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Southern Soul Corner June 12

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We are taking a little break this month from the current format. Quite a few folks relatively new to the genre known as Southern Soul read this column, so I thought they might be interested in a little bit of the history behind this great music.

 

The Emergence of Southern Soul In The '90's

 

This story has been told a hundred different ways over the last twenty plus years including twists by me, but I'll attempt to tell it here the way I see it now. Keep in mind that Southern Soul from a national and global perspective still runs even today pretty much under the mainstream music radar.

 

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Soul music that originated in the South in the '60's and early to mid -'70's, from Memphis to Muscle Shoals, made quite an impact on the national music charts. This changed dramatically in the late 70's and 80's, as artists who had achieved a measure of success earlier nationally were relegated to the Blues chitlin' circuit, if anything at all. They were now considered relics according to all the major record labels.  

Enter 1990, a pivotal point in time for what we know as today's Southern Soul. A special blend of music was emerging from the roots of Gospel, '60's and '70's Soul, down home Blues and R&B, all to form a genre that has exploded in the last two decades. But wait, remember we are back in time, just entering the '90's. Most of what we today call Southern Soul had been up to now characterized as the Blues. The rocket ship of change was being fueled – we just did not realize it in 1990.

 

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Jackson, Mississippi based Malaco Records had carried the torch for many years and may have been the biggest single entity that bridged the deep Soul music of the '60's and '70's to the emergence of today's Southern Soul. Malaco had certainly been the kindling throughout the '80's to ignite what would become the movement of the '90's.  Unfortunately, two of their superstars, Z.Z. Hill and McKinley Mitchell, had both tragically passed away by this time. Familiar names from the '60's and '70's, however, were  on board  with some very fine recordings. Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Dorothy Moore, Latimore, Shirley Brown, Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle and Little Milton Campbell had revitalized their careers at the Malaco Church of Blues and Soul. All of these artists would continue to release albums on the label throughout the '90's.

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Atlanta's Ichiban Records, originally formed as a Hip Hop label, had also gotten a Soul groove going, releasing recordings by Clarence Carter, Tyrone Davis, Milllie Jackson, William Bell, Trudy Lynn, Chick Willis, Joey Gilmore,  Theodis Ealey and Francine Reed. Veteran performer Roy C was successfully rolling his own and rocking 'em all night long down South with his Three Gems label.  Legendary record producer and promoter Johnny Vincent caught the fever of the movement. His revitalized Ace U.S. Records label world, in the early '90's,  introduce Soul music lovers to a new breed of young gun performers - Chuck Strong, Ronnie Lovejoy, Lee Fields, Frank-O Johnson,  and Robert Tillman.

 

Things were changing. The music had a new rhythm to it – together with verses of down home story telling more in a country juke vein rather than what you would hear on Beale Street. It was not Blues in the traditional sense but a new strain of R&B much more reminiscent of it's '60's and '70's Soul forerunners. The sound could come out of the box as a smoky juke joint mid tempo shuffle, as a slow grind or as a rockin' dance groove.

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Willie Clayton, just 36 years old in 1991 but already with 20 years in the music business, would use both the Ichiban and Ace labels as a launching pad to soon become the one of the biggest stars in the Southern Soul arena.  Malaco's Waldoxy subsidiary label signed veteran recording artists Bobby Rush, Artie 'Bluesboy' White and Ernie Johnson in the mid-''90's. Carl Sims, who had a hit album in 1995 on the Shreveport, Louisiana based Paula label, went on to record on Waldoxy a couple of years later.

 

 Blues radio programming down South began mixing in more of the emerging sounds of this new style of Soul music. The '90's was an era of commercial CD's, which is what got distributed to the record outlets and sent to radio stations for air play. Again, we have to bear in mind that the genre was and still is very regional – the days of mega thousands of album sales were long gone for anyone trying to make it in Blues or Soul. If an artist could develop a fan base and sell 20,000 copies of a new release, it was definitely considered a success.

