Chuck Jackson – Candy

In 1967, Papa Don Schroeder was hired as an independent producer by Florence Greenberg at Wand Records to work with one of their major stars, Chuck Jackson. Schroeder, who had been cutting hits on The Purifys and Oscar Toney, Jr. at American Sound in Memphis, planned on recording Jackson there as well, only when he showed up for the session, Chips Moman was nowhere to be found…

Wand 1166 B

Wand did release a Papa Don Produced 45 on Chuck (Wand 1166) in September 1967, but until now, nobody seemed to know where he produced it… the B Side of that 45, Candy, was written by ‘B. Woods – A. Lowe’ – if that referred to Bobby Wood and Junior Lowe (which it did), it didn’t seem to make sense, as Bobby was still at Sam Phillips in Memphis, and Junior was still at Fame in Muscle Shoals.

John Broven asked Bobby about it, and he told us: “The record was recorded in New York. I suppose the label bought our tickets. Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Junior Lowe…” – WOW!

So I asked David Hood about it: “We recorded this at Mira Sound studio in NYC August 2/3/4 1967. I don’t remember why Spooner or Barry couldn’t go, but Papa Don was able to get Bobby Wood to go…”

Incredible stuff, boys and girls, and so VERY cool that Papa Don flew Junior (who had played guitar on “I’m Your Puppet”) up to NYC at a time when Jerry Wexler refused to, even though he had been importing the rest of ‘The Swampers’ to Atlantic in New York on a regular basis…

Thank you, Bobby and David for clearing this one up!

CHUCK JACKSON – CANDY (Wand 1166) – 1967

CHECK OUT THIS AMAZING RECORD!! I mean Bobby’s funky-ass organ, Junior’s dripping Telecaster lines, along with his fellow Swampers Roger and David just kicking it… way ahead of it’s time, folks!

Billy Lawson

Billy Lawson grew up just outside of Muscle Shoals next door to Junior Lowe and, like Junior, he had a guitar in his hand by the time he was six years old. Lowe became sort of his mentor (and guitar hero), and would allow him to sit-in with his band at local State Line clubs before he was out of grade school.

His Zip City neighborhood was also home to Earl ‘Peanutt’ Montgomery, the man whose career as a songwriter included a slew of top ten Country hits he penned for his main man George Jones… Billy was paying attention. The Music was in him, and he knew he had no choice but to follow where it might lead. While still in his teens, Billy and his band began working that same State Line dance hall circuit Junior had.

In his early twenties he got himself a job at Terry Woodford and Clayton Ivey’s Wishbone Studios in Muscle Shoals, learning about songwriting from some of the best in the business. Billy and his band were still playing most nights out on the strip, which got them noticed by casting director Tonya Holly, who would hire them to appear in the Oscar winning film Blue Sky in 1994. Setting his sights on Nashville with stars in his eyes, it looked like he might have a shot at making it as a performer when he was signed by Epic Records… but Billy soon realized that wasn’t going to happen.

His unique way with words caught the attention of Tree Publishing executive Don Cook, who signed Billy on as a staff songwriter in 1995. By the Summer of ’96 Learning As You Go, a song Lawson co-wrote with Larry Boone, would top the Country charts for Rick Trevino. Within a few months, Trace Adkins would take another Lawson composition (this time written with John Schweers), I Left Something Turned On At Home, straight to number one. In just a few short years, Billy Ray Lawson had become an in-demand Music City songwriter, placing dozens of other songs on the charts. As the nature of the music business began to change in Nashville after the turn of the century, however, it would become ever more difficult to make a living as a songwriter in the digital age.

Billy Ray decided to stay closer to home…

The Shoals was his stomping grounds, and Lawson began hanging out with the man who had put the town on the map, Rick Hall. Over lunches at their favorite Italian restaurant, Billy just soaked it all in. He knew what he was called upon to do.

