didn’t Know, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Too Hot To Hold and more – here’s a link to stream the Very Best of Major Lance album:
The Essential Major Lance:
And if you find you love the music of Gene Chandler here ‘s a link to stream a 40 song double album put out by Epic Records simply titled The Essential Major Lance:
Live: 1989 Memphis Music & Heritage Festival by Carla Thomas:
This is short album by Carla Thomas featuring just six songs: Let Me Be Good To You, Stand By Me-Chain Gang Medley, Neither One Of Us, The Birth of the Blues, Little Red Rooster and Gee Whiz. If you haven’t heard Carla Thomas’s music before this is a good introduction that will leave you wanting to hear more!
Here’s a link to stream the album Live: 1989 Memphis Music & Heritage Festival:
The RZA Presents Shaolin Soul Selection: Vol. 1 by Various Artists:
This collection features songs by Stax artists including William Bell, Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor, Booker T. & The MG’s, Little Milton & Albert King as well some other great artists/groups including The Sweet Inspirations with Cissy Houston.
Here’s a link to stream The RZA Presents Shaolin Soul Selection: Vol. 1 album:
Former Stax Artists Collection:
926 East McLemore – A Reunion of Former Stax Artists, Vol. 1
This set features a number of great artists that recorded for Stax including: Rufus Thomas, The Bar-Kays, Ollie Nightingale & The Mad Lads.
Here’s a ink to stream the album:
III. CD Music Recommendations Of The Week
The Girl Don’t Care:
One of Chandler’s best, chock full of midtempo grooves, succulent ballads and jump tunes like “Good Times.” Curtis Mayfield’s “Nothing Can Stop Me” is spiced with punchy horns and choral backing vocals for Gene to play his cool, swaggering tenor against. The pain in his voice is undeniable on “Here Come the Tears,” where he literally cries the agonizing lyrics. He gets philosophical on “The Girl Don’t Care,” an intense ballad that always seems too short. This could almost pass for a greatest-hits LP, since at least six of the selections were released as A-sides. “Fool for You,” as well as the others mentioned above, got their share of plays on soul stations, and all should have been bigger hits. The B-sides occupy most of side two and are just a couple of notches below the plug sides. It’s amazing how overlooked and underappreciated these gems were.
–AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton–
Here’s a link to request the CD Girl Don’t Care:
Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um:
Sales didn’t reflect it, but this is probably Curtis Mayfield’s best production, and Lance’s best album: every track is a winner. “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um,” “Hey Little Girl,” and “The Monkey Time” were major busters for Major Lance; all had a mock cha-cha beat. And the unheralded tracks are just as good: Lance’s “Gypsy Woman” is as haunting as the Impressions’ original; “Think Nothing About It” is endearing and marvelously simplistic, one of Mayfield’s best compositions (Gene Chandler recorded it later). If Okeh had released “That’s What Mama Say” as a single, it would have done some damage (both the Impressions and Walter Jackson recorded the tender mama-done-told-me song, and although Jackson’s version scored an R&B hit, it lacks the bite of Lance’s version). “You’ll Want Me Back” is serene and beautiful; it was also done by the Impressions, but Lance’s rendition stirs the pot. Lance had a more dynamic voice than Mayfield, his childhood friend — it was heavier and had more teeth than Mayfield’s light tenor — yet Mayfield had more all-around skills and became far more successful. The Impressions sing background on most of the tracks, and you can hear the rainbowing of voices with Lance’s cutting through and dominating like a dictator. Take “Little Young Lover,” a good song by the Impressions, but a candidate for hitsville when Lance does it. He does an excellent job on “It’s All Right,” “I’m the One Who Loves You,” and “Gotta Right to Cry”; the latter sounds like a group recording with Lance leading, and the Impressions — Mayfield (first tenor), Fred Cash (baritone), and Sam Gooden (tenor) — trying to win a harmony contest. One listen to this LP, and you’ll be a Major Lance (and Curtis Mayfield) fan for life.
–AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton–
Here’s a link to request the CD Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um:
Stax 50th Anniversary Collection by various artists:
When Concord Music purchased Fantasy Records in 2006, the bulging Stax catalog came along for the ride. Not a bad deal, especially since Stax remains one of the richest and most vital sources of ’60s and ’70s soul, blues, and R&B. The newly reactivated label’s debut release is a lavishly boxed double-disc set of 50 highlights–as opposed to hits–from the Memphis label’s voluminous vaults to celebrate its 50th anniversary. All the usual suspects appear, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, and the Staple Singers. But the compilers deliver a well-rounded, even eclectic collection by including tracks from such relatively obscure acts as the Astors, Ollie & the Nightingales, the Mad Lads, Linda Lyndell, and Mable John, whose “Your Good Thing (Is About to End)” is one of the great lost soul treasures. Propelled in large part by house band Booker T. & the MGs, the majority of these songs have become integral threads in the fabric of American soul. Even at two and a half hours, there’s not a dull moment here. That is a testament not just to the Stax musicians, but to a label whose artists defined a classic sound that remains as timeless, relevant, influential, and electrifying as when it was recorded.
–Hal Horowitz, Amazon Review–
Here’s a link to request the CD Stax 50th Anniversary Collection:
IV. Videos Of This Weeks’ Artists/Groups
Gene Chandler – Duke of Earl
Gene Chandler – Nothing Can Stop Me
Major Lance – The Monkey Time
Major Lance – Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um
Carla Thomas – Gee Whiz
Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign
Sam & Dave – Hold On I’m Comin’ (Live in 1967)
Eddie Floyd-Knock On Wood
Otis Redding “Try A Little Tenderness” Live 1967
V. Wild Card Print Book Recommendation Of The Week:
Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon
This week I’m going to stay with the monthly musical subject of Sixties Soul and suggest you check out a book and DVD with the same name on that very subject!
The book and DVD are both titled Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. The book was written by Robert Gordon and here is the starred review from Publishers Weekly: In the late 1950s, Jim Stewart, and his sister, Estelle Axton, moved their little fledgling recording studio into the defunct Capitol Theater in Memphis, Tenn., opening their doors and establishing the record label that gave birth to gritty, funky soul music. A masterful storyteller, music historian Gordon (It Came from Memphis) artfully chronicles the rise and fall of one of America’s greatest music studios, situating the story of Stax within the cultural history of the 1960s in the South. Stewart, a fiddle player who knew he’d never make it in the music business himself, one day overheard a friend talking about producing music; he soon gave it a try, and eventually he was supervising the acclaimed producer Chips Moman in the studio as well as creating a business plan for the label; Estelle Axton set up a record shop in the lobby of the theater, selling the latest discs but also spinning music just recorded in the studio and gauging its market appeal. Gordon deftly narrates the stories of the many musicians who called Stax home, from Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, and Otis Redding to Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, and the Staples Singers, as well as the creative marketing and promotional strategies—the Stax-Volt Revue and Wattstax. By the early 1970s, bad business decisions and mangled personal relationships shuttered the doors of Stax. Today, the Stax sound permeates our lives and, in Gordon’s words, became the soundtrack for liberation, the song of triumph, the sound of the path toward freedom.
–Publishers Weekly Review–
The DVD is a documentary based upon Gordon’s book and it can be found in our Non-Fiction DVD Section:
Here’s a link to request the bookRespect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion :
And here’s a link to request the documentary DVDRespect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion:
VI. General References & Artist Specific References:
All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide To R&B And Soul. (Backbeat Books. Fresno. 2003.)
The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn (Billboard Books. New York. 2009.)
Dreams To Remember: Otis Redding, Stax Records And The Transformation of Southern Soul by Mark Ribowsky. Published by Liveright. 2015.
The Dukays Biography by Andrew Hamilton
Estelle Axton Biography by Jason Ankeny
Um, um, um, um, um, um AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton https://goo.gl/jj8AMw
Girl Don’t Care AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton
Otis Leavill Biography by Andrew Hamilton
Respect Yourself Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon. Published by Bloomsburg. New York. 2013.
Sixties Rock: A Listener’s Guide by Robert Santelli (Contemporary Books. Chicago. 1985.)
Recommended Artists Specific References:
The Official Gene Chandler Website:
Gene Chandler “The Duke Of Earl” POSTED 12:38 AM, DECEMBER 10, 2013, Interview BY MICHAEL HEIDEMANN WWGN Radio.
Major Lance Bio
Major Lance, 55, Soul Singer in 60’s Published: September 5, 1994. New York Times.
Have a great day!
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