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It's 1995. Songwriter John Ward unsuccessfully shops around some new tunes resulting in the decision to start his own label. He brings in veteran  music man Larry Chambers as the Promotions Manager. Ecko Records is founded in Memphis with an initial release from former Stax recording artist Ollie Nightengale. After positive results, albums soon follow by Charles Wilson and Bill Coday. More veteran artists come on board leading to releases from by Chuck Roberson, Barbara Carr, Lee Shot Williams and Quinn Golden. Ecko would prove to be monumental as a future building block for Southern Soul.

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Ace Records down in Mississippi went further out on the limb in the mid to late '90's, starting a subsidiary label called Avanti. The combined labels released albums by Soul vets Cicero Blake and Bobby Jonz as well as relative newcomers Pat Brown, Rue Davis, Big Cynthia Walker (daughter of Motown superstar Junior Walker) and Billy 'Soul' Bonds.

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Soul great Tyrone Davis, who had 2 number one R&B charting hits in the late '60s, kept recording through the years even when the mainstream Soul market had all but dried up. By the time he signed on with Malaco in 1996, he had over 25 albums to his credit. It was also about this point in time that we were introduced to two dynamic voices who would have a huge impact down the road in Southern Soul – Mel Waiters and Wilson Meadows.

  

Southern Soul's regional neighbor, Beach music, began to heartily embrace this groove beginning in the early '90's and continuing throughout the decade. The club deejays discovered that many of the soulful tunes had just the right beat to be compatible to the shag dancers. The radio programmers soon followed suit – many of the radio stations focusing on Beach music were very similar to the demographic that evolved for Southern Soul – either AM or low wattage FM broadcasters in smaller locales. 

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In New Orleans, Mardi Gras Records, traditionally a Gospel, Zydeco, Jazz and Swamp Pop branding, formed a new label, Miss Butch, to capture the creative offerings of long time songwriter Jimmy Lewis. As well as recording his own material, he was writing new songs for Peggy Scott-Adams and Billy Ray Charles. Much of the arranging and recording was actually done at Lewis' California based studio. The labels would prove to be quite a springboard for aspiring new artists in the genre over the next several years.

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Major record companies were still not interested as the popularity of this genre of music grew in the Deep South. Veteran names recording on independent labels that became more familiar in the '90's as emerging stars in Southern Soul included Marvin Sease, Jesse James, Lynn White, J. Blackfoot and Eddie Holloway.  A group of artists being heard for the first time in the latter part of the decade included David Brinston, Vickie Baker,  Kenne Wayne, Stan Mosley, Toni Green,  Maurice Davis, Frank Mendenhall and Jesse Graham. Many more aspiring artists were on the horizon as the genre continued to expand.

 

Several artists wrote much of their own material as well as songs for others in the business. We can't forget about all the other talented behind the scenes  songwriters, individuals like Paul Richmond, Bob Johnson, Sam Mosley, George Jackson, Homer Banks, Lester Snell, Raymond Moore and Richard Cason, just to name a few, who created the great lyrics of the decade.

 

As 1999 came to a close, many changes lay ahead for Southern Soul as well as the music industry in general. The '90's, however, laid a ton of bricks on the foundation base that was built to be known as Southern Soul. Opportunities to further expand in the new millennium were eagerly waiting.

 

Southern Soul Corner Favorites From The '90's

 

 

SONG TITLE

ARTIST

LABEL

YEAR

I'm Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Clarence Carter

Ichiban

1990

Drop That Zero

Denise LaSalle

Malaco

1990

Talk To You   

Tyrone Davis

Ichiban

1991

Power Of Love

Lynn White

Soh/Creative Funk

1991

Are You Lonesome

Johnnie Taylor

Malaco

1991

My Mind Is Too Strong

Eddie Holloway

Hot Blues

1991

Don't Let Success (Turn Our Love Around)