Opening his own Big Star Studio, Billy began producing a few records. After that, it seemed like things all began to fall into place. Wishbone Studio, which had been empty for years, became available and Lawson figured out a way to buy it. When Larry Rogers’ Studio 19 was marked for demolition on Nashville’s Music Row in 2015, Billy worked out a deal with Larry to install the studio’s Trident 90 console at Wishbone. One of the first records cut there was Willie Hightower’s great come-back album, Out Of The Blue. With the legendary Quinton Claunch on board as his executive producer, the album features some of the best songs Billy has ever written, like this one:

(check out Lawson’s shirt… )

The first time we met Billy was when Reggie and Jenny Young brought us to Claunch Cafe in Tuscumbia so we could check out Johnny Belew’s amazing cornbread salad. Billy invited us to visit Wishbone the next day, where he was in the process of cutting another come-back album of sorts, Darryl Worley’s Second Wind: Latest & Greatest, with he and Darryl producing. The first single pulled from the album, co-written with the great Ed Hill, has become a breakthrough digital hit:

Billy Lawson and his band (now called ‘Wishbone’) are back out there performing locally in The Shoals area, to rave reviews. Performer, songwriter, producer, studio owner – it might seem like he had this whole music thing sewn up – but there was one thing missing… his own record label.

Not anymore. Along with partners Mike O’Rear and James Wright, Billy launched Muscle Shoals Recordings this past week with the release of their first single, Avalon:

A loving tribute to Rick Hall and all things Muscle Shoals, that’s Junior Lowe and Travis Wammack on guitar there, folks and Clayton Ivey and Jim Whitehead on the keys, same as it ever was…

Billy Lawson’s got it going on!

Henry Henderson

Henry Henderson was one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever known. He was also one hell of a Soul singer… one who just couldn’t seem to catch a break. When I visited Billy Lawson at Wishbone earlier this month, he asked me if I knew of any ‘old school’ singers he could work with, as he had just done with Willie Hightower. When I showed him a video of Henry performing at our annual Soul Bash, he freaked. “Oh man, he sounds like Jimmy Hughes!,” he said, and was ready to cut a deal with him right then and there. This was gonna be the chance at the big time he had been looking for for years… I called him from the studio, but there was no answer. I tried him again, and again on our way back to New York, but couldn’t get through.

We made it a point to drive by his apartment on the way home, and I left a note in his mailbox asking him to please give me a call, leaving my number in case he had lost it. Within the hour, my phone rang. It was the property manager from Henry’s building… “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Mr. Henderson has passed away.”

My heart was broken. I mean, here I was, after all these years, finally able to offer him the chance to cut a record in Muscle Shoals… but he was gone. I spoke to his good friend Mary Forehand, who told me, “He passed on January 18th… he was having chest pains and drove himself to the Hospital. He was found sitting in his car the next day.”

Just so very sad, that this wonderful human being died like that, alone and un-noticed. He was an amazing friend, and I am a better person for having known him… May God Rest Your Soul, My Brother!

Here is the appreciation I wrote about Henry back in 2015:

I know we talk a lot around here about places like Memphis and Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Nashville, but somehow it seems I haven’t paid enough attention to my own hometown. As the site of the premier Black entertainment venue in the world, New York truly had it going on throughout ‘The Soul Era’.

The Big Town knew few rivals as a recording center in those days as, in addition to Bobby Robinson’s Harlem empire, it was home to ‘major independents’ like Atlantic, Scepter, Big Top, Roulette, Sue, Jubilee and Bell, (to name a few), all of which cut at various ‘hole in the wall’ studios in and around Manhattan.

Home to such luminaries as James Brown, Don Covay, Gary U.S. Bonds, Roy C and Freddie Scott, Long Island enjoyed a thriving Soul scene all its own, with night clubs and lounges that featured live music springing up wherever there was a sizable Black community.

Courtesy Freeport Historical Society

Calling themselves ‘The Showcase of Talent’, the Celebrity Club on Sunrise Highway in Freeport was one of the most celebrated of those clubs, and when they brought in Leo Price to put together their ‘house band’ in the early sixties, he decided to stick around. As he told Seamus McGarvey in Now Dig This“I stayed up there… playing around those clubs, and backing up groups. In those days [most] recording artists didn’t have their own bands, and the Jimmy Evans Booking Agency – I was his band – he had the acts… we played behind.”

It was his connection with Evans that made Leo a favorite with Long Island club owners, as he was able to bring in national level acts like Wilson Pickett and The Shirelles to keep the cash registers ringing. Price soon had more work than he could handle, and helped install a young singer named Henry Henderson as the leader of the house band at another popular club named Mister C’s in Roosevelt.