Chick Willis

Ichiban

1991

Just One Lifetime

J. Blackfoot

Basix

1991

Something's Mighty Wrong

Tyrone Davis

Ichiban

1992

I'm The Man You Need

Theodis Ealey

Ichiban

1992

Love Don't Love Nobody

Frank-O  Johnson

Ace

1992

Three People Sleeping In My Bed

Willie Clayton

Ace

1993

Girl I'm In Love With You

Cicero Blake

Valley Vue

1993

Loose Lips

Trudy Lynn

Ichiban

1993

Dancin' With My Baby                        

Willie Clayton

Ace

1994

I'm Not Tired

Robert Tillman

Ace

1994

Real Love

Johnnie Taylor

Malaco

1994

Stay Close To Home

Dorothy Moore

Malaco

1994

You Beat Me  At My Game

Chuck Strong

Ace

1994

All In The Open Now

Artie 'Bluesboy' White

Waldoxy

1994

You Ain't Got To Hide Your Man

Shirley Brown

Malaco

1995

I'm In Love With The Girl Next Door

Rue Davis

Kon-Kord

1995

Can't Leave Love Alone

Ronnie Lovejoy

Ace

1995

She's In A Midnight Mood

Ollie Nightengale

Ecko

1995

Coming To Tear The Roof Down

Lee Fields

Ace

1995

Storyteller

J. Blackfoot

Platinum Blue

1995

In The Room Next To The Room

Charles Wilson

Ecko

1995

House Of Love

Carl Sims

Paula

1995

Moan, Grunts And Groans

Bill Coday

Ecko

1995

In The Mood For The Blues

Ernie Johnson

Waldoxy

1995

Letting A Good Thing Go Bad

Joey Gilmore

Ichiban

1995

One Monkey Don't Stop No Show

Bobby Rush

Waldoxy

1995

Bill

Peggy-Scott Adams

Miss Butch

1996

Don't Get Off On Me

Pat Brown

Ace

1996

I'll Take The Risk

Lee Shot Williams

Ecko

1996

Been There, Done That

Francine Reed

Ichiban

1996

Hit And Run

David Brinston

Jomar

1996

That's Still My Love

Wilson Meadows

Ichiban

1997

Cutie

Rue Davis

Avanti

1997

Got My Whiskey

Mel Waiters

Waldoxy

1997

Rich And Famous

Jesse James

Gunsmoke

1997

If You Can't Cut The Mustard

Barbara Carr

Ecko

1997

In The Mood For Love

Bobby Jonz

Ace

1997

She's A Lady Of Love

Vickie Baker

Paula

1997

See You Nest Weekend

Jimmy Lewis

Mardi Gras

1997

Rock Me

Stan Mosley

Malaco

1998

I'm Gonna Sneak Back Home

Roy C

Three Gems

1998

Habit Breaker

Quinn Golden

Ecko

1998

This Girl Needs A Tune Up

Pat Brown

Avanti

1998

He Saw An Opening

Little Milton

Malaco

1998

You Can't Strike Gold

Johnnie Taylor

Malaco

1998

Two Steps Behind

Charles Wilson

Ecko

1998

My Baby Is The Only One

Bobby 'Blue' Bland

Malaco

1998

I've Been Partying All Night

Billy Ray Charles

Miss Butch

1998

Sorry Don't Pay The Rent

Big Cynthia

Avanti

1998

Leavin'

Tyrone Davis

Malaco

1999

Let The Door Hit Ya!

Peggy Scott-Adams

Miss Butch

1999

Hole In The Wall

Mel Waiters

Waldoxy

1999

Let A Real Woman Try

Barbara Carr

Ecko

1999

Hold You And Squeeze You

Marvin Sease

Jive

1999

Love Down

Kenne Wayne

MTE

1999

Soul Heaven

Johnnie Taylor

Malaco

1999

You Got To Grunt

Clarence Carter

Cee Gee

1999

Back Up Lover

Chuck Roberson

Ecko

1999

No Chicken Wings

Jimmy Lewis

Miss Butch

1999

Reverend Joe

Billy 'Soul' Bonds

Avanti

1999

 

Archives:
 
 
 
 
 
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