Henderson had grown up in Jackson, Mississippi, and by the time he was a teenager he was fronting his own group that was represented by Tommy Couch’s Malaco Attractions. After cutting a few sides for them that were never released, Henry took off for the bright lights, and wound up here on Long island in 1964.

This was right around the time that Little Buster‘s phenomenal Lookin’ For A Home was garnering some airplay on local radio. Henry met Buster shortly after that when he was performing at Brownie’s Lounge in Lakeview and the two transplanted Southerners hit it off, following each other around the Long Island club circuit from The Freeport Yacht Club and The Steer Inn to Club 91 and The Bluebird Cafe way out in the sticks.

In a scenario truly reminiscent of Animal House, in the late sixties notorious bar owner Robert Matherson hired Little Buster to play for his all-white clientele every Sunday at The Oak Beach Inn. When Buster wasn’t available, Henry took his place and, between the two of them, they introduced an entire generation of essentially clueless caucasians to the Real Soul music that was happening all around them.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, The Highway Inn in Uniondale eclipsed the Celebrity Club as ground zero for Long Island Soul, with Leo Price’s band once again providing the back-up. When Leo decided to move on, he called on Henry to take his place as leader of the house band, backing up everyone from Big Mama Thornton to The Ohio Players.

In the early seventies, Henry got together with producer Clyde Wilson and cut a single for a Long Island label named Interstate 95. As Henry recalls it, the studio was located in the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, and they were all set to release the 45 when the label owner, Daniel Yudow, died suddenly, and that was the end of that. Sir Shambling calls the L.L. Milton release that Clyde Wilson produced for the label “a real throwback to the 60s,” and that’s just what Long Island Soul has remained all these years.

As disco began to take hold in the mid-seventies, Henderson had the good sense to lay low for a while, and returned home to Jackson for a few years. By the early eighties he was back on Long Island, starting up a new band, ‘The Honey Holders’ that would help him carry on in that soulful tradition…

As you may know, I was a huge fan of Little Buster and, as I’ve said before, I’d seen him perform “more times than anyone else, ever.”

When Buster passed on in May 0f 2006, I was devastated. It was at a tribute to Buster held that June that I first met Henry Henderson. Once I heard him sing, I knew he was the real deal. We would become good friends, and his stories about the scene in those days have never failed to fascinate and enlighten me.

designed by Studio Pollman

When Sir Lattimore Brown was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, we flew him up here to New York for treatment, and began arranging what we thought might be his final performance. I asked Henry if he would be willing to get The Honey Holders back together to back him up, and he jumped at the chance.

Once the two Mississippi natives got together, they were thick as thieves, and I knew that Real Soul was in the house. As anybody who was there that night can tell you, it was a performance we won’t soon forget. After Lattimore tragically passed in 2011, both Henry and I decided to keep his memory alive by bringing back his Honey Holders every year to what has come to be known as the CLUB 91 SIR LATTIMORE BROWN MEMORIAL NOFO SOUL BASH.

Although the personnel may vary from year to year, Henry has never failed to deliver the genuine article. Featuring veterans like Saxy Ric, guitarist Sam MacArthur (who was a member of Leo Price’s Celebrity Club band), bass player Fred Thomas (of The JB’s), sax man Bobby Gaither (who played on Joe Haywood’s Warm and Tender Love), drummer Joe Mannino, bass player Douglas Jackson, and many more, The Honey Holders are the place where Long Island Soul lives!

Embedded below is a short video of Henry & the Holders at this Summer’s Soul Bash shot by The New York Times’ own Corey Kilgannon:

Like I said, Henry Henderson is the real deal… I love this man.

– red kelly, September 2015

Willie Hightower – Out Of The Blue

Every once in a while the forces of the Universe seem to align just right, and pull things together in unforeseen and miraculous ways… this is one of those times.

Willie Hightower, one of the truly great Soul Singers of our time, has just released his first album in FIFTY YEARS! As good as anything he’s ever done, it was recorded in Muscle Shoals, and produced by none other than Quinton Claunch, the legendary Goldwax impresario who gave us The Dark End Of The Street. That in itself is remarkable enough, but the fact that Willie is now 77 years old and Quinton turns NINETY SEVEN in December makes this event truly extraordinary.

I had first met Quinton back in 2008, as we put together the O.V. Wright Memorial weekend, and I made it a point after that to go see him whenever I was in Memphis. Sharp as a tack, he’s still got one of the best ‘ears’ in the business. After the passing of his wife of sixty nine years in June of 2013, this dyed in the wool ‘record man’ decided to return to the studio. When my partner John Broven and I visited him on our Soul D Road Trip the following August, he played us the tracks he had just cut in Muscle Shoals on a Kentucky guitarist named Alonzo Pennington. Although they sounded great, Quinton had trouble finding a distributor for the album when he released it on his own SoulTrax label in early 2015. Hold that thought…

Years back, Dr. Ike of The Ponderosa Stomp asked author Peter Guralnick (who knows a little bit about Soul Music) which Soul Singer he would most like to see perform at The Stomp. “Willie Hightower!” was his immediate reply. After a few false starts, Ike contacted us here at Soul Detective to see if we could locate him for Stomp #12 in 2015. As fate would have it, John Broven’s intrepid friend Seamus McGarvey had spoken with Willie several times at his home in Gadsen, Alabama, and was happy to supply Ike with his number. Once The Stomp booked Willie, Ike naturally wanted Peter to interview him at that year’s Music Conference… only he had a prior committment and was unavailable. “What about Red Kelly?” John Broven suggested (bless his heart!), and so I was invited to do an interview and presentation with Willie Hightower in New Orleans in October of 2015. I was just over the moon…

Like most people, I didn’t know much about Willie beyond his amazing Fame singles, but as I began to do research for the interview, I discovered that he had recorded at Royal Studio in Memphis (the very studio that Quinton Claunch and his partners founded in 1957) in 1982, with Quinton handling the production. Although not released at the time, the album finally saw the light of day on a Japanese CD in 2007. I called Claunch to ask him about the sessions, and told him about Willie’s upcoming Stomp performance. “Let me know how he sounds,” he said.

Well, as anyone who was there that night can tell you, Willie Hightower gave one of the most solid and soulful performances I have ever witnessed, and proved to the world he had lost absolutely nothing off his incredible voice. He was back! I reported all this to Quinton, as requested, and went on to send him a video of the show to prove my point. I didn’t know it at the time, but Billy Lawson, the Muscle Shoals studio owner and engineer who had worked with Quinton on the Alonzo Pennington CD had asked him “Don’t you know of any old school Soul singers we could cut – that’s what you do best!” There’s those forces of The Universe now, folks… Quinton had his man!

Lawson had just recently taken over Wishbone, the studio built by Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford after they left Fame in 1973. When Larry Rogers’ Studio 19 in Nashville (formerly Scotty Moore’s Music City) faced the wrecking ball, Billy bought the console and just about went insane re-wiring and installing it at Wishbone. “I’ll never do that again!” he told me when we visited the studio last month.

With the equipment finally where he wanted it, Billy brought in studio veterans like the aforementioned Clayton Ivey, Travis Wammack and Will McFarlane, and proceeded to cut a record that is pure Muscle Shoals magic. As the tracks were completed, Quinton began sending them up to John Broven and I here in New York, and we were just knocked out. This was Real Soul, as good as anything Willie had ever recorded! John in turn played them for Roger Armstrong at Ace in the UK, who jumped at the chance to release this landmark album.

Out Of The Blue was officially issued on August 31st, and is now available from Ace in Vinyl LP, CD and MP3 formats. You need to own a copy!

…but the forces of The Universe weren’t through. Old friend Noah Schaffer got in touch a while back and asked for Willie’s number. His buddy Eli Reed wanted to throw a 40th birthday party for him, he said, and was hoping Willie would agree to sing with his band. I honestly didn’t think they could pull it off but, lo and behold, Willie Hightower performed what may have been his first ever Boston area gig on September 7th at Club Sonia in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Along with Deep Soul songstress Thelma Jones and The Natural Wonders, this show just rocked the house! Peter Guralnick was there, John Broven was there and so was I. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

…and as you can see, the show was truly amazing! Both Willie and Thelma Jones performances were an absolute revelation, and Eli’s smoking band just tore it up! Life is Good!